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Leingod

A little about Kralorea and China

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I started really reading into the Guide to Glorantha and simultaneously looking through the Group Read threads for it, and a question came up on Kralorea that convinced me to make this thread.

See, I consider myself an initiate at best into Gloranthan lore, but East Asian history is something of a hobby of mine, so I realized that some knowledge I take for granted might not be something others are aware of, and I thought I'd address one or two things.

First, the question that made me decide to make this thread: What's up with the Archexarchs? Kralorea's highest functionaries are called the Archexarch of War, who is in charge of military affairs, the Archexarch of Work, who manages disciplining of mandarins, investigation of wrongdoing, and public works, and the Archexarch over the Masses, who manages the imperial finances, provincial reports, and the appointment of mandarins. These seem oddly named and these duties seem weirdly portioned out.

Well, although they may seem odd at first glance, these are taken directly from real positions that have existed in Chinese history, specifically from the Han Dynasty (206BC-9 AD & 25-220 AD). In Han, the three highest government positions were of equal authority, and were the Sangong, translated variously as "Three Ducal Ministers," "Three Excellencies" and "Three Lords" because gong was a title of nobility in Zhou usually translated in English as "duke." And "minister" isn't used by itself to refer to them because just below them in the government hierarchy were the Nine Ministers. In the latter half of the Han Dynasty's reign, these three positions (which had gone through a lot of name changes earlier) were settled as the Excellency of Works (Sikong), the Excellency over the Masses (Situ) and the Excellency of War/Grand Marshal (Sima).

Together, the Three Excellencies formed a tripartite party as the emperor's highest advisors and a sort of cabinet; any or all of the three could directly draft and submit suggestions and recommendations on state policy to the emperor, rather than having to wait until they were given permission to speak at a court conference. They also each had supervisory powers over separate sections of the court below them (each of them supervised three of the Nine Ministers, for example), but there was deliberate overlap in their powers to investigate, promote and censor officials so keep any one of them from having too much power over the government. And, of course, they were in charge of bureaus that had their own duties, like public works and so on (but these, too, were sometimes made deliberately nebulous and overlapping). Though, I'll note that unlike in Kralorea, by the time of Eastern Han (25-220 AD), the Excellency of War had actually shifted into a primarily civilian office; his various bureaus mostly handled (in addition to the stuff involving supervising and investigating other government officials) population registers and agriculture, the upkeep of transportation facilities, post offices and couriers, civil law cases, granary storage, and military affairs. Logistics, in other words. Actual generals were appointed by court order to deal with a specific campaign and surrendered their authority after that campaign was over, keeping the title bestowed on them as a sinecure if they did well (titles like "General of Chariots and Cavalry on the Left," for example).

You can see the obvious influence on the Archexarchs, down to their names, their position in the government bureaucracy (minus the part where they're actually worshiped in their own right and all that stuff, of course), and the fact that they've been not-so-subtly designed in a way that encourages infighting and jockeying to ensure a check on their powers and keep any one of them from having too much influence in the government.

---

As a whole, Kralorea is a pastiche of various aspects of Imperial China throughout its history. A bit of Han, a bit of Tang, a bit of Ming/Qing. It's the usual way to make a Fantasy China, even in China. The bit about the standardization of language is probably the only non-Imperial bit of Chinese history; the Republic of China was the first time they tried to standardize a proper "national language" in an empire that had (has) hundreds of mutually-unintelligible dialects; Mandarin Chinese is the result, its actual Chinese name even means "official speech," and its mostly taken from the Beijing dialect. Kralorea's attempts seem to have been more successful and sweeping than China's, where regional dialects and language groups still get a lot of play even in major cities, especially in the south.

That "horse-chopper" the imperial soldier is shown holding is a guandao (more properly called yanyuedao), a polearm somewhat similar to a European glaive or a Japanese naginata. It actually wasn't a weapon that saw wide use in the field (though it was used by infantry in the Green Standard Army of the Qing Dynasty, which was formed of ethnic Han Chinese in contrast to the Eight Banners that were manned by Manchus), but weighted versions were popular both for martial arts training and as testing equipment in tests given to prospective military officers. The first name comes from its entirely fictional origin as the personal weapon of Guan Yu, the second means "reclining moon blade." Also, the actual role of being a "horse chopper" more properly belongs to either the podao (with a similar but smaller blade and a shaft about 6 feet long) and/or the zhanmadao (a large, single-bladed, two-handed sword), both of which are recorded as being designed and used specifically as anti-cavalry weapons.

If there are any other questions about Kralorea and its Chinese influences... Well, I can't guarantee an answer, it's not like I have an actual degree in this stuff, but feel free to ask me about it.

