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Sun Kai was one of two envoys sent with Prince Yongxing's party to retrieve Temeraire from the British. He was considerably younger than the other envoy, Liu Bao, as well as being more quiet and reserved in nature. A keen observer, he spent much of the return voyage aboard the HMS Allegiance on deck, taking note of the life of the ship and its construction, with a particular interest in the great-gun exercises.
At a Christmas dinner to which Sun Kai and Liu Bao were invited by William Laurence, Sun Kai was prevailed upon by Liu Bao to recite "The Hard Road," a work by the Tang dynasty poet Lung Li Po, which he then followed with several other selections from classical Chinese poets. It was this recitation which led to the discovery that Temeraire spoke Chinese, having learned it while in the shell.
Loyal to the Jiaqing Emperor and Crown Prince Mianning rather than Yongxing, Sun Kai attempted to help William Laurence and Temeraire's crew when they were attacked by a gang, later revealed to have been hired by Yongxing. Up until this attack, Sun Kai had pretended to have no knowledge of English. Laurence was surprised to realize that he was in fact fluent - albeit he spoke English with something of an Italian accent - and had understood everything that was being said around him.