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Zen Poems of China and Japan: The Crane's Bill (Evergreen Book) Paperback – January 18, 1994

4.6 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English, Chinese, Japanese (translation)

From the Back Cover

Capturing in verse the ageless spirit of Zen, these 150 poems reflect the insights of famed masters from the ninth century to the nineteenth. The translators, in collaboration with Zen Master Taigan Takayama, have furnished illuminating commentary on the poems and arranged them so as to facilitate comparison between the Chinese and Japanese Zen traditions.
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Product Details

  • Series: Evergreen Book
  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press; Reissue edition (January 18, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802130194
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802130198
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #161,274 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
THE CRANE'S BILL : Zen Poems of China and Japan. Translated by Lucien Stryk and Takashi Ikemoto with the assistance of Taigan Takayama, Zen Master. 143 pp. New York : Grove Press, 1973 and Reprinted.
Zen poetry is one of the glories of Zen, and yet few in the West seem to care or even know about it. Though undoubtedly sincere in their efforts to understand Zen, most readers seem drawn to prose treatises or explications or analyses of one sort or another, while overlooking the fact that, as Taigan Takayama expresses it : "Zen detests conceptualization" (page xi). Tenzan Yasuda has expressed the same idea this way : "What expresses cosmic truth in the most direct and concise way - that is the heart of Zen art" (page xxxvii).
The poetry of Zen ranges all the way from the tiny seventeen-syllable haiku of a stupendous poet such as Santoka, which have been beautifully translated by John Stevens (in 'Mountain Tasting : Zen Haiku by Santoka Taneda'), through to the Zen verse treatise, of which the finest example is the Third Patriarch Seng-ts'an's 'Hsin-hsin-ming.' This poem brilliantly captures the essence of Zen in its thirty-one verses, and is a text that deserves to be far better known. Although the present book is devoted to shorter poems, an easily accessible translation of the 'Hsin-hsin-ming' will be found in D. T. Suzuki's 'Manual of Zen Buddhism' ('On Believing in Mind,' pages 76-82).
'Crane's Bill' is a collaborative effort which falls into three parts. First we are given, in a Foreword, Preface, and Introduction, 42 pages of interesting and informative material in which a very persuasive case is made for the fact that we should be reading these poems.
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Even though I enjoy reading (and writing) all kinds of poetry my favorite poetic form has always been the concise and short Asian poetry of China and Japan. In fact, Japanese Haiku is my favorite poetic form. I have read and wrote reviews on numerous volumes of Asian poetry over the years. This wonderful 143 page soft cover (Zen Poems of China and Japan – The Crane’s Bill translated and compiled by Lucien Stryk and Takashi Ikemoto) book was published in 1973 but the poems are timeless.

This poetry collection is an excellent introduction to Chinese and Japanese Zen poetry. The forward, (by Taigan Takayama) introduction (by Takashi Ikemoto) and preface (by Lucien Stryk) provides essential information on the relationship between Zen and poetry. The first section focuses on poetry from China on Enlightenment, death and general poems. The second section is about Japanese poems of enlightenment, death and general poems. Do not pass over the notes section because I found this section very helpful in understanding many of the Chinese and Japanese poems.

If you love Asian Zen poetry you will love this wonderful collection of poetry.

Rating: 5 Stars. Joseph J. Truncale (Author: Haiku Moments: How to read, write and enjoy haiku)
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I owned a copy of this book for years, and I read at it a few times. However, I came back to read it after rounding out my Zen adventures with two and a half years of living and teaching in South Korea. During that time, I read more and experienced more Chan, Seon, Zen, or Thien Buddhism, and I was ready to once again give a read to one of the first books I had ever read about Zen poems. I could not find my copy; it got lost during the hiatus of learning and experiencing more.

So, I bought this book again, and this time I read it with a much fuller appreciation. First, I read the introductions and the poems straight through. When I got to the notes at the back, I read them each with a re-read of the poem annotated. Now that I am finished reading this book again, I can attest that it is one of the best books written about Zen poems. If I had to give it any critique for improvement, I would like a greater emphasis on the Chinese influences, and I would like at least a small mention of Korea's role in the rise of Zen, or Chan-Seon-Zen-Thien Buddhism.

Overall, I recommend it without reservation.
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A most awesome book on the Zen Poetry of China and Japan. Gives good history and background to what this poetry is, why it is and then gives samples of the masters. This is NOT about haiku, it is about all Zen poetry and especially the Chinese 4 line, but it sure teaches one about the heart and essence of Zen thinking and phraseology in poetry so that it will absolutely improve your haiku. You may also find you like writing the Chinese 4 line. An excellent book, one I would not pass up if you are serious about Zen philosophy and Zen poetry.
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