chéng huái wèi xiàng 澄怀味像
Clear the Mind to Savor the Image
This refers to emptying one’s mind, casting aside all kinds of worldly interference and eliminating the desire for fame and fortune. In a state of thorough, lucid serenity, one can observe and enjoy physical objects as manifested by Dao. “Clearing the mind” is the precondition for “savoring aesthetic images.” People’s appreciation of beauty can approach the infinite Dao only by breaking loose from worldly constraints and vulgar influences. At that very moment, the boundary between oneself and external objects disappears. The beholder, feasting eyes on beautiful mountains, rivers and lakes, achieves communion with Dao and thus attains a true mental freedom and transcendence. “Clearing the mind to savor the image” is an important term in traditional Chinese landscape painting theory; categorically, it belongs to artistic intuitionism. It carries on and further develops Laozi’s notion of cleansing away all distracting thoughts and watching the world with a clear, peaceful mind, which inspires theories of creativity in calligraphy, literature and other artistic fields.
Sages illuminate objects by embracing Dao, and virtuous people clear the mind to savor the image. (Zong Bing: On the Creation of Landscape Painting)
Zong Bing returned home to Jiangling after falling ill. He said with a sigh: “I’m old and don’t feel well now, so I am no longer able to travel and see famous mountains. All I can do now is to unleash my spiritual self and appreciate objects presented by Dao. I will observe landscapes while lying in bed, which is almost like I was there.” (The History of the Song of the Southern Dynasties)