"Use very straight speech/ without design or calculation." Advice modern day politicos would find impossible to follow, but a good adage for writers needing a reminder to keep things simple and clear. Such tips are scattered throughout The Art of Writing, a collection of ancient Chinese musings on the writer's art, filled with Taoist clarity and sly humor. "Observe creation without taboos. Swallow a vast wilderness and spit it out again." That's a whole book on writing right there.
The ancient Chinese regarded the written word as a transformative force able to move heaven and earth and unite the reader with the source of all things, the Tao. The power of writing, especially poetry, is celebrated here in short texts that present both practical instruction and spiritual insight: Lu Ji's essay in verse, "The Art of Writing," reveals the inner process every writer must go through in preparing for the creative act. Sikong Tu's "Twenty-four Styles of Poetry" teaches that poets must perfect themselves internally in order to achieve perfection in what they write. "Poets' Jade Splinters" contains aphoristic prescriptions and humorous anecdotes about poetry, poets, and the rules of composition. Assorted commentaries and critical evaluations focus on Chinese lyrical poetry.