On the way home from San Francisco, I made a pits stop at Denver, the mile high city. Passing by the Sierra and then the Rocky, reminded me of the poem Mao Zedong wrote, 雪 Snow … he told Robert Payne that he wrote it in his first airplane ride on August 28, 1945 from Yanan to Chongqing, was astonished by the beauty of his country from the air (Foreign Languages Press version put Feb 1936 as the date). If it’s indeed written according to Payne, I wondered which snow peaks – from Yanan to Chongqing – did inspire his poetic inclination.
Snow has to be his best-known poem. I enjoy it tremendously; even at school back then, when the teacher shoveled it down our throats hard and fast. The poem opened with:
北国风光 North country scene,
千里冰封 A hundred leagues locked in ice,
万里雪飘 A thousand leagues of whirling snow.
Great stuff! You got to understand Chinese to appreciate it. Repeating Mao’s word here:
望长城内外 Both sides of the Great Wall
… So far, I haven’t seen any leaders, past and present that outshone his calligraphy and poetry.
Here is the poem of its entirety: