Existence: A Story (Paperback)
The mystery of existence and our place in that mystery--as expressed in a single Chinese landscape painting: a new work of meditative philosophy by the renowned translator of the Chinese classics and author of Hunger Mountain.
Join David Hinton, the premier modern translator of the Chinese classics, as he stands before a single landscape painting, discovering in it the wondrous story of existence—and as part of that story, the magical nature of consciousness. What he coaxes from the image is nothing less than a revelation: the dynamic interweaving of mind and Cosmos, and the glorious dance of Absence and Presence that is the secret of that Cosmos.
The painting called Peaceful-Distance Pavilion by Shih-t'ao (1642-1707) is, like other paintings in that genre, mostly space: one tiny figure, accompanied by an attendant, looks out over a vast landscape of mountains and clouds. But start looking into that space and, with the right guidance, what you end up seeing is profound. David Hinton is the perfect guide. He uses his knowledge of Chinese philosophy, poetry, art, language, and writing system to illuminate this painting's message, which is ultimately the story of the glorious dance between nothing and everything, between emptiness and existence. It's an enthralling journey that can change the way you look at the world, a journey for which David is a wise and eloquent guide.
About the Author
David Hinton’s many translations of classical Chinese poetry have earned wide acclaim for creating compelling contemporary poems that convey the texture and density of the originals. He is also the first translator in over a century to translate the five seminal masterworks of Chinese philosophy: I Ching, Tao Te Ching, Chuang Tzu, Analects, and Mencius. Hinton has received many national awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, both major awards for poetry translation, and most recently, a lifetime achievement award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
“In extraordinarily deft and patient hands, David Hinton delivers us into the unknowable. Using as his guide the Chinese landscape painter Shih T’ao and other sage poet-painter-wanderers, he takes us to the very brink of existence and consciousness, beyond linguistic dualities of past and future, propelled by the life force that drives through us, from one step to the next . . . you can almost hear the footfalls of his thinking and Ch’an practice . . . until we find ourselves in the strange surroundings of empty mind and full heart, and finally, equanimity. It is an uncanny journey, essential for all.”—Gretel Ehrlich, author of Facing the Wave and This Cold Heaven
“A pellucid gem of a book—I couldn’t put it down. Through the vision of a single, inexhaustible painting—whose depth opens onto the mysteries of meditation, calligraphy, poetry, and existence itself—Hinton gradually discloses for us the whole vast and fathomless landscape of Taoist and Ch’an (Zen) spirituality. At first we gaze wonder-struck into the many-mountained distance; soon we find ourselves immersed; and then we dissolve into the ch’i-mist drifting up the forested slopes.”—David Abram, author of The Spell of the Sensuous
“[Hinton is a] rare example of a literary Sinologist—that is, a classical scholar thoroughly conversant with, and connected to, contemporary literature in English.”—New York Review of Books