game notes

QIN is part adventure game, part lesson in Chinese history and philosophy. Throughout the game, one has menu access to an extensive encyclopedia with information relating to both the story and the solution of puzzles. Another important menu item is the Translator. It translates the many Chinese characters and messages you’ll find along the way. A map of your current location and a compass indicating your position are also very helpful. Gameplay is technically pretty smooth but screens with animated water may freeze up the pointer for a few seconds. Note there are several available paths that will lead to a successful conclusion. The walkthrough below is the most direct path and assumes the player does some independent exploration in each area to find other hotspots (the pointer symbol changes to indicate you are on an artifact that can be manipulated). Happy playing!

The game begins by showing you news articles relating to modern-day China. After reading them, exit the newsreader. You’ll be transported through a hole and taken back in time to ancient China.

Lower Chambers

Find and illuminate the three Chinese characters that represent Primary Elements. The first one (mercury) is found on the wall to the left of the door you face to enter the Hall of Stone Statues. The second symbol (fire) is on the opposite side of the same door once you’re inside the hall. On the far end of the hall is another door. Go inside and turn around to find the third symbol (water) to the left of that doorway. Once you’ve illuminated all three symbols, you can access the panel in front of the huge stone ball.

The panel in the stone ball room contains two symbols on either side of the middle one. The middle one means “door” and you must move a companion symbol into the spot beneath it to complete the thought. From L>R the choices are: “man/person”, “bar/one”, “market” or “separate”. Once the correct choice is made, the stone ball rolls overhead and reveals a portal entry into a big outdoor courtyard surrounded by eerie, white mountains.

Emperor’s Courtyard

Your first view of the courtyard reveals a frog/dragon fountain to the left with a small building beyond. To the right is a large, duck-shaped lantern with a long, lodge-type building behind it. In the center is a water pool; behind it a giant spoon sculpture. A big Temple looms in the distance.

To begin the journey, walk left past the fountain to a small bridge. While standing on the bridge, turn right to find a small replica of the duck lantern. Click it so it faces the large one. Continue across the bridge until you get to the small building.

From the patio steps, you’ll see a green cylindrical sculpture surrounded by four doors corresponding to Four Directions: north, east, south, west.

MEDICINE ROOM (1st door, rt. side): Resting on a chair to the right of a life-sized body model are 5 colored sticks which correspond to human organs. Using the suspended organ model hanging next to the body, place the colors in their appropriate holes on the body model. When completed, the body’s eyes light up.

CARDINAL DIRECTIONS ROOM (1st door left side): A large gold disk sits in the center of the room. Click to rotate the 4 directional symbols until the one representing “north” sits on the bottom of the plate. When done correctly, a low chime sounds.

ASTRONOMY ROOM (2nd door, left side): A big astral device sits in the center of the room. Step closer to it and click on the center to see 2 orbs, one blue and one red, ellipse each other overhead. Nothing else appears to happen here.

FENG SHUI ROOM (2nd door, rt. side): Upon entering, turn left to find a table with ceramic tiles on top. Click closer to reveal the puzzle. The tiles on the left side must be organized around the center house picture to create a good flow of Chi. Tiles are placed as follows (from top to bottom, L>R): tall trees, snowy mountains, sepia hills and rocks—path, existing house, waterfall—sepia cards, flowing river, bridge over flowing river. One of the tiles will not be used. If ideal balance is achieved, the fully colored house, pictured on the far right bottom, will emerge in the center tile.

After all four room puzzles have been solved, return to the center cylinder sculpture and find the floating gold coin. Grab it and head toward the giant spoon near the Temple gates. Place the gold coin on the plate at the foot of the giant spoon. The coin will illuminate.

If facing the coin, turn right twice and head straight until you reach an archery bow at the far end of the courtyard. Turn right, cross over the bridge, then head left towards a group of stone warriors standing on a wood veranda. Pick up an arrow from the pile at their feet and return to the giant bow. Place an arrow in the center chute and click. An animated sequence will show water emerging from the rocky area where the arrow hit.

