Emotion or qing 情 has been identified at the core of Chinese thinking about literature, such that “lyrical tradition” becomes an encompassing concept for many to distinguish Chinese literary tradition from its Western counterpart.1 In Chinese literary thought, emotion is consistently conceptualized through verbal patterning and visual manifestation. This convergence has become synonymous with poetry making: emotion externalizes itself in patterned sounds and words, and this language patterning in turn gives rise to visual manifestations, whether in the play of music, the spectacle of dance, or an image of the external worlds of man and nature. Perhaps in no other critical tradition can we find a conception of poetry making so consistently and thoroughly grounded in such a dynamic interplay and merging of emotion, verbal patterning, and visualization.

In exploring the inner dynamics, however, Chinese critics have long emphasized language at the expense of nontextual visuality as a supplemental emotive medium, despite a steady increase of literati interest in integrating poetry with painting and graphic illustrations since the Song. Likewise, we find a conspicuous neglect of emotion in Chinese art criticism. The term qing 情 (emotion), preeminent in poetry criticism, barely makes the list of essential terms in painting and calligraphy scholarship.

As our modern world is increasingly dominated by visual media, neither the neglect of nontextual visuality in poetry scholarship nor the marginalization of emotion in art scholarship is tenable. Hence, two related tasks emerge for us: to rediscover the role of emotion in traditional Chinese painting, and to assess the impact of nontextual visuality—graphic prints, photography, physical objects, or locales—on the emotive import of premodern and modern literary and cultural productions.

Toward an Emotion-Visuality Symbiosis: Conceptions of Emotion in Chinese Literary Thought

To situate our inquiry in its proper context, we might quickly review the evolving concepts of emotion, verbal patterning, and visuality in Chinese literary thought, as well as the bond between them since antiquity. We find this bond clearly articulated in what is generally thought the oldest Chinese statement on poetry, purportedly made by the legendary emperor Shun, recorded in the Book of Documents:

I bid you, Kui, the emperor said, to preside over music and educate our sons, [so that they will be] straightforward yet gentle, congenial yet dignified, strong but not ruthless, and simple but not arrogant. Poetry expresses the heart's intent [zhi]; singing prolongs the utterance of that expression. The notes accord with the prolonged utterance and are harmonized by pitch tubes. The eight kinds of musical instruments attain harmony and do not interfere with one another. Spirits and man are thereby brought into harmony.

Oh! yes, replied Kui, I will strike and tap the stones, and a hundred beasts will follow one another to dance.


Here zhi 志, or “the heart's intent,” certainly denotes emotion, whether exclusively or not. In pre-Qin and Han texts, this term is often used interchangeably with qing, thus giving rise to the binome qingzhi 情志. In more general usage, zhi and qingzhi signify one's emotional response or attitude toward sociopolitical realities. Yet here zhi is construed as giving birth to poetic utterances. What follows is a patterning, in chant and music, of these utterances, culminating in a totemic dance. The physical movements involved in music playing and dancing undoubtedly offer a visual presentation of the body.

The inherent bond between zhi and bodily visuality is not only clearly expressed in this statement but also by the etymological root of the word zhi itself. In the ancient small seal script, the word zhi vertically combines two parts: and . According to many scholars, is a picto-ideograph of feet stepping on the ground, while is a simple pictograph of a heart. The structure of this character eloquently speaks to a bond between emotion and visuality, even while allowing two different interpretations—either as memory in the sense of something stopping and getting recorded in the heart, as argued by Wen Yiduo 闻一多 (1899–1946), or as a straightforward association of the heart with dancing feet.3

In more reliable historical texts written during the Zhou, the shi yan zhi 詩言志 (poetry expresses intent) statement and its variants repeatedly appear, but usually in reference to visually demonstrated sociopolitical and/or nature processes rather than religious dance performance. Only in the Former Han text the “Great Preface to the Mao Text of the Book of Poetry” (Shi da xu 詩大序) do we get a clear exposition on the “shi yan zhi” statement: “Poetry is where the heart's intent goes. What is still in the heart is intent; what is expressed in words is poetry. Emotion [qing] is stirred inside and manifests itself in words” 詩者,志之所之也,在心爲志,發言爲詩,情動於中而形於言.4 Judging by parallel phrasing, zhi appears to be interchangeable with qing (a more precise equivalent to “emotion” in English). Both words refer to what lies in the heart—namely, preexpressive emotion, as opposed to its outer manifestation in yan 言, or “words.” By the graph yan, the Great Preface author means spoken words, as evidenced by this passage:

Emotions are discharged in sounds. As those sounds assume a pattern, they are called “tones.” The tones of a well-governed time are peaceful and joyful; the governance is marked by harmony. The tones of a chaotic time are woeful and filled with anger; the governance is deviant. The tones of a fallen state are sorrowful and pensive; the people are in dire straits.


