April 25, 2020

Hills of Silver Ruins (1/1)

The destruction of Zui'un Temple resembles the Siege of Mount Hiei by Oda Nobunaga in 1571. At the end of the siege, the Enryaku-ji temple complex was razed to the ground. The assassination of Oda Nobunaga in 1579 by Akechi Mitsuhide, one of his top commanders, also strikes a familiar chord.

Ryou'un Mountain (凌雲山) or "skyscraping mountain" is a category of mountain whose summit reaches the Sea of Clouds. Each province has at least one Mount Ryou'un that houses the imperial or provincial palaces and the government offices.

The Rishi (里祠) is the sacred building in the center of every city where the Riboku (里木) tree is enshrined. See chapter 53 of Shadow of the Moon for Rakushun's explanation of the role the Riboku plays in daily life.

Wizards of the Air (飛仙) who achieve their status through their own effort are listed in the Registry of Wizards on Mount Hou. Wizards of the Air can also be appointed by the sovereign and have an imperial title but do not serve in the government. They are listed in the Registry of Wizards of that kingdom.

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April 11, 2020

Twelve Kingdoms (glossary)

I number the chapters sequentially for file management purposes. The [part + chapter] style used in the books is displayed at the beginning of each chapter.

I will be adding to and amending this abridged glossary as I proceed. Corrections and clarifications to the translation and the glossary are welcome.

Administrative Divisions

Administrative divisions in the Twelve Kingdoms closely follow those of China, as illustrated in this Wikipedia table.
Kingdom Emperor or empress Comprised of nine provinces.
Province Province lord Or marquis.
Comprised of 50,000 households or four prefectures.
Prefecture Governor Comprised of five shires.
Shire Administrator Or county.
Town Mayor The smallest walled community. Villages may be surrounded by stockades.
Village Village manager and superintendent The superintendent runs the rike and advises the village manager.
Hamlet Comprised of eight families.

General Terminology

An allotment (給田) is allocated to all legal residents of a kingdom when they reach their majority. A single allotment equals one hectare. A hamlet consists of eight allotments plus a ninth that serves as the commons. An allotment can be leased or sold but reverts to the kingdom when the owner dies.

This post discusses in greater depth the physical layout of the allotment and hamlet system in the Twelve Kingdoms.

In traditional Chinese culture, it was considered disrespectful for members of the same peer group to address each other by their given names. Instead, they would adopt an azana (字) or "courtesy name," basically a formalized nickname.

A practical reason for using an azana is to differentiate among individuals who share the same surname. In all of China, the 100 most common surnames account for 86 percent of the population.

A blue bird (青鳥) is a bird-based voice mail system. The sender dictates a message. The bird flies to the recipient and repeats it verbatim. A blue bird also performs the same tasks as a carrier pigeon. The short story "Pen-pals" in Dreaming of Paradise has Youko and Rakushun corresponding via blue bird.

The Chousai (冢宰) serves as the Chief Cabinet Secretary of the Rikkan. In the governments of dynastic China, the Chousai was the Minister of Heaven and served as the minister-in-chief or prime minister. But in the Twelve Kingdoms, the Chousai need not be a member of the Rikkan. And there is the Taiho.

I think the Taiho better fits the literal meaning of prime minister. In Japan, the Chief Cabinet Secretary "coordinates the policies of ministries and agencies in the executive branch," a good description of the Chousai. Though in many kingdoms, the Chousai ends up running the government on a day-to-day basis.

The Rei'in (令尹) is the Chief Cabinet Secretary of the Provincial Rikkan.

At the imperial level, the Daiboku (大僕) commands the Praetorian Guard and serves alongside the emperor as his personal bodyguard. At the provincial level, the Daiboku is the Taiho's or the province lord's bodyguard. The Daiboku serves under the Shajin (射人) in the Ministry of Summer.

The Daishikou (大司寇) is the Justice Minister and runs the Ministry of Fall. The Shuushikou (州司寇) is the Provincial Justice Minister. This terminology dates to the Zhou Dynasty. The short story "Prison of Dusk" in Hisho's Birds focuses on the work done by the appellate courts in the Ministry of Fall.

