dú shū xìnglíng, bù jū gétào 独抒性灵，不拘格套
Bold Expression of One’s True Self
This term indicates that a writer should give expression to his true feelings in literary creation and not be constrained by particular regulations or formulas. It was first used by the Ming Dynasty writer Yuan Hongdao (1568-1610) as he commented on the literary work of his younger brother Yuan Zhongdao (1570-1626). Later, it became the core idea of the Gong’an School of Literary Writing, firmly opposed to the stubborn emulation of ancient literature as advocated by the Former Seven Masters and the Latter Seven Masters of the time, who highly esteemed prose of the Qin and Han dynasties and poetry of the golden Tang era. The Gong’an School emphasized that literature and art flow forth from the heart, value freedom and originality, and refuse to be bound by any convention. This school urged poets to defy any restriction imposed on them. This view was important to the assertion of individuality and rebellion against tradition, at a time when reverence for and emulation of ancient literature was the trend. It exerted a positive influence on literary creation in that era and later.
Most of his poems express his inner self, without being constrained by any particular regulations or formulas. He would not commit to paper anything not flowing naturally from his inner world. Once his inner feelings and external objects merge into one, words would pour forth to form a magnificent whole, just as a great river flows east undeterred. Readers will be enthralled when reading his works. (Yuan Hongdao: Preface to Xiaoxiu’s Poetry)
A man’s habitual behavior shaped by his own disposition is not quite likely to change. So long as he pursues his true self in his conduct of affairs, he is a true man. (Yuan Hongdao: A Postscript to Zhang Youyu’s Admonitory Epigraph)
Poetry spreads far and wide mainly because of its spiritual appeal, not because it is loaded with book knowledge. (Yuan Mei: Suiyuan Remarks on Poetry)