Ji Kang was especially close to Ruan Ji; their relationship was described as “stronger than metal and fragrant as orchids”. The wife of Shan Tao was said to be impressed by Ruan Ji and Ji Kang’s prowess when she spied on them during sex.
The Seven Sages found their lives to be in danger when the avowedly “Confucian” Jin Dynasty (Sima clan) came to power. Among other things, some of the seven wrote poems criticizing the court and the administration, and wrote Daoist influenced literature. Not all seven sages had similar views. Some of the seven tried to negotiate their way through the difficult political positions by self-consciously adopting the roles of alcohol-fueled pranksters and eccentrics avoiding government control (for example, Liu Ling), yet some ended up joining the Jin dynasty (for example Wang Rong). However much they may or may not personally engaged in qingtan, they became the subjects of it themselves in the Shishuo Xinyu (Chinese: 世說新語 “A New Account of the Tales of the World”).
As is traditionally depicted, the group wished to escape the intrigues, corruption and stifling atmosphere of court life during the politically fraught Three Kingdoms period of Chinese history. They gathered in a bamboo grove near the house of Ji Kang in Shanyang (now in Henan province) where they enjoyed, and praised in their works, the simple, rustic life. This was contrasted with the politics of court. The Seven Sages stressed the enjoyment of Chinese alcoholic beverages, personal freedom, spontaneity and a celebration of nature.
It would be Ji Kang’s refusal to work for the new regime which would eventually lead to his execution. The group’s rural life became a common theme for art, and they inspired other artists who wished to retreat during times of political upheavals.
The Seven Sages, or the symbol that they became, have been remarked to be influential in Chinese poetry, music, art, and overall culture.