Xingling (Inner Self)
The term refers to an individual’s inner mind vis-à-vis the outside world, which consists of two aspects, namely, temperament and talent. During the Southern and Northern Dynasties, xingling (inner self) became widely used in literary writing and criticism. It refers to the combination of a writer’s temperament and talent, other than his social ethics, political beliefs, and literary traditions; and it stresses that literature is inspired by traits of individuality and should give expression to them. During the Ming and Qing dynasties, along with the trend of giving free rein to individuality and shaking off intellectual straitjacket, renowned scholars such as Yuan Hongdao and Yuan Mei advocated giving full expression to one’s inner self, namely, one’s thoughts, sentiment, emotion and views. They underscored the role of intellectual and artistic individuality in literary creation as opposed to the rigid School of Principle of the earlier Song and Ming dynasties, literary dogma and blind belief in classicism which constrained people from expressing human nature and inhabited literary creativity. The Xingling School thus became an important school in literary creation.
Temperament and talent are found only in man, constituting his inner self. One of the three essential forms of existence along with heaven and earth, man stands out among all species and is the essence and soul of the world. In the natural course of events, the need to express man’s inner self leads to the emergence of language, which in turn gives rise to literary creation. (Liu Xie: The Literary Mind and the Carving of Dragons)
Most of my brother Xiaoxiu’s poems express his inner self, without being constrained by the rigid patterns and structures of ancient literary writings. He would not commit to paper anything not flowing naturally from his inner world. (Yuan Hongdao: Preface to Xiaoxiu’s Poetry)
Ever since The Book of Songs was written, all those poems which have remained popular were created to give full expression to the authors’ inner self, instead of being loaded with clichés and classical references. (Yuan Mei: Suiyuan Poetry)