Review: Cold Mountain, Sean Michael Wilson & Hanshan

Rating: 4 out of 5

I am not sure I read this as I should have. Mine was a glancing look that often strayed, even when I tried to focus on these poems. Yet, by Hanshan’s words from this graphic novel, he might look favourably upon such a read instead of “the person proclaims to have found the deepest wisdom”.

I was, to be fair, uncertain what sort of a book I had got myself here. I had not heard of Hanshan or his companion Shide previously; ‘Cold Mountain’ was the name of a mountain (somewhere). Yet, the two poets come to life on these pages as two laughing sages. These sages make for a very Chinese ideal and perhaps one for which the European mind is unprepared. A quick look into the legend of Hanshan confirms such a view of the two poets. This is the first reason which makes me recommend the pair (and this book).

The second is that the poems themselves are good. As I mentioned above, I did not take the time to really look and understand, but a first understanding made some of them stand out. Also, at the very least the selection of poems was very different to what a quick Wikipedia search provides.

However, my main problem is not how the legend gets brought across — I think for the poets themselves, the authors could have included a few more poems. There were a few really good scenes of the mountain the companions lived at, but there really could have been more. With the author’s comment in Goodreads noting that they don’t understand the low appreciation this volume gets, I think including more poems and more thorough a (pictorial) description of who Hanshan was would have immensely improved this book and its value.

Even so, I recommend it — though I want to return to it in my own time.

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