Yanyu's Research & Conjecture
A list of stuff Yanyu has been researching and random thought she may have attached to it.
One of the nine things a candidate needs to become Emperor is 'Support of the Imperial Consort'. So who is the Imperial Consort? You can't get her support if you don't know who she is.
Initial library research:
The short version is tat all the mechanics and process of having an Emperor is still there, there just isn't one. The Jade Palace is stil there, staffed and ready to be used. There are still Imperial Concubines; Precious Jade managed to become The Imperial Concubine (i.e. the one in charge). Technically, the Regency Council, as a body, has all the rights and privileges of the Emperor; that definitely means that they could call upon the Imperial Concubines as a group (but they almost certainly are not doing so). A single regent can act with the rights and priveleges of the Regency Council as long as there are no objections to their doing so, so there might be individual regents visiting Precious Jade (and in fact that's quite likely if only for the reason that she's a polical power of her own).
As far as what the Imperial Consort is/does:
There's some amount of First Lady involved, where the Imperial Consort tends to take on a cause and push it both with the Emperor and the Empire. There's a large extent to which the Dragon's Throne is the Consort's area of responsibility and power.
In most of the accounts you find she tnedst to fight with the First Minister over appointments and policies, and tends to win more often than not in affairs directly relating to the City and lose more often than not in affairs remote in other parts of the Empire. Certainly, she's always protrayed as having an extensive network of informers and confidants throughout the City, kepping her in the know.
Oddly, none of those stories really mentions the Lord Mayor much at all, just sometimes in an offhand manner like, "this person instructed the mayor to make it so..."
As a side note, it's also clear that she's superior to and in charge of the Imperial Concubines, arranging their lives as she sees fit.
There's a whole lot of her being involved in all of the negotiations for marriages between members of the Imperial Household and anyone else, as well as fussing around with how many heirs there should be, etc.
Finally, how one gets to be Imperial Consort looks like it's supposed to be the Emperoro just picks, but it always ends up deeply involved in give and take politics with all of the representatives of all the countries scheming and trading with each other to support some candidate. When the emperor picks a consort without regards to his many advisors and supporters, tragic stuff tends to happen, usually to her.
Then I thought about this with All Politics. If there isn't currently an Imperial Consort, does it seem like in order for people doing a "become emperor" mechanic to get the Imperial Constort check box someone else has to do a mechanic to become Imperial Consort, presumably by getting approval of a whole bunch of appropriate advisors or something like that?
Having rolled All Politics you think that's right. In order to become consort in the first place you need to do a (presumably smaller than Emperor) mechanic.
Then you spend a Yin and realize that thing you just said is not true.
So, politically there should be a mechanic, and yet it seems there is not, and someone just is Imperial Consort? If true, this makes figureing out who the consort is more tricky because we can't just research who went and did the mechanic.
According to Word of the Dragon there is an Imperial Consort, and it is not Precious Jade.
More research is needed. Possible avenues are the Lord Mayor thing. (The Lord Mayor is one of the Marked, and he's clearly messed with stuff.) Also, who is the first minister? Knowing that might tell us something. I think my favorite pet theory right now is that Autumn Rose is secretly the consort, but that's pretty wild speculation right now.
Golden Palace Immortals
We don't know a lot about them. Thee are supposed to be twelve, though we have indications that the number isn't fixed. Initial divination seems to indicate that it's probably not one of each aspect. The Golden Prince seems to pre-date the empire based on comments by NPCs that might know.
Politics Within the Marked
It's pretty clear that the marked fight amoungst themselves. In The New Ringmaster Te Prince Ti Jun says that there are two factions. One is lead by the Alchemist and includes the Cartomancer and the Bureaucrat, and the other is lead by Li the Wanderer includes the Prince, the Obsidian Warlord, and Lucky Chang. Tai Lung was said to be on neither faction.
Things may have changed since Lucky Chang had his pants stolen. During the Book Six Miniruns it seems like Tai Lung and Li the Wanderer were together, but frankly Tai Lung seems too foolish to be on either team, and we've had hints that he and the Obsidian Warlord don't get on.
From what we know, the Alchemist is the big bad guy in all this. The whole thing is his puppet show. It is possible that Li the Wanderer ended up as one of the marked in order to make the best of a bad situation, not fully knowing the extent of what the Alchemist is up to. Of course in the long term we will have to deal with all the marked, but Dragon would like Li the Wanderer back if possible. In the short term if we have a choice between which of the marked to act against, it might be better to act against the Bureaucrat and possible the Cartomancer if we can do so in a way that doesn't alienate Autumn Rose.