The Mirror of Kong Ho
A lively and amusing collection of letters on western living written by Kong Ho, a
Chinese gentleman. These addressed to his homeland, refer to the Westerners
in London as barbarians and many of the aids to life in our society give Kong Ho
endless food for thought. These are things such as the motor car and the piano;
unknown in China at this time.
ESTIMABLE BARBARIAN,--Your opportune suggestion that I should permit the
letters, wherein I have described with undeviating fidelity the customs and
manner of behaving of your accomplished race, to be set forth in the form of
printed leaves for all to behold, is doubtless gracefully-intentioned, and this
person will raise no barrier of dissent against it.
In this he is inspired by the benevolent hope that his immature compositions may
to one extent become a model and a by-word to those who in turn visit his own
land of Fragrant Purity; for with exacting care he has set down no detail that has
not come under his direct observation (although it is not to be denied that here or
there he may, perchance, have misunderstood an involved allusion or failed to
grasp the inner significance of an act), so that Impartiality necessarily sways his
brush, and Truth lurks within his inkpot.
In an entirely contrary manner some, who of recent years have gratified us with
their magnanimous presence, have returned to their own countries not only with
the internal fittings of many of our palaces (which, being for the most part of a
replaceable nature, need be only trivially referred to, the incident, indeed, being
generally regarded as a most cordial and pressing variety of foreign politeness),
but also--in the lack of highly-spiced actuality--with subtly-imagined and truly
objectionable instances. These calumnies they have not hesitated to commit to
the form of printed books, which, falling into the hands of the ignorant and
undiscriminating, may even suggest to their ill-balanced minds a doubt whether
we of the Celestial Empire really are the wisest, bravest, purest, and most
enlightened people in existence.
As a parting, it only remains to be said that, in order to maintain unimpaired the
quaint-sounding brevity and archaic construction of your prepossessing
language, I have engraved most of the remarks upon the receptive tablets of my
mind as they were uttered. To one who can repeat the Five Classics without
stumbling this is a contemptible achievement. Let it be an imposed obligation,
therefore, that you retain these portions unchanged as a test and a proof to all
who may read. Of my own deficient words, I can only in truest courtesy maintain
that any alteration must of necessity make them less offensively commonplace
than at present they are.
The Sign and immutable Thumb-mark of,
By a sure hand to the House of one Ernest Bramah.
THE MIRROR OF KONG HO