Xingji (Association and Inner Sustenance)
The term means the use of analogy, association, and inner sustenance in writing a poem to give implicit expression to one’s sentiments, thus enabling the poem to convey a subtle message. The term was first used by the Tang-dynasty poet Chen Zi’ang. Xing (兴) means the development of inner feelings invoked by external objects, and ji (寄) means finding sustenance in them. Later it was extended to mean that poetry should be written to convey a message of praise or satire. The term carried on the pre-Qin poetical tradition of creating inspiration by writing about a subject and stressed that while depicting sentiments in poetry, the poet should find sustenance in it. The term represented an important development of the theory of analogy and association. It played a major role in ensuring that poets in the prime of the Tang Dynasty broke away from the poetic style of the Qi and Liang of the Southern Dynasties, which pursued ornate language instead of inner sustenance, thus enabling Tang poetry to develop in a healthy way.
When I read the poems of the Qi and Liang of the Southern Dynasties in my leisure time, I found them full of ornate rhetoric heaped together without sustenance. I often feel resigned as I can well imagine that the ancients were always concerned about poetry becoming decadent and the tradition of objectively reflecting reality as shown in The Book of Songs getting lost. (Chen Zi’ang: Preface to My Poem “The Bamboo” Composed with Inspirations from Dongfang Qiu)
I was concerned that the works based on association and inner sustenance would get lost and that writings with only elaborate rhetoric would prevail. We really need works that have substance. (Liu Zongyuan: Letter to Scholar Shen Qi)