November 1st, 2009

All Saints’ Day. I wake up a bit after 7, properly awake, no way to get back to sleep, so I get up. My wife was still sleeping, so I left her in peace, wandered in to the lounge room, open the curtains, and


It’s snowing! I knew it had suddenly got cold yesterday, but yesterday was dry, clear blue sky, and I didn’t realised it had suddenly gotten that cold. And snow on November 1, isn’t that a little early?

So I fire up the computer and start brewing tea. I sign into Kaixin001 and see Guoan won the championship, Chen Lin is dead, and a video of a Chinese guy (Sun somebody) who plays football in England making a most impressive save, sprinting back and getting a foot to the ball just in time to prevent the goal.

lzh woke up and asked if it was raining. No, I say. Don’t lie, she says. Go look for yourself. Snow! But Ma and Ba haven’t sold the apples yet! Will snow freeze the apples? I don’t know. So she phones home and her dad says it’s only sleeting up in Yanqing. That I do not understand. Yanqing is colder than Beijing. If it’s snowing here, how could it only be sleeting up there?

And then I learn a new word. lzh is still much perturbed by the snow, and asks maybe if it’s some kind of 冤情. What? 冤情. Yeah, but what’s that? Eventually I get an answer, and she tells me a legend of some guy who died in June, and so it snowed, apparently the snow being Heaven’s tears. Fine, but what does 冤情 (yuānqíng) mean? Nciku says it’s “Facts of an injustice”, while CNKI says simply “grievance”. The dead tree dictionary next to me agrees with Nciku.

And what’s this legend? I try searching Baidu Baike. No luck. Baidu Guoxue. Still none. Well, I’d only just started looking when lzh says she’ll find me the story, and here it is on Baidu Zhidao. And that rankles. My students know from long and repeated experience that if they ever suggest Baidu Zhidao as a possible means of researching their essay topics, I will immediately respond 百度什么都不知道 (Baidu knows nothing)! Oh well, at least I can read the story, now, assuming of course that the answer Baidu flags as best is accurate. Anyway, it’s the story of a young woman who was unjustly executed, and as a result, it snowed in June. Something like that.

And I learn another new word: 昭雪 – to exonerate or rehabilitate. Interesting.

Meanwhile, the snow changes from the usual Beijing-style tiny little flakes to gigantic, fluffy snow, and the paths, which still had too much heat for the snow to settle on them, seem to have cooled enough to allow the snow to start piling up there, too. The usual low rumble of buses passing along Xidawang Lu is only a faint whisper.

4 Responses to “snow!”

  1. John Says:

    Snow, eh? That’d explain why the temperature here has dropped fairly dramatically this morning. Seems rather early for snow in Beijing, even snow in November which, as I know, isn’t impossible there.

  2. wangbo Says:

    Yep, it’s the timing that’s got me so surprised. Also, I think if you were here you’d be surprised at how big the snow is. It’s been going since some time in the wee small hours, there’s no hint of it stopping, and it just gets bigger.

  3. Brendan Says:

    The story is called 窦娥冤, and it’s about a filial young widow (Dou E) who’s framed by the no-good Donkey Zhang, a scoundrel and rapscallion who wants to get his hands on her mother in law’s money. He tries to poison the old woman, but his greedy no-account father eats the poisoned soup instead and snuffs it, and Donkey Zhang decides to get the drop on Dou E by telling the local magistrate that she was the culprit. Dou E is tortured but maintains her innocence until the magistrate threatens to torture her mother in law too. Before she’s executed for the murder, she calls on heaven and earth to witness the injustice by parching the whole prefecture for three years, and no sooner has she been beheaded than it starts to snow.

    (Coincidentally, I recently translated a kid’s book based on the story — which reminds me; must check to see if they paid me for it. I suggested the title “Snow in Summer” to the publisher, but if I recall correctly they didn’t like it.)

  4. wangbo Says:

    So Baidu Zhidao was accurate. Thanks, Brendan, and you’ve done a much better job than I would’ve narrating the story- I did briefly consider it. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the prefecture did get the 3-year drought after the snowfall, didn’t it? And her father, who had sold her into marriage because he’d run out of money preparing for the civil service exams, came back and set things straight? If I’m getting these details wrong, then you see why I didn’t translate it and why I should’nt try reading such things until after breakfast.

    And I hope they paid you.