The Twelve Kingdoms tells several stories from the world of the Twelve Kingdoms, located on several islands accessible through magic. On the islands, magic works and societies similar to classical China exist. While the inhabitants of the Twelve Kingdoms are aware of the existence of our world, the reverse is not true.
In the Twelve Kingdoms, the kingdoms are surrounded by an endless sea called the Kyokai (虚海, Void Sea). At the centre of the world are four inner seas: the Black Sea in the north, the Blue Sea in the east, the Red Sea in the south, and the White Sea in the west. The four seas are separated by the four Diamond Mountains, which surround the Yellow Sea (the Kokai), a barren wasteland of rock, desert, swamp, and thorns where youma inhabit. At the centre of the Yellow Sea are the Five Sacred Mountains, which includes Mount Hou, the mythic birthplace of kirin where all the kings of the Twelve Kingdoms must ascend in order to accept the mandate of heaven before they can claim their throne.
Legend tells of a land beyond the Void Sea at the end of the world called Hourai (蓬莱). The world has been recognized as Japan, called by its ancient name of Wa (倭). In the shadow of the world on its other side is a peak called Konron (崑崙, Kunlun) and another kingdom of legend: China which is called by its ancient name of Kan (漢). There is no conventional means of crossing the Void Sea. Only sages of sufficient rank and certain beasts of considerable power can cross.
While these worlds often remain separate, storms known as shoku (蝕) can cause the two worlds to mix. Often, a shoku can sweep inhabitants from Wa to the Twelve Kingdoms across the Void Sea. These people become known as kaikyaku (海客, sea guest). People who emerge from the mountains from Kan are known as sankyaku (山客, mountain guest). People swept from from the Twelve Kingdoms to the other world while still contained in ranka are born in the wombs of a human mother and are called taika.
There are twelve kingdoms, twelve rulers and twelve Kirins. Each kingdom has its own kirin, a divine creature who must choose a ruler and serve as the kingdom's Saiho, the ruler's chief advisor. The ruler will have immortal life as long as he keeps the kingdom healthy and their heads are not severed from their body.
Eight of the Twelve Kingdoms border at least one of these four seas, extending from the center like the petals of a flower. The kingdoms, moving clockwise from the northernmost kingdom are Ryuu, En, Kei, Kou, Sou, Sai, Han, and Kyou. The remaining four kingdoms are not part of the central mainland and are isolated by the Void Sea. These kingdoms are Tai in the northeast, Shun in the southeast, Ren in the southwest, and Hou in the northwest.
Areas of the map below are clickable.