The universe of ‘Takuan’s Adventures’ is built as most fairy-tale universes are. It follows the Vedic tradition, where the Universe — Trailokya — is divided into three parts: Urdhva loka (heavens), Madhya Loka (human realm), and Adho Loka (infernal regions).
The Christian Universe follows the same pattern of Heaven, Earth, and Hell. The tripartite structure is also characteristic of the German-Scandinavian cosmogonic geography (Asgard, Midgard, Hel). Greek, Indo-Iranian, Roman, and Celtic cosmologies are all structured in the same way, as shown by Mircea Eliade.
Three worlds are presented in ‘Takuan’s Adventures’ as well: Heavenly, Under, and Earthen Realms. Sometimes Under Realm is referenced as Bottom Realm, and Earthen Realm — as Middle Realm.
Below you find a short overview of all three realms, but if you want to map every location mentioned in the books, you must visit this page: Places of ‘Takuan from Koto.’
The highest (or holiest) place is called the Heavenly Realm or the Heavens. It’s inhabited by gods and immortal celestials. Only those who taste the Peaches of Immortality can enter the Heavens; those peaches grow on the sacred Mount Gunlun. The celestials themselves can travel between the Heavenly and Middle Realms relatively easily, preferring dragons of all means of transportation.
The most important place in the Heavenly Realm is the palace of the Jade Emperor, The Supreme Ruler of All Three Worlds. This palace is truly huge; in its endless rooms, you can find anything from the imperial chambers to an anchovy warehouse. Being the residence of the Jade Emperor, the palace is also called Jade Palace.
Around the palace are multiple gardens, lakes, and the dwellings of other gods. As you move away from the Jade Palace, the Heavens lose their shape, gradually turning into a Heavenly Sea full of cloudy white mist.
If the Heavenly Realm is the highest world, then the Under Realm is the lowest (or infernal). It loosely follows the concept of Naraka, the Indo-Buddhist hells. According to some schools of Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism, Naraka is a place of torment.
In Buddhism, Naraka refers to the world of greatest suffering. Though the term is often translated as ‘hell,’ unlike the Abrahamic hells, Naraka isn’t eternal, though when a timescale is given, it’s suggested to be extraordinarily long.
Naraka is a realm in the Hindu Vedas, a place where souls are sent for the expiation of their sins. Some Upanishads speak of ‘darkness’ instead of Hell. ‘Laws of Maru’ list twenty-one, and the ‘Vishnu Purana’ list twenty-eight departments of Naraka.
In Chinese tradition, the realm of the dead is called Diyu. It’s loosely based on a combination of the Buddhist concept of Naraka, traditional Chinese beliefs about the afterlife, and a variety of popular expansions and reinterpretations of these two traditions. The concept parallels purgatory in certain Christian denominations.
Diyu is typically depicted as a subterranean maze with various levels and chambers, to which souls are taken after death to atone for the sins they committed when they were alive. The exact number of levels in Diyu and their associated deities differ between Buddhist and Taoist interpretations (from three to twenty-four with as many as 96800 hells on them). All of them are ruled by King Yama or King Yan Wang.
In the Japanese Buddhist tradition, the underworld is sometimes called Jigoku, and its ruler is the god Emma Dai Ō. Jigoku hells go deep to the very bottom of the Earth.
It’s only possible to get to the Under Realm posthumously, and it’s impossible to get out without help. The only exception is made for its ruler, Yanwang, to whom the gods granted the power to visit the Under Realm freely. But, during the Great Storm, Yanwang Umma-ö was torn apart by angry weredemons. Thus, he found himself a prisoner of his own domain.
The world in which ordinary mortals dwell is located between the Heavenly and Under Realm and is therefore sometimes called the Middle Realm. It matches our reality quite well, deviating from it only in some minor places.
The only major difference between the Earthen Realm and our Earth is the sea level. As a result of the Great Storm, oceans rose by several hundred meters, and many territories were submerged underwater.
Almost all of South America went to the sea bottom: only a narrow chain of the Andes and a swampy Brazil island remained. North and Central America had better luck. What was left of them was called Mexamerica. A small amount of snow and ice is preserved in the very north of it, the land called Auyasku.
The two hottest and most deserted continents: Africa and Australia, didn’t submerge, but it became impossible to live there. The same thing happened with the Arabian Peninsula, which—together with the territories of Iran and Afghanistan—is called the Augaitanu desert.
Most of the European part of the Eurasian continent has gone under. The territories of Spain, Italy, and France (the heart of modern Western civilisation) are united in the Kingdom of Blue Flowers (from where the namesake prince comes).
The Kingdom of Blue Flowers and the rest of the Eurasian territories northwest of the Himalayas are called the country of Yurasiu. Sorcerers live in this country, and among them are the insidious Bing Lieu and the unfortunate Bricabrac.
South Asia also lost part of its land and, in return, received a new name — Chinayindu. Most of the ‘Takuan’s Adventures’ happen there.
Takuan himself was born in the village of Koto, which is located in the Principality of Four Rivers. The capital of the principality is the city of Surin. A namesake town can also be found on a modern map of the Earth. It resides in the heart of Thailand, east of Bangkok.
Recently, Bangkok has regained its historical name: Krung Thep Maha Nakhon. In the Earthen Realm, our heroes turn more than once in the direction of Kruitep, a large namesake city.
The cities of Bijin (Beijing) and Mandalay are easy to find on a modern map. In Bijin, the palace of Amber Emperor stands, and Mandalay is a trading city known across Chinayindu.
In the first book of ‘Takuan’s Adventures,’ we learn about the sacred mountain Gunlun, on which stands the temple of the Goddess of the West. The very same temple appears in the Chinese tradition on Mount Kunlun; on modern maps, Kunlun is a mountain range found near the Himalayas.
Takuan’s monastery is located on Mount White. Soliang of the second book travels through similarly named monasteries: Brocade Mountain, Mount Blue, and Golden Peak.
The prototype of Mount White is the Vietnamese Khao Na; for the Brocade Mountain — Chinese Danxia. The Golden Peak is Mount Omei, also Chinese. Mount Blue is located in the territory of Myanmar and corresponds to the Phawngpui mountain.
If you want to learn more about the monasteries, you must read this page: Monasteries.
Knowing about all these parallels, it’s easy to imagine that the events of ‘Takuan’s Adventures’ take place not in some fictional world but on Earth itself.
A question immediately arises: is the Earthen Realm the distant past of the real Earth, is it in some alternative reality, or perhaps, is the Earthen Realm the future of ours? An inquisitive reader will find the answer to this question on the pages of other Anno Ruini novels.