This term refers broadly to the appearances and patterns of everything in nature. It was originally used to describe the colors of animal furs; later it became associated with the colors of all physical objects, such as the splendor of scenery and landscape. Liu Xie (465?-520) of the Southern Dynasties discussed at some length the relationship between natural features and literary creation in his book The Literary Mind and the Carving of Dragons. In his view, “Literary writing is created only when the writer’s innermost emotion is stirred up by external things.” That is, as objects of aesthetic appreciation, natural features can inspire one to turn his emotions into words. A fine piece of literary work should “reveal the vital energy and essence of external things with vivid detail.” At the same time, “such work should also create sights and sounds to match the writer’s emotions.” It should fuse emotions and scenery into one. This type of writing can be found in the “Rhapsodic Prose” section of Selections of Refined Literature Compiled by Prince Zhaoming, which has vivid accounts of scenery and landscape.
Seasons change. Cold weather makes people feel depressed, whereas warm sunshine makes them happy and relaxed. Natural scenery and objects change with time, causing change in one’s mood. (Liu Xie: The Literary Mind and the Carving of Dragons)
The scenery at dusk makes one feel downhearted. The frost and dew of early autumn morning chill flowers and grass, signaling the advent of winter. (Bao Zhao: An Ode to Autumn Written in Tribute to My Revered Buddhist Friend Huixiu)