Timeline of The Years Of Rice And Salt

This is a Timeline for the events in the novel The Years Of Rice And Salt.

Based on the Timeline compiled by Mark Rosa in 2004 (Original timeline here, offline since 2009). Page numbers from the US paperback edition.

Comments on the calendars

There are at least three calendars being used in thes story. One is the Chinese imperial calendar which numbers years by giving the name of the emperor and the year of his reign. This system, which ended with the inception of the republic in 1911, had supposedly been in use for over 4500 years, dating back to the first emperor. While modern documents might give the year as 4702, etc., the Chinese in fact did not count all the years up this way. Rather, they used 60-year cycles in which the twelve animals of the zodiac rotated with the ten celestial elements. This calendar is lunar and leap months are added as necessary.

Another is the lunar Hegira (or Hijra) calendar, which counts lunar years (354 or 355 days long) since Mohammed immigrated from Mecca to Medina in September of AD 622. The first day of the first month (Muharram) was then assigned, based on the first appearance of a crescent moon, to September 16, AD 622. Because no leap months are allowed, the months rotate through the seasons, and conversions between the Christian and Islamic calendars are not trivial. This is the one I'll use when I say 'AH'.

In an effort to rectify this, a solar Muslim calendar was introduced in Iran around the 16th century AD. This system counts the solar years since the Hegira, and is very easy to calculate if you're familiar with the Christian calendar. Just subtract 621 from the Gregorian year. Despite its relatively minor status, this seems to be the calendar that KSR uses the most, even with characters unfamiliar with Iran. For example, AH 784 in this calendar corresponds to AH 807 in the conventional lunar reckoning.

While the Christian calendar is barely mentioned in the story, it might be worthwhile to note that with Pope Gregory presumably never living, the 11-day adjustment to the Julian calendar, carried out at various times in the Christian world (1752 in England and colonies) will presumably not occur for the few Christians of KSR's world.


Events and people existing in both KSR's world and ours are in italic.

