The term refers to a state where the scene described in a literary or artistic work reflects the sense and sensibility intended. Jing (境) originally meant perimeter or boundary. With the introduction of Buddhism into China during the late Han, Wei and Jin dynasties, the idea gained popularity that the physical world was but an illusion, and that only the mind was real in existence. So jing came to be seen as a realm that could be attained by having sensibilities of the mind. As a literary and artistic term, jing has several meanings. The term yijing (意境) was originally put forward by renowned Tang poet Wang Changling. It describes an intense aesthetic experience in which one’s perception of an object reaches a realm of perfect union with the implication denoted by the object. Aesthetic appreciation in the mind is characterized by “projecting meaning into a scene” and “harmonizing one’s thought with a scene.” In contrast with the term yixiang (意象), yijing (意境) fully reveals the implication and the heightened aesthetic sense that an artistic work is intended to deliver. The concept is extended to include other notions such as sentiment and scene, actual and implied meanings, or mind and object. It also raises literary and artistic works to a new realm of aesthetic appreciation. After evolving through several dynasties, this concept developed into an important criterion to judge the quality of a literary or artistic work, representing an accomplishment drawing on classical writings through ages. It has also become a hallmark for all outstanding literary and artistic works. The term also represents a perfect union between foreign thoughts and culture and those typically Chinese.
A poem accomplishes aesthetic conception in three ways. The first is through objects. If you want to write poems about landscape, you need to observe intensely springs and creeks, rocks and towering peaks, imprint their extraordinary beauty and charm on your memory, put yourself in the scene created in your mind, and view in your mind’s eye the image you obtain until you can see it as vividly as if it were right on your palm. By then, you can start to think about writing the poem. A deep appreciation of the scene and its objects is instrumental in achieving a true poetic image. The second is through sentiments. Sentiments such as happiness, pleasure, sorrow, and anger should be allowed to develop in your mind. You should experience them personally to fully grasp the nature of these emotions. This will enable you to express them in a profound way. The third is through an imagined scene. This requires you to reach aesthetic appreciation by reflecting it in your mind time and again. Then you can capture the genuine nature of an idea. (Wang Changling: Rules of Poetry)
A beautifully composed poem is one in which the blending of image and concept is such that it transcends that of sound and music. Only then can one savor the real charm of poetry. (Zhu Chengjue: Comments on the Collection of Poems from Cunyutang Study)
Poems have limited verse forms and rhythmic patterns, but we poets are capable of creating fresh ideas every day, all the time. (Zhou Bingzeng: Preface to Collection of Poems from Daoyuantang Study)