Shou Lung

Timeline

Empire of Shou Lung is the largest of the many lands that make up Kara-Tur. It is a place of learning, culture and government, with a proud history that chronicles nearly three thousand years, spanning the rise and fall of eight great Dynasties and over seventy Emperors.

The First Age of Shou Lung – Anok-Imaskar

  • -2487 DR: Following the fall of Inupras and the collapse of the western Imaskar Empire, the eastern provinces of Khati and Katakoro endure. Bearing Dhonas’s Shroud, one of the seven False Imaskarcana, the artificer Kujawa claims the Dragon Throne at Thakos and declares himself Emperor of Anok-Imaskar. Scholars mark this as the start of the First Age of Shou Lung.
  • -2320 DR: The Rashemi warrior Soss leads members of his clan north to explore and trade with the dwarves of Dareth. They settle the alpine valleys of the Armridge Mountains and over time become known as the Sossrim.
  • c. -2300 DR: Great prosperity expands the borders of Anok-Imaskar to cover a vast area, from the Celestial Sea in the North to the Segara Sea in the South.
  • Emperor Kujawa establishes a second capital at Tempat Larang to govern the empire’s southern lands.
  • -2113 DR: An eruption at Mount Bakos blankets Tempat Larang in lava and ash. In the decades following the disaster, Anok-Imaskar begins abandoning its south-western lands.
  • -1943 DR: Emperor Kujawa dies in a combat against the celestial dragon T`ien Lung. Anok-Imaskar dissolves into several warring states, among them Ra-Khati, Chu ’ta Te, Mai Yuan, and Kao Shan.

The Second Age of Shou Lung – The First Kingdom of Shou

  • -1887 DR: Chan Cheng unifies the warring states along the Ch`ing Tung River from the Imperial City of Ten Mor Shou, beginning the Second Age of Shou Lung. Blessed by the Celestial One, Chan Cheng becomes the first of the Nine Immortals.
  • -1648 DR: Human hunters from the northern reaches of Kara-Tur travel west across the polar ice cap and settle for a time with the Sossrim before moving on to the Great Glacier in search of game. After becoming lost, they set up permanent settlements and become the precursors of the Ulutiuns.
  • -1377 DR: Using powerful Imaskari artefacts unearthed in the ruins of Thakos, the artificer Tan Chin assassinates the Sapphire Empress Kwan Ying and assumes the throne of Shou Lung. The new emperor renames Ten Mor Shou to Kuo Meilan, after his consort.
  • -1370 DR: Earliest record of the Black Leopard Cult. Cult history says that the Black Leopard and his followers are eternal and immortal, having advised the Nine Travellers when they ruled the lands of Kara-Tur. This is the earliest written mention of the cult, noting that it had temples all along the Fenghsintzu River. Its major temple was at Durkon.
  • -1365 DR: Using the Jade Mirror, Emperor Tan Chin and his friend Kar Wuan trick Pao Hu Jen the Guardian into flying to the lands of the horse barbarians where they transform the dragon into the Great Dragonwall of Shou Lung.
  • -1289 DR: The immortal Chih Shih leads a revolt against Tan Chin and drives the emperor from Kuo Meilan, ending the Second Age of Shou Lung. Fleeing to Raurin, Tan Chin begins searching for lost Imaskari artefacts.
  • The Nine Immortals decimate the land of Chu’ta Te, forcing the people south into what is now known as the Sheng Ti Province. Here the refugees of the First Kingdom mix with the locals and learn about rice farming.

The Third Age of Shou Lung – The Empire of Shou

  • -1029 DR: Death of Nung Fu. His great-grandson becomes the first Emperor Chin of the Li Dynasty (Dynasty of Might) in Shou Lung.
  • The Imperial Capital is refounded in Hsi Feng
  • -930 DR: The Black Leopard Cult reaches its zenith, the power of its kio ton mu (mystic witch doctors) held in more fear and reverence than that of the Shou Lung emperor in the lands of T’u Lung.
  • -868 DR: Unification of the western provinces of Shou Lung under the Emblems of Imperial Authority, the emperor’s symbols of office. Shou Lung controls all the land up to the Kora Shan and Khazari.
  • The Emperor appoints many court scribes to deal with the administration necessary to control a growing empire.
  • -855 DR: Crushing of the Sea Lords’ Revolt in Karatin Province consolidates power in Shou Lung beneath the Emblems of Imperial Authority.
  • -842 DR: Seventh Emperor Chin of the Li Dynasty declares the Gathering of Waters, an attempt to bring the land fed by all the major rivers in Shou Lung under the sway of the Emblems of Imperial Authority. Shou Lung armies invade the Fenghsintzu Valley.
  • -839 DR: Surrender of the Grey Owl tribes in the north secures the present northern boundary of the Shou Lung empire.
  • -837 DR: Agents of Emperor Chin discover the Impossible Palace of Silver Domes in the north-east part of Arakin Province in Shou Lung.
  • -836 DR: The Battle of Infinite Darkness, at the mouth of Fenghsintzu. Combined leadership of the southern tribes under the kio ton mu challenges the forces of General Wo Can. The entire battle is fought under the cover of darkness spells, and legends say that the kio ton mu summoned fell and dangerous beasts from the other side of the world to aid them. In the end, Wo Can’s army routs the southern tribes. The great southern scholar Po Nih dies in this battle, struck by a spear as he was writing a report to send to the main temple of Durkon.
  • -830 DR: Wo Can’s forces destroy the temple of the Black Leopard Cult at the mouth of the Fenghsintzu River in Durkon, ending resistance in Shou Lung’s southern provinces (later to become T’u Lung). The records say that the temple itself was sunk to the lowest depths of the earth. The kio ton mu are said to have either been slain or fled to distant lands. One legend in particular states that a high priest journeyed unseen down the Fenghsintzu and made his way out to sea.
  • -815 DR to -810 DR: The War of the Nobles: During this time, the arrogant nobles delegate more of their authority to clerics of the Faith of the Nine Travellers. Court Scribes embrace the faith as their own and find ways to play noble houses off against each other
  • -815 DR: Shou Lung establishes the “Eighteen Garrisons of T’u” in the T’u Lung lands. These military bases are instrumental in establishing Shou customs in the southern regions.
  • -810 DR: Teachings of the Path of Enlightenment first appear in the stone bluffs above the mouth of the Hungtse River in Shou Lung. The meter-high characters are blasted into the solid granite by reddish lightning during a firestorm witnessed throughout the continent. Though the skies are ablaze with light, the vegetation and people near the Hungtse are unharmed. The ancestors of the emperor are said initially to refute these teachings.
  • -781 DR: The city of Chia Wan Ch’uan is founded in the southern provinces.
  • -760 DR: By this time the power of the nobility in government had been broken and taken by the court scribes of the Li Dynasty.
  • Between -868 and -670 DR: The Kalmyk’s arise and drive the Shou Lung back to the Chukei Province. Khazari rebels and declares independence.
  • -670 DR Year of Unfurled Sails: The last Emperor Chin of the Li Dynasty in Shou Lung dies without heir. Defying his ancestors, he passes on the affairs of office to his wu jen advisor, a follower of the Path of Enlightenment. The advisor becomes the first Emperor Chin of the Ho (Peace) Dynasty.
  • -669 DR Year of Summer Frosts: First Emperor Chin of the Ho Dynasty proclaims the Organization of Thought, in which he seeks to make the Path of Enlightenment the only faith of Shou Lung. The Time of Contentions begins, as rival faiths battle each other in the bureaucracy, among the populace, and finally on the battlefield as temple militias contest in small civil wars.
  • The Emperor formally establishes the Bureaucracy with the Sage Lao Chin-Mao as its leader. Civil Service Examinations are begun for the first time this year.
  • Nobles squabble among themselves for position and power (as a result of the manipulation of the Bureaucracy), over the years these squabbles erupt into many bloody feuds, the most terrible battles taking place in the Ti Erte Province.
  • -649 DR Year of Falling Copper: In Shou Lung, the Impossible Palace of the Silver Domes disappears. That which remains is renamed the Field of Burnished Bronze.
  • Before -620 DR: The Hungtse Province is founded by nobles fleeing the feuds of Ti Erte and Sheng Ti Provinces. Without their armies the exiled nobility settle to become farming communities.
  • -620 DR Year of Noble Souls: In Shou Lung, the first Emperor Chin of the Ho Dynasty perishes mysteriously, along with his son. The grandson becomes the second Emperor Chin and announces the Time of Sharing Meals. Temple militias are outlawed and religious freedom encouraged. The Time of Contentions ends, and the Path of Enlightenment is established as the official faith of Shou Lung. This edict is less effective in the south, but the Path of Enlightenment becomes the major faith over the next thousand years.
  • -619 DR: The Imperial Capital is moved from Hsi-Feng to Hai Sheng
  • -547 DR Year of Toppled Trees: In Shou Lung, the first recorded appearance of the Giants in Grey — huge humanoid figures dressed in concealing grey cloaks and accompanied by thick fog. A massive earthquake destroys the province they are sighted in soon after their appearance.
  • -420 DR: Year of Manacles: In Shou Lung, the last of the Ho Dynasty is humbled before the armies of the Sea Lords of the maritime Karatin Province. The warlord of that province ascends the throne as the first Emperor Chin of the Hai (Ocean) Dynasty.
  • First Emperor Chin of the Hai Dynasty orders the Karatin Province to be drained and diked, transforming it into a fertile basin which is renamed to the Hai Yuan Province.
  • -417 DR Year of Harbour’s Lights: When the Kasada line collapses for lack of an heir, the regency searches for a suitable relative and settles on the Goshukara family. The first emperor of Goshukara is crowned on the island nation of Wa.
  • The Wa calendar begins.
  • -394 DR Year of Clouded Vision: The island of Wa is discovered by the empires to the west (Shou Lung and T’u Lung). Cham Ko Hag, a native of T’u Lung, is the mariner credited with the discovery. (His nationality is usually obscured in Shou Lung texts.)
  • -392 DR Year of Lanterns: The Giants in Grey are sighted in the Imperial Compound in Shou Lung.
  • -391 DR Year of Squalid Scarecrows: The Ivory Plague strikes Shou Lung. The Imperial Capital of Hai Sheng is struck hard and the Imperial family are decimated. After the Imperial family leave Hai Sheng a kirin appears to save the remaining inhabitants of Hai Sheng.
  • In Shou Lung, the first Emperor Chin of the Hai Dynasty and his household die from the Ivory Plague. The emperor’s young grandson survives, as does the emperor’s sister. She masquerades as the emperor, aided in this ruse by the bureaucracy and various good spirits, until the grandson is old enough to rule. The emperor’s sister then reveals her true identity and flees the city, never to be seen again. Her rule is now recognized as that of the second Emperor Chin, and her grandnephew is considered the third Emperor Chin of the Hai Dynasty. From this time on, if no male heirs are of age, it is custom for a suitable female heir to rule until a male heir comes of age. The ruler is referred to as emperor, regardless of sex.
  • The Ivory Plague decimates the Imperial Capital at Hai Sheng and it is abandoned. The Imperial family move to the nearby small city of Kuo Te’Lung, Court Architect Sum Ma Ling is ordered to design the Forbidden City.
  • -382 DR: The Court Architect Sum Ma Ling completes his design of the Forbidden City.
  • -381 DR: Year of Fallen Goats: Construction of the Forbidden City is completed. The Capital of Shou Lung is moved to Kuo Te’ Lung. Pingchow becomes a mecca for intellectual dissidents and scholars.
  • -315 DR Year of Vengeance: Hu Ling Do of T’u Lung writes his famous Hsao Chronicles. His writings encourage a strong following of the Way in the south.
  • -280 DR Year of the Impudent Kin: In Shou Lung, pirate activities in the Celestial Sea result in proclamation by the sixth Emperor Chin of the Hai Dynasty of the Scattering of Winds, demanding that the warlords of the island of Wa swear fealty to the emperor. They refuse, and the emperor begins massing his fleet.
  • -278 DR Year of the Ruling Sceptre: Wa builds castles and fortifies its coastline in anticipation of an invasion from the King of the Western Lands.
  • -275 DR Year of the Grinning Pack: Multiple attacks by Shou Lung against the various strongholds of Wa result in capture of the north and south. The sixth Emperor Chin moves against the centre with land armies and the collection of his fleets.
  • -274 DR to -225 DR: Cycle of Black Years: In T’u Lung, this period is marked by continual invasions from the south, incursions by petty lords from the north, blights, floods on the Fenghsintzu, and crop failures. Only regions where the local feudal lords remain in power retain some semblance of order. It is from these feudal lords that the barons of the south take their mandate to rule. Here is the first mention in records of the Wai and Yang clans, which were to shape the recent history of the nation.
  • It is during this period where no emperor commands the Empire of Shou Lung, the Emblems of Authority are sealed in a crypts beneath the Imperial City and not recovered until -225 DR with the founding of the Kao Dynasty.
  • -274 DR Year of the Purring Pard: Death of the sixth and last Emperor Chin of the Hai Dynasty of Shou Lung and his court in the last battle of Wa. The Shou Lung land armies overrun the Wa forces, but the emperor’s fleet runs aground on reefs hidden by the dweomercraft of the opposing warlords’ wu jen. The ship’s pilot, a gaijin named Rourke, recovers the Emblems of Imperial Authority but is slain upon return to the Imperial City. The Emblems disappear, and the Black Cycle of Years begins.
  • -273 DR Year of the Dancing Faun: Following years of tension with Shou Lung, General Ysohibei of the island nation of Wa accepts a truce from the Shou Lung governor of the north and sets himself up as warlord of the province. For the next century, Wa is wracked by warfare, beginning with conflicts between the nobles of Wa and the Shou Lung governors. Eventually, the Shou Lung governors become indistinguishable from their subjects, owing more allegiance to the Emperor of Wa than to the Emperor of Shou Lung. During this time the Order of the Snake, a mysterious organization of powerful warriors, gains footholds in all levels of the new governments.
  • -270 DR Year of the Winter Wolf: The Giants in Grey are reported throughout the Shou Lung empire. Crops fail as a blight strikes the coastal lowlands.
  • -265 DR Year of Burgeoning Victory: A criminal family in Kai Shan seizes control of the city, declaring their own sovereignty. Such city-states are common during the Black Cycle of Years, but Kai Shan survives semi-independent to this day, because it aided and supported Wo Mai, a noble from a neighbouring province, in his adventures.
  • -248 DR: Beginning of the reign of the Copper Demon of Tros, he seizes control of much of the eastern Kalmyk territory (between Kora Shan and Chukei Province) ruling the land in a brutal fashion.
  • -246 DR Year of Much Cheer: In Shou Lung, the Impossible Palace of the Silver Domes reappears for two weeks, then disappears again.
  • -240 DR Year of Enslaved Swords: End of the reign of the Copper Demon of Tros, who held a large section of western Shou Lung in his thrall for eight years, ruling the land in a brutal fashion. The beast is slain by the Seven Heroes and the Seven Nonmen. Wo Mai is reported as one of the Heroes.
  • -225 DR Year of the Golden Staff: The Black Cycle of Years ends in Shou Lung with the coronation of Wo Mai, a noble claiming descent from Nung Fu himself. Wo Mai recovers the Emblems of Imperial Authority from the crypts beneath the Imperial City, rallies the armies and other nobles, and crushes the rebellious outlying provinces. Wo Mai becomes the first Emperor Chin of the Kao (High) Dynasty.
  • -224 DR Year of the Forked Tongues: Defeat of the last invading southern tribes by Shou Lung allows the empire to re-establish its control in the south. The Black Leopard Cult, a secret society working to aid peasants, is displaced by the warring forces.
  • -223 DR Year of Burning Briars: Hui-Po, a wu jen advisor to the emperor of Wa, attempts to create a magical portal capable of whisking the emperor to safety in the event of an insurrection. In the process, Hui-Po inadvertently gates himself to a mysterious place known as Qui. Unnoticed by the officers, Hui-Po gathers a quantity of silk from the multicoloured bushes and returns to Wa. Hui-Po creates four scarves of transport to Qui from the silk, but before he informs the emperor of his creations, Hui-Po and his assistants are killed in a violent coup attempt. The scarves of transport are never used; their origin and function remain a mystery. They are eventually lost and forgotten, scattered throughout Wa and possibly elsewhere in Kara-Tur.
  • Between -225 DR and -150 DR: The Kalmyks ally with Shou Lung and become a vassal state. The Kalmyks invade Khazari, Semphar, and Solon, bringing these lands under nominal rule of Shou Lung.
  • -178 DR Year of the Cold Quarrel: In Shou Lung, the second Emperor Chin on his ascendancy declares the Spreading of Knowledge, also known as the Opening of Wa. Orders are given to pacify and redirect the population of Wa in Shou Lung ways. Distrustful of each other and weakened by a century of war, the daimyos of Wa are easy prey. The Order of the Snake secretly assists with the invasion. Some of the order’s members refuse to participate in the betrayal and form their own faction called the Order of the Mouse. Small in number, the Order of the Mouse is unable to rally support and retires to the wilderness, where it covertly attempts to thwart the efforts of the Order of the Snake.
  • -73 DR Year of Swift Courtships: Ascension of Mori, first emperor of the Kozakuran people in Shou Lung.
  • Between -150 DR and 80 DR: The Suren march out of Narfell and invade to the east. Khazari and Ra-Khati are conquered. Semphar declares itself independent of its Shou and Kalmyk rulers. The Kalmyk vassal state collapses.
  • 80 DR Year of the Mordant Blight: Invasion of the Horse Barbarians. The fifth Emperor Chin of the Kao Dynasty and an army made up mostly of T’u Lung troops rout the invaders in the Battle of the Silver Grasslands. The Suren invade Shou in retaliation for their displacement 200 years ago. Their loss at the Battle of the Silver Grasslands sees the collapse of Suren power in the region.
  • 134 DR Year of the Impassable Chasm: The Shou mariner Wan Ko Hei discovers Kozakura, and is presented to Emperor Koshu at the Kozakuran capital at Fukama.
  • 251 DR Year of the Strange Seedlings: The Shou Lung are driven from Wa by Nitta Shogoro, the Hidden Shogun. The Order of the Mouse produces evidence to Nitta showing that the Order of the Snake assisted with the Shou Lung invasion, but the Order of the Snake leaders go underground before Nitta can take action against them. Civil war rocks the island for more than 200 years before a stable government emerges, but the various petty warlords of Wa present a unified front against the “outland invaders.”
  • 253 DR Year of Sombre Smiles: The twelfth Emperor Chin of Shou Lung’s Kao Dynasty, faced with defeat in Wa, declares The Unleashing of Shackles. Wa is recognized as an independent state, and the tattered remains of the Shou Lung Regiment of the Grey Blossom are withdrawn from Wa. Many monuments are erected in the capital declaring the wondrous nature of the emperor as the sage emancipator of noble foreign peoples.
  • On the Nights of the Screaming Demons, a six-day span in autumn, major cities along the Fenghsintzu River in T’u Lung are visited by great, roaring spirits that chase people from the streets. The next morning, several prominent bureaucrats are discovered missing. Those missing were noted for their incompetence and corruption, so their passing was noted only to make the other bureaucrats more responsive to the people’s needs. The autobiography of a H’sin-to crime lord, published in 295 DR, links the Black Leopard Cult to the Screaming Demons, but no other mention is made.
  • 422 DR: The city of Balanzia is founded in the southern provinces
  • 511 DR Year of the Fortress Scoured: The Sixteenth Emperor Chin of the Kao Dynasty in Shou Lung declares The Revealing of Scrolls. The discussion of knowledge is encouraged, and many rival schools are established. The sciences of astronomy, alchemy, and geomancy are in a golden age. Priests of the Path of Enlightenment are dispatched to the far reaches of the globe, setting up shrines as far away as Kozakura. (In Kozakura, the faith is known as the Way of Enlightenment, much to the mutual embarrassment of Shou Lung followers of the Path of Enlightenment, and its rival faith, the Way).
  • 560 DR Year of the Unknown Truth: The Impossible Palace of the Silver Domes reappears briefly in Shou Lung, but disappears again before investigation can occur.
  • 521 DR: Centuries of overbearing taxes and garrisons cause the Yu’I province to rebel against the Empire of Shou Lung. The rebellion is crushed but the Sixteenth Emperor Chin of the Kao Dynasty later withdraws most of his garrisons and allows the Yu people a greater amount of self determination.
  • 631 DR Year of the Lone Lark: The wasting sickness sweeps the continent of Shou Lung. In dealing with the emergency, local lords are granted more power in the bureaucracy, particularly in the hard-hit southern provinces.
  • 645 DR Year of the Costly Gift: Incursion of jungle barbarians results in the appointment of a T’u Lung native as captain of a Shou Lung garrison post. Over the next five hundred years, more and more natives of the southern provinces come to the fore in the military.
  • 670 DR Year of the Many Floods: In Shou Lung, an invasion of southern barbarians overruns the We’peng garrison and Kahgang Su. For the first time local forces outnumber those loyal to the emperor in the armies repelling the invasion. The invasion ends suddenly and the barbarian forces retreat. The cause of the retreat is unknown, but guessed to be the death or other loss of the barbarians’ charismatic leader. Many of the clan militias and mercenary forces formed during this invasion remain in place after this time.
  • 800 DR Year of the Black Fist: The last ruler of the Kao Dynasty and his family perish in a fire that sweeps the old Imperial City in Shou Lung. His third cousin Ton Bor becomes the first emperor of the La (Wax) Dynasty, a period of widespread corruption and mismanagement. The reigns of this emperor and those that follow in his dynasty are controlled by rival factions and secret societies, and the name of the dynasty has been given to it by the successor Kuo Dynasty to reflect the malleability of its rulers. (Its own name was Yin [Silver], but that name has been eradicated from all tomes in the empire, and only survives in records in Kozakura and other lesser states.)
  • 803 DR Year of the Reaching Hand: The Yang clan takes control of the Tyu Ton garrison, replacing Shou Lung troops with those loyal to Yang. There is widespread feeling that the La Dynasty is insufficient for the task of controlling an empire, and most garrisons are infiltrated by secret societies, including the Black Leopard Cult, which makes a resurgence during this time.
  • 988 DR Year of the Meddling Avatar: Wai Fu Hong leads a group of cities in revolt against imperial taxes. Instead of reprisal, the throne negotiates, concentrating instead on not spreading the news of the revolt. T’u Lung nobles (as they think themselves now, a separate entity from the corrupt northerners) are encouraged by the perceived weakness of the imperial court.
  • 1044 DR Year of Singing Shards: Two of the concubines of the thirteenth Emperor Chin of the La Dynasty give birth within hours of each other. Otherwise childless and without heir, factions begin gathering over the succession. Southern courtiers ally with the infant Shin Gisen, while the bureaucracy and army support the “twin” Shin Lu.
  • 1060 DR Year of Fantastic Spectacle: The Last Emperor of the La Dynasty in Shou Lung takes ill, but refuses to name an heir to the throne, fearing that he might meet an untimely end if he did. The southern lords in T’u Lung begin mobilizing their armies, and those southern garrisons that have remained loyal to the Shou are overthrown.
  • 1062 DR Year of the Shattered Lance: The seventh and last Emperor Chin of the La Dynasty dies without recognizing either son as heir. The provincial army and bureaucracy favour Shin Lu, while the southern nobles and courtiers back the more malleable Shin Gisen. War breaks out, and the La castle and the new imperial capital are burned.
  • 1065 DR Year of the Watching Wood: The Battle of Crimson Wheat: Shin Gisen’s forces are destroyed, but the victorious Shin Lu’s forces are too weak to pursue. Shin Lu returns to the old capital with the Emblems of Imperial Authority and becomes the first Emperor Chin of the Kuo (Nation) Dynasty. His first directive is to offer to supporters of Shin Gisen the Choice of Blades: Die or flee to the south to the strongholds held by Shin Gisen’s nobles.
  • 1066 DR Year of the Lord’s Dilemma: Shin Gisen is made the first emperor of the Lui Dynasty, officially forming the nation of T’u Lung. Shou Lung forces invade T’u Lung but are repulsed. Shou Lung calls these invasions over the next two hundred years the Uncountable Wars, but T’u Lung refers to them as the Major Incursions of the Northern Barbarians in their texts. The writings out of the T’u Lung provinces from this point on refer to Shou Lung as a corrupt empire on the verge of internal collapse. The powerful families in T’u Lung, backing the new emperor, are the Tan, Ho, Wai, and Yang families. They extend their power over the next forty years.
  • 1067 DR Year of the Minotaur Paladin: In order to repel the Shou invaders, Emperor Lui in T’u Lung appeals to the secret societies, declaring an amnesty for those organizations that had been previously banned by the Shou, provided they send troops to help in the First Incursion. The combined force, called The Might of the South, routes the northerners at the Battle of Feng Wa Crossing and the Stand of Ninto. The Black Leopard Cult, while neither the largest nor the most popular force on the field, is well represented.
  • 1068 DR: Betrayal of the CaHong-Chwi Garrison: Happened in Tien Lun Province.
  • 1085 DR: Conflict of the Silver Clouds: Happened in Tien Lun Province.
  • 1106 DR Year of the Solemn Halfling: In order to strengthen the ties between the emperor and the barons, Emperor Shin Gisen marries his eldest daughter, Shin Do, to the scion of the Wai Clan, Wai Long Hwa. The festivities were scheduled for high summer but were pushed back by the Fifteenth Incursion, so the wedding occurred in the winter—an unlucky time, according to court seers.
  • 1108 DR Year of the Open Chest: Shin Gisen dies in a hunting accident. His son, Shin Rokan, becomes the second emperor of the Lui Dynasty in T’u Lung. Shin Rokan proves to be a less capable commander than his father, for while he blunts the Shou attacks in the Sixteenth Incursion at the Battle of the Blood Plains, he loses a significant portion of the northern territories in the process. The various baronial clans rumble in dissent.
  • 1116 DR Year of the Empty Scabbard: Shin Rokan proposes to remove the power of the armies from the barons, increase taxes to pay for the new forces, and demand of all an oath of loyalty to the Lui Dynasty. He is assassinated by Wai Long Hwa, who proclaims himself emperor. The Ho and Tan families form an alliance and secede, as does the Yang Clan. This is the beginning of the “Three Kingdoms” period of T’u Lung history. There are fewer Shou Lung incursions during this period as the corrupt northerners send diplomatic missions to first one, then the other, then the third kingdom, hoping to weaken all and eventually reabsorb them into the Shou Empire.
  • 1134 DR Year of the Sylvan Wards: Shin Lu dies after seventy years on the throne in Shou Lung, and is given the deific name of Ying (Eagle). Shin’s son becomes the second Emperor Chin.
  • 1140 DR Year of the Knight: The second Emperor Chin of Shou Lung dies of old age and is given the deific name of Tz’u Wei (Hedgehog). His grandson takes the throne as the third Emperor Chin.
  • 1147 DR: The armies of Shou Lung breach the north wall of the city of Balanzia for the first time but the Shou forces are defeated.
  • 1148 DR Year of the Angry Sea: The Three Kingdoms of T’u Lung are reunited. Wai Long Hwa is officially recognized as the third emperor of the Lui Dynasty. The Ho and Tan families are defeated in the war, though still powerful. The Yang family is given autonomous control of its lands in a diplomatic settlement. The Maki Clan, a group of upstart barons, gains power during this time by supporting Wai.
  • The forces of Shou Lung attack and breach the defences of the city of Balanzia again, again the Shou forces are defeated.
  • 1150 DR: The forces of Shou Lung attack the city of Balanzia and collapse the Gate of Shuza.
  • 1152 DR: The forces of Shou Lung attack the city of Balanzia and are only defeated after a huge and bloody battle.
  • 1153 DR Year of the Remembering Stones: The Twenty-Ninth Incursion of the Shou Lung into T’u Lung. During this conflict, the city of Balanzia is attacked and its walls breached for the sixth time. After provoking an ancient curse, the inhabitants of the city go mad and abandon the place.
  • 1158 DR Year of the Blood Tusk Charge: Wai Long dies in his sleep and is succeeded by his son, Wai Long Sun, the fourth emperor in the Lui Dynasty of T’u Lung.
  • 1163 DR: Battle of the Hammer: Happened in Tien Lun Province.
  • 1169 DR Year of the Earth Shaking: Jo He Ting, a potter of Chedoru, creates a set of magic bowls for the imperial court of T’u Lung. These eight bowls bestow clear thought on those who eat from them, but only for an hour after they are used.
  • 1173 DR Year of the Fledglings: The bowls created by Jo He Ting provide no protection from poison, and Emperor Wai Long Sun dies after eating poisoned rice from one of them while seeking an answer to the problem of what to do about ambitious relatives. Wai Long Sun’s cousin, Wai Chu Doang, becomes the fifth emperor of the Lui Dynasty in T’u Lung. He uses the oath of loyalty to raise large, powerful armies, both to contain the baronial clans and to fight Shou Lung. His heavy-handed military solutions to domestic problems earn his reign the name “The Law of Fists.”
  • 1180 DR Year of Sinking Sails: The third Emperor Chin of Shou Lung dies and is given the deific name Pao (Panther). He is succeeded by his wife, who rules as the fourth Emperor Chin until his son comes of age two years later.
  • 1182 DR Year of the Tomb: The fourth Emperor Chin of Shou Lung steps down and retires to a monastery. Upon her death thirty years later, she is given the deific name Yeh Ying (Nightingale). Her son becomes the fifth Emperor Chin.
  • 1206 DR Year of the Sarune: The fifth Emperor Chin of Shou Lung distinguishes himself in battle against the pirates of the Celestial Sea, sacking several havens of the pirates, including the one located on Akari Island. Wa, also hurt by pirate raids, recognizes Shou Lung claims to small islands in the Celestial Sea.
  • 1219 DR Year of Prideful Tales: In the Forty-First Incursion recorded by the historians of T’u Lung, Wai Chu Doang leads his troops in the Battle of Tan. They are routed, and the emperor is chased into the T’hai Salt Flats and slain by Shou assassins. Wai Chu Cor, the emperor’s only son, turns back the incursion but dies of wounds suffered in the Battle of Steaming Horses before he can ascend the throne. Wai Chu Doang’s grandson, Wai Juku A’ti, becomes the sixth emperor of T’u Lung.
  • 1250 DR Year of the Riven Skull: The fifth Emperor Chin of Shou Lung dies in a hunting accident. His grandson becomes the sixth Emperor Chin. The deceased emperor is given the deific name Yeh Tu (Hare), giving rise to speculation that he was assassinated by a jealous relative.
  • 1261 DR Year of Bright Dreams: Wai Juku A’ti dies when an evil spirit steals his soul. Shou Lung wu jen are suspected, and Shou natives are persecuted, though later evidence indicates that a rival family or cult in T’u Lung was responsible. The eldest son, Wai Chi Con, dies in a sailing accident soon afterward, and the second son, the weaker Wai Lo Yan, becomes the seventh emperor of T’u Lung. Wai Lo Yan is young and sickly, taken to fevers and fits for most of his reign. Court politicians and baronial clans prosper through intrigue during this period.
  • 1293 DR Year of the Talking Skull: The sixth Emperor Chin of Shou Lung dies of old age and is given the deific name Ch’uan (Dog) for his faithful service to the memories of his forbears. His son becomes the seventh Emperor Chin.
  • 1305 DR Year of the Creeping Fang: Wai Lo Yan proves to be one of the most long-lived and competent emperors of the Lui Dynasty in T’u Lung, lasting forty-four years before dying from a particularly vicious fever. His only direct descendant is a daughter. Under tradition dating back to Shou Lung, the daughter would be made emperor, but the T’u Lung nobles bristle at the thought. Instead, the daughter is made regent until Wai Gada Sinzu, Wai Lo Yan’s nephew (through a younger sister), comes of age. The daughter was named Wai Yeh Ying, but is remembered officially as only Wai Lo Yan’s Daughter in texts. Her reign is called The Regency.
  • 1308 DR Year of the Catacombs: Wai Gada Sinzu, the nephew, takes the throne as the eighth emperor of the Lui Dynasty in T’u Lung. Wai Yeh Yin disappears soon after. Diplomatic overtures with Shou Lung are made, stabilizing the border and ending the major incursions (though armed forces of the Shou continue to invade, usually seeking criminals of the state who flee south to sanctuary). The Shou consider these wars to be uncountable, but T’u Lung official histories identify no fewer than seventy-four separate invasions (Shou Lung scholars dispute these figures).
  • 1311 DR Year of the Fist: The seventh Emperor Chin of Shou Lung dies mysteriously in his sleep. He is given the deific name Hsiao (Owl). His son becomes the eighth Emperor Chin of the Eighth Dynasty.
  • 1336 DR Year of the Highmantle/Year of the Dark Dragon: Matasuuri Nagahide becomes the new shogun of Wa. Foreign traders are ordered to leave the country. Unauthorized interaction with foreigners is declared illegal.
  • 1337 DR Year of the Wandering Maiden: Government forces slaughter thousands at Juzimura Castle, which has been seized by a coalition of displaced ronin and radical worshippers of Chauntea. After the siege is broken, the shogunate of Wa denounces Chauntea as an illegal deity. Worship of Chauntea is declared an offence punishable by execution.
  • 1339 DR Year of the Weeping Moon: The Eighth Emperor Chin of Shou Lung announces the Gathering of Pearls as a goal of his reign. Plans are set in motion to recover lost artefacts and books. Excavations begin in cities that have been noted as capitals. Old territories to the north and west are brought back under imperial control. Contacts with Wa and Kozakura are expanded. The port city of Akkaido on Wa sees an increase in foreign trade, as restrictions limiting interaction with foreigners are somewhat relaxed. The nobles of T’u Lung fear that this effort is an attempt to isolate their nation in the world. In response, T’u Lung opens its doors to traders and establishes its own diplomatic missions to Tabat, Wa, and Kozakura.
  • 1349 DR Year of the Bridle: The Puissant Department of Joyful Rediscovery in Shou Lung charges the Ko family with the task of turning Akari Island into a maritime colony and forward base for his Magnificent and Just Majesty’s Fleet.
  • 1351 DR Year of the Crown: The shogunate of Wa orders daimyos to raise the moral standards in their provinces. Known and suspected adulterers are executed, waitresses are banned from teahouses, and luxury items are forbidden to the lower classes.
  • 1352 DR Year of the Dragon: After the birth of two daughters (who cannot take the throne, except as regents), Wai Gada Sinzu’s wife gives birth to twin sons, named Wai Anku and Wai Soreti. Various factions, families, and cults in T’u Lung begin taking sides, sending gifts to one son or the other.