Here the Great Preface author explicitly discusses the patterning (chengwen 成文) of spoken words as a means by which emotion is externalized or brought to completion. Like its English translation “patterning” or “configuration,” the word wen has a spatial connotation understood since antiquity. Here the word wen evokes an inner visualization of sociopolitical realities: a harmonious state, a chaotic state, and a fallen state. Thanks to such inner visualizing, the patterning of emotion-induced verbalizations comes to embody the state of governance.

In the Great Preface, the word wen is also strongly associated with the visual aspect of ritual practices. For this reason, the author argues that the Book of Poetry [hereafter the Poetry] “values patterning [of words] as it pursues subtle remonstration” 主文而譎諫 and stresses that “the changed airs of the Poetry arose from emotions and reached completion in rituals and righteousness” 故變風發乎情,止乎禮義.6 Here, spoken words are seen to merge, through proper patterning, with ritual and moral practices of the time. Such practices typically involve multiple forms of visual display: arrangements of ritual objects, the rubric of sociopolitical institutions and rules, and a show of proper behaviors, demeanors, and speeches. To the Great Preface author, the patterned words of the Poetry can enable the reader to visualize ritual and sociopolitical practices in the Zhou period and learn to distinguish right from wrong within them. Indeed, his comments on the 305 individual poems almost invariably evoke a picture of past sociopolitical events, accompanied by his unequivocal moral judgment.

If in the Great Preface poetry is defined as an expression of zhi (the heart's intent) and qing is kept largely subordinate, we find a notable ascendancy of qing over zhi in the definition of poetry and refined writing (wen) by Lu Ji 陸機 (261–303) and Liu Xie 劉勰 (ca. 465–ca. 522). This trend is generally traced to a famous statement by Lu Ji: “The shi poetry arises with emotion, displaying an intricate elegance; the fu poetry depicts things, dazzling us with brilliance” 詩緣情而綺靡,賦體物而瀏亮.7 Besides explicitly foregrounding qing, this statement hints at a growing pursuit of emotion-visuality symbiosis. If the parallel phrasing of yuanqing 緣情 and tiwu 體物 emphasize a new aesthetic ideal of merging qing (emotion) and wu 物 (object), the phrase qimi 綺靡 (intricate elegance) strongly suggests a self-conscious patterning of elegant phrases during that merging process.8

As a rule, the emotion or qing spoken of by Lu and Liu is largely detached from specific sociopolitical contexts. In tracing the poet's emotion, both critics focus on the external influence of seasonal changes and inward awareness of human transience. This is most evident in the opening section of Lu Ji's Rhapsody on Refined Writing (Wen fu 文賦)9 and Liu Xie's “Sensuous Colors” (Wuse 物色), a chapter in his magnum opus The Literary Mind and the Carving of Dragons (Wenxin diaolong 文心雕龍; hereafter the Literary Mind).

While Lu Ji merely implied an association of emotion with textual patterning in the passage cited above, Liu Xie devotes chapter 31 of the Literary Mind, “The Radiance of Emotion” (Qingcai 情采), to elucidating the relationship between emotion and patterning. He writes: “Emotion is the warp of refined writing, and phrasing is the weft of principles. With warp set right, the weft performs its function; with principles properly determined, phrasing becomes smooth. This is the ultimate principle for composing refined writing” 故情者文之經,辭者理之緯;經正而後緯成,理定而後辭暢:此立文之本源也.10 Here Liu unambiguously defines refined writing as “a patterning of emotion” (qingwen 情文), just as embroidery is “a patterning of shapes” (xingwen 形文) and music “a patterning of sounds” (shengwen 聲文). This emotion patterning is quite different from the verbal patterning seen in the Great Preface. It represents a self-conscious ordering of written words rather than a more spontaneous effusion with verbal patterning. Moreover, it is intended to create a work of art rather than communicate a sociopolitical message.

