Li Bai’s poem line: “The snow flake in the Yan Hill is as big as a sheet of bed mat” is unreliable. It’s an exaggeration by the poet just as “White hair trails three thousand zhang” is. According to the scientific reports, the crystallization of a snow flake depends upon the temperature conditions of time and place. The largest flake recorded so far is three to four inches in diameter. If a snow flake is as big as a bed sheet, then it would be big enough to cover a man from head to foot. So long as snow does not bring with it disaster, the heavier, the better. When it is sleeting hard like salt shaking from the air, or like willow catkins slowly sailing down, it’s really very interesting. There is nobody who does not like it. Some like rain, and others hate it. But I have never heard who disliked snow. Even in a world of ice and snow, Eskimos build their small domes with snow blocks, which are very warm to live in.考生如果怕自己错过考试报名时间和考试时间的话，可以 免费预约短信提醒，届时会以短信的方式提醒大家报名和考试时间。
To enjoy snow, first of all, you should not go hungry. Otherwise, when it is snowing and the wind is blowing, you may become short of breath. How could you relax and enjoy the mood and carefully count “One flake, one flake, and another flake of snow…fall into the plum blossoms and disappear”? During the Later Han Dynasty, there was a man called Yuan’an, when the heavy snow blocked his room door and there was no way out, people said he was dead. Thus Luoyang Prefecture ordered the snow to be cleared and, surprisingly, he was found lying in the room, stiff. When asked why he did not come out, he said, “When heavy snow is falling and everyone is hungry, it is not right to bother others.” This old man was charmingly naïve, for when he was hungry, he guessed others were also hungry. I believe that when Yuan’an was lying there stiff, he mustn’t have murmured the poem line “Blown by the wind, the snow flakes are falling like flowers.” The prince of the Jing Dynasty lived in seclusion in the mountains. One night when snow stopped falling and a clear moon was shining, he suddenly thought of his friend Dai Andao who was far away in Zhao. So he went by boat to see him at once. After a whole night of sailing, he arrived only to find that he could not enter; thus he returned. If there had been no heavy snow fall, he would not have had such a fantastic zest for sure. But if he had not even had enough thick gruel to eat, he would not have been so refined in his manner as to see his friend at night in vain. As to the refinement of Xie Anshi who chanted poems with his children while snowing it is considered more of a matter in a rich family.
A snow flake is composed of countless crystals. Each crystal in turn has many faces, each of which is pure white. Therefore, it can reflect light. When I was young, I heard a story about making tea with boiled snow water. Out of curiosity, I went to the yard to collect some fresh snow to melt it and boil it in a pot. Then after letting it cool in seven steps’ time and pouring it into a little Yixing pot, I made Da Hong Pao Tea. Pouring it into a small tea cup and sipping it carefully till it was gone, I put the teapot under my nose and sniffed two or three times – I could not feel my two arms a bit lighter, and yet I felt my tongue was itself strong in taste. When I examined the remaining snow water again, it seemed necessary to be treated with alum! When the air is polluted, the snow cannot remain pure. One year, when I was on business in Bianluo Road, on the way my car broke down. It was snowing heavily and I could neither find a village ahead and nor seek an inn farther back. I was very hungry, so I bought some food from a roadside hut. I rejoiced when the host gave me fine dried noodles. As there was no water to boil the noodles, the host fetched a pile of dirty snow by the roadside with his basin to boil the noodles in. Although hungry men are not too particular about their foods, this noodle soup was not so easy to eat. From then on, I thought that snow should only be enjoyed from a distance and should not be used at will. As for Su Wu’s eating felt and drinking snow when he was hungry, that’s another story.
The charm of snow lies in its covering up everything on the ground with no exceptions. During a winter night when you embrace your quilt to sleep, you can feel a chilly cold so you curl up motionless. But when you open your eyes the next morning, all the openings of the curtains and the windows flash with a strong light, very different from usual days. When you open the window and look outside, – oh, what a vast expanse of whiteness! The bamboo branches and pine leaves are burdened with piles of white snow. Even the old tree branches are lined with silver. Both rich families and poor families are equally covered by it. There is no difference between the carved balustrades and marble steps, earth jars and mulberry pivots. All the pits and ditches, the dried twigs and broken stalks in the ice, the waste and bits on the road are covered with the “crane’s cloak” thrown down by the God. Snow is so unselfish, while it decorates the fine things, it covers all the filth as well despite the fact that it will not cover them for too long.