Edited by Leingod
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Good stuff! I've previously read about the Three Departments and Six Ministries, which I see now was either a variant or successor to this system. The whole public examination system for the Mandarins/Literati is one of the aspects of Chinese history that interest me the most, as it is quite eye-catching for someone used to the European models of government functionaries often being clergymen, and later on educated at universities often associated with the Church.

As for Kralorela in its whole... I have to admit it's a region I'm having a hard time getting excited about. It very much feels like "China but fantasy, I guess", and seems to me to lack the kind of highly syncretized "weirdness" of the rest of Genertela. The focus on isolation (which was really only a policy in later China, from what I know, and so is as much based on European orientalism as it is based on real history) also makes it less easy to include in stories or story hooks, which is a problem I have with the Dwarves as well. The passage on Kralorela in the Guide also reads more like propaganda now that I know a bit more about the infighting and political upheavals that the empire has had over the years. The desire to project stability is in itself interesting of course, but not quite enough for me.

Edited by Sir_Godspeed

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The Emperors, particularly Godunya, do not feel like Chinese Emperors at all, though - they are more akin to living Saints, religiously revered, like the Dalai Lama, rather than the much more political and secular Chinese Emperors. 

1 hour ago, Sir_Godspeed said:

It very much feels like "China but fantasy, I guess", and seems to me to lack the kind of highly syncretize "weirdness" of the rest of Genertela.

I agree. Kralorela needs to be less singularly Chinese in nature. 

It is also a bit more bland than China - China has competing religious traditions, for example, while Kralorela seems to be dominated by Darudism, with all other seriously competing traditions pushed outside of the Empire. 

1 hour ago, Sir_Godspeed said:

The passage on Kralorela in the Guide also reads more like propaganda now that I know a bit more about the infighting and political upheavals that the empire has had over the years.

The idea of a singular, unbroken, line of Emperors is clearly propaganda, with Sekever, Sheng Seleris, etc just written out of history as awkward interruptions rather than true breaks in Imperial rule. 

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Kralorela definitely 'needs work'.  We have played a lot in and around Tzu Ling, which is a Kralori city with an Ignorant past, which gives room for suppressed Ignorant cults and stuff like that.

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I wonder if there was a desire to leave Kralorela's depiction on hold until there was someone on the team with a deep enough grounding in East Asian mythologies to tackle the job? To my shame, I have never tried to properly understand Kralorela as a whole, although I have dipped into bits of it in the Guide and even the old AH Genertela booklet. My wooly and ill-informed impression is that it is not very 'Confucian', perhaps because Dara Happa appears (to me at least) very Confucian, and Kralorela has the opportunity to try to outline a long-standing imperial state based upon other foundations.

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6 hours ago, Sir_Godspeed said:

Good stuff! I've previously read about the Three Departments and Six Ministries, which I see now was either a variant or successor to this system. The whole public examination system for the Mandarins/Literati is one of the aspects of Chinese history that interest me the most, as it is quite eye-catching for someone used to the European models of government functionaries often being clergymen, and later on educated at universities often associated with the Church.

As for Kralorela in its whole... I have to admit it's a region I'm having a hard time getting excited about. It very much feels like "China but fantasy, I guess", and seems to me to lack the kind of highly syncretized "weirdness" of the rest of Genertela. The focus on isolation (which was really only a policy in later China, from what I know, and so is as much based on European orientalism as it is based on real history) also makes it less easy to include in stories or story hooks, which is a problem I have with the Dwarves as well. The passage on Kralorela in the Guide also reads more like propaganda now that I know a bit more about the infighting and political upheavals that the empire has had over the years. The desire to project stability is in itself interesting of course, but not quite enough for me.

Yeah, a big part of the appeal of Glorantha is usually the way it departs from the stereotypes of fantasy and makes something all its own, but Kralorea really is just another Fantasy China, just with a bit of a religious thing going on at the top levels that isn't really Chinese.

As for the isolationist policy, that's actually not quite as "later" as you might think; the first haijin ("sea ban") policies were issued in 1371 by the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). For most of Ming, all foreign trade was conducted by official "tribute missions," handled by representatives of the Ming government with representatives of the "vassal" states. Basically, in order to trade with Ming (but only a set number of times per year, with a set number of ships, at a single port), you had to recognize yourself as an inferior vassal to Ming and trade was ritualized into the payment of tribute and the receiving of "gifts" as reward for being a good vassal. The reasons for this policy are many and various; to put a stop to rampant piracy, to keep silver bullion from leaving the country, to weaken the mainly commercial southern areas of China which had once been the capital but was not the Ming's primary power base, etc. In most of its goals, it failed miserably and was in fact horribly counterproductive and eventually made the piracy so bad that there needed to be this whole decade-long struggle to put an end to it that probably contributed to Ming's eventual collapse, but that's a story for another time.

