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Zen Baggage: A Pilgrimage to China

4.05 of 5 stars 4.05  ·  rating details  ·  91 ratings  ·  20 reviews
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. He weaves together historical background, interviews with Zen masters, and translations of the earliest known records of Zen, along with personal vignettes. Po ...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published December 16th 2008 by Counterpoint (first published August 9th 2005)
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Larry Smith
Sep 07, 2014 Larry Smith rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Buddhists, travelers
This book is expertly written in a pleasing personal journal style that bring you along for the journey through modern China as our author-guide searches out the remaining Zen temples and monasteries of the country. Red Pine (Bill Porter)is one of the finest contemporary translators of classic and diverse Chinese literature. Only here he is a fellow traveler giving us intimate details and historical background without once sounding distant and academic. We share the travails of travel with him a ...more
Reading this for the book club, but I'm not sure if I'm going to be able to finish it, it's mind-numbingly boring so far
Update: Gave up and decided I won't finish it. I thought the subject would be interesting, but the style is too rambling and unfocused for me.
I have a number of Bill Porter's translations. These include his collection of the poems of Han Shan (Cold Mountain) and his translation of The Platform Sutra. Porter's translations are clear and easy to understand. In his translation works, he seems to be able to convey the poetry and complexity of his subject at the same time.

Zen Baggage is an entirely different work as it is his account of his trip to China to visit sites of historic significance in the lives of the Zen Patriarchs of China. H
Bizarrely. It's a topic that I enjoyed reading about, and learned a fair amount, which is the only reason it gets three stars, at the same time, the author's writing style is monotone and dragging. Ironically, one of his biggest complaints as he travels about China is that the monks and abbots he meet just drone on and on about their topics. That pretty much describes his style as he just keeps flogging on. Every chapter follows the same formula - he seeks out a bus to get where he's going next, ...more
Eric Shaffer
This travel narrative is excellent and personal writing of the author's travels through China visiting the places significant to the first six patriarchs of Zen. The flashes of contemporary life in China as the extensive historical background was a brisk mixture that maintained my attention. I recommend this book, too, to all of those who want to know more about the nature of the man who is responsible for so many fine translations of Chinese literature and religious texts. If a reader is simply ...more
Another fine book from Bill Porter, guide to things obscure(d) in China. This is his knowledgeable memoir of his adventurous pilgrimage to temples and stupas associated with the first six patriarchs of Zen in China. He explains ideas and attitudes, lineages and curious cultural tidbits along the way. The bonus is the epilogue wherein he tells his own tale.
In Yunmen he met a doctoral student from Italy who was researching Empty Cloud. They travel together for a portion of the journey. In a perfec
I found it fascinating to get a travelogue picture of the "real" China, from a clearly experienced traveler to that country. Notjust any travels, but to buddhist monasteries and temples, places connected to the development of buddhism in China. I loved hearing about the ruggedness of the travels. This author, in true zen style, includes all the details of daily life. Sometimes I don't care to know that taking a "dump" (his word) was the highlight of his morning, but I do like hearing about the c ...more
Go all the way to 10th century China carrying a cell phone, riding a bus, drinking tea, getting cold wet and tired...Go all the way! Travelling with Red Pine is so much fun and then he throws in his vast knowledge of Chinese Buddhism and literature, especially poetry. I hang on his footnotes. This book is the next best thing to travelling China with Red Pine. What an exceeding generous host to a world very far away and hard to reach. Only a few have pass through and fewer yet come back and share ...more
This is an idiosyncratic book of the authors travel in China doing homage to and visiting Chinese Zen Patriarch's temples and monasteries. A very honest account of the the inside and outside journey with a bit of Zen and poetry thrown in. I give it 5 stars for its true humor, its honesty and contradictions and its insights into both Chinese Zen teaching and contemporary China. No doubt there is a a bit of historical discussion that did not interest me but the rest was enough.
Josiah Rosenberger
A very interesting book. You get to see the world of Zen through the eyes of Red Pine. It's full of characters and places and artifacts that will surely excite you, with several touching and revelatory stories about the author and others intertwined. The end is especially moving. Check it out if you feel inclined!
Rick Gardner
I appreciated the Zen history lesson, in particular, that of Hsu Yun. Ultimately, though, this book was not my cup of Iron Goddess.
Adelino Almeida
A rather dry travelogue that will interest those that feel some affinity for Zen and its history. Bill Porter is one of the best (and certainly the most unassuming) translators of Chan writings of our times, and this book is essential reading for those interested gathering a glimpse of Chan as it is once again gaining popularity in China
Angela Gaskell
I just couldn't get into this book so I never finished it. The print was way to small and there were too many Chinese names and words to begin with that made the reading not flow for me. Just not interesting enough from the get go - so its a no go.
Oh I love this book. A great mixture of personality, history, travelogue, religion/spirituality, reverence & irreverence. Now I'm looking forward to his next book, on Chinese poets.
Todd Mayville
I really enjoyed this book. My full review of it is here:
China, Zen, history, and a writer with wit and wisdom. I was pulled into his fascinating journey such that I wished to be there.
John Ellison
A very interesting travelogue/memoir. A great way to pick up some Chinese and Zen history along the way.
Kris Freedain
a fun read - I would love to hang out with Bill Porter and hear his tales in person
One of my favorite authors . . . beautifully written account of his pilgrimage in China.
Adam marked it as to-read
Dec 23, 2014
John Austin
John Austin marked it as to-read
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