Songs from Cold Mountain: poems by Han Shan
307 poems by 8th-9th century poet Han Shan, in Chinese and English, translated by Span Hanna.
No one knows who Han Shan was. The name means "Cold Mountain", after the place where he lived, under a crag in the mountains of Zhejiang Province, near the town of Tiantai. He was a recluse, avoiding visitors (as he frequently tells us in his poems), but from time to time visiting the large monastery of Guoqing Si (Kuo-ch'ing Ssu) at Tiantai, where he was befriended by two monks, Feng Gan (Feng Kan) and Shi De (Shih Te). Legend has it that he scrawled his poems on random surfaces: rocks, trees, the walls of houses. Someone collected them, and the body of work has been retained. His life is tentatively (but convincingly) dated around 720 to 810 CE.
In January 1991 Span Hanna was travelling in eastern China, and noticed there was a Han Shan temple nearby. He caught a bus and while in the area found a bookshop where he bought some books, among them a complete collection of Han Shan's poems. It was a 1988 reprint by Guanghua Temple (Putian, Fujian Province) of an older edition dated c. 1932.
The book went home with him, and in June 2014 he decided to read it formally, from beginning to end, and attempt to translate it, partly a project to keep his Chinese skills alive, and partly also to share the work with a few close friends who could not read Chinese but had some appreciation and understanding of Chinese poetry in philosophy. This volume is the result of those endeavours.