Cold Mountain documentary about Han Shan


A local artist has brought his China experience to life with Cold Mountain, a documentary portrait of a Tang Dynasty Chinese poet, Han Shan that TPT will air on Channel 2 on January 3, 10:00 p.m., January 4, 4:00 a.m. and on TPT MN on January 9, 6:00 p.m. 

The project is the work of St. Paul artist Mike Hazard, and the Center for International Education (, and was co-directed by Deb Wallwork. Music for the program was performed by renowned pipa artist Gao Hong.

Cold Mountain is a half hour film portrait of the Tang Dynasty Chinese poet Han Shan, a.k.a. Cold Mountain. Recorded on location in China, America and Japan, Burton Watson, Red Pine, Jim Lenfestey and the legendary Gary Snyder describe the poet’s life and tell poems.

Regarded as a trickster during his time, Han Shan wrote poems for everyone, and not just the educated elite. A man free of spiritual doctrine, it is unclear whether or not he was a monk, whether he was a Buddhist or a Taoist, or both. It is not even certain he ever lived, but the poems do.

The poems are recited in Mandarin by Jin Hua, with animations from John Akre.

“Cold Mountain is a rollicking, tasty film filled with poetry, colorful characters, Zen wisdom and witty commentary,” said Deb Wallwork. “The film gives us glimpses of that mysterious – some say crazy, some say enlightened – figure, Han Shan, who left the dusty world to become a hermit and a poet, and in so doing wrote the intimate and inspired lines that speak to us today.”

Mike Hazard added that one way to look at the film is to see that literally everyone and everything in the film is channeling the spirit of Han Shan.

“The Mandarin of Jin Hua, the trickster animations of John Akre, the street singer, the rice thrashers, the Butterfly Woman, the four poetical guides, the monks in the temple kitchen, the bats in the cave, Gao Hong’s pipa, even the cicadas compose a richly layered portrait of Cold Mountain.”

Hazard and Wallwork are veteran documentary filmmakers with a dozen national releases on PBS between them. Their most recent collaboration, C. BECK, was Grand Prize winner of the Independent Lens Online Shorts Festival produced by ITVS.




Once at Cold Mountain troubles cease.

No more tangled, hung-up mind.

I idly scribble poems on the rock cliff

Taking whatever comes like a drifting boat.

– A poem by Han Shan translated by Gary Snyder in the film


Here we languish, a bunch of poor scholars,

Battered by extremes of hunger and cold.

Out of work, our only joy is poetry:

Scribble, scribble we wear out our brains.

Who will read the works of such men?

On that point you can save your sighs.

We could inscribe our poems on biscuits

And homeless dogs wouldn’t deign to nibble.

– A poem by Han Shan translated by Burton Watson in the film


I came once to sit on Cold Mountain

And lingered here for thirty years.

Yesterday I went to see relatives and friends;

Over half had gone to the Yellow Springs.

Bit by bit life fades like a guttering lamp,

Passes on like a river that never rests.

This morning I face my lonely shadow

And before I know it tears stream down.

– A poem by Han Shan translated by Burton Watson in the film