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Plum-blossom and bamboo dream, the third watch has come,
But sleep eludes them under silk eiderdowns.
Only a stork can be seen in the pine-shadowed court,
No oriole sings in the snow which has drifted like pear-blossom.
Cold is the green-sleeved girl as she writes a poem,
Tipsy the young lord in gold and sable gown.
Happily the maid knows how to make good tea,
And gathers up fresh fallen snow to brew it.
Winter Night is a poem from Chapter 23 of Hong Lou Meng or A Dream of Red Mansions written by novelist Cao Xueqin of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). In the novel, this seven-character poem is written by Jia Baoyu.
The first two lines tell us that the plum and the bamboo are asleep in the dead of night, but the poet. The second two lines depict the snow scenes in the courtyard. The third two lines write that Jia Baoyu is imagining the situation of those girls who can write poems in the Grand View Garden at this moment. The last two lines say that "the maid knows how to make good tea, and gathers up fresh fallen snow to brew it", which express Jia Baoyu's poetic mood on the cold winter night. The poem is rich in imagery and emotion, showing us a vivid "cold night picture".
The traditional Chinese lunar calendar divides the year into 24 solar terms. Major Cold, the 24th solar term, begins this year on Jan 20 and ends on Feb 3, lasting for 15 days.
Major Cold is the last solar term in winter and also the last solar term in the annual solar calendar. In this period, snow, rain and icy cold weather exert a big influence on people's lives, so it is suggested to drink more stewed soup to keep warm.