The rain of the south has never congealed into icy, glittering snowflakes.
Men who have seen the world consider this humdrum; does the rain, too, think it unfortunate?
The snow south of the Yangtze is extremely moist and pretty, like the first indefinable intimation of spring, or the bloom of a young girl radiant with health.
In the snowy wilderness are blood-red camellias, pale, white plum blossom tinged with green, and the golden, bell-shaped flowers of the winter plum; while beneath the snow lurk cold green weeds.
Butterflies there are certainly none, and whether or no bees come to gather honey from the camellias and plum blossom I cannot clearly remember.
But before my eyes I can see the wintry flowers in the snowy wilderness, with bees flying busily to and fro—I can hear their humming and droning.
Seven or eight children, who have gathered to build a snow Buddha, are breathing on their little red fingers, frozen like crimson shoots of ginger.
When they are not successful, somebody’s father comes to help.
The Buddha is higher than the children; and though it is only a pear-shaped mass which might be a gourd or might be a Buddha, it is beautifully white and dazzling.
Held together by its own moisture, the whole figure glitters and sparkles.
The children use fruit stones for its eyes, and steal rouge from some mother’s vanity-case for its lips.
So now it is really a respectable Buddha.
With gleaming eyes and scarlet lips, it sits on the snowy ground.
Some children come to visit it the next day.
Clapping their hands before it, they nod their heads and laugh.
The Buddha just sits there alone.
A fine day melts its skin, but a cold night gives it another coat of ice, till it looks like opaque crystal.
Then a series of fine days makes it unrecognizable, and the rouge on its lips disappears.
But the snowflakes that fall in the north remain to the last like powder or sand never hold together, whether scattered on roofs, the ground or the withered grass.
The warmth from the stoves inside has melted some of the snow on the roofs.
As for the rest, when a whirlwind springs up under a clear sky, it flies up wildly, glittering in the sunlight like thick mist around a flame, revolving and rising till it fills the sky, and the whole sky glitters as it whirls and rises.
On the boundless, under heaven’s chilly vault, this glittering, spiraling wraith is the ghost of rain.
Yes, it is lonely snow, dead rain, the ghost of rain.
January 18, 1925
Rains in the warm areas never turn into cold, hard and crystal-clear snowflakes.
Scholars think the rains dull, and the rains consider themselves unfortunate.
The snow in Jiangnan, however, is a pleasing sight, extremely beautiful, carrying the message of spring, looking like the fine skin of a healthy young girl.
In the snow-covered fields there are scarlet Baozhu Camellias and dark yellow Qingkou wintersweet flowers.
Under the snow there are all kinds of grasses, cold and green.
There are no butterflies, as it seems.
I can’t remember if there are bees that come to gather pollens from the camellias and wintersweet flowers.
But in my imagination I can see winter flowers are blooming everywhere in the snow-covered fields, and a lot of bees are busy there, flying and buzzing.
In my memory there were seven or eight children busy building a snowman once, while breathing hot breath on their hands which were red with cold, looking like purple gingers.
Their fathers came to help when they failed.
The snowman had been built, though it didn’t look like a man, much taller than the children, white and bright. It took the shape a gourd, a pile of shinning snow grains stuck together, small in the upper part, big in the lower part.
Two longan kernels were put there as his eyes, someone stole rouge from his mother’s cosmetics box and smeared the snowman’s lips.
Now it looked like a real man, giant in size, sitting there is snow with sparkling eyes and red lips.
The next day some children came to visit him, clapping hands to him, nodding, and laughing.
But then he was alone again.
Sunny days thawed his skin, cold nights froze him and coated him with ice, making him crystal-like.
A few successive fine days made him neither fish nor fowl, and the rouge on his lips disappeared.
But in the north the snows are not of the glutinous type.
Like powders or sands, they fall on house roofs, in fields and on dry grasses.
The snow on the roofs melts quickly as there are hot fires in the houses.
But the snow elsewhere will fly in the air under the sun when whirlwind blows, shining brightly, looking like a fog containing flames, swirling and rising, filling the air, even making the sky revolve in brightness.
There in the boundless fields under the cold sky revolving and rising are the spirits of rains…
the lonely snows are actually the spirits of rains.