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Ice, rime, and fireworks
Adults and kids share the fun of sledging. [David Ferguson/China.org.cn] 大人小孩一起滑雪橇,其乐融融。

Adults and kids share the fun of sledging. [David Ferguson/China.org.cn]


I was left to reflect on how such an amusement would be managed in the over-regulated UK – a swathe of local authority-sponsored rules; crash-helmets, elbow, and knee-guards by order; unlicensed slides destroyed by government operatives; all financial profit and prospects of fun wrung out of the thing so that it wasn't worth anybody's while… no doubt it will come to China in due course. This year the runs are made of heaped snow and much smaller ice-blocks – just as effective, but they don't feel nearly as claustrophobic. 这让我深思,这样一项娱乐在制度森严的英国会受到怎样的管制:地方政府推出一系列规章;按规定必须装备头盔、护肘和护膝;政府探员取缔无照营业的滑雪橇场地;从业者利润微薄,游客也不能尽兴——结果就是所有人都对这项运动不屑一顾。到了一定的时候,这项运动肯定还是会传到中国来。今年的滑道是用雪和碎冰块堆砌而成的,玩起来效果相同,却不会那么恐怖。 
Unlike the lakes, the waters of the Songhua River, tempered by passing through the power station, never freeze over even in the coldest of weather. Before daybreak, when climactic conditions are right, water vapour from the river produces a thick rime that settles on the willow trees that line the Songhua's banks as it flows through the center of the city. The effect is one of unearthly beauty. I was fortunate enough to see it at its best on my first-ever morning in Jilin – still disoriented by jet-lag, I got up around five in the morning and took a stroll along the banks of the river in the coldest weather I had ever experienced, through a genuine winter wonderland. 与那些湖泊不同,松花江的水因为有水电站的调节,即使在最寒冷的天气里也不会封冻。太阳升起之前,在合适的气候条件下,松花江穿越市中心时,河里升腾而起的水蒸气会在沿岸的柳树上结一层厚厚的白霜。这是一种超凡脱俗的美。我在吉林度过的第一个清晨就目睹了这一美景,真是三生有幸。由于还在倒时差,我那天早晨五点钟左右就起床了。尽管从未遇到过这么冷的天气,我还是沿河漫步,穿行在一个现实中的冬天里的童话世界。
This is Wu Song, one of China's four natural wonders – Jilin Rime. Lighter than thistledown, it is as fragile and ephemeral as it is stunning to behold. As soon as the sun rises, no matter how cold, the thick rime begins to disappear. By mid-morning it is gone. 这就是名列中国四大自然奇观之一的吉林雾凇。比蓟花冠毛还要轻,脆弱,转瞬即逝,却有一种极具冲击力的美。无论气温多么低,一旦太阳升起,那层厚厚的白霜就开始消失;到了九、十点钟就无影无踪了。
Another feature of the Jilin winter is their fireworks. From western New Year to the end of the Chinese New Year, the streets of the city are lined with vendors. I'm not talking about the feeble boxes of "Fox's squibs" that you used to get in the shops for the week or so before Bonfire Night, and which have now disappeared into the ‘too dangerous' bin. These Chinese things are monsters. Some of them are the size of a large fridge. 吉林冬天的另一大特色就是他们的焰火。从元旦到春节结束,城市的街道两旁都排满了商贩。我说的可不是过去那种你常在篝火节前一周去商店里买的单薄的一小盒“福克斯爆竹”,即使这种小炮仗现在也被归类为高危物品而难得一见。与之相比,这些中国的焰火简直是怪物级别的。它们中有些甚至和大型冰箱一样大。
My own favourite is a simple creature called the "er ti jiao" (two kick foot). This is a firework about the size of a rolling pin. The casing is made of cardboard about a centimetre thick. 我的最爱是一种构造简单的名叫“二踢脚”的焰火。这种炮仗有擀面杖大小,外壳是约一厘米厚的纸板。
You light the fuse, and stand back. There is an eardrum-ripping blast that pulverises the casing, and fires a charge about sixty feet in the air. Surrounding small children are knocked to the ground. A few seconds later the second charge explodes in a similar detonation. The small children, who have got back to their feet, are promptly knocked down again. The er ti jiao is very popular. It costs about 3 yuan – 30p or 50 cents (negotiable). 你点燃炮仗捻儿,然后退后。一声震耳欲聋的爆炸后,炮仗的外壳粉身碎骨,把一小包火药喷射到60英尺高的空中。周围的小孩子都被震倒在地。几秒钟以后发生的第二次爆炸毫不逊于第一次,刚刚站起来的小孩子们随即又被震得人仰马翻。二踢脚非常受欢迎,一个只要三元(相当于30便士或50美分),还可以讲价。
I asked my wife if there are any regulations at all controlling who can buy what fireworks. "None," she replied. "Anybody can buy anything they want." I imagined for a moment what it would be like if things like these could be bought on the streets of Britain. The thought appalled me. 我问过妻子,是否有任何规定制约什么人可以买哪种焰火。“没有,”她回答说。“任何人都可以买到他们想要的任何一种焰火。”我想像了一下如果这种东西可以在英国的大街上买到会是什么样子,那景象让我心惊胆战。

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