Chung Kuo: The Expanded Universe

Since there’s been a lot of recent interest in the spin-off stories on this site, David has been extraordinarily generous by providing us with this detailed breakdown of all the planned stories in the Chung Kuo universe that aren’t included in the main sequence of novels. This “expanded universe,” as planned, is much bigger than I ever could have anticipated.

There’s a spoiler warning before the breakdown of each story’s plot – if you’re new to the series, I desperately urge you to heed the warning; these plot summaries are related to major plot points in the main sequence. For those who have read the original 8, this set of teasers will be a rare treat and a taste of things to come.

This also gives those of us working on the wiki a lot of articles to add!

Full text appears after the break.

And, as always, a major thank you to David for providing this wealth of supplemental material.




Okay. A lot of you have shown interest in Chung Kuo 2.01, or the spin-off stories. That’s great, and spurs me on to get the things written. But let me specify what I’ve got planned out, because – as it’s a Chung Kuo venture – it’s BIG. Okay. Here’s the details

Oh yeah, and this is the part that’ll make you think I’m totally batty, but…

There were whole parts of CHUNG KUO which, because of the way the story-lines developed, either couldn’t be used, or were things I decided not to pursue. But, going through all of the box files, I realised that what I had was a complete other take on CHUNG KUO – one which cuts right across the grain of the epic version. A future history, in fact, rather like Robert A Heinlein’s. That is, told through a series of stories (short and long), which, in their entirety, will give a whole new perspective on the world of CHUNG KUO.

In order, these are the stories – most of which are plotted out, and a number of which are already partly written.

  1. The Dragon In The Earth [2041]
  2. A Day Like This [2043]
  3. Bones. A Ghost Story [2050]
  4. The Last Days Of Summer [2060]
  5. Of Time And The Analects [2068]
  6. The Official [2090]
  7. Earthlight [2105]
  8. The Finding [2110]
  9. Voices [2129]
  10. Seven Times Seven [2144]
  11. Empires Of Contagion [2163]
  12. The Moon On High [2177]
  13. Filial Piety [2190]
  14. One Moment Of Bright Intensity [2196]
  15. The Endless Knot [2202]
  16. The Emperor’s New Clothes [2203]
  17. Clouds And Rain [2207]
  18. Black Stone, White [2208]
  19. A Debt Of Tears [2208]
  20. Dawn In Stone City [2210]
  21. Wan Wei [2211]
  22. The Girl Who Sold Wine [2213]
  23. The Tiger In The Darkness [2220]
  24. Blocks [2221]
  25. Flowers Burning [2222]
  26. The Path Through The Grassland [2227]
  27. Starlight And Brick Dust [2228]
  28. Shapeless And Without Form [2236]

One idea with these is to release them (the short novels on their own, the shorter stories in mini-anthologies of three or four) as e-books. I’m not going to write them in future date order, but they will be published like that – and not until the epic itself is seven or eight volumes in. Well… that was the plan, but now we’re going to release some as ‘teasers’ for the main sequence volumes before they come out. I’ll also give Matt a few to run here on this web-site. The first of those will be “Paperhouse”, not listed on the above, or mentioned below in the “What’s in them?” section of this, mainly because it’s still quite liquid in my imagination. I reckon I might even have something like 40 stories eventually – but let’s look at things as they’re planned right now. Oh and…

SPOILER WARNING!!! If you don’t want to know what each story is about, go down to the end of this to see the line-up of volumes.

So. What are these stories about? Okay. Here goes –

[1] The Dragon In The Earth [2041] [PARTLY WRITTEN]

A short novel about a team of young Chinese ‘sleepers’, pretending to be ordinary College students in a backwater university, but whose real task is to hack into the local infrastructure (totally disabling it), as well as take over the local nuclear silo and prevent the missiles from launching. It’s completely plotted, and ready to write, and I estimate it’ll be 60-80,000 words. The heroine of the tale is May Feng, who begins to have serious doubts, partway through, as to whether what they’re doing is morally right. But this opener plays heavily on that streak of paranoia we all have about China’s emergence as a super-power and where it’s leading.

