Taming the Wild Horse

An Annotated Translation and Study of the Daoist Horse Taming Pictures

Louis Komjathy

Columbia University Press

Taming the Wild Horse

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Pub Date: March 2017

ISBN: 9780231181266

264 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $65.00£54.00

Pub Date: March 2017

ISBN: 9780231543521

264 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $64.99£54.00

Taming the Wild Horse

An Annotated Translation and Study of the Daoist Horse Taming Pictures

Louis Komjathy

Columbia University Press

In thirteenth-century China, a Daoist monk named Gao Daokuan (1195-1277) composed a series of illustrated poems and accompanying verse commentary known as the Daoist Horse Taming Pictures. In this annotated translation and study, Louis Komjathy argues that this virtually unknown text offers unique insights into the transformative effects of Daoist contemplative practice. Taming the Wild Horse examines Gao's illustrated poems in terms of monasticism and contemplative practice, as well as the multivalent meaning of the "horse" in traditional Chinese culture and the consequences for both human and nonhuman animals.

The Horse Taming Pictures consist of twelve poems, ten of which are equine-centered. They develop the metaphor of a "wild" or "untamed" horse to represent ordinary consciousness, which must be reined in and harnessed through sustained self-cultivation, especially meditation. The compositions describe stages on the Daoist contemplative path. Komjathy provides opportunities for reflection on contemplative practice in general and Daoist meditation in particular, which may lead to a transpersonal way of perceiving and being.

Fascinating and provocative on their own, the Daoist horse taming poems and pictures respond to a well-known Chan (Zen) Buddhist text called the Ox Herding Pictures. Komjathy's translation thus completes a conversation we have only seen half of for a long time.

Suzanne Cahill, University of California, San Diego

Komjathy provides a fascinating study with impeccable translations of the original Chinese text and commentaries on the Daoist Horse Taming Pictures, often thought of as parallel to the Chan Buddhist Ox Herding Pictures in providing a visual and literary template for understanding the stages of spiritual discipline and training. Taming the Wild Horse is a must-read for all scholars doing research in the fields of East Asian and comparative religion, philosophy, literature, and culture.

Steven Heine, Florida International University

With elegance and erudition Komjathy invites the reader into a journey through a medieval Chinese religious landscape that is strangely familiar, but deeply embedded in a historical and cultural context far removed from the modern world. Translated into English for the first time, the Horse Taming Pictures provide a heretofore unseen glimpse into the world of Daoist monastic training. Komjathy pioneers a new model for Daoist studies that is historically nuanced but reaches forward into issues of contemporary ethical and spiritual concern.

James Miller, Queen's University

Komjathy has uncovered a previously hidden gem of the Daoist contemplative path that was inspired by the famous Ox Herding Pictures. His translation is deft, his notes are meticulous, and the historical, philosophical, and zoological contextual materials he provides are thorough. This is essential reading for those interested in the history of Daoism, the Complete Perfection (Quanzhen) School, comparative mysticism, and the culture of the horse.

Harold D. Roth, Brown University

Rarely is the field of animal studies so fortunate as to have a leading area specialist give such substantial critical attention to animals. Komjathy's richly annotated translation makes this centuries-old set of prints and poems accessible for anyone interested in the intersection of animals and religion. The book's robust engagement with animal studies leads to stunning insights into the nature of Daoist contemplative practices and, ultimately, into the nature of religion.

Aaron Gross, University of San Diego
Preface
Acknowledgments
List of Illustrations and Tables
List of Abbreviations
Part I: Introduction
1. In Search of the Wild Horse
2. Of Stallions, Steppes, and Stables
Part II: Translations
Horse Taming Poems
Commentary on the Horse Taming Poems
Part III: Exegesis
Being with Horses
Appendix 1. Hagiography of Gao Daokuan (1195–1277)
Appendix 2. Song of Pure Awakening
Appendix 3. Horse-Related Technical Terminology in the Horse Taming Pictures
Notes
Character Glossary
Bibliography
Index

About the Author

Louis Komjathy is an associate professor of Chinese religions and comparative religious studies at the University of San Diego. He is the author of Cultivating Perfection: Mysticism and Self-transformation in Early Quanzhen Daoism (2007), The Way of Complete Perfection: A Quanzhen Daoist Anthology (2013), The Daoist Tradition: An Introduction (2013), and Daoism: A Guide for the Perplexed (2014), and the editor of Contemplative Literature: A Comparative Sourcebook on Meditation and Contemplative Prayer (2015).