From the bow and arrow area, cross back over the bridge and turn right to find a big stone lever in front of the water wheel. Click on the lever to activate the wheel. Turn left and continue straight to a second water wheel. A tiny boat emerges and slides into the pool below. Grab the item in the boat (bamboo) and take a step back. Turn left and head straight to the leaking pipe on top of a wooden scaffold. Place the bamboo piece in the middle to fill the gap. Liquid will drip down into the metal base plate under a green barrel (mercury holder) next to the bamboo pipes.

From the bamboo pipes, turn left and head over to the duck lantern. Note that it is illuminated. Turn left again to find a wooden gate entrance to the lodge.

Once inside, you’ll find a molten fire pit on the floor to the right, a stone oven-type area in the center and a small pile of wood against a blank wall to the left. Pass the oven area to find a hallway leading to the back of the building. You’ll find various craftmaking displays here. Find the loom and click on it to weave a white dragon design. Find the table that has a green water barrel on top. Note the colored coins to the right of the barrel. Click on the correct coins to reveal a message in the water. The coin sequence is as follows: white deer, orange eye, green turtle, red dragon. The small stone shrine in this area doesn’t appear to do anything.

After you’re done in the craft area, return to the main room and go to the stone oven. While facing the oven, click on the shadows in the lower left area under the wood box on the floor to grab a bit of mercury. Put the mercury symbol in the top of the oven cone. Next, grab a piece of coal from the middle left side box and put it in the oven cone. Finally, grab some fire to the right of the oven and put it in the cone. The oven ignites and creates a thin drip of liquid that rolls into the left side chute and makes a casting. Click on the box to retrieve a metal spoon.

Take the little spoon you’ve made back to the giant spoon near the Temple gates. Place it on top of the gold coin you put there earlier and watch the statue rotate. You now have access to the Temple doors.

Emperor’s Temple

Upon entering the gates, you’ll find a long, 2-story building ahead of you. There are 6 rooms on either side of the middle staircase for a total of 12 rooms. Directions to the rooms listed below assume you begin by facing the stairs from the outside. Consult the game map if you get lost.

MUSIC ROOM (1st door on left, lower level): There are 5 instruments scattered about the room: a bamboo flute, a gourd flute, drums, a gong, and a zither. You can play around with all of them in no particular sequence but make sure to check out the zither. According to Chinese philosophy, the zither checks evil passions and is the most honorable of instruments.

ALTAR ROOM (1st door on rt., lower level): The altar contains a smoking pot flanked by 2 Chinese symbols, which translate to “precious offering” and “animal sacrifice”. In one corner, a statue holding an umbrella offers good advice; a rack of green bells stands nearby. This room will be revisited later in the game.

STAIRCASE (middle, lower level): Each stair has a musical note symbol written on it. The 5-note octave is used on 9 stairs in the following pattern (from bottom to top): 1, 2, 3, 2, 4, 5, 4, 2, 1. This information will be used later in the game. From the top of stairs, turn right and walk until you reach the first door.

SCROLL WRITER’S ROOM (1st door, left side, upper level): A bookshelf contains scrolls that propagate the party line. Table scrolls relate more laws regarding the ills of art and music. A set of tiles on the table transform when clicked. When leaving the room, a wall symbol (“book”) ignites—it is clearly the emperor’s desire to squelch free thought.

EMPEROR’S BEDROOM/ALCHEMY ROOM (2nd door, left side, upper level): Three tiny slave statues stand inside a tall dresser. Two of them spout government propaganda. The third one seems to be a free thinker. You will meet them again later.

Off to the side near the emperor’s bed is a door leading up to a back room. Inside you’ll find a table with another smoking pot and a red pile of cinnabar next to it. Grab a pinch and put it in the pot. A stream of liquid will roll to the edge of the pot base. A message on the mantle near the cinnabar offers an important message regarding the completion of an Afterlife Elixir. Cinnabar is one of the elixirs elements. You will collect more of them as the game progresses.