The Divine Decrees (太綱) are a fusion of constitutional and natural law. Laws promulgated by the emperor cannot deviate from the Divine Decrees. Violations have drastic consequences. Two common manifestations of imperial wrongdoing are that youma proliferate and the kirin falls ill (the shitsudou).

If the emperor does not mend his ways and the kirin dies from the shitsudou, the emperor will die too.

Some repercussions are more immediate. Regardless of the reasons, an emperor who invades another kingdom will die almost at once. At the end of Shadow of the Moon, Youko enlists the help of the Imperial En in reclaiming the throne of Kei. She does this legally by deputizing him as a soldier in her army.

In The Shore in Twilight, Youko recruits emperors and empresses and their kirin from around the Twelve Kingdoms to figure out how to assist Taiki without going against the Divine Decrees. This proves to be a difficult but not insurmountable problem.

The Enchou (燕朝) encompasses the personal residences of the Inner Palace and the Imperial Court of the Outer Palace. Sort of a combination of the White House, the West Wing, and Number One Observatory Circle. It is located above the Sea of Clouds and has direct access to the Forbidden Gate.

Large cities are castle towns surrounded by a loop road accessible through twelve gates. Each gate is identified by a member of the Chinese zodiac: rat (子門), ox (丑門), tiger (寅門), hare (卯門), dragon (辰門), serpent (巳門), horse (午門), ram (未門), monkey (申門), rooster (酉門), dog (戌門), boar (亥門).

The gengou (元号) or nengou (年号) dating system begins with an era name created specifically for the reign of that emperor. The year of the enthronement counts as year one. The era name of Youko's dynasty is Sekiraku (赤楽). The kanji refer to the color red and the first character of Rakushun's name.

A hanjuu (半獣) is literally a "half beast." The other half is human. Like kirin, they can switch between human and animal forms.

The treatment of hanjuu varies throughout the Twelve Kingdoms. In Kou, hanjuu are harshly discriminated against, one reason Rakushun travels with Youko to En, where he can attend university. Youko abolished the anti-hanjuu laws in Kei and promoted Kantai, a hanjuu bear, to general in the Palace Guard.

A hinman (賓満) is a youma with a transluscent, gelatinous form and jellyfish-like appendages. A human beings possessed by a hinman can share the hinman's enhanced martial skills, such as riding a youjuu and wielding a sword. Youko is possessed by a hinman at the beginning of Shadow of the Moon

Hourai (蓬莱) is a mythical paradise derived from the Chinese legend of Penglai. It is also a classical geographical name for Taiwan, which in the Twelve Kingdoms has come to mean Japan.

Kaikyaku (海客) are people from this world (as opposed to taika) who are transported by shoku across the Kyokai from Japan.

Kijuu (騎獣) are domesticated youjuu. Like a pegasus, kijuu can fly or leap great distances. The ki (騎) refers to equestrian activities. The juu (獣) means an animal. Like horses, the best ones cost a small fortune.

The kirin (麒麟) is a Chinese unicorn. Born on Mount Hou in the Yellow Sea, the kirin hearkens to the Divine Will and chooses the sovereign. If the kirin dies, so does the sovereign, and the throne will remain empty until another kirin is born on Mount Hou and grows old enough to choose a new ruler.

The same way the president of the United States is also commander in chief of the armed forces and the chief executive, the Taiho (台輔) or Saiho (宰輔) also serves as chief advisor to the emperor, province lord of the capital province, and commander of the Provincial Guard, which constitutes half of the Imperial Army.

The Koushi (郊祀) ceremony ("the ritual of the outskirts") is the most important of the Imperial rites and rituals. It involves traveling to the southern district of the city during the Festival of the Winter Solstice, making offerings to Heaven, and praying for the protection of the kingdom.

A koshuu (鴣摺) is a rare species of blue bird that can fly to a specific location or person. Once it has met a person, it will find them again no matter where they go. In Hills of Silver Ruins, the mysterious Genkan uses a koshuu bird carrying a black bamboo tube to deliver his messages.

Koushu (黄朱) are citizens of the Yellow Sea. Shusei (朱旌) are traveling entertainers. Also citizens of the Yellow Sea, they travel throughout the Twelve Kingdoms, incorporating regional history and folklore into their performances and functioning as an informal news network.

