This term suggests cultivating one’s moral spirit and improving one’s physical and mental well-being to achieve the best state of mind during literary creation in order to write excellent works. “Cultivating qi (气)” has three implications: 1) in the pre-Qin period Mencius emphasized that the virtuous and the capable should foster a “righteous qi” conducive to moral cultivation; 2) A Comparative Study of Different Schools of Learning by Wang Chong of the Eastern Han Dynasty has a chapter entitled “Treatise on Cultivating Qi,” which emphasizes qi cultivation primarily in regards to maintaining good health; 3) Liu Xie of the Southern Dynasties, in The Literary Mind and the Carving of Dragons, drew upon the foregoing ideas and suggested maintaining good physical condition and a free, composed mental state in the initial phase of literary creation, while opposing excessive mental exertion. “Cultivating qi” subsequently became an important term in the lexicon of literary psychology.
I am capable of differentiating between the thoughts and sentiments people convey in their words because I know how to cultivate my qi, and keep it strong. (Mencius)
Hence, when engaging in writing one must learn how to constrain and regulate oneself, keep one’s mind pure and peaceful, and modulate one’s mental vitality and activities. One should stop writing when upset so as not to disrupt one’s train of thinking. (Liu Xie: The Literary Mind and the Carving of Dragons)