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Zen Baggage: A Pilgrimage to China [Hardcover]

Bill Porter
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 Jan 2009
In the spring of 2006, Bill Porter traveled through the heart of China, from Beijing to Hong Kong, on a pilgrimage to sites associated with the first six patriarchs of Zen. Zen Baggage is an account of that journey. Like most travel literature, Porter takes readers to places few Westerners have ever ventured. He weaves together historical background, interviews with Zen masters, and translations of the earliest known records of Zen, along with personal vignettes. Porter's account captures the transformations taking place at religious centers in China but also the abiding legacy they have somehow managed to preserve. Porter brings wisdom and humor to every situation, whether visiting ancient caves containing the most complete collection of Buddhist texts ever uncovered, enduring a six-hour Buddhist ceremony, searching in vain for the ghost in his room, waking up the monk in charge of martial arts at Shaolin Temple, or meeting the abbess of China's first Zen nunnery. Porter's previously published Road to Heaven: Encounters with Chinese Hermits has become recommended reading at Zen centers and universities throughout America and even in China (in its Chinese translation), and Zen Baggage is sure to follow suit.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 359 pages
  • Publisher: Shoemaker & Hoard, Div of Avalon Publishing Group Inc (1 Jan 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1593761325
  • ISBN-13: 978-1593761325
  • Product Dimensions: 23.5 x 16 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,190,445 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"Red Pine's translation transports us to China in the fourteenth century, transfixes us in the beauty of the hermit poet's work, and demonstrates the transformative power of a Zen adept's talk." -- Michael Wenger

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars zen does carry a lot of baggage lately 15 April 2010
great book. i like bill porter's translations and commentaries a lot so i guess i was biased to start with. it does read great as a travel journal. very light but accurate on the historical bit. quite devoid of zen pedantics too. you do not need to have an ordinaton or some sort of degree on zenology by buddha himself to be walking the path. and that's what refreshing from bill. very southern of him (if you know what i mean). don't knock yourself out polishing tiles, people. keep it in balance and read this as a book for the sake of itself. no enlightenment here. sorry. and still....
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars good book good service 24 Mar 2012
By yfft
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I like it very much. A good book and good service. It is a very good experience to buy book in this bookshop.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 15 Sep 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
excellent and informative book
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  26 reviews
45 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Old Man Zen 18 Feb 2009
By Jeff Hooks - Published on Amazon.com
Zen Baggage: A Pilgrimage to China by Bill Porter is a tedious travelogue told by a grumpy old man. However, as he carries his baggage of tea and books through the interior of China, Porter slowly reveals himself to be a man of Zen as I understand his understanding of Zen: a mind at work in the everyday world.

Meditating makes Porter's knees hurt, and he actually prefers being on the outside of the meditation hall. And although respecting the ceremonies and rituals practiced by the Zen Buddhist monks and nuns, he'd much rather take a nap.

In the everyday world, Porter grumbles about headaches, backaches, and allergies to dust as he travels by bus, train, taxi, motorcycle, mini-van, or tractor through frigid cold, tropical heat, or torrential rain. But before it all becomes too tiresome, he finds a delicious pumpkin cookie, a skillful masseuse, or an impressive PhD student who peels mangoes for him with a Uighur knife pulled from her boot.

Porter enjoys wild mushrooms, hot baths, gooseberry wine, afternoon naps, Iron Goddess tea, and an occasional fun-sized Snickers -- all providing much-needed breaks from his traveling and journaling. Writing about his pilgrimage to the ancient temples and grave sites of Zen patriarchs, Porter brings to light his mind, a mind at work in the everyday world, the everyday world of China, that is.

Along roads that end in dusty wasteland or muddy ruts, he is one porter who carries his Zen baggage lightly. And who's to say that Bodhidharma wasn't just another grumpy old man from the West?

