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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Amongst White Clouds by Edw. A. Burger

BLOGGER: I have watched this film over and aver many times.  It is truly fascinating and the location is beautiful and serene.  There is little evidence of human habitation and interference on the pristine setting.  The monks take only what they need from the environment, some rocks to build their one room hermitages and some weeds to eat.  Villagers bring them some food from time to time.  The monks practice meditation and contemplation of Buddhist texts where they find the instructions for their inner journey.  Meantime, they chop wood and carry water, also prescribed in the texts...


Zhongnan Mountain, The Origin of Taoism

Zhongnan MountainZhongnan Mountain also called Taiyi Mountain and Zhounan Mountain is one section of Qinling Cordillera starting from Meixian County of Baoji City in west area of Shaanxi province to Lantian in east area of Shaanxi province. Zhongnan Mountain has the deep and quiet mountains and valleys as well as sharp cliffs and paths. (

                                                                                     Sutra-Narration Center
 Zhongnan Mountain

The Zhongnan mountains have been a popular dwelling-place for Daoist hermits since at least the Qin Dynasty. Buddhist monks began living in the mountains after Buddhism's introduction into China from India in the early first millennium AD. 

The Complete Perfection Sect, one of the largest branches of modern Taoism, was founded in the Zhongnan mountains by Song Dynasty Taoist Wang Chongyang. 

Due to the mountains' close proximity to the ancient capital of Chang'an, officials who incurred the imperial court's wrath often fled to these mountains to escape punishment. 

( source:


 Edward A. Burger has been living in the People’s Republic of China for over eight years, working as a translator, filmmaker, cultural-exchange project coordinator and musician. 

Originally drawn to China as a student of Buddhism, he found his teacher, Master Guangkuan, in the Zhongnan Mountains in the winter of 1999. He completed his first documentary, Amongst White Clouds, about Zhongnan Mountain hermits in 2005.

Photo by Lin Lin
 Lin Lin, one of the hermits in the film, shown here being filmed by Edward Burger.

Amongst White Clouds: an 86-minute visit with Chinese Buddhist hermits in the Zhongnan Mountains.

Although Chinese Buddhists have retreated into the mountains for centuries, until this film we have not been able to encounter their lives and practices directly.

The filmmaker describes reading Bill Porter’s Road to Heaven, a travelogue about Chinese hermits, and wanting to meet some of the masters. One hermit became his teacher for several years, and his time spent in the mountains enabled him to meet others, all of whom have aided him on his own Buddhist path.

Hence, one reason this film stands out is that the director not only wants to document the hermits’ lives but he wants to learn from them as well, and most of the film is devoted simply to listening to the hermits’ pithy answers to the director’s questions. 
The film balances conversations with the hermits about their insights with scenes of daily life in the mountains and so allows the hermits to emerge as distinct personalities.

We quickly learn that “hermit” can mean a lot of different things: some live alone - miles from anyone, but others live in pairs or in small communities.

The hermits don’t just utter wisdom but are also talk about their difficulties.

Burger’s filmmaking attempts to express some essential qualities of the hermits’ lives.

The pace is slow, which allows us to experience the hermits’ thoughtful conversations and deliberate actions.
The occasional cuts to scenes of nature—a leaf, a bird, a mist-shrouded mountain—may remind us of Chinese Zen poems, which use similar images to convey the Zen concept of “thusness.”
There are many scenes of daily tasks: one long sequence shows a hermit dipping and straining water from a well, carrying it downhill, and pouring it ladle by ladle into a large pot—a way of pointing to the “everyday Zen” attitude of many Chinese texts (“when you work, just work” a hermit reminds us).  

Read More at the source::

Amongst White Clouds
Department of Philosophy and Religion
University of Nebraska at Omaha

Journal of Religion and Film: Film Review: Amongst White Clouds by Marwood Larson-Harris


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