Lu Chi's Wen Fu
It is like being adrift
in a heavenly lake
or diving to the depths of seas.
In his “The Art of Writing” [Wen fu]”, Lu Chi (261-303 CE) created a an essay in rhyming prose about poetry. It deals with the personal imagination and its activity in the process of composition, treating literature as a calling, as a craft, and as a means to truth. In it, Lu Chi provides an unusual insight into how a professional writer goes about the creative task and gives an account of the intricacies of composition.
In the preface Lu Chi writes:
I am therefore writing this essay on literature to tell of the glorious accomplishments of past men of letters, and to comment on the causes of failure and success in writing. Perhaps some day the secret of this most intricate art may be entirely mastered. In making an axe handle by cutting wood with an axe, the model is indeed near at hand. But the adaptability of the hand to the ever-changing circumstances and impulses in the process of literary creation is such as words can hardly explain. What follows is only what can be said in words.
When studying the work of the masters,
Surely, facility with language
are effects which can be achieved
Still, the beautiful can be distinguished
Only through writing and then revising
We worry whether our ideas
This may be easy to know,
I have composed this rhymed prose
Perhaps it will one day be said
When cutting an axe handle with an axe,
Each writer finds a new entrance
Nonetheless, I have set down my thinking