The Kyokai (虚海) is the Sea of Nothingness that surrounds the Twelve Kingdoms. Japan is located at the eastern reaches of the Kyokai, though there is no way to physically travel across the Kyokai to Japan. Nor is it possible to circumnavigate the Kyokai (at least no one has lived to tell the tale).

So while it stands to reason that if Japan is to the "east" of the Kyokai, China must lie to the "west," sankyaku (山客) from China instead come across the Adamantine Mountains in the Yellow Sea.

A rike or rika (里家) is a foster home and school for orphans and the aged that also serves as a community center. The rike is run by the superintendent (閭胥).

The Rikkan (六官) literally means "six ministries." It is the equivalent of the cabinet: Administration (天官), Education (地官), Protocol (春官), Defense (夏官), Justice (秋官), Public Works (冬官). Also known as the Ministries of Heaven, Earth, Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter.

The Rishi (里祠) is the sacred building where the riboku (里木) tree is enshrined. The ritual of petitioning the riboku for a child resembles the custom of writing a wish on a paper strip (tanzaku) and tying it to a bamboo branch during the Tanabata festival. If the petition is granted, a ranka (卵果) grows at that spot.

The roka or roke (廬家) is a building on the commons where farmers can stay if they choose to winter over on their allotment. This post goes into greater depth about the physical layout of the allotment and hamlet system in the Twelve Kingdoms.

The Rokushin (六寝) comprises the residential quarters for the emperor in the imperial palace. It is located within the Enchou.

Ryou'un Mountain (凌雲山) or "skyscraping mountain" is a category of mountain whose summit reaches above the Sea of Clouds. Each province has at least one Mount Ryou'un that houses the imperial or provincial palaces and government offices. The mountain itself can have a different name.

Sankyaku (山客) are people from this world who come across the Adamantine Mountains in the Yellow Sea from China, known in the Twelve Kingdoms as Kunlun (崑崙), a mountain range in central China. Analogous to Hourai, Kunlun is also a mythical mountain said to be a Taoist paradise.

The Shashi (射士) is in charge of public security at the provincial level. The Shishi (司士) handles personal security. Their boss is the Taiei (太衛). The Daiboku (大僕) works under him as the personal bodyguard of the province lord or Taiho. As in the case of Taiki, more than one Daiboku can fill the role.

Shirei (使令) are youma subjugated by the kirin. They serve as the kirin's servants, messengers, and bodyguards. Older kirin may have dozens or hundreds of shirei at their command. Taiki had only two shirei, and the injury to his horn and being stranded in Hourai (Japan) resulted in him losing them.

According to the kirin's quid pro quo with the shirei, in exchange for the shirei's service during the kirin's lifetime, the shirei get to eat the kirin when he dies.

Although immortal, kirin are susceptible to two potentially lethal diseases. The shitsudou (失道) is caused by imperial wrongdoing, especially violations of the Divine Decrees. The esui (穢瘁) is an an illness that usually results from the kirin being exposed to blood either in the environment or his diet.

In Confucian and Taoist terms, shitsudou means to "stray from the Way."

A shoku (蝕) is a wormhole between two parallel universes. Or as Rakushun explains in Shadow of the Moon, "[A] shoku is when here and there get tangled up together." Shoku can be engineered on purpose by a wizard or kirin, as with Youko, but also occur at random, as with Suzu in A Thousand Leagues of Wind.

A meishoku (鳴蝕) is a shoku triggered by a kirin in distress. Even small shoku are highly destructive. Natural shoku can occur silently and imperceptibly. Kirin and their shirei can travel back and forth to Japan and China with few side effects. But a high-status individual like an emperor will cause a massive shoku.

Shoku are not supposed to occur above the Sea of Clouds, making the meishoku that results when Taiki is attacked in The Shore in Twilight so calamitous.

Raising the Yellow Banner (黄旗) over the rishi announces the commencement of the Shouzan (昇山). As depicted in The Wings of Dreams, the Shouzan is an arduous journey to the heart of the Yellow Sea, at the end of which the kirin selects the next emperor from the candidates who survived the gauntlet.

There are emperors and empresses who did not go on the Shouzan, such as Youko and Shouryuu. The kirin purposely sought them out and urged them to accept the throne. But even in those cases, in order to officially complete the imperial accession, they had to travel at least once to Mount Hou.

A taika (胎果) is a person born in China or Japan because of a shoku event that transplanted a ranka (卵果) into the body of a pregnant woman. A child like Youko who is born as a result will genetically resemble her parents until she returns to the Twelve Kingdoms, at which point she "sheds" her outer skin.

Youjuu (妖獣) are animals from the Yellow Sea that can be captured and domesticated. The you (妖) refers to their magical properties.

Youma (妖魔) are creatures from the Yellow Sea that usually emerge during a kingdom's decline and fall. The ma (魔) refers to things of an evil or demonic nature. Youma cannot be domesticated but can be subjugated by the kirin.

The White Pheasant or Hakuchi (白稚) sings once when the emperor is enthroned and once when the emperor dies, after which it also dies. The White Pheasant is thus known as Ni-sei (二声) or "the two cries." A Phoenix bird in each kingdom repeats the song of the White Pheasant.

The Minister of the Two Cries or Nisei-shi (二声氏) is the government official who tends to the White Pheasant.

Wizards of the Air (飛仙) who achieve their status through their own effort are listed in the Registry of Wizards (仙籍) on Mount Hou. Wizards of the Air can also be appointed by the sovereign and have an imperial title but do not serve in the government.

Wizards of the Earth (地仙) are government officials who have risen high enough in the civil service to have their names listed in the Registry of Wizards. Like Wizards of the Air who are appointed, they are listed in the Registry of Wizards of that kingdom.

Wizards of the Air and Earth who are delisted resume their mortal lifespans from the point when they were appointed.

Emperors and empresses have a separate Registry of the Gods (神籍) on Mount Hou and cannot be delisted, though they can be killed by decapitation and will die if the Taiho dies. A sovereign who abdicates will die soon thereafter.

The Yellow Sea (黄海) is an island in the middle of the Twelve Kingdoms. Ringed by the impenetrable Adamantine Mountains (金剛山), it is accessible through four massive gates at specific times during year. The Yellow Sea is home to the youma and youjuu. Mount Hou (蓬山) is one of five holy mountains at its center.

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April 10, 2020

Twelve Kingdoms (maps)

The Twelve Kingdoms
(Illustrated by Xiao Quan)

The Kingdom of Kei

The Kingdom of En

The Provinces of Tai

The Yellow Sea

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April 04, 2020

Last name first

On March 30, NHK World's foreign-language services and websites reverted to the traditional format for Japanese names. This follows a policy adopted six months ago by the Japanese government to prefer the surname-first style in Latin script documents.

The surname-last name order for Japanese names in Latin script came into fashion during the Meiji era, when Japan aligned itself with the West. After 150 years, the Japanese government decided it wasn't its job to do the orthographic flip-flopping anymore.

Japan is actually catching up to the rest of Asia in this regard, as surname-first in Latin script publications has long been standard practice for Chinese and Korean names. Chinese President Xi Jinping, for example. And South Korean President Moon Jae-in. But not Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Prime Minister Abe Shinzo would like that to change. This update to the NHK World style guide is one small step.

Incidentally, when names originally written in Latin script are transliterated into katakana, the surname order is preserved. So "Brad Pitt" is still "Buraddo Pitto" (ブラッド・ピット). Following the cultural conventions of the source material is a good rule. Though this rule can cause confusion.

Hosts and anchors with Japanese names who were not born in Japan or are not Japanese citizens may stick with the surname-last format. On domestic NHK broadcasts, such names would be written in katakana, not kanji, making the distinction clear. But that clue gets lost on NHK World.

So some Japanese names on NHK World are surname-first while others are surname-last, leaving it up to the viewer to guess why.

In my own writing, I'm all over the map. Accustomed to rendering historical names surname-first, that's what I did in Serpent of Time. In the contemporary Fox & Wolf, I reverted to surname-last, as I do in the Boy Detectives Club novels.

It comes down to trying to anticipate what the reader expects, and western readers generally expect surname-last. Then again, it might not be a bad idea to start changing those expectations.

A related style conundrum are long and double vowels. In Serpent of Time and Fox & Wolf, I used Hepburn romanization. In the Boy Detectives Club novels, I don't bother. In the Twelve Kingdoms, I transliterate the vowels as they would be written in hiragana, which is my linguistic preference.

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