on March 9, 2009
What a fortunate collaboration. No one wishes Aitken roshi anything but good health and long life. Still, as he relates in his foreword he suffered a "mini-stroke" when he began this translation the result of which was a collaboration with professor Daniel W. Y. Kwok of the U. of Hawaii. I hope it is not disrespectful to suggest that this 'stroke of good fortune' transformed what would otherwise have been a major new translation into an indispensable gem. The only other translation I've seen is that by W. S. Wilson (Kodnasha, 1985), long out of print and very expensive in the used book market. Wilson's translation is excellent. Aitken and Kwok's is better. But Kwok's added contribution of an insightful 50 page afterword including a useful set of notes and bibliography and his addition of the original Chinese text opposite each aphoristic passage makes this the definitive edition in English for years to come. It doesn't hurt that the paper edition while of high quality and well designed is small and cheap (i.e. portable and affordable). As for the content of the book itself, the late Ming (Confucian, Buddhist, Taoist synthesis) aphroisms and admonitions of Hong ZiCheng, more and more of them resonate the older I get.