Watching a Fire; Skimming across Water; Painting a Dragon and Dotting its Eyes

I should be marking papers on this, the last day of my Easter weekend, but instead, I’m checking my Twitterific and being sucked into reading blog posts. Clay Burell at has posted this tantalizing bit of info from Richard E. Nisbett’s The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently . . . and Why . The post picks up on Nisbett’s discussion of the different methods of writing taught it China. Burell presents this wonderful quote:

In Chinese literary criticism there are different methods of writing called “the method of watching a fire across the river” (detachment of style), “the method of dragonflies skimming across the water surface” (lightness of touch), “the method of painting a dragon and dotting its eyes” (bringing out the salient points). (p. 18)

I desperately want to know what all these things mean, so now I have to go find Nisbett’s book. One more thing to read. Damn you, Clay Burell.

2 responses

  1. Oh, I’m damned all right.

    FYI, if you do get the book, hold your nose through the preface or intro. It was so obvious it almost drove me off. It gets better with ch. 1 onwards.

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