[2] A Day Like This [2043]

A brief story about how Tsao Ch’un, the great dictator, took out the other members of the politburo. This is his day – a day which is, historically, perhaps the most significant ever. Ends with the ruthless killing of all those we have seen looking after him, many of whom are spies and traitors, working for The Nine. He deals with them one by one, exacting what he calls “the justice of an emperor”. Ironically, Later that same day, Tsao Ch’un uses the other bosses assassination scene scenes from The Godfather 2 as his modus operandi.

[3] Bones. A Ghost Story ‘[2050]

The story of how a simple Western family became “unprotected”. How they “fell”. There are two story strands – one set in a much happier past, and one in the present and showing how the mother (the only one left) survives in this brutal new world. How her children and husband and mother are all ghosts now. How, driven mad by all that has happened to her, she keeps their polished bones and talks to them. And then there’s a raid and she is raped and beaten… and left to die. We share her final thoughts. How pleased she is to finally let go. To surrender.

[4] The Last Days Of Summer [2060]

A novelette, linked directly to SON OF HEAVEN, about when Annie was still alive and things were well for Jake Reed and his son Peter. A story about how the illness came among them – the “Sweeping Plague” as they called it, and carried so many away with it. A sentimental story with moments of brutality and savagery.

[5] Of Time And The Analects [2068]

A story about memories and conditioning. A daughter who is plagued by dreams. And a man – our central character – who is merely trying hard to keep his family together as the world changes. The dark secret of the lost son who opposed Tsao Ch’un’s system and was crushed by it. Something never to be spoken of. In the face of great evil, this is the story of a man trying to be virtuous and follow the lessons of the Analects. A story about the suppression of what one really is. How the path to enlightenment can become the rocky road to madness.

[6] The Official [2090]

The story of a (Hung Mao) man in the great new World of Levels, who is falsely accused of not paying his rent, though he knows he has paid it and even has a receipt. How the Han official dealing with the man’s life has total control over him. Things escalate. Eventually the man finds himself in a special camp, undergoing “integration”. And at the end we have a final glimpse of the official’s home-life. Hen-pecked by his mean little wife. A small man, living a small life. A sour little man, disappointed and unimaginative. Not knowing or understanding the damage he regularly does to others.

[7] Earthlight [2105]

Set on Mars as the Han build one of their new domed cities. Our heroin (a Han) looks across the barren surface of Mars towards Earth, which is low in the sky. The Seven send an imperial fleet to subdue the new colonies. It is a tale of resentment, anger, violence and revolution. Also of corruption and ambition. And in the midst of it, simple kindness.

[8] The Finding [2110]

A man on the Plantations finds a buried box, containing several objects from the Old World. Stuff that is illicit, including an old- bible. Looking at these items, he reassesses the world he lives in. He has no memory at all of the world that existed, and when he introduces this stuff to his close friends and family, it has the effect of corrupting them. Someone talks and the Ministry finds out. The story ends with six corpses hanging from a gibbet – two infants among them.

[9] Voices [2129]

The story of a clever Chinese con-man, who exploits grieving widows and families by mimicking their departed love one’s voices (obtained from a contact in Security). Only one day he is haunted by a new voice in his head, over which he has no control. A sense here of walls being breached, triggered by small things. Is he being haunted by the family he abandoned years before? Is this his conscience finally paying him back?

[10] Seven Times Seven [2144]

A late Spring garden party for the Seven. We see how they are thriving. Peace and contentment in the levels and many children surrounding them. This is the high water mark of their civilization, their era. Told from the viewpoint of a young princess of the Li Clan. Li Shai Tung’s father is her brother. But the idyll of the day is broken. One of the young princes rapes a serving maid. He is tried before the Seven as an instance (to be witnessed by all) of their justice system. His father, himself a T’ang, hands him over. Everything is done by the book. But things are soured. Dark clouds are in the sky as the afternoon ends and a sense of sourness, of it all being spoiled.

[11] Empires Of Contagion [2163]

A young official, charged with the duty of keeping contagion out of the levels, is forced to take action because his immediate boss isn’t there. It proves very costly for the departmental budget and his decision (which was perfectly judged) is ruled wrong – an over-reaction. His boss’s family gang up on him and try to destroy him, but he takes his revenge, using a specific DNA-bound bacteria – tailored to attack his family specifically. In here is his memory of a devastating infestation, when he was very young, that killed thousands. A good man driven to evil actions.

