虽然我姓王名冕，但是大家都不直接称呼我大名，更愿意叫我 “梅花屋主 ”。因为我曾经辞去了大都的官职，坐舟南下回到故乡。隐居会稽九里山，种梅千枝，筑茅庐三间，题为 “梅花屋 ”。“梅花屋主 ”这个名字就被当地的百姓叫开了。
其他的花，都争相在春、夏开放，只有梅花，宁愿在晚冬甚至 “大雪 ”节气前后开放。其他花都精细地挑选日子小心开放。除了梅花，它们都相中了温暖的季节；只有梅花，雪下得越大，天气越严寒，它开得越旺盛，开得越迷人。我的梅花，它临寒独自开。到那个时候，在寂寥的被大雪覆盖的山野，突然闪现出千万点红色的花朵，在寒风中恣意地绽放。所以我敢说，梅花比我更加不合时宜。
The Plum Blossom
Wang Mian’s Passion for Plum Trees
I am Wang Mian (王冕 ) of the Yuan Dynasty (1206-1368) and have spent almost all my life traveling from place to place. Once on a boat trip on the Huai River from Dadu (Great Capital of the Yuan Dynasty) to the south for a peaceful life, I looked into the distance, where the water stretched to the horizon, and couldn’t help thinking about my proud and unyielding character. I wasn’t as obedient to my superiors as they expected, and thus found myself to be something of a misfit. What others hold dear I hold in contempt, and vice versa.
My formal name is Wang Mian, but I’m better known as the “owner of Plum Blossom Hut.” Behind this nickname is a story: Having resigned from my official position in the capital to live as a recluse on Mount Jiuli in Kuaiji my hometown, I built a three-room cottage, named “Plum Blossom Hut,” and planted thousands of plum trees, thereby gaining my nickname from the locals.
Originally, nobody showed me any understanding; instead, they laughed at me, seeing me as a fool who had abandoned a high position and fat salary for a simple life in the country. A friend of mine said, “Wang Mian, it’s easy for me to understand you please yourself by planting dozens of plum trees. But why thousands of them? That’s so strange.” In fact, I am not a fool but a person who likes to do what he wants to do. Compared to doing nothing practical in a well-paid position, living in seclusion here is a much better choice for me. Looking far in the distance when tired, I can be soothed by the plum trees dotted over the green mountain, and loneliness is always kept outside of my heart when accompanied by them. Appreciating them, writing about them and drawing them – in my eyes, they are a lot lovelier than the dignitaries I used to work with.
I impress people as a misfit. But let me tell you something: “Misfit” is a word better suited to plum blossoms than to me.
Instead of vying to bloom on a selected day in spring or summer like the other flowers, plum trees only blossom in late winter, and even during the “Great Snow” (one of the 24 Chinese solar terms) period. The colder the weather, the better they bloom, and the more appealing they are. When everything is covered in thick snow, only the red plum blossoms are seen all over the vast mountains and fields, blooming freely in the chilly wind. That’s why I say “misfit” is a better description of plum blossoms than of me.
It’s precisely the plum trees’ ill-timed blooming that makes me a faithful lover of them. They are the only ones that are brave enough to defy the cold and bloom in chilly winter, so beautiful and fragrant.
One winter morning, I went to inspect my plum blossoms, and found all the petals covered with snow, some even frozen, which, however, didn’t stop them coming into full bloom. “The fragrance of plum blossoms sharpens in chilly winter,” it is said. A deep breath of the cold air, together with the fragrance of the blossoms, brought me mixed feelings, which reminded me of the decisions I had made over the past years. My political career was full of ups and downs. With few of my ideas shared by others, I had few soulmates, and no respect for my superiors either. They were not sincere about state affairs, together with the stale old polices they clung to, inflicting endless suffering on the common people. That’s why I decided to enjoy the pleasure of growing thousands of plum trees here on the mountain. Whenever I wake in the night and think about my past life I consider myself a man out of accord with my time. But at the very moment when I see the plum blossoms, I seem to hear them tell me that I was wrong in seeing myself as a misfit. “Misfits” are those who insist on sticking to what they think is right and refuse to follow others blindly – just like the plum trees and blossoms dancing in the cold wind and snow. They must seem strange enough to the spring and summer flowers for their ill-timed blooming, just as I used to strike others. All that reinforced my resolve that one has to hold firmly to what one believes to be right and refuse to be influenced by others in whatever circumstances, in order to keep one’s strength and nobility of character, just as plum trees blossom gorgeously in the coldness of winter.
That day, sitting among the thousands of plum trees I myself had grown, I drank some wine, and thought a lot – and the thinking turned out to be quite fruitful.
The Moral of This Story
In the cold of winter, only plum trees bloom brightly. Since ancient times, plum blossoms have been believed to symbolize the unyielding spirit and noble character of the Chinese people. Ancient Chinese men of letters showed special affection for plum blossoms because in them they saw an indomitable spirit and a noble character of keeping aloof from worldly concerns. For that reason, they took great delight in comparing themselves to plum blossoms.