Wen Xin Diao Long (The Literary Mind and the Carving of Dragons)
The Literary Mind and Carving of Dragons (文心雕龙) is a summary of literary criticism works compiled by Liu Xie of the Liang Dynasty. It discusses the origins and development of the literary style, sums up characteristics as well as writing essentials of different styles, and talks about the principles for literature creation, such as material preparation, imagination and conception, article structure, wording, etc.
Against the formalism vogue at that time, the Literary Mind and Carving of Dragons stresses the social function and content of literature and advocates that literature should serve the reality and the contend should play a leading role for the form.
The Literary Mind and Carving of Dragons is the first monograph of literary criticism in China. It has created a milestone in the history of China's literary theory development.
Wen Xin Diao Long was compiled by Liu Xie(刘勰, 465 - 522), courtesy name Yanhe(彦和). Liu was a native of today's Zhenjiang, his ancestry was from around Shandong and died during the Liang Dynasty. His biography is included in the Liangshu. Liu Xie was a devout Buddhist and helped edit sutras at the Dinglin Monastery(定林寺) until his death.
This literature critic is the first literary critical work, dealing comprehensively the genres, subject-matter, forms and styles of all Chinese literature to the author's own period. According to Liu Xie, literary creation has to be an organic whole under the control of mind, thought and imagination, or with his own words, "the literary mind is that mind which strives after literary forms... Since from time immemorial literary writings have always adopted an ornate style, and yet I am not implicating myself in the type of dragon carving style". Accordingly, the first part of his book consists of descriptions and critics of 34 different literary styles:
骚 sao, elegic poetry of the South
In the second half of the Wen Xin Diao Long, Liu Xie develops his own proposals for a good writing composition, talking about flexibility, choice of style, emotion and expression, musicalness, parallelism, metaphor and allegory, hyperbole, choice of words, literary flaws, organization, and so on.