The Unencumbered Spirit contains 357 pieces of writing by Hung Ying-Ming. He lived in the mountains of southeastern China sometime during 1368-1644. The book covers a tremendous amount of ground relating to Chinese philosophy. Confucianism, Ch’an (Zen) Buddhism, and Taoism are all covered in Hung Ying-Ming’s writing. The translation by William Scott Wilson is a joy to read. Readers today are lucky to have these important works translated into English.

William Scott Wilson provides an interesting introduction to the book that includes the Chinese history during the time of Hung Ying-Ming as well as a detailed analysis of The Unencumbered Spirit. Bill Porter/ Red Pine writes a forward section about the history and importance of Taoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism in Chinese culture. This book is a small hardback (a pleasure to hold), professional in layout, has small Chinese drawings on each page, and published by Kodansha International Ltd. Highly recommended!


Below are two examples of Hung Ying-Ming’s writing:


Do not be distressed when events turn counter to your wishes;
Do not be overjoyed when things go your way.
Do not count on lengthy contentment;
Do not shy away from first difficulties.


When about to advance a step,
Quickly think about retreating one step, too:
Thus you can avoid the disaster of getting stuck in the hedge.
When about to grasp at something,
Consider first letting it go:
Thus you can escape the danger of riding the tiger’s back.


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The Unencumbered Spirit: Reflections of a Chinese Sage