[12] The Moon On High [2177]

A miner, from the Moon, visiting Earth for only the third time in his life. These are his observations on his journey. Visits a brothel, gets drunk, has a fight with locals, who beat him up badly. Then, on the journey Back, a young girl goes into the bathroom of the shuttle and blows herself up. Our hero takes heroic steps to save everyone. Many die, in the end, but he is acclaimed as a hero for saving several people, even though, at the end, we discover that another bomb went off and he was left – in his seat – to die, in slow orbit round the earth, steadily running out of air. The Moon is a major presence throughout this, as if watching it all and bearing witness.

[13] Filial Piety [2190]

A simple tale of deep-rooted love and tender relationships and supporting each other in hard times. The portrait of an extended Han family living in six adjoining units in a low level of a Stack (which they call “our village”). They hit bad times and find they are suddenly owing a lot of money. They try and raise it but it proves almost impossible. And then their neighbours help them – unexpectedly, but powerfully emotionally.

[14] One Moment Of Bright Intensity [2196] [WRITTEN]

An extension of the scene in THE MIDDLE KINGDOM where the GenSyn maid (from the Solarium) “looks after” Pi Ch’ien. A brief story of what happened to her after the Solarium blew up, and how, in being operated upon, she briefly attains a different, more awake level of consciousness – one she was never designed to cope with. Her desire to have a child. Only she has no womb. She’s just a tank-bred maid. A low key tragedy, as she realises that all she is is a faulty machine. Only there’s a twist. She gets her child – a kindly technician helping her, adopting her as his wife, and buying a GenSyn ‘child’ to satisfy her craving for a child.

[15] The Endless Knot [2202]

The story of a ‘Wu’ (who reads people’s fortunes via the yarrow stalks and the I Ching). An extremely wealthy man, who has, as his clientele, has a large number of powerful and influential men. But then, one day, he sees through the sham of his life after a young woman takes her life after one of his readings. He decides to go down level. To be in danger and learn humility. How a fake sage becomes a real one.

[16] The Emperor’s New Clothes [2203]

Li Shai Tung is being fitted for his new imperial gown – a fitting scene which, along with others, will form the framework of this story. But told through the robe-maker’s viewpoint. Leading to ‘the list’. This is set during the “War that wasn’t a War” and at one stage Li Shai Tung, even as he is being fitted for his robe, reads out the names on the list he is to sign of people he is going to have assassinated. The robe-maker recognises many of the names – they are all powerful men and clients of his – but doesn’t recognise the significance until he learns, later that evening, that they have died. Violently. And then, fnally, Li Shai Tung asks him for his opinion on whether a man on another list, also one of his clients – is a good man or bad. How the robe-maker is so troubled he has bad dreams.

[17] Clouds And Rain [2207] [WRITTEN]

The story of a serial killer. A big, quiet man who plays wei chi and works for maintenance and so has access to all of those places “beyond the walls of the city”. A story not merely about it raining on the top of the City, but of the murders he commits there up on the roof of the world. He leaves it totally to chance as to whether the woman he’s chosen gets to live or die. If it rains… she dies. There is a big freezer unit in his Maintenance outpost, with trophies inside it from his victims. The backstory is about his mother’s death. She – perversely – introduced him to sex and to violence within sex. But he always targets unattractive, ugly girls – abandoned in the levels – for his victims. It ends with him uncaught. Eyeing up another potential victim, and “Up on the roof of the world it had begun to rain.”

[18] Black Stone, White [2208] [WRITTEN]

A man living in the City who has two wives and a job that makes it possible to live with both part of the time. But then something disturbs the arrangement. A handsome, half-race man with four children – two by each of his wives. Women he met at tea houses. But his forged ID (used to marry the second wife) is discovered and he is being hunted. But he escapes and gets back to his first wife. At the end we  see him in a tea house, chatting to a lone women. Will she be his new wife?

[Note: the above story changed totally in the writing!]