THEATRE/GAMES ROOM (3rd door, left side, upper level): A screen in the middle of the room presents a movie about the moon goddess. Note that the Mac can freeze up during this movie. In an adjoining room, there are tables with ancient Chinese games—unfortunately none of them can be manipulated or played. After touring the room, head back outside and go down the left side staircase. Turn right twice at the base of the stairs to find another door.

KITCHEN (4th door, lower left side): Finding the emperor’s note on the counter appears to be the only thing to do in this room. After reading the note, return to the top of the stairs and head straight. Pass the center staircase and go all the way to the other end. The right side stairs cannot be accessed, so turn around and find the nearest door.

SLAVE’S ROOM (3rd door, rt. side, upper level): Three full-sized statues stand in the center of the room. They are the same 3 slaves that were found in miniature in the Emperor’s bedroom. On the right is Han Fei, the emperor’s advisor. In the middle is Li Chi, the emperor’s concubine. On the left is Yang Po, a wandering scholar. Click on each one to hear what they have to say. As you leave the room, there is a message above the door.

ESTABLISHMENT OF GOVERNMENT/ORACLE ROOM (2nd door, rt. side, upper level): Walking through the screened foyer, you’ll find 4 tiny houses on the floor and some big metal bells. Pass between them and go up stairs to the Oracle Room above.

Scattered in the oracle room, you’ll find 3 divination bones. Each gives a clue to solving the game. In short, one must play the music of the steps to go further, find the heart of jade to gain access to the remaining elixir elements, and complete the circle to achieve immortality. Return to the lower room. Note the emperor’s message posted on the wall near the doorway, then exit.

THREE QUESTIONS ROOM (1st door, rt. side, upper level): A square rack sits on a table in the middle of the room, with 5 bars resting below it. Each bar represents a number. Clicking on the rack panels reveals 3 questions that must be answered with the correctly numbered bar. The number closest to the emperor’s heart is 5. The number of cardinal directions is 5 (the Chinese count “center” as a direction). The number of ritualistic offerings is 2. When the 3 questions are answered correctly, an altar containing several items appears.

Grab the chicken from the Questions Room and head back down to the Altar Room you visited earlier. Place the chicken on the right side symbol. Return to the Questions room and grab the flowers. Place them on the left side symbol back in the Altar Room. The middle smoking pot will start to burn.

Turn around and find the rack of bells in the corner. Musical note symbols now appear on some of the bells. Play the bell notes in the sequence the you found on the stairs. If done correctly, a secret door will emerge—taking you to the lower levels of the Temple and a whole new area of gameplay.

Temple Underground

Torches flank a staircase leading down to a water pool, called “The Way”. Clicking in the middle of it launches you back to a companion pool in the middle of the big courtyard above. You’ll find more of these pools as your journey continues. They are travel shortcuts—allowing you to quickly link between areas within the game.

There are 3 holes in the ground surrounding the pool. Two of them contain symbols: one means “poison”, the other means “constant sink hole”. Death will certainly follow if you choose to go down either of them. The third hole is unmarked and is the one you want to follow. If you click on the hole’s blackness, you’ll emerge in a deeper underground area.

Walk across the footbridge and into a large, foggy room with broken pottery strewn around the floor. An important note appears on the cavern wall near the tomb’s entrance doors. It says, “As he proceeds through the fog, the explorer’s best friend is the compass. It must turn as he turns, see what he sees, from the feet to the head, to the right hand of pangu.” After contemplating this message, enter the tomb doors.

A jade green sarcophagus rests in the middle of the room. His feet face West, his head faces East, and his right hand faces North. Beyond the sarcophagus to the right hangs a large compass disk. Go over to it.

