Corroded Relations

Though she is a woman and a cripple, her exaltation of Tao Kuang Ti shows a wisdom beyond the menfolk of her barbarous people

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Lin Zexu to Hong Tsu Zhou
Peace be with you and may your family be blessed and honored for all time, in the light of His Majesty the Emperor.

Disheartening as your words have been, I cannot but feel a sense of relief. My work in ridding Guangdong of opium fares better than could be anticipated. We have resorted to extreme measures at times, but no action has been contemptible, for the British merchants have seen the prudence of acquiescence to our demands to cease the opium trade. As a final measure, we have requested some 20,000 chests be surrendered to my men. While it is clear the British will likely falter when pressured by their merchants, they have nevertheless agreed to confiscate the remaining surplus, with promises of compensation for the merchants.

Such a promise will doubtless be broken, but I am relieved by the appearance of an American gentlewoman whose heart has been filled to bursting with deep respect and love for the Celestial Empire and promises the merchants shall be recompensed by her own purse. Though she is a woman and a cripple, her exaltation of Tao Kuang Ti shows a wisdom beyond the menfolk of her barbarous people, and her own personal resources are not to be despised.

I have included a copy of the letter she has recently sent me—you must forgive any oddities: the poor woman has lost her hands and feet to illness but has made astounding progress in using her prostheses to write. Unfortunately her handwriting is quite difficult and in some cases illegible without a master's eye but I know your vision is as sharp as mine, and your English comprehension far greater. Happily, English is significantly simpler than Chinese to render onto paper, so she may yet manage.

Lin Zexu
May your house be blessed to serve the Celestial Empire for all time and by Heaven's will.

I sincerely appreciate all that you have written to me, and I look forward to meeting you and Mr. Hong as soon as this business with the product is concluded. From what I have witnessed in Guangzhou, the beauty of your land, even rapt in the poisonous vice of opium abuse, far outshines the pristine beauty of my own. Your Emperor truly encapsulates the divine blessings All Under Heaven has received.

While your memorial to Queen Victoria is as striking as it is eloquent, regrettably I must advise you not to let your work fall into British hands. You must know how difficult it is for a simple man to achieve audience with the Emperor himself—and while Her Majesty Queen Victoria is undoubtedly a good and reasonable woman, though far removed from the authority and majesty of Tao Kuang, I have little doubt that your missive will be seen by half a hundred men long before it reaches Her Majesty's gaze, and the hearts of men are not always so good and reasonable.

Keep your memorial to yourself for the time being. I will make my presence known in Guangzhou soon enough, and ensure order is kept among the barbarians and the locals. I do not wish to hijack your work, but my love for China is too great to allow even the slightest possibility that England may seek to squeeze down on the dragon's throat even for a moment. I know you would never openly declare it so, but you and others like you are not fools; the English are capable of utterly destroying all of China by virtue of their superior firepower. I do not presume to lecture one as exalted as you, merely to act as a source by which a wise man may continue to grow more wise.

I know what is in the heart of white men, and while All Under Heaven has remained the steadfast beacon of humanity for millennia, the Earth does not discriminate whom is to reap its riches. As China has been blessed with silver, gold, tea, and cotton, the English have been cursed with a dreary land surrounded by cold ocean with nothing in the soil worth extracting save smoky black rock.

I am well aware the Great Qing Empire has gunpowder as well. Simply consider this: it may seem foolish to tow absurdly massive guns upon frail wooden ships, but for a barbarous people as the English to have brought many frail ships across the whole world and to China and not lost any save to their own incompetence does not speak ill of them at all. Remember that there is wisdom to be learned even from fools.

As a parting note, I would very much wish to know all that you and your friends know of cosmology, and if you are familiar with the concept of thermo-dynamics and entropy. I will neither resent nor despair if you have not; I merely wish to know. As well, I do not wish you to think me terribly dull; I am sending you a copy of some of my favorite works of historical literature. Have you heard of Xenophon? I think we shall find much pleasant discussion to be had over his book, The Anabasis.

My love and blessings,
Andrea Reyne

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