Feng Li

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Character Profile[edit]

Name: Feng Li
Date of Birth: unknown; died 1806
Nationality: Chinese


Feng Li was a servant of Prince Yongxing. He was a tall man with a permanent stoop who, like all Han Chinese of his time, shaved his forehead and wore the rest of his hair in a queue. (The Manchu Qing government had imposed this hairstyle on the Han Chinese in the early 17th century.)

After it had become clear that Laurence could neither be commanded, cajoled nor bribed to leave Temeraire, Feng Li attempted to kill Laurence by shoving him down the fore hatch of the HMS Allegiance after a feast celebrating the Chinese New Year on February 18, 1806.

Feng Li made a second attempt during a typhoon, while Laurence and the carpenter's mate Leddowes were on deck trying to tighten the ropes that secured Temeraire's storm chains. Feng Li attempted to strike Laurence with a pry-bar, but caught him on the arm instead of the head. In the ensuing confusion, Leddowes was washed overboard by a wave, and Feng Li was blown overboard by a blast of wind.

Temeraire and 1st Lieutenant John Granby were quite ready to believe that Feng Li had acted on Yongxing's orders, but diplomat Arthur Hammond refused to agree. Not until later evidence revealed more of Yongxing's motivation and plans did Hammond accept that he was behind the repeated attempts on Laurence's life.

The timing of Feng Li's and Leddowes' deaths accidentally gave Leddowes an interesting posthumous reputation. Feng Li had been spotted skulking about the deck by sailors on dark, lonely watches. His white face, dark blue robes and black hair gave him the appearance of a ghost, and rumour soon magnified their stories. Liu Bao added fuel to the fire by suggesting that the ghost was a sign that someone on the ship had "acted immorally with a woman" - a description that qualified almost every grown man aboard.

When sightings of the ghost ceased immediately following Leddowes' death, the other sailors concluded that he had been the ghost's target all along and that his behaviour with women must have been extraordinarily immoral.