This term refers to powerful expressiveness and artistic impact that come from a literary work’s purity of thoughts and emotions, as well as from its meticulously crafted structure. Despite some difference in interpreting the term, people tend to agree that fenggu (风骨) can be understood as being lucid and fresh in language while sturdy in structure. Feng (风) means “style,” which emphasizes that a literary work should be based on pure thoughts, vivid impressions, and rich emotions so as to produce an effect of powerful expressiveness. Gu (骨) means “bones” or proper structure, figuratively. It stresses the impact of structure and sentence order, requiring a piece of writing to be robust, vigorous, profound, and yet succinct. If a piece of work is wordy and overly rhetorical but weak in content, then it lacks the impact of a “proper structure,” no matter how flowery its expressions are. If such writing is awkward in delivery and has no emotions and vitality, then it lacks expressiveness in “style.” Fenggu does not preclude, but rather combines with linguistic elegance in order to create a piece of good work. Good command of fenggu depends on the personality and dispositions of the author. In The Literary Mind and the Carving of Dragons, Liu Xie devoted a chapter to the discussion of fenggu, which is the first essay on writing style in the history of classical Chinese literary criticism.


A piece of writing must have its own structure, and its own fenggu, that is, expressiveness in style and sturdiness in structure. How can it ever be the same as the writings of other writers!

The charm of fenggu in a literary work derives from deliberate and precise diction that is hard to alter, and from powerful and controlled sounds that do not sound awkward when read out.

Once a good and appropriate style is set to make the writing lucid and vigorous, it will produce the effect of being pure, clear and powerfully impressive, making the writing both remarkable and appealing.