By melinchina on Feb 01, 2008
Recently I was complaining to my co-worker Grace about how freakin freezing it is in Beijing these days. That morning it was -9 Celsius, which in Fahrenheit would be ... just incredibly cold.
So Grace told me a little bit about how Chinese people used to view the winter and count through its coldest days. They used to start counting at the Winter Solstice and they would split the winter into nine groups of nine days. They marked the passage of the days as "First Nine", "Second Nine", and so on.
Here's a popular poem called the "Cold Dispelling Poem":
The first and second 'nine days' are so cold
That we dare not hold out our hands,
Stray cats and dogs freeze to death
During the third and fourth 'nine days,'
The fifth and sixth 'nine days' see a thin veil of green
On the far bank of the river,
The rivers thaw during the seventh 'nine days,'
The eighth 'nine days' welcome the wild geese back,
Winter finally draws to an end in the last 'nine days,'
When bright blossoms and flowers smile in warm spring.
They also invented a few very clever methods to count through the days:
Look at this sentence and see if you can figure out what the nine characters have in common:
They each consist of nine brush strokes. So in the olden days, people would write one brush stroke each day, and by the time they had written the whole sentence spring should have arrived.
By the way that sentence means something like "the weeping willow in the courtyard treasures spring the most."
My daughter Audrey is using this method to get through the winter.
In olden days women used to sketch out a branch of a plum tree and they would put nine buds on it. Each morning as they did their makeup the would take a bit of pink color and brush it onto one of the buds, thus putting a petal on it. They would put nine petals on the nine buds and by the time the plum branch was in full bloom, spring should have arrived!
My son Grant is doing this method, with crayons of course instead of makeup.
Does your culture have a way of getting through winter? If so please leave a comment.