The Mirror of Kong Ho HTML version

Letter 10
Concerning the authority of this high official, Sir Philip. The side-slipperyness of
barbarian etiquette. The hurl- headlong sportiveness and that achieving its end
by means of curved mallets.
VENERATED SIRE,--If this person's memory is accurately poised on the detail,
he was compelled to abandon his former letter (when on the point of describing
the customs of these outer places), in order to take part in a philosophical
discussion with some of the venerable sages of the neighbourhood.
Resuming the narration where it had reached this remote province of the Empire,
it is a suitable opportunity to explain that this same Sir Philip is here greeted on
every side with marks of deferential submission, and is undoubtedly an official of
high button, for whenever the inclination seizes him he causes prisoners to be
sought out, and then proceeds to administer justice impartially upon them. In the
case of the wealthy and those who have face to lose, the matter is generally
arranged, to his profit and to the satisfaction of all, by the payment of an
adequate sum of money, after the invariable custom of our own mandarincy.
When this incentive to leniency is absent it is usual to condemn the captive to
imprisonment in a cell (it is denied officially, but there is no reason to doubt that a
large earthenware vessel is occasionally used for this purpose,) for varying
periods, though it is notorious that in the case of the very necessitous they are
sometimes set freely at liberty, and those who took them publicly reprimanded for
accusing persons from whose condition on possible profit could arise. This
confinement is seldom inflicted for a longer period than seven, fourteen, or
twenty-one days (these being lucky numbers,) except in the case of those who
have been held guilty of ensnaring certain birds and beasts which appear to be
regarded as sacred, for they have their duly appointed attendants who wear a
garb and are trained in the dexterous use of arms, lurking with loaded weapons
in secret places to catch the unwary, both by night and day. Upheld by the high
nature of their office these persons shrink from no encounter and even suffer
themselves to be killed with resolute unconcern; but when successful they are
not denied an efficient triumph, for it is admitted that those whom they capture
are marked men from that time (doubtless being branded upon the body with the
name of their captor), and no future defence is availing. The third punishment,
that of torture, is reserved for a class of solitary mendicants who travel from place
to place, doubtless spreading the germs of an inflammatory doctrine of rebellion,
for, owing to my own degraded obtuseness, the actual nature of their crimes
could never be made clear to me. Of the tortures employed that known in their
language as the "bath" (for which we have no real equivalent,) is the most
dreaded, and this person has himself beheld men of gigantic proportions, whose
bodies bore the stain of a voluntary endurance to every privation, abandon
themselves to a most ignoble despair upon hearing the ill-destined word.
Unquestionably the infliction is closely connected with our own ordeal of boiling
water, but from other indications it is only reasonable to admit that there is an
added ingredient, of which we probably have no knowledge, whereby the effect is