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Hunger Mountain

A Field Guide to Mind and Landscape

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"This is a book of power, the very opposite of mystical. If you have a special mountain in your life, you'll read it with understanding; if you don't, it will make you want to get one!"—Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature and Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet.

Learning to see with the eyes of the ancient Chinese sages can change your view of the universe, as David Hinton demonstrates. He takes us on a series of walks up Hunger Mountain, a wilderness area near his home in Vermont. What he sees and describes about these outings is informed by the cosmos-view he's imbibed from his many years of translating Chinese poetry: a way of looking at nature, and our place in it, and a particular way of regarding the relationship between ourselves and the universe. It's a view that informs all the great Chinese poetry and art. It's found in Taoism and Chinese expressions of Buddhism, but it predates them by millennia, going back probably to the Paleolithic Age—and it's found in the structures of the Chinese language itself, and in the evolution of the system of writing. 
Each chapter takes its name and theme from a character of the Chinese alphabet, whose history and development Hinton examines. They originate as primitive marks, very literally expressing the simplest of ideas, from which they grow and develop through time to express concepts of great subtlety. The poets and artists understood this and kept their focus on the emptiness that gives birth to all things as they used language and images that sprang from that emptiness. We learn about this as David walks up and around Hunger Mountain, making observations about the landscape, his place in it, and the underlying geological reality, telling stories of the great poets as he goes.
It's the profoundest kind of nature writing, and it's an exceptionally accessible entrée to an ancient Chinese view of the universe.

From Publishers Weekly

Nov 19, 2012 – Whether in his poetry, prose, or translations, Hinton, a leading modern translator of classical Chinese poetry, explores landscapes and consciousness and their inseparability in Chinese art and philosophy. In these 21 personal essays, Hinton burrows into China's protolingual Paleolithic Age and the 6th century BCE origins of Tao and Ch'an (Zen) Buddhism. Eschewing any hint of the dualism encoded in Western thought and religion, Hinton reverently unwraps the deep meanings of primary Chinese pictographs until only the vibrating word-seed lies exposed. "The primary word for poetry is written using pictographic elements," writes Hinton, "meaning ‘spoken word' and ‘temple'." He pairs his own metaphysical insights from living, working, and walking around Vermont's Hunger Mountain with those of China's classical sage-poets (K'uang Su, T'ao Ch'ien, Tu Fu, and more) to masterful effect. While this may be rigorous reading for those unfamiliar with Hinton's specialized topics, there are wonderful stories for all to enjoy, especially that of poet Summit-Gate, who made a library of autumn leaves with her poem written on them and, at first snowfall, released them one by one to the mountain wind.
Hunger Mountain
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  • $13.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Nature
  • Published: Nov 13, 2012
  • Publisher: Shambhala Publications
  • Seller: Shambhala Publications, Inc.
  • Print Length: 160 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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