War Of The Asuras

War Of The Asuras is Book 8 of the novel The Years Of Rice And Salt.


Kuo, Bai and Iwa are officers in the Chinese army during the Long War. They are friends and discuss everything against the crazy backdrop of an endless war; campaigns pass by and life becomes a blur. A bomb kills Kuo; Bai and Iwa start doubting whether they are in the real world or a war-ravaged bardo, war having conquered all. They move through China, Tibet, down to India where they join forces with various Indians against the Muslims. At the site of a destroyed Bodhi Tree, Kuo appears to Bai, full of sorrow for how bad things have turned out despite (or because of) his actions in past lives.

World history



  • B : Bai, officer in the Chinese Army
  • K : Kuo, Major in the Chinese Army
  • I : Iwa, officer in the Chinese Army

Thesaurus & Encyclopaedia

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

552 Kuo, Bai, Iwa : Kuo 郭 is the most common; Bai 白 means "white" or 柏 "oak tree", and Iwa 岩 is a Japanese reading of the character for "rock". Iwa by itself is a rare name in Japan in our world, though it's often combined with other things as in "Iwata" (rock field), "Iwase" (rock shallows), etc., perhaps we can imagine Japanese people taking Chinese-style surnames when China conquered Japan in KSR's universe. The majority of Japanese lacked surnames until the 1800s in our world. (Keep in mind also that there are very few Chinese names that begin with I. Until now, KSR has been using given names when he needs a Chinese "I".)

553 water zero degrees : Presumably the Chinese have developed a temperature scale in which water's freezing point is zero, as it is in the Celsius scale.

553 qisphere : The novel uses qi (Chinese 気; pronounced "ki" in Japanese) to mean electricity. The qisphere is the medium which allows radio communication, the atmosphere or stratosphere.

559 Peng-zu : The same Peng-zu who supposedly lived eight hundred years, described by I-Chin to Butterfly in the Ocean Continents chapter.

565 Chomolungma : The Tibetan name for what we call Mount Everest, which at 8848 meters (29,030 feet) is the tallest mountain in the world.

565 second tallest, which is a peak in Afghanistan : This is K2, 8611 metres (28,251 ft) tall. It is currently on the border between China and Pakistan (Afghanistan lies further east).

566 Nangpa La : A pass through the Himalayas, near Cho Oyu (see below).

568 Cho Oyu : Another huge mountain in the Himalayas; 8201 meters (26,906 feet) tall. Also spelled Cho Oyo.

569 Dudh Kosi : A river in the Himalayas.

577 Bodhi Tree : The tree where the first Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, was enlightened around 600 BC. It has been damaged and burned many times, but its descendants live on as saplings were taken to Sri Lanka in the third century BC (Anuradhapura), and later brought back to Bodh Gaya, where it stands today. Much earlier, Bold and Kyu visit Lanka and talk about this tree (p. 38).


  • (p.573-574: Bai wonders what do they fight for)
  • (p.578-580: Kuo visits Bai again, guns as source of endless trouble)