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Hunger Mountain: A Field Guide to Mind and Landscape [Paperback]

David Hinton
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Price: 10.39 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

7 Jan 2013
Come along with David Hinton on a series of walks through the wild beauty of Hunger Mountain, near his home in Vermont—excursions informed by the worldview he’s imbibed from his many years translating the classics of Chinese poetry and philosophy. His broad-ranging discussion offers insight on everything from the mountain landscape to the origins of consciousness and the Cosmos, from geology to Chinese landscape painting, from parenting to pictographic oracle-bone script, to a family chutney recipe. It’s a spiritual ecology that is profoundly ancient and at the same time resoundingly contemporary. Your view of the landscape—and of your place in it—may never be the same.

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Hunger Mountain: A Field Guide to Mind and Landscape + Mountain Home: The Wilderness Poetry of Ancient China + Classical Chinese Poetry: An Anthology
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Product details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Shambhala Publications Inc (7 Jan 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1611800161
  • ISBN-13: 978-1611800166
  • Product Dimensions: 19.5 x 12.9 x 1.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 233,108 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Deep Insight into Chinese Philosophy 9 April 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I had this book recommended to me and I am very glad I followed up the recommendation. I came to it with a background in Tai Ji practice and a little knowledge about the way the Chinese written language is built up from characters and ideograms. With this background I was able to jump right in and share the amazing insights David Hinton presents in this lovely little book. I don't know how accessible it would be for someone without any knowledge of Chinese culture, although it is worth reading for the beauty of the nature writing alone.

The author marries his meditations upon the natural world as he walks up his local mountain through the seasons, with his explorations of the multiple and deeper meanings lying behind the symbols for specific words. Since Taoist thought is rooted firmly in the natural world, the insights revealed through this process are a expansive as the view from Hunger Mountain, and as deep as its foundations in ancient geology.

Recommended to any students of Taoist philosophy and anyone who wants to understand how the language we use, its flexibility - or lack of it- influences the way we are able to think about the world.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.5 out of 5 stars  14 reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Embodying the Tao 30 Nov 2012
By Howard Herscovici - Published on
This book by David Hinton, well known translator of classic Chinese literature, is a fully human book. It is the meditations of a man whose relationship with the world has been shaped by his intimate knowledge of the peoples and ideas of ancient China. It is a rare book that both educates (I am starting to learn how to create Chinese characters and his explanations are precise and evocative) and inspires. He is both rigorously academic and openly emotional about his relationship to his world and to his area of study.

I would recommend this book for anyone who has studied Chinese thought, Taoism in particular, but also for those spiritual seekers who are inspired by nature writing of the highest order.

I can't recommend this book more highly.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars time to climb Hunger Mountain 14 Dec 2012
By Ikkyu Jones - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
"Hunger Mountain" appears to be the culmination of David Hinton's many years as a translator of ancient China's finest, most singular poets. For those seeking a clear-eyed, insightful, poetic explication on the subtle twists of language meets Tao, meets Zen, meets the human mind: "Hunger Mountain" is the place. Hinton has brought to life what often passes as a jangle of abstractions and second hand revelations regarding the nature of the Way, at least in today's "Zen and the art of everything" culture. Simply put, he opens a window into some of the Tao's most arcane subjects while managing to entertain with his own inner-narrative. Worth more than one read.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The poetry of emptiness 28 Mar 2013
By tao man - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a great book for anyone interested in the Taoist or Buddhist concept of emptiness. Hinton is a wonderful translator of Classical Chinese literature and in this book shares his own understanding and wisdom as it has grown through the exposure to that body of work. The book is full of rich, vivid writing about nature, poetry, and the Chinese language.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A difficult journey but the view is interesting 23 April 2013
By Acorn - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Hunger Mountain is in the Green Mountains of Vermont in the United States. David Hinton, a prize-winning translator of classical Chinese poetry and philosophical works, lives with his family near the mountain and regularly climbs the peak for the purposes of solitude and reflection. His understanding of the worldview of classical Chinese literature informs the way he looks at the mountain. Mountains were significant for ancient Chinese sages and poets because they linked heaven and earth. Many ancients lived as hermits in mountain caves and retreats and their writing and paintings were often inspired by their experiences of communing with nature.