In the Qing Dynasty, something similar was done with the institution of the "Canton System," whereby all trade with Europeans was to be done at the port of Canton (now Romanized as Guangzhou) with merchants specially licensed to the do so (the Thirteen Factories). This was an attempt to limit the destabilizing political, religious and commercial influence of the foreigners, and it worked for a while, up until Great Britain decided it really didn't want to have to pay for its addiction to Chinese tea with silver and instead decided to peddle one addiction for another and then started the First Opium War to protect their drug deals.

As for the propaganda and false sense of unity? That's basically completely true to its inspiration in Imperial China. Even in China, there is a tendency to see it as a very static, unchanging edifice, subject to wars, sure, but always a unified China by the end of things. The reality is considerably more complicated, and I presume that's what you'd see if we could do more than scratch the surface of Kralorea.

5 hours ago, davecake said:

The Emperors, particularly Godunya, do not feel like Chinese Emperors at all, though - they are more akin to living Saints, religiously revered, like the Dalai Lama, rather than the much more political and secular Chinese Emperors. 

I agree. Kralorela needs to be less singularly Chinese in nature. 

It is also a bit more bland than China - China has competing religious traditions, for example, while Kralorela seems to be dominated by Darudism, with all other seriously competing traditions pushed outside of the Empire. 

The idea of a singular, unbroken, line of Emperors is clearly propaganda, with Sekever, Sheng Seleris, etc just written out of history as awkward interruptions rather than true breaks in Imperial rule. 

Well, a sacral kingship isn't quite unknown to China; reverence and worship of the emperor was especially pushed for in the later years of the Qing Dynasty, and was probably similarly pushed for most strongly during times of upheaval and unrest, and religious rites were always one of the major duties of the emperor. It's just that the Chinese emperor was viewed as divine because he held the Mandate of Heaven through virtue of his... well, virtue, and thus if he lost the empire he had clearly lost the mandate, so it was used to legitimize the succession of dynasties.

That said, in its more obviously sacred nature, and in the Solar imagery that's crept in and the way it at least pretends that there is only one discrete faith in Kralorea, and the way it tries to cover up some iffier successions and assumptions of power and pretend it was all one long unbroken line, it's actually more like Japan.

3 hours ago, Byll said:

I wonder if there was a desire to leave Kralorela's depiction on hold until there was someone on the team with a deep enough grounding in East Asian mythologies to tackle the job? To my shame, I have never tried to properly understand Kralorela as a whole, although I have dipped into bits of it in the Guide and even the old AH Genertela booklet. My wooly and ill-informed impression is that it is not very 'Confucian', perhaps because Dara Happa appears (to me at least) very Confucian, and Kralorela has the opportunity to try to outline a long-standing imperial state based upon other foundations.

In some ways you could argue that Dara Happan society is something a Confucian would recognize: the "top-down" model of society and virtue where the fortunes of the empire rest on the virtue and justice of the emperor, the importance of knowing one's place in the social order and the rigid adherence to tradition, mainly. On the other hand, Confucianism is philosophically very anti-aristocracy, promoting an educated scholar-gentry on the reason of merit rather than a hereditary nobility (which China has had and Confucian scholar-gentry have very frequently been used by the emperors as a counterweight against). In addition, Confucianism rests upon the belief that human beings are fundamentally good, and teachable, improvable, and perfectible through personal and communal endeavor, especially self-cultivation and self-creation. It all rests on the idea that anyone can cultivate these virtues in a morally organized world. It also lacks a disdain for rural life or agricultural pursuits; one of the common and accepted ways for a currently unemployed Confucian scholar to support himself, in fact, was through farming.

So in a lot of other ways, Dara Happan isn't very Confucian at all. The attitudes of the nobles toward their "lessers" is extremely entitled and arrogant (the latter in particular would disgust a good Confucian, as arrogance is extremely unseemly and the sign of an inferior man), and the dismissal of the Lodrili as incapable of understanding the higher things in the world and the characterization of them as less moral aren't something a Confucian would agree with, or at least he would argue that this is only because their rulers don't bother to cultivate proper virtue and education within them and so it's a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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3 hours ago, Leingod said:

As for the isolationist policy, that's actually not quite as "later" as you might think; the first haijin ("sea ban") policies were issued in 1371 by the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). For most of Ming, all foreign trade was conducted by official "tribute missions," handled by representatives of the Ming government with representatives of the "vassal" states. Basically, in order to trade with Ming (but only a set number of times per year, with a set number of ships, at a single port), you had to recognize yourself as an inferior vassal to Ming and trade was ritualized into the payment of tribute and the receiving of "gifts" as reward for being a good vassal. The reasons for this policy are many and various; to put a stop to rampant piracy, to keep silver bullion from leaving the country, to weaken the mainly commercial southern areas of China which had once been the capital but was not the Ming's primary power base, etc. In most of its goals, it failed miserably and was in fact horribly counterproductive and eventually made the piracy so bad that there needed to be this whole decade-long struggle to put an end to it that probably contributed to Ming's eventual collapse, but that's a story for another time.

