Jiang Yan was a poet from the Southern Dynasty (A.D. 420–581). He was recognized as a master of “fu” and was an important literary figure of his time.
Fu is rhapsody or prose poetry, which is a genre of traditional Chinese literature. It was a traditional style of writing, the product something between a poem and an essay.
When Jiang was young, he was brilliant in the study of literature. His poems and his rhapsodic texts were outstanding.
One of his most famous rhapsodies was “Li Se Fu,” which described the beauty and elegance of a lady. In one paragraph, Jiang wrote:
“Upon first glance at the beautiful lady, she seems like a red lotus in a pool of still water. When she moves, her elegant gestures are like the gorgeous clouds flying from the cliffs. She is bright with colors, beautiful and brilliant.”
This rhapsody inspired the idiom 五光十色 (wǔ guāng shí sè), which literally means “five lights and ten colors” and is often translated as “bright with colors” or “colorful.”
The idiom is used to describe something that is, at once, beautiful, colorful, and bright.