|The Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove|
The complexity of homosexual relationships inevitably led to the creation of poetic works immortalizing conflicting sentiments. Ruan Ji is usually mentioned first among the Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove. The other sages were Xi Kang his lover, Shan Tao, Liu Ling, Ruan Xian, Xiang Xiu, Wang Rong. They created an image of wise men enjoying life rather uninhibitedly, realizing the old dream of a Daoist concord of free men who are gifted with hidden wisdom “to be together, not being together” and “act jointly, not acting jointly”. The wine goblet, which became a symbol of being accustomed to “contemplating many wonders” pertaining to Daoism, united them even more than any principles. Ruan Ji talked in his works about “remote” things but about the “Bamboo Groove” he remained silent, although the group became the main focus of his searches for free and frank friendship. Ruan Ji was one of the most famous poets to apply his brush to a homosexual theme. This work, one of several dealing with homosexuality from the "Jade Terrace," a collection of love poetry, beautifully illustrates the stock imagery on which men of his time could draw in conceptualizing and describing love for another man.
In days of old there were many blossom boys --
An Ling and Long Yang.
Young peach and plum blossoms,
Dazzling with glorious brightness.
Joyful as nine springtimes;
Pliant as if bowed by autumn frost.
Roving glances gave rise to beautiful seductions;
Speech and laughter expelled fragrance.
Hand in hand they shared love's rapture,
Sharing coverlcts and bedclothes.
Couples of birds in flight,
Paired wings soaring.
Cinnabar and green pigments record a vow:
"I'll never forget you for all eternity. "