yǐ yì nì zhì 以意逆志
Interpreting a Writing from One’s Own Perspective
This term describes an appropriate approach to reading literary works by understanding the work from one’s own perspective. It was put forth by Mencius (372? -289 BC), a thinker in the Warring States Period, when he talked about how to correctly understand The Book of Songs. Since then, this concept, extended to become hermeneutic, has been applied broadly to poetry and all other literary works. This point of view emphasizes that readers should activate their own personal experiences and reflective thinking when reading literary works so as to grasp or infer the sentiments that authors try to convey through their work, thus becoming able to understand its content and main themes. This viewpoint has evolved into a theory for artistic appreciation in ancient Chinese literary criticism.
When reading a poem, one should not be confined by its words as to misread the lines, nor should one be confined by the lines as to misread its main meaning. Only by using one’s own experiences in getting to know the intention of the poet can one appropriately appreciate the poem. (Mencius)