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Earliest Mentions of Snow Formation

  • The first mention of the hexagonal form in relation to a snow crystal was made by Han Ying in 135 BC, in the publication "Hanshi waizhuan" (Moral Discourses Illustrating the Han text of the "Book of Odes").

    "Flowers of plants and trees are in general five-pointed. However, flowers of snow, which are called ying, are always six-pointed."

  • Twelfth Century philosopher Zhu Xi theorized why snowflakes are always six-sided when he wrote:

    "The reason why snowflakes are six-pointed is because they are only half-frozen rain (xian) (i.e. water) split open by violent winds, and so they must be six-pointed. If one throws a lump of mud on the ground it will splash into a radiating, angular petal-like form. Now 6 is a yin number; and gypsum also is six-pointed with sharp prismatic angular edges. Everything is due to the number inherent in nature. "

  • Wang Kui wrote in "Lihaiji" in c.1390:

    "Snow is the ultimate (state) of yin and completely possesses the number of Water (i.e. 6). Every snow-flake is six-pointed. Frost and snow are due to the condensation of rain and dew. Water is is generatd by Metal. A surplus of qi reveals the Mother (i.e. Metal). Hence frost and snow are all white."

Earliest Mentions Source: Li, Qi and Shu: An Introduction to Science and Civilization in China (available in Google Books online)

Recommended Online Publications

Snowflake Books, CD Rom and Web Sites

  • Haeckel's Art Forms from Nature CD-ROM
  • 1665 -- Robert Hooke Micrographia,
  • Wilson A. Bentley - Snow Crystals, More than 2000 were published in 1931
  • Ukichiro Nakaya - Snow Crystals: Natural and Artificial.
  • Octavo.com rare manuscript publisher
  • Science timeline of discovery

Early Snowflake Scientific Characterizations & Illustrations