The Age Of Great Progress

The Age Of Great Progress is Book 7 of the novel The Years Of Rice And Salt.


Thanks to his contact Bhakta, a Buddhist abbess and doctor, Ismail, a muslim doctor, escapes the fall of Konstantiniyye to the hands of the emerging Travancori alliance. Ismail is brought to Travancore and he is impressed by the advanced technology there. Travancore encourages scientific knowledge; Buddhist temples become houses of science and Ismail is invited to contribute. The alliance is lead by the visionary Kerala, who successfully reunited the Indian states and now dreams of a world united in peace. Travancore is the place where ambassadors of countries from all over the world meet.

Years later, Ismail acts as an emissary for Travancore. He contacts the Japanese underground in Yingzhou; the Japanese, all uprooted from their homeland, plan to strike back against the Chinese, and Travancore supports this in various alliances against the two superpowers of China and Islam. A Japanese boy, Kiyoaki, ex-slave of the Chinese liberated by the Great Flood of Yingzhou with the pregnant Chinese girl Peng-ti, joins the resistance; Peng-ti joins the Japanese as well.

Inevitably, events between China and Islam culminate to a global war, the Long War.

World history



First incarnation

  • B : Bhakta, buddhist abbess of the hospital of Travancore
  • K : the Kerala of Travancore
  • I : Ismail ibn Mani al-Dir, the Sultan's doctor
  • S : Selim the Third, Ottoman Sultan Caliph at Konstantiniyye

Second incarnation

  • B : Hu Die (Butterfly), future child of Peng-ti
  • K : Kiyoaki, Japanese boy
  • I : Ismail ibn Mani al-Dir, Travancori ambassador
  • P : Peng-ti: pregnant Chinese girl

Thesaurus & Encyclopaedia

Based on the Trivia and Study Guide compiled by Mark Rosa in 2004. Page numbers from the US paperback edition.

479 Selim III : There really was a sultan by this name (ruled 1789 to 1807), a reformist who defended the city from the British in 1807, but given the fact that a ruler's name may be ceremonial, and given the extreme difference in personality, we might conclude that this Selim is not the one from our world.

479 Konstantiniyye : This is the Turkish pronunciation of the city called Constantinople in English; the city was once Byzantium and is now known as Istanbul.

481 Kerala : A state in western India, which contains Travancore. Trade has supposedly been conducted there for over three millennia.

489 Trebizond : An empire descended from a Greek colony, located on the southeast coast of the Black Sea. Constantinople was attacked during the Fourth Crusade in 1204, and the Empire of Trebizond was an independent successor state before being incorporated into the Ottoman Empire in the mid-1400s.

497 the Master of Henly : Walter of Henley wrote a treatise on husbandry and farming during the 1270s ("Le Dite de Hosebondrie"). Originally in French and translated into English by Elizabeth Lamond in 1890, the document is in the public domain and can be seen here.

499 Galen : (AD 131-201) A doctor in Greece and Rome, serving under Marcus Aurelius. One of the first modern experimental anatomists.

501 "about year 390 in Islam, [they] dissected forty-six rebels" : I'm unable to find evidence of this, but an important anatomical book 存真圖 was published in China around this time. This would be around the year AD 1000.

503 Peng Roshi : Roshi 老師 is a Japanese word for "elder"/"master". Peng 彭 is not a Japanese name, so one can presume that this previous lama had a Chinese surname because of China's conquest of Japan (see p. 496).

516 Wasco : His name could refer to the Floating Bridge at the Finger Lakes in New York; see the note for page 359.

517 Long Island : An island extending to the east from New York City; Brooklyn and Queens are at its western end.

523 Xianfeng Emperor : 咸豐 Reigned 1850-1861, making his twelfth year his last.

523 Gold Mountain : 金山 Chinese name given to California and British Columbia after the discovery of gold and the subsequent gold rush of the 19th century AD.

523 "it never stopped raining until..." : There was indeed a devastating flood in California (though in our world, it was further south) in the 1861-62 winter. More here.

523 Peng-lai Islands : The third mythical island, along with Yingzhou and Fangzhang. In 1061, a real Penglai Pavilion was built in Shandong Province, and it is said to be the home of the gods.

524 Yung Cheng dynasty : (Spelled "Yongzheng" in Pinyin) More properly the Yung Cheng emperor's reign; emperor of China from 1722 to 1735.

524 nisei, sansei : 二世、三世 Second and third-generation immigrants from Japan.

525 Kiyoaki : 清明 Means "pure and bright" in Japanese

533 Gen : Probably 元, meaning "origin".

535 Tagomi-san : This isn't a normal Japanese surname (perhaps 田込 in Japanese kanji), though Gomi ("five flavors") is, and many names contain "ta" ("rice field"), so it sounds plausible enough. It's probably a homage to the character of the same name in Philip K. Dick's "The Man in the High Castle".

546 Transoxiana : An archaic word for central Asia.

546 twenty-first year of the Kuang Hsu emperor : This would be 1891; the Guangxu (Pinyin romanization; Chinese 光緒) Emperor began his rule in 1871.


  • (p.480: weighting of a soul)
  • (p.508-511: The Kerala's history of India)
  • "We will go out into the world and plant gardens and orchards to the horizons, we will build roads through the mountains and across the deserts, and terrace the mountains and irrigate the deserts until there will be garden everywhere, and plenty for all, and there will be no more empires or kingdoms, no more caliphs, sultans, emirs, khans, or zamindars, no more kings or queens or princes, no more quadis or mullahs or ulema, no more slavery and no more usury, no more property and no more taxes, no more rich and no more poor, no killing or maiming or torture or execution, no more jailers and no more prisoners, no more generals, soldiers, armies or navies, no more patriarchy, no more caste, no more hunger, no more suffering than what life brings us for being born and having to die, and then we will see for the first time what kind of creatures we really are." (The Kerala, p.522)
  • (p.544-547: world politics leading to the Long War)(p.455-456: Ibrahim's extract on cyclic nature of history and linear progress of Islam)