“Chinese cool” in ancient times
It’s “Chinese cool”, not Chinese coolie.
Being cool in ancient China means that one has acquired “eight graces”: 八雅。
Zither, Go, calligrapghy, ink painting, poetry, glass of something, flower art, tea tasting. These eight ingredients make you an ancient hottie.
I strum an airy tune when I’m merrily drunk
How many strings shall break before I sober up finally?
This is not a poem promoting alcoholism but one advertising the ancient cultivation of zither. Zither, Go, calligraphy, and ink painting are four scholarly performances; four required talents for wannabes. Zither, 琴or 古琴 is the foremost skill and holds “nine virtues”. It is known as “gentleman’s instrument” and a symbol of fine taste and honour. Zither is synonymous to true music.
I dream of this life between my moves
I’m pleased to think three times before I act.
Playing Go is art. Go has been an important component of ancient cultural life and is different from any other recreational games because Go is believed to shape one’s moral views, day by day behaviour and aesthetic taste. It provides you with different ways of thinking.
My strong strokes and elegant curves write timeless words
The past is hidden in one calligraphy brush.
It’s said that Cang Jie invented the Chinese characters, which are also pictograms. Chinese script contains both audios and visuals, which is why it’s still a significant medium to transfer human knowledge.
Ink painting 画
Who can make the spring stay?
Only my ink catches the perfume of her flowers.
Chinese ink painting tradition focuses on the beauty of nature and reflects only indirectly the social aspects of the ancients. One dips a brush in prepared ink wash to paint on silk or paper. The topics can be landscape, flowers and birds either imagined or true-life, dream-like tableaus.
Spring flower and autumn rain compose my poems
Morning moon and night frost sing my songs.
The pictographic quality of Chinese writing makes classic poetry rich in imageries. These poems are more like moving pictures freed from grammar rules and allow the reader to enter the poet’s vision instantly without hesitation.
I travel to the end of the world to find the way back again
But only my wine cup knows to love my native land.
Wines and liqueurs are as ancient as Chinese poetry. Chinese poets are often associated with witty, colourful, sometimes tragic, alcoholic anecdotes.
Flower art 花
The spring invites gorgeous splendour to my garden
A breeze stirs the land draped in a perfumed mist.
Better known as ikebana today, the ancient flower art was once considered a key element to improve one’s spiritual happiness.
Tea tasting 茶
With the essence of the sun and the moon absorbed in the tea leaves
I meditate in solitude while bathing them in silent, clear water.
Tea tasting equals artistic and aesthetic experience. It is a life style that seems to believe in secluded, lonely appreciation.