Learn from Many Masters, Form Your Own Style
The expression means to learn widely from others so as to enrich one’s own artistic creation. Zhuanyi (转益) means to learn and absorb everything that can further one’s creativity; duoshi (多师) means to learn from many teachers. This comes from “Six Playful Quatrains” by Du Fu (712-770) of the Tang Dynasty. There are two related meanings in this term: 1) learn from the experience and skills of all masters, past and present; and 2) while learning and carrying on the best, also be discerning, so as to approach or conform to the traditions of meaning and form as expressed in The Book of Songs, and then develop one’s own poetic style. The expression later came to include not just poetry but also literature and art.
Superficial men are clearly not the equal of past masters; why would one mind who was the first to pass on the tradition? Discard the poorly written and learn from The Book of Songs. And learning from many past masters means you’ve found the right teacher. (Du Fu: Six Playful Quatrains)
In his work “Progress in Learning,” Han Yu compared the writings of Sima Xiangru and Yang Xiong to The Book of History. In his commentary on poetry composition, Du Fu likened the works of Lu Zhaolin and Luo Binwang to rapidly flowing rivers. Han and Du were writing for different readers, but both believed in the value of learning from many teachers, and advised writers and poets not to close themselves off from multiple influences. (Chen Yong: Reply to Wu Zishu)