*Beijing (Peking) (bay-zhing). Present-day and historical capital of China. At the time of Lao She’s story, Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist government moved the national capital southward to Nanjing (Nanking), and Beijing (northern capital) was renamed “Beiping” (northern peace). Readers consulting the several translations of this work may be confused by different renderings of this and other place names, but all refer to known places in and around Beijing. Most of the novel takes place in the section of Beijing west of the Forbidden City in the northern walled section where Lao She lived as a boy.
Much of the book takes place on the streets of Beijing where Xiangzi (Hsiang-tzu in earlier editions) contends with the vagaries of Beijing’s weather, interference by police, and the aggravation of traffic. Hard, sweaty work punctuates the boredom of waiting for fares at rickshaw stands or teahouses. Indeed working in the streets, Xiangzi is separated from the private lives of both the poor and the rich.
Rickshaw yard. Place adjacent to a section where many large residences of Qing elite families live side-by-side with more modest dwellings of ordinary Manchu bannermen. The large, but not palatial houses in which Xiangzi served as regular employee were found in narrow alleys (hutong) of this section and were surrounded by high blackish-gray brick walls entered through stout wooden gates.