yǒu wǒ zhī jìnɡ, wú wǒ zhī jìnɡ 有我之境，无我之境
Scene Involving the Self; Scene Not Involving the Self
This term refers to the dual character of aesthetic appreciation of classic Chinese poetry highlighted by the early modern scholar Wang Guowei (1877-1927), from the perspective of the relationship between the self and the external world. In his renowned literary theoretic work Poetic Remarks in the Human World, Wang put forward the notion of “the scene (jingjie),” i.e., the creative state of being, arguing that only poetry written to invoke such a state can be deemed excellent work. He regarded this ambience not only as a creative principle of poetry but also a criterion for poetry criticism. Besides, he used the notion to recount the evolution of poetry and to evaluate the taste or merit of a poem and its author. He also raised many propositions concerning the creative state of being. Of these, the most important is the binary term “scene involving the self / scene not involving the self.” “Scene involving the self” means that the author incorporates personal feelings into the literary image he creates, thus imbuing it with a tremendous emotional force. “Scene not involving the self,” on the other hand, does not mean a lack of emotion; rather, the author tempers this emotional force by exercising restraint and achieving a perfect harmony between personal feelings with literary imagery. To him, “without the self in it” is a perfectly natural state of creation, without any need for fabrication or alteration; therefore, it represents the highest level of artistic excellence. Overall, this term marks the starting point of Wang’s literary criticism and the final destination of his literary thought.
What constitutes “the creative state of being” is not only scene but also feelings of joy, anger and sorrow lying deep in one’s heart. Therefore, a literary work which contains true feeling as well as authentic scenery is truly creative, otherwise it is not. (Wang Guowei: Poetic Remarks in the Human World)
Poetry can be created with or without an “author” in it… In the former case, the poet beholds natural scene from a personal perspective, coating everything he sees with a subjective color. In the latter case, however, the poet observes external objects and scenery as if he were part of nature, thus eliminating the division between him and his surroundings. Many old-time poets were able to write good poetry with the self in it, but that does not mean that poetry without the self in it is unachievable. Truly talented poets distinguish themselves from the common run exactly in this aspect. (Wang Guowei: Poetic Remarks in the Human World)