Liu Xie's emotion patterning engenders a different kind of visuality. To begin with, the patterning of written characters itself has a visual aspect. Moreover, this textual patterning of emotion triggers an inner visualization—a sequence of nature images accompanied by an influx of emotion until the two achieve optimal symbiosis. To both Lu and Liu, such text-enabled visualizing brings about an aestheticization of emotion. A poet's original emotion, no matter how crude and painful, is ameliorated and transmuted into a feeling both disinterested and pleasurable, namely, what is often called “artistic feeling.”

Lu Ji's and Liu Xie's conception of an ideal emotion-visuality symbiosis has in effect transformed the old, simple emotion-verbalization model (exemplified by the shi yan zhi formulation) into a dynamic three-stage process: the poet is emotionally stirred by a scene, conjures up mental images, and then projects feelings back upon the scene.11 Crucial to this new formulation is an insertion of xiang 象 or inner visualization as an intermediary between emotional response (to external stimuli) and the birth of a literary work. Lu's and Liu's notion of xiang is undoubtedly borrowed from Wang Bi 王弼 (226–49), the standard bearer of Wei-Jin Abstruse Learning (Wei-Jin xuanxue 魏晉玄學). In contrast to wu 物 (tangible objects), Wang contends that xiang 象 (imaging or figuring), which plays a central role in the Book of Changes (Yijing 易經), refers to an imaging or envisioning of objects, situations, and their potential tendencies.12 According to him, image (xiang 象), generated through ideas (yi 意), is made manifest through words (yan 言).13 As Isabelle Robinet explains, the world transpires in and through images, in which “spirits take physical form and bodies take spiritual form,” thereby mediating “the world of tangible realities and that of ineffable realities, the world of xiang (images or symbols) that figured in the Book of Change and was explained by Wang Bi as intermediary between that of ideas and that of words.”14 In short, inner visualization, predicated upon correlative ways of inner feeling and external manifestation of the concrete phenomenal world, materializes through language and picture.15

Lu's and Liu's conception of emotion-visuality symbiosis, also entertained by Zhong Rong 鍾嶸 (?–518?), Xiao Tong 蕭統 (510–31), and other Six Dynasties critics, lays the foundation for an enduring belletristic tradition in Chinese literary thought, in which literature is conceptualized as a symbiotic crystallization of emotion and nature through textual patterning. It is no exaggeration to say that this belletristic tradition has dominated poetry criticism ever since, despite scathing attacks by neo-Confucian critics from the Tang-Song period onward.

If Lu Ji, Liu Xie, and other Six Dynasties critics concertedly explored the merging of emotion and nature theoretically—mostly from the angle of the creative process—later critics sought to deepen this exploration in the contexts of composition and appreciation. In the large Tang corpus of manuals of poetic composition bearing names like shi ge 詩格 (principles of poetry) and shishi 詩式 (modes of poetry), we find extensive discussion on how to align emotional expressions and nature images at all levels of composition: single line, couplet, and even the structure of an entire poem. In Song and Ming-Qing poetry criticism, this belletristic emotion-visuality symbiosis becomes the highest aesthetic ideal by which poetical works are appreciated and evaluated. In “poetry talks” (shihua 詩話), a new genre of poetry criticism developed during the Song, critics never seem to tire of talking about how particular poetic couplets (usually drawn from well-known works of regulated verse) attain an optimal emotion-visuality symbiosis through three principal means: blending emotive words and nature images, evoking feelings and moods through nature images, and conversely, by tapping imagistic associations of emotive words. In fact, some of the most prominent Ming-Qing critics go beyond appreciation of particular works to ardently champion emotion-visuality symbiosis as the hallmark of the finest poetry.