Click on the right side of the compass until the symbol for West rests on the top. Click on the left side of the compass until the symbol for East rests on the top. Finally, click on the right side of the compass until the symbol for South rests on the top (north should be on the bottom... matching the position of the sarcophagus’ right hand). If done correctly, you’ll be backed away from the compass and faced towards the foggy white back door that can now be entered. A message appears in green letters on the door. Could it be from one of the slaves you met earlier?

Throne Room

Enter through the foggy door. You’ll find a fish statue holding a globe in its mouth at one end of the room. Directly across from the fish is a throne. Sit in it and then turn left to find a lotus-shaped lever nearby. Pull on the lever to drop the floor behind the fish. Clicking on the fish will take you down into the floor pit and reveal a green door. Click on the door to enter.


The door leads to an underground stream. To the left is a bamboo pipe structure at the end of which is a furnace. Over the bridge on the right, in the middle of the stream is another little boat carrying a piece of bamboo. Grab the bamboo and head over to the pipes. Find the missing pipe area and attach the bamboo piece. You will return to the furnace later to burn something.

Turn around and go back to the stream. Find the tile puzzle resting in the center of the water and click on it. The idea is to end up with only 4 colored squares that complete the house. Start by expanding the tiles out as far as they will go, a 4 x 4 grid with two gold squares on the top left edge and the rest silver. Begin compacting the squares inward. From L>R: start by clicking the 2nd square on the bottom row, then click on the 1st square in the 2nd row. Click the middle square on the top row and complete by clicking the bottom right square. Once completed, click on the house tile picture and get transported to an outdoor garden area.

Garden Paths

Transporting from the underground waterways lands you in a little garden courtyard with kiosk structures in each of the four corners and a well in the center. Each kiosk (or shed) contains a proverb and a couple of artifacts. The well is, in fact, another Way Pool. There are 2 paths leading outside from the middle pool. The left path leads you to a gazebo and over a tree-lined bridge, then ultimately joins up with the right side path. If you take the right side path from the kiosk courtyard, you can turn left to go to a dock or continue straight over two small bridges which leads to the Cloud House. The path continues on the other side of the Cloud House leading to the Flute Room and Constellation Deck.

THE DOCK: Go through the gate on the right side of the kiosk courtyard and walk straight until you come upon the first intersection. Turn left and head to the end of the dock. A message appears on the water’s edge, essentially telling you patience is a virtue. Look down to the water and you’ll find a black and white fish swimming in the stream. Wait until he appears three (possibly four) times, then watch it jump out of the water. Grab the fish after it jumps and it’ll turn into a pearl just before magically disappearing (don’t worry... you’ll see the pearl/fish again later. It is one of the Elixir elements).

THE CLOUD HOUSE: Turn around and return to the path’s intersection. Turn left to head north along the path, cross over the 2 bridges and locate the Cloud House. Inspirational proverbs appear on the walls inside. Continue through the cloud house and exit through the back door. Follow the path until you reach the intersection (take note of any “writings” you may find along the path as you go). Turn left at the intersection and head to the center of the tree-lined bridge that crosses over the stream.

CRANE TANGRAM: While on the bridge, turn to the side (I forget which side) and find a Tangram puzzle floating in the air next to an origami-type crane. Use the 7 pieces on the crane to complete the square. Each shape can be rotated. Start by placing the big blue square in the upper left corner. Place the light blue triangle next to it so the top & left sides are flush. Place the small green triangle below the blue square facing the same way as the larger triangle. The big green triangle goes on the bottom and the big red one goes on the right side. The yellow triangle fits in the middle and the pink piece goes into the lower left corner. After completing the tangram, the crane fills in with clouds.

GINSENG ROOT: Look around the sides of the bridge near the water’s edge for a ginseng root which, when picked up, disappears (another Elixir element). After finding the ginseng, cross over the bridge and head south towards the gazebo.

I-CHING FORTUNES: Floating in the air on one side of the gazebo are a series of sticks. Clicking on them brings up an I-Ching fortune. Fortunes vary depending on the stick patterns. Read as many fortunes as you like, then turn around and head back across the tree-lined bridge.

