Toward an Innovative Poetics: Wang Changling on Yi 意 and Literary Creation

Zong-qi Cai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article reveals the coherent theory of literary creation hidden within the multivalence of the term yi in Wang Changling's (ca. 698–ca. 756) writings on poetry. A close and intertextual reading demonstrates how Wang deftly appropriates various Daoist and Daoist-inspired notions of yi 意 to illuminate different phases of literary creation. Comparisons with the term's adaptations by earlier literary and calligraphy critics further accentuate Wang's unique and innovative approach. Looking into a hitherto neglected Buddhist source, the author uncovers a Buddhicized yi-xiang-yan 意-象-言 (conception-image-word) paradigm, one that allows Wang to move beyond the theories of Lu Ji (261–303) and Liu Xie (ca. 465–ca. 522). Borrowing the Buddhist sense of yi and yishi 意識, Wang demonstrates the creative mind's receptivity to the richness and nuances of the world, followed by its dynamic transformation of what it has absorbed in quietude. The result is a much more detailed view of the different phases of the creative process—one that leads to a new appreciation of its poetic results.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)180-207
JournalJournal of Chinese Literature and Culture
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 2017


  • Wang Changling
  • literary creation
  • Chinese literary theory
  • Chinese calligraphy criticism
  • Buddhist theory of consciousness


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