Important Events

The Nine Immortals: In the time when the worlds were newly formed, and burned like fire and smelled of hot steel, the Celestial One directed his many minions, the kami of place and stream, to walk the red earth and quell it’s violence. All the while, he breathed his cool, misty breath over the land in the divine wind known as the kamikaze, to make the land a fit place to grow rice upon.

Soon, from the dust of the Red Earth, humans rose, but they were a quarrelsome and contentious lot, more beasts than men. The Celestial Emperor, ruler of the bureaucracy, believed this wrong, and desired that men should live in the Image of Heaven. And he set about to make the Will of Heaven clear to all by sending his emissaries to the lands below, each to teach one aspect of the True Path. These emissaries were the First Emperors of Shou Lung, and are known by legend as the Nine Immortals.

The immortals represent the nine cardinal virtues of the Path. As immortals, they may take any form they wish, but are commonly seen in two aspects – that of humans, of great beauty and power, and of nine great dragons which hold up the world and move all things by their thoughts. As the Celestial One sent these Nine Immortals into the lands of men, this is why the lands they went into are known as Shou Lung, or Receiver of the Dragon.

Tan Chin and the Black Leopard Cult: After seven prosperous years, rumours began to reach the Great Court of a new cult to the south, who worshiped the spirit of a great black leopard named Hei Te Pao. This cult spread terror throughout the peaceful rice lands of the Fenghsintsu, extorting rice and treasure from the Emperor’s own officials, murdering all who opposed them in fiendish and terrible ways, and kidnapping innocents for use as sacrifices to it’s bloody spirit-god. And in fury, the young emperor vowed to destroy this cult. Seven parties of heroes left seven times from the Imperial City to defeat the cults of Hei Te Pao, and not one returned.

It was from this that Tan Chin understood that the high Priest of the Black Leopard cult was a wu jen of mighty power, and that even his most skilled sorcerers and warriors could not strike him in his lair. So Tan Chin undertook to find a way to himself bring the minions of Hei Te Pao to justice. In the great libraries of the Imperial City, where all that is known is recorded, Tan Chin discovered an old legend which told of a great demon panther held in thrall by the ensorcelment of an ivory chain. He spoke of this to his blood brother, the poet wu jen Kar Wuan, and in secret, the two heroes rode to the south and the lair of the dark cult.

Now, when the two reached the deserted temple, they found evil Nan Kung Chi, priest of the Black Leopards, awaiting them. For with his mighty sorcery, nothing could hide from his eyes, even in the jungle. In his rage, Nan Kung Chi summoned his great black spirit cat to slay them. But Tan Chin recognized the ivory chain that held it within the sorcerer’s power, and with a sweep of the spear Shan Tien, shattered the links. Unbound, the evil spirit turned upon it’s tormentor and carried him shrieking off into the night. His remaining followers fled out to sea, led by the Second High Priest of the order, and were never seen again. So the Black Leopard Cult was defeated.

Tan Chin and the Great Wall: Now, although Chien Fu had defeated the horse barbarians many years before, they were a stubborn people; wild like their desert homes and high tundras. And they swept down each year upon the helpless provinces of Chukei and Ma’ Yuan, ravaging and killing as they wished. The border garrisons were often outnumbered, and to serve in the northern armies was as if to be given a death sentence.

“My empire is being bled dry,” spoke Tan Chin to his best friend, the poet Kar Wuan one night. “If only there were a way to hold back the horsemen without this grevous price!” Now Kar Wuan also hated this bloodshed, and together, the two cleverly devised a way which to end it for all time.

In those days, there dwelt under the sea a great dragon, whose name was Pao Hu Jen, the Guardian. His length exceeded that of a thousand li, and his task was to guard the Jade Mirror of Shih. From his studies, Kar Wuan knew of this, and he also knew that the Jade Mirror had the power to turn life into stone and stone to life. He advised the young Emperor to join him, and together, they took sail one night, far out into the Celestial Sea to where Pao Hu was said to sleep.

With Kar Wuan’s spells to aid them, they swam to the bottom of the ocean. Soon, they came upon the huge dragon, sleeping with his many coils wrapped around the stone pillars which hold up the land of Shou Lung from the sea. Between his paws, there rested the Jade Mirror. With craft and spells, they stole the mirror from Pao Hu.

Now, when the great dragon awoke and found the mirror gone, he rose to the surface of the sea in a fury. His breath scored the clouds with steam, and his bellow of anger rocked the heavens! But to his surprise, he found only the Emperor Tan Chin waiting for him, sitting fishing in his small boat. For Kar Wuan had already fled to Shou Lung with his sorcerous arts. “Man Emperor!” roared the Dragon. “Have you seen the thief who took my Mirror?” Tan Chin smiled. “Indeed I have,” he replied. “He has gone westward, to the land of the horse barbarians, to sell your mirror to their great Khan. If you hurry, you will surely stop him!” And so the dragon rushed along the clouds to the west, his tremendous body stretching out for miles behind him.

When he reached the west, he found Kar Wuan standing on a high mountaintop, facing the north and the east. And as the dragon swept around in a great curve, to snatch off Kar Wuan’s head with his claws, the clever wu jen raised the Magic Mirror to face him. Lightning crashed, and the dragon Pao Hu turned to stone! His huge body crashed to earth as if so many mighty bricks, stretching the length of many miles, and forming a huge wall over hill and plain! His one hundred spines became guardhouses, his great claws mighty fortresses, and his fanged mouth the tremendous gate which forbids entry to those who would enter Shou in anger. The horse barbarians could not go over his great stone body, and in rage, turned west to seek easier prey.

All this is, of course, true; I myself observed this. And this is why the great span that runs from the high Plateau to the great river of Chukei is known as the Great Dragon’s Wall.

Shin Gisen and Shin Lu: Attend me now, for this is the tragedy! For the weak willed Sun Ma Chin could never seem to choose a wife from his many concubines. And, as the way of karma wrote events, two of his mistresses became pregnant by him. Both give birth within hours of each other, and both gave Sun Ma Chin sons. One was Shin Lu and
the other Shin Gisen.

Now Shin Lu and Shin Gisen were both fair to look at, and both reached manhood as tall, powerful princes. And it would be a mistake to take the words of Wei Tsao, who describes Shin Gisen as the more “malleable.” Rather, it was that the advice of his courtiers ran along the same paths as his own. For while Shin Lu’s mother was of the Wang, and thus gave to him the balanced measure and cool head of her people, Shin Gisen’s blood was that of the Hai Sea Lords, who are hot tempered and arrogant to a fault. It enraged him that his half brother might share his throne, and he began to plot in secret against him.

This is the way of it; Shin Lu at this time loved the lady Tien Shih, of noble birth and a member of the House of Ch’ing Tung. They would take long walks through the Imperial Gardens together, admiring the moon, the stars, and each other. Now Shin Gisen knew of this, and he arranged a way to encompass his brother’s death. Among his friends, Gisen counted an ambassador to Wa, and this courtier had spoken to him of the feared assassins of the samurai peoples, the ninja. Indeed, two ninja were now counted among the ambassadors’ personal retinue. For a small price; say, a provincial governorship, the ambassador was willing…

So it was that as Shin Lu walked with his love in the Imperial Gardens, the hired killers leapt from cover. Before the young Prince could draw sword, they were upon him. But for love of Shin Lu, his Lady Tien threw herself upon the ninja’s weapon, saving the Prince. The famous Floating Blade of Shin Lu drank assassin’s blood that night, but it was far too late.

Now when Gisen came to the garden to “discover” his brother’s body, he found instead a living Prince, covered with the blood of his dead love. At once, both knew the truth of it, and their hands flew to swords. There in the great open lawns of the Palace they fought, blades flashing silver and crimson in the moonlight, until the Floating Blade slashed Gisen’s face open from eye to jaw. In rage, Prince Gisen drove his sword once through Prince Lu’s chest, and fled into the night. His followers retreated with him, setting the City afire and leaving all within to die.

But Shin Lu did not die, and with the sorcerous arts of his White Chung wu jen, he was soon recovered in body, though not in soul. For a dark passion consumed him, and he hungered to have the Floating Blade drink his brother’s blood. And so three years later, they faced each other, across a vast field and with two opposing hosts, at the place called the Plains of Dispute. Here, two mighty armies clashed in mortal combat, until the rivers ran with blood and forever after the grass grew red.

This was the Battle of the Crimson Wheat (2315) and by it’s bloody end, the power of Shin Gisen was broken. In rout, his forces fled to the South. To prevent Shin Lu’s pursuit, the wu jen Kow Tang smote the Southern Road with his staff, and the road shattered from end to end. This is how the Shattered Road was created.

In sorrow, Shin Lu returned to the Capitol. He was crowned there as Emperor of the Kuo (or Nation) Dynasty. His first command was to offer Gisen’s rebellious supporters the Choice of Blades – to die at the Emperor’s pleasure, or flee to the Southlands and join their deposed Prince. The Floating Blade never drank Gisen’s blood. And Shin Lu died alone after 70 years of rule, the name of his lost love Tien on his lips. As for Prince Gisen, he was crowned Emperor of the Lui (Green) Dynasty. The land he fled into was named T’u Lung, or Dragon of the Earth, and a new kingdom proclaimed. But cruelty and avarice ruled Gisen’s new empire, and soon destroyed him as well. Betwixt this, and two centuries of war between the Empires, the land of T’u Lung has become like it’s founder – twisted, evil, and lost before Heaven.

The Gathering of Pearls: Now Dog followed Hare, and Owl followed Dog. These are the secret names of the Sixth, and Seventh Emperors Chin. But it is said that eight is the lucky number of prosperity, and so it is shown to be true. For by the eighth of the line, the blood of the hengeyokai had thinned, such that it is not even suspected today. And, as fortune has it, the son of Hsiao Chin was not raised at the Great Court. Instead, his mother fell to disagreement with the foolish Seventh Emperor, and fled with her infant son to her father’s fief in far Kao Shan.

Here then, was the young Prince raised, among the honest and simple people of the mountains. He grew tall and strong, a delight to his mother and the pride of his family. In the year of 1311 DR, he ascended the Jade Throne, taking the name of Kai Tsao Shou, or He Who Rebuilds the Dragon. In this time, his honest nature has reshaped all of Shou Lung. With his first official proclamation, he established the Gathering of the Pearls, creating many new ministries devoted to recovering what had been lost by the weak and foolish dynasties before him. He has commissioned great public works and revived the navy. The people have rice and the temples receive their prayers.

The Eighth Emperor Kai Chin is a man of strength, and admires heroes. So it is that he has called upon the brave of Shou Lung to serve the Empire in novel ways. Daring adventurers take his commission to explore the deserted cities and rid them of evil things. Old territories to the north and west are gathered again under his banner, as new general lead his armies. Even within the bureaucracy, there is a call for change, as the corrupt and the evil are cast down from office, and the wise and honourable raised in their places. For he is the Rebuilder, and in his strength and wisdom are the Empire’s salvation.

Life and Society

Mandarinate

The Mandarinate is made up of the upper echelon of scholars and officials, and includes both court scholars and the heads of various official ministries of the bureaucracy. The mandarins are a select group, centred around the court in Kuo Te’ Lung and the neighbouring city of Ping Chow. They are considered to be the embodiment of the “superior man” of Lao Chin-Mao; talented, cultured and well educated.

Nobility

The Clan: The centre of the Shou world is the clan. The clan is a tightly woven family, including grandparents, married children, grandchildren, servants and even beasts. At the top of the clan hierarchy is the Clan Head, who is always the eldest male of the family, although occasionally a grandfather will abdicate his leadership in favour of a young son (of 30 or 40) who has shown proper devotion and promise.

The power of the Clan Head is absolute. He may choose who is to marry, and to whom; where the-fortunes of the family are to be spent; and who is to inherit and when. To question his will is to risk being cast out of the clan. To a Shou, this is the ultimate fear, for without a clan, a man has no one to call upon for help, no honour to shield him, and no good name with which to win a living or a bride. Who will take care of him when he is old? Who will speak for him when his good name is slandered? It is well known that those who lose their clan will soon set out upon the road of brigandage and dishonour, for without the clan, what is there to live for?

The Clan Head is responsible to his family as well, He must provide food and shelter for them, and cause no dishonour to the family name. When business with merchants or the government must be done, he must do it. If the government chooses to punish a clan member, the Head, or Tai-tai, must shield the offender from the Emperor’s wrath, even taking the punishment himself. He must find proper husbands and wives for his children, find them worthy occupations and even support them if they are unable to find work.

A dutiful member of the clan must show respect in all ways to his Clan Head. He will call him Honoured Father, Sir, or Master. When he goes abroad to make his fortune in the capital, he sends money back to the clan. The clan determines what work he will pursue, unless they have no specific directions. Even the choice of wife or husband must be approved by his Clan Head. But for this, the clan member has the security of knowing that, no matter where he goes, he will have people to stand for him, and the family honour and wealth to fall back upon. For all but the most adventurous, this is more than enough.

In addition to those of the living, the clan encompasses the dead as well. Members of the clan who have achieved great things during their lives are remembered and honoured. Their deeds are often spoken of in the family histories, and sacrifices to their memories made every festival or feast day. Children are often given the names of a great clan member of the past, in hopes that the child will one day live up the honour of his ancestor.

