The term refers to charm inherent in an inspiration, or charm created when the object or scene depicted in a poem is appreciated. It is a type of aesthetic enjoyment contained in a poem which is gained through the reader’s act of appreciation. In Canglang’s Criticism of Poetry, Yan Yu, a poetry critic of the Southern Song Dynasty, voiced his love for poetry’s emotional charm and argued against direct expression of an idea in poetry. He stressed the need to enable readers to gain insight and satisfaction in a natural way through personal reflection and contemplation. This term later became an important criterion for evaluating poetry, exerting a strong influence on the poetry theories of the Ming and Qing dynasties.
One should write poetry only to express one’s true sentiments and personality. In their poems, Tang-dynasty poets made particular efforts to inspire meaning, charm, and emotion. Their style is like an antelope hooking its horns onto a tree when sleeping at night, so that its trace cannot be found. (Yan Yu: Canglang’s Criticism of Poetry)
Classical poems mostly focused on inspiring meaning, charm, and emotion through hints with subtle wording and implied meanings, and that is why they moved readers. Poets during the Song Dynasty, however, tended to use poetry to comment on public affairs or make arguments. If that was what they wanted to achieve, why didn’t they write essays instead of poems? (Tu Long: On Essay Writing)