The Book of Eight Sages
Ang Puranoo: (Glittering Pearl, from ang, “pearl,” and puranoo, “glittering”) The capital of the emergent empire of Tsaanpwair. It was founded by the first emperor Hei Pwiek after he unified the island, Tsaan, and brought it civilization from the Middle Kingdom. Located on the southeast corner of the island overlooking a large lagoon, its most prominent features are the Coral Palace set on the highest point of the city, the Ienaand, also called ‘the Floating Cemetery,’ the Market and the ‘Essoar,’ a tower that acts as both lighthouse and harbor master’s home. The city has a population of about 24,000 and covers about 1.75 square miles.
Ang Puranoo was first settled during the early Second dynasty when seafaring migrants from the west arrived and settled on Tsaan. The site of Ang Puranoo was a natural site to settle with a fresh water stream flowing into a well protected lagoon. It became the largest settlement on the island and center of the Oikpwoang nation. Its original name has been lost with its refounding as Ang Puranoo. At the end of the reign of empress dowager Deng, Hei Pwiek returned from the Middle Kingdom leading some 450 warriors and overthrew the Oikpwoang chief. Unifying the island after 6 years of warfare, Hei Pwiek sent for Middle Kingdom advisers and architects to rebuild the fishing village into his new capital, renaming it Ang Puranoo.
The Coral Palace was begun by Hei Pwiek and been added onto by most successors. It is located on the highest point of town, now a mostly artificial mount with basalt hexagon columns supporting the sides and approach ramp. A large open courtyard is used as a public area with a raised dais at the far end where the emperor sits when holding court. From the outside, one can see that the palace is two floors with peaked, thatch roofs. The most prominent feature is the observation tower built during the reign of empress Han Ling in a very Middle Kingdom style used for astronomical sightings.
Hei Pwiek’s successor and nephew, Hei Oipwai Leit, began the Ienaand in the thirteenth year of empress Han Shun off the islet of Luak near the mouth of the lagoon. The Ienaand, also called the Floating Cemetery, is actually a number of artificial islets behind a basalt seawall facing the open sea. Some of the islets are used for priestly residents and the central islet is used for mortuary rites, but the majority are used as tombs for the imperial family and their favorites. The Ienaand is always heavily decorated with flowering plants tended by the resident priests. It is open to the public only four times a year regularly, plus imperial funerals. All other times, trespassing is punishable by death. The location was chosen so the spirits of the past emperors can ward off any approaching enemies.
The last major improvement of the city is the Essoar on the islet of Luak. Built by the emperor Hei Daid Laidu during the reign of empress Han Ling, the Essoar is the tallest structure in the city. The tower is about 35’ across at the base, 8’ across at the top, and 45’ tall. A large whale oil lamp is set at the top where a large, brass mirror reflects it out to sea. Both mirror and lamp were designed and imported from the Middle Kingdom, as were the architects who designed the Essoar itself. Within the Essoar live the harbor master and his family. An observation deck below the lamp deck allows the harbor master a full view of the lagoon, the docks and the ocean approach to the lagoon. From the observation deck the harbor master controls all harbor activity.
Upon nearing the city, the first sight is usually the lagoon mouth. Two sandbar spits extend from the island, leaving an entrance about 340’ wide. Stone cairns about 20’ high set on the tips of each spit with banners flying above them. As one approaches from the sea, the banner on the left sports the imperial insignia while the banner on the right sports the symbol of the sea goddess. Between the spits and set about 100’ into the lagoon is the islet of Luak with the Ienaand and Essoar clearly visible. A conch shell will be sounded to announce the approach of a foreign vessel. The harbor master will then signal with a flag directions to the ship captain, or canoes will approach from Luak with verbal instructions. Most vessels will be steered to the right, as the left side of the harbor is reserved for military or diplomatic ships only.
Circling Luak, one will see to the right the ever busy docks of the merchant ships. Most will be the local canoes with outriggers actually capable of sailing the open sea. Larger two hulled catamarans will also be present. Rarer are the large hulled ships of Middle Kingdom design and even some merchant ships from the Middle Kingdom itself. Large warehouses line the shore of the docks, holding merchandise either freshly unloaded or waiting to be loaded. To the immediate left of the docks is the city market. Narrow canals have been dug into the marketplace to allow canoes to transport large loads of goods. The market is a loud, busy place where one can find any product or service offered in Tsaanpwair. Much of the trade is by barter, but currencies are also used. The most common currency is cowry shells, shell beads and pearls, though Middle Kingdom coinage is often accepted as well.