Rediscovering Emotion's Relationship with Neglected Forms of Visuality

While the image plays an essential role in poetry, the disassociation of emotion from representational graphic forms, conspicuous in Chinese poetry criticism and painting criticism alike, dates back at least as far as Liu Xie's distinctions between qingwen (textual emotion-patterning) and xingwen (nontextual patterning of shapes):

With regard to the establishment of patterns, there are three ways: the first is the patterning of shapes, composed of five colors; the second is the patterning of sounds, composed of five tones; and the third is the patterning of emotion, composed of five temperaments. With the mixing of five colors, embroidery is produced. When five tones are harmonized, the tunes of “Shao” and “Xia” come into being. An expression of the five emotions gives birth to refined compositions. This is the divine principle made manifest.


As much as the qingwen is textual and symbolic, xingwen is nontextual and representational. And though this separation of qingwen and xingwen made some sense in Liu's time, it becomes less tenable after the Six Dynasties, when poetry was increasingly integrated into the representational medium of painting. Nonetheless, this notion of separation had taken hold in literati consciousness, and as a result, representational graphic forms continued to be left out of literary criticism, while emotion, even today, remains marginalized in art criticism.

In challenging this entrenched separation of emotion from pictorial visuality, we begin with some important questions: What is the relation between emotion and visuality? What are the similarities and differences between verbal and visual representations of emotions? The intertwining of emotion and visuality serves as a new critical lens through which both canonical texts and recently discovered materials can be re/examined. Situated in concrete historical and cultural contexts from the Northern Song dynasty to the Republican era in China, the seven articles of this special issue delve into the multidimensional interactions between visuality and textuality, as well as the role and ramifications of emotive expression in works of art and social practices, while further underscoring the respective historical and cultural contexts of their eras. In this issue, visuality (revealed in both pictures and writing) plays an intermediary role in connecting different modes of verbal, visual, and multimedia communication. It encompasses not only representation in visual media (painting, prints, and photography) but also visual code, metaphor, and the mental image, as well as the concept of the gaze, wherever these themes have appeared in literary texts and writing.

Su Shi, the key figure in the Song to formulate the relationship between poetry and painting, famously said of Wang Wei: “There is painting in his poetry” (shizhong youhua 詩中有畫) and “there is poetry in his painting” (huazhong youshi 畫中有詩).17 The belief in the perfect integration of poetry, painting, and calligraphy was prevalent in the practices of traditional Chinese writers and artists; however, in local practices the integration was not always realized in a harmonious way. Two of the articles in this special issue, “Su Shi Renders No Emotion” by Peter C. Sturman and “Chen Hongshou's Laments” by Anne Burkus-Chasson, explore the resulting gaps, incongruity, and clashes within this poetry-painting dynamic. They offer detailed analysis of the interplay among language, painting, printed illustration, and calligraphy and approach the theme of emotion in different circumstances. Sturman discusses the paintings, calligraphy, and poems Su Shi and his cousin Wen Tong shared with each other, and in the process exposes the divergences arising from the painter's and viewer's different emotional responses to particular works. By employing strategies of emotional detachment, the paintings of Wen Tong and Su Shi attempt to draw inspiration from the Zhuangzi. Yet, as Sturman contends, even though Wen Tong's painting contains a transcendent message, it still could trigger an emotive response from Su Shi, with his intimate knowledge of the person behind the work. For Su Shi, Wen's painting of dipping bamboo becomes a memory object. In another fascinating example, Su Shi's calligraphic scroll, “Cold Food Festival Poems Written at Hangzhou,” Sturman argues that the visual representation of the calligraphy equates with Zhuangzi's ideal of “no emotion.” Likewise, in Su Shi's painting Old Tree, Rock, and Bamboo, although the image of a gnarled tree, through iconic presentation, might be read as carrying emotional force, the semantic meaning of the painting was intended to make a statement of detachment. To Sturman, Su Shi's calligraphy and paintings inscribe a paradox, an “intention of unintentionality,” or “the emotion of no emotion.”

