Soanka, The Song of the Grass Hut
(Essay and Translation by Taigen Dan Leighton)
Soanka, The Song of the Grass Hut was written by Shitou (700-793BCE) during the time when Zen was first becoming popular in China as a practice of directly experiencing reality in seated meditation. The poem is a Buddhist expression of the Taoist archetype of the mountain sage, who forsakes ordinary social conventions for the solitary, spiritual life. As a result of the establishment of large Chan monasteries, this kind of solitary life in the mountain wilderness had almost disappeared in China by the time that Shitou moved to the South Peak Temple on South Mountain and built a hut on a large stone ledge.