画龙点睛 – Chinese philosophy and culture

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huàlónɡ-diǎnjīnɡ 画龙点睛

Adding Pupils to the Eyes of a Painted Dragon / Rendering the Final Touch

比喻文学艺术创作中在紧要处着墨或写出关键性的词句,以创造出最奇妙的神韵和意境来。孟子认为,观察一个人,最好观察他的眼睛,因为眼睛最容易表露一个人内心的善良和丑恶。东晋顾恺之画人物,曾数年不肯轻易下笔点睛。他强调人物传神之关键在于画出眼神。南朝画家张僧繇(y1o)绘画技术高超,传说他曾为画好的龙点上眼珠,龙即刻腾空而去。故后世用“画龙点睛”强调文学艺术创作中应抓住要诀,使形象更加生动传神。

The term is a metaphor about giving the finishing touch, which means providing critical details or key words in an artistic or literary work in order to lend it charm and aesthetic conception. Mencius believed that when observing a person, one should look directly into his eyes because the eyes reveal his nature, be it good or evil. When painting portraits, Gu Kaizhi in the Eastern Jin Dynasty did not add pupils to the eyes in haste. He stressed that the key to painting a vivid portrait lied in painting the eyes. Zhang Sengyao, a painter of the Southern Dynasties, was well known for his excellent painting skills. Legend has it that his painted dragons flew into the sky as soon as he finished their pupils. The term is thus used by later generations to underline the importance of applying critical touches to add life and charm to a literary or artistic work.

引例 Citation:

◎又金陵安乐寺四白龙,不点眼睛,每云:“点眼即飞去。”人以为妄诞,固请点之,须臾雷电破壁,两龙乘云腾去上天,二龙未点眼者现在。(张彦远《历代名画记》卷七)

([张僧繇]在南京安乐寺墙壁上画了四条白龙,他没有给龙点上眼睛,常说:“点上眼睛,龙立刻就会腾空飞走。”人们都认为他的话荒唐虚妄,一再请他点上眼睛,[张僧繇只好提笔点睛,]即刻天空雷电交加,两条龙乘云腾空而去,而另两条没点眼睛的龙还留在墙壁上。)

Zhang Sengyao painted four white dragons on the wall of the Anle Temple in Nanjing. But he did not paint pupils to their eyes, saying that once he did, the dragons would fly into the sky. People considered his words absurd and repeatedly urged him to add pupils to the dragons’ eyes. He eventually did it on two of the four dragons. Suddenly, lightning and thunders struck, and the two dragons with pupils added to their eyes flew into the clouds. The other two remained on the wall. (Zhang Yanyuan: Notes on Past Famous Paintings)

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