[19] A Debt Of Tears [2208]

A story about the different levels of existence. Of the real world and the world of The Way – of the Tao. Told from a young woman’s perspective. She is the carer for her family. Her life is hard, but she gets the chance to escape it all. To take up an offer from a rich noble woman she has met by chance and whom she helped. She could not be blamed if she accepted this. We have seen how badly her family treat her. But the debt of tears draws her back. Hers is a genuine love – a true case of filial piety. It is her father who is ill and, after being such a strong man all his life, he is bitter and resentful that he has become so weak and dependent. When she returns, meaning to pack up and go, she finds he has been abused and humiliated and she cannot bear to see that. Her role is a poisoned chalice, sure, but she will grasp it anyway. But as things turn out, staying is as bad as going. Things get so bad she decides to go see the rich old woman again, and eventually leaves her own family to become the old woman’s handmaiden, enjoying the work. We learn, as it ends, that she is sending money home. But for the first time she is happy.

[20] Dawn In Stone City [2210]

A full novel. The story of Ma Ji (otherwise known as Maggie) who is a publicist and the most powerful PR person in the whole World of Levels. Only she has a secret she could be arrested for and executed. She has given birth to a handicapped child, who, by the laws of Chung Kuo, ought to have been terminated. It is Ma Ji’s story, of the ambitions and double-dealings and – in the midst of it all – sheer love – one discovers in this high-powered world within a world.

[Note – this was the first of these stories to be plotted out!]

[21] Wan Wei [2211]

Named by his father (a Hung Mao) as a “kind of joke” and forever reminded of it by his father when his drinking buddies came around. “Your life is headed only Wan Wei, my son and that’s … DOWN.”. We see how Wan Wei has been shaped by his cruel name. How he once tried to change his name – to adopt a pen name – but couldn’t, knowing he had no particular talent and was a mediocrity through and through. A loser with a loser’s mentality. But there is a trigger moment when he finds his father asleep in his bed – having pissed it – after drinking too much wine. Wan leaves home and meets a girl who changes his name and changes his life. When his father comes round, he defies him. He ties his father up and, with the girl’s encouragement, beats him with his own switch. At the end he tells her he’s unhappy with his new name. That he wants to remain Wan Wei. Only the Wan Wei is no longer DOWN, it is UP.

[22] The Girl Who Sold Wine [2213]

A love story between the races, Han and Hung Mao. Difficulties. But for once a tale with a happy outcome, because of something the Hung Mao boyfriend does. Something that both helps and impresses the Han girl’s family. Paying off a debt for his prospective father-in-law after a fire had destroyed all their stock. But in essence a slow burn love story.

[23] The Tiger In Darkness [2220]

The ‘tiger’ of this story is a fierce and uncompromising man, born into the wrong times – into “the darkness” as he sees it. We see his final days. He knows (or senses) he is to die soon, and looks for a way to mark his passing – something glorious to match his name. He is vain. Superbly so. His men (mostly aged like himself) adore him. They think him invulnerable. For a long time he has been slowly going blind. Finally he wakes to find himself in total darkness. The dark is his metaphor for this time and this place. And then he is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. That evening he rages against it fiercely, like an uncaged tiger, there with his men. We discover that he’s a low level gang boss – a criminal – yet one with taste, intelligence and discernment. He is learned. In different circumstances he could have been a prince or a Warlord. But the reality is that he deals in shakedowns and protection rackets and half of what he earns he has to hand on to local Tong bosses to keep them off his back. But in the darkness he turns. He decides to end it before it ends badly. To go out in a blaze of glory.

[24] Blocks [2221]

 The story of a skilled worker who – in a small team – is laying a fine bock floor in a First Level mansion – at the time when there are troubles with the Black hand terrorist society. We witness their regular behaviour, only then – one day and unexpectedly – the Black Hand attack. Our viewpoint character- will witness it all through partly closed doors he is threatened but reprived because he is just a working Man – but only after an argument between two of the terrorists, one of whom wanted to kill all “lackeys” working for the Big Men. But we see, before this, how, in working, the block layer attains a kind of zen trance that only a perfectionist like him could achieve.

