A THOUGHT OF MATTEO RICCI (Li Matou)

Respected Brother Li Matou:
At many a round-table banquet
– dishes going around, toasts, witticisms, –
or else, at home, writing with the brush
a courtesy letter to new mandarins,
a thought of you flutters into my room.

I seem to see you as if through a screen,
At dinner with the magistrates. Never a dull moment.
Or, – if by chance there is a minute’s silence, –
it’s dense with the deep implications
of two worlds finally come to meet.

I see you also giving music lessons.
– not your best topic, but so highly useful
when eunuchs later will
sing your hymns before the Emperor -.

Still, how many
near misses were there in your China life;
dangerous calumnies. Had you not got hold
of that rope end in the water near the canal boat
you might have missed Peking altogether.

I see you riding a big mule
through Peking’s dust storms. The black gauze
around your head serves marvelously against
the dust and increases the discretion of your
observing eyes.

– – – – – – – – – – – –
your very imperfect student
Anton Smitsendonk

(on a few China related topics, also

About dutasia

Former Ambassador of the Netherlands, presently National Commissioner for Thailand and for Indonesia in the ICC, the International Chamber of Commerce, the World Business Organization. Chairman of China Carbon Forum in Beijing, China.
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