It is believed by many that Han Shan allied himself with the rebels during the An Lu-shan Rebellion in China and that when the emperor regained power in 763, he was forced to change his name and flee for his life. His poetry was written on rocks, trees and the walls of caves. While there are conflicting theories regarding Han Shan's biography, roughly 300 of his poems have been preserved.
Tony Barnstone is a Professor of English at Whittier College, and has published his poetry, fiction, essays and translations in dozens of major American journals. His books of poems include Sad Jazz: Sonnets (Sheep Meadow Press, 2005) and Impure: Poems by Tony Barnstone (University Press of Florida, 1998) in addition to the chapbook Naked Magic. His other books include The Anchor Book of Chinese Poetry; Out of the Howling Storm: The New Chinese Poetry; Laughing Lost in the Mountains: Poems of Wang Wei; The Art of Writing: Teachings of the Chinese Masters; and the textbooks Literatures of Asia, Africa and Latin America, Literatures of Asia, and Literatures of the Middle East. His forthcoming book is Chinese Erotic Poetry (Everyman, 2008).
He is the recipient of many national poetry prizes, and of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the California Arts Council. Born in Middletown, Connecticut, and raised in Bloomington, Indiana, Barnstone lived for years in Greece, Spain, Kenya and China before taking his Masters in English and Creative Writing and Ph.D. in English Literature at UC Berkeley.
Chou Ping was born in Changsha City, Hunan Province. He holds degrees from Beijing Foreign Studies University, Indiana University and Stanford University. He is the translator, with Tony Barnstone, of The Art of Writing: Teachings of the Chinese Masters (Shambhala Books), and the co-editor and primary co-translator of The Anchor Book of Chinese Poetry, also with Tony Barnstone. He has taught at Stanford, Washington University, Oberlin College, the College of Wooster and Reed College.
Five Poems by Han Shan
The ocean stretches endlessly
with millions of fish and dragons.
They bite and eat each other up,
such foolish slabs of meat.
If the mind is not purged,
illusions rise like mist.
Our nature is bright like the moon.
It can shine without limit.
The way up Cold Mountain
is endless Cold Mountain road,
a long gorge of rocks and boulders,
a broad brook and grass in drizzling mist.
The moss is slippery without rain.
The pines trees sing without wind
Who will rise above the world
and sit with me among white clouds?
Far-dark is Cold Mountain way,
by bitter-bleak stream banks.
Tit-tittering birds are often heard.
Quite quiet, and no soul seen.
Howl-yowling wind cuts the face.
Swirl-whirls of snow piles the body.
Dawn after dawn no sun is seen.
Year by year, who can tell if it's spring?
Behind pearl curtains in jade halls
is a Moon Lady beauty
more glamorous than a fairy,
a complexion of peach and plum flowers.
Spring mist wraps the neighbor to the east.
Autumn wind arises in cottage to the west.
After thirty years
she'll be a chewed-up sugar cane.
Last night I dreamed myself home
and saw my wife weaving at the loom.
She froze while lifting the shuttle,
thought-struck, drained of strength.
I called and she turned her head
to gaze at a stranger
gone so many years
his sideburns have drained white.
© 2007 Tony Barnstone and Chou Ping