[25] Flowers Burning [2222]

A young boy in the ruins of the City. He has visions of The End. Of silence. Goes to the same place every morning as the sun rises, as if waiting for something. And then there’s the disease that sweeps through all of them – including his family. He however survives, but is only one of a handful. And then the flowers – the great white lilies come – and talk to him. Gently he melds with them, becomes their voice, their conscience, their ‘soul’. Their original biological alienness is made more human. They no longer feel the need to destroy all that is human – only to assimilate. And at the end we see them looking through a great telescope at the stars and wondering…

[26] The Path Through The Grassland [2227]

The view from the Wilds on the last day of the City. What does the young girl see that morning? A Morph. Wounded and, by the look of it, dying. Her story is alternated with the morph’s advanced perceptions of things. He knows the girl is there watching him through her field glasses. Her sense that they are running out of mornings. And then machines come to try and kill the morph. She helps fight them off. The villagers, who’d previously been mistrustful, now also help. It had seemed a threat, but now it is embraced by them all. It is so huge that they cannot shift it, but they can make its last few days more comfortable. It dies in a snow storm. She is sad. She has an affinity with all living things. They cover it in wood and set it alight, even as darkness falls. The villagers, we see, have packed up and are moving on.

[27] Starlight And Brick Dust [2228]

A workman, building China on the Rhine. He develops a cough. We see him spending nights in the tented encampment. The camaraderie of the men after the Apocalypse. The men there happy merely to have survived what all felt it was the End of the World. He personally didn’t lose anyone, however, not like some of the men. There is one who weeps every night, and eventually hangs himself. Some simply cannot bear the loss. Our hero is a man who adapts he has shallow roots. Makes friends easily, but discards them almost without thought. He is a wild seed. After an evening in the local village, drinking wine, he leaves to return to the camp, slightly unsteady, singing to himself and laughing as he stumbles along. The village men follow him, set upon him, and beat him to a pulp. Just for laughs. As he dies he lays there on his back, in agony, staring up at the stars, the smell of brick dust and blood in his nose.

[28] Shapeless And Without Form [2236]

The morph – DeVore’s creation – who has never dreamed before, begins to dream. It is slowly driven mad by its erratic human side. Compassion and all that crap. Al of those things it shouldn’t be feeling. That it was designed not to feel. All of it comes flooding back. Everything under heaven and its sense of isolation and alienation. It has a growing obsession with death. And them, in its latest dream, DeVore comes to it and tells it to cut its own throat. We cut to space and one of DeVore’s AI’s, whose task it is to follow Kim’s fleet and intercept it. The AI (which has a Chinese name) is malfunctioning in similar ways to the morph. Develop.

[End of spoilers]

Okay. The volumes would be arranged thus –


  • The Dragon in The Earth


  • A Day Like This
  • Bones. A Ghost Story
  • The Last Days of Summer


  • Of Time And The Analects
  • The Official
  • Earthlight
  • The Finding

Volume Four – THE MOON ON HIGH

  • Voices
  • Seven Times Seven
  • Empires of Contagion
  • The Moon On High


  • Filial Piety
  • One Moment Of Bright Intensity
  • The Endless Knot
  • The Emperor’s New Clothes


  • Clouds and Rain
  • Black Stone, White
  • A Debt of Tears


  • Dawn in Stone City


  • Wan Wei
  • The Girl Who Sold Wine
  • The Tiger In Darkness
  • Blocks


  • Flowers Burning
  • The Path Through The Grassland
  • Starlight And Brick Dust
  • Shapeless And Without Form


And that’s it. The plan is to have these written (alongside the new ending to the main sequence) within the next four years.

I hope that clarifies. Oh, and I’ll let you all know when the first taster – “A Moment Of Bright Intensity” – will be available to download – as I may have said, it’ll be a freebie for the first two weeks, along with a sample chapter of THE MIDDLE KINGDOM and a series overview, which I’m going to write specially.

Bye for now!

David 13th September 2012

5 thoughts on “Chung Kuo: The Expanded Universe”

  1. This is awesome… it’s like a whole other series! Very eager to see how this all pans out. I will buy eBook versions, but definitely will need physical versions eventually so the collection can be complete.

  2. Wow! This was a lot more detail than I could have hoped for. I can’t wait for the first installment to come out.

    I’ve got to make some more reading time over the next few weeks. Have to finish my current book (Terry Goodkind’s Wizard’s First Rule, which my fiance demanded I read) so that I can devote my full attention to The Middle Kingdom and the new short story when they are released.

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