This refers to an open, free, and flexible style of a work of art； it is the opposite of a “densely packed” work of art. Ethereal effect does not mean sheer emptiness； it does not completely avoid imagery, nor does it entirely avoid natural description. Rather its aim is to suggest unlimited possibilities for the viewer’s imagination through a highly economical use of brushwork and imagery so as to pursue the “meaning that lies beyond literal form” or “associations beyond the work itself.” In this way it leaves room for the viewer’s imagination. For example, just as redundant description is deliberately left out of an essay or a poem, along with ponderous wording or unnecessary images, just so thick ink and heavy colors may be avoided in painting. The notion of ethereal effect values simple layout and an economical use of details, seeking to convey character and imagination. Works that make use of ethereal effect convey a wonderful lucidity, and possess openness, freedom, and natural grace. Such works enable viewers to appreciate the aesthetic joy of free imagination.
- 古人用笔极塞实处愈见空灵，今人布置一角已见繁缛。虚处实则通体皆灵，愈多而愈不厌。 （恽寿平《南田画跋》） （古人绘画，越是在非常具体实在的地方，用笔越有飘逸灵动的感觉。今天的人作画，才画了一角，就已看起来琐碎繁杂。在虚飘的地方用实笔，则整幅作品都显得灵动，所绘物象越多越不会让人生厌。）
When painting, classical artists made use of ethereal effect all the more where a dense collection of objects normally was required. However today’s artists no sooner begin to paint than they fill the space with elaborate details. In fact, if a painter applies a few specific details strategically in the empty spaces, then the whole picture will appear more open and alive. Under the circumstances the more images he uses, the less boring the picture. (Yun Shouping: Nantian’s Comments on Paintings)
- 文或结实，或空灵，虽各有所长，皆不免著于一偏。试观韩文，结实处何尝不空灵，空灵处何尝不结实。 （刘熙载《艺概·文概》） （文章或者坚实有力，或者飘逸灵动，虽然各有各的优点，都难免偏于一个方面。试看韩愈的文章，坚实有力的地方未尝不飘逸灵动，飘逸灵动的地方未尝不坚实有力。）
Some essays are written in a substantive style, whereas others feature an ethereal style. Although these two kinds of writing have their respective merits, they are each lopsided in their own way. But if one reads Han Yu’s essays, he will find that they a (Liu Xizai: Overview of Literary Theories)