April 11, 2020

Twelve Kingdoms glossary

I number the chapters sequentially for file management purposes. The part + chapter format used in the books is shown in [brackets] at the beginning of each chapter (except for the first chapter in a section).

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 palisades.
Village Village manager and superintendent The superintendent runs the rike and advises the village manager.
Hamlet Comprised of eight families.

General Terminology

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 physical consequences. The most common manifestations of imperial wrongdoing are that youma proliferate and the kirin falls ill (shitsudou).

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

Some repercussions are even more immediate. An emperor who invades another kingdom—regardless of the reasons—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 gengou (元号) or nengou (年号) dating system begins with an era name created specifically for the reign of that emperor. The year the enthronement counts as year one. The era name Youko chooses is Sekiraku (赤楽), meaning the color red and the first character in Rakushun's name.

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.

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.

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 a 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 in a city or town 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 branch of bamboo during the Tanabata festival.

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 mountain itself can have a different name.

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.

Shoku cannot occur above the Sea of Clouds or in the Yellow Sea.

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.

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.

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 only 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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# posted by Blogger Unknown
4/14/2020 11:40 AM   
thank you very much for starting the translation I think I can speak for all twelve kingdom fans thank you so much I really don't know what we would do without you
# posted by Anonymous Anonymous
4/16/2020 10:45 AM   
Thank so much that you started translating the new book! You don't understand how much I appreciate that you're doing this!
# posted by Blogger Melanie
4/17/2020 11:20 AM   
I'm so excited to see your translation! Thank you so much!
# posted by Blogger Zedta
4/18/2020 1:55 AM   
I'm so incredibly excited! Thank you thank you thank you!
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4/19/2020 6:39 AM   
Thank you so much for doing this! I really can't find the words to express how grateful I am...
# posted by Anonymous Lims
4/21/2020 11:13 AM   
Wow! Thank you so much! Looking forward to see it.
Your translations are the reason I got the books in the original, despite not being able to read them!

Haha, now I need to find the new ones as well.
# posted by Blogger Dreaming Soya
4/22/2020 12:38 AM   
Oh, wow! I can only repeat what everyone else had already written. Thank you so much for working on the translation. It makes us incredibly happy and excited! You are a treasure, sir.
# posted by Anonymous Anonymous
5/12/2020 1:48 AM   
Just found this today, and am so excited! I read the books in Japanese, but, well, I've never actually read a full novel in Japanese before and these were definitely not the ones to start out on. Thank you so much for translating this, you're the best!
# posted by Blogger Mavie
5/13/2020 10:57 PM   
Wow! I'm so excited to read this! I've been a fan of this novel since college and in so glad I've found this translations of the 9th vol! I'm planning to buy all the books after I save enough lol, so this blog is such a blessing for broke me lol