Currently conducting research/writing the sequel of The Mage.
Wasn’t as productive during NaNoWriMo as I’d hoped, but I do have a basis for the new sequel to work on. There will be a new city, new characters and a background inspired by customs and traditions from Imperial China.
A few themes I’ve picked up on from research (aka reading):
Careers then were often loosely divided into four categories: scholars, farmers, craftsmen and merchants (士農工商). As farmers were considered the foundation of the country in order to support the population, merchants who supposedly manipulated the market and exploited farmers, were generally not well-regarded. But because they were often rich, still carried influence and there were instances of officials marrying daughters of merchants for their massive dowry.
Generally speaking, but especially among the upper class, men and women are separated with exceptions made for the very young or the very old. Men handle the business outside the home while the women handle things inside the home and are expected to stay inside so as not to show their faces for the sake of modesty (拋頭露面). Girls and boys over a certain age, 7-10 years, are generally expected to avoid interaction with the opposite sex outside their immediate family (避嫌). It’s considered good upbringing to keep your gaze to the floor and not stare at those of the opposite gender, especially if one or both are unmarried.
The politics that go on inside a home, especially an upper class one, is fertile grounds for all sorts of stories. Relationships can get a little complicated as a family of a certain legacy and history can usually be expected to have several nuclear families under one roof, so to speak.
For example, one family usually has a patriarch and a matriarch. They would have a few kids together, but the patriarch probably also has a concubine or two or three, who also has kids. This also brings in the case of legitimacy, as the children born from the wife are considered more “legitimate” than the children who are born of concubines, what is known as 嫡庶. Lots of issues arise from this one concept, but I’ll touch on that later.
Residences back then were commonly composed of several smaller houses forming a rectangle along their courtyard.
By Pubuhan – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=481992
Say the family has five sons (legitimate or otherwise) altogether. As they get older, the five sons would be given a house of their own and they would constitute five “houses” or 房 within the family and the servants would refer to each son by rank of age. This is important, as relationship dynamics at that time demanded respect of your elders, whether they are your grandparents, your parents or older siblings. The five sons would go on to marry and have children of their own.
The daughters on the other hand, are married off to other families. Technically, they are considered to be part of their new family from then on, but it is a common concept that the daughter would help out or rely on her “maiden” family or 娘家, as they would be the foundation she stands on when settling into her new status as a wife. A woman with a strong maiden family would demand more respect.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.