- Paperback: 176 pages
- Publisher: Shambhala (February 14, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1590303180
- ISBN-13: 978-1590303184
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.4 x 8.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 9 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,175,663 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Swampland Flowers: The Letters and Lectures of Zen Master Ta Hui Paperback – February 14, 2006
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<p class="MsoNormal">“J.C. Cleary’s translation is as noteworthy for its elegant simplicity as for its accuracy. . . . Ta Hui’s teaching is remarkably clear and practical —geared to the lives of laypeople of his time, while still strong, simple, and useful for us today.”—Branches of Light
About the Author
J. C. Cleary holds a Ph.D. in East Asian Languages and Civilizations from Harvard University. He has translated several books of Zen literature, including Zen Dawn.
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One gripe though, J.C. Cleary, who is a FANTASTIC translator and I've never had a problem with before, says in the intro that he deliberately left some letters out because they referenced too many koans (public cases). I find this to be unacceptable and presumptuous on his part that I as a reader am incapable of understanding such information. Even if I was incapable of understanding I could still research all esoteric terminology and figure it out! "Public cases" are not hard to come by! Most can be found online for free in the many koan collections.
That being said, I don't know of any other translation of this work and so this is de facto the best there is.
Cleary's translation style is quite appropriate, too, remaining true and accurate to Ta Hui's language while not being afraid to get slangy when he does. The flow of words is unstrained and natural while not fast and loose. The footnotes and parenthetical remarks are handled with good balance, making references obscure to the 20th century American reader clear while not talking over the author himself. The only thing really lacking as far as I was concerned was a brief biographical sketch of the laymen to whom these letters are addressed, perhaps as a little appendix in the back. Who is Ta Hui talking to? Why does he keep writing to Li Hsien-ch'en and Tseng T'ien-yu multiple times while only writing letters to others once or maybe twice? Or is this only an effect of Cleary's selection process? All of this would have been good to know, but the lack thereof doesn't detract that much from the book, which still stands quite well on its many merits. I highly recommend this book to any and all.
*(I approach from the Japanese side, but "Lin Chi lineage" and "Ch'an" if you prefer. But then why don't I refer to the monk as Daie? Cleary does the same thing, too, with "Zen Master Ta Hui". The tangled linguistics of Zen/Ch'an/Son in America would be worth a study in itself.)