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Four Huts: Asian Writings on the Simple Life
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Four Huts: Asian Writings on the Simple Life

3.91 of 5 stars 3.91  ·  rating details  ·  45 ratings  ·  7 reviews
The short works collected in Four Huts give voice to one of the most treasured aesthetic and spiritual ideals of Asia—that of a simple life lived in a simple dwelling. The texts were written between the ninth and the seventeenth centuries and convey each author's underlying sense of the world and what is to be valued in it. Four Huts presents original translations by Bur ...more
Paperback, 112 pages
Published July 16th 2002 by Shambhala (first published 1994)
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Nov 04, 2013 Steve added it
Shelves: chinese, japanese
The excellent scholar/translator Burton Watson brings together four short texts on a topic much discussed, if not actually lived, by the educated classes of China and Japan - withdrawing from the "world" to live in simplicity in order to concentrate on the "important things" in life. Watson could have provided hundreds of such texts, and these are excellent choices, but one should beware trying to make generalizations about the entire genre on the basis of these four examples. Two of the texts w ...more
Four Huts is a meditation on the simple life seen through the lens of four ancient Japanese poets. It is an arc where each in their time write about their own personal choice to leave the hustle and bustle of society and live in a simple dwelling with nature, their faith (typically Pure Land Buddhism) and their own thoughts as their companions. I enjoyed each poet's descriptions of what made life worth living and how all we need is a lot less than society at large typically thinks is necessary. ...more
It's easy to get caught up in the subtitle of this book, "Asian Writings on the Simple Life," and draw conclusions about Asian views of what life should really be like after reading this book. Don't be so hasty. Each of the four authors are far from simple people. All of them were members of the ultra-literate elite of their day. All of them were writing in a very specific genre of literature (called the "ji/ki" or "commemorative record" genre) that only highly trained elites were privy to. So t ...more
Grady McCallie
This small book contains English translations of four works from China (one) and Japan (three) that were written between the ninth and seventeenth centuries but all share a common theme: a simple life in a simple house, away from the hustle of urban society. Burton Watson, the translator, explains in his introduction, "read in series, the pieces show how a literary idea can evolve and expand in the hands of a succession of writers. Taken as a whole, they give eloquent expression to one of the mo ...more
Peggy Bonnington
Apr 02, 2012 Peggy Bonnington rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Susan, Baiba, Chris, Stuart
I really enjoyed these short, beautiful passages about a period of life the four men each experienced living in a small and simple "hut" (one less so) in a remote but beautiful place of lovely scenery. I liked imagining their solitary contemplation of nature, philosophy, poetry, Buddhism, life - perhaps the walks through quiet and wonderful spaces or momentary self-entertainment with a simple indigenous stringed instrument, or getting out writing materials to pen a poem... or the record of the p ...more
A very nice concept with a great introduction. The pieces themselves are jewels. However the translator lacks the ability to capture the voices of the different authors. The four entries are translated in the same register and sound monotonously the same, with a heavy Western accent. There is also very little insightful commentary on the individual pieces.
Apr 20, 2012 Shell added it
praises of solitude
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