The Mirror of Kong Ho HTML version

Letter 3
Concerning the virtuous amusements of both old and young. The sit-round
games. The masterpiece of the divine Li Tang, and its reception by all, including
that same Herbert.
VENERATED SIRE (whose breadth of mind is so well developed as to take for
granted boundless filial professions, which, indeed, become vapid by a too
frequent reiteration),--
Your amiable inquiry as to how the barbarians pass their time, when not
employed in affairs of commerce or in worshipping their ancestors, has inspired
me to examine the matter more fully. At the same time your pleasantly-composed
aphorism that the interior nature of persons does not vary with the colour of their
eyes, and that if I searched I should find the old flying kites and the younger
kicking feather balls or working embroidery, according to their sex, does not
appear to be accurately sustained.
The lesser ones, it is true, engage in a variety of sumptuous handicrafts, such as
the scorching of wooden tablets with the semblance of a pattern, and gouging
others with sharpened implements into a crude relief; depicting birds and flowers
upon the surface of plates, rending leather into shreds, and entwining beaten
iron, brass, and copper into a diversity of most ingenious complications; but when
I asked a maiden of affectionate and domesticated appearance whether she had
yet worked her age-stricken father's coffin-cloth, she said that the subject was
one upon which she declined to jest, and rapidly involving herself in a profuse
display of emotion, she withdrew, leaving this one aghast.
To enable my mind to retranquillise, I approached a youth of highly-gilded
appearance, and, with many predictions of self-inferiority, I suggested that we
should engage in the stimulating rivalry of feather ball. When he learned,
however, that the diversion consisted in propelling upwards a feather-trimmed
chip by striking it against the side of the foot, he candidly replied that he was
afraid he had grown out of shuttle-cock, but did not mind, if I was vigorously
inclined, "taking me on for a set of yang-pong."
Old men here, it is said, do not fly kites, and they affect to despise catching flies
for amusement, although they frequently go fishing. Struck by this peculiarity, I
put it in the form of an inquiry to one of venerable appearance, why, when at
least five score flies were undeniably before his eyes, he preferred to recline for
lengthy periods by the side of a stream endeavouring to snare creatures of
whose existence he himself had never as yet received any adequate proof.
Doubtless in my contemptible ignorance, however, I used some word
inaccurately, for those who stood around suffered themselves to become
amused, and the one in question replied with no pretence of amiable
condescension that the jest had already been better expressed a hundred times,
and that I would find the behind parts of a printed leaf called "Punch" in the
bookcase. Not being desirous of carrying on a conversation of which I felt that I
had misplaced the most highly rectified ingredient, I bowed repeatedly, and
replied affably that wisdom ruled his left side and truth his right.