THE EIGHTH KING: Day 1

By now it requires no special depth of scholarship, I think, to infer that Lin Tong’s role in the Thousand Arm Testament is much reduced. For the most part I take no pleasure in vindicating the historians who have argued this, as historians have since before the smoke settled at Pongyo Gorge; it is fashionable to disinter scandal from the tomb of history, and the adherents to such fashion are seldom deterred when they find the unearthed bones resemble a woman less than a dzo or snow-ape. But it cannot be denied that the Thousand Arm Deity’s expedient of simply avoiding pronouns, while carried off with matchless grace, has been obvious enough to even the meanest hacks and fabricators, and the deity’s consummate circumspection shows signs of strain when Lin Tong enters her abbreviated scenes. Among less observant readers this strain has led to a host of slanders whose content is easily enough inferred, and which I will not here dignify with repetition.

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