Han Shan

China, (fl. 650)

  1. Swine gobble dead men’s flesh.
  2. Men gobble dead pigs’ guts.
  3. Swine do not disdain the smell of men.
  4. Men even talk about the scent of pork.
  5.  
  6. But —
  7. Should a pig die — it is cast into the water.
  8. Should a man die — the soil is dug to hide him.
  9. Then —
  10. Neither finds the one or the other to his taste.
  11. Yet —
  12. Lotus flowers will live in boiling water!

The Collected Poems of Han Shan. Han Shan Temple, Suzhou, China.

About the Poet

Han Shan, (fl. 650), Chinese poet, eminent recluse, eccentric and Zen Buddhist monk of the Tang Dynasty (618-907). He lived and wrote near the Buddhist-Taoist monastery of Kuo-ch’ing in the T’ien-t’ai Mountains later renamed HanShan Temple in his honor.

Han Shan wrote many poems about his life alone in the hills. Often on unusual topics, many of his poems describe the mountains where he lived in dramatic, yet appealing terms, while at the same time symbolizing in Zen fashion the Buddhist quest for enlightenment. Legends portray Han Shan and his companion Shih-te as eccentrics who said and did nonsensical things. [DES-6/03]

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