Dragon-Carving for Writers

Workshop & Commissions

Dragon-Carving for Writers

At Looking for Wisdom, we are always interested in the cross-currents between literature and philosophy. For a long time, we’ve been particularly obsessed by the Medieval Chinese text, the Wenxin diaolong (文心雕龍) or The Carving of Dragons and the Literary Mind, written by a scholar called Liu Xie.

Liu was an interesting figure. He lived between the fifth and sixth centuries, and he brought together the philosophical thought of Daoist thinkers like Laozi and Zhuangzi, Confucians such as Mencius and (of course) Confucius himself, and the traditions of Buddhism. In his lifetime, he rose to a position of middling eminence, but didn’t attain the fame that he wanted. He retired to a monastery, took on the robes of a Buddhist monk, and spent the final months of his life in some obscurity.

It was not until long after his death that the brilliance of Liu’s Wenxin diaolong was widely recognised. Liu’s book is an ambitious work that explores the art of writing. But it is much more than this, because Liu puts this art in the context of a much more wide-ranging philosophy of pattern or wen (文). Liu begins his book with these words:


Pattern is a very great power indeed. Is it not born alongside heaven and earth?

What follows is a subtle, fascinating exploration of the nature of creativity. You can read more about Liu in this blog post by Looking for Wisdom’s Will Buckingham.

A New Project

Because we’ve long been interested in Liu’s work, we’re very excited to be running a new project exploring the Wenxin diaolong, and asking what significance it might have for readers — and writers — in the present era. In January 2023, Wind&Bones (the social enterprise that keeps Looking for Wisdom running) was awarded a Connections Through Cultures grant by the British Council explore Liu’s book with a group of contemporary writers from the UK and China.

We’ll be running a workshop for six writers, two from the uk and four from China, and then commissioning a series of new literary works in English and Chinese. These will be cross-translated and published on the project website in both languages.

You can visit the project website by clicking the image below:

Dragon-Carving for Writers Website