Snow is a benefit to man in farming. We live upon the fate of the Gods and we have relied upon the weather since ancient times. “When the sky is cloudy, rain will fall…Since the earth has benefited from it and it will grow grains for man.” The old saying goes, “A timely snow promises a good harvest,” which means that the piles of snow this winter will bring a rich harvest next year. There is no need for “falling heavy snow up to ox’s eye”. Just one-chi thick is enough. Still others say that snow is good for wheat and can kill insects because the insects hatch their eggs on the ground. Where the snow in one-chi deep, it will penetrate one-zhang into the ground and even the most destructive insects cannot avoid the freeze. I myself have had such an experience when I planted two balustrades of Chinese herbaceous peony. Under the eave of my study there grew a bed of fragrant plantain lily, after several heavy snow falls, I swept it and piled it over the balustrades and flower beds. It could not only protect the flowers’ roots from being frozen, but in the next spring after being melted, it was a natural irrigation. When the earth regained its life, the new buds gave birth to vigorous fresh shoots and blooming flowers. At that time, I felt it was even better than building a snow man.
It is said that there was a hero who composed a poem: “Yellow dogs become white, and white dogs swollen; on going out of the door, it’s unified domain that can be seen.” The old saying goes that, “A big official likes to fabricate poems,” to say nothing of a hero when he felt on top of the world. This poem is by no means without a subtle nature, except its laughable rudeness. Maybe, it has nothing to do with his background and temperament. According to legend, the Emperor of France, Louise the Fourteenth, once wrote a three-stanza poem. He was very much proud of it. When he asked the opinion from the poet critic Boire, the latter said, “Your Majesty is all power; you want to compose an inelegant verse and you are successful.” The “A Song of the Snow” by the hero may well be regarded as a very outstanding inelegant verse as well.
Li Bo once wrote that “the snowflakes on Mount Yan are as large as straw mats.” This statement is, of course, as much a poetic conceit as “white hair thirty thousand feet long.” Poets tend to exaggerate. Science tells us that the structure of snowflakes varies with weather conditions, the largest being no more than three or four inches in diameter. If they were as large as straw mats, would a person then be completely covered by a single snowflake?
The more snow there is, the better, as long as it does not cause any damage. As it falls, it flutters gently down, like salt cast into the air or dancing willow catkins. How could anyone fail to enjoy such an appealing sight? Indeed, though some people like rain and others detest it, I have never heard of anyone disliking snow. Even in frigid places enveloped in white, Eskimos use large chunks of ice to build igloos that are quite warm to live in.
A person can’t appreciate snow on an empty stomach. Pressed on all sides by hunger and cold in drifting snow and a howling wind, one might be more concerned with the problem of staying alive. How could one have the leisurely mood of counting “one by one by one…snowflakes waft amid the plum blossoms and are seen no more”? In the later Han period (A.D. 25-220), there was once a man named Yuan An (A. D.? -92). One day, a blizzard blocked his door and all the roads were cut off, so people assumed he must already have dies. When the magistrate of Loyang ordered that the snow be removed from the streets, they discovered Yuan An lying inside his house, frozen still. When asked why he had not come out, he replied, “When there is a blizzard, everyone goes hungry, and it would not have been right for me to trouble other people.” What a dear dumbbell to have assumed that because he was hungry, everyone else must be, too! I don’t suppose that as he lay there freezing, he could ever have come out with a line such as “Snowflakes in the wind like petals fall.”
One winter evening, when Wang Huizhi (A. D.? -388) of the Jin dynasty (A.D. 265-420) was living in Shangyin, the snow tapered off and the moon was clear and bright. Wang suddenly thought of his friend Dai Andao in the far-off Shan area, and set out in a small boat to visit, traveling all night before reaching his destination. Upon reaching Dai’s door, however, he turned back without going in. Had it not been for the snowfall, he would not have been seized by this sudden refined impulse. If, on the other hand, he had had to worry about where his next meal was coming from, he would not have had the equanimity to take the trip in the middle of the night, only to abandon the purpose of his visit after getting there. It seems that Xie An’s (A.D. 320-385) genteel practice of gathering his sons and daughters together to compose poetry on snowy days is a luxury that only noble and wealthy families can afford.
