huàɡōnɡ, huàɡōnɡ 化工、画工
Magically Natural, Overly Crafted
The expressions are about the naturalness of literary and artistic works. The first one, “magically natural,” means that a literary or artistic work is completed naturally and achieves the acme of perfection without any sign of craft. The second, “overly crafted,” means that a work is meticulously crafted, but it is overly elaborate in style while lacking naturalness and spontaneity. “Magically natural” is used to refer to works accomplished by artists while “overly crafted” is used to describe works done by craftsmen. These two standards were proposed by Ming writer Li Zhi in his “Random Thoughts,” which echoed his idea that writings must reflect the author’s true sentiments. Culturally, the distinction between “magically natural” and “overly crafted” is rooted in the Daoist thought of being harmonious with nature while forsaking excessive skills. Most Ming scholars favored literary naturalism and rejected elaboration and imitation.
Wu Daozi had superb technical skills, but his paintings were over crafted. What is remarkable about Wang Wei is that he gave free rein to his imagination in his paintings, like a bird that had broken free from its cage. Both of them were highly skilled, but I like Wang Wei better; I can find no fault in his works. (Su Shi: The Paintings of Wang Wei and Wu Daozi)
The Pavilion of Moon Worship and Romance of the West Chamber were works of magical naturalness, whereas The Story of the Lute was an overly crafted work. The latter shows that an attempt made to outdo the magic of nature has proved impossible to achieve. (Li Zhi: Random Thoughts)