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Zen Baggage: A Pilgrimage to China Paperback – January 13, 2010


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Editorial Reviews

Review


“Porter takes the reader to places far off the tourist track and far from the economic and political frenzy of major cities, traveling on buses and sleeping rough in monasteries. He does it without pedantry or zeal and with some humor.” —Library Journal
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Counterpoint; Reprint edition (January 13, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582435405
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582435404
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #368,654 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Thank you Mr. Porter, aka Red Pine.
Larry J. Babin
A "must read" companion book to Bill Porter's earlier book "Road to Heaven: Encounters with Chinese Hermits."
Chris_NorCal
I feel lucky to have read this book.
Joe

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

46 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Jeff Hooks on February 18, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Zen Baggage: A Pilgrimage to China by Bill Porter is a tedious travelogue told by a grumpy old man. However, as he carries his baggage of tea and books through the interior of China, Porter slowly reveals himself to be a man of Zen as I understand his understanding of Zen: a mind at work in the everyday world.

Meditating makes Porter's knees hurt, and he actually prefers being on the outside of the meditation hall. And although respecting the ceremonies and rituals practiced by the Zen Buddhist monks and nuns, he'd much rather take a nap.

In the everyday world, Porter grumbles about headaches, backaches, and allergies to dust as he travels by bus, train, taxi, motorcycle, mini-van, or tractor through frigid cold, tropical heat, or torrential rain. But before it all becomes too tiresome, he finds a delicious pumpkin cookie, a skillful masseuse, or an impressive PhD student who peels mangoes for him with a Uighur knife pulled from her boot.

Porter enjoys wild mushrooms, hot baths, gooseberry wine, afternoon naps, Iron Goddess tea, and an occasional fun-sized Snickers -- all providing much-needed breaks from his traveling and journaling. Writing about his pilgrimage to the ancient temples and grave sites of Zen patriarchs, Porter brings to light his mind, a mind at work in the everyday world, the everyday world of China, that is.

Along roads that end in dusty wasteland or muddy ruts, he is one porter who carries his Zen baggage lightly. And who's to say that Bodhidharma wasn't just another grumpy old man from the West?

Porter, Bill. Zen Baggage: A Pilgrimage to China. Berkeley: Counterpoint, 2009.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Michael A. Nicosia on January 16, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I thought Bill Porter's first book about his journeys in China, Road to Heaven, was one of the most entrancing books I have encountered in my many years of avid reading. However, his new book is equally compelling. As someone with a deep interest in Chinese thought and culture, I have been wondering what the current state of spiritual life is in the brave new world that is modern China. This book goes a long way toward answering some of my questions. Bill's ability to communicate and his intimate knowledge of Ch'an literature and history gives a richness to this deceptively simple tale of his wanderings.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Barry Magid MD on January 9, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Bill Porter traveled to sites associated with the Six Chinese Zen patriarchs and his book blends a history of the development of Zen with an account of its current rebirth in post-Cultural Revolution China which has permitted the reestablishment of the monasteries and genuine Zen training. Porter's wears his erudition lightly but his own humor and insight are on display on every page. If you speak fluent Chinese and a have a strong back (and butt) you might want to make the trip yourself. but personally I'm glad he travelled on all those Chinese buses to distant mountain retreats so I don't have to. But the old teachers are alive and well in this book - even if they insisted Zen had no need of words - congratulations to Porter for resurrecting them.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Larry J. Babin on June 2, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a wonderful book by Bill Porter with a treasure of riches from and to the Zen Mind. Mr. Porter has laid out a multifold story to document the history of Zen in China and unload some personal baggage that he has carried for years. Using the approach of Mark Twain "on the Damned human Race" and Pearl Buck in "The good Earth" he documents for posterity the 2500 year struggle of the Chinese mind to find itself. With the Typical Zen simplicity Mr. Porter has covered a lot of ground in his 359 page book that would have been 700 pages if he used a larger font size. The font size did a number on my bifocals but it was worth it. It reminds me of a question that could be applied both to Mr. Porter and the Chinese people from my childhood. "If these people are so poor, why are they always smiling? It is because the lack of worldly goods does not obscure the treasures of the Mind." The world should take note of the progress being made in China to restore its age old tradition of thought and stability. As to Mr. Porter, he is a national treasure for both the Chinese people and the USA. He should look for funding in his future projects not at the "GUG" but from more legitimate funding sources for these works and not "POP ART". The threefold tale that has been unfolded has fine detail threading in the Tapestry of Mind. The "Accidental Buddha" nature of the dependent arising and serendipitous encounters with old Dharma brothers, sisters and distant cousins could not have been staged. It is evidence of a life spent in mining the treasures of the Chinese Mind indicated by the network of contacts built though diligent efforts and travels. The unsaid is as important in this book as the said. Thank you Mr. Porter, aka Red Pine.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Albert A. Dalia on January 13, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Bill Porter's Zen Baggage is a remarkable work that's satisfying at multiple levels. Bill knows the spiritual landscape of modern China better than any author alive today traversing its sacred mountains, valleys, and waterways. And that's the special attraction of Bill's book - he's been there! And being there, he's got a lot of friends in those monasteries and sacred sites and each time he travels, he not only renews those friendships but also makes a raft of new ones. As a result, you, the lucky reader, get to make new friends, visit new places, have new experiences, and gain new insights. Old "Zennist" or total neophyte, Bill's trip will surprise you in the depth and extent of China's Zen Renaissance. And while it is one thing to build a lot of buildings and call them "Buddhist monasteries," it's quite another to populate them with sincere, intelligent Buddhists. Bill's book introduces us to a new generation of remarkable Chinese Buddhist monks and nuns. At another level, if you enjoy traveling, you'll enjoy Bill's extensive knowledge of Chinese history and geography combined with his love of good tea and gastronomical adventures. Most of all, Zen Baggage let's you check "your baggage" at the opening of the cover and join a remarkable traveler in a great modern day adventure!
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