Lord Hong

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Lord Hong
Blank.jpg
Name Lord Hong
Race Human
Age 20s
Occupation Head of the Hong family
Physical appearance
Residence
Death stepped too close to the muzzle of a Barking Dog that appeared out of nowhere
Parents Father dead, assassinated by his son.
Relatives the whole three thousand years' worth of venerable ancestors and past Hongs
Children none
Marital Status single
Appearances
Books Interesting Times
Cameos

Lord Hong is the extremely intelligent and ambitious head of the old Hong family in the Agatean Empire who has been plotting to become the next Emperor. He is known for doing everything perfectly, including kite flying, origami, and sword making. He is also merciless, and seems to be one of the few people in the Empire who is capable of thinking and acting outside the rules of conduct and decorum that have operated in the Empire since the time of One Sun Mirror.

Lord Hong is deeply fascinated with making his society more like Ankh-Morpork. This fascination extends to his deepest, darkest, secret, the key to which remains on his person at all times. In conditions of deepest secrecy and one item at a time, he has assembled a wardrobe of what he fondly considers to be the clothing of a perfect Ankh-Morpork gentleman, which he surreptitiously dons at times of great stress when he needs reassurance. This outfit includes pointy footwear, doublet and hose - by inference (Vimes' ceremonial dress is broadly similar, and ceremonial dress generally leans to the archaic and fossilized) this is up to two hundred years behind current male fashion. The thought that the response to his walking down the street dressed like that is likely to lead to derision and hurled bricks has never once occurred to him.

Lord Hong is chosen by Fate to be the next Emperor of the Agatean Empire. This should guarantee his ascent to the throne. However, when facing an enemy that has one chance in a million of defeating him, his allies and their armies, he invokes The Lady by name with more or less typical results.

He is a key player in the book Interesting Times.

Annotation

Again James Clavell and his novels appear be the inspiration: the inscrutably devious and Machiavellian Lord Toranaga in Shogun, a Japanese warlord who tells everyone he doesn't want to be ruler of all Japan, whilst devoting everything he's got to this end and systematically outwitting and out-thinking all the competition. Toranaga also thinks outside the box: where most other Japanese are frightened and appalled by the new visitors from faraway Europe, a bunch of soap-shy barbarians from places like Portugal and England, and the majority opinion is to kill the lot of 'em and seal Nippon's sacred borders, he wants to learn all he can from them, e.g. in the trifling and despicably dishonourable arts of firearms and artillery. It is not lost on Toranaga that most of his peers are too proud to embrace a weapon that will kill samurai from a distance by the bucketload. Nor is it lost on him that the seemingly impregnable Osaka Castle, stronghold of his mortal enemy, was built by an architect who was innocent of what Western artillery could do to a Japanese castle wall. Or that Western ships are years in advance of anything Japan can offer and could slaughter his enemies' trade routes to China.

Casting Rincewind in the role of stranded Englishman John Blackthorne is something of an act of genius by TP... in the novel, Blackthorne is abruptly stranded in a country of which he knows nothing, is at first imprisoned, becomes a pawn of a powerful leader angling for the Shogunate, has to learn Japanese morality and language very quickly indeed, and rises to a position of influence with the man who eventually becomes undisputed leader. Oh, and has a romance with a beautiful and steel-like lady who steers him in the right directions.

Hong's secret fetish for Western dress echoes the Westernisation of Japan in the late 19th century, when the country came out of its self-imposed isolation and wanted to do everything all at once, such as modernise its army and navy (tick), win a war against a major European power (tick), and assimilate Western styles of dress and clothing, however strange this might have looked to Western eyes. (tick)

Is the Mr Hong who was behind that unfortunate business on Dagon Street a relative? This might explain why some Agatean refugees are actually allowed to get all the way to Ankh-Morpork: in return for unimpeded passage, they act as Agatean agents who feed back information and desired goods, i.e. Lord Hong's cache of secret clothes. And being family, they are motivated by a higher loyalty than would apply to lesser concepts like Empire or Emperor... No doubt Vetinari is aware and has a full list of names, addresses, and who they pass information back to, (as well as ensuring they get access to the right sort of information, i.e. that which Vetinari carefully ensures they pass on home...)

  • Of course, "Hong" may well be as common on the Continent as "Stronginthearm" throughout the rest of Discworld.

For a great lord, standing only a heartbeat away from being Emperor, to be an acclaimed amateur swordsmith is not unique. Japanese history preserves the memory of the thirteenth century Emperor Go-Toba who, when deposed from office and exiled by a conniving daimyo of the Hong type, spent his suddenly free time in learning and perfecting the swordsmith's art, dreaming of the day when one his swords might get close enough to the usurper to do what it was designed for. The "retired Emperor"'s swords were good enough to be genuinely acclaimed as works of art, although history is silent as to whether one of them was used to kill the "Hong" (Regent Hojo Yoshitoki) who had deposed him. Go-Toba is not, however, thought to have discovered that annealing a freshly-forged sword in human blood gives it that little bit of an extra "edge": Japanese swordmakers had been doing this for quite some time beforehand, and had discovered that animal blood did as well, practically speaking. However, possibly in keeping with the universal belief that a new blade must be allowed to feed on blood(and preferably somebody else's blood, lest that hunger be turned on the owner), condemned criminals were frequently executed with fresh new samurai swords to properly "baptise" them. Usually the public executioner did this job: but it wasn't unknown for the samurai who was to receive the swords to do the job himself, so as to get used to their weight and feel and to forge a bond with his weapons.