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Paper becomes expensive in Luoyang—good writings make people copy them

In the Jin Dynasty (265-420) there was a famous writer whose name was Zuo Si
who, however, was very naughty and did not like to study when he was a small
kid.His father often got angry, and yet young Zuo Si was as naughty as ever and
would not study hard.

One day, Zuo Si's father was chatting with his friends.
his friends envied him his clever and loverly son. Hearing this, Zuo si's father
sighed, "Please do not mention him. My son Zuo si does not study as well as I
did when I was young, although I did not study well enough myself. It appears
that he is actually a good-for-nothing." So saying, he looked disappointed. All
this was witnessed by young Zuo Si. He felt very sad, feeling intensely that he
would not be able to have a bright future if he did not study hard. So he was
determined to study assiduously from then on.

Day after day and year after
year, Zuo Si gradually grew up. Because of his unremitting afforts in hard
study, he became an erudite scholar and wrote very excellent essays. The "Ode to
the Capital of the State of Qi", which took him one year to write, showed his
brilliant literary talent and laid the foundation for his becoming an
outstanding writer. then he planned to write an "Ode to the Capitals of the
Three Kingdoms of Wei, Shu Han and Wu" with the local conditions and customs as
well as the produce of the three capitals as its content. In order to achieve
the desired effect in content, structure and language, he applied himself to
research work with great concentration, and was so absorbed in creative writing
as to forget food and sleep. It took him ten whole years to finish the writing
of "Ode to the Capitals of the Three Kingdoms of Wei, Shu Han and Wu", a
literary masterpiece.

The "Ode to the Capitals of the Three Kingdoms of Wei,
Shu Han and Wu" was well received by the broad masses of readers after it made
its appearance to the public, and people considered it as superbly written as
the "Ode to the Western Capital (Changan) and to the Eastern Capital (Luoyang)"
written by Ban Gu (32-92) and the "Ode to the Western Capital and to the Eastern
Capital" written by Zhang Heng of the Han Dynasty (206 B.C. to A.D.220). As the
art of printing had not been invented at that time, people who were fond of this
"Ode" had to make handwritten copies of it themselves. As there were so many
people who vied with each other in making handwritten copies, the supply of
writing paper fell short of the demand in Luoyang went up greatly.

This story
comes from "The life of Zuo Si" in the book "Literary Field" of The History of
the Jin Dynasty. Based on this story, people have coined the set phrase "the
price of writing paper went up greatly", meaning the overwhelming popularity of
a new work causes shortage of printing paper, to show how popular an outstanding
piece of literary work is.






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