Wang Wei was one of the most accomplished poets of his time. Though he was born in a well-off family, Wang was not sophisticated in his style. On the contrary, he used a very simple language to express aspects that analysts say that only he could do. He created expressions using nature and brought to the minds of the people things that were earlier on unimaginable. He once wrote:
Born in this age, I mistakenly turned out a writer;
In a past life I was surely a painter
From this self declared statement; Wang was talented in many fields. That aspect is evident in his poetic style. And the styles from different fields were intertwined. Analysts argue that he applied his painting skills to create his poetic work. The statement shows that Wang regarded himself as a better painter than a poet.
Wangs Poetic Style
Wang had a unique poetic style. His observation and ability to put landscape and nature together was something that only painters did, but he successfully managed to put it down on paper in his poetic world. In his work, he used nature with reference to mountains, streams, stars, moon, sun, birds, among others. He also applied the artistic touch on man-made features by including aspects such as sails and boats which brought the perfect picture of the landscape. This is one of the styles that made his work famous and unique.
Further, Wang had a quiet style. Despite growing up in a rather busy family with lots of activities, he managed to put this away from his work. His poems created silent and calm atmosphere where there was little or minimum presence of human beings and his activities. Some of his work showed the natural beauty with scenic touches. Though some critics question the possibility of such beauty, Wang made it possible by creating the virtual images in the minds of the readers of his poems. Amazingly, he put all this together in very simple and articulable language, yet the image created is not only beautiful but also rare to imagine.
In one of his works, Written on Climbing the Small Terrace of Pei Di, Wang described a rare phenomenon of the sun moving while a bird does not. The line;
The sun goes down beside a bird
This was a good example that explains his work. It remains hard to imagine the big body that moves at a very insignificant speed like the sun, moving beside a small highly mobile bird. The words used in this line are very simple and clear, but the message passed is unimaginable. The sun takes about twelve hours to move from one horizon to the other, illuminating the whole surface of the earth. It remains visible for a very long time. On the contrary, it is simply impractical for anyone to keep watching a bird for as short a period as a few minutes. It is therefore hard to imagine that the sun that has a very slow movement from horizon to horizon, a path that is definite and assured, moving beside a bird. In this line, the bird is simply not moving, but the sun moves beside it, possibly on the horizon. Critically analyzing the line, this is impossible and experts argue that only Wang could create such an illusion. They say that the world he created was simply his. This was a very significant line that shows Wangs intertwining artistry between painting and poetry. From a painting point of view, it seems practical to have a bird perching on a branch at sunset. It is easy to read and internalize sunset on a painting and the aspect of a bird sitting still on a branch is also a little practical. The aspect of the sun setting beside a bird therefore makes more sense in painting context than in the poetic context.
A further look into the line reveals another form of style in Wangs work. He uses points of view in his poetic work. For one to simply observe some of his creations, they must be situated at a particular position, viewing the described phenomenon from a given angle. This is evident in the sun and bird line. For anyone to observe that, they must be viewing the sunset and the bird from an Eastern side. Since the sun is the West most feature in the view as it sets, the bird must be between the view and the sun. Standing at any other point, the observation described cannot be made. That means that the observer has to be on the eastern side of the whole setting. At the same time, the line describes the motion of the three components; the sun, the bird and the observer. The sun moves because it is on its way to set. However, if the bird moved, the scene would be destroyed and the line would not be. This is because the sun is a large body and would not change its course. The bird sitting beside the setting sun could be a mere coincidence and an artistic creation that could change at any time. Further, if the observer moved, the same case would be experienced because the line between the sun and the bird would be lost. This aspect of point of view in Wangs work is very important as the image created solely depend on it. Any change in setting destroys the observation. Wangs style is therefore of a very orderly world that follows a certain path. This could be among the reasons why critics argue that the world created by Wang was only his.
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Another important aspect in Wangs style is his Buddhist touch in his work. In Buddhism, the inner feeling, perceptions and contemplations are among the most important aspects of humanity. In order to have the quiet and contemplative feeling, one had to have a calm and welcoming atmosphere. This is what Wang created through his poetic work. He used calm landscapes, streams, hills, stars, sunsets and other calm natural occurrences to create his poems. The lack of much human activity in his created sceneries, and man was only left to observe and feel was a way of creating that calm and contemplative environment that would eventually create self awareness. The scenes were mostly lonely, but he depicted them as extremely beautiful and favorable for ones time to know their relationship with nature and how calm and habitable nature was.
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Wangs work was very unique because of his intertwining talents of writing and painting. His works are appreciated to date and his mastery in creating scenes cannot be disputed. His simple language to create complex observations and illusions remains a marvel of art. Cool and relaxed words that drew serenity in his work, despite being brought up in a family full of activity remains a reason to show how great a personality he had. To date, Wang remains among the most respected Chinese artists (both in poetry and painting) of his time and some of the illusions he created for his fans and followers may remain, as many critics argue, of his own world.