Clan Feng Su: A shipping clan based in the river town of Cham Fau. May have connections to the pirates of the Hungtse

Clan Lien: A prestigious clan from the town of Linshung in the To Chan Valley of Hungtse Province.

Clan Liu: For many generations has had a running feud with the Feng Su Clan of Cham Fau. Owns a number of ships

Clan Lung: Men Lung Chen-Shan-Tien-Kung-Te, the Elder of the Clan

Clan Tien Lun: A large, wealthy, prosperous, merchant clan. Supported the forces of Shin Lu in 1062 DR and was destroyed by the forces of Shin Gisen before 1065 DR.

Merchant Class

Merchants: Merchants in Shou Lung are not the despised class that they are in Kozakura and Wa. Here, there are no haughty samurai to scoff at those who make their living from selling the work of others. Indeed, the merchant of Shou Lung is more than a mere shopkeeper. He is a physician, healing the aches and pains of the people with acupressure. He is an innkeeper, who gives the weary traveller a place of rest and fine food. He is an herbalist, who, with his staff of apprentices, grinds powders and mixes potions for internal ills and magics. In short, the merchant is the backbone of Shou society, for he provides services necessary to both the highest and lowest of rank.

In most cases, the merchant class also provides the majority of educated young men for the ever expanding bureaucracy. This is because most farmer’s sons cannot spare the long hours of study required in order to pass the Civil Service Examinations; they must instead tend beasts and till fields from sunup to sundown. Within the nobility, few young gentlemen have the desire to study for a position lower than they were born into. It is only in the merchant class that the happy coincidence of upward mobility and leisure time come together. It is rare indeed that a merchant’s family does not have one son studying for his exams, supported by his entire clan, for if he is successful, the entire family will prosper with him.

Officials: There are many levels of officials, ranging from province governors with armies of assistants to lowly tax clerks in backwater villages. Any native of the Empire can win himself a post in the bureaucracy by passing the complex and difficult Civil Service Examination with a high enough score. Foreigners and those favoured by the Court may also be appointed to official posts, although this is far rarer. Only nonhumans and non-men are excepted from holding public office.

As an official, the young scholar will report to one of the many ministries established by the Emperor, working diligently until he is promoted. If he is skilled and competent, he may soon find himself the magistrate in charge of a minor village or garrison – not his own home village (this is forbidden by the Emperor, as it encourages insurrection and corruption among officials), but possibly one very much like it. With greater experience, he may one day become a governor, and rule an entire province in the Emperor’s name. His goal to eventually become head of his own ministry, able to make decisions and govern an entire aspect of the Empire as directed by the Son of Heaven.

An official is far from all powerful. Above, below and to either side of him, he will find competitors and limits; his hope is to eventually rise to a high enough position to free himself of most obstacles to his power. Even as the director of a powerful ministry; a member of the mandarinate itself, he may still face punishment and dismissal should his actions or the actions of his underlings anger the Emperor. But the rewards, in money, power and honour, are well worth the risk.

Lower Class

Peasants: Unlike the peasant of Kozakura, the peasant of Shou Lung is considered a farmer, not a serf. The land he farms has been owned by his family for generations, handed down from father to eldest son. He may choose to leave the land; to enter politics, the priesthood, or even become a merchant. He sells his crop freely in the markets, planting what and where he wishes, and giving only what the bureaucracy demands as its taxes.

No powerful noble holds power of life and death over the farmer of Shou Lung. Instead, he is judged fairly by the magistrate of his village, appointed from afar by a wise and just bureaucracy He raises many sons and daughters to till the land, and within his family clan, his word is law. Unlike the serf of Wa, he is content, because he is free.

Customs

Clothing: While much of the clothing worn in the lands of Shou Lung is similar to clothing elsewhere in Kara Tur, there are several garments that are so typically “Shou” as to warrant special attention. One of these is the maitung, a tunic favoured by scholars and officials. Floor length and buttoned to the neck with a high collar, it is usually crafted from subdued silks and woollens.

The cheosong is a narrow, tight silk woman’s dress, common in the high court and more cosmopolitan cities. The skirt is very long, reaching almost to the floor, and has a slit running up either side, often to the hip. The bodice is very tight and buttoned with a high collar. Often, the dress is embroidered with gold or silk thread, depicting mythical beasts and legends which wrap around the body from chest to hem. The cheosong is not commonly found elsewhere in Kara Tur, as it is considered far too revealing for a proper woman to wear in public. It is especially popular with sing-song girls and other female entertainers.

Older women wear a less revealing version of the cheosong, called the cheo-sam. It is more like a loose embroidered robe of floor length, with enormous sleeves and a high collar.

Unlike the short pants and tunic of the Northern lands, the samfu is a long sleeved, pyjama-like outfit. While commonly made of cotton, silk is used in the homes of the wealthy. In colder climes, such as Ma’Yuan Province, it is quilted and worn with high fur boots. The samfu is worn by all classes of people in Shou Lung, and serves as bedclothes, day wear, and formal wear, depending on the richness of the fabric and the complexity of decoration. Occasionally, a small embroidered cap is also worn with it.

The waitao is a great heavy coat, with enormous sleeves, favoured by soldiers, bailiffs and other military men. It is usually quilted and thus serves as some protection from sword cuts. The sleeves are excellent for carrying hidden weapons. On rare occasions, it may be embroidered. A variation of this is the hai-waitao, or ceremonial robes worn at court by magistrates and nobles. These robes retain the huge sleeves and floor length hems, but are heavily embroidered and trimmed with pearls, gems and rich furs. In most court situations, the hai-waitao is the dress of choice, allowing freedom of movement, limited protection against an assassins dagger, and allowing the wearer to easily conceal weapons and secret things within its sleeves. It is also worn with a small embroidered cap.

It is common for families to keep huge chests of clothes, passing the most treasured down through the Clan. Shou clothing is known to be extremely durable, even at its most fancy. The many layered kimonos of Wa and Kozakura have not taken well to the Imperial Realms, because they are considered too flimsy for daily wear.

Combat: The Shou are not known for the quality of their sword makers. They have not yet mastered the “thousand fold”” techniques of the swordmasters of Wa and Kozakura, which make swords unnaturally strong. Therefore, Shou blades tend to be heavier and not as sharp. This lack of fine blades has tended to damp their enthusiasm for the sword as the chief weapon of combat, although they are known for the creation of several interesting variations on the sword, such as butterfly blades.

Therefore, the Shou are not, for obvious reasons, devotees of the sword duel. This is not to say that they refrain from war – indeed, warfare is seen as a just and honourable way to settle disputes and conquer new territory. Many a man will speak proudly of his service in the Emperor’s armies, fighting the horse barbarians and the unwashed Kozakuran scum to the West. Soldiers and warriors are highly respected for their professionalism and bravery.

And this may be the point – professionalism. Rarely, if ever, will one encounter a Shou version of a kensai or ronin, wandering the land with sword in hand. The Shou consider this sort of single-minded devotion to mayhem with the same view as you of the Realms would view a madman rampaging about with an axe. In the Shou viewpoint, the time to draw swords is when a proper war has been declared, the boundaries are known, and all are agreed upon how to divide the loot when the fighting ends. Duels in vengeance for lost honour are considered foolish at best. Why should one cause so much pain and disharmony over saving face, when it would be easier to either have the offender put to death by the local magistrate, or quietly poisoned by a hired sing-song girl? Everyone will assume you arranged his death, and that he was a fool to have opposed you. In this way, you will have saved face.

One should not mistake this calm and rational view-point to be cowardice. The Shou love to fight. But unlike the combats of Wa or Kozakura, which are usually to the death, the Shou prefer to beat their enemies senseless using the one skill they excel in above all others; the fighting style of unarmed combat, or kung fu.

The Shou are known as the best martial artists in all of Kara-Tur. They are the inventors of the science of unarmed combat, and have devised literally thousands of styles (each style may have its own name, but the overall concept itself is, of course, known as kung fu, or the Way of the Open Hand). Each town has at least two or three teaching halls, or dojos, where students come to master techniques and skills. In addition, every Shou-ling sect has its own martial arts school and each disciple is rigorously trained in these skills. I have taken time to speak of these schools in greater detail in my descriptions of the Monasteries of Shou Lung.

The masters of the open hand art fight often. There are contests between rival schools, in which students champion their particular style of kung fu. There are often conflicts between warring Orders of the Shou ling faith, where the weapons of the body are the only weapons used. As most people of Shou Lung know at least a little martial arts, it is a common way to settle disputes and vendettas-two merchant clans may meet and battle each other in the streets, or two local tongs may have kung fu skirmishes to decide the control of a particular city. There are also many commercial contests, where fight promoters or wealthy nobles will put up a rich purse and invite all interested fighters to compete. Occasionally, the local magistrates will get into the act, arranging kung fu exhibitions or grudge matches to settle a dispute between two feuding clans.

The Shou also excel in the construction and use of martial arts weapons – most of the most bizarre weapons you will encounter in traveling the length of Kara-Tur have originated here in Shou Lung. Man catchers, sectional staves and rods, lajatang, nunchaku, sai, sang kauw – these are the weapons of the average Shou warrior, rather than swords and bows. Many of these weapons are nearly unknown outside of the many temples and dojos of the Empire, yet are the subject of almost every Shou tale of combat.

The way of kung fu permeates almost every level of Imperial Society, and Shou peoples are all familiar with at least one martial art (although not always very well). There are even specialized styles for women, children and old people (such as tai chi chuan, a flowing dance movement style).

Faith: In the lands of the realms, there are separate religions, each organized around the worship of a particular god. Elminster has spoken of such as Lathander and Azuth and the temples and clericies that surround them. Here in Shou Lung there are fewer gods, as such, and many more forces, spirits and entities. In addition, we are also ruled by a faith which has no god; that of custom. We honour things that have gone before even as much as we worship the gods, and this has done more to shape our faiths than any proclamation or creed.

The man of Shou Lung worships not just one faith, but all faiths, as well as some things closer to superstition than religion. He is a supreme generalist; who recognizes that survival in the spiritual world depends on knowing what god controls what thing, and which spirit to appease when. He will rise in the morning to burn incense to Kwan Ying, the Shou-ling Immortal of Compassion, invoke the name of the great Chung-Tao sages when he is frightened or amazed, and pray to the nature spirits of air and water for a good catch when he is fishing in his boat.

He is not entirely cavalier to his gods-he believes fervently in them, and well he should. But he has a tendency to be more familiar with them than seems respectful, calling to them with nicknames even! He is not above bribing his gods either, making them rich offerings of sandalwood incense, gold, silver, or tall red candles, if they will only “do this one thing” for him. Sing-song girls burn incense to Ai Ch’ing for good husbands, then “hedge their bets” with candles to Kwan Ying, so that the husbands will be handsome too. And so it goes.

The Shou prays to no one god, because he knows that in his infinite wisdom, the Celestial One has given every deity in Heaven a job to do, and you must, of course, talk to the right Immortal for the right task! And woe upon the one who directly calls upon the Celestial Emperor himself. Such impudence will surely be rewarded with lightning and thunder, for if the Master of Heaven wanted to talk to men, he would not have appointed his Celestial Court to deal with such trivial matters.

Where the Shou is more devoted are in things of the Earth, which is fitting, as Heaven has called upon him to attend to these things. It is important for him to show proper respect for his ancestors, living or dead, because this is written in the edicts of the Path. He calls upon the spirits of field and stream for good harvests and fortune, using all the proper rituals as proscribed by the monks and wu jen. On festival days, he burns paper money, paper clothing and offerings of food at his ancestor’s graves so that they might enjoy these in the spirit world.

Thus, the people of Shou do not actually worship any one god, but a pantheon of many. Each god has a certain sphere which is his territory, and a smart man knows which Immortal is which. He may even try to play several Immortals off of each other, appealing to Chih Shih, lord of sages, for the answer to an examination question, and then to Kwan Ying for mercy if Chih Shih does not hear him. The Shou think anyone who believes that all the work of Heaven can be done by one god is an idiot

History: It is an unfortunate tradition in my land that the Court Historians, at the start of each new reign, re-scribe the Official Histories to best show the new Emperor in his most flattering light. One of the most prevalent of these altered Histories is that of Wei Tsao Te, the Court Historian of the Kao Dynasty, whose two hundred volume work, the Shichi Hsi, is a masterpiece of fantasy and fiction, abounding with grey clad giants, flaming words in the sky, and demon emperors. Due to his long and prolific life, Wei Tsao’s histories are now regarded as the standard by which other histories are measured. But as I have lived at least 900 more years than he has, I suspect my telling of these tales will bear truer fruit.

Imperial Examinations: Scholars study year round in Pingchow to try and pass the Imperial Examinations that are held each year in this city.

The foundation of the bureaucracy is the Civil Service Examination. The examination is a way of assuring that only the most qualified will run the Empire, and that they will be selected in a fair and equitable way, by ability, not rank. The concept of the examinations was first introduced by the Sage Lao Chin-Mao in 581, and immediately was favoured by the mandarinate, who saw it as a way to break the power of the nobles even further.

The examinations are held each year in the city of Ping Chow, eight days after the New Year. The examinations take place over a ten day period, with several thousand applicants attending. Each applicant is enclosed for ten hours in a small chamber, one of some two thousand covering the vast Examination Field at the edge of Ping Chow. The applicants are tested on their knowledge of the classics; the Book of War, the Book of Heaven, and the Histories. At the command of the Emperor Kai Chin, mathematics, physics and science have recently been added to the examinations, although the mandarinate opposes this as a breach of tradition.

Applicants must take the examinations. In the past, Emperors frequently appointed men to posts; this was simply a matter of the right bribe to the right person, but recently, the Emperor has cracked down on this corrupt practice. However, Emperor Kai Chin still considers the petitions of worthy applicants, no matter what their birth, and he has detailed a Department of the Ministry of State to seek out those who have shown exceptional ability

Imperial Census: Of course, even in such an enlightened system there occasionally arise venal and corrupt officials. But, long ago the Emperor demonstrated his profound wisdom by establishing the Imperial Census. This department (part of the Ministry of State Security) sends its agents out secretly to all the provinces.

These men investigate reports of corruption, graft, incompetence and treason. No one, save the Emperor, is above their suspicion. The censors often pose as other officials and never reveal their true posts until they are ready to make an arrest. No one save the highest officials knows who or how many censors working for the government. It is not unknown for the Emperor to secretly appoint censors unknown even to the Department of the Census

Sing-Song and Flower Girls: The Shou Lung equivalent of the geisha, the singsong or flower girl is an entertainer and singer. She usually performs in inns or wine shops for the entertainment of travellers. Unlike the geisha, the sing-song girl is not highly trained, nor is she the member of a geisha house. Instead, she is most often an ambitious young girl who wishes to secure a good marriage, and has decided that this is the best way to meet unattached men. Famous sing-song girls have become the concubines of Emperors, or have gone on to raise great Festival houses frequented by powerful court officials

Population

The population of the Shou Lung Empire is made up of many different peoples whose regions have been conquered and integrated into the empire. Despite their different racial stock, the people of Shou Lung all have a similar national heritage that promotes cooperation.

Spirit of the Shou: The people of the Empire may be the most practical of all the Lands. They are certainly the most cosmopolitan, being heirs to a culture spanning some 26 centuries. In art, music, classic literature and government, the citizen of Shou Lung walks the Earth in absolute surety that he is part of the greatest civilization ever to grace Heaven. And why should he doubt it?

Was not the Empire already a thousand years old when the first Kozakuran barbarian thought to dress himself in skins? Are not the great books of the Sages the very model upon which all other writings in lesser kingdoms are based? Surely the unlearned savages of Koryo have never devised such an elegant language of written characters, and it is well known that the men of Wa dine upon raw fish rather than the Ten Thousand Delicacies served at any inn of the Empire. Are then, the people of Shou Lung to be blamed for a touch of self-satisfaction? Of course not.

In science, the Shou have created wonders; their books are printed with movable type; they make the sky blaze with rockets and firecrackers, and they fly through the air as do birds. In government, they are without comparison, administering to many diverse peoples fairly and with honour. This enlightened government they have, on occasion, spread to other peoples of Kara-Tur, and while some may have had objection (I am reminded of the vociferous commentary of a young monk I met once while journeying through Tabot), on the whole, few can doubt the splendour and justice of their far-flung Empire.

The Stature of the Shou: There are many races within the Empire, but chief among these are the races of men. The men of Shou Lung stand apart from those of the barbarian lands, in being taller, fairer, and of more pleasing stature to the eye. They are a mixture of the many peoples conquered by the Empire, and in this way have become a vital and muscular hybrid of unyielding vitality. From their northern ancestors, they gain the long dark hair which their women love to pile high upon their heads and afix with decorated pins. This same blood shows in the the long moustaches and beards affected by the mandarins. From the south, they have learned the way of weaving bright silks, to make robes and garments of quality unmatched anywhere else in the lands.

Also within the Empire are those whom we call nonmen. Though, by the will of the Son of Heaven, they are denied a place within the government, they are welcomed within the Empire, where they face less of the prejudices and distrust found in other lands.

The Honour of the Shou: The Shou are a very honourable race of mankind. They have great pride in their ancestors, their Emperor, and their own good names. These, they will defend with all their power, for to lose face is to lose everything. But it is in the protection of this honour that the Shou citizen differs from other denizens of Kara-Tur; for example, the haughty samurai of Wa and Kozakura. And this is most important to consider when dealing with the Shou people. Where the samurai must walk about with hand to sword hilt, ready to wipe an insult out in blood, the Shou is more subtle. Not all insults must be settled by blood; in fact, it is sometimes preferable to avoid bloodshed, as this will bring out the magistrate and his guard. Being condemned for murder is an even greater stain upon the family honour. He prefers to give insult or avenge it in more indirect ways; by ruining a reputation; by bringing a great estate to bondage; by assassination, or by publicly beating his opponent senseless in the street with his superior kung fu. What is most important to the Shou is the honour of the family clan, not himself. Insult a Shou and you have merely angered him. Insult his parents and you have incurred the vengeance of his entire clan. Harm his children or siblings, and no force in the Celestial Heaven will save you from his wrath. Such is the power of family in this land.

It’s important to remember the subtle differences of the Shou character. Unlike a Kozakuran, a Shou citizen who blusters, bullies or brags is considered a buffoon, and loses tremendous face. In a culture of such great antiquity and civilization, its more important to be cool and sophisticated – even if you are a peasant. (When playing a Shou character remember to always reach for an insult before reaching for your sword.)

Humans

The Ch’ing: From Ch’ing Tung Province, the largest ethnic group outside of the people of Wan Kuo, the Ch’ing are characterized by others as being clannish, pushy, and adventurous to a fault; This doesn’t bother them at all, as they consider Ch’ing Tung to be the centre of the universe. They are more “night owls” than most Shou, fond of staying up late to drink in the wine shops and talk about all manner of current events. They are fond of experimenting with new foods (although they loathe lamb and mutton), often mixing tropical fruits and meats from the southlands into their favourite dishes (one of the favourite Ch’ing dishes is hot and spicy stewed snake with pineapple).

The Chu: The Chu of Chu’Yuan Province are a suspicious, insular lot, as befits a people who have had generations of warring Shou and T’u trampling their homes underfoot. Small, thin, fond of wearing light clothing and hats, they are the masters of the jungle ambush. They are the only Shou other than the mandarins to commonly wear moustaches. The Chu are said to have amassed great fortunes among their clans; money made in the sale of the rare woods, animals and herbs which can only be found in their jungles; They are also known Empire wide for their food – which features parrot, monkey, snake and other unusual game – all of it served with throat-searing, eye-watering hot sauces.

The Hai: The Hai of Hai Yuan Province are an adventurous race, but also arrogant, stubborn, and loud in bearing. They are also the most self assured of all the Shou, and seem to flaunt it with their incredible audacity. A Hai will attempt almost any feat, simply because he believes that as a superior man, he will obviously succeed. They are sea traders and occasional pirates, whose houses are built on stilts to protect them from floods, and whose ships are the fleetest of all the Empire. They rarely eat meat, preferring fish, and have learned the dishes of sushi and sashimi (two types of raw fish, one with pickled rice) from the Kozakurans. As a counterpart to the ethereally beautiful women of Sheng Ti, the Hai are said to produce the handsomest men in all the Empire. And they know it.

The Hungtse: The Hungtse of Hungtse Province are known to be talkative, hot tempered, and easily excited. On the whole, they are a pleasant group, although an old Sheng proverb unkindly says, “If Earth mirrors Heaven in all things, then the Hungtse mirror the Celestial One’s chickens; always chattering!” A wide menu of rice, fish, chicken, duck and shrimp has given the Hungtse materials for a truly fabulous cuisine; their cooks are famed far and wide, and are usually found in the best houses of the Empire. It was the Hungtse who invented the tiny fried dumplings known as potstickers, a current Imperial rage.

The Kao: The Kao of Kao Shan Province are descended from ancient Tabotans and exiled nobility of Shou Lung. They are viewed by the rest of Shou as rude, uncultured mountain men; good fighters with the bow, but otherwise unsophisticated. Honest to a fault, the tall, roughhewn Kao thinks nothing of telling a haughty mandarin what he thinks of him, punctuating his opinion with a blow or two. The Kao are the only people of Shou to eat bear and tiger, and claim that they eat dragon when they can get it-a sure boast in my opinion. They are excellent woodcarvers and tellers of folk tales.

The Mai: The Mai of Ma’Yuan Province, are a hardy, stolid and reliable lot; excellent horsemen and fierce fighters with axe and short sword. They are physically the largest of the Shou peoples, standing almost six foot two as an average. Their clothes are usually rough woollens tipped with furs. The Mai eat far more millet and wheat than is common in other parts of the Empire, mostly in the form of noodles and stuffed buns. They are the only people of the Shou who regularly eat lamb and mutton. It is said of the Mai that they are “Stubborn to anger, as unstoppable as the taifun, and bright before Heaven in their stupid honesty.” Whether this proverb is a compliment is somewhat unclear.

The Sheng: The people of Sheng Ti are small, snubnosed, and extremely fastidious, originally descended from the people that fled Chu’ta Te Province (now Chukei Province) when the First Kingdom fell and the native Sheng that they integrated with. This delicacy reflects in many aspects of the Sheng culture, producing fine poets, jade sculpture and elaborate ceremonies. The province is also famed for its beautiful women. Fine boned, elegant and decorative, the Sheng courtesan is the subject of much lyric song and poetry. There are also a large number of spirit folk and hengeyokai living in this verdant, wooded area, and it is rumoured that the Sheng owe much of their elegant and diminutive stature to the influence of these peoples. Indeed, the cities of Sheng Ti are among the few in the empire where fox folk and other hengeyokai citizens walk about openly, even in their bipedal forms.

The Tien: The Tien of Tien Lun Province are descended from the Wang, and as such have the same smooth skin, clear eyes and medium stature. But at this juncture, the resemblance ends. Ravaged by years of war, the Tien have become hostile, violent and sadistic; fond of cruel tricks and sharp knives. They can no longer be trusted by any of the Shou peoples, and they repay this distrust with a xenophobic hatred that borders on the maniacal. It is said, “The Tien makes a fell partner, a dangerous companion, and an untrustworthy lover. He is even worse as your enemy.”

The Ti: The Ti of Ti Erte Province are a shrewd, insular people, famed among the other peoples of Shou for their monumental cheapness. They are hard headed, practical, and drive hard bargains. In stature, they are of average height, with deep set eyes and longish hair; fond of wearing heavy embroidered robes and tall, conical hats. The Ti comprise most of the money changers and lenders within the Empire.

The Waka: The people of Wa K’an Province are known as the Waka, and are in stature much like the Ti (something they bitterly protest whenever possible). They are a mixture of the poetry of the Sheng and the hard headedness of the Ti; moody and fond of strong drink. The Waka are mostly fishermen who ply the sheltered coves and inlets of their rocky land, scraping out a modest living.

