Much Blandishment and Little Criticism
This term means that an essay dwells too much on the luxurious life of a monarch to the neglect of the author’s original intention of admonishing him. In the Western Han Dynasty, writer Yang Xiong (53 BC-AD 18) held that although Sima Xiangru (179?-118 BC) always ended on a note of satirical criticism in his prose-poetry, he devoted too much space to the description and glorification of a monarch’s luxurious life, bringing readers’ attention to the grand achievements of the empire and feeding the monarch’s arrogance, thus impairing the admonitory effect. Therefore, Yang criticized Sima Xiangru for such a style of writing.
Despite much ostentation and exaggeration, Sima Xiangru finally focused on the importance of being frugal. So what difference is there between this and nuanced criticism in The Book of Songs? Yang Xiong argued that in Sima Xiangru’s beautiful writing, descriptions of luxurious life dominated all space except toward the end of the essay, where admonitory words emerged extolling the merit of frugality. This can be likened to a musical band playing the decadent music of the states of Zheng and Wei up until the end of the performance, when the band finally struck up some majestic, elegant notes. Now isn’t it a joke? (The History of the Han Dynasty)