Sublimity in Art
Sublimity is the highest state of art. It was an important term in literary criticism in ancient China, similar to the ideas of “the oneness of heaven and humans” and “the miraculous work of nature.” The assertion that “heaven and earth exist in harmony with me and all things in the universe are inseparable from me,” as made in Zhuangzi’s (369?-286 BC) “On Seeing Things as Equal,” marked the beginning of this theory. A work of art with such excellence shows an aesthetic state wherein one basks in a blissful loss of division between him and his surroundings and heaven and man become completely merged. Whether it is a poem or a painting, it is so naturally created that it bears no mark of men’s “carving or chiseling.” The sublime in art occurs when the artist has had more than sufficient accomplishment, profound understanding and artistic technique. He will then be able to suit his actual execution of strokes to his fantasy by making everything at his fingertips work. Such an effect is achieved as if only by nature’s magical hand, not through human effort at all.
不知变主格，化主境，格易见，境难窥。变则标奇越险，不主故常；化则神动天随，从心所欲。如五言咏物诸篇，七言拗体诸作，所谓变也。宋以后诸人竞相师袭者是，然化境殊不在此。 （胡应麟《诗薮》内编五） （人们不知道“变”主要体现为“格”，“化”主要体现为“境”，“格”容易看出来，“境”难以窥见。“变”就是标榜奇特险怪，不主张故旧平常；“化”就是神气自然而动，随心所欲。如杜甫的五言咏物、七言拗体等作品，是“变”的体现。宋代以后的人争着效法学习，然而杜诗的化境根本不在这些方面。）
People do not know that, whereas variation is shown mainly through metrical schemes, sublimity in art is an overall artistic vision. The former is easily discernible but the latter is difficult to get a glance into. Variation entails extra ordinariness and oddity; therefore, it disdains convention or plainness. Sublimity in art, on the other hand, requires the blossoming of one’s natural selfand that one should always follow the dictates of one’s heart. Du Fu’s objectspoems with five characters to a line, as well as his metrically deviant poems with seven characters to a line – are good examples of variation. Poets after the Song Dynasty tried especially hard to copy his style, although the sublimity of his poems does not lie there at all. (Hu Yinglin: An In-depth Exploration of Poetry)
诗家化境，如风雨驰骤，鬼神出没，满眼空幻，满耳飘忽，突然而来，倏然而去，不得以字句诠，不可以迹相求。 （贺贻孙《诗筏》） （诗的化境，如同暴风雨忽然来到，鬼神出现隐没，满眼看到的都是空虚幻影，满耳听到的都是飘忽不定的声音，突然而来，倏然消失，无法解释它的字句，无法探求它的行迹。）
Sublimity in poetry arrives like an unexpected rainstorm. Like when a god ora devil appears or vanishes, one only sees fleeting fantasies and hears elusive voices – coming and going all of a sudden. Its wording defies any attempt at decipherment and its traces are hard to follow. (He Yisun: Tools and Methods of Understanding Poetry)