Vim and Vigor
The term refers to vim and vigor found in a great work of art. It first emerged among comments on famed persons in the Wei and Jin period. Later, it was brought into the field of artistic criticism. The Tang Dynasty’s theory on calligraphy adopted the term to describe the artistic features of a calligraphic work. In his essay titled “Subsequent Commentaries on Calligraphy,” Jiang Kui (1155?-1209) of the Song Dynasty further argued, on the basis of the concept of “vim and vigor,” that the merit of a calligraphic work is jointly determined by the calligrapher’s moral character, origin of his style, skill, innovation and the kind of brush and paper he uses. The term gained its popularity when Ming Dynasty’s Mao Kun (1512-1601) used it in his critical essays. He praised Records of the Historian as its classic example and spoke highly of Ouyang Xiu’s (1007-1072) essays for their vim and vigor. His criterion was to see whether a smooth flow of narration was ensured and complicated nuances of feeling admirably expressed in an essay.
风神者，一须人品高，二须师法古，三须纸笔佳，四须险劲，五须高明，六须润泽，七须向背得宜，八须时出新意。 （姜夔《续书谱》） （书法作品的风神，一要求人品高尚，二要求学习古人，三要求纸笔优良，四要求奇险劲健，五要求高超明智，六要求圆润光泽，七要求笔势的相向与相背适宜，八要求时常写出新意。）
To achieve vim and vigor, a calligrapher should be morally cultivated, emulatemaster calligraphers of old times, gain access to quality brush and paper, bebold in his execution of strokes, have extra wisdom and skill, be smooth andfinely polished, handle his strokes properly whether they proceed towardor away from each other, and often be innovative. (Jiang Kui: Subsequent Commentaries on Calligraphy)
西京以来，独称太史公迁，以其驰骤跌宕，悲慨呜咽，而风神所注，往往于点缀指次外，独得妙解，譬之览仙姬于潇湘洞庭之上，可望而不可近者。 （茅坤《欧阳文忠公文钞引》） （西汉以来，我唯独称赞太史公司马迁，因为他的文章纵横跌宕，悲慨呜咽，而文章中所蕴含的风神，往往在字句点缀指示之外，独得精妙的意旨，好比在潇水、湘江、洞庭湖之上看见仙子，可以远望而不可近距离接触。）
Of all the essayists since the Western Han Dynasty, I adore the Grand HistorianSima Qian most. His way of writing is compelling, heroic and deeply sorrowful.The majestic vigor of his essays often lies beyond words and rhetorical devices, holding a truly magical appeal. Like a fairy on the river Xiaohe, Xiangshui or Lake Dongting, it can be viewed from afar but never actually approached. (MaoKun: A Preface to Selected Works of Ouyang Xiu)