离形得似 – Chinese philosophy and culture

lí xínɡ dé sì 离形得似

Transcend the Outer Form to Capture the Essence

文艺创作描绘对象时要善于超越外形而捕捉其精神特征,达到高度真实。庄子(前369?—前286)认为生命的根本在于精神而非形体,应该忘记形体存在而让精神自由驰骋。晚唐诗人司空图(837—908)借鉴这一观点,认为诗歌描绘对象也要追求神似而超越形似。这一诗歌创作理念和批评术语后来也在书法、绘画领域得到贯彻。

When describing something, literary writing should be able to go beyond external appearance to capture the essence so as to reflect a high degree of reality. Zhuangzi (369?-286BC) considered that the essence of life lies in the inner spirit rather than the physical form. One should forget one’s physical existence and give full free rein to the spirit. The late Tang poet Sikong Tu (837-908) adopted this view and believed that poetic description should likewise focus on essence rather than form. This concept of poetic creation and critique was later applied in calligraphy and painting as well.

引例 Citations:

◎有生必先无离形,形不离而生亡者有之矣。(《庄子·达生》)

(生命的存在必定要以形体健全为前提,但是形体没有离开生命而生命已经死亡的人也是有的啊。)

Life exists in a physical body. However, there are people who are dead due to lack of spirit although they are alive physically. (Zhuangzi)

◎离形得似,庶几斯人。(司空图《二十四诗品·形容》)

(做到离形得似,那才是真正善于描写对象的诗人。)

He who can transcend the outer form aside and capture the essence is truly a great poet. (Sikong Tu: Twenty-four Styles of Poetry)

◎离形得似,书家上乘,然此中消息甚微,不可死在句下。(姚孟超《字学臆参》)

(做到离形得似,即是书法作品中的上乘之作,不过这其中的道理很微妙,不能死抠字面意思。)

The work that transcends the outer form and captures the essence is a masterpiece. However, the theory underpinning this ability is very subtle and is not to be understood mechanically. (Yao Mengchao: Personal Reflections on the Art of Calligraphy)

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