Structure of entries:
Chinese term the pinyin: definition (chapter the term first appears in)
哀家 aijia: lit. “in mourning” or “grieving one”; illeism for the Empress Dowager, a widowed empress, as she is in mourning for her deceased husband. (6)
本 ben: used by a speaker to refer to themselves in the third person (illeism). This form of speaking is used for more formal occasions, usually when the speaker is part of a conversation among equals or as the highest ranking person in the room, and usually to demand respect. (4)
本宫 ben gong: lit. “this palace”; illeism for females of the Imperial Family and imperial consorts. Empresses and major consorts have their own rooms/palace, so each of them refers to themselves as “this palace.” (4)
步摇 buyao: lit. step-shake; a certain kind of hair adornment that has tassels or other parts that sway with movement (3)
侧室 ceshi: lit. “side room.” Referring to a concubine, but one of a higher rank, akin to a secondary wife. (7)
大嫂 dasao: older brother’s wife, usually of the eldest brother (1)
嫡 di: refers to the legitimate/first wife, the original spouse of a man. In many cases, the second wife, if the original di wife died, would not be from a family higher in rank than the first wife.
In the context of children, di means legitimate, a child born from the official wife. Di children have higher standing than shu (庶) children (born of a concubine) and are generally the rightful heirs of the family (if male). (1)
弟妹 dimei: younger brother’s wife (1)
儿 ’er: lit. child; added to the end of names to show affection or closeness (2)
府 fu: compound, estate or mansion; usually the residence of a noble or powerful family. Fu can only be labeled and called as such if it is bestowed as part of a position or inherited in the aristocracy. Families can be referred to using their actual surname or the name of their fu so it becomes the House of —–, similar to Western royalty.
e.g. Yi’an Hou Fu (义安侯府): Yi’an is the name associated with the title. Hou (侯) means that the rank of the title is a marquisate. Hou Fu (侯府) is therefore the marquisal compound, the Marquis Fu. (1)
驸马 fuma: the husband of a princess, the Emperor’s son-in-law (13)
夫人 furen: mistress or madam/lady. This appellation is used for both married women and titled women. Can be added to the surname of the household as a form of address (similar usage to the English ‘Mrs.’: e.g. Mrs. Feng = Feng furen) (1)
公公 gonggong: how to refer to a taijian, i.e. an eunuch employed by the Imperial Family, with an official position (5)
公主 gongzhu: princess. Most princesses are daughters of the Emperor, but some noblewomen would be bestowed the title of a princess if they were to be married (or given) in alliance to the ruler of another country.
郡王 junwang: lit. County-King. Junwang is a prince of the second rank, a rank below qinwang (or wang ye), who is a prince of the first rank. (1) Also referred to as junwang ye (郡王爷), which is equivalent to “His [Your] Royal Highness.” (4)
郡王妃 junwang fei: the official wife of a junwang (郡王) or prince of the second rank (3)
郡王府 junwang fu: a junwang‘s compound or estate; a prince’s manor and household (3)
郡主 junzhu: one rank lower than princess (公主 gongzhu). Title usually given to a daughter of a qinwang (亲王, i.e. prince of the first rank), or to a female of the Imperial Family by the Emperor’s decree. (4)
嬷嬷 mama: old female servant. Mostly they accompanied their master since birth. (6)
妹妹 meimei: younger sister. All the women are “sisters” and the “age” is determined by first rank, and then seniority. (2)
妾 qie: Shortened and very general name for concubine. Or “I, your servant”—a self-deprecatory appellation used by women to refer to themselves, usually in front of their husbands. (4)
妾侍 qieshi: lit. concubines (妾 qie) and attendants (侍 shi); general term referring to all concubines
亲王 qinwang: prince of the first rank; oftentimes shortened to just wang (王) in general use. Also referred to as wang ye (王爷), which is equivalent to “His [Your] Royal Highness.” A title usually accorded to sons of the Emperor. The qinwang‘s heir apparent (usually the oldest son from the official wife) is called shizi (世子). The daughters are called junzhu (郡主)—though not all daughters can be ennobled, and it usually had to be decreed by the Emperor. (2)
嫂嫂 saosao: older brother’s wife (2)
氏 shi: clan name, maiden name. Women, upon marriage, are identified by their surname, and it is very rare that their personal name is recorded. This is the case even for princesses. Thus, a married woman is referred to by her maiden name with a shi (氏) after it, to show that she is married and to identify the family that she originally came from.
e.g. Liu shi—means that she came from the Liu family. Han shi—means that she came from the Han family. (1)
侍妾 shiqie: concubines lower in rank than ceshi (侧室, i.e. “secondary wife”), but higher than tongfang (通房, i.e. servants who serve the master in bed) (10)
庶 shu: children born of a concubine, as opposed to those born from the official wife as di (嫡) (5)
太监 taijian: refers to specific positions in the Imperial Court/Palace and government which were occupied by men that were castrated (eunuchs). Or: eunuchs employed by the Imperial Family and holding an official position. (4)
太太 taitai: Mrs, madam, wife, married woman. In the novel, this is used to signal that either the person is very old or that she is untitled. (1)
通房 tongfang: literally “passing through the room”; the lowest rank in concubine. Usually of low birth, likely former servants. (10)
王 wang: prince; also referred to as wang ye (王爷), which is equivalent to “His [Your] Royal Highness.” There are imperial princes and non-imperial princes. Imperial princes are those that can claim a relation to an Emperor, and he, or one of his male ancestors, was a son to the Emperor. Non-imperial princes can occur for a variety of other reasons (e.g. as a reward bestowed by the Emperor for outstanding military or political service etc.). There are also rankings within wang as a major rank.
In general use, wang (王) may often appear as a shortened form for qinwang (亲王, i.e. prince of the first rank—the highest rank of wang). (3)
王妃 wang fei: the official wife of a wang (王) or prince; equivalent to the position of princess consort in Western culture. The wife would be called —wang fei (—王妃) according to the title of the wang she was married to. Fei (妃), on its own, is one of the highest ranks of imperial concubine under the Empress. (1)
王府 wang fu: a wang‘s compound or estate; a prince’s palace (not the Imperial Palace). The mansion and household that were bestowed to (or inherited by) a wang or prince along with the title. (3)
朕 zhen: how Emperors refer to themselves; is the equivalent to the royal “we” (5)