The Wang: The Wang people of Wang Kuo Province are the largest group of Shou Lung, their densely packed cities making up nearly 40 percent of the overall population. They are known for being unfailingly polite, cultured, intelligent and sophisticated – on the surface. It is the Wang who have set the styles of dress throughout the Empire; published the most important writings and produced the most famous plays. Of medium height and stature, they are fond of wearing the tight cheosong or the high collared mandarin’s coat, usually in tasteful, but heavily embroidered silks. “Her skin is as smooth as a Wang’s speech,” is a common saying within Shou Lung, reflecting their reputation for mannered conversation and elegance.

The Yu: The Yu of Yu’I Province are much like the Kao in nature, being descended from the same Tabotan stock. They wear heavier clothing, and are more touchy about their independence – it is very easy to provoke a Yu to a duel.

Government

The First Dynasty – The Li Dynasty

Namebirthreignnotes

The Second Dynasty – The Ho Dynasty

namebirthreignnotes
First Emperor Chin
Second Emperor ChinEnslaved giants from Koryo to build the Fortress of Kuai.
On his death was sealed within the Fortress of Kuai by the giants beneath a huge block of stone
Eleventh Emperor ChinAppoints the sage Lao Chin-Mao as Court Advisor.
Enables creation of the Bureaucracy and Mandarinate in its current form

The Third Dynasty – The Hai Dynasty

namebirthreignnotes
First Emperor Chin-420 DR to Ordered Karatin Province to be drained and renamed Hai Yuan Province
Sixth Emperor Chin – Wo Haiat least -280 to -274 DRInvaded Wa, lost his fleet in a typhoon on a reef disguised by the wu jen of Wa. Perished in the final battle for Wa.

The Fourth Dynasty – The Kao Dynasty

namebirthreignnotes
First Emperor Chin – Wo Mai-225 DR
Sixteenth Emperor ChinCrushed the rebellion of Yu’I Province in 521 DR

The Fifth Dynasty – The La Dynasty

namebirthreignnotes

The Sixth Dynasty – The Kuo Dynasty

namebirthreignnotes
Eighth Emperor Chin – Kai Tsao Shou Chin

The Emperor: Great is the Government of Shou. Great in its scope, grand in its execution, magnificent in its justice and adaptability. The citizens of Shou Lung owe their ultimate allegiance to the Emperor. He is the Son of Heaven, and the Divine Gate to the Celestial Sphere. The symbol of the Eternal Empire, he is wise, just and merciful to those who oppose his commands. Under him, the bureaucracy and the court exist only as agents of his will.

The Emperor chooses his own successor from those he deems most suitable; usually the eldest sons of his bloodline, but often a daughter if no son is available. He may choose to resign his high office and return to private life, but this is most rare. For behind each Emperor rests the fate of a dynasty, and in a land where ancestors are worshipped as near gods, even the Son of Heaven must honour the traditions and deeds of those who came before him.

Emperor Kai Tsao Shou Chin, 10th level Samurai/Noble, LG human male (with one-quarter hengeyokai blood). In his middle 50s, the Emperor Kai Tsao Shou Chin truly lives up to his name of Rebuilder of the Dragon. He is a tall, powerfully built man, with the stature and character of his mountain ancestors. Calm, slow to anger, and thoughtful, he rules with a firm hand over the mighty Empire, its sprawling bureaucracy, and its contentious nobles and priests. Under his directives, the navy and armies have been rebuilt, and there is peace with Wa and Kozakura. His “Gathering of the Pearls” has recovered much of what previous weak Emperors have lost.

Kai Chin faces many obstacles in his reign. Chief among these is the opposition of the mandarinate to his policies of reform. The addition of science and alchemy to the traditional ministries is viewed with alarm, as are his policies of eliminating corrupt officials and replacing them with new blood. He has angered the nobles by refusing to allow new fiefs and properties to be taken from peasant lands. And the official Faith of the Empire faces a great schism which he must somehow heal over in the coming years.

Kai Chin’s Empress and two concubines have provided him with a total of eight heirs, including three fine sons in direct line of succession. His daughters are both clever and accomplished, sharing the same great beauty as their mothers. At present, his greatest family problem has been the recent kidnapping of his next-to-youngest daughter, and his eldest son’s enraged reaction upon learning that Princess Mei Ling was secretly involved in a romantic liaison with the young prince of T’u Lung.

The Mandarinate

The Mandarinate is made up of the upper echelon of scholars and officials, and includes both court scholars and the heads of various official ministries of the bureaucracy. The mandarins are a select group, centred around the court in Kuo Te’ Lung and the neighbouring city of Ping Chow. They are considered to be the embodiment of the “superior man” of Lao Chin-Mao; talented, cultured and well educated.

The Chancellor: The Chancellor is the right hand of the Emperor, and is chosen by him at the Son of Heaven’s ascension. It is the Chancellor who must read all of the reports from the Ministers of the Bureaucracy, deciding what is worthy of the Emperors direct attention. The Chancellor controls to a large degree who can and cannot see the Emperor, manages the Imperial Family’s calendar of appearances, makes sure that the Emperor’s directives are followed and his proclamations posted in all the cities of the Empire, and watches the Bureaucracy diligently for the first signs of treason, corruption or subversion.

As one of the most powerful people in the Empire, the Chancellor faces a great deal of temptation. This is why many Chancellors of past reigns have found themselves beheaded for the slightest hint of corruption, while others have become all but Emperor in name.

The Chamberlain: The Chamberlain of the Imperial Court is responsible for maintaining the Household of the Imperial Court. He handles the Palace finances, schedules the maids, guards and entertainers. He administers to the needs of the Imperial Family and their various concubines, courtiers and guests. Under his auspices, banquets are prepared, state ceremonies arranged, and gifts delivered. The Chamberlain is also responsible for tasting the Imperial Family’s food for poison, which is one of the larger drawbacks of the position. However, this is balanced by the access the Chamberlain has to the treasury and gifts of State.

The Emperor’s Wu Jen: Kao Shan Ten, LG Human male. The Emperor’s Wu jen is one of his most important advisors, for it is he who employs the necessary sorceries to see the future, spy upon enemies, and turn away magic threats to the Empire. The Emperor’s Wu Jen is usually, but not always a follower of the Chung Tao faith, for they are known to be the most powerful wizards in all Shou Lung.

The High Priest: As High Priest of the official Faith, the Royal Abbott is responsible for the spiritual concerns of the Royal Family. It is he who makes sure the proper sacrifices are observed; that the Imperial Family is devout and are proper symbols of the Path, and that the Emperor’s proclamations do not contend with the writings of the Path. At least that is the theory. The High Priest confers the deific name upon the Emperor upon his death. In all things, he is the spiritual teacher of the Empire. This in turn gives him great influence over the temples and monasteries. Many a High Priest has taken bribes to sway the Emperor. Even upright men have sometimes proven too zealous in their punishment of false beliefs.

The current High Priest is Kung Pu Mok. Vain, arrogant and stubborn, he longs to establish the power of the Path once and for all. He believes that no earthly ruler can truly understand the Will of Heaven, and that the Empire should become a theocracy. Kung Pu Mok also harbours a not so secret desire for the Emperor’s third daughter, the Princess Pai. Although she has spurned his advances several times, he hopes that the Black Chung Tao will help him win her love. In exchange, he has allowed the Black Ones to place spies and sorcerors into the Court, disguised as monks of the Shou-ling Faith.

Court Painter, Poet, and Historian: Constantly changing as the fashions at Court change, the Court Painter and Poet serve the will of the Emperor by composing works of poetry or art honouring his reign. The Court Historian is appointed for life, as his task is to chronicle the events of the Court and the Dynasty. The current post for Court Poet is vacant since the death of the previous appointee last year. There is growing sentiment in Court that the position should be offered to the T’u Lungian minstrel Tan Nong, author of the popular Romance of the Three Lords; however, the promotion of a renegade (anyone from T’u Lung) is a politically divisive issue.

The Ministers of Bureaucracy: Each minister from the 9 ministries of the Bureaucracy are part of the Mandarinate.

Grand Historian: Dragon Lord Mei Lung Cheng Shan, great great grandson of the Immortal Historian of the Celestial Empire of Heaven, two-hundred and twenty-third Historian of the Celestial Bureaucracy. It is Mei Lung’s task to assemble the vast Histories of the Emperor of Heaven, so that the Celestial One will know all that has occurred and best be able to judge the actions of Mankind.

Nobility

The noble class is the weakest of all the many factions at Court, a typical lord having far less power than the average minister. Although each lord has his own private army, these are kept small by Imperial decree, and must act in conjunction with the Provincial Governors when the Empire faces a threat. The nobility, of course, chafes under these restrictions, and therefore is a hotbed of dissent and rebellion. The various noble houses constantly ally and re-ally to determine the best way of taking power from the bureaucracy and the priesthood. Plots are constantly afoot. The Ministry of the Security of the State is ever vigilant to the perfidy of the noble lords.

The Bureaucracy

The bureaucracy controls the day to day operations of a vast empire spanning nearly two thousand miles and over thirty million people. It is the single most powerful force in the Empire, for although the Emperor’s will is law, it is the actions of the bureaucracy that enforce that law and make it reality.

The bureaucracy was not always this powerful. From its beginning as a group of court scribes in the Li Dynasty, it gradually grew as lax nobles delegated more of their authority to the clerics. It was during the War of the Nobles (-815 DR to -810 DR) that the bureaucracy first came into its own. Embracing the Faith of the Nine Travellers as its own, the bureaucracy quickly found ways to play the various noble houses off of each other by controlling access to the Imperial Person. Requests were misplaced, decrees re-written, and records of inheritance lost, as clever clerks and scribes cut arrogant nobles down a notch. By the late 400s, the power of the nobility-had been broken forever in a sea of paperwork.

The final form of the bureaucracy was established during the tenure of Lao Chin-Mao (531-597). Realizing that a nation the size of the Empire required a steady hand upon the wheel of state, the sage codified much of the manners and rules of proper behaviour into his massive Book of Heaven. Among the principles of the book was the concept of the superior man, or ch’ao teng te jen. The superior man, in Lao Chin’s view, understood the ways of Heaven and Tradition. He did not seek to command, but to lead by example. Based on Lao Chin’s principles, a new class of bureaucrat arose; a man who was educated, cultured and a gentleman. These early “superior men” called themselves the Mandarinate, and they remain today the model for superior governance within the Empire.

The bureaucracy is organized into eight great ministries; State, War, Magic, Faith, Sea, Agriculture, Public Works and Security of the State. Of the eight, State is the most powerful, covering fifteen separate departments and having indirect command over the Ministry of State Security as well. The various ministries constantly jockey for position in the ever-shifting government, for no one is entirely safe from falling into political disfavour. At a single word, the Emperor may choose to abolish or create a ministry, as Kai Chin did in establishing the Departments of the “Gathering of the Pearls”” in 2589. This, combined with his wide-reaching network of spies and censors, helps the Son of Heaven maintain ultimate control over his sprawling empire of bureaucrats.

Ministry of State: Includes Department of Provincial Governors, Department of Taxation, Department of the Court Scribes, Department of Dead Dialects

Ministry of War: Includes Department of Reclamation, Department of Great Flight

Ministry of Magic: Includes Department of Old Magery, Department of Rediscovery

Ministry of Faith: Department of Celestial Supervision (Approves orders that follow the Path of Enlightenment)

Ministry of Sea:

Ministry of Agriculture: Includes Department of Extinct Beasts

Ministry of Public Works: Includes Department of Science

Ministry of State Security: Includes Department of Ministers to the Barbarian Lands, Department of Lost Treasures, Department of Population and Census

The Provinces

Each province is defined by the will of the Emperor as to its boundaries, taxes and responsibilities, so that trade and commerce are regulated, banditry eliminated, and proper knowledge spread to all corners of the Empire. In this, the Emperor’s will is maintained by the vigilance of the bureaucracy, and its agents, the governors of each province.

Below each governor are the magistrates, in charge of maintaining the order of each city or village. Most towns of more than a thousand people have a magistrate; if the town is smaller, it is under the control of the magistrate of the nearest large town. The magistrate is the law of the town. He is responsible for high and low justice, settling disputes and maintaining order. He has command of a small group of bailiffs or guards, whose duty is to patrol the town and adjacent roads, keeping the peace and arresting criminals.

Politics

Truly then, this is an Enlightened Age. But in all things, there is Yin and Yang. While much has been accomplished in the name of Emperor Kai Chin, there is much, much more which needs doing. And there are still rumours and tales astir, any one of which is a tale in itself. Let me tell you of just a few of these.

In the Empire of T’u Lung, the Emperor grows restive. His wu jen counsel a great war with Shou Lung, while Kai Chin is still weak upon his throne. Spies infiltrate the Capital of Shou Lung and sorcery is in the streets.

The White Cheng Tao are in ascendancy. But the Black Ones are preparing to turn the wheel again. They have placed their agents within the Shou-ling priesthood, to stir up trouble and create religious foment.

The Shou-ling temples chafe under the rule of Emperor Kai Chin. He has commanded the corrupt among them to give up their rich palaces and monasteries. In addition, the Faith has been shattered by many new orders and rival sects, promoted by the unwise rule of its Head Priest.

The mandarinate contends with the Emperor’s will on several accounts. He has, first of all, begun to emphasize the pursuits of science over those of tradition. The mandarinate believes that this will undermine their authority. He has also removed many powerful and corrupt officials from office, and they now plot against him.

There are rumours of a rebirth of the ancient Black Leopard Cult. This cult is located in T’u Lung, and centres around a great black leopard who speaks as a man. The spirit claims to be the new form of the evil Nan Kung Chi, once high priest of the cult.

The Court of Shou Lung is currently being visited by the poet Tan Hikao Nong, a wandering minstrel from the southlands. With his imposing height, heroic manner, and handsome face, he is often hailed as a “young Ch’en Hsiang come to Earth” (or so the court ladies say!) While the personage of Tan Nong is perhaps dangerous only to the hearts of women, his most recent song cycle is far more disturbing. For he sings of a “fictional” romance between a Prince of T’u Lung and a Princess of Shou, both incognito, who meet and fall in love when the Prince rescues the Lady from kidnappers. While most of the Court merely sighs in romantic bliss, the Imperial Family knows that several months ago, the Emperor’s youngest daughter was kidnapped by enemies of the Jade Throne, and was rescued by a handsome young merchant captain…

Secret Societies

In good times, the bureaucracy is not corrupt, and the Emperor is just and merciful. But there are many times when this is not the case. In these times, the secret societies, or tongs, arise.

Secret societies are everywhere in Shou Lung – not unusual in a land where the government is strictly controlled and secret agents of the Ministry of State Security are everywhere. The tong is the common man’s best way of causing change in the highly stratified society of the Empire. There are secret societies on the streets of a Karatin river slum, and secret societies in the chambers of the Imperial Palace. It is even rumoured that the Emperor has brought members of the dread Kuo-tan Tong from his home province of Kao Shan to serve as his special agents from time to time.

The secret society member can be many things, depending on the nature of his society. He may be a protector of the weak, fighting valiantly to defeat corrupt officials or right a great wrong. He may be a brigand or a criminal, who spins a web of terror and fear over the night-time city. In all cases, he is a creature of the underworld, who uses a vast lattice of connections, spies, and enforcers to accomplish the society’s aims. The secret society member dares not come into the open; his objectives will surely cause his death or imprisonment.

The secret society recruits young men and women of all ranks. The prospective recruit is often approached by close friends or family members. They carefully sound out his interests and political beliefs. Eventually, the recruit is invited to meet directly with members of the tong, where he is sized up for potential. If he measures up, he is invited to join the tong directly. If he accepts, he undergoes a process of initiation, in which he swears allegiance in blood, learns the secret code words and rituals of the society, and is assigned his first mission on behalf of the society. If he turns the offer down, he is usually killed, for the tong cannot risk being exposed by an outsider.

The secret society may encompass several thousand members, such as the immense Tsui Tong of Kao Shan Province. Or it may be a few a dozen people. Most societies are arranged in groups of three people. Only one of these three knows the name of his superior within the tong. In turn, one other member of his superior’s group knows who they take their orders from. In this way, secrecy is maintained.

There are two common types of secret societies; political and criminal. Political tongs exist to accomplish some type of goal. Often times, this may be a simple as overthrowing a corrupt or evil official. At other times, the goal may be more complex; a secret society might be formed to influence the mandarinate to pass certain laws. Political tongs differ from criminal tongs in that they are not interested in money. They are less likely to engage in murder or extortion, unless it is a means to accomplishing a specific end. They are usually smaller than criminal societies, and recruit their ranks mostly from the mandarinate, the court, and the bureaucracy. Political tongs most closely resemble revolutionary parties, and only become large when they are about to revolt or overthrow the opposition.

The original criminal secret societies have their roots in the infamous Tsui Tong of the Black Cycle. Unlike the political secret societies, these tongs are devoted to a reign of murder, crime and terror. Besides their many illegal activities, the criminal tongs are not above hiring themselves out as enforcers, working for corrupt officials and ambitious warlords.

Their weapons are muscle, kung fu weapons, poison, arson and murder. Each criminal tong has its own ch’eng po, or enforcer section, heavily armed and willing to face even the magistrate’s own guard. Each tong is commanded by a Dragon Lord. The Dragon Lord directs the activities of five Tiger Generals, each in charge of a ch’eng po of ten or more
men. Women are equally represented in tong leadership, and are known as Dragon Ladies and Tigress.

Unlike the yakuza of Kozakura, whom they somewhat resemble, the tongs of Shou Lung do not wear identifying tattoos. Instead, each society has its own symbol – a colour, a pin, a hair style or a piece of clothing – which serves to mark a member. The wide number of symbols makes it extremely hard for the authorities to uncover the criminal tongs and their work. The tongs also use complex hand-signals and code words to communicate, making it nearly impossible for an outsider to penetrate their organizations.

Most criminal tongs operate under some type of legitimate front; a charitable organization, an orphanage, or a neighbourhood business. Like the yakuza, the tongs often divide the city into wards, one to each of the five Tiger Generals. Within the ward, the Tiger General and his ch’eng po are the law. They look after their own neighbourhoods, aiding those in trouble with the magistrate’s guard, bribing officials, running gambling and wine houses, and killing any invaders to their territory.

The Society of the Purple Lotus: Formed during the reign of the previous Emperor, the Purple Lotus Society was originally founded as a group of outstanding poets and calligraphers, mostly the sons and daughters of the noble class. The seventh Emperor Chin, being more cultured and aesthetic than strong, favoured the arts and the company of graceful, beautiful people. New members of the society are chosen annually, at the New Year, based on submitted samples of calligraphy or poetry. A ritualistic initiation includes the burning of money, artwork and rare items.

Society members once had constant access to the Emperor at any time, but the new Emperor Kai Chin is less impressed with the society, and considers them a dangerous nuisance. Their secret goal is to re-establish the power of the noble class, particularly by undermining the authority of the bureaucracy. Their languid appearance and manner are extremely deceptive, as they are not above assassination, blackmail and kidnapping to accomplish these means. They are particularly fond of poison.

Members are recognized by wearing violet scarves or violet lotus blossoms.

The Society of the Kuo-Tan: In the centuries following the ascendancy of the infamous Tsui Tong, the original founders became disgusted with the tong’s criminal behaviour. They left the Tsui and established the rival Kuo-tan secret society. One of the most powerful current members of the Kuo-tan is the maternal grandfather of the current Emperor Kai Chin, and the tong has operated out of his family holdings since 1310 DR.

The Kuo-tan is devoted to the secret support of the Empire by any means, whether legal or not. As a secret ally of the Emperor, they have his tacit authority to investigate corruption, evil and vice in court or abroad. When a young noble plots to raise an army against the Empire, it is the Kuo-tan who arrange his disappearance. When a corrupt official steals from the poor, the Kuo-tan secretly empty his treasure houses and redistribute the wealth to its true owners.

The Kuo-tan are feared by a great many people, of all ranks of life, but especially by the Tsui Tong, with whom they have waged a bitter war for generations.

The Seventy-Two Society: The name has no connection to the purpose of the society, but was chosen by a powerful feng-shui master as well-omened. The organization is located in Wa K’an and in fact is openly recognized in the city of Hsiang under its guise of a wealthy merchant’s club. It’s intent is to overthrow Imperial rule in Wa K’an, and make the province independent. This tong is quite strongly backed by the government of Wa, who see the Seventy Two Society as an excellent way to infiltrate spies into the Empire.

The society is recognized by its symbol of three black marks across the back of the left hand.

The Society of the Jade Empress: Appearing harmless enough at first, the Jade Empress Tong is made up of nobles from Hai Yuan, whose donations provide for the upkeep of the magnificent Temple of the Jade Empress. It is said, of course, that her intercession with the Sea Lords allowed her husband to become the first Emperor of the Hai Dynasty.

The society secretly plans to place a Hai pretender on the throne. To accomplish this, of course, will require the murder of the entire Imperial Family – a plan requiring many years of preparation. The Jade Empress Tong has allied with highly placed monastic orders within Hai Yuan, allowing them to field an army of some strength. As for now, their efforts are most concentrated in eliminating the lower levels of opposition within the bureaucracy.

The Many-Hued Peacock Society: One of the oldest of all secret societies is the Many Hued Peacock Society. This group has been in existence for approximately 500 years. The society has its base in the nobles and is dedicated to the overthrow or undermining of the bureaucracy (and thus the Emperor). Not surprisingly, the Emperor considers them criminals and has gone to great efforts to eradicate them.

The society is ruled by the Inner Council, a group of men and women who direct the actions and make long-range plans for the group. They are notorious for the great extent of their operations, taking a long view that may last 100 years or more. This is greatly aided by the fact that all the members of the Inner Council are 100 years or older and at least three date from the founding of the society. It is only through magical devices, spells and mental control that they have retained their youthful appearances of 60 or 70 years old. In addition, this extreme effort to deny death has contributed to their great wisdom and perception. Were it not for their role and desires to bring down the Empire, these men and women would be hailed as great wise men.

Curiously, in its pursuit of its goals, the Many-Hued Peacock Society has been indirectly and directly responsible for saving the Empire from destruction more than once. In its struggles against the Emperor, the society has often foiled the plans of the Gorath, a shadowy and mysterious creature who rules the Royal Vagabonds. Ostensibly serving the Emperor, this creature actually takes its commands from a greater power in the Celestial Bureaucracy – for remember, Shou Lung is a mirror of all things in Heaven. There are intrigues on the Red Earth and there are intrigues in the Heavens. By foiling the Gorath, the society has actually prevented machinations against the structure of the Empire itself.

The Royal Vagabonds: Not properly a secret society, the Royal Vagabonds are a secret clan in the service of the Empire. All members of the clan are ninja (called vagabonds in Shou Lung). Not an official part of the government, the vagabonds still report to the Minister of State Security and the Chief Imperial Censor. Their task is to carry out those missions the Emperor desires – a feared enforcement arm of his secret police network. Few know the identities of fellow members and no one outside the clan can positively identify a vagabond. This uncertainty works to their advantage, since it spreads fear and suspicion among the enemies of the Emperor. The only positive means of identification is a magical sigil borne on the chest of each man. When the appropriate phrase is uttered, this sigil (normally invisible) glows brightly.
The leader of the clan is known only as The Old Man, although she is neither old nor male. From her headquarters somewhere in the Forbidden City, she directs the activities of the clan. She is aided by a creature called the Gorath of uncertain and unknown origin, but of known power and strength. Unknown to everyone, this creature secretly serves the Undersecretary of the Minister of War in the Celestial Bureaucracy, a being who has designs on the post of the Celestial Emperor.

The Tsui Tong: One of the most powerful and infamous secret societies of all time, the Tsui Tong are the literal masters of the city of Kai Shan, and control much of the surrounding province of Kao Shan as well. A powerful criminal organization with over 3,000 members, the Tsui began as a secret society dedicated to overthrowing a corrupt overlord. In this, they were aided by the hero Wo Mei. But in later years, the Tsui became corrupt themselves, engaging in robbery, murder, extortion and terror.

