Gilded and Colored, Elegant and Refined
The term is used to describe an excessively exquisite artistic work as if it were an object painted in bright colors and inlaid with gold and silver. In the literary context, it refers to poems written in a highly rhetorical style. Aesthetically, what is “gilded and colored, elegant and refined” is considered undesirable, and the style of “lotus rising out of water” is preferred. The former focuses only on external form and appearance, whereas the latter, as a natural presentation of aesthetic ideas, penetrates appearances and brings out the essence.
Yan Yanzhi asked Bao Zhao, “Whose works are better, mine or Xie Lingyun’s?” Bao said, “Xie’s five-word-to-a-line poems are as natural and lovely as lotus having just risen out of water in bloom, while yours are like embroidery embellished with colored decorations.” (The History of the Southern Dynasties)
Red lacquer needs no decorated patterns, white jade needs no carving, and precious pearls need no adornment. Why? Because they are too good to be worked on. (Liu Xiang: Garden of Stories)