| 2017-10-19 | Hits:
(Chinese Social Sciences Today)

Visiting Daikui on a snowy night

Wang Huizhi (338-386) was a calligrapher in the Eastern Jin Dynasty (317-420). He was the fifth son of Wang Xizhi, the most prominent calligrapher in Chinese history. According to A New Account of Tales of the World by Liu Yiqing (403-444), while Wang was living in Shanyin County, one night there was heavy snow. Waking ufrom sleep, he opened a panel of his room and ordered wine, drinking to the shining whiteness all around him. Then he got up and started to pace back and forth, humming Zuo Si’s “Summons to a Retired Gentleman.” All at once, he remembered Dai Kui, a friend living at Shan county to the South of Shanyin. On the spur of the moment he set out by night in a small boat to visit him. The whole night had passed before he finally arrived. When he reached Dai’s gate, he turned back without going in.

When someone asked why, Wang replied, “I originally started the trip on the strength of an impulse, and when the impulse faded away I turned back. Why was it necessary to see Dai?”

The story is frequently quoted as a symbol of unrestrained behavior and living life in the moment while following one’s heart.


泉石膏肓 烟霞痼疾
Obsession with springs and hill stones, a fetish about mist and clouds in the twilight, or generally speaking, deep-rooted love for natural charms

According to the New Book of Tang by Ouyang Xiu, Tian Youyan was a scholar during the reign of Emperor Gaozong of Tang Dynasty (r. 649-683). His mother, his wife and he had deep-rooted love for natural beauty, and often traveled among the mountains and along the rivers. An official recommended him to the emperor, but he refused the appointment from the emperor, making an excuse that he was ill. One day, the emperor paid a visit to his home in Qishan Mountain, asking “How are you these days, sir?” Tian replied: “I was that kind of person who was obsessed with springs and hill stones, and had a fetish about mist and clouds in the twilight. I have a deep-rooted obsession with natural charms as if I had an incurable disease.”

This story usually is quoted as an excuse for rejecting work in the imperial court or expressing one’s determination to live a hermit life in the mountains and forests. Sometimes it simply expresses one’s deep love for beautiful natural scenery.