As a result of a riding accident, Hanshan sustained an injury to his foot which left him slightly disabled. This physical impediment prevented him from advancing in the Chinese civil service, and he was unable to rise beyond the lowly position of clerk. Disenchanted with the established traditions of his day, he gave up his office, left his wife and child, and went into the mountains, where he found shelter in caves and make-shift huts.
His retreat was near the monastery at Guoqing, which he visited from time to time, scrounging scraps left by the monks at meal time. It is said that he would walk the halls of the temple talking to himself during the monks’ periods of meditation. When his behavior became too disruptive, he would be was asked to leave. Then he would clap his hands and laugh as he made his way back to his cave.
He became a beloved figure in Chinese lore and is considered an embodiment of the Chan (Zen) spirit because of the poems he wrote, sometimes leaving them on the trunks of trees or on the faces of rock.
[Hanshan – Zen Masters of China: 153-61]