Translation through a Zen Mind: Sam Hamill’s Translation of Li Bai’s “Du Zuo Jing Ting Shan”

Jiyong Geng, Qiang Pi


In the global spread of religions and philosophical thoughts, translation is always at the forefront. In the case of Buddhism, the typical image is that of learned intellectuals or scholarly monks assiduously working on the interpretation and translation of important words and concepts across cultures. But there are also other forms of Buddhist translation at work exerting a less visible, but no less important impact on the reception of Buddhism. This paper discusses American poet Sam Hamill’s translation of one of Li Bai’s renowned poems and argues that this form of translation is co-influenced by Hamill’s dual identities of literary translator and Zen practitioner. As a result, it not only provides new understanding to the source culture, but also adds variety to the Buddhist literature of the target culture.


Sam Hamill; Zen Buddhism; Li Bai; translation

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