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The Blue-Cliff Record

The Blue-Cliff Record (c. 1040) is the first of the three classic sangha-case (koan) collections from ancient China. These collections culminate the Ch’an (Zen) Buddhist literary tradition, incorporating all of the insights and strategies that had developed over millennia of Ch’an’s development in China. Translated with David Hinton’s trademark lyricism and philosophical rigor, this translation is a revelation. It presents a whole new Blue-Cliff Record. Here we discover the book as a delightfully compelling literary text, full of poetry and storytelling and characters both zany and profound. We also discover it in all the profundity of its original philosophical context, a context largely lost in modern Zen and its translations of the Chinese classics, but rediscovered in Hinton’s other, much-celebrated books on Ch’an. 

    In The Blue-Cliff Record, as in all Ch’an literature, we encounter a community not of religious acolytes, but of philosophers exploring the deep nature of things together, and in a way that is experientially transforming. This Blue-Cliff Record was not originally meant to be a teaching text understood only after long instruction from Zen masters, as it is now seen. And it is not shrouded in impenetrable paradox, as often assumed. Instead, it is a literary/philosophical text crafted to create a direct and immediate experience of awakening. Trusting this, Hinton’s translation presents only the original text, free of the commentary that usually shrouds it. This original book insists over and over on the need to rely on oneself rather than teachers for insight and awakening, and Hinton’s translation opens this possibility anew for contemporary Western readers.

    This is the second in Hinton’s series of the three sangha-case classics, which also includes No-Gate Gateway (2018) and The Carefree-Ease Record (forthcoming).

Praise for Hinton's Previous Ch'an Books:

Hinton’s deep understanding of the Taoist roots of Ch’an shine a light on the Zen practice of today, taking us back in a thrilling way beyond the Japanese rigor and aesthetics, beyond the mythical T’ang Dynasty flourishing of Ch’an’s great ancestors, back to its Taoist roots in the first millennium BCE—and even beyond them, into the mists of its Paleolithic origins.

                                     —Henry Shukman Roshi


Hinton is after . . . depth and boundlessness.

                                    —New York Review of Books


I love this book! . . . unique and powerful . . . opens doors to the heart of Zen.

                                    —Joan Halifax Roshi


David Hinton is a fabulous translator. This book is luminous and transparent. You can see the light of the original Chinese masters shining through.

                                   —John Tarrant Roshi

. . . a national treasure . . . Hinton cracks open the cosmos and takes you into the depths of the mind.


                                   —Lion’s Roar Magazine


                  — from the book jacket

Shambhala (forthcoming spring 2024)


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