Chinese Stories: Feng Menglong

Feng Menglong (commonly known by his given name Menglong) is perhaps the greatest writer in all of Chinese history. Very little of his work was available to non-Chinese readers until  Yang & Yang, translators par excellence, published all 120 short stories of Feng Menglong over the span of a decade (from 2000 to 2009). English readers owe a large debt of gratitude to Yang & Yang for their accomplishment. Stories Old and New, is the first set of 40 tales, first published by Feng Menglong in 1620 (25 years before the collapse of the Ming Dynasty). You can buy it here from Stories to Caution the World, is the second set of 40 tales, first published by Feng Menglong in 1624. You can buy it here from Stories…

Continue ReadingChinese Stories: Feng Menglong

Currency in China

In my books, there are three main forms of currency. First, we have copper coins. They are worth very little (for example, a good Serice pancake costs around 100-150 copper coins). Copper coins are typically carried with a string through the open hole in the middle, and a string of coins is usually close to 1,000 coins.  The second unit of currency is the silver cat, which is a small ingot of silver, roughly shaped like a sleeping cat with its tail curled around (forming an oval shape). The silver cat in Serica is roughly equal to a string of 1,000 copper coins. A person can barely get by on an income of one silver cat per month.  The third unit of currency is the Salt Note. A salt note…

Continue ReadingCurrency in China

Censorship in Imperial China

In my books, the government of Serica has been under the control of the Kitran Empire and they don't bother with censoring books. If someone writes something they don't like, they sent a detachment of their feared cavalry to the town where the author is said to live and they burn the place down. The new ruler of Kunhalvar province, Lord Vaina, would likely censor works which advocated support for the Kitran Empire but - they are at war with the Kitran Empire. Censorship in a time of war is commonplace, every nation does this. But what about censorship during peacetime? My books don't talk much about the times of peace but this is what I learned... Censorship in Imperial China was a very complex phenomenon. I think most Americans…

Continue ReadingCensorship in Imperial China

The Manchu Military and Government

Here is an eye-opening essay on the Qing Dynasty military from the Cambridge Journal of Chinese History - Qing Military Institutions by Yingcong Dai. I have been gradually changing my mind about the Manchu government of China, at least up to the year the Qianlong Emperor resigned his office (in 1797). I used to be highly dismissive of the Manchu rule but the more recent scholarship I have read in over the last decade has changed my mind. I now believe the Manchu ruled China wisely and well. They made a few but significant improvements over the Ming Dynasty, most in the area of military organization, and in other places as well. The Qing paid laborers, they kept taxes low, and they maintained the prestige of the army. Even the…

Continue ReadingThe Manchu Military and Government

The Battle of Talas

The Wikipedia has a good article (as of mid-2019) about the Battle of Talas. This was a battle fought by a Tang Dynasty army operating in the far west (modern day Kazakhstan) in the year 751 A.D. They were fighting against an army from the newly formed Abbasid Caliphate. The Tang army was defeated and the Tang did not return to this part of central Asia, because of the massive disruption caused by the An Lushan revolt which began four years later. For a thousand years, the Chinese stayed east of Transoxiana (as the region is called). Eventually, the Chinese reasserted their power against the Khans of this region, starting with the campaigns of the Kangzi Emperor against the Dzungar Khanate (in 1687). The Dzungar were eventually annihilated by the…

Continue ReadingThe Battle of Talas

A Great Map of Medieval Trade Routes

This map was created around 2012 and it shows many trade routes and important cities that existed in Eurasia and Africa circa 1200. There are lots of small inaccuracies so the specialists get to nit-pick. Medieval Trade Routes of Eurasia and Africa - circa 1200 My world is not the same as the real world but I draw a lot of inspiration from the world of our past. Medieval World Trade Routes

Continue ReadingA Great Map of Medieval Trade Routes