Red Pine (author)

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Bill Porter (born October 3, 1943) is an American author who translates under the pen-name Red Pine (Chinese: 赤松; pinyin: Chì Sōng). He is a translator of Chinese texts, primarily Taoist and Buddhist, including poetry and sūtras.

Early life

Porter was born in Los Angeles and raised in mountainous Idaho. After serving three years in the U.S. Army (refusing assignment in Vietnam and subsequently being reassigned as a clerk in Germany), he took a degree in anthropology from University of California, Santa Barbara and went on to graduate studies in language (Chinese) and anthropology at Columbia University, but dropped out in 1972 to go to the Fo Kwang Shan Buddhist monastery in Taiwan.


In the years following, he lived in Taiwan and Hong Kong. Since 1989 he has traveled extensively in China, both as a journalist and on his own. He adopted a Chinese art name, "Red Pine" (赤松 "Chi Song"), after the legendary Taoist immortal. In 1993, after 22 years in East Asia, he returned to the US.[1] In 1999 and 2000, he taught Buddhism and Taoism at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas.[1] He now lives in Port Townsend, Washington.[2]

His book Road to Heaven prompted Edward A. Burger to seek out and study with Buddhist hermits in the Zhongnan mountains of China and direct the 2005 film Amongst White Clouds.[3]

In 2009, Copper Canyon Press published his translation of Laozi's Tao Te Ching. One of the most noteworthy aspects of this translation is Porter's use of excerpts from China's vast and rich commentarial tradition.[4]

In 2012 he published a translation of the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra (Lankavatara Sutra: Translation and Commentary. Counterpoint, 2012.) It is based on several early Chinese and Sanskrit translations including the Chinese translation made by Guṇabhadra in 443.[5]

2014 brought a re-translation of The Mountain Poems of Stonehouse.[6] Stonehouse was a fourteenth century Zen master who wrote his poems late in life while living alone in a Chinese mountain hut.

Yellow River Odyssey is an account in photographs and text of Porter's early 1990s travels along the Yellow River from its mouth at the Yellow Sea to its source in the Tibetan Plateau. Along the way, Porter visited historical religious sites related to Confucius, Mencius, Laozi and Zhuang Zhou. The Chinese version was based on 1991 radio scripts for Hong Kong radio station Metro News.[7]

"The Silk Road: Taking the bus to Pakistan" details the author's overland journey with his friend Finn Wilcox from Xi'an to Islamabad by bus, train, and plane. It's a first-person account of scenery, artifacts, and people along the northern route of the Silk Road.


  • P’u Ming’s Oxherding Pictures and Verses Empty Bowl, 1983. (translator) (see: Ten Bulls)
  • Cold Mountain Poems Copper Canyon Press, 1983. (translator) (see: Hanshan (poet))
  • Mountain Poems of Stonehouse Empty Bowl, 1985. (translator) (see: Shiwu)
  • The Zen Teaching of Bodhidharma Empty Bowl, 1987; North Point Press, 1989. (translator) (see: Bodhidharma)
  • Road to Heaven: Encounters with Chinese Hermits Mercury House, 1993. (author)
  • Guide to Capturing a Plum Blossom by Sung Po-jen. Mercury House, 1995. (translator)
  • Lao-tzu's Taoteching: with Selected Commentaries of the Past 2000 Years Mercury House, 1996. (translator and editor)
  • The Zen Works of Stonehouse: Poems and Talks of a Fourteenth-Century Chinese Hermit Mercury House, 1997. (translator) (see: Shiwu)
  • The Clouds Should Know Me by Now: Buddhist Poet Monks of China Wisdom Publications, 1998. (editor, with Mike O'Connor; and contributing translator) (see: Jia Dao, Hanshan Deqing)
  • The Collected Songs of Cold Mountain Copper Canyon Press, 2000. (translator and editor)
  • Diamond Sutra Counterpoint, 2001 (translator and extensive commentary) (see: Diamond Sutra)
  • Poems of the Masters: China's Classic Anthology of T'ang and Sung Dynasty Verse Copper Canyon Press, 2003. (translator) (see: Three Hundred Tang Poems)
  • The Heart Sutra: the Womb of Buddhas Washington: Shoemaker & Hoard, 2004. (translator with extensive commentary) (see: Heart Sutra)
  • Zen Baggage: A Pilgrimage to China Counterpoint, 2008. (author)
  • In Such Hard Times: The Poetry of Wei Ying-wu Copper Canyon Press, July 1, 2009. (translator). Awarded 2007 PEN Translation Fund Grant from PEN American Center. Winner of the American Literary Translators Association's inaugural Lucien Stryk Asian Translation Prize in 2010. (see: Wei Yingwu)
  • Lao-tzu's Taoteching: Translated by Red Pine with selected commentaries from the past 2000 years revised edition, Copper Canyon Press, 2009.
  • Guide to Capturing a Plum Blossom by Sung Po-jen Copper Canyon Press, 2011 (translator)
  • The Lankavatara Sutra: Translation and Commentary Counterpoint, 2012, (translator)
  • The Mountain Poems of Stonehouse Copper Canyon Press, 2014, (translator)
  • Yellow River Odyssey Chin Music Press 2014 ISBN 0988769301
  • "The Silk Road" Counterpoint 2016 ISBN 978-1-61902-751-0


  1. 1.0 1.1 KJ Interviews: Dancing with Words: Red Pine's Path into the Heart of Buddhism
  2. Red Pine (2000). The Collected Songs of Cold Mountain. Copper Canyon Press. p. 309. ISBN 978-1556591402. 
  3. Amongst White Clouds
  4. Lao-Tzu's Taoteching
  5. Lankavatara Sutra (Counterpoint Press book description page)
  6. "The Mountain Poems of Stonehouse by Red Pine". Retrieved 22 September 2014. 

External links

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