The Tsui have an information network unequalled even by the Ministry’s Secret Police. Within their stronghold, the Black Rock Fortress of Kume, located in the central city of Kai Shan, they have amassed great records of events, people and places. Part of this fuels their ever-expanding blackmail and extortion business, but the Tsui are also information brokers, selling secrets to the highest bidder. It was to the Tsui that the one-day Emperor Wo Mei went, to locate the
Impossible Palace and recover the Silver Flower Sword of Tan Ming.

The Tsui are also a powerful political force. Often, the bureaucracy has called upon the Tsui for information or to control rebellion in the frontier provinces. In turn, they have demanded and received a number of concessions. No Imperial troops are quartered in the city of Kai Shan; there is no magistrate or guard, and the Tsui run the city pretty much as they like. Within the province, they are free to conduct their gambling operations as they wish, opposed only by the Kuo-tan secret society. Recently, this freedom has been curtailed by the Emperor Kai Chin and his Kuo-tan allies, leading to speculation that the Tsui may soon strike back at the Jade Throne itself.

The Tsui are recognized by the symbol of a black handprint on the face, or a black scarf knotted around the neck. The scarf is also used as a strangler’s weapon, a common Tsui method of assassination.

Economy

Taxation: Taxation within the Empire is based upon the counting of heads, and this is accomplished each year through the census, as directed by the Most Puissant Department of Population and Census. Their tallies are then used to determine the taxation for the particular province. The taxes of the province are then levied from the province as a whole, and it is the duty of the governor to submit these to the bureaucracy at the start of the New Year. He in turn must direct the local magistrates to collect taxes from their individual villages. The village as a whole must submit a specified amount; it is up to the magistrate to determine how much each individual household will pay, although he must abide by the formulae set by the Emperor and the bureaucrats.

The taxation structure of Shou Lung is unusual in that it takes into account the needs of the Empire as a whole. Some provinces will be required to send a levy of wheat or rice; others a measure of ore, gold or wood. These taxes are then stored in great warehouses in the Imperial City, with the Emperor usually taking a small amount of this. During times of famine or want, the Emperor can thus direct his ministries to distribute these levies among the people, a most enlightened system indeed.

Transportation: Each of the fourteen provinces is well travelled, and spanned by roads of stone. To the north, runs the Kuangchiu Road towards Koryo; to the east of this, the Great Spice Road passes through the land of the horse barbarians. The Thousand Shrine Bridge crosses the Chukei River, and the road soon becomes the Kaifeng Highway. As wide as two wagons end to end, this stone highway leads to the Imperial City, paralleling the Emperor’s Grand Canal on its union between the Chukei and Ch’ing Tung rivers, and later the Second Emperor’s Canal between the Chi’ing Tung and the Chan Lu tributary. As the Kaifeng Highway passes through the Imperial City, it becomes-the Lunghai Highway. This path is known as the Shattered Road, as it was destroyed during the Succession of T’u Lung in 2315. At the junction of the capital and the Shattered Road, the Tungpu Road runs southward into the jungle. The Silver Roads runs west along the upper Hungste and eventually enters Tabot.

The great rivers and canals are well dredged and travelled by all manner of craft. Sampans, riverboats, barges and rafts ply the waters freely. The roads are well maintained by convict labour, and the local bailiffs of each village are responsible for keeping them clear of brigands. There are no toll paths or waystations, and the roads are well marked and lined with many small villages.

Jade: The Shou excel in one craft above all others, and this is the carving of jade, a semi-precious stone found deep within the earth. Jade is normally a translucent green color, but also appears in red, white, bluish green and black There are two types of jade; mei-yu jade, or high jade of the finest quality, and yu jade of lesser quality. Both types are placed magically within the earth by the touch of Jade Ladies, elemental spirits who control the creation of all rare metals and gems.

While jade is found in other lands of Kara-Tur it is only in Shou Lung that the finest may be procured. This rare gem is then crafted and shaped into many forms – dragons, lions, birds, bamboo – and into many uses – pendants, earrings, statues, inkstamps and chess pieces, to name a few. Jade is highly valued as a trade item, particularly in the kingdoms of Wa and Kozakura. Those who carve jade are much respected, and are beloved of the Immortal Shu Chia, the Craftsman.

Science: While Shou Lung is a place of magic and sorcery, it is also a place of science and invention as well. Since earliest times, Shou physicians have known how to brew potions and powders for curing illnesses. Shou mathematicians have developed complex theories for the way in which the stars of Heaven are moved, and the mathematics to prove their beliefs.

Since the Li dynasty, the craftsmen of Shou Lung have discovered, lost and rediscovered the printing press at least five times. Each time, the new invention was used to print copies of classic Shou works, then fell into disuse after the demand slacked. However, under the farsighted influence of the Emperor Kai Chin, the printing press has once again been revived.

New works, such as Tan Nong’s immensely popular Romance of T’u Lung, are being printed and distributed, with the intention of creating a literature of popular culture. With moveable type and paper, it is possible that the printing press will not be lost again.

Likewise, Shou Lung has had paper, fireworks and artillery for several hundred years. Signal flares announce the start of battles. Rockets, cannon and mortars are commonly used by the armies of the Empire although they often bring more harm to friend than foe. Fireworks of many dazzling colours are exported all over Kara-Tur for celebrations.

The compass and sextant are also important inventions, used to chart the course of Shou ships throughout the Celestial Seas. The Shou have also developed the water clock, the treadmill-driven paddle boats, paper money, water pumps, the drill and the chair.

One of the most amazing new inventions of the Gathering of the Pearls is the hua hsiang chi, or glider. The story behind this is interesting. It appears that while visiting his relatives in Kao Shan, the Emperor saw a young man suspended high above the. mountains in a great silk kite. His interest caught, the Son of Heaven instructed his guard to bring the bold flier to him. “But this is a dangerous precedent” the mandarins protested. “Suppose someone uses a kite like this to drop great weights down upon our armies! This thing should be destroyed!” But the Emperor replied, “If it can be done, then someone else will recreate this kite, no matter what we do to its inventor! If great weights will be dropped, I am determined that we shall be the ones to do it!” The inventor was brought to the palace, where he was immediately proclaimed the chief of the Ministry of Glorious Flight. Since this time, he has built many great kites, some of which can fly without strings; much to Emperor Kai Chin’s pleasure.

Exports

Silk: Silk from Shou Lung is some of the best in the world, not because its silk worms are any different to those found elsewhere, but because the damp, warm regions of the southern empire are ideal conditions for quality silk production. Shou Lung exports its silk, particularly to Faerun, where it is in high demand among the rich elite.

Military

The warrior of Shou is not the samurai. Yet, do not think that, because he does not walk with the swaggering bravado of the northern barbarians, that he does not draw sword at the slightest imagined insult, that he is not a fighter of consequence. Remember that it took a typhoon and a hidden reef to stop the great fleets of the Emperor Wo Hai Chin, and that even then the lands of Wa were fairly taken.

The warrior of Shou is a civilized man in the most sophisticated land under Heaven. He will not draw sword without just cause, for he knows that under the magistrate’s law, all are as one. Unlike the samurai, he can be tried for the death of a farmer, and the knowledge of Imperial justice stays his hand.

But in warfare, he is supreme. With his many weapons – long horse spears, the butterfly sword, the axe and the bow – or with his kung fu and nunchaku, he is fearless and feared. His comrades have held the horse barbarians from our borders, and have kept the barbarians over the Celestial Seas in their place. Whether from the hovel of the peasant or the house of a lord, the warrior of Shou is honoured and respected indeed.

Army of the Western Marches: Battles the barbarians of the Western Marches.

Religion

There are two main faiths in Shou Lung; The Path of Enlightenment, which espouses a written code of beliefs and actions, handed down from Heaven by the Celestial Emperor, and the Way, a religion of nature and metaphysics which denies that true faith can be taught in books. In addition, there is a “faith” of custom; a philosophy of the Nine Travellers, which, through the years, has become the guiding principle behind the mandarinate scholars.

Priests and monks are honoured and respected by the people of Shou Lung; for their wisdom and knowledge, as well as their command of the martial and mystical arts. It is also common for officials and nobles to retire from public life as they grow old, to take up the robes of a priest. For as it is written; “If one cannot aspire to become an official of Earth, it is just as well to become an official of Heaven.”

The Celestial Bureaucracy

It is written that the Earth is the Mirror of Heaven in all things. It is therefore correct that if we Shou have an Emperor, court and officials, it must be this way in the Celestial Empire as well. And so it is. The Empire of Heaven includes both all of the Sky and all of the Land, organized under the government of the all powerful and wise Celestial One. Even the Emperors of the Earth below are merely his subjects, while all the myriad immortals, demigods, spirits, dragons and powers of the Earth serve as his officials.

Each Officer of the Empire of Heaven is responsible to the will of the Celestial One. They receive and carry out his orders, punish the wicked, reward the good, and file reports yearly of their activities. As Heaven is a mirror of Earth, these officials are usually loyal and trustworthy, but it is not unheard of for a corrupt, disobedient or incompetent official to turn up now and again. But with the all-seeing eye of the Celestial One upon them, even these rogues can be stripped of their power and position and sent packing off to the Underworld.

The Celestial Emperor: Ruling from his throne in the Centre of All Heaven, the Celestial One charts the path of What Has Been and Will Be. There is only one Celestial Emperor, and he has ruled since the beginning of the Great Cycle. His appearance is that of a tall, aristocratic lord, dressed in shimmering robes of many colours, and wearing the high crown of the Emperors of Shou Lung. His eyes glow white with the Inner fires of Karma, and his visage is stern, yet compassionate. In his right hand, he holds a mighty rod of intricately worked silver, called Kun P’ing Shen p’an, the word for justice. In his left, he holds a golden chalice, filled with the Essence of Life, and known as Lien Min, or Compassion.

The Celestial Emperor is the architect of the Path, and it is his will that both Heaven and Earth mirror each other in achieving perfection. For this reason, he sent the Nine Immortals among men to teach by example. It is also why he caused red lightning to inscribe his will in the granite of the Hungtse, so that men would be reminded throughout time.

At the start of each New Year, the Celestial One calls his Great Court of Heaven before the Jade Throne, to hear the reports of each of his subjects. Whether great or low, each of his Million Officials tells of his deeds and duties of the year before. Misdeeds are also reported, for the all seeing eyes of the Celestial Emperor know even the hidden things. Upon each report, the Centre of Heaven passes his judgement, rewarding the good and punishing the wicked as he deems fit. As it is written in the Book of Heaven: If a land is ruled with justice, righteousness becomes the shield of the ruler. Appeal your case then to Heaven, for this is the font of all justice.

The Nine Immortals: At the beginning of the world, the Celestial Emperor decided to make the Will of Heaven clear to all by sending emissaries to the lands below, each to teach one aspect of the True Path. These emissaries were the first emperors of Shou Lung, and are known by legend as the Nine Immortals. While there are many, many lesser immortals throughout the lands of Shou Lung, these are the ones most often meant when the immortals are called upon. The Nine Immortals stand at the side of the Celestial One’s throne, ready at all times to do his bidding. They have been there throughout the Great Cycle, and will still be there when the worlds end and pass into fire.

In the Celestial Bureaucracy, the Immortals are the agents of the Celestial Emperor’s will. At his command, they administer and direct all other of the lesser immortals in their appointed tasks. Each of the Nine Immortals is responsible for one aspect of the Path, as reflected in his or her title. According to their responsibilities, they can be called upon to reward the just and punish the wicked. The Nine Immortals represent the nine cardinal virtues of the Path; Scholarship, Respect for Tradition, Honour, Compassion, Love, Fidelity, Karma, Artistry, and Courage. As immortals, they may take any form they wish, but are commonly seen in two aspects— that of men or women as given in each’s description, and that of Nine Great Dragons which hold up the world and move all things by their thoughts. As the Celestial One sent these Nine Immortals into the lands of men, this is why the lands they went into are known as Shou Lung, or Receiver of the Dragon.

The Shou people constantly call upon the immortals, not really expecting them to appear but mostly for the good “luck” such calling brings to an endeavour But it is ill fortune indeed to call upon the immortals’ aid when evil or mischief is planned, for that is when they will most certainly come to mete out their stern justice!

  • Kwan Ying (pronounced: koo-wann ying), Compassionate Kwan Ying, Goddess of Compassion, Mercy and Joy
  • Chan Cheng (pronounced: chan ching), Mighty Lord of Heroes, God of war, the martial arts, combat and bravery
  • Ch’en Hsiang (pronounced: chee-enn hoo-sang), Inspiration of Poets, God of poetry, music and literature
  • Chih Shih (pronounced: chee shee), Chih Shih Chen-Shan-Tien-Kung-Te, Lord of the Sages, God of History, Lore and Tradition
  • Nung Chiang, (pronounced: nung chee-ang) Teacher of the Plow; Master of the Red Earth; God of Agriculture and Fertility
  • Ai Ch’ing (pronounced: eye chee-ing), Mistress of Love and Fidelity, Goddess of Love and Marriage
  • Fa Kuan (pronounced: faah koo-wann), One Who Walks in Righteousness; The Lawgiver; God of Justice
  • Hsing Yong (pronounced: hiss-ing yoong), The Lucky One; Most Fortunate One; God of Fortune and Prosperity
  • Shu Chia (pronounced: shoo chi-ah), Hands of Shu Chia; Hands of the Master; God of Artificers and the Arts

The Lesser Immortals: The servants and assistants of the Nine Immortals, the Lesser Immortals are descended from sages who have been particularly holy in their lives. As a reward, the Celestial One has granted them the boon of immortality and limited godlike powers. The Lesser Immortals each have specific tasks that they perform in Heaven and upon the Red Earth, and are directed in these by the appropriate Greater Immortals.

Jade Ladies: Appearing as translucent women in green robes and elaborate jade headdresses, Jade Ladies are responsible for creating and placing treasures and beautiful things within the earth. Their powers allow them to weave gold, silver and copper into the veins of the rocks, and to fashion rich deposits of jade in secret places, to be uncovered by miners and artisans.

Rice Spirits: Rice spirits are the spirits of the harvest, responsible for making the rice grow strong and tall. They are also in charge of the fertility of men and beasts, and the judging of whether a family should be allowed children. Rice Spirits may be men or women, and appear in a variety of aspects including animals and mythical beasts.

Moon Women: Moon women are responsible for maintaining the proper care of the Heavens-refilling the oils in the great lamps of the Sun, polishing the million crystal orbs that are the stars, and directing the Moon and the constellations in their courses. Because the calendar is derived from the actions of Heaven, Moon Women are also the patron saints of any actions regarding time, such as festivals, portentous moments, and auspicious times of action. They appear as slender young women in gauzy blue robes, who at times are nearly transparent themselves.

Spirit Warriors: These Lesser Immortals are responsible for creating heroic resolve and courage in the fainthearted. They appear as inspirational figures, often leading phantom armies whose manifestation can turn the tide of battles. They are also responsible for carrying off the spirits of slain heroes to be judged by the Lords of Karma, and of guarding the gates of the Underworld from trespassers.

Ladies of Compassion: These Lesser Immortals are responsible for the work of Kwan Ying, appearing throughout Heaven and the Red Earth to ease suffering and pain. They appear as stately young women in white robes and long, loosened hair, carrying a silken white cloth with which to bind wounds.

Lords of Karma: The Lords of Karma are the judges of whether a person’s soul has gained enough merit in his current life. Upon their judgement, the dead soul may be elevated to the Heaven of the Ancestors, or even be raised to sit among the Immortals. However, if the Lords judge against them, the soul will be condemned to be a spirit for all eternity, wandering the Red Earth by night, and trapped in the hells of the Underworld by day.

Sages: The sages are people who, in their earthly lives are of such purity and resolve that they are elevated to walk beside the Immortals. However, they are not yet of sufficient greatness to become Lesser Immortals, and as such have no godly powers and are not granted Immortality. A sage need not be dead – many walk the Red Earth today, teaching by their great example and wisdom.

Sages (and Buddas, which is a Tabotan term for the same thing), come in all shapes, sixes, races and walks of life. Most live apart from the world of men, in mountain caves or hidden places in the jungles, to better live in simplicity and peace. This inner harmony imparts to the sage many benefits – long life, wisdom and knowledge, and mastery of many attributes of the material world. Sages have been known to walk hot coals, quell earthquakes, still typhoons and shatter swords with the touch of a hand. It is not uncommon for a sage to be seen speaking familiarly with the spirits of air and water; to call upon wild beasts to carry him to and fro, and to turn away monsters. Even we great dragons will occasionally come to a sage for counsel and conversation – I myself have a friendship of long duration with the poet-sage Hung Te Ping, for example.

A sage lives his or her life in pursuit of a single goal; to become perfection; to become one with the will or Heaven. In this way, he becomes Heaven itself. And when he has finally died and left the Red Earth, he often times becomes a true Immortal.

Ancestors: When a mortal dies in the Celestial Empire, he is judged by the Lords of Karma as to his relative merit. If his merit is very high, he is elevated to the level of a Lesser Immortal, if less, he may become a sage. If he has merely lived a good and merit-filled life, he is granted eternal existence in the Heaven of the Ancestors. In this land, there is no pain, suffering or infirmity. There is always delicious food to eat and fine clothes to wear. The ancestors have one responsibility, and that is to advise their descendants. To this end, each ancestor has a secret name, known only to the most trusted of his children, the invoking of which requires his attention.

Spirits: There are two kinds of spirits; those of the dead, which include all baijang, gaki (or hungry ghosts), bisan and the like; and those of nature – kami, harooga and other aspects of the material world. The spirits of the dead are descended from those who lived evil or unfulfilled existences when they were alive. For this, they have been judged by the Lords of Karma to eternally walk the Earth as spirits, forever in torment. By day, they are shut away from the eyes of men in the darkness of the Underworld, where the black caverns echo with their screams of anguish. By night, they haunt the earth, often in evil, forbidden places, or near the place where they died or were buried. This, by the way, is why it is safe to approach a Shou graveyard by day, but extremely dangerous to do so by night.

Twisted by the pain of unfulfilled dreams, visions of vengeance for past wrongs, or hatred and evil, the hungry spirit is a creature of horror, feared by all men. As in all things of the Celestial Empire, they too have their duties, among which is to serve as a terrifying example of the result of evil practices. In order to accomplish this, most hungry spirits have supernatural powers and abilities, many of which are as deadly as they are frightening.

Equally powerful, but not as twisted, are the spirits of nature. These creatures exist as forces of the material world, moving through it to provide life and motion. Some spirits, such as the kami of place, are the guardians of sites and treasures. One legendary example of this is Harooga, the spirit of Akari Island. Others, such as kami of elements, move the winds and waters at the direction of the great dragons of Heaven. There are also spirits of stone and beasts, serpent and fowl, who also guard and protect powerful places in the world. It is these spirits of Wind, Air and Water that the Chung Tao priests of T’u Lung call Nature Gods, although it is known to us of the Celestial Heaven that they are of much less exalted position!

Occasionally, nature spirits and humans fall in love. These unions are often fertile, producing offspring. This is the origin of the spirit folk and hengeyokai; people who combine the elements of the spirit and material worlds. Many of the great romances of Shou literature involve these unions, such as the ancient legend of the river woman.

The Great Dragon: The Great Dragon is over two thousand years old, and has observed the peoples of Shou Lung over the span of Empires. He has also travelled widely to other lands as well, meeting many other Chroniclers of Events and adding their tales to his own.

The Path of Enlightenment

Priests of the Path (Shou-ling Tao), live together in huge temples and monasteries. Here they study teachings concerning the nature of the Path, as well as martial and healing arts, reading and writing. These monks can be easily recognized by their flowing red robes and shaven heads. While most are removed from the world, choosing to turn away from riches, fame and romantic companionship, this varies from order to order.

The way of the monk is a narrow way, for he must follow the Path. But no matter how narrow the Path, it may take many branchings before reaching its destination. This is the way of it among the Shou-ling.

While the priests of the Way are usually wandering shukenja (known as dang-ki) or wu jen, aloof in their mysteries and strong in power, the backbone of faith is the priesthood of the Shou-ling. These monks and temple warriors wander the lands doing good, or gather together in great temples and monasteries.

Each temple is a place of worship, open to the common people, and also a place where relics of the immortals and sages are displayed. Temples are usually located within a city of some size. Most are dedicated to one of the Nine Immortals, although other sages and deities may also be included jointly in this dedication. The patron immortal is represented by a central statue, which is ringed with small naves where the lesser patrons are depicted. Temples are staffed with about 20 to 40 priests, as well as being guarded by a small number of sohei (up to 30), who protect the temple from desecration and theft.

A monastery incorporates a temple as part of its design, but also has living quarters for a larger number of monks and sohei (as many as two or three thousand at the greatest ones). Monasteries are usually located in remote areas, as these orders desire peace and isolation to better study their particular branch of the Path.

An order of the Shou-ling faith may have many temples or monasteries, scattered in a number of cities. Rarely are there two or more temples of the same sect within the same city – there is too much chance of a schism eventually splitting the two temples apart!

No matter the order, the life of a monk is much the same. Members of the order rise one hour before dawn, going to the central temple to chant and pray to the patron immortal. At dawn, the monks begin the first of their two kung fu training sessions, this one concentrating on stretching and exercises. After this session, they will have breakfast, then move on to morning activities; chants, meditation, scribe work, farming or crafts. The midday meal marks the end of this work, and the start of the afternoon kung fu practices. These are with weapons, movement exercises (kata), and sparring between monks (kumite). After the practice, one of the older monks gives a sermon, reading texts from the monastery’s sutra library. Following this is a time of meditation. At dusk there are the evening prayers, with an hour of meditation afterwards, and the last meal of the day This meal is often a place where younger novices can ask questions of the masters and discuss the events of the day. At day’s end, the monk returns to his meditation cell to sleep.

The myriad of directions along the Path makes for lively dissension and argument between the priesthoods. Oftentimes, the many orders of the Shou-ling have raised up great temple armies of sohei and monks, to destroy other orders considered to be heretics. Although the Emperor opposes this, temple battles continue even today, as rival orders clash on the streets of the capitol and other places of the Empire. There are more than two hundred sects, or orders,
all professing to be the True Way to follow the Path of Enlightenment; only perhaps two dozen are recognized as “approved” by the Department of Celestial Supervision.

The Path of Enlightenment is the officially recognized “state” religion, primarily due to a well organized temple militia and strong influence at court. The teachings of the Path are said to have been revealed first in the Hungtse River provinces, blasted by red lightning into the sheer granite of the Cliffs of Tanghai. We know this is true, for the inscriptions stand there even today. They admonish us to:

  • Honour that which has gone before you. For the past is eternal.
  • Honour and respect your Elders and the Ancestors.
  • Show honour in word, thought, action and deed.
  • Speak not false words, nor engage in false deeds, for these are not li (the term for rightness under heaven).
  • Do honour to he who rules you, for the Earth is the Mirror of Heaven, and the Son of Heaven is the mirror of the Celestial One. Be obedient to your lord.
  • Engage in no base thing, nor commit murder, for to strike another in the name of anger is not li.
  • Do honour to those you must rule, for under the eye of Heaven, they are your equals. Be fair to those you rule.
  • Know that all things are One under Heaven, even the lowliest of creatures.

The Path of Enlightenment is conveniently oriented to serve the wishes of the Imperial Family. It encourages fealty and obedience to one’s lord, veneration of the past (including past emperors), and those who teach and guard the path. It’s very nature deifies the person of the Emperor, elevating him to the very side of the Celestial One in importance, and conferring upon him a secret animal name upon his death.

