Li Bo (pronounced, “lee bwo,” he is also known as Li Bai, 701-762 C.E.)—China’s most famous poet was said to be from its far distant Western Regions, possibly of Persian origins. A brilliant poet, wanderer, drinker, womanizer, and Daoist adept, his impulsiveness and reliance on the wine cup constantly complicated his life. Our story finds him in the mid-fifth decade of his life on the way to exile in the far southwestern border region of the Chinese empire.
Wang Ah Wu (known as Ah Wu)—Li Bo’s closest companion is of Turkish origins. He was a frontier guard in the imperial army, a legendary crossbowman known as the “Steel Talon.” He is fiercely loyal to Li Bo.
Old Zhou—Li Bo’s boatman for the last ten years. His knowledge of the rivers and lakes ofChina opened an inspiring world for Li’s poetic gift.
Luo Jhu-yun—A young and powerful Chinese shamaness. She is Grand Shamaness to the Chinese Emperor Xuan-zong. After saving the emperor from an assassin, she has escaped the intrigues of the imperial court and now seeks the “purity” ofMountWu’s solitudes and the service of its Rain Goddess.
The Lady of the Purple Vault—A powerful Daoist Immortal. She is the spirit contact to the Shamaness Luo and the servant ofMountWu’s powerful Rain Goddess. Li Bo tends to refer to her as the “Purple Immortal.”
Ma Ssu-ming—A “wandering blade.” A young, Chinese expert swordsman who claims to be a musician and drinker by trade. He is on a secret mission from the Emperor to return the Shamaness Luo to the imperial court.
Lao-huang—A drunken monkey. Ma Ssu-ming’s talented pet that he claims to be his teacher in the art of ghost catching.
The Blood Dragon—A creature of traditional Chinese legend along the Yangtze River, said to be the immature form of a dragon. Lacking a fully formed dragon’s grace and beneficial spirit, it feeds on human blood and enslaves its victims as ghosts. In water, it has the appearance of an alligator. However, it is on land among humans that it assumes its most horrific form.
Chen Shao-lin—An attractive golden-haired, green-eyed female ghost, originally from the Central Asian land of Sogdiana (present day Uzbekistan). Killed by the Blood Dragon and transformed into a ghost, she is used by the monster to lure men to their death and enslavement.
The Albino Swordsman—An assassin of unknown origins. A deadly and ruthless eunuch sent by the emperor’s enemies to kill Grand Shamaness Luo. Using a magic Tibetan black pearl, he can will himself into his victims’ dreams and kill them in their sleep.
Su-lu—the fierce qughan (khan or chief) and one of the greatest early leaders of the Tügiś confederation of Turks in Central Asia; also known to the Arabs as Abû Muzâhim (“Father of the Competition”). He was Ah Wu’s frequent rival in the wars of that region; and was murdered by his own tribesmen in 738 C.E.
Hsiang Goddess—the mythical female ruler of the Hsiang River, Lake Dong-ting, and the central region of the Yangtze River. One of the greatest water goddesses of Chinese culture.
Tang Dynasty—618-907 C.E., considered one ofChina’s greatest golden ages. Chinese power controlled or influenced most of East andCentral Asia during this period.
Chang’an—present day Xian, once the grand imperial capital of the Tang Dynasty.
Long River—Changjiang or Yangtze River is the longest river in Asia and third longest in the world.
Xia-zhou—pronounced “sha-joe,” is the main Long River port before entering the Three Gorges on the way into Sichuan province.
Daoism/Dao—the native Chinese religion/philosophy that is frequently spelled “Taoism,” as its central concept of the Way is frequently spelled “Tao,” but pronounced “Dao.”
The Dragon Pool Sword—A mythical Chinese weapon reputed to possess awe-inspiring power. Its exact nature, however, is rightly the substance of conflicting legends.