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In Search of Chinese Identity: China’s Hermit Tradition: The Importance of Solitude

May 24, 2018 @ 6:30 pm - 8:00 pm

Bill Porter, aka Red Pine, on the hermits of yesterday and today

Thursday, May 24, 6:30 – 8:00 PM
Speaker: Bill Porter
Event Fee: Members Free (Become a Member Now!); Non-Members $10
Location: 40 Rector Street, 2nd Floor, New York, NY 10006

Bill Porter knows more about the hermit tradition in China – and Buddhism, Tang and Song poetry, and the Chinese language—than just about any other living westerner. After spending three years in a Buddhist monastery in Taiwan in the 1970s, he has spent a lifetime studying and translating Chinese religious and philosophical texts. An anthropologist by training, Porter traveled deep into the Zhongnan Mountains in the late 1980s, discovering that the hermit tradition is very much alive in China today.

On May 24, China Institute is honored to welcome Porter to help us search for China’s soul with a lecture and conversation about “China’s Hermit Tradition: The Importance of Solitude,” in conjunction with our current exhibition, Art of the Mountain: Through the Chinese Photographer’s Lens.

The search for solitude has been at the core of Chinese civilization ever since it began 5,000 years ago. Spending time alone, usually in the mountains, has been an essential part of all three major spiritual traditions in China—Daoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism—and it continues to be so today. In this unique event, Porter will share slides from his personal collection and talk about religion in China today and the tradition that has played such an important part in Chinese culture and in the teachings of Laozi, Confucius, and Bodhidharma.

Bill Porter (aka Red Pine) is an independent scholar, an expert on Buddhism and Chinese philosophy, traditional Chinese poetry, and a prolific writer and translator of traditional Chinese works. He has given lectures at many universities in the US, England and Germany on Chinese history, culture, poetry, and religion. His translations of texts dealing with these subjects have been honored with a number of awards, including two NEA translation fellowships, a PEN translation award, the inaugural Asian Literature Award of the American Literary Translators Association, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and more recently the Thornton Wilder Prize for Translation bestowed by the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

After graduating from UC Santa Barbara, Porter studied anthropology at Columbia University with Margaret Mead and Ruth Benedict. In 1972 he moved to a Buddhist monastery in Taiwan, where he lived for more than three years. Over the years, he has translated Chinese poetry and Buddhist texts, and authored many books about religion and philosophy in ancient—and today’s—China.

For questions please contact Aaron Nicholson at 212-744-8181 ext. 138 or by email at [email protected]


May 24, 2018
6:30 pm - 8:00 pm
Event Category:


Downtown Office
40 Rector Street
New York, NY 10006 United States
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