As the Celestial One’s mirror upon the Earth, the Emperor has the right to speak directly to the Immortals as an equal, as well as to call upon the spirits of the Ancestral Emperors, whether in his direct family line or not. He does this in the Heart of the Place Most Secret, a shrine located in the very centre of the Forbidden City, and known only to him and his most trusted wu jen. He must also perform all the proper rites, such as ploughing the first fields with a silver plough at the start of the New Year (to ensure good harvest), and traveling to the Mountains of the Immortals to make the yearly rituals and sacrifices.

Those who would guard and teach the path are known as the the Shou-ling Tao, or Receivers of Guidance. This has, through the years, become corrupted into the term Shou-ling, used to describe the priests of this religion. The Shou-ling Tao are the best organized and wealthiest of the faiths, enjoying the favour of the Son of Heaven. Most temples within the lands are Shou-ling temples, recognizable by their high red gates and huge sanctuaries.

There are many sects within the Shou-ling faith, as there are many interpretations of the Path possible. Those which are official sects receive the benefits of the bureaucracy granted land, money and the support of the Imperial Family. They maintain many advisors at court, and it is here that many troubles arise, as these advisors fall prey to the temptations and vices of the world and to petty squabbles with the contending priests of the Way.

Often, there are wars between temples and faiths, culminating in bloody battles within the very walls of the Celestial City itself. These battles are often fought with the unsanctioned temples of the faith – fiercely independent temples of the Path with divergent views, who most of the temple elders consider renegades and heretics.

No matter their temple, all Shou-ling monks have these things in common. All have shaven heads and wear the red flowing robes of their order; red in remembrance of the red lightning which carved the teachings in the cliffs. “We are the reflection of the lightning of Heaven”, say the writings of the Shou-ling teachers, “and we shall light the Path for those who follow”. The monks are well educated, can read and write, and have extensive knowledge of the classics almost any one of them could easily pass the examinations and enter the mandarinate. Yet, they are sworn to a vow of poverty and to turn away from the things of the world, to better pursue perfection along the Path. Besides, they already wield great influence without the restrictions imposed on bureaucrats.

The Shou-ling monasteries are also famed for creating the art of unarmed fighting, or kung fu. Based upon the precept that it is wrong for a man of faith to spill blood, the monks of Shou lung may not use daggers, swords or cutting weapons. These tools they leave to the skills of a specially chosen class, the nosheng (sohei), who are consecrated as temple guardians. For themselves, the monks of the Shou-ling choose the weapons of the body only. For it is written: To make strong the force of the Body, to become one with Heaven in defence of the weak and the defenceless this is truly li.

Each monastery or temple has its own specific form of kung fu. Some types are patterned after animals, or
elemental forms of nature. Others are derived from the abilities of a certain master, whose skill has forever after influenced that temple’s dojo, or teaching hall.

Order of the Dragon: The largest and best known monastery in Shou Lung, this order is the home of the dragon form of kung fu. Each New Year, the monastery hosts a great martial arts competition, open to all orders within the Shou-ling priesthood. The current abbott of the order, Iron Hand, won this competition seven times running, although this occurred many years ago. He is a solid, thoughtful man, with piercing eyes and a calm, friendly demeanour. However, he detests dishonesty and has an active dislike of the nobility, whom he views as self-seeking thieves.

The monastery’s close location to the Capitol, and its strong ties to the court have given the order a great deal of prestige. Dating back to the early Kao Dynasty, the actual monastery grounds predate the construction of the city of Kuo Te’ Lung, and have grown continuously over the past centuries. The buildings are of yellow brick, with red tile roofs, and ramble over the length of breadth of the order’s hilltop properties. The largest building is a four story temple to the patron immortals, Chan Cheng and Fa’Kuan.

The life of a monk here is fairly traditional, if lighter in manual labour and heavier in comforts than more conservative orders would approve of. Besides providing teaching for all classes of students, the monks also maintain farms, copy rare manuscripts, and go among the people to heal the sick and injured. In wartime, the sohei and monks of the Dragon Order are invaluable defenders of the Emperor and serve with distinction in the Army of the Kingdoms. The sohei are famed for their use of the naginata and halberd many have become members of the Imperial Guard and serve as both religious teachers and protectors within the walls of the Imperial Palace.

Because the Order of the Dragon is in the largest city of Shou Lung, with all manner of hostelries and sanctuaries, it is unlikely that it will be used by travellers. In the court, the sohei and monks present will often (30%) be of this order, and that in any conflict between sects, they will automatically do what they feel is correct to protect the person or will of the Imperial Family. Do not – repeat – do not ask a monk of the Dragon to do something treasonous or seditious. He will kill you and atone for it later.

The monastery and temple settings offer a wide variety of possible adventures. Monks may join forces with imperial soldiers to fight military threats. They can wander aimlessly across Shou Lung, seeking enlightenment and incidentally fighting monsters, evil brigands and corrupt officials.

Order of the Five Stars: The Five Stars School is located in the city of Ping Chow, in Wang Kuo province. The school studies the art of Five Stars kung fu, a style with five types of movement – speed, leaping, missile deflection, and feinting. (These are described on page 103 of Oriental Adventures.) The Five Stars techniques are quite favoured by young women, as they give the student immense attacking power without requiring great strength.

Masters of the Five Stars school are skilled at hand strike attacks, but not in the usual sense. Instead, they are taught to use great speed and make blurring attacks, landing many blows instead of one. At the highest level of mastery (16th), Seven Stars students are able to actually slow time, doubling their already astounding number of attacks.

The dojo itself is located in the back of a bathhouse in central Ping Chow. It’s master, Lin Kwan Shu, is a slender woman with startling blue eyes, obviously the heritage of gajin ancestry. To enter the school, the applicant must be brought to the master by another student of at least 10th level. Master Kwan then judges the fitness of the applicant and decides if he or she may enter the school. The final test of a Five Star student is deceptively simple; students are asked to pluck a shiny blue stone from the Master’s open palm. Most fail.

Order of the Iron Hand: The master of the Iron Hand School is Ling Li Te Hsin (Sharp Mind), a well-known cartographer employed by the Ministry of Public Works in Kuo Te’ Lung. The school is run within Ling Li Te Hsin’s large family compound, where he lives with his mother, wife, three sons, two daughters-in-law and assorted grandchildren, not to mention three to nine students at any one time.

Only students who have already demonstrated extraordinary (at least 4th level) potential in another kung fu style are considered for Ling Li’s dojo. Beginning students act as servants to the family, learning diligence, discipline and humility. As they progress, they graduate to being treated as Clan members.

The Iron Hand School teaches that to make the body ready for combat, it must be made as hard as iron. Students repeatedly plunge their hands into heated bowls of gravel to toughen their fingers. Hand and arm strikes are practiced against great iron statues. The floor of the dojo itself is of iron plates, to harden the body against falling. (An Iron Hand student is capable of the techniques of Iron Fist, as described in Oriental Adventures, page 104.)

The final test of an Iron Hand student is the Iron Combat, in which he must singlehandedly defeat the three Iron Spirits who are the guardians of the School. These iron armoured Oni fight with great metal clubs, and have killed many a student who faced them.

Ling Li is very strict about his students avoiding combat unless provoked. In his school, martial arts are taught as a way of personal betterment, and combat is a last resort. However, students of the Iron Hand are not afraid of combat, and often compete in fighting tournaments. The Iron Hand school is considered to be one of the best in the Empire, and the list of applicants is long.

Order of the Nimble Hunter: This temple-based order is located in the Imperial Capital of Kuo Te’ Lung, in Wang Kuo Province. As students of the cat style of kung fu, monks of this very civilized order train long and hard to develop quickness and agility. But they are also trained in the underlying philosophy of the Path, as well as the literature and arts of Shou Lung. This makes them clever debaters, and gives them a depth of religious understanding uncommon among the Shou-ling priesthood.

The order also has a large number of women in its ranks, more than any other Shou-ling sect. It is fitting that Ai Ch’ing is the patron immortal of the sect. Monks of the order are highly prized as advisors, religious counsellors, and personal bodyguards to the Court. In fact, the Abbotess Yen Yu (Jade Eyes) was once bodyguard to the Emperor’s mother.

The monastery has been heavily endowed by wealthy court patrons, and is very beautiful-some might say even opulent, as the order believes that great beauty also serves the Path. Travellers and court patrons are very welcome, particularly for the news they bring. Food and lodging are most pleasant and comfortable.

Order of the Northern Fist: The Northern Fist School concentrates on the ability to kill or stun an opponent using the weaknesses of his own body. Students study the acupressure points of the body and learn to “read” the ki of their opponents. When mastery is accomplished, the student may utilize any of the vital area attacks (as described in Oriental Adventures, page 104), including the feared Distance Death technique known only by the masters of the school.

The Northern Fist School is unique in that it will only accept young children as students. The novices are trained not only in the techniques of the school, but in the life philosophy as well. Northern Fist School teachings state that the purpose of the school is to train protectors of the common people. Should the Empire collapse, the Students of the Fist will rise in every town and village, to uphold law and defend the Path of Heaven.

To graduate from the Northern Fist School, the student must pass two tests. The first is the Test of the Great Masters. In this test, the student enters the Hall of the Masters, to find statues of each of the masters of the Northern School arrayed to either side of him. One master comes to life before him – it is never known which one – and the student must defeat him. The fight is to the death (supposedly). The second test is that of the Inner Soul. In this test, the student is confronted with a simple choice; a moral decision of life. He must make the correct choice as he sees it. His choice will reveal his inner nature to the Master of the School, who will then judge him fit to become a Master of the Northern Fist School. If the student fails, he may still graduate, but he will not become a Master and learn the Distance Death techniques.

Order of Pure Thought: The Monastery of Pure Thought is the largest monastery in Arakin Province. The head of the order is abbot Hua Li Te.

Order Of Silence / Order of the Cobra: This Temple of the Cobra School is of the unapproved monastic orders – possibly related to the Temple of Quiet Sliding in Chu’ Yuan. Over Two centuries ago (1062 DR to 1065 DR), the monk Huo Tseng (Fiery Hate) returned from his travels to find his large, prosperous merchant clan had been wiped out by the armies of Prince Shin Gisen. Ostensibly, the wealthy Tien Lun family had given aid to the forces of Prince Shin Lu, but it is more likely that the avaricious Prince Gisen killed them so that he could seize their properties for his war efforts.

Returning to his home poor and clanless, Huo Tseng, a student of the Cobra school of kung fu, gathered together other homeless men and shared his knowledge with them. This was the foundation of the Order of Silence, also known as the Order of the Cobra, which has survived to this day.

The monks of the order vow never to speak until all injustice is eradicated from the lands. In the wars between Shou and T’u Lung, they defended the local people with incredible ferocity, showing mercy to neither side. When the generals of the armies tried to crush the monks, they seemed to slither away into the wilderness. Finding brute force useless, the nobles of the Shou attempted to court the order with rich gifts of land and money. These Huo Tseng used to build a great monastery to Chan Cheng, although he would never, to the last, choose a side in the conflict. This is why the order remains unapproved by the bureaucracy.

Unfortunately, power and hatred have corrupted the charitable ideals of the Silent Order. While the monks still protect the common people from the depredations of the nobles, it has also become a source of of fear throughout the Southern Provinces. Travelers are welcome at the temple as long as they accept the arrogant ways of the monks and do not disturb the local people. The cobra is considered sacred to this order, and many roam the grounds of the temple freely – it is forbidden to kill one, even in self defence (there is a 60% chance of encountering a cobra during any given day, but only a 5% chance that the cobra will attack if encountered; they are very used to humans). The monks of the order admire dangerous people, but hold little regard for arms and armour – one reason they have never developed a sohei
brotherhood within the temple. The fare is excellent and plentiful, featuring many unusual specialties of the south, except, of course, cobra.

The current abbot is Kui Tzu (Sly Words); a small, slight, quick man; politically agile as well as an outstanding martial artist. He supports the traditions of the temple—- the many hours of meditation, kung fu practice, and temple chants and ceremonies. But menial labour is now done only by novices or hired labour. The monks sleep in comfortable rooms and often have personal servants. The vow of silence is less strictly enforced, and seems to be totally absent among the higher ranks of the order.

Order of the Southern Star: The Southern Star School believes that ki is as dangerous as a physical action. Therefore, students of this school practice attacks of speed and precision. Each strike requires that the student concentrate his ki as a single point, just beyond the point of impact. After years of practice, the student becomes capable of delivering devastating attacks without actually touching his opponent at all (achievable at 10th level, this is equivalent to Concentrated Push as listed in Oriental Adventures, page 104).

The school is located deep in the woods, in a deserted Chung Tao temple outside the city of Liao Pei. The Master Liu (Willow), is a slight, quiet man with flowing white hair. His modest manner and dress conceal a potent will. Those who seek him for training must first pass the Test of No Wind, in which the applicant must extinguish a single candle, using only his will. Those who fail are sent away again. Mysteriously, they can no longer remember where the school is or that it even exists.

The final test of a Southern Star student is to strike at the surface of the great bronze bell hanging in the centre of the Hall of Testing. The bell weighs at least two tons, and is suspended from an iron chain, yet the student must move it without actually touching the surface. If the student is worthy, his ki alone should be able to make the bell swing. A powerful student will be able to make the bell actually ring. It is noteworthy that on the far side of the temple lies another great bronze bell, split into two halves by the ki of Master Willow.

Order of the Strong Claw: The Strong Claw monastery is located near Yen Ching, in Ma’ Yuan Province. It is one of the oldest monastic orders in the Empire, and it is considered a great honour to be accepted here, despite the monastery’s relative isolation from the rest of the world. The patron immortal is Fa Kuan, but Chih Shih is also worshipped here. The life of the monks is a hard one, and applicants are tested both physically and spiritually before they are admitted. The order accepts both male and female novices, although the two sexes live in separate quarters and must pledge a vow of chastity during their tenure with the order.

Located on a high, cold plain, the buildings of the monastery are cave-like, with few windows to prevent heat from escaping. The walls of the enclave are high and thick, to keep out the bitter winds and fell creatures that wander the steppes at night. The land of Ma’ Yuan is well known for its huge beasts, monsters and spirits, although not as feared as the dead and cursed plains of Chukei.

During the summer months, the monks of the order raise sorghum and wheat, which they store in underground caves below the monastery buildings. In the bitter winters, they retreat into the monastery’s vast and echoing halls, to study the writings of the Path and to say the One Thousand Chants required in the teachings of the order. It is said by the monks that should the cycle of chants be broken, and the full one thousand not said each day, the world will end in fire.

In all seasons, the monks of the order study the techniques of bear style kung fu; the style of great strength and slashing movements favoured by the fierce peoples of the Western Marches. The Strong Claw Order is famed for its mastery of this technique, and many have journeyed to the remote monastery to learn its secrets. The sohei of the order are also famed for their skill with the tetsubo, or iron club. Both sohei and monks have served with distinction alongside the Emperor’s Army of the Western Marches, battling the fierce horse barbarians. The monks particularly enjoy plucking riders from horseback and wrestling horses to the ground with their great strength.

Travelers will find a solid welcome here, if not a great deal of comfort. Straw mats on stone platforms are the extent of sleeping arrangements. The fare is strictly vegetarian, except on feast days, when chicken or fish are permitted. Visitors to the order are advised to not interfere too much with the monk’s duties and to follow the teachings of the Path while they are there.

The current abbot of the monastery is Ta Ping Tsu (Large Feet), the youngest abbot in the history of the order. Ta Ping Tsu was selected at the age of 28 by the previous abbot, as the old Master of the Order lay on his deathbed. The young abbot is extremely strong, both physically and spiritually, though perhaps a little conservative and suspicious of the outside world.

Order of the White Crane: The Order of the White Crane is located in Kirin, Hungtse Province. The order’s abbott, Ch’ang Tui (Long Legs), maintains the traditions of the White Crane sect; a conservative tradition based on versatility and worship of Shu Chia, the patron immortal. Members of the order are not only skilled in their devotions and kung fu training, but are also physicians, herbalists, astrologers, craftsmen and historians. Equal time is devoted to the study of the Path of Enlightenment, the White Crane style of kung fu, and manual labour.

Travelers are gladly offered the same simple sleeping mat, vegetarian fare and training regime as the monks of the order. Those staying for any length of time greater than a week are required to work. The White Crane style of kung-fu is noted for its grace and speed. It’s sohei are masters of two paired weapons; jitte, sai, butterfly blades and nunchaku.

The Way

Priests of the Way (Chung Hsiang Tao) are solitary souls, who travel the lands seeking knowledge through nature. Chung Tao priests are considered to be more wizards than clerics, for the deeper mysteries of their faith give them sorcerous control over the forces of the material world (these men are actually wu jen). Although in theory, the Way is a truly neutral faith, in reality there are two alignments of Ch’eng Tao priests – those of the Dark Way (using their powers for personal gain) and those of the Light Way (using their powers for the good of others).

The followers of the Way are known as Chung Tao, or Guides of the Way. The Way is much more of a philosophy than a religion, because its adherents believe that the true nature of the Way is unknowable. It’s shrines are more like hermitages, and its very few temples organized as monasteries or schools, teaching a wide variety of subjects. The Way states that all things in the Celestial Universe affect and are affected by all others. There is no Good, Evil, Law or Chaos only the forces of the Universe, which may be manipulated as desired. The proper student of the Way thus recognizes this and strives to know the proper way in which to use these forces.

A Chung Tao priest is actually something more of a wizard than a monk or scholar, and both dang-ki (shukenja) and wu jen may be followers of the Way. Powerful positions within the faith are occupied by mages or sorcerers more often than priests, and indeed, many of the great wu jen of history have been Chung Tao priests as well.

The use of power is often the subject of debate, and so it is among the Chung Tao priests. In the earliest days of the Empire, this caused a great rift in the unified faith, with two main temple emerging from the chaos. One group, known as the Black Chung Tao, believe that the superior man has a duty to shape the universe to his ends; directing the unenlightened of the Earth to a higher goal. The second group, known as the White Chung Tao, believe that there are no superior men, only enlightened, ones, and that the proper observance of the Way is in maintaining the natural balance of events. The two sects are distinguished by an identifying mark worn on the chest or sewn on the garments. This symbol, representing the concept of Yin and Yang, is a circle with one half black and one half white. Within the centre of each area is a small dot of the opposing colour, symbolizing that each half is partially composed of the other. Among Black Chung Tao, the black side is uppermost – among Whites, the white side is uppermost.

In secret, these two forces have been battling for control of the Empire (and thus the material world) for the last 2,000 years. In some dynasties, the Black Chung are deposed from the favour of the court; in others, it is the White. Both use powerful sorceries and servants to win ascendancy. It is not unknown for the Black Chung Tao to employ assassination, illusion and even demons to overthrow dynasties which have thwarted them.

In this, they are opposed by the White Chung Tao, who use their powers to subtly influence events and support the balance. At present, the White Chung Tao are ascendant and enjoy the favour of the Imperial Family, but it is rumoured that the Black Chung Tao are already plotting a major challenge.

Feng Shui: Feng Shui (Wind & Water) is the ancient Shou art of place divination. A master of feng shui is able to divine the proper place in which to perform certain activities, such as casting spells, creating magical devices, or locating safe places for camps and fortifications.

Every aspect of Shou life holds elements of feng shui. Whenever a wise Shou citizen sets up a household, builds a compound, or even moves the furniture, he first consults with the local feng shui master. The master will advise him on the direction in which to place his front door, align furniture, and avoid building in evil places. By doing these things, bad fortune or evil will be avoided.

Good Feng Shui includes: round doors, round windows, the colour red, near water, ornate front gates to scare evil, windows or doors facing north.

Bad Feng Shui includes: triangular doors, triangular windows, the colour black, doors facing street, windows or doors facing west.

The feng shui can be used by wu jen and shukenja.

Trigrams: The Trigrams are one of the aspects of Chung Tao magic that permeates all levels of Shou culture. An ancient means of divination, they were, according to legend, divined by the sage Hsin Fu Chan from patterns in the back of a great sleeping lizard. From this inauspicious beginning, the Trigrams were developed into the sophisticated form used today, in which a handful of broken and unbroken chopsticks are thrown into a circle, and six selected from the top.

The resulting series of broken and unbroken lines are then compared to a matching trigram in the Book of Change to determine the meaning. There are two parts to the meaning. The first is the name of the Trigram, such as Love, Anger or Fellowship. There is also an explanation of the Trigram as well.

Destruction: Forces are at hand to unmake your fortunes. Use great care.

Fellowship: You will meet or find allies in your cause.

Simplicity: The best course is that which does the least.

Discipline: You must resist the impulse to give up. Strive harder to succeed.

Patience: Do not begin unprepared. Wait for the right time.

Love: Strong passions call you. Turn to one who shares your feelings.

Mountain: Stand fast in your principles. Do not yield at this time.

Sea: Always shifting. Be untouchable, make your position flexible, adaptable.

Anger: The Fire leaps within you. Use this force to your purpose, but do not let it destroy your judgement. Do not be consumed by hate.

Fear: Indecision tears at you. Turn away or stand and face the fear

Creation: Great forces may be used to your benefit.

The Faith of the Nine Travellers

The Nine Travelers is probably the oldest faith in Shou Lung; popular among the lower classes. Yet, for all of this, it is probably the weakest, having almost no temples or organized priesthood. It’s power comes from the fact that it is extremely popular among the mandarinate, for its basic tenet is that even the lowliest commoner can become a ruler of men. As the mandarinate became the ruling party of the bureaucracy, this faith was promoted to establish their position of rulership, so that by the mid Kao Dynasty, a great deal of work had been written on the subject.

This was opposed somewhat by the nobility, who recognized a political threat when they observed one.

The Nine Travellers faith considers the Nine to be immensely powerful beings of the Celestial Bureaucracy, and in this, they may have approached closer to the truth than any other religion. They consider Heaven to be a vast mirror of the Empire below, with a Celestial Government, Bureaucracy, and Emperor (all of which is true, actually). They err in arguing which of the Nine is the leader, but in all other things, they are quite correct.

One way in which the mandarinate has reinforced its claims upon the bureaucracy is by legitimizing the Book of Heaven. This four-volume work is heavily based upon the concepts of the Path, but refers to these within the context of the Nine Travellers’ reigns. The mandarinate has made knowledge of the Book of Heaven an important part of the civil service examination.

Often, miraculous events (such as the appearances of the Chu Jen Yin, or Giants in Gray) are attributed to actions of the Nine. Because the mandarinate has a vested interest in the promotion of this faith, they immediately call out a Board of Inquiry for each event, compiling vast scrolls of information and “not proven” and “possible” verdicts. It is somewhat ironic that this “faith of clerks” may well be the most accurate depiction of the Celestial Empire man has ever devised, yet suffers from disbelief simply because it is so mundane in aspect.

Important Sites

Arakin Province: Rough and rugged mountains, descending gradually into rolling foothills as you approach Chu’Yuan and the bamboo jungles.
Arakin is considered to be a backwater province of little importance, other than its boundaries with the East. It’s major historical note is an appearance of the Impossible Palace in -837 DR, which people are still talking about.
The Arakien are also fierce mountain men, much like their neighbours of Kao Shan.
The only site of significance is Sei Kung, capital of the province and the site of an appearance by the Impossible Palace.

