Jingjie (Visionary World)
Jingjie (境界) originally meant border or boundary. Later, it was used to translate the idea of a mental realm in Buddhist sutras, a state of spiritual cultivation achieved after having overcome bewilderment in the material world. As a literary and artistic term, jingjie is mainly used to indicate the aesthetic depth in a literary work so as to give full expression to the author’s creativity, comprehension, and aesthetic faculties. A work reaching a high level of jingjie manifests the author’s true personality, transcends the ordinary, strikes a responsive chord in the heart of the reader, stimulates the reader’s imagination, and thus enhances the reader’s appreciation of his work. The term yijing (意境 aesthetic conception) came into being earlier than jingjie, which was formed under the influence of Buddhism in the mid-Tang period. In his Poetic Remarks in the Human World, modern scholar Wang Guowei wrote extensively about jingjie. He often used yijing in the same sense as he used jingjie or the other way round. He created the theory of jingjie, in which he blended classical Western and classical Chinese aesthetics. Generally speaking, yijing refers to a perfect combination of the message the author conveys with the images he uses in his works, and it gives full rein to reader’s imagination. The concept of jingjie, however, foregrounds the sublimation of artistic images through mental insight, and emphasizes the role of the mental world in elevating the work of art to a higher level.
The visionary world achieved in literary works serves as a better criterion for making critical evaluation than one’s personal character or charm. The visionary world is primary, whereas one’s personal character and charm are secondary. Once the visionary world is reached, personal character and charm will naturally follow. (Wang Guowei: Poetic Remarks in the Human World [Reduced Version])
Painting landscapes is about depicting with brush and ink the artist’s affective response to a natural scene. When the artist’s sentiments interact intensely with the natural scene, a realm of what we call the visionary world is reached. (Buyantu: How to Paint)