Boundless wind and moon are the eye within the eye,
limitless heaven and earth the lamp beyond the lamp.
A million homes amid dark willows and lit blossoms:
knock on any gate anywhere, and someone will answer.

—Preface to The Blue Cliff Record
David Hinton writes in his introduction to his newly published translation of The Blue Cliff Record:
There are no answers, only depths … But the depths—oh my, the depths are wondrous indeed! For those depths are beyond the words and explanations and understanding that answers normally entail—and there, anything and anywhere is the answer: willow seed fluff swarming sunlit through afternoon skies, hummingbird probing blue-violet iris blossoms veined gold, someone answering a knock at the courtyard gate …
A commentary on Hinton’s translation of the Wumenguan:
No-Gate Gateway is one of the masterpieces of Chinese literature … No-Gate (i.e., the author) continually criticizes and ridicules the masters, undermining their teaching. He acknowledges their mastery and insight, chooses a tale that illustrates that insight at the deepest possible level, and right there, he’s created the perfect place to dismantle their teaching, thereby redoubling the original sangha-case’s (koan’s) deconstruction of logical thought and explanation.
No-Gate Gateway’s native philosophical context extends back over two millennia prior to its composition. And yet it remains remarkably contemporary to us, for as we will see it is an empirically grounded spirituality that weaves human consciousness into landscape and cosmos at profound levels.   


David Hinton has published numerous books of poetry and essays, and many translations of ancient Chinese poetry and philosophy that create contemporary works of compelling literary power, while also conveying the actual texture and density of the originals. These books are all informed by an abiding interest in deep ecological thinking, in exploring the weave of consciousness and landscape.

This work has earned wide acclaim and many national awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship and both of the major awards given for poetry translation in the United States: the Landon Translation Award (Academy of American Poets) and the PEN American Translation Award. Most recently, Hinton received a lifetime achievement award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

I’ve been translating classical Chinese poetry for many years, and slowly over those years I’ve come to realize that in translation I’ve stumbled upon a way to think outside the limitations not just of the mainstream Western intellectual tradition, but also of my own identity, a way to speak in the voice of ancient China’s sage-masters, and for them to speak in mine.

from Hinton’s Hunger Mountain