Hello, poets! Another Haibun Monday has arrived, where we combine prose and haiku into the form known as haibun. Frank J. Tassone here, your host today for today’s festivities. Today, let’s contemplate Cold Mountain!

Stock Image

Winter continues in the northern hemisphere (as summer carries on south of the Equator). When the weather warms, however, the highest mountains maintain their own cold climates. Nevertheless, even the humbler peaks bear snow during the winter. Therefore, Cold Mountain can inspire us to wax haibun in a multitude of directions.

There is also another Cold Mountain:

Hanshan (Chinese: 寒山; pinyin: Hánshān; lit. ‘Cold Mountain’, fl. 9th century) is a figure associated with a collection of poems from the Chinese Tang Dynasty in the Taoist and Chan tradition. No one knows who he was, when he lived and died, or whether he actually existed. In the ChineseBuddhist tradition, Hanshan and his sidekickShide are honored as emanations of the bodhisattvasMañjuśrī and Samantabhadra, respectively. In Japanese and Chinese paintings, Hanshan is often depicted together with Shide or with Fenggan, another monk with legendary attributes.

Little is known of his work, since he was a recluse living in a remote region and his poems were written on rocks in the mountains he called home. Of the 600 poems he is thought to have written at some point before his death, 313 were collected and have survived.[1] Among the 57 poems attributed to Hanshan’s friend, Shide,[1] seven appear to be authored by Hanshan, for a total of 320.[2]

Cold Mountain’s poetry has influenced both Zen practitioners and eastern style poets. The immediacy of his work embodies the emphasis on the present moment that defines Zen aesthetics. The Beat Poets were moths drawn to his fire.

Take a closer look at this Cold Mountain:

Children, I implore you

get out of the burning house now.

Three carts await outside

to save you from a homeless life.

Relax in the village square

before the sky, everything’s empty.

No direction is better or worse,

East just as good as West.

Those who know the meaning of this

are free to go where they want.

Red Pine poem 253

The layered bloom of hills and streams

Kingfisher shades beneath rose-colored clouds

mountain mists soak my cotton bandana,

dew penetrates my palm-bark coat.

On my feet are traveling shoes,

my hand holds an old vine staff.

Again I gaze beyond the dusty world-

what more could I want in that land of dreams?

Red Pine poem 106

I spur my horse past ruins;

ruins move a traveler’s heart.

The old parapets high and low

the ancient graves great and small,

the shuddering shadow of a tumbleweed,

the steady sound of giant trees.

But what I lament are the common bones

unnamed in the records of immortals.

Red Pine poem 18

Today, write you haibun on either one of the following options:

  1. A Cold Mountain: the towering heights, frigid temperatures, majestic views, or existential challenges of a mountain. You could even go metaphorical, describing the cold mountain of overwhelming circumstances, or how we make mountains out of mole hills.
  2. The Cold Mountain: a haibun that follows the influence of Hanshan (Cold Mountain), with his immediacy, concern for humanity, and deep devotion to nature.

For those new to haibun, the form consists of one to a few paragraphs of prose—usually written in the present tense—that evoke an experience and are often non-fictional/autobiographical. They may be preceded or followed by one or more haiku—nature-based, using a seasonal image—that complement without directly repeating what the prose stated.

New to dVerse? Here’s what you do:

  • Write a haibun about Cold Mountain, using either of the options described above
  • Post it on your personal site/blog
  • Copy your link onto the Mr. Linky
  • Remember to click the small checkbox about data protection.
  • Read and comment on some of your fellow poets’ work
  • Like and leave a comment below if you choose to do so
  • Have fun!