Gems of Chinese Literature/Wên Ti-To the Captain of the Huns
WE respectfully trust that the great Captain is well. We have respectfully received the two horses which the great Captain forwarded to Us.
The first Emperor of this dynasty adopted the following policy:―All to the north of the Long Wall, comprising the nations of the bow and arrow, to be subject to the great Captain: all within the Long Wall―namely, the families of the hat and girdle, to be subject to the House of Han. Thus, these peoples would each pursue their own avocations,―Ours, agriculture and manufacture of cloth; yours, archery and hunting,―in the acquisition of food and raiment. Father and son would not suffer separation; suzerain and vassal would rest in peace; and neither side would do violence to the other.
But of late We hear that certain worthless persons have been incited by the hope of gain to shake off their natural allegiance. Breaches of moral obligation and of treaty have occurred. There has been forgetfulness of family ties; and the tranquility of suzerain and vassal is at an end. This, however, belongs to the past. Your letter says, “The two States had become friendly; their rulers friends. The tramp of armies had been stilled for more peaceful occupations, and great joy had come upon successive generations at the new order of things.” We truly rejoice over these words. Let us then tread together this path of wisdom in due compassion for the peoples committed to our charge. Let us make a fresh start. Let us secure quiet to the aged; and to the young, opportunity to grow up, and, without risk of harm, to complete their allotted span.
The Hans and the Huns are border nations. Your northern climate is early locked in deadly cold. Therefore We have annually sent large presents of food and clothing and other useful things; and now the empire is at peace and the people prosperous. Of those people, We and you are, as it were, the father and mother; and for trivial causes, such as an Envoy's error, we should not lightly sever the bonds of brotherly love. Heaven, it is said, covers no one in particular; and Earth is the common resting-place of all men. Let us then dismiss these trifling grievances, and tread the broader path. Let us forget bygone troubles in a sincere desire to cement an enduring friendship, that our peoples may live like the children of a single family, while the blessings of peace and immunity from evil extend even to the fishes of the sea, to the fowls of the air, and to all creeping things. Unresting for ever is the course of Truth. Therefore let us obliterate the past. We will take no count of deserters or of injuries sustained. Do you take no count of those who have joined our banner.
The rulers of old never broke the faith of their treaties. O great Captain, remember this. And when peace shall prevail once more, rest assured that its first breach will not proceed from the House of Han.