Distinct Subject and Artistic Taste
Poetry should have its distinct subject and artistic taste. In the Northern Song Dynasty, inspired by Huang Tingjian, poets of the Jiangxi School used poetry as a means to express views on public issues. In doing so, they tended to overlook the use of inspiring and evocative language unique to poetic expression. In Canglang’s Criticism of Poetry, literary critic Yan Yu of the Southern Song Dynasty expressed his dismay at this trend. He argued that poetry should have its distinctive subject and purpose and that poetry should express the poet’s sentiment and emotion rather than piling book knowledge or showing off learning or presenting theories. The message of a poem should be expressed through its aesthetic depiction. The advocating of distinct subject and artistic taste by Yan Yu shows that by the time of the Southern Song Dynasty, literary critics had recognized the distinctive features of poetic expression and called for return to the creative style of poetry writing of the Tang Dynasty.
- 夫诗有别材，非关书也；诗有别趣，非关理也。 （严羽《沧浪诗话·诗辨》） （诗歌有特殊的题材，跟书本知识没有关系；诗歌有特别的旨趣，跟论理没有关系。）
Poetry has its distinct subject matter and is not about book learning. It also has distinct artistic taste and is not about presenting theories. (Yan Yu: Canglang’s Criticism of Poetry)
- 三百年间虽人各有集，集各有诗，诗各自为体；或尚理致，或负材力，或逞辨博，少者千篇，多者万首，要皆经义策论之有韵者尔，非诗也。 （刘克庄《竹溪诗序》） （宋朝300 年之间，虽然人人有文集，集中都有诗，诗又各有自己擅长的体式，这些诗或者崇尚义理情致，或者自负才学，或者逞辩夸博，少的成千篇，多的上万首，全都是阐发儒家经义或论述时政对策的文章，只不过押上韵罢了，根本不能算诗。）
During the 300 years of the Song Dynasty, a lot of people published collections of literary works, many of which contained poems dealing with different subject matters. In these poems, some authors showcased their arguments, while others paraded their learning or indulged in scholarly debate. Some published 1,000 poems, and others published even 10,000 poems; but most of them were merely rhymed essays that expounded Confucian classics or discussed current policies. They were just not poetry. (Liu Kezhuang: Preface to A Collection of Zhuxi’s Poems)