Road to Heaven: Encounters with Chinese Hermits

Porter, a Hong Kong-based writer whose previous books were published under the pen name Red Pine ( The Zen Teaching of Bodhidharma ), lived in a Taiwanese monastery for three years in the 1970s and later translated works of some Chinese hermits long admired for their virtue. When travel to China opened up in the late 1980s, Porter began to search for hermits who might have survived under years of communism. His story is unusual, but his "encounters"—actually, brief interviews—produce not subtle observations but statements of gnomic profundity: " . . . the Tao is empty. It can’t be explained." Still, Porter showed undeniable bravery as he trekked through the Chungnan Mountains in central China to interview more than 20 male and female hermits. Some hermits are circumspect about politics, having suffered under the Cultural Revolution, while others, like an 85-year-old monk who had lived in a cave for 50 years, are oblivious to the political changes. Porter’s historical and literary reflections show sensitivity to his subject, but this book seems aimed only at those interested in such spiritual quests. Some of the photographs are starkly spectacular. Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Journey into the contemplative world of Chinese ascetics

Field of Interest/Specialty: Library & Art
Posted On: 03/01/2011

As China began lifting the travel ban during the eighties, Bill Porter an expat living in Taiwan, hatched a plan to explore the spiritually significant Chungnan Mountains in search of the purported Buddhist and Daoist hermits practicing in deep isolation. Although he was informed that the monks we part of a long standing tradition no longer in existence, he followed his hunch and discovered the tradition was indeed alive and well. Porter describes in vivid detail an account of his quest into the verdant setting of the majestic mountains. The text is engaging and Porter does a wonderful job balancing esoteric spirituality with factual information regarding the impact of the Cultural Revolution. In addition, his descriptive power guides the reader over the peaks and valleys tracing the geographic uniqueness of the region.
Although many of the religious concepts are complex and obscure, the book can stand on its own as a snapshot of Chinese cultural history. Students interested in the ascetic lifestyle will find the title engaging in addition to those looking to enhance knowledge gained from the curriculum. Road to Heaven is an investigation into the isolated existence of traditional Chinese Hermits and will leave readers in quite contemplation.