Poems and inscriptions on Chinese paintings do not literally render a painting's subject matter; instead, they express and provoke the sentiment, thus creating an echo of the image that often extends the signification beyond visual representation. In her article “Chen Hongshou's Laments,” Burkus-Chasson analyzes the visual display of strong emotion through gesture and facial expression while further exploring the incongruities of the pictorial conventions between paintings and printed illustrations. She shows us how Chen Hongshou, a late Ming dynasty painter, combines emphatic figural gestures, poses, and subtle facial expressions with conventions of printed narrative illustration to creatively convey emotion in his paintings. According to Burkus-Chasson, emotive figures were desirable in the flourishing of printed books during the late Ming period in contrast with painting. Chen brought bold innovation to the painted representation of strong emotive states, such as representing a drunkard through his up-tilted eyebrows and other subtle movements of facial features. Chen's creative integration of print convention into painting also created difficulties for his audience. By including the poems within his paintings, Chen justified the radical pictorial representation of emotion in his painting, drawing on the power of language to enable, enhance, and sometimes even sanction the expressive power of his pictorial compositions.

In Sturman's case, the visual expression of Zhuangzian emotional detachment is pronounced; in Burkus-Chasson's study, there is a traditional convention of visually depicting elite male and female subjects with subdued or decorous expressions. Both Sturman and Burkus-Chasson explore the correspondence between visual expression and emotion within traditional boundaries of propriety, within the embodiment and artistic manipulation of emotion, and within the institutional and social forces behind the supposedly spontaneous flow of feeling. Situated within the Confucian tradition, the paintings they discuss possess the subversive power associated with visual efficacy and immediacy of visual representations, thus paradoxically revealing the necessity of the suppression of emotion in painterly traditions.

Jeffrey Moser's “The Emotive Object in Medieval China” and Yingzhi Zhao's “What Remains of Mountains and Waters” focus on the connections among visuality, archeology, and literature and in this way investigate the relationship between material objects and texts. Moser argues that grave goods belong to a Chinese history of emotion and that the rituals surrounding these goods played a central role in structuring the historical experience of emotion. Building on the theories of William Reddy, he proposes to read grave goods as “emotives,” that is, as formal gestures that structured the experience of feeling. Focusing on the Lü clan cemetery in Shaanxi, he uses this framework to tease out what he calls “the regime of emotion” that operated in the space between the prescriptive demands of ritual and the clan's normative commitment to sincerity (cheng 誠). He argues that the Confucian feeling of sincerity is able to operate because of an imposed, meticulous selection and impressive arrangement of grave objects. He ingeniously reads the assemblage and repetitive arrangements of grave goods as parallel to the patterning of wen, which he considers a ritualistic endeavor to give visual form to sincere and sorrowful feelings during the burial ceremony. Material artifacts convey and elicit further authentic and genuine displays of emotion.

In “What Remains of Mountains and Waters,” Zhao examines the images and discourse of canshan shengshui 殘山剩水 (devastated landscape) as depicted in early Qing literature through the work of Ming loyalists Zhang Dai, Wang Fuzhi, and others. Canshan shengshui, a poetic image and metaphor, initiated by the poet Du Fu, is visually represented in the Southern Song by painters like Ma Yuan and Xia Gui. But it was the Ming loyalists, living through dynastic changes, who extensively employed the image in their writings to crystallize their sense of loss, displacement, and destruction. Zhao suggests that literati understood can in many different ways as broken soul, broken passages, and torn silk. Situated in the socially catastrophic context of dynastic shift, Zhao explores the relationship between destruction and artistic creation through the trope of canshan shengshui, when understood as an agency that animates a devastated landscape or as resistance to suppression. She points out that these writers extend the meaning of canshan shengshui to include mutilated bodies and shattered psyches, vile air (liqi 戾氣) and deformity in physical and spiritual terms. The ravaged landscape is simultaneously an object of aesthetics and an “ethical site” that represents physical and psychological suffering. Zhao finds in the writing of Zhang Dai and Wang Fuzhi two figures who believe “creation inherently entails destruction” and concludes that the power of art lies not only in its ability to heal but also in its exposure of ethical dimensions.

The final three articles of this special issue, by Xiaorong Li, Hu Ying, and Shengqing Wu, turn to cultural and formal issues in the context of the rapid process of modernization as well as invasions by Western imperialism from the late Qing and Republican eras. The introduction of European lithography and photography into China—with its promise of visual verisimilitude—challenges traditional aestheticism. New questions emerge with the integration of these new media, such as how, exactly, Chinese practitioners can convey their feelings through existing visual tropes and poetic vocabularies, how to accommodate and domesticate the new, modern sensations, and how modern emotions are to be handled within the framework of a modern multimedia environment. Each article gives an account, in its own way, of how lyric sensibility and sentiment, archaic in the eyes of the progressive May Fourth intellectuals, continue to infuse a modern media culture.

