Page 51. " I remember her reading to me from a book called Don Quixote "
Don Quixote
Public DomainDon Quixote - Credit: Gustave Doré                              

The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha (Spanish: El ingenioso hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha) is a renowned Spanish novel by Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616), set during the Golden Age of Spain. The story of a deluded country gentleman who comes to believe he is a romantic knight, it is a multi-layered satire on the popular fiction of the time. 

The book is in two parts, published a decade apart. It is one of the most influential pieces of literature in Spanish culture and tradition.


Don Quixote on Book Drum

Page 51. " you only need say the name, Zang Xiang, to smell the subtle, refined fragrances "
Shrine offerings candles and incense
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeShrine offerings candles and incense - Credit: Secretlondon

Zang Xiang is an incense, originating in Tibet. It is made from hundreds of woods, such as rosewood and willow, as well as many indigenous flowers, and flakes of gold, silver and other valuable metals.

It is famous for its unique effect on memory.



Page 51. " the Albanian Communist leader Enver Hoxha "
Enver Hoxha 1971
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeEnver Hoxha 1971 - Credit: Forrásjelölés Hasonló

 Enver Hoxha was the leader of Albania from the advent of World War II until his death in 1985.

He was best known for his anti-revisionist Marxism-Leninism ideology. He also was an admirer of Joseph Stalin. Hoxha and Mao formed a relationship based on the purity of their interpretation of Marxism. China and Albania formed important trade links, and Albania played a central role in lobbying for the People's Republic of China to take over the UN seat occupied by the Republic of China (Taiwan) in 1971.

Hoxha broke away from Maoism in 1976-1978, developing Hoxhaism

Page 51. " They went up in smoke "
Book Burning
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeBook Burning - Credit: Ryan Junell

Mao was not the first leader to resort to book burning. The first recorded book burning took place in 367 AD. Another period of intense book burning occurred during the Nazi regime. Leuven University Library in Belgium lost 900,000 books at this time.

Page 52. " his myopia was taken as a sign of physical deficiency "

Myopia is a condition of the eye in which the incoming light doesn't focus on the retina but in front of it. This means distant objects appear out of focus. Myopia can be corrected through the use of corrective lenses, or refractive surgery.

Myopia is partly hereditary.

Page 53. " the dull, dazed look of a Pekinese dog "

Also known as the "Lion" or "Pelchie" dog, the Pekinese is an ancient "toy breed" of dog indigenous to China. Pekinese dogs are characterized by their flat face and large eyes, and generally small stature. In Imperial China, Pekinese dogs held a privileged position in the Emperor's Court and were considered a status symbol in society. Chinese culture at the time featured many legends involving the supposed mystical powers of the breed.  


Pekinese Dog
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikePekinese Dog - Credit: Jon Radoff and Angela Bull
Page 53. " He seemed quite lost and stricken, even before he had hoisted the hod of rice onto his back "

Public DomainHod
A hod is a three-sided box used for carrying construction materials, such as mortar or bricks. It is carried over the shoulder with a long handle. If efficiently stacked, the only limit to the hod's capacity is how many bricks the hoddie can carry.

Page 57. " I had heard Napoleon mentioned "

Napoleon Bonaparte was a French leader during the late stages of the French Revolution. Napoleon is considered one of the greatest military minds of all time; he established hegemony over much of Europe and sought to spread the ideals of the French Revolution.

Napoleon was captured by the British following the Battle of Waterloo.  He died after being imprisoned on the island of Saint Helena for six years.

Page 57. " By the end of the day I was feeling quite at home in Nemours "
Ancien Hospice de Nemours
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeAncien Hospice de Nemours - Credit: Kurillos77

Nemours is a commune mainly populated by artists and intellectuals that stands in the north-central region of France.


Google Map


Page 57. " Even the part about magnetism and somnambulism struck me as credible and riveting "
The Somnambulist
Public DomainThe Somnambulist - Credit: John Everett Millais

 Somnambulism is a condition that causes people to be active while sleeping. Somnambulists may walk, eat, drink, clean, talk, or even drive while asleep. These activities occur most commonly while the somnambulist is dreaming, during the stage of deep sleep. Those affected do not tend to remember their actions.

Sleepwalking has been known to lead to extreme events including homicide. There are reports of an Australian woman who would sleepwalk and have sex with people unconsciously.

