Parting Words Summer 2014

Han-Shan and Gary Snyder

Men ask the way to Cold Mountain
Cold Mountain: there’s no through trail.
In summer, ice doesn’t melt
The rising sun blurs in swirling fog.
How did I make it?
My heart’s not the same as yours.
If your heart was like mine
You’d get it and be right here.



Kanzan, or Han-Shan, “Cold Mountain” takes his name from where he lived. He is a mountain madman in an old Chinese line of ragged hermits. When he talks about Cold Mountain he means himself, his home, his state of mind. He lived in the Tang dynasty—traditionally AD 627–650, although Hu Shih dates him 700–780. This makes him roughly contemporary with Tu Fu, Li Po, Wang Wei, and Po Chu-i. His poems, of which 300 survive, are written in Tang colloquial: rough and fresh. The ideas are Taoist, Buddhist, Zen. He and his sidekick Shih-te (Jittoku in Japanese) became great favorites with Zen painters of later days—the scroll, the broom, the wild hair and laughter. They became Immortals and you sometimes run onto them today in the skid rows, orchards, hobo jungles, and logging camps of America.

—Gary Snyder


© 2013 From Cold Mountain Poems, by Gary Snyder, reprinted with permission from Counterpoint Press.

Photograph © 2014 Museum of Fine Art, Boston. Hanshan (Kanzan), Kiyosumi, Japanese, Edo Period, 18th Century. Hanging scroll; ink on paper.

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