Xiaorong Li's article, “Image, Word, and Emotion,” tracks the process of transformation from the old “hundred beauties” (baimei tu 百美圖) album genre to the new style of representing “fashionable ladies.” Thematically centered on the iconic feminine feeling of lovesickness (xiangsi 相思), Li's article provides rich, visual materials that demonstrate a remarkable mixture of traditional feelings, poetic expression, and gesture. Li discusses how these modern influences sought to achieve a form of hybrid modernity through an exploration of a wide range of themes, including ideas about women's role in modern society, to how new media can be understood and incorporated, and how new artistic methods can be best utilized within the new era. She offers a number of intriguing examples to illustrate the transformation of “boudoir plaint” (guiyuan 閨怨) through new discoveries of the interplay between image and text. In the lithographic prints, one prominent change with regard to the female body is the visibility of its physical features. Echoing Sturman's and Burkus-Chasson's central concern, Li's article also takes up the issue of how emotion can be expressed through non-illusionist forms of visual media. Chinese lyricism supplies stock images by using these visual representations of imagined iconic boudoir ladies who regularly appear in lonely secluded spaces pining for their absent lovers. Another way these gendered stereotypes are extended into the modern era is through lyrical inscriptions or verbal accompaniments that subscribe open or multiple messages to one particular reading of a visual image (e.g., a woman gazing out a widow). As these gendered images are imbued with new values and messages, they also cater to a booming publishing market and consumer culture in Shanghai, further subjugating the image of woman to spectacle for commercial consumption.

Hu Ying's article, “Haunting, (In)Visibility, Filiality,” tackles the issue of mourning and visibility by focusing on Qiu Canzhi, the daughter of the revolution martyr Qiu Jin. Hu's article begins with an anecdote about Canzhi, in adulthood, repeatedly telling a ghost story about Qiu Jin revisiting the family after her execution. This ghost story, according to Hu, illustrates the invisible and fuzzy situations that occur between narrator and witness as well as Canzhi's inconsolable emotional loss. Hu effectively describes the expression of Canzhi's profound grief, conveyed through classical-style poems on the theme of “missing my mother” (siqin 思親) in an intimate lyrical voice, her active participation in constructing her mother's public image as a martyr, and her careful selection of Qiu Jin's photographs over the course of her life. Tapping into the visual immediacy and intimacy of the photograph as object, Hu explores the artistic expression of Canzhi's gaze as it “touches” her mother's bodily image. The article also ruminates over the possibilities of emotional response triggered by Canzhi's experience of her mother's horrific execution. Toward the end of the article, Hu Ying claims, intriguingly, that filiality (xiao 孝) operates like resemblance (xiao 肖) in terms of physical appearance and spiritual resonance. Feelings of filial piety eventually lead Canzhi to overcome the invisibility of her deceased mother. She becomes the heir and carrier of her mother's legacy, and makes herself visible to the public.

Finally, in “Nostalgic Fragments in the Thick of Things,” Shengqing Wu offers a critical study of memory, nostalgia, and visuality through her examination of the lives of Yuan Kewen and Zhang Boju, as well as Yuan's remembrance of his father, Yuan Shikai. By incorporating insights about place and memory from twentieth-century phenomenological studies as expounded by Edward S. Casey, and also by engaging in historical analysis of the early Republican era generally, Wu's article explicates the act of remembering revealed through poems, anecdotes, photographs, performance excerpts, and paintings. Her article focuses on Yuan's and Zhang's sentiments about their local place-world in the early Republican era and, especially, on the visual objects (primarily photographs) of their private lives and how these objects helped them produce and reenact vivid and sensual memories of past events. Wu also discusses the role that theatrical performance played in Yuan Kewen's visceral and personal reenactment of his father's world on the public stage. In Yuan's theatrical performance, acting becomes the manifestation of internal affective states through processes of mirroring. Channeling and living through his character's body on stage, Yuan relives with profound, nostalgic emotion his personal experience and memory of his father, thereby bringing the past into the present moment. Using insights from the phenomenological tradition, Wu concludes that memory itself is the intertwining of the past with the present.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that the history of Chinese lyricism is a history of sorrow. Feelings of lament, sorrow, and grief permeate China's literary writing. In this special issue, literary scholars and art historians join together to ponder the problem of how to translate collective atrocities and personal sorrow into tangible visual forms. Together they outline the possibilities and boundaries of what it means to represent emotions visually and verbally from within a tangled ethics. Articles by Sturman, Burkus-Chasson, and Li outline what is at stake in negotiations between textuality and visuality, presenting the dilemma and exposing the constraints that come from depicting strong emotion. Moser's and Hu's articles operate from the insight that the act of mourning a loved one assumes many different forms; nevertheless, both authors affirm the feeling of “sincerity” as a privileged ethical emotion. Zhao's and Wu's articles both address the mournful nostalgia and deep sense of displacement prevalent among loyalists transitioning into new eras and regimes. The perpetually nostalgic attitude exhibited by generations of loyalists thus acquires its productive meaning in relation to the present and in terms of creativity.

