China Root: Taoism, Ch’an, and Original Zen -  David Hinton

China Root: Taoism, Ch’an, and Original Zen - David Hinton

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A beautifully compelling and liberating guide to the original nature of Zen in ancient China by renowned author and translator David Hinton.

Buddhism migrated from India to China in the first century C.E., and Ch’an (Japanese: Zen) is generally seen as China’s most distinctive and enduring form of Buddhism. In China Root, however, David Hinton reveals how Ch’an was in fact a Buddhist-influenced extension of Taoism, China’s native system of spiritual philosophy that was grounded in an earthy and empirically-based vision. Hinton describes Ch’an as a kind of anti-Buddhism, a radical and wild practice aspiring to a deeply ecological liberation: the integration of individual consciousness with landscape and with a Cosmos seen as harmonious and alive.

Hinton presents this original form of Zen with his trademark clarity and elegance, each chapter exploring in enlightening ways a core Ch’an concept—such as meditation, mind, Buddha, awakening—as it was originally understood and practiced in ancient China. Finally, by examining a range of standard translations in the appendix, he shows how this original understanding and practice of Ch’an/Zen is almost entirely missing in contemporary American Zen, because it was lost in Ch’an’s migration from China through Japan and on to the West.

Whether you practice Zen or not, taking this journey on the wings of Hinton’s remarkable insight and powerful writing will transform how you understand yourself and the world.


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Shambhala Publications. 2020. 176 pages. Paperback.