"Flowers Bloom at the Pen Tip" and "Jiang's Talent Has Run Out"
(Clearwisdom.net) The talent of writing well is a heavenly gift. Only those with good moral character will have it, and only those who respect Heaven can make good use of it.
The Chronicles of the Kaiyuan and Tienbao Ages has a story about the famous poet Li Bai. When Li Bai was young he dreamed that a flower bloomed at the tip of his brush pen. Later, he became one of the most talented poets in Chinese history, and the whole country knew of him. The expression "Flowers grow from the pen tip" was later used to describe someone with outstanding writing talent.
The expression, "Jiang's talent has run out," is often used to describe the deterioration of a person's writing skills. Jiang refers to Jiang Yan, a famous writer in the Nan Dynasty. His famous article, "Biefu" has been recited by people for centuries and reflects his extreme talent. However, when he grew older he curried favor with nobles, and served as a high official. He lived a life of luxury, and no longer produced any good writings. Thus people came to say, "Jiang's talent has run out," to describe a person who has lost his skill and morality.
There are two stories in the Nan Dynasty History - Biography of Jiang Yan about "Jiang's talent has run out." Jiang Yan's boat once stopped at the Chanling Temple on his way home after quitting his job as the head of Xuancheng City. One night while sleeping, he met a person named Zhang Jingyang in a dream, who told him, "I gave you a ten-foot piece of satin once. Now is the time for you to return it." Jiang took out a piece of satin that was only a few feet long. Zhang was upset and complained that Jiang had cut it and almost used it up ("Cutting it and using it up" is called "caijin" in Chinese, which is pronounced the same as "Talent has run out"). Right then, they saw Qiu Chi (the author of "To Cheng Bozhi," a famous article) standing by and Zhang said to him, "Only a few feet is left. It is hard to make anything with it. Why don't you take it?"
Another time, Jiang Yan stayed at Yeting and dreamed of a person who identified himself as Guo Pu (a famous writer in the West Gin Dynasty) who said to Jiang, "You took my pen for so many years. Now it's time for you to give it back to me." Jiang reached in his pocket and sure enough found a colorful pen ("color" has the same pronunciation as "talent" in Chinese). He gave it back to Guo Pu and with the talent returned, Jiang Yan naturally had nothing left.
In traditional Chinese culture, there are many ways to describe a person's outstanding writing talent, such as "Chuanbi," "Quixing," and "colorful article." In every dynasty, there are many stories about revelations in dreams such those of Li Bai and Jiang Yan. This illustrates the important point that famous writers since ancient times have been produced in a cultural environment that was deeply reverent. Many writers were religious themselves. This is true both in Eastern and Western societies.
In traditional culture, one often describes the goodness of a piece of literary work in the same way as describing a piece of art or painting. "This song should only be heard in Heaven. How often could one hear it in the human world?" In traditional paintings, people describe a state as "learning it with one's heart and understanding it with one's spirit," and, "The article was created in heaven, I just happened to write it down." Both phrases describe the simple fact that great works are created with divine help.
The performance, "A Dunhuang Dream" in the 2007 NTDTV Spectacular by Divine Performing Arts used the format of dance to illustrate the root of a pure artistic creation. The endless quest for truth and beauty in art is all based on the author's pure and devoted heart toward his or her god or Buddha. This pure and unselfish mind allows one to gain inspiration and divine help. From this viewpoint, it is easy to see that an article by a writer who only hopes to win fame and position can never endure. It is one reason that "Jiang's talent ran out."