Asterisk denotes entries on real places.
Government offices. Lao Ts’an visits a number of different yamen or magistrate’s offices located near centers of walled cities, within their own walled compounds, which contain linked courtyards that are hierarchically arranged. Buildings typically include the officials’ living quarters, courtrooms and halls for business, small garden areas, offices for staff, and siderooms for bailiffs and runners. The grandeur of a yamen reflects the importance of the official who resides there. Some of the novel’s action occurs in the halls where magistrates take evidence in their roles as judges. Lao Ts’an’s skills lead some officials to ask him to reside in the better rooms available at the yamen, but his refusal to accept the offers is another indication of his probity.
*Shantung. Province in North China about the size of Mexico with a population of around thirty-five million people at the time in which this book is set. During the Ch’ing (Manchu) dynasty Shantung was arranged in an administrative hierarchy of 6 circuits (tao), 13 prefectures (fu), and 151 districts (hsien), all of which were walled cities. Dozens of Shantung places are mentioned in the novel, including several prefectures, districts, market towns, and villages to which Lao Ts’an pays short visits.
*Tengchoufu (TENG-choh-few). Important prefectural-level city on the north shore of the Shantung peninsula in which the novel opens. Better known as Chefoo or as Yentai, it was a major port for people traveling to Manchuria and had been a treaty port permitting foreign residence since 1863. It had a population of around seventy thousand people at the time. The narrative in the first chapter is intended as political allegory that takes place in well-known seaside locations. Later, this entire sequence is revealed to have been Lao Ts’an’s dream.
*Tsinanfu (TSEEN-ahn-few). Provincial capital of Shantung; a walled city famous for its lakes and springs. Lao Ts’an passes through Tsinanfu as the novel opens and visits the city’s famous sites in chapters 2 through 4.
*Ts’aochoufu (TSOW-choh-few). Southernmost prefecture in Shantung that is the setting for much of chapters 5 through 8. A walled city of some fifty thousand residents, Ts’aochoufu was in a poor region that was often threatened by Yellow River flooding and was the site of early disturbances linked to the Boxer Uprising (1899-1901). Liu Ê’s novel uses the city to satirize a Manchu official who served there as a magistrate.
Peach Blossom Mountain. Imaginary mountain in the real Shantung district of Feicheng, which is the setting of chapters 8 through 12. Liu Ê uses the mountain to introduce his personal interest in a syncretic religio-philosophical doctrine most commonly known as the T’ai-chou school. It is the only completely fictional location in his novel.
*Ch’ihohsien (CHEE-hoh-seen). Small district-level administrative city on the Yellow River that was subject of frequent serious flooding. Liu Ê sets the action in chapters 12 through 18 there. He used Ch’ihohsien because a second Manchu official who was his real-life enemy served there. Like Liu Ê, the fictional protagonist, Lao Ts’an, is an expert in flood control, so the setting provides a site in which he can use his skills.