Page 60. " They’re the leaves of a ginkgo tree "
Ginkgo Biloba Leaves
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeGinkgo Biloba Leaves - Credit: James Field

Commonly known as the maidenhair tree, the ginkgo is unusual in having no close relations. Ginkgos are large trees, reaching over 100ft, with long, erratic branches. The leaves are unique among seed plants: they are fan-shaped, with veins extending to the end but never interlocking.

The tree is famous for being tough and tenacious. Ginkgo trees were among the few living things still alive after the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.


Ginkgo biloba
Creative Commons AttributionGinkgo biloba - Credit: Jean-Pol GRANDMONT

Page 61. " we kept our promise and returned Ursule Mirouët to her rightful owner "

Ursule Mirouët is one of the less well known novels of Honoré de Balzac. It belongs to his series of short stories and novels, La Comédie humaine.

Ursule is the niece of Doctor Minoret and the daughter of his deceased brother-in-law. Ursule is raised by Dr. Minoret as his own daughter, and he plans to leave her much of his fortune when he dies. His other heirs do not take kindly to this decision, however, leading to much conspiracy and a great deal of analysis of French inheritance law.






Page 63. " They're huge, the lice on that god-awful cliff. "
Head Lice
Public DomainHead Lice - Credit: CDC/ Dr. Dennis D. Juranek

Lice are parasitic, wingless insects. 3,000 different species have been identified to date. Three of them are classified as human disease agents: head lice, body lice, and pubic lice. These can be killed and treated through use of combs, shampoo, and medical preparations.

Page 66. " It was an exact copy of the jacket worn by Chairman Mao "
Public DomainMao - Credit: charvex

The “Mao suit” was designed by Sun Zhongshan in the early 20th century and was modeled on German military dress.

Following the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949, the suit became widely worn by government leaders as a symbol of proletarian unity and as the Eastern counterpart to the Western business suit. It was also introduced in other communist countries in Asia.

It has largely fallen out of use now.

Mao suit
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeMao suit - Credit: Chrislb

Page 67. " Don't you speak Mandarin? "
Map of Chinese Dialects
Creative Commons AttributionMap of Chinese Dialects - Credit: Language Atlas of China

There are over forty dialects of the Chinese language. Words are pronounced quite differently, and are subject to different grammar structures. Thus, knowing one dialect of Chinese does not guarantee understanding of another.

The official dialect is Mandarin, or Putonghua, chosen for its more pleasant intonation. Other popular dialects include, Cantonese (Hong Kong) Taiwanese (Taiwan) and Shanghainese (Shanghai).



Page 67. " in a dense forest of bamboo "

Bamboo Forest
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeBamboo Forest - Credit: Kamakura
Bamboo forests are common throughout southeast regions of Asia. Bamboo grows very rapidly, unlike hardwood trees. A national park with a famous bamboo forest is found in the Sichuan province, where the book is set.

Page 70. " he hurried over to a rattan basket and drew out a calabash "

 Calabash, or Lagenaria siceraria, is a vine also known as the bottle gourd, opo squash or long melon. The fruit can be hollowed and dried for use as a container.

Rattan woven chair
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeRattan woven chair - Credit: Chris 73 / Wikimedia Commons
Rattan is a type of palm. The leaves and stems are used to make wicker baskets.

Page 71. " three pairs of chopsticks "

Chopsticks are widely used in China, Taiwan, Japan, and the Koreas. They originated in Imperial China as an alternative to knives and other more dangerous utensils. Today, the Chopstick industry is one of the most lucrative in the world, with products made not only from wood, but also metal, plastic and ceramics.


Chopsticks (240 * 84)
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeChopsticks


Page 71. " The platter was heaped with small, ordinary-looking pebbles in varying shades of grey and green, and the bowl contained clear water which sparkled in the light of the lamp oil. "
Jade Dumplings
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeJade Dumplings - Credit: Pornchai Mittongtare

This represents 'Jade Dumplings'.

Although the 'dumplings' used by the old man were not real dumplings, or even edible for that matter, the dish is a popular one. The recipe consists of soy sauce, sesame oil, green onion, and rice vinegar for the sauce; and ginger, garlic, asparagus, whole water chestnuts, sesame oil, green onion, soy sauce, and salt for the dumplings.

Page 72. " he went down to stop the grindstone turning "
configuration 1
Creative Commons Attribution Share Alikeconfiguration 1 - Credit: Doron

Grindstones, commonly called millstones, are ingenious devices once used in almost all parts of Europe and Asia for grinding grain into flour.  Typically circular, they were often made from burrstone, limestone, or sandstone.                

configuration 2
Creative Commons Attributionconfiguration 2 - Credit: David Shankbone