Minor Spoilers maybe depending where you are in the book. This doesn’t list every single character and person that’s mentioned because that’d be way too much. I’ve tried to list the ones that appear more than once or twice/are pivotal to the story.
I’ve linked to the Wikipedia pages of the historical figures – not all of them have Wikipages in English though and some are highly inaccurate!! From the author notes – I’d say that aside from Zhao Su and his family and his teacher, the majority of the people that he meets are based on history.
Courtesy name: Shaoyong (少雍)
Modern day name: Wang Ning (王宁)
A transmigrator from modern day who ends up in the body of a 13 year old boy called Zhao Su who is the son of a “concubine”. He was about 30 years old before he transmigrated. He retains the memories of the former Zhao Su.
Zhu Yijun (朱翊钧) = our ML! *First Appearance – Chapter 15*
The eldest son of the Prince of Yu and Consort Li (scroll down for more on them).
The grandson of Emperor Jiajing.
Four years old in Arc 1. Around six to seven years old in Arc 2.
Zhao Xifeng (赵希峰) = Zhao Su’s father. Deceased before the start of the novel.
Lady Wu (吴氏) = Zhao Su’s “stepmother”. Zhao Xifeng’s first and legitimate wife. Is a noble lady and hates Zhao Su and his mother.
Zhao Jin (赵谨) = Lady Wu’s son and Zhao Su’s half-brother. The legitimate-born son, he is one year younger than Zhao Su.
Zhao Nuan (赵暖)
Courtesy name: Ziyang (子阳) = *First appearance – Chapter 4*
The son of the clan teacher Zhao Shenyu, so a distant older cousin of Zhao Su he becomes Zhao Su’s xiongdi/best friend.
Dai Gongwang (戴公望)
Courtesy Name: Zhong Fu (仲甫) = Zhao Su’s teacher. An imperial official who was dismissed from office for offending Yan Shifan. He is reinstated and sent to Outer Mongolia in Chapter 7.
Yuan Shu (元殊)
Courtesy Name: Tongjia (同佳)
= Zhao Su’s little shixiong. He passes the Court Examination before Zhao Su and is sent to another county to take up his official’s post in Chapter 6.
Chen Zhu (陈洙)
Courtesy name: Bo Xun = *First appearance – Chapter 6*
A kind scholar who meets Zhao Su after the Provincial Exams. He is a few years older than Zhao Su. He becomes his friend and they travel to the Capital together to take the Metropolitan Exam and end up sharing a house together.
Prince of Jing (景王) = *First appearance – Chapter 48*
Prince of Yu’s younger brother who has the backing of the Yan faction. Has a vicious personality.
Xu Jie (徐阶)
Courtesy Name: Huating (华亭) = *First Appearance – Chapter 13* A very cunning Grand Secretary who seems to be under the thumb of Yan Song but isn’t.
Guo Po (郭朴)
Courtesy name: Zhifu (质夫)
= *First Appearance – Chapter 13* An impartial new member of the Grand Secretariat and a friend of Xu Jie.
The Six Ministries
Prince of Yu Manor
Personal Name: Zhu Zaihou (朱载垕)
The eldest surviving son of Jiajing. He is kind but a bit of a scaredy-cat and is a bit of a philanderer.
Consort Li (李氏) = *First Appearance – Chapter 16*
A concubine to the Prince of Yu but she is his favourite and she is also the mother of Zhu Yijun.
Feng Bao (冯保)
Courtesy Name: Yongting (永亭). Zhu Yijun calls him “Da-ban”.
He is a eunuch of the Prince of Yu manor and the personal attendant of Zhu Yijun.
Gao Gong (高拱)
Courtesy Name: Gao Suqing (高肃卿) = *First Appearance – Chapter 16 *
He is a mid-ranking official who works for the Prince of Yu as his advisor/teacher. Has a slightly boisterous personality.
He enters the Grand Secretariat in Arc 2.
Chen Yiqin (陈以勤)
Courtesy Name: Chen Zhengfu (陈正甫) = *First Appearance – Chapter 16*
He is a mid-ranking official who works for the Prince of Yu as his advisor/teacher.
Yin Shidan (殷士儋) = *First Appearance – Chapter 18*
Prince of Yu’s third advisor/teacher. He has less authority than the other two.
Zheng Juzheng (张居正) = *First Appearance – Chapter 32*
Courtesy Name: Taiyue (太岳)
Xu Jie’s favourite student, enters the Prince of Yu Manor as a tutor to the Prince.
Shen Shixing (申時行) = *First appearance – Chapter 24*
Courtesy name: Rumo (汝默)
He is first introduced as Xu Shixing (徐时行) but changes his name back to his birth father’s surname after winning Zhuangyuan in the Court examination.
Wang Xijue (王锡爵) = *First appearance – Chapter 24*
Courtesy name: Yuanyu (元驭)
First introduced as a friend of Shen Shixing. He gained Bangyan in the Court Examination and is known for being a bit of a potty mouth.