On Cold Mountain

A Buddhist Reading of the Hanshan Poems

Paul Rouzer

  • Published: 2015. Paperback August 2017
  • Subject Listing: Asian Studies / China; Literary Studies
  • Bibliographic information: 280 pp., 6 x 9 in.
  • Territorial rights: World Rights
  • Contents

In this first serious study of Hanshan ("Cold Mountain"), Paul Rouzer discusses some seventy poems of the iconic Chinese poet who lived sometime during the Tang dynasty (618-907). Hanshan's poems gained a large readership in English-speaking countries following the publication of Jack Kerouac's novel The Dharma Bums (1958) and Gary Snyder's translations (which began to appear that same year), and they have been translated into English more than any other body of Chinese verse.

Rouzer investigates how Buddhism defined the way that believers may have read Hanshan in premodern times. He proposes a Buddhist poetics as a counter-model to the Confucian assumptions of Chinese literary thought and examines how texts by Kerouac, Snyder, and Jane Hirshfield respond to the East Asian Buddhist tradition.
Paul Rouzer is professor of Asian languages and literatures at the University of Minnesota. He is the author of A New Practical Primer of Literary Chinese and Articulated Ladies: Gender and the Male Community in Early Chinese Texts.

"Brings the techniques of advanced literary interpretation to this corpus in a book that gives a broad readership close acquaintance with the details of language, style, and background."
-Haun Saussy, author of The Problem of a Chinese Aesthetic

"A well-documented analysis and distinctive interpretation of the Buddhist implications of the ever intriguing poetry attributed to a figure known as Hanshan."
-Steven Heine, author of Zen Skin, Zen Marrow: Will the Real Zen Buddhism Please Stand Up?

"A refreshing look at a text that has been known as a sort of 'Buddhist Poetry' in East Asia for centuries but has only recently been seen anew via its unexpectedly large readership in the now-cosmopolitan Chan/Zen world. Rouzer reexamines what is Buddhist, and what is poetic, about the Cold Mountain poems with intriguing insights and close reading."
-Gary Snyder, author of Danger on Peaks: Poems

Preface and Acknowledgments
Introduction Who Gets to Climb Cold Mountain?

Part One The Poet
1. Who Was Hanshan?
2. Who Was Hanshan, Again?

Part Two The Poems
3. Juxtapositions
4. At Home and Abroad
5. Tropes
6. Satire

Part Three Reading Buddhists
7. Who Gets to Climb the Matterhorn?


"It's a fascinating book that's a pleasure to read for both specialist and general readers."
-Carla Nappi, New Books Network

"Readers and writers of English and American literature can find some kind of enlightenment in On Cold Mountain's presentation of the processes of poetic transmission and Buddhist poetics in its earlier contexts."
-Lucas Klein, Tang Studies