Overwhelming Popularity of a New Work Causes Shortage of Printing Paper
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.