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.
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).