Ch’ing Tung Province: Ching Tung reaches from the edge of the salt plain, moving south through sloping grasslands into the fertile valley between the Hungtse and Ch’ing Tung Rivers. Following the Hungtse River northwest, the Silver Road runs through Tabot and eventually into the Forgotten Realms, although unknown hazards make this a perilous journey. It is along this basin that most of the village and river traffic moves south into Wang Kuo province, seat of the Imperial Throne.
Before the Li Dynasty, the creation of the Dragon Wall made this region safe from the incursions of the horse barbarians. With its fertile river basin, many stands of trees, and available grazing area, Ch’ing Tung became home to many farming clans, particularly the Ch’ing, who had suffered much oppression under the rule of the Hai Dynasty.
The largest ethnic group outside of the people of Wan Kuo, the Ch’ing are characterized by others as being clannish, pushy, and adventurous to a fault; This doesn’t bother them at all, as they consider Ch’ing Tung to be the centre of the universe. They are more “night owls” than most Shou, fond of staying up late to drink in the wine shops and talk about all manner of current events. They are fond of experimenting with new foods (although they loathe lamb and mutton), often mixing tropical fruits and meats from the southlands into their favourite dishes (one of the favourite Ch’ing dishes is hot and spicy stewed snake with pineapple).
Shou’Kuan, a major city sits astride the Ningtang Road from Yenching. Taitung is a major river city at the southern end of the First Emperor’s Canal. Shangtou, a small backwater farming town has achieved fame for its fine tea and rice. Of special interest are the River Cities. These are located along the heavily journeyed Hungtse River basin, and are well known to all Shou citizens. They include: Mi’Shan, a small northern river city noted for its waterfalls and great Chung Tao shrine to Kwan Ying; To’Ming, a trade city and home of the Emperor’s Summer Palace; and Cham Fau (detailed in this volume), a prosperous river town, home of the White Tiger Monastery, and the martial arts school of Master Wang Ho.

Chukei Province: This area is now a vast wind and drought-swept plain, with sparse grass and almost no water. It is said that the Chukei plateau is haunted by the ghosts from the dead Imperial capital of Kuo Meilan, who scream eternally in the frozen night.
Chukei is the original province in which the Empire began, originally known as Chu’ta Te (The Great) Province. For one full Dynasty, the original Shou Lung Empire flourished here. The land was a fertile, open plain, in which millet and barley were grown. But by the beginning of the Li Dynasty, the Nine Immortals, seeing the decadence of the Court, decimated the kingdom with drought and fire, forcing the survivors to flee southward.
The people of Chukei are the tallest of the Shou, slender, with high cheekbones. They are the only Shou who commonly have reddish or brown hair, rather than the usual black – in fact, the term for a redhaired person is chukien. They are somewhat wild in temperament, with a cold anger that reflects their courageous bearing. They are excellent horsemen and swordsmen.
Fukiow is a large mining city on the plateau, near the dead city of Kuo Meilan. Kangste is the major trade town on the Kuangchiu Road to Koryo. Chaoyang maintains a border garrison covering the junction of the Kuangchiu and Spice Roads. The dead city of Kuo Meilan is on the plain – little visited, it is the deserted capital of the First Kingdom; home of legends, ghosts and myths.

Kuo Meilan: The great deserted city of Kuo Meilan lies in the centre of the vast Chukei Plateau, in a region stripped bare of all life. The city, originally named Ten Mor Shou, was renamed by the Emperor Ten Chin for his evil consort Meilan. The city is roughly circular, with four great roads leading to the four points of the compass, and encircled by eight great concentric walls. In the centre of the city stands the Palace of the Invincible Sun, a three story high structure. From its centre, there are passageways which lead to the undercity, and the vast crypt which encloses the Stone Armies of Shih.
Or so it is said. For very few people have ever visited Kuo Meilan – it is a cursed place and haunted by all manner of ghosts, demons and monsters. It is said that any traveller who spends the night in Kuo Meilan will be dead by morning, and that the pile of white bones of visitors is as high as the Dragon Wall. Even worse, it is said that the spirits of the evil dead will take possession of the bodies of those who die there, to walk the earth in men’s flesh, spreading horror in their paths.
No maps exist of Kuo Meilan, and all accounts of its design are shrouded in mystery. It is a place of mystery, groaning deep under the curse of Heaven.

Chu’Yuan Province (The Bamboo Plains): Chu’Yuan is dense and endless jungle of bamboo, thick underbrush, and poisonous creatures. The heat is oppressive, the air muggy and thick. There are standing pools of water everywhere, filled with mosquitos and leeches. The people of Chu’Yuan are hunters and woodsmen, as farming is nearly impossible.
The bamboo plains have traditionally been a place of mystery and danger, shunned by most Shou, who only go there to cut the rich timber or trap rare animals. Until the great battles of Shin Lu and Shin Gisen in 1065 DR, Chu’Yuan was of no military importance to the Empire – now, as a major border with T’u Lung, it supports several garrisons of troops, although these seldom venture far from their secure bases.
The Chu are a suspicious, insular lot, as befits a people who have had generations of warring Shou and T’u trampling their homes underfoot. Small, thin, fond of wearing light clothing and hats, they are the masters of the jungle ambush. They are the only Shou other than the mandarins to commonly wear moustaches. The Chu are said to have amassed great fortunes among their clans; money made in the sale of the rare woods, animals and herbs which can only be found in their jungles; They are also known Empire wide for their food – which features parrot, monkey, snake and other unusual game – all of it served with throat-searing, eye-watering hot sauces.
Yentai, a central city, is located at the edge of the Hungtse Valley, where goods from Tabot are often traded. Taitun, a central river crossing at the lower Hungste, is frequented by merchants buying rare herbs and medicines. Travellers claim the food there is especially fiery. Chu Ting, a craftsman’s city in the edge of the Great Forests of Chu’Yuan, is the source of fine mahogany furniture. Ping Tung is the site of the Temple of the Shingten, while Sentai houses the monastery of the White Snake. Li’Ping is a major garrison town on the great Tungpu Road to the Southlands.

Hai Yuan Province (The Maritime Provinces): Moving southwest from the upper Hungtse, the land turns from river basin to dense jungle and swamp, ending in a brackish tidal area at the sea. The many inlets, coves and heavy foliage make this area nearly impossible to farm, but provide excellent cover for pirates, smugglers and other brigands, who still inhabit this area today.
These lands were originally known as the Karatin Provinces, and indeed, the capital city of the province is still named Karatin. However, at the time of the Great Pirate Lords, this region was mostly swamp and jungle. By the command of the first Emperor Chin of the Hai Dynasty, the region around the city of Karatin was drained and diked, making it into a fertile basin. In honour of this achievement, the province was named Hai Yuan (the Maritime Provinces).
The Hai are an adventurous race, but also arrogant, stubborn, and loud in bearing. They are also the most self assured of all the Shou, and seem to flaunt it with their incredible audacity. A Hai will attempt almost any feat, simply because he believes that as a superior man, he will obviously succeed. They are sea traders and occasional pirates, whose houses are built on stilts to protect them from floods, and whose ships are the fleetest of all the Empire. They rarely eat meat, preferring fish, and have learned the dishes of sushi and sashimi (two types of raw fish, one with pickled rice) from the Kozakurans. As a counterpart to the ethereally beautiful women of Sheng Ti, the Hai are said to produce the handsomest men in all the Empire. And they know it.
Karatin, the largest city, is claimed by the Hai to be the home of the legendary Sea Lords of Karatin. Also on the coast is Taoshin, a large seaport city with trade to the east. Above the drained ground is Keelung, a high plateau city famed for its tea and extremely fine silks. Shansin, a heavily fortified city, sits on the T’u Lung border as does Meoling. Both are known for plots and intrigues. In the ruins and almost lost is Shou Yang, a deserted jungle city, once terrorized by the Black Leopard Cultists.

Karatin: The city of Karatin is a large seaport city located at the mouth of the Hungtse. It is built mostly on swamp, with its boundaries hacked brutally out of the surrounding jungle. The efforts of succeeding generations of Emperors have drained most of the swampland, reducing the insect population and the constant threat of disease.
Karatin was the home of the Sea Lords, famous pirates and explorers who founded the expansionist Hai Dynasty in -420 DR. It is one of the first cities to have a unified architectural theme. Buildings are arranged in orderly patterns, facing north. The streets are wide and paved with stone. The Great Palace of the Sea Lords stands in the centre of the city. A two story structure similar to the Emperor’s Palace in Kuo Te’Lung, it is the first of the palaces to have columns along its outer courtyards. Karatin is also known for the Temple of the Jade Empress, a most magnificent structure raised by the Sea Lords around a statue of the Empress Ti Hai Chin, wife of the Hai Dynasty’s founder.
The harbour of Karatin is deep and well dredged. Ships constantly come here to trade for silk, rice and the advanced sciences of the Empire. It is a bustling port, where one can find almost any type of goods, and meet people from all over Kara Tur. This is also the port to which most gaijin come when they visit the world of the East.

Hungtse Province: The province of Hungtse borders part of the upper Hungtse river and its tributary the Chan Lu. It is a lush, fertile area near the river, rising eastward to open plains and eventually rolling hills overlooking the sea. A great deal of rice and tea are grown here, as well as much of the silk produced in the Empire.
Hungtse was settled early in the Ho Dynasty, as lords from feuding Ti Erte and Sheng Ti provinces fled to the south. Without their armies, the nobility eventually were swallowed up in the farming communities, turning to more peaceful pursuits. In the later Hai Dynasty, merchants from the south imported silkworms to the region, starting an industry which is unmatched for size or profitability anywhere in Kara-Tur. In -619 DR, shortly after the “Sharing of Meals”, the Imperial Capital was moved from Hsi-Feng (the Little Phoenix) to Hai Sheng (now re-named Kirin), where it remained until the Ivory Plague decimated it in -391 DR.
The Hungtse are known to be talkative, hot tempered, and easily excited. On the whole, they are a pleasant group, although an old Sheng proverb unkindly says, “If Earth mirrors Heaven in all things, then the Hungtse mirror the Celestial One’s chickens; always chattering!” A wide menu of rice, fish, chicken, duck and shrimp has given the Hungtse materials for a truly fabulous cuisine; their cooks are famed far and wide, and are usually found in the best houses of the Empire. It was the Hungtse who invented the tiny fried dumplings known as potstickers, a current Imperial rage.
Kirin, originally named Hai Sheng, the third Imperial capital, was renamed for the huge kirin who visited the city during the years of the Ivory Plague, saving the populace from certain death. Citizens still believe the city has special protection from the Celestial Emperor. There are also numerous small cities and villages. Typical of these is Linshung; a minor farming town in the great To Chan (fertile) Valley.

Cliffs of Tanghai: A great black basalt cliff overlooking the Hungtse River near Taitun, the cliffs were inscribed by red lightning with the words of the Path of Heaven in -810 DR. The cliffs are considered to be the holiest place in all of Shou Lung, as they are a living symbol of the existence of the Celestial Heaven. The inscriptions, one meter high, are carved along the outer face of the cliff, and cannot be reached by any way short of flying.

Impossible Palace of the Silver Domes: The Impossible Palace of the Silver Domes is a legendary palace which appears at random times all over the Empire. It is most often seen in times of great strife within Shou Lung. Many parties have attempted to enter its eight great domed sections, only to disappear forever.

The Impossible Palace is, as I (Mei Lung) have mentioned earlier, my home. As a rule, I do not take kindly to strangers invading my home for any reason, and have been known to eat most parties of adventurers who do so. I move the palace magically from time to time, to avoid this very thing. Most of the time, it is located at the bottom of a river or in a remote location.

There is one time when the palace is most accessible, and that is when a great danger faces the Empire. While I am prohibited from directly taking a hand in the affairs of men, I am allowed to make available information, weapons or spells to those brave enough to enter my doors. I deal with each transgressor in a different way; some, I ask riddles, others I send great monsters against. Occasionally, as in the case of the hero Wo Mei, I merely talk to them, discussing the classic works and current events, until I have divined the true nature of the one I am dealing with. Each of my tests is different.

But be warned. The superior man knows when he faces certain death. And it is certain death to disturb my privacy without reason!

Kao Shan Province (Province of the Mountains): Kao Shan is a land of towering peaks, broken by deep valleys filled with rich farm land. Great waterfalls thunder through the passes, dropping nearly a thousand feet in some places. There are many misty passes often snowed over in winter, leading through the mountains to distant Tabot.
Traditionally a frontier province, Kao Shan was settled by Tabotans, seeking new farm land to the east, and exiled ministers and nobility from the Imperial capital. It is still considered to be an unpopular posting, even today, and to be sent there is usually a punishment reserved for officials who are highhanded or corrupt.
They are viewed by the rest of Shou as rude, uncultured mountain men; good fighters with the bow, but otherwise unsophisticated. Honest to a fault, the tall, roughhewn Kao thinks nothing of telling a haughty mandarin what he thinks of him, punctuating his opinion with a blow or two. The Kao are the only people of Shou to eat bear and tiger, and claim that they eat dragon when they can get it-a sure boast in my opinion. They are excellent woodcarvers and tellers of folk tales.
Kai Shan, a now independent city seized by the criminal Tsui Tong in -265 DR, is known widely as a place of vice, corruption and shady dealings.

Ma’Yuan Province (Plain of the Horse): This area is comprised of vast, arid salt plain. Most of the salt, iron and other metals of the Empire come from scattered mines in this area. This is the province of the Great Dragon Wall, which blocks the barbarian hordes from sweeping into the Empire. The Kuangchiu Road also passes through this region.
Ma’Yuan has always been a place of rugged adventurers and tough miners. Too cold and barren to support a large population, it has never been an important nexus of civilization. The province has formed one of the first lines of defence against the barbarians of the Plain of Horses.
The people of this region, the Mai, are a hardy, stolid and reliable lot; excellent horsemen and fierce fighters with axe and short sword. They are physically the largest of the Shou peoples, standing almost six foot two as an average. Their clothes are usually rough woollens tipped with furs. The Mai eat far more millet and wheat than is common in other parts of the Empire, mostly in the form of noodles and stuffed buns. They are the only people of the Shou who regularly eat lamb and mutton. It is said of the Mai that they are “Stubborn to anger, as unstoppable as the taifun, and bright before Heaven in their stupid honesty.” Whether this proverb is a compliment is somewhat unclear.
Within the province are the cities of Min Low, a minor trade city on the Spice Road, once terrorized by the Copper Demon of Tros, and Yen Ching, a favourite trade city with the northern barbarians, known for its fine horses and cattle.

Strong Claw Monastery: The Strong Claw monastery is located near Yen Ching, in Ma’ Yuan Province. It i one of the oldest monastic orders in the Empire, and it is considered a great honour to be accepted here, despite the monastery’s relative isolation from the rest of the world. The patron immortal is Fa Kuan, but Chih Shih is also worshipped here. The life of the monks is a hard one, and applicants are tested both physically and spiritually before they are admitted. The order accepts both male and female novices, although the two sexes live in separate quarters and must pledge a vow of chastity during their tenure with the order.
Located on a high, cold plain, the buildings of the monastery are cave-like, with few windows to prevent heat from escaping. The walls of the enclave are high and thick, to keep out the bitter winds and fell creatures that wander the steppes at night. The land of Ma’ Yuan is well known for its huge beasts, monsters and spirits, although not as feared as the dead and ursed plains of Chukei.

Sheng Ti Province (The Sanctuary Province): Sheng Ti is mostly rolling hills, with terraces used for extensive rice farming. There are many deep caverns and small, thick forests, teeming with all types of creatures, good and ill. Sheng Ti is well known to be the home of many hengeyokai clans.
When the original inhabitants of the First Kingdom were driven south, they entered this area as exhausted refugees. The natives taught the survivors the techniques of rice farming, moving the Empire into an entirely new basis for food production (up to this time, the main food had been millet). Over the centuries, the two groups assimilated, though not without bloodshed. In time, this became the seat of the reborn Empire.
The people of Sheng Ti are small, snubnosed, and extremely fastidious. This delicacy reflects in many aspects of the Sheng culture, producing fine poets, jade sculpture and elaborate ceremonies. The province is also famed for its beautiful women. Fine boned, elegant and decorative, the Sheng courtesan is the subject of much lyric song and poetry. There are also a large number of spirit folk and hengeyokai living in this verdant, wooded area, and it is rumoured that the Sheng owe much of their elegant and diminutive stature to the influence of these peoples. Indeed, the cities of Sheng Ti are among the few in the empire where fox folk and other hengeyokai citizens walk about openly, even in their bipedal forms.
On the coast is Lo’Shan, a moderate sized seaport city with trade to Wa and Kozakura. Further inland is Hsi-Feng, the site of the second Imperial capital, noted for the Fortress of Kuai, a huge stone castle rumoured to have been raised by giants.

Fortress of Kuai: The Fortress of Kuai is located in the centre of the old Imperial Capitol of Hsi-Feng. It is a massive construction of stone blocks, each block far too heavy for any hundred men to lift. Legend has it that the Second Emperor Chin of the Ho Dynasty employed a family of giants from the wilds of Koryo to raise the blocks of the fortress. At his death, the Emperor had the giants seal his body within the fortress with a great stone block. It is said that any man who can lift the block will find the treasure of the Second Emperor buried with him, as well as the magic ring he used to control his unwilling giant servants.

Tien Lun Province (The Plains of Dispute): The land is ravaged by years of war; in some areas, nothing grows, not even grass. Great stones of cities lie piled atop each other, and through the centre of the land runs the Shattered Road of Kow Tang, its huge paved stones split and torn as by an earthquake. Expect no help here, nor sanctuary; this land is forsaken.
The site of most of the major battles of the T’u Lung/Shou Lung conflict. Tien Lun is the site of the Shattered Road and the Battle of the Crimson Wheat (1065 DR). Since this time, it has been the scene of several other great skirmishes, including the Betrayal of the CaHong-Chwi Garrison (1068 DR), the Conflict of the Silver Clouds (1085 DR), and the Battle of the Hammer (1163 DR). Tien Lun is only tenuously part of the Empire and the Emperor must go to great effort just to keep it that way.
The Tien are descended from the Wang, and as such have the same smooth skin, clear eyes and medium stature. But at this juncture, the resemblance ends. Ravaged by years of war, the Tien have become hostile, violent and sadistic; fond of cruel tricks and sharp knives. They can no longer be trusted by any of the Shou peoples, and they repay this distrust with a xenophobic hatred that borders on the maniacal. It is said, “The Tien makes a fell partner, a dangerous companion, and an untrustworthy lover. He is even worse as your enemy.”
Central to it all is Chowthou, a half-ruined and battered city in the middle of the Shou-T’u Lung conflicts. Constantly captured and recaptured through the last 200 years, it has been partially reduced to rubble.

Ti Erte Province (The Second Province): Hilly and rolling, with deep valleys and terraced fields. As one approaches the coastline, the country becomes more rocky and strewn with dense belts of fog.
By the time of the Second Dynasty, the many nobles of the region had fallen to squabbling among themselves for power and position. Eventually, these conflicts erupted into a series of bloody feuds. Ti Erte was the site of many terrible battles and wars; in fact, it is believed to be haunted by the ghostly spectre of Pin Mo Nom, the dreaded “Headtaker” of legend.
The Ti are a shrewd, insular people, famed among the other peoples of Shou for their monumental cheapness. They are hard headed, practical, and drive hard bargains. In stature, they are of average height, with deep set eyes and longish hair; fond of wearing heavy embroidered robes and tall, conical hats. The Ti comprise most of the money changers and lenders within the Empire.
Liaopei, a large city across the river from the old capital of Hsi-Feng is known for its fine food (very hot), and colourful history of warfare with Sheng Ti province. Tsingtao is famed for its beer and wine, which are exported to the other provinces.

Wa K’an Province (The Land that Views Wa): The land rises from the borders of Sheng Ti, finally reaching the sea in a series of towering white bluffs. The coast is broken by many deep inlets and coves, good for fishing and gathering pearls. On clear days, the locals like to claim that they can see the blue-black misty outlines of distant Wa.
In the migration from the north, many of the displaced tribes and minor kingdoms found their way to the coast. Here they settled, retaining their old allegiances. Soon the many petty nobles began to war among themselves for land and position. There were several divisions in this time and the conflicts spread. Wa K’an became a buffer state between noble clans of the Empire. Over the years Wa K’an grew as a refuge for people caught between the conflict – with its long (and secret) military ties to Wa, it was able to maintain its neutrality for many centuries.
The people of Wa K’an are known as the Waka, and are in stature much like the Ti (something they bitterly protest whenever possible). They are a mixture of the poetry of the Sheng and the hard headedness of the Ti; moody and fond of strong drink. The Waka are mostly fishermen who ply the sheltered coves and inlets of their rocky land, scraping out a modest living.
Hsiang, a small seaport town is noteworthy for its fine fish. It is also a favourite refuge of Wa nobles fleeing oppression.

Wang Kuo Province (The Province of the Kingdom): This is the current location of the Imperial City, Kuo Te’Lung. It is in the centre of a fertile river crescent between the Chan Lu tributary and the Hungtse. The area is well drained and crisscrossed by numerous canals and waterways. Much of the Imperial City is constructed on the ruins of an earlier capital burned down in 800 DR.
Although this region has always been heavily populated, it did not come into its own until -381 DR, after the Ivory Plague decimated the Imperial City of Hai Sheng. Ordered to leave by the kirin, the survivors of the Imperial family fled the area, moving to a small city at a juncture of the upper Hungtse. This they named the new capital. With this exodus came an incredible influx of culture and trade, centring around the new Imperial Capital and the upland city of Ping Chow (a major cultural centre famed for its arts, theatres and salons). In 800 DR, a great fire swept the capital, but it was rebuilt upon the ashes of the old site.
The people of Wang are the largest group of Shou Lung, their densely packed cities making up nearly 40 percent of the overall population. They are known for being unfailingly polite, cultured, intelligent and sophisticated – on the surface. It is the Wang who have set the styles of dress throughout the Empire; published the most important writings and produced the most famous plays. Of medium height and stature, they are fond of wearing the tight cheosong or the high collared mandarin’s coat, usually in tasteful, but heavily embroidered silks. “Her skin is as smooth as a Wang’s speech,” is a common saying within Shou Lung, reflecting their reputation for mannered conversation and elegance.
Kuo Te’ Lung is the capital City of the Empire of Shou Lung. Nearby is Ping Chow, a major trade nexus, and the “cultural centre” of the Empire.

Forbidden City: Located in the heart of the Imperial Capitol, the Forbidden City is truly the Empire’s centre. Within this great compound are the Palaces of the Emperor and his family, the halls of the government, and the great Hall of Judgement where the Son of Heaven sits upon the Jade Throne and rules the Empire. It is surrounded by huge walls nearly three stories high – even the walls themselves are permeated with passageways and rooms.
The central Court of the Gate of Heaven can hold nearly 100 horses, while the vast Court of the Throne can hold an army of 5,000 men! The Hall of Judgement can hold 1,000 men upon its vast gold and marble floor, and from its seven great balconies, it is said the Emperor can observe the distant mountains of Tabot. Even the Halls of Government are built upon this titanic scale, standing four or more stories each, roofed in red tile and covered with golden carvings depicting the offices of their respective ministries.
Designed by the Court Architect Sum Ma Ling in -382 DR, the Forbidden City combines the finest elements of craftsmanship and feng shui. The doors of the Halls of Government face north and south. There are 30 buildings in the great Concourse of Government, a propitious number. Each building is a balanced square, or a rectangle based upon the Golden Mean. All windows and doors are circular, in the “moon gate” style that promotes the greatest harmony. The entire city is raised above the rest of Kuo Te’ Lung on a man-made plateau, and all windows face either the Hungtse or the upper Chan Lu-Fenghsintzu River.
The Forbidden City is surrounded by the Imperial Capitol of Kuo Te’ Lung, the Kingdom of the Virtuous Dragon. Kuo Te’ Lung is a series of concentric, walled squares, with exactly four wards within each square. The innermost square is the Forbidden City. The next contains all the other Halls of Government. The next square contains the homes of the nobility and other wealthy people. The fourth square contains the marketplaces, while the fifth contains the inns, wine shops, theatres and entertainments. The sixth, seventh and eighth squares contain the living areas of the common people. The eighth wall is the highest of all, topped with a guard-wall, and has four great gates facing in each direction. The gate to the west is never opened at night.
The Forbidden City is exactly that- forbidden. Only those of the Emperor’s Government may enter its walls, and even they may not stay past the hour of dusk. As darkness falls, all but the household guards, maids and guests of the Emperor must leave the walls of the city. For an outsider to be caught within is death, and not a pleasant one.
The Forbidden City is guarded with 1,000 guards, each a 6th level bushi armed with pike, sword and full armour. The walls are proof against most sorceries, and cannot be flown over. A magical screen negates the effects of flight and levitation spells.