Each of the chapters in this book has a Chinese character or group of characters as its title, with a literal English translation beneath. (Where Hinton does provide a transliteration of the Chinese, he uses the old Wade-Giles system rather than pinyin.) Hinton explores the meanings of the characters, often reaching back to early pictograms that were precursors of classical Chinese script. He sees the pictorial nature of Chinese script as an important element in classical Chinese thought which rejected the dualism of a self reflecting on the world in favour of an empirical perception of the world unmediated by a framework of ideas.

This drive for an immediate community with the empirical world is a fundamental feature of both Taoism and Chan (later Zen) Buddhism. Techniques such as meditation, seclusion, walking in wild places and pondering insoluble riddles were all aimed at overcoming the confines of conscious thought and being at one with the world. Hinton has tried some of these and they influence how he experiences Hunger Mountain. There is a constant feedback loop between those experiences and his translation work, with the latter then informing how he engages with Hunger Mountain.

Metaphor and simile are largely absent from classical Chinese poems because the idea is to present nature as it is. Hinton also discusses poets, often women, who attempted to go beyond the use of words in poetry to try and achieve that direct experience. I could not help thinking how some of their actions would not appear out of place in modern avant garde art shows, though I suspect the motivations in the latter are rather more base.

Hinton discusses the importance of friendship, silence and respect in understanding the world and how these were expressed by the ancient poets and philosophers. Friendship was more about sharing a perception of the world than matching likes and dislikes. Respect for the world and all it encompasses also bred tolerance and acceptance of the ebb and flow of existence. The ancient Chinese used the term `heaven and earth' to express the full extent of existence, including all of us who are part of it. Hinton contrasts this with the dualist approach of Western thinking which sees the world as something apart from humans. I immediately thought of the way we say `I would move heaven and earth to ...' where the world is clearly seen as something `out there' that we need to manipulate rather than something that encompasses all of us as an indivisible whole.

While there are some intriguing ideas in this book and some beautiful, if brief, passages of nature writing, much of the text is dense and complex. There are detailed discussions of Chinese characters and their etymology, and the difficulty of some of the philosophical concepts means that the discussion invariably gets abstract. It is ironic that Hinton, who clearly admires the classical Chinese idea of direct experience of the empirical world unfettered by the chains of language, is himself enmeshed in abstruse terminology and expression in order to get the idea across. The ancient wine-swigging sages would have had a good laugh at that.

Back in the 1960s, the folk singer Donovan sang a song which included the lines `first there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is'. The lines are from Lao Tse and they are a concise statement of what Hinton is getting at: we see the world as a material thing apart from us, then with training that duality is removed and we perceive the cosmos as one, until the final stage where we just accept the empirical world as is, no longer seen through the iron cage of our preconceptions.

I felt that Hinton could have done more to link the concepts he discusses to his experiences on Hunger Mountain. This might have helped to make his ideas more accessible to the general reader. As it is, this is a book that will appeal to those with a specific interest in Chinese culture, philosophy and poetry, and with a stomach for wading through some intricate explanation. If you can make the climb, you will enjoy the view.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful book, but not for everyone 10 Feb 2013
By Secluded Path - Published on
In this fine little book David Hinton gives us his thoughts and insights arising from his experiences walking along mountain trails. To his beautiful style the author adds many scholarly details on Chinese culture, cosmology and language. As a big fan of his translations, the quality of this book and the depth of the poetry did not come as a surprise. I enjoyed this book utterly!
Having said that, I also think that the book is not for everyone. Some parts are dense and I doubt that people not already in love with Nature, poetry and also seriously acquainted with Chinese poetry and culture will withstand, let alone enjoy, the book. In my opinion this book is perfect for a very particular type of person (like me!) who loves and enjoys Nature and poetry, while also loving, admiring and sometimes practicing philosophy in the ancient Chinese way. People with different tastes might surely need to consider reading something else.
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