In the wake of the visual turn in cultural theory and interdisciplinary emotion studies of the recent decade, contributors to this special issue offer archival-based research with the intention of enriching our understanding of the history of emotions, the image-text relationship, and the affective experience of Chinese culture. These authors have collected a body of work that begins to address issues of emotion as patterning and visual manifestation in cultural historical terms. Taking into consideration the deficiencies in the study of emotion in visual forms, this special issue initiates a seminal stage of exploration to trace the interconnections and interactions between emotions and visuality, in order to reexamine the role of emotion in traditional Chinese painting and reevaluate the influence of visuality on the affective meaning of literary and cultural productions. It goes without saying that the authors express the collective efforts and new critical insights of these endeavors from within the delineated scope of their specialized projects, but the aim of this collection of essays is to open the way for new possibilities and angles for exciting scholarship. It is our hope that this special issue will inspire future researchers to continue to pursue the critical goals set out here— that we may: “Cast away a brick in order to attract a jadestone” (paozhuan yinyu 拋磚引玉).



In an important public speech made in 1971 and later published as “On Chinese Lyric Tradition,” Chen Shih-Hsiang used lyricism to characterize the Chinese literary tradition. More recently, David Der-wei Wang employs the lyrical to rethink the tradition's relationship with modernity. See Chen, “On Chinese Lyric Tradition”; Wang, Lyrical in Epic Time, 1–38.






See Liu Xie's definition of a close synonym qili 綺麗: “Han Fei's remark ‘florid embellishment of an argument’ means ‘elegantly beautiful.’ Embellishing an exposition with what's elegantly beautiful; crafting an argument with florid diction—this is an extreme change in the way of refined composition” 韓非云「豔采辯說」,謂綺麗也。綺麗以豔說,藻飾以辯雕,文辭之變,於斯極矣. See Zhu, Wenxin diaolong suoyin, 344.


See Zhang, Wen fu jishi, 36; see also Owen, Readings in Chinese Literary Thought, 98, 101:

And when it is attained: light gathers about moods [qing] and they grow in brightness,

Things [wu] become luminous and draw one another forward;

I quaff the word-hoard's spray of droplets,

And roll in my mouth the sweet moisture of the Classics;

. . .

Then, phrases from the depths emerge struggling as when the swimming fish, hooks in their mouths, emerge from the bottom of the deepest pool;

And drifting intricacies of craft flutter down, as when the winging bird, Caught by stringed arrow, plummets from the tiered clouds.









For a discussion on how Liu Xiu constantly associates qing with belletristic writings, see Cai, “Wen and the Construction of a Critical System.” 


Wang Bi, “Zhouyi lueli” 周易略例 (General Remarks on the Changes of the Zhou), in Wang, Wang Bi ji jiaoshi, 609.


On Lu Ji's and Liu Xie's debts to Wang Bi and earlier exegetes of the Book of Changes, see Cai, “Yi-Xiang-Yan Paradigm.” 


Su Shi, “Shu Mojie Lantian yanyu tu” 書摩詰藍田煙雨圖 (On Mojie's Painting of Misty Rain in Lantian), in Su Shi wenji, 5:2209.


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