A Few Stray Worldbuilding Thoughts

Tired last night, so… some stray bits I hope to expand on later.

First, cultures of walled cities versus cultures with castles. Discuss.

Granted plenty of cultures with walled cities also had castles. But not all. From at least 221 BC on, China didn’t. Fortified villages, yes, a few. Castles, no. Even the fortifications of nobles and magistrates inside a city were just smaller walled city divisions, not independent fortresses. The city walls were strong, but if you took them, you had the city.

Which is interesting, because just over the border in Korea, just as dedicated to Confucianism (if not more so after the Manchu conquest), there are hundreds of castles. Which… I have the sneaking suspicion fits along with, Korean culture never completely threw over nobles for government officials, and had a recurring tendency to break out in Righteous Militias any time it was invaded. You could say Chinese walled cities are an expression of “the group lives or dies together”. While castles give the impression of, “okay, some of us died, the rest of us are going to make you so sorry you did that….”

Second – when it comes to writing, information is where you find it. Seriously. I’m currently reading Flowering Plums & Curio Cabinets, by Sunglim Kim. It’s an art history book analyzing two painting genres in later (1700s on) Joseon Korea. It also has a considerable amount of info on Seoul in that era: what various social classes there were, who lived in which parts of the city, and how (for example) medical doctors couldn’t live on their salary but were allowed to sell medicines in one specific area. It may be a century later than when I was aiming, but with a little tweaking, I can use this.

Art history. Not what you’d think of first for worldbuilding. Yet amazingly useful.

Just a couple thoughts of interest!


18 thoughts on “A Few Stray Worldbuilding Thoughts

  1. Art history should actually be a very fertile world build, now that you’ve mentioned it. Because art is what happens during times of abundance, and it tends to end up preserved. Huh. The content of the set can tell you a lot about society as well.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. I once casually mentioned online that French lords often had the right of private justice up to the Revolution, high, middle, or low according to what punishment they could inflict.

    A writer who had already published books in that era said — so that’s what signorial justice means.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. In my favorite history class in college the professor brought in architecture and art as part of the lecture and it added quite a bit more depth to his lecture, including discussing how some of the art was viewed back then. It was fascinating.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I watched a program on Disney+ that was about the Knights Templar in the city of Acre. That was interesting because Acre was a walled city, with multiple fortresses/castles within it— and they didn’t all belong to the same groups. Acre is a city in the holy land and ownership/guardian ship was hotly contested and fought over. The knights only had dominion over part/half of the city. Their fortresses also had a few escape routes in them if they needed to send off a few of them with their treasures just in case.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It wasn’t just Isreal that had something like this. It also happened in Italy in the city of Bologna (and quite a few other Italian cities). To the point that the Medival illustrations of them look like… modern city skylines with skyscrapers…

      Liked by 2 people

  5. It’s also a constant theme in Korean history of Korea being invaded by outside forces (China and Japan especially). If invasion is something a country is constantly dealing with, then maintaining a way to keep a city from being fully occupied after it first gets occupied becomes a lot more of a priority.

    As often as I see “invasion” stories in Korean narratives (outside force tries to upset status quo)… I rarely see it in Chinese literature. There’s a lot more “people lower in the power pyramid trying to upset it so they’re on top (or so that they *stay* on top)” in Chinese stories… without some outside force giving them the idea/capital to do so. It winds up feeling like Chinese narratives revolve around more “homegrown” conflicts than Korean narratives do as a result.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. a ‘china is the center of the world’
      b the last two dynasties could not really afford to allow people to think too deeply about the implications of the level of foreign support
      c castles are expensive, and perhaps are a security issue for set of empires like China. There are things the emperor wouldn’t want,t hat would align to castles.
      d castles do things that don’t really matter, if you basically don’t worry about loss of life

      Liked by 3 people

    2. There’s plenty of invasions in the warring kingdoms types of periods. What you normally get is North vs. South, or stuff like that. Or you get “X Chinese kingdom is designated as being kinda barbarianish”, but a lot of times it gets translated as the guy being a duke and not a separate king. For whatever reason. Even if there’s no empire ruling all the kingdoms at that time.

      Also a lot of the paranoia about various ethnic groups in Chinese history is about “these guys were invaders at some point,” possibly with a helping of “We don’t want to think about their semi-successful invasion, or the fact that it stuck for several centuries.”

      And the Manchu, of course. OMG, the Manchu.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. *Fervent nod re Manchu* Seriously, ouch. Some say, “well, at least they stopped footbinding!” No, historically, they did not….

        There are reasons I had to figure out how to aim Nurhaci away from where my poor isekai guy is finding his feet! If he attacks a couple years later than RL, okay….


  6. Castles/hillforts are nice, but a lot of Chinese hills are not terribly convenient to live on.

    OTOH, lots of Chinese people historically lived in caves and cave complexes. Which is great if you don’t have a lot of earthquakes in that same area, and is probably very defensible. Most of the governments really hated cavedwelling groups, and even monks/Taoists/hermits in caves, possibly for that reason.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Did China lack good building stone? I know they were using earthworks when Europe was heavy on stone-built.

    It made them less vulnerable to cannon (even though they invented it) but you can’t build the walls as high, so you are more vulnerable to escalade (also known as “throwing up ladders and climbing”), and you need more men to cope with that. When cannon were introduced to Europe, it not only led to a change in the castle type (when you reduced a stone castle, you then destroyed it so you didn’t have to bring your cannon back to do it again), but also helped in the consolidation and state-building because there were a lot fewer fortresses.


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