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.
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 naive, 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.