Jìnglíng pài 竟陵派
The Jingling School of Literary Writing
This was a school of literary creation in the late Ming Dynasty represented by Zhong Xing (1574-1624) and Tan Yuanchun (1586-1637), who were both natives of Jingling (today’s Tianmen, Hubei Province). It was also known as the ZhongTan School. Like members of the Gong’an School of Literary Writing, the Jingling School valued the showing of a writer’s true feelings and character and opposed stubborn emulation of ancient literature. However, they regarded works of the Gong’an School represented by Yuan Hongdao (1568-1610) as slangy and shallow. They advocated a serene and solitary style, arguing that literary creation should express the “inner self.” But in fact, such an “inner self” pursues only novelty, abstruseness, and aloofness from ordinary mortals. The Jingling School paid excessive attention to wording, trying to create an atmosphere of solitude and profundity. Members of the school contributed to the resistance of stubborn emulation of ancient literature and the emergence of many refined, informal essays. However, the limitation of subject matter and abstruseness of language restrained their further development.
My fellow townsman Tan Yuanchun and I share the same worry. Even after much thought, we still hardly dare say whether to emulate ancient literature or not. What we attempt to do is to find out where the “true essence” of old-time poetry lies. True poetry has to be the outcome of spiritual activity. A careful examination of such activity would reveal that it shows the sentiments of ancient people in their reclusion and solitude, as well as the journey they quietly pursued regardless of the noise and bustle of the mortal world. True poetry has a magnanimous mind and quiet confidence; it enabled our ancestors to roam free beyond the horizon. (Zhong Xing: Preface to The Purport of Poetic Creation)