Within minutes of starting to read this collection, I found a wonderful poem and decided that this one poem alone was worth the price of the book. Then I found another. And another. And so on. The personality of this slightly disreputable poet shines through across the centuries. Sometimes self-pitying, but he never loses the sense of humour which, one senses, got him through the hard times. Poem 10 will strike a chord with all poets and writers "Scribble, scribble, we wear out our brains... If our words were inscribed on biscuits, even the homeless dogs wouldn't deign to nibble.'! Wonderful stuff!
I don't know Chinese. I know a little about Chinese Buddhism. But Han-shan and Watson have made these poem's familar: it's our condition.
Each poem is a neat little eight line chunk. Nothing elaborate here, just simple poetry for our simpler side. Given all the bloated religious teachers and poets I've read, this is a refreshing change. Try to imagine how long it might take you to come up with a similar brief wise poem. Then consider Watson only translated 100 of Han-Shan's roughly 300 poems. How cold was that mountain?
A lovely little book full of thought provoking poems. Whither he was a Buddhist or a Taoist no one knows. Whither he existed or not, or whither the poems were really written by him or by a collection of other people doesn't really matter. As one of the poems suggests: "Paste them to a screen so that you can glance them over from time to time."