The Zhengshi Literary Style
The term refers to the literary style of the final years of the State of Wei (240–265) in the Three Kingdoms period. It emerged in the Zhengshi era (240–249) under the reign of Cao Fang, also known as Prince Qi of Wei. Facing the harsh prevailing political conditions, literary figures of the era viewed life and the world in a broader and philosophical context, and profound and rational analysis as well as penetrating depiction of human tragedies were underlying features of their writings. Reverence for Laozi and Zhuangzi was a key feature of this literary style, with poetry, in particular, being abstruse and philosophical in terms of message. The Zhengshi style had two schools. One was represented by He Yan and Wang Bi, whose works heralded the Jin-dynasty metaphysical poetry. The other school, represented by literary figures like Ji Kang and Ruan Ji, was more influential. Building on the Jian’an literary tradition, they conveyed in their writings profound thought and emotions, and gave vivid expression to social life at the time with intense individual characteristics.
By the Zhengshi era, Daoism was popular and, as a result, poetry reflected people’s desire to reach the immortal world. Works by He Yan and his followers were for the most part superficial. Only Ji Kang expressed lofty ideals, and Ruan Ji showed depth and insight in his poetry; they thus stood out among the writers of that age. (Liu Xie: The Literary Mind and the Carving of Dragons)