The players represent powerful Chinese families who are trying to gain more influence. They do this by cleverly exchanging gifts with the emperor's officials so that they can carry out the special actions associated with these officials. The winner is the person who at the end of the game was invited to the audience with the emperor and has collected the most points.
During their turn, players must exchange a gift card from their hand with a gift card that is on an action space. If the value of their gift is higher than the value of the gift on the board, the players may perform the action. If the gift is of a lower or the same value, players must pay (with an extra card or servants) to be able to carry out the action.
With these actions, players can travel through China, help build the Great Wall, let their ships sail on the Grand Canal, collect jade, rise on the intrigue trail, sign special decrees for bonuses and get an audience with the emperor.
All of these actions can generate extra points or servants (or a combination of the two). Players must make smart use of their gifts and their servants to take full advantage of these actions.
After the fourth round, the player with the most points wins. But all players who did not get into the palace during the game are disqualified regardless of their score!