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Proverbs and Poems in Minor Snow

During Minor Snow, agricultural production in most areas in China involves field management and farmland capital construction. In this season a snowfall is beneficial for winter wheat. Thus, the proverb “a fall of seasonable snow gives promise of a fruitful year” has been used in China for a long time.


Some proverbs and folk songs about Minor Snow are as follows:
◆ The lower and middle reaches of the Yellow River: During Minor Snow, the temperature of most areas in the north drops to below zero. Because this time of year generally has less precipitation than others, the incoming Minor Snow is significant.

Hebei province: “a fall of snow in Minor Snow gives promise of a fruitful year” .

Shandong province: “collect onions in Minor Snow, or you will run out. Turnips and cabbage should be stored in a ditch.”

Henan province: “in Start of Winter and Minor Snow, pay close attention to winter plowing.”

◆ The lower and middle Reaches of the Yangtze River During Minor Snow, the lower and middle breaches of the Yangtze River have entered winter and some places have frost. The first snow comes in mid or late December. People in these areas begin to tend to their wheat and rapeseed, and start composting.

Jiangsu province: “it is late to sow wheat in Start of Winter; start composting in Minor Snow”.

Shanghai and Zhejiang province: “the north wind in Start of Winter and Minor Snow is cold, so collect the cotton, crops and oil plants as soon as possible.”

◆ South China In Fujian and Guangdong provinces, there are still crops in the field during Minor Snow.

The proverb of Fujian goes: “fertilize green rice during Minor Snow”. “Green rice” refers to the late rice.

In Guangdong, there is a proverb the holds “it is red in the field during Minor Snow and empty during Great Snow”. The red doesn’t refer to the color, but means that it is busy time of year, collecting late rice and sowing wheat in the field.

◆ Forecast the coming year based on weather of Minor Snow From the proverbs about the Minor Snow, it can be seen that if it snows during Minor Snow, there will be favorable climatic weathers next year. Several proverbs highlight this, especially “snow flies in Minor Snow, next year will be smooth”, “snow in Minor Snow means there will be a good harvest next year, the orchard is clear by the now and there are no pests left”. There are different sayings about the forecast.

In Zhejiang, a proverb goes: “no clouds in Minor Snow forecasts a drought”.

In Hunan province, another proverb goes: “sunny Minor Snow forecast rain lasting to the end of the year”.

And in Hubei province, a proverb goes: “sunny Minor Snow forecasts snow lasting to the end of the year”.

Early Winter

By Lu You (Song Dynasty)

Rainy days last from the Double Ninth Festival,

Before the Minor Snow, it has been chilly.

Gathering firewood with my hair combed in the shape of pestle,

I sell my vegetable on the crude boat.

Thin porridge is the only food for the whole family,

The felt on the bed is timeworn.

Living on one bite,

Why do I care about leaving behind a good reputation?

About the poet:

Lu You (1125-1210), or Wuguan, or Fangweng, was born in Shanyi of Yuezhou (present day Shaoxing in Zhejiang province), and was a great poet in the southern Song Dynasty. He was fond of learning when he was young, and could write poems when he was only twelve years old. He married his cousin Tang Wan at twenty, but had to divorce because Lu’s mother didn’t like her daughter-in-law and blamed Tang for not giving birth to a child. Lu mourned the ending of the marriage all his life.

In 1153, he took the civil service examination. He placed first in the Lin’an region. But this triumph brought him trouble. Qin Sun, the grandson of the powerful Qin Hui (a notorious aristocratic traitor in the Song Dynasty), had also taken the exam. Lu’s win threatened Qin Sun’s position, as Lu was now likely to take first place in the next year’s national examination. In fact, not only Lu, but all the potential winners of the next year’s nationwide competition were excluded, along with even some of the examination officers. It was not until after Qin Hui’s death that Lu started his official career in government. Because he avidly insisted on fighting against the Jin Dynasty and did not follow the mainstream official lethargy on the subject, he was dismissed from his job. In 1172, he was hired to do strategic planning in the military. Military life opened his eyes and mind. He hoped to fulfill his aspiration of bringing a divided China back together. He wrote many unrestrained poems to express his passionate patriotism. But the Song Dynasty was by now corrupt and indolent. Most officers just wanted to make a nice living. Lu had no opportunity to deploy his talent. Entering a public career by virtue of his father’s services, he fell into disfavor with Ch’in Kuei but after the latter’s death he received an appointment, and in 1163 the Emperor Hsiao Tsung made him a Compiler for the Privy Council and conferred upon him the honorary degree of chin shih. He was unsuccessful in his official career. After several promotions and demotions, Lu retired in 1190 to live in seclusion in his hometown Shaoxing, then a rural area. He died at age 86.

Lu wrote about eleven thousand poems, in both the shi and ci forms, plus a number of prose works. In his poetry he continues to articulate the beliefs which cost him his official career, calling for reconquest of the north. Some described daily life in a fresh style. His poetry often contained negative emotions.

The Rainbow has Hiden

By Xu Chang (Tang Dynasty)

Minor Snow comes with the winter,

The rainbow hides itself at this season.

The white and pure clouds are formed,

The stars in the sky shine as in summer.

The rainbow is incomparable When birds fly around it, what an auspicious sign.

Now the gully has no more sunshine,

The river in heaven loses its colorful bridge.

The morning rain falls thick and fast

In the evening, the sun is barely seen in the mist.

The weather changes as the solar terms goes,

For the latter has been through a long history.

About the poet: Xu lacked a distinctive style and so was not well-known during the Tang Dynasty, which was filled with famous poets, or quite a long time after it. There are only five poems of his collected in The Entire Tang Poems. And all we have known about him is only that he was an advanced scholar during the reign of the Dezhong Emperor in Tang Dynasty. This poem is written for the Minor Snow solar term with simple words and rich imagination.

Replying to Wang Daosun

The Minor Snow Day has just past, and Great Snow has not come yet.

The wind blows the rain in the room through the window paper.

Now we drink with our new poems sung,

While we’d better not gather in the bad days.

About the poet:

Mei Yaochen was a poet of the Song dynasty. He was one of the pioneers of the “new subjective” style of poetry that characterized Song poetry.

Mei was born in Xuancheng in present day Anhui province. His pen name was “Sheng Yu’”. He passed the jinshi exam in 1051 and had a career in the civil service, but was unsuccessful. He was a prolific poet, with around 3000 work. He was popularized as a poet by the younger Xiu Ouyang.

Most of his works are in the shi form, but they are much freer in content than those of the Tang dynasty. His response to the impossibility of surpassing the Tang poets was to make a virtue of his lack of ambition. His ideals involved freedom and ordinary things. His early verses are often socio-critical, advocating reform along Neo-Confucian lines. Later he turned to celebrations of ordinary life and verses mourning the deaths of his first wife and several of his children.

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