Three Verses by Han-shan Te-ch'ing
by Han-shan Te-ch'ing (1546-1623)
Translated by Red Pine


Snow besieges my plank door I crowd the stove at night
although this form exists it seems as if it doesn't
I have no idea where the months have gone
every time I turn around another year on earth is over [1]


Bone-chilling snow on a thousand peaks
wild raging wind from ten thousand hollows
when I first awake deep beneath my blanket
I forget my body is in a silent void [2]


The mountains stand unmoving just the way they are
all day they let the clouds roll out and roll back in
even though red dust is countless layers deep
not a single speck reaches my thatched hut [3]

Notes by the translator
[1] "Plank door" is literary shorthand for the home of someone who has retired from active involvement in government service or politics into anonymity. Buddhists view our existence on Earth as humans as but one of a series of stops on the Wheel of Karma.

[2] The image and wording of the second line is indebted to Chuangtzu: 2.1, where Chuang-tzu traces the origin of wind to hollows in the earth and likens these to our sense organs.

[3] As with the flowers in verse 19, the red dust of illusion only settles on those who remain convinced that it is real and worthy of consideration. The color red is the color of heat, life, and attraction.