Book Year (AD) Year Event
I 1405 AH 807 Temur's army chooses to attack the Franks in western Europe, rather than China. A scout party, including Bold and Psin, finds eastern Europe decimated by plague. They return to the Mongol camp, and as Temur prepares to kill Bold and Psin in punishment, his tent is struck by lightning, killing him.
Summer 1405   Bold wanders south through Greece and is picked up by slave traders. He is sold to another trader and then to Zheng He's fleet.
1405-1407   Zheng He's treasure fleet completes its voyage and returns to China.
1406 Yongle 5 Zhu Di, the Yongle Emperor, begins constructing a new capital at Beijing.
1424 Yongle 23 The Yongle Emperor dies and is succeeded by his son, the Hongxi.
II 1571 AH 979 Akbar, Emperor of the Mughals, constructs his capital of Fatepur Sikri.
Sep 1573 AH 981 Akbar's forces defeat insurgents at Ahmadabad, bringing Gujarat back to his empire.
After 1573   Bistami's caravan passes through the Maghrib to Europe.
1579 AH 987 Sultan Mawji Darya of Baraka is killed.
III & V 1597 Wanli 25 (C); Keicho 2 (J) Japanese general Toyotomi Hideyoshi makes his second attempt to conquer China through Korea. A joint Chinese-Korean force repels him, bankrupting the Wanli's treasury.
1600   Tokugawa Ieyasu defeats rival shoguns at the Battle of Sekigahara and unites Japan under his rule.
Feb 1610 Wanli 38 A Chinese expedition, led by General Kheim, sets off to conquer Japan.
1610-1611 Wanli 38-39 The Kheim expedition, blown off course, splits in two, with some ships rowing back to China and the rest sailing to the American continents, meeting the Miwok and Inca.
Sep 1611 Wanli 39 The three remaining Great Ships of Kheim's fleet return to China, laden with Inca gold.
After 1611   Peng, a member of Kheim's expedition, remains behind with a Miwok woman. They wander east across the continent, stumbling on the Council of the Five Nations in our upstate New York. Daganoweda helps the Five Nations form their league-based system of government; Peng shows them how to use scabs to prevent disease.
IV 1641 AH 1051 Samarqandi inventor Khalid attempts to deceive the khan and has his hand cut off in punishment by Abdul Aziz Khan. He recovers and, with his partners Iwang and Bahram, contributes to the flowering of another renaissance in Samarqand. The speed of sound is successfully measured, and Iwang discovers the law of gravitation.
1644 Chongzhen 18 The Manchus conquer much of China and take over the throne in Beijing. Around this time, plague sweeps through Samarqand, killing many inhabitants. We might also assume that this is when China begins raiding the Inka lands for their gold.
V ca. 1720-1740   Around this time, Japanese ronin Busho, also known as Fromwest, wanders eastward across the North American continent (Yingzhou) and becomes a Hodenosaunee chief. He warns the Hodenosaunee of the Chinese and Islamic invaders on either side of the continent.
1722-1735 Yungcheng Chinese armies successfully conquer Japan.
ca. 1740   Japanese emigrants to Yingzhou, fleeing their Chinese conquerors, settle on the west coast and join forces with the native population.
VI 1776 Qianlong 42 Widow Kang Tongbi marries visiting scholar Ibrahim ibn Hasam; they move together to Lanzhou in western China.
1777 Qianlong 43 The Jahriyas revolt in Gansu. Kang contributes to Ibrahim's "Mohammad Meets Confucius", "Commentary on the Doctrine of the Great Cycle of History", and other works. Ibrahim in turn contributes to Kang's "Treatise on the History of the Women of Hunan".
Mar 1778 Qianlong 44 Flooding in Lanzhou. Later this year, a child is born to Kang and Ibrahim.
1794 Qianlong 60 Ibrahim and Kang publish the "Reconciliation of the Philosophies of Lu Zhi and Ma Mingxin". Probably around this time or somewhat later, Ibrahim writes "Wealth and the Four Great Inequalities".
VII ca. 1826 ca. AH 1241 The Janissary corps, an army in the Ottoman Empire, revolts against the sultan, and many menbers are executed. (In our world, the sultan who suppresses them is Mahmud II; here it is Selim III.)
1828 AH 1243 Travancore forces led by the Kerala invade Konstantiyye, forcing Sultan Selim III to retreat to Europe. His doctor, Ismail ibn-Mani al-Dir, is requested by the Indian conquerors to report to Travancore.
ca. 1841   The Kerala is assassinated.
1861 Xianfeng 12 Several months of heavy rains in Fangzhang lead to flooding. Japanese secret societies there work for their homeland's independence.
1895 Guangxu 21 Muslims in southern China stage a revolt, which is quickly suppressed.
ca. 1914 AH 1333 Another Muslim revolt in western China leads to a war between the Qing dynasty and the Muslim states in central Asia. Islamic armies invade north India and eastern Yingzhou, bringing both those lands into a world war.
VIII 1923   An earthquake strikes Edo, the seat of Japan's shogun, presumably damaging the occupying Chinese government. Japan revolts against China and gains its independence.
ca. 1975 ca. AH 1395 Kuo, Bai, and Iwa fight in the trenches of the Gansu Corridor as the Islam-China war remains a stalemate. Muslim forces are ousted from Yingzhou in a naval battle. China's Fourth Assemblage of Military Talent resorts to increasingly desperate measures to continue fighting.
IX 1980 AH 1400 The Shanghai Conference ends the Long War. Punitive reparations are imposed on the losing Muslim nations.
2002 AH 1423 (I); Year 1 A scientific conference is held in Isfahan, Iran, where scholars and historians exhibit the range of human knowledge; much is learned about the current state of the world. Idelba's discoveries regarding atomic fission are revealed to the scientific community.
X 2030 Year 29 Bao Xinhua meets revolutionary Kung Jianguo; together they work to liberate China from the oppressive military government.
2034 Year 33 Riots in China turn into civil war; the Fifth Assemblage of Military Talent is overthrown.
2037 Year 36 The Forbidden City in Beijing is reopened to the public after four decades; philosopher Zhu Isao gives a speech as the revolutionary forces enter unopposed, but Kung Jianguo is assasinated. Bao leaves China behind to wander the world as a diplomat.
ca. 2075 ca. Year 74 Bao accepts a professorship position and moves to Fangzhang, where he teaches history and contemplates humanity.
2088 AH 1511 (I); Year 87 K returns to struggle towards nirvana as Bao continues his rumination and teaching.


(click to see larger version)

Map by Commdore

The world in AH 1423 (2002 AD), at the end of Book IX

     I. Yingzhou
     II. Inka
     III. Firanja
     IV. Maghrib
     V. Sahel
     VI. Zanj
     VII. Ingoli
     VIII. Botswana
     IX. Skandistan
     X. Iran
     XI. Arabia
     XII. Greater Japan
     XIII. China
     XIV. Indian League
     XV. Burmese League
     XVI. Mindanao
     XVII. Aozhou
     XVIII. Maori


Map by QuantumBranching

The world in AH 1423 (2002 AD), at the end of Book IX


Map by Hibernian

A map of the world of the alternate history book "The Years of Rice and Salt", by Kim Stanley Robinson. This map is based on one from the book (which is credited to Jeffrey L. Ward), it shows the four main blocs or alliances on the eve of the "Long War" (specific date is 1333 AH or 1915 AD). This is not an exact copy of the map in the book, which is very different; being a hand drawn map which uses an unusual map projection. The borders are correct to the book, however some areas are not shown properly on the book's map and so I have had to interpolate a bit (i.e. the book's map does not show the Caribbean islands at all, so I have just chosen to assign them to Dar al-Islam as this seems the most logical based on the history contained in the novel).