Behind and to the left of the market are the many homes of the commoners. These are mostly one or two floor structures of wattle and daub construction with high, steep thatch roofs. Should one be invited into a commoner’s home, one will usually see only two rooms and an upper half floor accessed by a steep stair or ladder. Beside the homes are small vegetable gardens, stalls for fowls or pigs, and workshops if they are artisans. Along the shore between the market and the imperial docks lies simply beach, usually cluttered with canoes and children playing in the water. The layout of the commoner’s district is rather chaotic to newcomers, but wider lanes break it into five easily distinguishable neighborhoods. These neighborhoods are mostly clan based with a clan shrine and fountain more or less centrally located. Shrines are typically tended by clan elders who live off the food offerings left there.
Continuing the sweep of the lagoon, a tall, stone wall separates the noble residences from the commoners. A large, ornate gateway in the wall opens to a wide, crushed coral paved avenue that leads directly to the Coral Palace. The homes of the nobility are also of wattle and daub with thatch roofs, but are much larger. They are typically rectangular with a central, enclosed courtyard. Interior courtyards will usually have a household shrine, a fountain and flower beds. Flowering fruit trees may be present, but rarely is any other food grown as these gardens are displays of wealth. Most nobles own land outside the city which is worked by sharecroppers, negating their need to actually grow food. While some of the larger noble homes have second floors, none rise high enough to block the view of the Coral Palace. Along the shore of the noble district are the imperial docks. These docks are reserved for the imperial yacht, diplomatic vessels and such warships as are currently present. These docks occupy the entire far left third of the mainland shore and much of the left side of the lagoon. Even sailing to the left of the Essoar is forbidden to any but imperial, military or diplomatic vessels.
Things to Do
For the first time visitor, the first stop is the Coral Palace to greet the emperor. The current emperor is Hei Moahsat Hoo, but it is unlikely that he will be sitting personally. Usually it is the palace castellan or even one of his subordinates receiving visitors. If someone is sitting in the Coral Throne, this is the emperor himself, in which case one must approach humbly, looking down, until signaled to drop to one’s knees and touch one’s forehead to the ground. When it pleases the emperor, a signal will be given to rise and stand. Still it is forbidden to look directly at the emperor or talk directly to him. Instead one addresses the Chief Herald, who then speaks directly to the emperor. Likewise, the Chief Herald will speak the response of the emperor, and to respond to the words of the emperor before they are spoken by the Chief Herald is a gross breech of etiquette. For a foreigner, a first offense may be forgiven assuming ignorance of protocol, but a second offense can lead to a whipping and exile from Ang Puranoo. Should the throne be empty, the more likely case, then the person present is but a palace official and protocol is less formal. The visitor must then merely bow to the official and conduct such business as needed. For most visitors, business will be to simply give a name, place of origin and reason for visiting. These will be recorded along with any gift offered to the emperor. A gift is most appropriate, and should come from one’s place of origin. Protocol dictates that the emperor accept any gift presented, but the greater the valuable, the greater the favor incurred. Also, a foreigner must not simply buy a gift at the market of Ang Puranoo, as the emperor can already acquire such things, better a modest yet exotic gift than a costly yet local one.
Assuming one does not offend, the next place to visit would be the market. Here one may trade with the locals and acquire all manner of things. As a visitor will likely lack the local currencies, one can use coinage from the Middle Kingdom or sell merchandise at most any stall to acquire the beads and cowry shells most commonly used. Also, most merchants will accept a trade of goods. Besides the many goods available, one can also find fine prepared foods and beverages in that part of the market most inland.
Overnight accommodations can usually be found in the market if needed. The city has no inns nor caravansaries, but the people have a strong tradition of hospitality, and many may even argue over who shall take one for the night. Such hospitality comes with certain responsibilities for both guest and host. Host is to do all they may to ensure the comfort and enjoyment of their guest. Guests, in turn, are not to take advantage of the host, and are to provide some entertainment to their hosts. One interesting custom is the sharing of their women with foreigners. Many commoners especially believe that foreigners are closer to the gods, and the children of them shall bring luck. Thus hosts shall offer male foreigners their wives or daughters of age to their guests in the hope of having them impregnated. However, the nobility do not so strongly hold to this superstition, so behave accordingly.
Festivals are common in Ang Puranoo, most centered in the neighborhood plazas. Each neighborhood has its own schedule of festivals, though often they coincide with others. Festivals tend to be occasions of overindulgence in all things. Every family will contribute what they can to a communal feast, including strong beverages. Dancing, song, music and storytelling will amuse in the central plaza, while couples will steal away to more secluded locations for their pleasures only to return to find others. When no festivals are being held, the plazas will still be used by entertainers of all types to amaze and amuse onlookers. Should they succeed in entertaining, it is customary to leave a small offering to the entertainers in beads, shells or food. Finally, the front courtyard of the Coral Palace will be used for professional entertainment free to the populace on a first come basis. Should the Ienaand be open, it too is a must see.
Submitted by Xiyang, from Travels in TsaanpwairReferenced by Astronomy, Bathing, Dunes, Kingdom of