The Mirror of Kong Ho HTML version

Letter 14
Concerning a pressing invitation from an ever benevolently- disposed father to a
prosaic but dutifully-inclined son. The recording of certain matters of no particular
moment. Concerning that ultimate end which is symbolic of the inexorable
wheels of a larger Destiny.
VENERATED SIRE,--It is not for the earthworm to say when and in what exact
position the iron-shod boot shall descend, and this person, being an even inferior
creature for the purpose of the comparison, bows an acquiescent neck to your
very explicit command that he shall return to Yuen-ping without delay. He cannot
put away from his mind a clinging suspicion that this arising is the result of some
imperfection in his deplorable style of correspondence, whereby you have formed
an impression quite opposed to that which it had been the intention to convey,
and that, perchance, you even have a secret doubt whether upon some specified
occasion he may not have conducted the enterprise to an ignoble, or at least not
markedly successful, end. However, the saying runs, "The stone-cutter always
has the last word," and you equally, by intimating with your usual unanswerable
and clear-sighted gift of logic that no further allowance of taels will be sent for this
one's dispersal, diplomatically impose upon an ever-yearning son the most
feverish anxiety once more to behold your large and open-handed face.
Standing thus poised, as it may be said, for a returning flight across the elements
of separation, it is not inopportune for this person to let himself dwell gracefully
upon those lighter points of recollection which have engraved themselves from
time to time upon his mind without leading to any more substantial adventure
worthy to record. Many of the things which seemed strange and
incomprehensible when he first came among this powerful though admittedly
barbarian people, are now revealed at a proper angle; others, to which he
formerly imagined he had found the disclosing key, are, on the other hand,
plunged into a distorting haze; while between these lie a multitude of details in
every possible stage of disentanglement and doubt. As a final and painstaking
pronouncement, this person has no hesitation in declaring that this country is not-
-as practically all our former travellers have declared--completely down-side-up
as compared with our own manners and customs, but at the same time it is very
materially sideways.
Thus, instead of white, black robes are the indication of mourning; but as, for the
generality, the same colour is also used for occasions of commerce, ceremony,
religion, and the ordinary affairs of life, the matter remains exactly as it was
before. Yet with obtuse inconsistency the garments usually white--in which a
change would be really noticeable--remain white throughout the most poignant
grief. How much more markedly expressed would be the symbolism if during
such a period they wore white outer robes and black body garments.
Nevertheless it cannot be said that they are unmindful of the emblematic
influence of colour, for, unlike the reasonable conviction that red is red and blue
is blue, which has satisfied our great nation from the days of the legendary Shun,