FLUTE ROOM: After crossing the bridge, you’ll come to the intersection. Turn left and follow the path over 2 more bridges until you reach a building at the very end of the path. Enter. More proverbs line the hallway, at the end of which is a door. The door has a panel on it with 7 holes. Click on the panel to hear a melody. Repeat the melody by clicking on the holes in a proper sequence. Number the holes from 1 to 7 starting with the bottom right side (low notes 1-3) and continuing on the bottom left side (high notes 4-7). There are 8 parts to the sequence, played as follows: 1, 6, 7, 6, 7, 5, 4, 3. When played correctly, the door opens up—allowing entry onto the Constellation Deck.

CONSTELLATION DECK: Pass the cloud panels and walk straight to the star viewing device at the end of the deck. Click on it to move closer. Find the Big Dipper and center it within the spinning globe. Use the sliding levers on the bottom and side of the device to rotate the starfield left & right or up & down respectively. The father you slide the levers toward the edges, the faster the globe spins. The middle positions stop the spinning, allowing you to line up the Big Dipper in the center of the screen. Once aligned, you are transported to a snowy (cloudy?) mountainscape.

White Mountains

Once you’ve arrived at the snowy mountain area, your compass will no longer work. It spins uncontrollably, leaving you alone with your own sense of direction. From the point at which you enter this area, turn left and find a pile of gold on the mountain. Grab a piece of it, turn back around, and cross the bridge that’s ahead of you. You’ll find another Way Pool at the end of the bridge, with 2 little boats floating inside. Put the piece of gold in one of them. While facing the Way Pool, click forward to find a pile of cinnabar sitting on the clouds/snow. Grab a piece, turn around and place it in the second little boat.

Turn right and head over a second bridge. At the end of this bridge you’ll find a jade box with a miniature mountain inside of it. Gold and cinnabar pieces float on its cap. Click on it to see the moon goddess and hare reunited (the same characters you saw in the Emperor’s theater earlier). Turn around to find a final note in the air: “Wholeness can be achieved only by return.” Cross back over the bridge and notice that the snow surrounding the Way Pool is now green. Click on the water. (If you end up back at the kiosk well, click on the Way again to get back to the Waterways area.)

The Journey Back: Waterways/ Courtyard/ Throne Room/ Elixir Room

Once you get back to the underground waterway area, find the piece of cinnabar floating in the little boat. Grab it and put it in the furnace near the bamboo pipe area. Go back to the Way Pool beyond the sarcophagus and foggy pottery cavern. Click on it to return to the Emperor’s Courtyard near the water wheel.

Find the second little boat floating in the pool near the water wheel. Grab the piece of gold in it and head back to the workman’s lodge (near the duck lantern). Once inside the lodge, head over to the stone oven and make a spoon just like you did before. Put the gold in the top first, then add the coal, then add the fire. Open the box to get the gold spoon you’ve just made and click (forward?) on it. You’ll automatically be transported back to the Throne room.

Upon arriving back in the Throne Room, you’ll see the fish statue spit fire into the air. Step forward then turn around and enter the hole in the wall above the throne.

Your compass is, again, useless in the Elixir room. All 5 pieces of the elixir are displayed in panels on the walls surrounding a giant levitating spoon. (if any of the panels are empty, a vital piece is missing. Clicking on any black panels will transport you to the area where the element can be found). If all of the panels are filled, place the gold spoon symbol on the center of the big one to “complete the circle”. Once this is done, you’ll receive the Immortal Elixir and it is up to you to figure out how best to use it.

Return to the Throne Room and note that it has changed: the sarcophagus is now present and the orb that used to float above the fish’s mouth now floats above the coffin. A door has opened, spreading white light into the room. You have 3 choices: give the elixir to the person in the coffin, take the elixir out the door with you, or place it on the floating orb. History changes depending on your choice, as noted in the final news briefs you read at the end of the game. Hint: remember the good slave? Perhaps he can change the world...



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