Who takes the Cold Mountain Road
takes a road that never ends
the rivers are long and piled with rocks
the streams are wide and choked with grass
it’s not the rain that makes the moss slick
and it’s not the wind that makes the pines moan
who can get past the tangles of the world
and sit with me in the clouds
The Han Shan Tree
by cheryl e. leonard
The Han Shan Tree is an oak tree at the Djerassi Resident Artists Program in Woodside California. While in residence at DRAP in the spring of 2004, I wandered about visiting the site-specific sculptures located on the grounds and thought it curious that there were no pieces designed to make sound. Thus I began contemplating the construction of a site-specific instrument, a sort of much larger-scale version of the driftwood mobiles I had created for Instruments in Trees. One thing led to another until there I was: merrily spending the last week of my residency in an oak tree, suspending over 200 pieces of driftwood from its boughs.
Han Shan, which means “Cold Mountain,” was a Tang Dynasty hermit poet who took his name from the summit on which he dwelled in the Heaven-Terrace Mountains of Southeast China. Legend has it that he lived in a cave by himself, sometimes visiting a nearby Buddhist monastery, where his friend, Shih-te (“Pickup”) worked in the kitchen and shared leftovers with him. Quite the trickster, Han Shan enjoyed teasing the monks for so devoutly pursuing an enlightenment they already possessed as part of their inherent nature. Most of his time was spent wandering the mountains alone, scrawling poems on rocks and trees. Han Shan was last seen squeezing himself into a crevice in a cliff near his cave. The earth closed around him and all that remained were his poems, later collected by a local government official off the area’s rocks and trees.
Thank you to (Mr.) Cat L. for introducing me to Han Shan and his poetry.