Ping Chow: Originally a small city in the rice plains adjacent to the Hungtse, Ping Chow became a mecca for dissident intellectuals and scholars shortly after the capitol was moved to Kuo Te’Lung in 869. It is a circular city much like Kuo Meilan, ringed with four walls, pierced with gates to the north and south. The centre of the city has no great palaces or civic structures, but is instead a densely packed area of tea houses, wine shops, theatres and meeting houses.
Ping Chow is also known as the Scholar’s City, because each year the Imperial Examinations are held here. Year round, the city is jammed with prospective scholars studying to pass their exams. There are a great many schools, tutors and examination houses in the city, catering to this specialized clientele.

Yu’I Province (Province of Friendship): High mountain peaks, shrouded in ever present mists, the province of Yu’I is rocky and cold. Snow frequently falls; at the higher passes near Tabot, there is deep snow all year long. Farming is rare, and then only on high terraces and mountainsides. The Yu raise goats – the only province to do so commonly. Important only as a military pass into Tabot and the West, Yu’I was known for many years as a place of strong but friendly people. In later dynasties, overbearing taxes and garrisons of border troops caused this warm welcome to sour, ending in an abortive rebellion in 521 DR. While the rebellion was crushed, the 16th Emperor Chin showed great enlightenment by withdrawing most of his troops and allowing the people of Yu’I a greater amount of self determination in the years after.
The Yu are much like the Kao in nature, being descended from the same stock. They wear heavier clothing, and are more touchy about their independence – it is very easy to provoke a Yu to a duel.
Taichan, a small, heavily defended garrison town, has maintained a fierce independence from the bureaucracy for the last 20 years. The Temple of Saigai, a massive place of worship built by unknown peoples over 8,000 years ago, still dominates the icy High Pass. It has been long deserted. The entire pass is believed the den of some evil horror.

Temple of Saigai: The Temple of Saigai is located deep within the mountain forests of Yu’i, near the city of Taichan. The temple is of great stone blocks and is roughly squared. Its surfaces are covered with strange inscriptions in characters unknown to all but wu jen. It’s inner walls are covered with carvings of bizarre creatures who resemble something halfway between men and beasts. The temple has been here as long as anyone can recall, and is described in Tabotan records that go back as far as 8,000 years.

Important NPCs

An Ching Wang: (Wang Ho School, 4th level Kensai, C,L, Human female). After her father was injured by his most promising pupil, An Ching followed her lover on his penitent wanderings. Originally torn by her decision, she was visited by a White Lady of Kwan Ying, who advised her to “follow her heart and things would work out.” An Ching’s older sister was recently married to the new magistrate of Cham Fau. In a family well known for lovely daughters, An Ching Wang is not only petite and charming, but a deadly fighter as well.

Chen Ching Ch’ien: (10th level Kensai, N,N, River spirit female). Chen Ching Ch’ien is a student at the Wang Ho school in Cham Fau. She is noted for an extremely calm and serene mind. Chen is capable of incredible feats of ki because of this focusing ability. Chen Ching Ch’ien is tied to the Hungste River itself, swimming in and meditating by it every morning. People believe that Ju Huo Wang, son of the Old Master, loves her for her great and serene beauty. However, she is put off by his fiery temper and angry ways.

Chien Jang Liang: (8th level Kensai, G,L, Human male) A year ago, this terribly gifted young martial artist was rewarded by the Master of the Wang Ho School with a secret technique “the Hands of Chan Cheng.” Unfortunately, while practicing with his Master, he nearly killed him by mistake. Stricken with remorse, he has sworn to wander forever as an outcast, sleeping in the wilds and doing the most menial tasks in repentance. With very great persuasion, he will fight for a good cause, but refuses to teach anyone what he has learned. Devoted to his studies, he was not aware that the Master’s daughter An Ching had fallen in love with him. She now follows Chien on his wanderings, seeking a way for him to redeem himself and satisfy his guilt.

Giants in Grey (Chu Jen Yin): The Giants in Grey are legendary creatures who appear just before the advent of a great tragedy. While they have not been seen in several generations, the Chu Jen Yin have warned of the Ivory Plague, the great Earthquake of -547 DR, the crop blight of -270 DR and the birth of the brothers Shin Lu and Shin Ginsen. They are at least four meters high, dressed in the flowing leather robes of a sohei, and are grey in both costume and features.

Hsiao Nan Tzu Wen: (9th level Bushi, N,N, Korobokuru male). A retainer of the merchant Kao Ling, the generally affable bushi has been ordered to follow his master’s wayward daughter Kuang Ming, protecting her. Hsaio is always quick to encourage any impulse she might have to visit inns, wine shops, and other purveyors of food and drink. He is especially proficient with the sectional staff and enjoys tackling over-stuffed humans with clumsy swords.”

Hsiung chi Kang: (5th level Samurai, Young Noble & Secret Police Operative, N,L, Human male). Too handsome, very cocky, this young man appears quite likeable, but a little self impressed. He likes to flirt, strut, drink and gossip. Unbeknownst to others, he is also a lieutenant in the Imperial Secret Police, and will gladly drink and gossip with others while pumping them for information. Not that he wouldn’t mind a little dalliance with an attractive member of an adventuring party!

Hu: (14th level bushi, G,N, Hengeyokai (tiger) male). An occasional companion of YuYa Mao, he is less often seen in human form, preferring to remain a huge tiger when he is seen at all. For Hu, night is his kingdom, when he can prowl the damp paths of the jungle silently. In human form, he is almost 6-foot-3 and heavily built – a man who moves silently and with great assurance. He speaks seldom, and always has a slight aura of menace about him. He is not all that fond of people, but will occasionally go out of his way to protect the weak if their cause interests him. In human form, he is skilled in two-handed sword and longbow (daikyu).

Hua Li Te – Abbot of the Pure Thought Monastery: (20th level Monk, N,L, Human male). Still robust and vital in his 70’s, an extraordinary six feet tall with thinning grey hair, this monk is head of the largest monastery in Arakin. Abbot Hua can still remember the days of religious wars, and his determination to avoid further conflict causes him to be very strict with monks and sohei who become involved in inter-order fights. Hua Li once instructed an inattentive pupil by hammering the teachings of the Path into the monastery walls with hand strikes! He can still beat anyone in the order, if not with raw power, then with cunning and skill.

Huang Ch’ung: (11th level Sohei, Dragon Monastery, Kao Te’ Lung, Human male). Huang Ch’ung was born in the year of a great locust plague. The famine was so great that his clan was split up and he was consecrated to the monastery. He did not ask to be a sohei, but in his opinion, it is not a bad life. He takes great pride in his skill with two-handed sword and glaive, and is known throughout the province. But Huang Ch’ung is bored most of the time, as there have been no great temple wars in some time, and being in the Capitol, his monastery is never attacked. He would welcome any chance for adventure at this point.

Hu Tieh: (16th level Monk, G,L, Spirit folk male). Hu Tieh is most misleading in appearance. A youngish-looking, bald-headed man in faded red robes, his shoulders are narrow and his hands soft. His voice is quiet, and he is too shy to look women in the eye. Yet Hu is a student of the Dragonfly style of kung fu – the ephemeral school which gives it’s masters the powers of levitation and incredible speed. His spirit folk ancestry make this ki-oriented form second nature to his otherworldly appearance. Hu is currently seeking a master of his school to teach him the final rituals of the Dragonfly technique.

Jade Empress: Empress Ti Hai Chin, wife of the Hai Dynasty’s founder from Karatin in -420 DR.

Ju Huo Wang: (12th level Kensai, G,L, Human male). The brother of An Ching Hua, he will inherit the Wang Ho school when his father steps down. Tall and wiry, he has a strong, spirited nature, as well as a formidable temper. His father counsels him that to master his temper is to master himself, but Ju Huo is unable to do this. He is particularly enraged by his sister An’s decision to join star pupil Chien Jang in his self-imposed exile.

K’ai Hua Liu: (9th level Bushi, G,L, Human female). For many generations now, the Liu Clan has had a running feud with the powerful Feng Su shipping clan of Cham Fau. K’ai protects the ships of the family fleet and spies on her rivals. Believing that the Feng Su are in league with the pirates of the Hungste, she is determined to gather proof, no matter what the cost.

Kuang Ming Ling: (2nd level Shukenja, G,C, Human female). Kuang is a wealthy merchant’s daughter from Linshung, a man who hopes that his romantic, headstrong daughter’s desire to become a shukenja will pass. However, she is firm in her goals and has undertaken a pilgrimage to a distant monastery. Her father has quietly sent along two korobokuru retainers to protect her during her quest for wisdom.

Lao Chin-Mao (-719 DR to -653 DR): The most influential scholar in all Shou history is the sage Lao Chin-Mao. His four volume work, the Book of Heaven, is a guide of behaviour and morals for all proper Shou. A wizened, snappish old man, who wore old fashioned robes and a conical hat, Lao Chin-Mao became Court Advisor to the Eleventh Emperor Chin of the Ho Dynasty. He used his influence to shape the rapidly expanding bureaucracy along his principles, culminating in the creation of the Mandarinate, a upper class of scholars and gentlemen who are the intellectual elite of Shou Lung.

Lien Hua Liang: (1st level Samurai, G,L, Human female). Lien Hua is the only daughter of Lord Chen of the prestigious Lien Clan of Linshung. Her father’s uncle was Minister of Public Works under the previous Emperor, and was loved for his kindness. HIs foresightedness provided for the building of many roads and granaries during his administration. Lien Hua is 15 and possessed of all the maidenly virtues, being beautiful, virtuous, respectful to her parents, obedient, devout and talented. Unfortunately, her father has assigned impossible tasks to all her suitors so that they may never win her away from him.

Ling Yu Pao: (7th level Bushi, N,N, Korobokuru male). Working for Kao Ling is the first well-paying bushi position that the “Weasel” has found. It is most important that he do well to keep his job. Whenever his little shukenja charge will allow it, he tries gently to steer her back to the safety of her father’s home. Most of the time, this is the last thing she wishes to hear, so he is not well tolerated. A long suffering sort, he is proficient in short sword and bow.

Mei Kuei Chu: (7th level Samurai, G,L, Bamboo spirit female). Mei Kuei is seeking desperately to save the honour of her clan. Three generations ago, her uncle killed a man who burned off a sacred bamboo grove, killing her aunt. For this action, her entire family was condemned by the local magistrate and forced to flee. Mei Kuei is seeking to prove that her aunt was murdered and that the charges against her uncle are unjustified.

Mei Li Mao: (13th level Yakuza, N,N, Human female). This gracefully aging Dragon Lady owns the Imperial Phoenix restaurant in the capital city of Kuo Te’ Lung. Many secret societies meet there, from the subversive poetry societies to criminal tongs. It is the place to see and be seen, frequented by nobles and students alike. It is also a refuge for deal-brokering, and any violence within is speedily (and lethally) dealt with. Mei Li is also a fence for very selective stolen goods, as well as a source of much gossip and Court intrigue.

Mei Lung: Dragon Lord Mei Lung Cheng Shan, the great great grandson of the Immortal Historian of the Celestial Empire of Heaven. It is Mei Lung’s task to assemble the vast Histories of the Emperor of Heaven, so that the Celestial One will know all that has occurred and best be able to judge the actions of Mankind.

Mei Lung Chen-Shan-Tien-Kung-Te, seventh son of Men Lung Chen-Shan-Tien-Kung-Te, the Elder of the Clan, and great-great-grandson of the Immortal of History, Chih Shih Chen-Shan-Tien-Kung-Te.

Nan Wu: (19th level Wu Jen, N,N, Human male). After surviving many years of dangerous work and internal power struggles as wu jen to the powerful Tsui Tong, Nan Wu has retired to the comfortable life. He is content with his library of books, artefacts and notes. On rare occasions, his secret society employers drag him kicking and struggling out of his retirement for “one last task.”

Pin Mo Nom – The Headtaker: The Headtaker is the name given to the legendary General Pin Mo Nom, who fought in the Wars of the Nobles (-815 DR to -810 DR). Pin Mo was infamous for his cruelty and barbarism. He often put entire cities to the sword, placing the heads of his victims on long red poles outside the city walls. For his evil deeds, Pin Mo was condemned by the Lords of Karma to wander eternally, seeking his own missing head (which was chopped off in -811 DR).

Sen Lin Hsao: (3rd level Shukenja, G,L, Korobokuru female). Sen Lin lives by herself in a small forest hut. She possesses a mantle of feathers and fur woven from all the animals of the forest, each of whom has contributed a small bit of hair or down. This is the Mantle of Forest Spirits, which allows her to ask guidance and omens from any creature of the forests. Sen is often consulted by the korobokuru about all matters from weddings to business ventures. She is also consulted by the spirit folk she meets in the forest.

Shou Chih Long: (3rd level Yakuza, N,N, Korobokuru male). Shou Chih is a cutpurse who is generally seen in the marketplace. He will not steal from other korobokuru, as he considers this dishonourable. Shou makes a good living as a thief for the 108 Society Tong, supplementing his income by occasionally acting as an informant for the Ministry of Security. He is also a part-time tour guide to the area, as the mood strikes him.

Wan Tu Ma: (18th level Barbarian, N,N, Human male). Originally from the steppes of Ma’ Yuan, Wan is a weapon smith of some skill, an expert horseman, and dedicated bodyguard to his sometime romantic interest Mei Li Mao. Often to be found in the Imperial Phoenix restaurant in Kuo Te’ Lung, he is surprisingly well spoken and will consider freelance work from time to time.

Yen Tsu Wang: Daughter of the Master of the Wang Ho School of Kung Fu (8th level Kensai, G,L, Human female). Beautiful and well-trained by her Master father, Yen Tsu’s sterling wit and spirited nature captured the young magistrate of Cham Fau’s heart, despite her lack of political advantages. Yen’s father, being an honourable man, is a strong supporter of the new magistrate, and the two get along well. Many of the Elders of the town give the young official more credence because he is well spoken of by Master Wang. Opinionated and clear thinking, she is often her husband’s best advisor and confidant.

Yu Fu Fang: (4th level Barbarian, N,N, Human male). Yu Fu lives in a small village along the Hungtse River. He fishes with trained cormorants, with silver rings around their throats. He also builds boats, but rarely for anyone other than his friends. His catch is the marvel of the local markets; fish of all types and sizes, including rare delicacies like deepwater eel. Little do they know that the little fisherman has a magic flute with which he can call fish to his boat!

YuYa Mao: (9th level Bushi, G,C, Hengeyokai (cat) female). In human or in cat form, this woman is elegant and quick moving. Her temperament is curious and yet strangely aloof. The travelling guardian of many small villages, even the villagers she protects do not know her well, as she likes to end trouble quickly and move on. When YuYa spends any length of time among people, she prefers to appear as a stray Siamese cat, pulling devilish pranks and stealing fish. In human form, YuYa carries both long and short swords.

Important Items

Book of Change: According to legend, written by the sage Hsin Fu Chan. Contains trigrams divined from the back of a great sleeping lizard (dragon). Used by wu jen to divine the future by casting broken and unbroken chopsticks into a circle and then comparing the patterns to trigrams written in the Book of Change.

Book of Ti Pa Wang Kuo: It is written in the Book of Ti Pa Wang Kuo that: There is One Shou only. It is like what it has received; proud and full of fire, yet wise and cunning. Above all, Shou, like the Dragon, is Eternal.

Book of Heaven: The sage Lao Chin-Mao codified much of the manners and rules of proper behaviour into his massive Book of Heaven, a four volumed tome. Among the principles of the book was the concept of the superior man, or ch’ao teng te jen. The superior man, in Lao Chin’s view, understood the ways of Heaven and Tradition. He did not seek to command, but to lead by example.

This massive four volume work, written by the sage Lao Chin-Mao, is a collection of rituals, customs, and edicts on how to live. It is the single most influential work in the voluminous literature of Shou Lung. The Book of Heaven postulates the concept of li, or the correct way of doing things. Chin Mao believed that in all things, the proper man should attempt to achieve li, following a pattern of complex rituals which defined this state. Things which do not achieve li are things
which should not be done. Acts which encompass honour, truthfulness, nobility and sacrifice in the name of the ancestors are considered to have great li. A passage from the Book illustrates this well: The wise man knows that Heaven smiles upon that which is li. As Heaven is the source of all right, if you are with li, you will have the favour
of heaven.

The principle of li is best illustrated by the following tale: The great general Po Wan once refused to attack his enemies while they struggled to prepare for battle. Instead, he allowed the opposing army to form itself into readiness before starting his own attack. He was, of course, soundly defeated. When his aides berated him for his foolishness, he replied, “The strong does not unfairly crush the weak, nor attack his enemy when he is unprepared.” General Po Wan’s enemy was so impressed by this show of li, that he summarily released the old general and had him escorted back to his home city.

Book of War:

Book of Histories: The Histories (or Shichi Hsi) are one of the classics which must be read by any scholar hoping to pass his examinations. They are a compendium of events and legends compiled by Wei Tsao Te, the Court Historian of the Kao Dynasty. (Within the Histories, you will find an adequate enough record of Shou Lung. But you should be aware that the Histories suffer from constant rewriting as successive dynasties sought to hide or change facts to put themselves in a more favourable light.

Much of the Histories is either vague, untrue, or sheer fantasy, such as the accounts of my home, the Impossible Palace. – Mei Lung) (The Official accounts of the Histories are based on the historical timeline published in OA#3, Ochimo, the Spirit Warrior. DMs should be aware that the Histories are flawed, and that there are numerous events and background stories not commonly known to most Shou.)

Emblems of Authority: The Emblems of Authority are the symbols of the legitimate ruler of the Empire. They have been handed down from Emperor to Emperor since the legendary days of the Nine Travelers, with only one break in succession (during the ill-omened Black Cycle from -274 DR to -225 DR).

There are nine emblems, each a gold and jade symbol mounted on a golden chain. Each represents one of the nine Gifts of the Path; a crystal and jade ball with an eternal flame within (Fire); a jade hammer (The Forge); a golden plough (Agriculture); a jade horse; a golden wheel; a golden pen (Writing), a jade pen (History), a golden mask (Poetry & Drama) and a jade and gold lute (Music). The emblems are actually quite small – the largest is about the size of a palm. Each represents one tenth of the Authority of the Emperor; when gathered together, the remaining 10% is incarnated in the physical person of the Son of Heaven himself.

In legend, the possession of the Authorities gives the Emperor the power to call upon Heaven to accomplish his will. This is treated as a limited wish spell, with 90% chance success if all nine emblems are present, and dropping 10% for each one missing. The wearer must be of good/lawful or neutral/neutral alignment; all others will instantly be killed by the wrath of Heaven.

Floating Blade of Shin Lu: The famous Floating Blade of Shin Lu is one of a matched pair of swords, forged on the day of the two half-brothers, (Shin Lu and Shin Ginsen) birth. The second sword is known as the Shimmering Blade of Shin Ginsen. Both weapons are longswords +3 in the butterfly-tipped Shou style, and have the following powers: vorpal blade, luck blade, illusion and charm 3x per day. However, in the presence of the matching blade, the swords become mere +3 blades, unable to tap into their greater powers. The two blades are currently on display in the respective capitols of Shou
and T’u Lung. The Floating Blade’s alignment is G/L, the Shimmering Blade’s is E/L.

Ivory Chain of Pao: Known as the Demon Binder, the chain is a three meter length of finely linked ivory, each link a carved image of a man holding hands with the next man in line. The chain has the ability to bind any spirit to its service until one of the links is broken. When the spirit is freed, the chain magically reforges itself into a single length again.

The Demon Binder has been lost since the time of the Hai Dynasty, when it was carried by the Sixth Emperor in his conquest of Wa. It is assumed to have gone to the bottom of the sea, but rumour has it that the gajin pilot Rourke brought it back to Shou Lung with the Emblems of Authority.

Jade Throne: The Jade Throne is the hereditary seat of the Emperors of Shou Lung. It is a massive chair, standing 20 feet high, and carved from a single 20 ton block of jade. Engraved upon its surfaces are tiny scenes from the reigns of each Emperor – much of the surface still remains uncarved, awaiting future generations. Legend has it that when the Jade Throne is entirely carved, the Empire will come to an end.

Shan Tien (Lightning): Shan Tien (Lightning) is the name of the famous spear of the hero Chung Hsin Te, who later passed it to the hands of the hero-emperor Tan Chin. (Lightning is considered to be a +4 artefact-level weapon, with the following powers; teleportation 3x per day, break any weapon 3x per day, heal 1x per day. The spear’s alignment is G/L.) When Tan Chin became ensorcelled by the charms of Meilan, he was unable to use the spear. During the destruction of the First Kingdom, it was stolen from the Library of Kuo Meilan and has been missing ever since.

Silver Flower Sword of Tan Ming: Once located in the Impossible Palace, it was recovered by Wo Mai (before he became Emperor).

Stone Knights of Shih: Under the great dead city of Kuo Meilan, there lies a marvellous cavern. Within this vast space stand 10,000 men and horses, armoured in the livery and weapons of the great First Kingdom, frozen in stone. Legend has it that upon the destruction of Kuo Meilan, 10,000 of the Emperor Tan Chin’s finest knights came to him, begging a way to serve him in the Empire’s hour of need.

Using the Mirror of Shih, which turns life to stone and stone to life, he turned them to statues, telling them; “Remember! When the Empire has greatest need of you, you will be ready to serve it well. For in this way, you will be eternally vigilant, eternally ready!” (If revived each of the fabled Knights of Shih is a 10th level samurai, armoured in full banded mail and carrying longsword and pike. Each knight is riding a fully barded warhorse. The knights can be brought to life only with the magic Jade Mirror of Shih, which has been missing since the fall of the First Kingdom.)

Language

There is one main tongue in the Empire, and this is called Kao te Shou, or High Shou. While each province has its own dialects of this language, all are close enough to each other to allow clear conversation.

The writing of the Empire is in the 24 characters of Shou Chiang, the basis for written communications throughout Shou Lung. The characters have been refined and developed for thousands of years, and many nations have adapted loose variations on these. Shou Chiang is written from top to bottom, left to right. The numeric system of Shou Chiang is simple, and easily transferred to the abacus, a common counting tool in the Empire.

The Shou may well be the most literate and educated people under Heaven, for education is highly valued among them. Monks of the Shou-ling and Chung Tao faiths walk the land, teaching the 24 characters and the classics to any who are interested. The bureaucracy has established schools of learning, hoping to foster new scholars to pass the examinations and enter its ranks. Almost every townsman can read, and not a few of the farmers as well. The highest compliment one can bestow upon a Shou of any rank is to call him po hsueh te shen shih, or “a learned gentleman”. And most have earned this honour indeed!

Chan: Fertile

Ch’ang Tui: Long legs

Ch’ao teng te jen: The superior or enlightened man

Chu’an: Dog

Chu Jen Yin: Giants in grey

Chu’ta Te: The great

Feng Shui: Wind and Water

Hai: Ocean

Ho: Peace

Hsiao: Owl

Hsi-Feng: Little Phoenix

Hua hsiang chi: Glider

Huo Tseng: Fiery hate

Kai Tsao Shou: He who rebuilds the dragon

Kao: High

Kio ton mu: Mystic witch doctors

Kui Tzu: Sly words

Kun P’ing Shen p’an: Justice

Kuo: Nation

La: Wax

Li: Might

Liu: Willow

Pao: Panther

Po hsueh te shen shih: A learned gentlemen

Tai-tai: Means head of the clan or clan elder, could be literally translated as Clan of Clan

Ta Ping Tsu: Large feet

Tz’u Wei: Hedgehog

Yin: Silver

Yeh Tun: Hare

Yeh Ying: Nightingale

Yen Yu: Jade eyes

Ying: Eagle

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