Hmm, what a fascinating story. It is clear you have put a lot of thought and research into this, although I am not familiar enough with Chinese culture and history to tease apart what it real and what has been added to create the magical element of the story. This echoes some of my favourite parts of JKR's writing - magic being a part of the ordinary world we are familliar will.
You've managed to keep a nice balance between developing the characters and setting the scene and details of this world. While on occasion I felt the balance tipped a little over into a bit of an info dump, especially towards the begining, overall it works really well. The main character is interesting in his own right, and his relationship with his parents adds a nice bit of tension to the scene.
A few times there were words missed, I think, which threw me as I was reading. For example: " a small cadre of house elves to he would be treated" I think there should be something between 'to' and 'he." Also, this sentence 'Even his clothing was plain as he had ever worn in his life.' feels a little repetative as he has already spent a paragraph contemplating his clothings.
A couple of small plot points kind of skipped past me - I don't know if I'm just being daft or if they need to be made clearer. You mention that his next oldest sibling is 10 years older than him, and then he wonders how his brothers and sisters dress at school as if they are still there. Also, I wasn't sure about the family set up - from the age gap and the different symbols on the wand boxes it seems like he has a different mother from his siblings? But I wasn't sure from the story itself.
I love this whole set up though, it's very original. (The wandlore here in particular is intriguing) and it would really serve as an excellent starting point for a longer story. (hint hint!) Even if there wasn't a long story to come out of this, I would love to read maybe a one shot or two set during Zai-feng's school years? You've created a really rich universe in a relatively short space and I would love to get another glimpse at it!
What an unusual story. It is a simple tale, but its charm comes from the blending of basic magical principles into a very different culture. The details give the appearance of being researched and are sufficiently plausible that they might be accurate. (Were phoenixes really a symbol of femininity in China? Did regular army soldiers rotate in and out of palace guard posts? I guess so.)
The references to magic are few, just enough to show that this is a magical story -- a wand, Apparition, shrinking the travel trunks, Polyjuice Potion, Veritaserum.
The story gives hints of questions we will have to answer for ourselves. What is the time period? Were members of the emperor's family always magical? Were the "lesser schools" also schools of magic? And how will the prince's experience be, studying alongside both commoners and scheming aristocrats? It boggles the mind to think of the amount of research that would be needed to describe even one ordinary day at Dragon Pearl.
As usual, Aida's writing is skillful and graceful, easy to read and easy to follow. A good blend of background, description, thoughts, dialogue, and action.
It is assumed that witches and wizards are present in countries all around the globe but we tend to imagine them only in Western-culture countries. Aida has opened up a whole new vista of possibilities. Will anyone follow her lead? (No, don't look at me.)
Why is this only one chapter??? It is very interesting so far! I never thought of what the Wizarding world would be like in Asia! I especially love the wand idea! How does he get sorted? Do they get sorted? What's going to happen to him????? :) if you couldn't tell, I love to read and imagine things.