Ocean Continents

Ocean Continents is Book 3 of the novel The Years Of Rice And Salt.


The Wanli Emperor decided to conquer Nippon and put Admiral Kheim in charge of the war fleet; I-Chin is the chief doctor and scientist onboard.

On the way, sea currents and a lack of wind carry the fleet far into the Dahai, the Great Ocean, into unexplored territory. They reach a land populated by people who call themselves the Miwok. The land is very rich and life there is enjoyable. However the Miwok start dying from a disease (smallpox) brought to them by the Chinese.

The Chinese leave, taking Butterfly, a young girl who has been learning Chinese, with them. Sailor Peng stays behind. Following the coast, they reach a land with tall cliffs on the seaside (the Andes) and people with lots of gold (the Inca). When they visit them, the local emperor takes Kheim and Butterfly hostage -- or so it would seem -- and takes them to a human sacrifice ritual. The Chinese attempt a rescue and kill every man they encounter in their retreat.

On the journey back home, a storm strikes the fleet and Butterfly, Kheim's protégé and the whole crew's source of hope, dies. Only three ships make it back to China, with stories of a new immense island on the East.

World history



  • B : Butterfly, young Miwok girl
  • K : Kheim, Chinese Admiral of Wanli Emperor
  • I : I-Chin, doctor of Kheim’s fleet
  • P : Peng, crew member of Kheim's fleet

Thesaurus & Encyclopaedia

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

189 Yingzhou and Fangzhang : 瀛洲 and 方丈. In China, there was the legend of the Eight Immortals crossing the ocean to find three sacred mountains, named Penglai, Yingzhou, and Fangzhang.

191 Hideyoshi : Japanese shogun Toyotomi Hideyoshi (豊臣秀吉, 1536-1598). He joined the Oda clan (Oda Nobunaga being the most famous member) at a young age and eventually rose to the post of kanpaku, or adviser to the emperor. He made two attempts to attack Korea and China, in 1592 and 1596, and both times his soldiers were forced to retreat. However, his influence on the government of the nation was significant in its increased totalitarianism -- he made it illegal for commoners to own weapons, forbade them from leaving their home provinces, and ruthlessly murdered and expelled Christians from Japan.

191 Wanli Emperor : (萬歴 1563-1620; ruled 1572-1620) Hideyoshi's second invasion of Korea and China would be the one that occurred in the 25th year of the Wanli's reign.

191 Ieyasu : Tokugawa Ieyasu (徳川家康 1542-1616), the general who successfully united Japan by defeating the army of rival Ishida Mitsunari at the Battle of Sekigahara (present-day Gifu prefecture, near the border with Shiga) in 1600. Three years after this, assuming the title of Shogun, he made the eastern city of Edo (now Tokyo) his power base, leaving the Emperor behind in Kyoto.

192 tozama daimyo : 外様大名 As KSR describes, these were the daimyo who were not previously allied with Ieyasu when he defeated Ishida's forces at Sekigahara. Ieyasu's allies, in contrast, were called fudai daimyo. It might be easy to misinterpret "the Tozama Daimyo" as being a single person's name; in fact this is a name for a group of daimyo.

193 Omura : Lord Omura Sumitada (In Japanese 大村; Christian name Bartolomeu; lived 1533-1587) was the first of the few Christian daimyo in Japan. He actively traded with other countries, opening ports in Yokoseura and Nagasaki to Portuguese ships. Considering that in KSR's history most of the Christians have been wiped out, one can imagine that while much of Asian history will remain unchanged, Omura's life will be significantly different. He would still be around seventy years old when he makes the treaty with the Wanli to open his ports to the Chinese.

194 Hokkaido : 北海道 The northernmost of Japan's four main islands. This name was actually given to the island in the early Meiji period (1868-), and it would have been called Ezo 蝦夷 (home of the Emishi, or Ainu) at the time of this chapter. However, as we'll see later, this many not be a mistake; the Japanese may have taken the island from the native Ainu sooner in KSR's world and renamed it sooner.

194 Dahai : 太海 Chinese "great ocean".

194 Annam : 安南 An area in central Vietnam; it seems that KSR is using it to refer to Vietnam as a whole.

195 Kublai Khan's two attempts at invading Nippon : The Mongol warlord attempted to conquer Japan in the 1270s, but his fleet was turned back by high winds. The Japanese came to call these gusts kamikaze, or "divine winds".

203 Miwok : The Coast Miwok traditionally lived on the land north of San Francisco; "Miwok" means "people" in their language.

215 "The palace above the city was huge" : This is probably Pachacamac, a preeminent religious center of pre-Colombian Peru. It was integrated into the Inca Empire in the 15th century AD.

218 super-Fujis : Mt. Fuji 富士山 is Japan's tallest mountain, at 3776 meters.

227 wu ya : In Chinese, 五鴨. I don't know if the Miwok words for this and the next one are correct or not.

227 Peng-zu : A Shang Dynasty official who is said to have lived for 800 years. China's equivalent of Methuselah.

232 qi : 気. In this case, "spirit". Later this word's meaning will expand to include electricity.


  • (p.205-206: Kheim experiences terrestrial paradise)
  • (p.233: Kheim’s description of America like Marco Polo’s description of China)