Did The Ancient Chinese Poets Have Supernatural Powers?

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Many poets in Chinese history not only wrote great poetry, but their verses also appeared to take on a “life of their own.” Poets could develop special abilities through practicing spiritual discipline which seemed to enhance the brilliance of their words.

Statue of Tao Yuanming


Tao Yuanming was a poet of the Jin Dynasty and is considered to be one of the greatest poets of the Six dynasties period. He predicted the exact day and time of his death. He had the ability of clairvoyance. He wrote three elegies in which he described his family’s reaction to his death.

Later generations praised his stance toward death described in one of his verses:

“In the midst of big waves,            with no joy or fear: Should one die, then die,            without any concerns.”

Bai Juyi, c. 1833 Katsushika Hokusai; Publisher: Moriya


Around the peak period of the Tang Dynasty, many court officials and scholars who followed Buddhism developed the ability of retrocognition and saw what they did in their past lives. Bai Juyi wrote in the poem “Self-Explanation:”

“Fang was said to be a Buddhist monk in his previous life,          while Wang a painting artist;I also looked at my life in meditation,          and found my lives were connected with poetry……”

When the poem says that “Fang Guan (a friend of Bai) was said to be a Buddhist monk in his previous life,” while poet Wang Wei was an artist, Bai is implying that his talent as a poet was accumulated life after life.

His explanation offered a natural explanation for “genius,” which has also been confirmed by the current scientific research on reincarnation.

For example, a child only a few years old and with no such experience was able to drive a motorboat. Detailed research revealed that, in his previous life, he was a captain of a motorboat with decades of experience.

Wei Yingwu, courtesy name Yibo, art name Xizhai 

Searching for the truth

Wei Yingwu was a well-known poet in the Daizong Period of the Tang Dynasty. He had already made up his mind to be a Daoist when he resigned at the age of 42 from his official post due to poor health. He went to live in a temple.

“Although I am placed as a divine being,          my heart kept away from earthly things; I conduct myself in the same way as cultivating in a cave,          I won’t violate the sacred truth.”

Wei Yingwu’s life was very rocky, with many ups and downs, but he was determined to search for the Dao. He felt that he had already obtained the Dao when he let go of fame and gain in the earthly world and reached a state of returning to his “true” self.

Zhang Zhihe

Levels of purity

Revelations about Zhang Zhihe’s pure state can be found in the book Xu Xian Zhuan (Immortals’ Biographies, Continued), in which he was said to be able to “lie in the snow without feeling cold and jump into the water without getting wet. He traveled to all mountains and rivers under heaven.”

From Zhang’s poems and paintings, we can see that he had far surpassed the level of mere abilities and his mind had already reached a very high level.

In ancient times, poets cultivated themselves by writing poetry, and ancient poetry was also part of the divine culture of China.

Through the constant elevation of the poets’ state of mind, they were unknowingly progressing towards high and even higher levels of enlightenment and their moral standards were also improving along with their skills in writing poetry.

By Xun Zhen

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