Each chapter takes its name and theme from a character of the Chinese alphabet, whose history and development Hinton examines. They originate as primitive marks, very literally expressing the simplest of ideas, from which they grow and develop through time to express concepts of great subtlety. The poets and artists understood this and kept their focus on the emptiness that gives birth to all things as they used language and images that sprang from that emptiness. We learn about this as David walks up and around Hunger Mountain, making observations about the landscape, his place in it, and the underlying geological reality, telling stories of the great poets as he goes.
It's the profoundest kind of nature writing, and it's an exceptionally accessible entrée to an ancient Chinese view of the universe.
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"A gorgeous book, a book of power, the very opposite of mystical. If you have a special mountain in your life, you'll read it with understanding; if you don't, it will make you want to get one!"—Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature and Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet
"A beautiful and compelling meditation on consciousness and the cosmos through a series of peregrinations around and beyond the intricacies of Chinese philosophy. The erudition is staggering, the spiritual aspiration profoundly moving. I couldn’t put this guidebook down, into the night, a diamond moon over my shoulder, and suddenly it was radiant dawn. A unique and dazzling achievement."—Anne Waldman, author of The Iovis Trilogy