Proficiency in the Four Arts: 琴棋书画,样样清通

The saying “qing, qi, shu, hua” (琴棋书画) refers to the four ancient arts of guqin, chess, literature, and painting. This phrase is also used in the saying “qing, qi, shu, hua, yang yang qing tong”  (琴棋书画,样样清通), and can be translated as “proficiency in the four arts of guqin, chess, literature, and painting is to be a master of everything”.

Proficiency in the four arts of guqin, chess, literature, and painting is to be a master of everything. (琴棋书画,样样清通)

The concept of “qing, qi, shu, hua” was prominent during the Tang dynasty (618-907),  which was a period of time in ancient Chinese history that is often romanticized and referred to as the high point in Chinese culture today. 

Obviously, one’s abilities with the guqin, in the game of chess, and the practices of literature and painting seem to have been more of a way to signal one’s class than of much practical use.

“Qing, qi, shu, hua” was, for those living in the Tang dynasty, the essence of refined culture.

However, the phrase itself is as beautiful as the ideas it represents are worthwhile. “Qing, qi, shu, hua” was, for those living in the Tang dynasty, the essence of refined culture. And in many ways, the phrase “to be a master of everything” is trying to direct our attention to one of mankind’s higher callings.

If you thought this was valuable, please share with the community.

Leave a Comment