Xinjiang is unique. The law of “four seasons in a year” doesn’t apply here.
In Xinjiang there is only winter and summer; no spring or autumn.
But in April and October, there are some days with some small traces of these two missing seasons, when people can see the blossom of grass, the burgeoning of the trees, or the yellowing of leaves ready for the cold winter. However, the traces are so vague as to have disappeared before you had time to consider them. At the end of the winder, the trees are miraculously covered with dense green leaves as if having happened overnight. At the end of the summer, after the fist gush of cold wind, all the leaves will drop, to be buried under the early snow.
So, only summer and winter are harsh enough here to battle against each other. The current result is a 7-month summer and a 5-month winter.
Spring and autumn, the two much-loved-and-sung-of seasons elsewhere, are greatly marginalized and neglected in Xinjiang culture.
This situation is abnormal, but quite understandable. After all, Xinjiang people are known for their simple character.
The two-season year has its unique rhythm and beauty. And it provides enough time during each season for people to appreciate its charms.
Summer is warm, colorful, wonderful and energetic, while winter is moist, pure, tranquil and romantic.
Xinjiang in summer is a stage for everything to show its liveliness.
As the temperature increases, ice and snow start melting, and the earth wakens up. All kinds of lives that have been sleeping for the whole long winter are now competing against each other to show their glamor. Trees grow out new branches, meadows put up new “clothes”, fresh water runs again in rivers and lakes, and wild animals start looking for mates.
In Xinjiang, all the farmers’ work is done in summer – furrowing the ground, seeding, uprooting weeds, irrigating and harvesting.
Summer is also the golden season for graze. The rich water and grass on the prairies feed the herds well. Herdsmen welcome new lambs, milk cows and reserve hay for the winter. The summer time on the grasslands is magnificent.
Work is resumed on construction sites. Inner-region traffic is restored, too. Field working teams go deep into the mountains just recovering from hibernation.
Summer is the season of working in Xinjiang. What you can see there is busy workers and prosperity.
But Xinjiang’s winter is like an incubator.
Winter officially comes after the first snowfall. The lands are covered in white – snow or ice. Trees drop all their leaves. The earth in the field is all frozen up. Grasslands take off their green gown, and put on a silver winter suit. Water stops flowing in the lakes and rivers, where water sprays become ice flowers.
Everything seems to quieten down during winter. All the hustles and bustles have moved indoors from the streets, squares and countryside.
When winter comes, the herdsmen pick up their yurts, drive their ox-carts and move, along with their herds, to a less-frigid place.
Farmers take the whole winter as a long vacation. They visit friends, repair tools, hold weddings, etc. The celebration of Spring Festival can last as long as a month.
It is very warm in the farmers’ cottages, because they have “fire walls” instead of the “fire bed” widely used in the cold areas of North China.
The “fire walls” system works in this way: Some of the walls are made hollow inside and inter-connected. They are joined to the cooking hearth in the kitchen. The heat resulting from cooking will travel through the walls and warm the whole house up.
Of course, the apartments in the cities are also warm and comfortable, thanks to the modern heating system.
The compelling quietness and the long indoor days of winter do have an impact on people’s way of thinking.
Not everything stops growing in the long cold winter. In such a harsh and frigid environment, Xinjiang people grow their tall and strong figures, as well as their open and passionate characters.
A warm breeze in the cold is better than an air-conditioner in the summer.
Looking at the hardly-changing snow land through the two-layered window glass, one cannot help but get lost in thought. After recollecting some long-forgotten memories, it’s natural to write some touching letters and prepare some thoughtful gifts for the beloved afar.
And the long winter indoors is not only a good time to practice cooking skills, but also a wonderful opportunity to communicate with other people. Frequent and deep talks often lead to tightened ties between family members, as well as the sweet seed of love burgeoning in two people’s hearts.
At least, if you feel exhausted, the winter can be a marvelous time to take a nap.