The term “golden touch” means creatively expressing novel and exquisite meaning through the use of simple language or by transforming old phrases from past masters. The expression also can be used to describe the way that an accomplished man of letters edits writings. By minor adjustment, he can bring out the splendor in an otherwise ordinary piece. Huang Tingjian, a poet and scholar of the Northern Song Dynasty, valued and promoted literary critic Liu Xie’s idea that classics offer excellent examples from which to learn, but he stressed the need to study and employ the expressive techniques found in classic masterpieces by cleverly transforming the words found there, altering common and hackneyed forms of “novelty” so as to impart to one’s own writing freshness and literary style. In the Song Dynasty and later, this theory gave rise to many debates about methods of creative writing in poetry.
In ancient times the most capable writers could render excellent images of virtually anything mentioned in their writing. Even if old expressions or sentences from former masters entered into their writing, they could transform them like an alchemist who, with a single touch, could turn lead into gold.(Huang Tingjian: Letter in Reply to Hong Jufu)
“When drunk, you strike the bed to offend others, and vex your neighbors with vulgar language, the liquor in the cup laughs at you saying: I am a drink as gentle and warm as the spring weather.” The first two sentences were crude, yet for you to transmute such material into a fine poem is true mastery. This is what is called a golden touch! (Wu Ke: Canghai’s Remarks on Poetry)