Translator: CKtalon Editor: CKtalon
“Yes! Cold Dew is split into three periods—wild geese come as guests, sparrows enter the sea and become molluscs, chrysanthemums show yellow flowers!” What surprised Fangzheng was that the first person to shout the answer out was Squirrel, who only knew eating.
The others widened their eyes, obviously showing that they had never memorized it. Fangzheng shook his head. “The three of you. Go and write that line 108 times. Every line missing equals one meal less.”
The moment that was said, the trio widened their eyes as Lone Wolf hurriedly sat there and moved his paws, counting.
Monkey asked in puzzlement, “Senior Brother, what are you counting?”
“I’m counting to see how many meals I can skip without starving to death!”
A dark cloud instantly hung over Fangzheng, Red Boy, Monkey, and Squirrel. This darn dog!
“Master, we asked you about Lidong, but why are you talking about Cold Dew?” Squirrel asked.
Fangzheng said, “Cold Dew has three periods; same for Lidong. In ancient times, our country split winter into three five-day periods, and defined them as three periods. The periods are when ‘Water begins to freeze, the ground begins to harden, and pheasants enter the water and become molluscs’. The third period of ‘pheasants enter the water’ is like the sparrows in ‘sparrows enter the sea and become molluscs.’ However, the pheasants described here are not tiny birds, but refer to big birds like wild pheasants. The molluscs refer to giant clams and not the tiny clams described in Cold Dew. After Lidong, big birds like wild pheasants aren’t often seen. As for the seaside, one will see giant clams which have shells that share the same color and outline as wild pheasants. That is why the ancients believed that the pheasants turned into giant clams after Lidong. Remember these three sentences, and you will basically be able to determine the difference between Lidong and Cold Dew.”
“That’s not right!” Just as Fangzheng finished speaking, Squirrel, whom he had just praised, immediately revolted, clamoring that Fangzheng was wrong.
“Oh? What’s wrong?”
“Master, didn’t you say that water will freeze after Lidong? But when I came over here, I clearly saw that the Heavenly Dragon Pond wasn’t frozen!” Squirrel exclaimed.
Fangzheng was shocked as he led his disciples out the door. After opening the monastery’s main door, he saw fog tumbling underneath the moonlight around the Heavenly Dragon Pond. Yet there was not even one bit of ice on the surface of the pond! Fangzheng reached his hand into the water, and it was even a little warm! In fact, it’s not that the temperature wasn’t cold, but just that it was higher than the air temperature, therefore making it appear a little warm.
Fangzheng mumbled. “Strange, is the Heavenly Dragon Pond also a hot spring?”
“Ding! It’s not a hot spring. The Heavenly Dragon Pond is a pond used to rear dragons by Buddhists. No matter how cold the water is, it will not freeze. Otherwise, wouldn’t the carps reared in it freeze into ice sculptures? How would they ever evolve into dragons?” the System spoke out at the critical moment.
Fangzheng was enlightened as he mumbled. “So that’s how it is.”
“Master, you haven’t told us why the water hasn’t frozen,” Squirrel exclaimed.
Fangzheng rapped his tiny head. “This Heavenly Dragon Pond isn’t ordinary. The water it produces isn’t ordinary water, so it naturally won’t freeze! Jingzhen, follow me to strike the bell and drum. After breakfast, I’ll take all of you to see the other water bodies.”
“Alright!” Everyone cheered. The sun rose alongside the striking of the drum and bell, ushering in a brand new day.
Simultaneously, Fangzheng realized that as it got later in the morning, the Heavenly Dragon Pond seemed like boiling water—perhaps a result of the strong sun or some phenomenon of Lidong. Fog churned thickly over the ground, but it did not go too high. It simply spread into the surroundings and covered all of Mt. One Finger’s mountaintop. It was as though Mt. One Finger was covered in white clouds!
Yet there wasn’t any fog above the Heavenly Dragon Pond. Its two parts of water remained like a mirror, extremely clear and transparent, like two treasured mirrors. The pond reflected the red-bricked and golden-roofed monastery, the towering bell and drum tower, the emerald-green Frost Bamboo, and the Luohan Trees which hadn’t shed their golden leaves. Instantly, Mt. One Finger felt like an immortal paradise, as if it was a heavenly palace!
Fangzheng immediately sat there, took out his cell phone and took pictures of this vista from different angles. Then he began taking selfies with his disciples.
As he snapped pictures, Fangzheng realized that the scene was changing.
As the morning sun rose, the sunlight that came shining down diagonally dyed the fog golden! Instantly, Mt. One Finger seemed like it had changed into another outfit. The white clouds turned golden and resplendent! Meanwhile, the nine holes beneath the bridge lit up. It was glittering and bright, leaving Fangzheng’s eyes staring straight ahead of him. He hurriedly took a few more pictures.
After he was done taking pictures, Fangzheng looked through them and marveled. Choosing a few of the best ones, he posted them on his WeChat Moments.
After all of this was done, Fangzheng led his disciples in tidying up the monastery, had breakfast, and checked the pickled vegetables they were making, as well as the highly erect spirit ginseng. Finally, Fangzheng did a check on the Crystal Rice paddy which was about to mature. Only then did he bring his disciples down the mountain to seek out spots where water had frozen. Meanwhile, Fangzheng pondered whether it was time to improve his food situation with Lidong having arrived.
“Master, didn’t you say that there’s plenty of good things to eat during Lidong? What will we be eating for Lidong?” Having had enough fun, Squirrel’s thoughts returned to eating.
Fangzheng smiled. “Do you know why you all subconsciously wish to eat a lot once Lidong is here?”
The few disciples subconsciously shook their heads. If they did know, they wouldn’t be them but demon spirits!
As Fangzheng walked, he said, “After Lidong arrives, it means winter is here. The vegetation will wither, the bugs will go into hibernation, and all natural activity will seem to halt. The reason why you have such ravenous appetites around this time is because this is also when you can have your final feast of the year. Be it for winter hibernation or to survive through the winter, you have to store the final bits of energy and fat you can. That’s instinct. It’s not because you are greedy. It’s all for survival. Although humans do not enter hibernation, Chinese folks have the custom of Winter Nourishment. During the cold weather, we eat more warm and nourishing foods. That way, not only does it make our bodies stronger, it also helps in resisting the cold.
“This is the explanation from the biological side of things. But when people celebrate Lidong, there are also traditional elements involved.
“The tradition of Lidong has its counterparts for spring, summer, and autumn, and together they are known as the four beginnings. It was an important festival in ancient society. In the past, China was a farming society. Having worked an entire year, the people used Lidong to rest. They would also reward the entire family for the hard work. As the saying goes, “Replenishing during Lidong, making up for the empty mouths.” This is the best analogy. In ancient times, the emperor would lead his officials to the suburbs and perform the ceremony of welcoming the winter. People later mimicked it, turning it into tradition which has since been passed down.
“What I mentioned was about welcoming the winter. There’s also Prayer Winter, also known as Celebratory Winter. This is a tradition which began during the Eastern Han dynasty and has been passed down to this day. It involves wearing new clothes and hats, making one look completely different, so as to celebrate the coming of winter.
“In short, on this day, everything is beautiful. Everyone just needs to play.”
Having said that, Fangzheng looked at his disciples. Monkey was in thought. Red Boy looked excited. Lone Wolf was licking his lips, looking as though he was about to wreak havoc having fun. Only Squirrel looked at Fangzheng in contempt. “Master, after saying all of this, you haven’t gotten to the crux of the issue. Tell me, what do we eat during Lidong? Everything else isn’t important.”