The Mirror of Kong Ho HTML version

Letter 7
Concerning warfare, both as waged by ourselves and by a nation devoid of true
civilisation. The aged man and the meeting and the parting of our ways. The
instance of the one who expressed emotion by leaping.
VENERATED SIRE,--You are omniscient, but I cannot regard the fear which you
express in your beautifully-written letter, bearing the sign of the eleventh day of
the seventh moon, as anything more than the imaginings prompted by a too-
lavish supper of your favourite shark's fin and peanut oil. Unless the dexterously-
elusive attributes of the genial-spoken persons high in office at Pekin have
deteriorated contemptibly since this one's departure, it is quite impossible for our
great and enlightened Empire to be drawn into a conflict with the northern
barbarians whom you indicate, against our will. When the matter becomes
urgent, doubtless a prince of the Imperial line will loyally suffer himself to Pass
Above, and during the period of ceremonial mourning for so pure and exalted an
official it would indeed be an unseemly desecration to engage in any public
business. If this failed, and an ultimatum were pressed with truly savage
contempt for all that is sacred and refined, it might be well next to consider the
health even of the sublime Emperor himself (or, perhaps better, that of the select
and ever-present Dowager Empress); but should the barbarians still advance,
and, setting the usages of civilised warfare at defiance, threaten an engagement
in the midst of this unparalleled calamity, there will be no alternative but to have a
formidable rebellion in the Capital. All the barbarian powers will then assemble as
usual, and in the general involvement none dare move alone, and everything will
have to be regarded as being put back to where it was before. It is well said, "The
broken vessel can never be made whole, but it may be delicately arranged so
that another shall displace it."
These barbarians, less resourceful in device, have only recently emerged from a
conflict into which they do not hesitate to admit they were drawn despite their
protests. Such incompetence is characteristic of their methods throughout. Not in
any way disguising their purpose, they at once sent out an army of those whom
could be the readiest seized, certainly furnishing them with weapons, charms to
use in case of emergency, and three-coloured standards (their adversaries
adopting a white banner to symbolise the conciliation of their attitude, and
displaying both freely in every extremity), but utterly neglecting to teach them the
arts of painting their bodies with awe-inspiring forms, of imitating the cries of wild
animals as they attacked, of clashing their weapons together with menacing
vigour, or any of the recognised artifices by which terror may be struck into the
ranks of an awaiting foeman. The result was that which the prudent must have
foreseen. The more accomplished enemy, without exposing themselves to any
unnecessary inconvenience, gained many advantages by their intrepid power of
dissimulation--arranging their garments and positions in such a way that they had
the appearance of attacking when in reality they were effecting a prudent retreat;
rapidly concealing themselves among the earth on the approach of an
overwhelming force; becoming openly possessed with the prophetic vision of an