Porter, Bill. Zen Baggage: A Pilgrimage to China. Berkeley: Counterpoint, 2009.
23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tagging along with Bill 17 Jan 2009
By Michael A. Nicosia - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I thought Bill Porter's first book about his journeys in China, Road to Heaven, was one of the most entrancing books I have encountered in my many years of avid reading. However, his new book is equally compelling. As someone with a deep interest in Chinese thought and culture, I have been wondering what the current state of spiritual life is in the brave new world that is modern China. This book goes a long way toward answering some of my questions. Bill's ability to communicate and his intimate knowledge of Ch'an literature and history gives a richness to this deceptively simple tale of his wanderings.
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What A Long Strange Trip It's Been 9 Jan 2009
By Barry Magid MD - Published on Amazon.com
Bill Porter traveled to sites associated with the Six Chinese Zen patriarchs and his book blends a history of the development of Zen with an account of its current rebirth in post-Cultural Revolution China which has permitted the reestablishment of the monasteries and genuine Zen training. Porter's wears his erudition lightly but his own humor and insight are on display on every page. If you speak fluent Chinese and a have a strong back (and butt) you might want to make the trip yourself. but personally I'm glad he travelled on all those Chinese buses to distant mountain retreats so I don't have to. But the old teachers are alive and well in this book - even if they insisted Zen had no need of words - congratulations to Porter for resurrecting them.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A tapestry of finely woven thread 2 Jun 2009
By Larry J. Babin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a wonderful book by Bill Porter with a treasure of riches from and to the Zen Mind. Mr. Porter has laid out a multifold story to document the history of Zen in China and unload some personal baggage that he has carried for years. Using the approach of Mark Twain "on the Damned human Race" and Pearl Buck in "The good Earth" he documents for posterity the 2500 year struggle of the Chinese mind to find itself. With the Typical Zen simplicity Mr. Porter has covered a lot of ground in his 359 page book that would have been 700 pages if he used a larger font size. The font size did a number on my bifocals but it was worth it. It reminds me of a question that could be applied both to Mr. Porter and the Chinese people from my childhood. "If these people are so poor, why are they always smiling? It is because the lack of worldly goods does not obscure the treasures of the Mind." The world should take note of the progress being made in China to restore its age old tradition of thought and stability. As to Mr. Porter, he is a national treasure for both the Chinese people and the USA. He should look for funding in his future projects not at the "GUG" but from more legitimate funding sources for these works and not "POP ART". The threefold tale that has been unfolded has fine detail threading in the Tapestry of Mind. The "Accidental Buddha" nature of the dependent arising and serendipitous encounters with old Dharma brothers, sisters and distant cousins could not have been staged. It is evidence of a life spent in mining the treasures of the Chinese Mind indicated by the network of contacts built though diligent efforts and travels. The unsaid is as important in this book as the said. Thank you Mr. Porter, aka Red Pine.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Remarkable Adventure! 13 Jan 2009
By Albert A. Dalia - Published on Amazon.com
Bill Porter's Zen Baggage is a remarkable work that's satisfying at multiple levels. Bill knows the spiritual landscape of modern China better than any author alive today traversing its sacred mountains, valleys, and waterways. And that's the special attraction of Bill's book - he's been there! And being there, he's got a lot of friends in those monasteries and sacred sites and each time he travels, he not only renews those friendships but also makes a raft of new ones. As a result, you, the lucky reader, get to make new friends, visit new places, have new experiences, and gain new insights. Old "Zennist" or total neophyte, Bill's trip will surprise you in the depth and extent of China's Zen Renaissance. And while it is one thing to build a lot of buildings and call them "Buddhist monasteries," it's quite another to populate them with sincere, intelligent Buddhists. Bill's book introduces us to a new generation of remarkable Chinese Buddhist monks and nuns. At another level, if you enjoy traveling, you'll enjoy Bill's extensive knowledge of Chinese history and geography combined with his love of good tea and gastronomical adventures. Most of all, Zen Baggage let's you check "your baggage" at the opening of the cover and join a remarkable traveler in a great modern day adventure!
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