For someone like me who is used to living in Beiping, a winter without any wind is a bit of a miracle. Well, one never hears any whistling winter winds in Ji’nan. For someone like me who has just returned from London, sunshine in the winter seems quite unusual. Well, Ji’nan has bright sunny winter weather. I know that in tropical regions, the blazing sun and the perpetual harsh glare can be intimidating, but here in north China, a mild sunny winter season is a boon that makes Ji’nan a very special place indeed.
But there is more than just sunshine. Close your eyes and picture to yourself: an ancient town, with mountains and lakes, dozing in the sunlight, warm and comfortable, waiting for the spring breezes toblow it awake. Doesn’t that sound idyllic? Low hills practically encircle Ji’nan, leaving just one small dip on the north side. In the winter, they are especially endearing, as if cradling the town and murmuring to it. “Don’t worry, it’s warm and safe here.”
And it’s a fact that the people of Ji’nan seem to smile throughout the cold season. All they have to do is to see those hills to feel secure and protected. Looking up and around, they say to themselves. “Maybe spring will come tomorrow. It’s so mild, maybe tonight the grass on the hills will sprout.” And even if this is just daydreaming, they don’t really mind, because with this kindly winter why wish for more?”
A light snow makes the scene even prettier. Look at the short dark pine tress crowned with white nurse caps.
Or the line of white etching the hilltops like a silver hemline on the azure sky. Or the hillsides, patchily dusted so that in some places the grass shows through, clothing the slopes in a wavy pattern of tan and pale stripes. As one gazes, these seem to shift in the breeze as if baring the hill for a better look at its lovely shape.
As the sun sets, the golden rays slant on to the light snow that suddenly blushes a shy pink. Just a light snowfall, nothing heavier, turns those low hills into real beauties.
Ji’nan is an ancient town with cramped and narrow streets, but surrounded by wide open spaces. Villages dot the slopes, their cottage roofs dusted with snow. Oh yes, this is a traditional ink and wash painting and probably one by a Tang Dynasty master too.
As for the lakes and ponds, they don’t freeze over, but even give off wisps of warm vapour. The water weeds remain bright green as if showing off colour stored up over the year, and the clearer the weather the greener they glow. Anyway, how can the water freeze over when all those weeping willows want to see their reflections?
As you raise your eyes slowly from the transparent depths and look up gradually to the sky, everything is so clear and bright and blue, like a giant hollow block of crystal, in which are encased red roofs, tan hills and little copses, like the design on a carpet.
This is Ji’nan in the winter.