Red Pine in Beijing

I went to The Bookworm this evening to catch a talk by Bill Porter, aka ‘Red Pine’. I’d been planning to go for well over a month, but hadn’t thought to pre-book a ticket. As it turned out, the talk was well over-subscribed, and I was lucky to get a ticket on standby.

He was talking about his new book, Zen Baggage – a personal pilgrimage around the significant historical sites of Zen (Ch’an) Buddhism in China. I actually bought the book about six weeks ago, and I’m not going to say anything about it now as I hope to review it at some point.

Since I’ve already read it, the readings were only mildly interesting. It was the conversation afterwards that gripped me. Porter, let’s just say, has made the hard choice to follow what he loves, even though it led to poverty. I have to respect that, especially in light of the choices I’m weighing. It turns out that he’s a friend of Daniel Reid – “He turned to Daoism, I turned to Buddhism, and we balance each other out”. Apparently Reid lives in Yunnan now. I’m vaguely aware of his work, although my friends H. and S. are big fans.

Anyway, I had a brief and enlightening chat with Porter after the talk. It seems that the book for which he is most well-known, Road to Heaven, will be re-published in September this year. I’ll look forward to getting a copy. I had planned to take my copy of Zen Baggage along for him to sign but, since I was kept late at work, I didn’t get a chance. Instead, I bought a copy of Cold Mountain.

No…. NOT the American Civil War novel that got made into a film a few years back! This is the collection of Chinese poems by a Daoist, or possibly Buddhist, hermit, made famous by Jack Kerouac in The Dharma Bums. Which is where I first heard of them, and I’ve been looking for a copy ever since….


  1. hey Emlyn–

    Glad to hear that Bill made it to Beijing safely. He doesn’t live that far away from me. I’ve been by his house a number of times to have “Zen Baggage” and other books autographed for friends. Last time I saw him, we chatted together with Jarek . . . they are going to try to connect later during Bill’s trip.

    I just finished Bill’s translations of Han Shan’s poems last month. The notes are especially helpful.

    Thanks for going to the reading and supporting Bill’s work.




  2. Well well, once again proof that’s it’s a small world! What is it with the Pacific northwest???

    I really enjoyed meeting Bill, and would like to have the chance some time to chat for longer. The day after the talk he was due to fly to Urumqi as guide for a group of tourists. Of course, the day of his talk was the day things got bad there, so I wonder whether they were allowed to go or not….

    Do you mean Jarek of “China from the Inside”? If so, what happened to that? It’s a great resource, but hasn’t been updated for years… In fact, it seemed to me that he stopped updating it when Brian Preston’s book came out… While I enjoyed the book, it did seem that it piggybacked on Jarek a lot, and I wondered if maybe he’d been offended… In fact, that’s the book that got me thinking maybe *I* should write one 🙂


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s