Substance Through Artistic Appeal
This term refers to the philosophical substance of a work as well as its literary appeal conveyed to readers through its artistic image. In other words, it means the philosophical insights and aesthetic engagement that readers acquire through the process of appreciatively reading classic literary works. For example, poets of the Wei, Jin, or Southern and Northern dynasties were fond of entertaining abstruse schools of philosophy in their poems, while Song-dynasty poets often used poetry to comment on the society of their time. Both practices were treated as faults by some critics of later times. Some later critics even maintained that philosophical content should never figure into a poem apart from artistic images. Instead they maintained that the substantial content of the poem should be conveyed only by means of artistic images so that it could be grasped by readers through their appreciation of the work’s artistic features, thus the term “substance through artistic appeal.” Li (理) in this phrase refers to insights derived from the experience of life rather than bookish knowledge and learning. It is not something that can be acquired or expressed through logical argument. Qu (趣) refers to the aesthetic delight readers obtain when they acquire insight into life through reading classic literary works. This concept turns the dispute over whether poems could present logical arguments into a theory of the integration of reason and taste in poetic writing. It helps critics appreciate dialectically those literary works that contain both logic and insight.
Most likely, when writing poems, the classic poets neither wrote carelessly nor wrote many of them. Once they had decided to write a poem, they would strive to create the best work possible. As for philosophical substance, the argument and its aesthetic appeal should be well integrated; when it came to narration, the logic of the story was made perfectly clear, and descriptions were such that the thing described would appear natural and lifelike. (Bao Hui: Letter to Zeng Zihua on Poetry)
A poem cannot avoid philosophical content, yet it is best to integrate the argument with aesthetic appeal. Direct argument is inappropriate for poetry.(Shen Deqian: Collection of Poems in the Qing Dynasty)