Each clump of snow has numerous crystals, and each crystal has many surfaces. Snow is as white as it is because each of these surfaces reflects light. When I was young, I heard that people sometimes brewed tea from melted snow. Curious about how it would turn out, I went into the courtyard, scooped up the top layer of some fresh snow, and put it in an urn to melt. I then boiled it, and after cooling it for a minute or two, poured it over some “Big Red Robe” tea leaves in a Yixing teapot to brew. I then poured the tea into a teacup and savored it. After I had finished, I raised the cup to my nose and took several sniffs. However, I failed to feel the uplift – “the wind under the wings” – that one is supposed to experience; on the contrary, my tongue felt stiff and wooden. I took a second look at the water remaining in the urn, and thought that it could probably use some sodium carbonate to purify it. In these days of polluted air, I suppose it’s too much to expect that snow will still be clean and white.
One year, I was traveling between Kaifeng and Luoyang, and my car broke down in the middle of a snowstorm far from any town or village. My stomach was grumbling, so I stopped at a roadside stall to buy something to eat. To my delight, the owner went to the trouble of cooking some noodles for me. Since there was no water around, however, he scooped up some snow from the side of the road with a washbasin and cooked the noodles in this muddy slush. Although it’s sometimes said that a hungry person can make a meal of anything, this particular bowl of noodle soup I found a little hard to stomach. From that point on, I began to think of snow as something to be admired from afar, not toyed with up close. When Su Wu was reduced to eating his blanket and gulping down snow to quench his hunger and thirst, however, it was a different story.
Snow is quite appealing in its ability to spread over a vast expanse, covering everything indiscriminately. On some winter nights I fall asleep curled up under a quilt, not daring to move for fear of the bone-chilling cold. Upon opening my eyes in the morning, I can see hints of an unusually bright sky shining through the window lattices and gaps in the shade. I get up to open the window, and exclaim with delight at the white, silvery world outside. Bamboo branches and pine needles alike are weighed down with snow, and the bare limbs of balding trees are outlined in silver. Everything is engulfed without discrimination – the rich man’s vermilion gate and the poor man’s grass awning; elegant carved railings and humble clay walls; ornamented steps and rough wooden hinges. Ditches and holes in the ground, twigs and branches on the ice, bits of grass and dirt on the road – all are buried under a cloak of crane feathers sent from heaven: such is the impartiality of snow. It enhances what is beautiful, and conceals what is repulsive, if only for a little while.
It is in agriculture that snow proves of greatest benefit to human beings. We depend on the natural elements for our livelihood, and since time immemorial have been beholden to heaven’s every caprice. As is written in the Book of Songs:
The heavens gather the clouds together mixing rain and snow…
The snow is enriching and abundant, nourishing a hundred kinds of grain.
Or, as it is commonly said, “The gift of snow portends a bounteous year.” That is to say, if snow is plentiful in the winter, the following year will see a bumper crop. Snow does not have to be “so deep as to reach a cow’s eye” – one foot is quite enough nourishment to last the season. Some even say that snow is good for wheat and to ward off locusts. This is because locusts lay their eggs in the ground, but a foot of snow can seep through ten feet of earth, thus drowning the eggs and eradicating the scourge.
I too have experienced the blessings of snow. My living room opens out onto two rows of peonies, and a patch of daylilies sits beneath the eaves of my study. I once shoveled snow that had accumulated from several snowfalls onto the flower beds. The snow helped to protect their roots from freezing and provided nourishment for them when it melted the following spring. Sure enough, when the earth awoke from its winter slumber, new sprouts burst forth and grew into study stems, with clusters of flowers like embroidered brocade. I remember thinking how much more meaningful this was than if I had used the snow to make a snowman.
I have heard it said that a certain strongman once composed a doggerel about snow that went:
The yellow dog sports white fur,
The white dog dons a thicker hide.
Stepping outside, I sigh and gasp,
The world is unified.
It is true that “poetry comes easily to high officials,” how much more so this must be for our hero at the height of his confidence and power. Not that the doggerel is without a trace of wit, only that it is laughably uncouth. Perhaps this has something to do with the social background and temperament of our poetaster. Legend has it that Louis XIV was once very proud of a poem he had composed. He sought the view of the critic Boileau, who replied, “Nothing is beyond Your Majesty’s power. Your Majesty set out to write a bad poem, and has succeeded brilliantly!” Perhaps our little czar’s ditty on snow has the same distinction of mediocrity.