The ancient Chinese regarded the written word as a transformative force able to move heaven and earth and unite the reader with the source of all things, the Tao. The power of writing, especially poetry, is celebrated here in short texts that present both practical instruction and spiritual insight:
- Lu Ji's essay in verse, "The Art of Writing," reveals the inner process every writer must go through in preparing for the creative act.
- Sikong Tu's "Twenty-four Styles of Poetry" teaches that poets must perfect themselves internally in order to achieve perfection in what they write.
- "Poets' Jade Splinters" contains aphoristic prescriptions and humorous anecdotes about poetry, poets, and the rules of composition.
Assorted commentaries and critical evaluations focus on Chinese lyrical poetry.
"Lively and surprising, insightful and instructive, this is an indispensable addition to the writer's bookshelf."—Jane Hirshfield, cotranslator of The Ink Dark Moon