About the Project

About the Project


It is karma or empathy for me to be engaged in Gary Snyder’s study, which can be traced back to the year of 2002. I happened to attend Prof. Wai-lim Yip’s seminar at Hunan Normal University of China in August, a month before my first academic visit to the UK sponsored by the China Education Ministry. Prof. Yip’s mention of the influence of the Tang hermit-poet Han Shan on Snyder and Snyder’s adaptation of Chinese classical poetry in his literary production aroused my curiosity and great interest, which made me start my research in this field at the University of Wales under the supervision of Prof. John Manning, who is now the head of English Department at Purdue University of the USA. The more I learned, the deeper I was involved. In order to have a thorough study, I went to Wales again in February, 2004 as a PhD candidate. No words can describe my sufferings and ambivalence, so my research for ‘the entrance’ was, to some extent, similar to a spiritual quest to enlightenment. This was a gradual practice, no satori at all due to my slow-minded natural ability, but it seemed that I was a little bit enlightened if I may say such words here. Accompanied by Snyder’s printed picture as a token of encouragement, I had been in Wales for seven years, striving for my goal on the level of understanding the Han Shan-Chan-ecology poetic route as one continuum within Snyder’s ecopoetics. The Han Shan spirit is thus redefined in my text as ‘a dao-Chan mountain spirit’, which signifies a ‘return to nature’, nature in the world and nature in the mind; it is formed by the body-mind work or the practice of compassion. Similar responses also come from some well-known scholars in my survey, including Prof. Snyder himself, Prof. Patrick D. Murphy, Prof. Robert Kern, Prof. Chung Ling and Prof. Luo Shijin. Frankly to say, I do not think I prefer the Han Shanian secluded lifestyle in contemporary times, but I contend that the Han Shan spirit was, is and will be playing an important role in preserving the merits of our Chinese tradition. This spirit not only helps us to advocate simplicity and reinhabitation, but also inspires us to reconstruct its Oriental ecological ideas in contemporary Western ecopoetics. It is the Han Shan spirit that encourages me to learn more about our dwelling place, to cultivate our love for nature and to transmit our Chinese culture in my teaching career.

My original idea of establishing the Centre for Gary Snyder Studies was sparked at one midnight when I received an e-mail from Prof. Snyder in Wales, who helped waive some fees for my permission request of publishing my book, Han Shan, Chan Buddhism and Gary Snyder’s Ecopoetic Way (2009) in the UK. I was deeply touched by his spirit, his kindness and his knowledge, in particular fascinated by his unique eclecticism of great subcultures into oneness in his eco-works. How to let more scholars and students learn such oneness? Am I qualified enough to translate his exquisite, mythopoetic English works into our pithy, beautiful Chinese? What should I do to transmit our Chinese literature and culture in English? Such questions were always hovering over my mind, which pushed me to make another decision for my further research. After my degree ceremony, I was accepted as an honorary research fellow by the University of Wales in November, 2008, but was called back to work in China by my home university (Hunan University) in March, 2009. In order to continue my new research on Gary Snyder's ekphrastic ecopoetry, I tried hard to establish this centre and to get support and permission from all who love Gary Snyder's ecopoetry and our beautiful land.

I show my gratitude to Gary Snyder, who often offers his help to me and inspires me to go deeper in my research. My sincere thanks also go to my own family, who always give me encouragement, financial support and comfort.

                                                                                                                                                                Dr. Joan Qionglin Tan
                                                                                                                                                     Nov. 21, 2009 in Changsha,