I'm vaguely familiar with the trade-as-tribute system, and the naval policy to stop piracy - but not as detailed as you put it.

My point, however, is that in the grand scheme of things, the 14th century is still pretty recent (albeit, as you highlighted, preceding direct European contact and borne out of regional and domestic concerns), considering that Glorantha is still, at least aesthetically, a Bronze Age-Iron Age setting.

I believe one of the art pieces of Kralorela from the Guide (the one where a female heroine petitions a mandarin against a crime lord) features a Shang or Zhou bronzework vessel, and I just wish there was more of that, more esoteric and ancient stuff, than the Tang-Yuan-Ming, etc. stuff.

It's not like it's not there - the Yellow Elves to the south, the monsters and Hsunchen in the Shangshang, and Ignorance to the north. There's definitely stuff to play with, but it needs attention, and personally, I think the focus on isolation is to Kralorela's detriment.

3 hours ago, Leingod said:

As for the propaganda and false sense of unity? That's basically completely true to its inspiration in Imperial China. Even in China, there is a tendency to see it as a very static, unchanging edifice, subject to wars, sure, but always a unified China by the end of things. The reality is considerably more complicated, and I presume that's what you'd see if we could do more than scratch the surface of Kralorea.

Yeah, the tradition of talking about "dynasties" is a historiographic construct in itself. From what I know, some of the dynasties were essentially local kingdoms centred around ethnic identities like some European polities, while others were more like extended dynastic groups. In a way, China's history is a bit like if we had a bunch of different groups laying claim to the Mediterranean Basin by claiming they were the true heirs of Rome, and once they managed to get control, were simply referred to as "The French Dynasty of Rome", the "German Dynasty," etc., even though these are very different actors. It's a focus on continuity and stability as a political tool, one that lends itself very well to building a national/imperial identity and heritage after the fact. 

3 hours ago, Leingod said:

In some ways you could argue that Dara Happan society is something a Confucian would recognize: the "top-down" model of society and virtue where the fortunes of the empire rest on the virtue and justice of the emperor, the importance of knowing one's place in the social order and the rigid adherence to tradition, mainly. On the other hand, Confucianism is philosophically very anti-aristocracy, promoting an educated scholar-gentry on the reason of merit rather than a hereditary nobility (which China has had and Confucian scholar-gentry have very frequently been used by the emperors as a counterweight against). In addition, Confucianism rests upon the belief that human beings are fundamentally good, and teachable, improvable, and perfectible through personal and communal endeavor, especially self-cultivation and self-creation. It all rests on the idea that anyone can cultivate these virtues in a morally organized world. It also lacks a disdain for rural life or agricultural pursuits; one of the common and accepted ways for a currently unemployed Confucian scholar to support himself, in fact, was through farming.

If the Chinese Confusian system was anything like the Japanese idea of The Four Professions, farmers would actually be ranked above merchants and craftsmen. Theoretically, at least.

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20 minutes ago, scott-martin said:

Tell me o sages of "Kralorelan Lodril," earth king viewed from the east of dead Genert.

Well, I personally can't speak of any canonicity, but I actually do have some ideas on where you might find inspiration in Chinese myth for how to portray Lodril or a Lodril-analogue as viewed in Kralorean society.

Chinese myth venerates (among countless others) eight divine or semi-divine figures usually referred to in English as the "Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors." The Three Sovereigns, also called the Three August Ones, are demigods or god-kings who improved the lives of the people by imparting a lot of the essential skills and knowledge needed for civilization. The Five Emperors are exemplary sages who possessed great moral character and virtue, lived to incredible ages, and ruled over a period of unsurpassed peace and plenty. The exact identities and chronology vary greatly depending on who you ask, several sources considered authoritative have different lists and the reasons for that are many and would take a long time to explain.

Incidentally, the Chinese word for their emperors is huangdi (皇帝), whose characters derive from the Sovereigns and Emperors respectively; the founder of the Qin Dynasty invented this title, which was used thereafter, because he claimed that his reunification and expansion of the lands previously ruled by the Zhou Dynasty was even greater than the accomplishments of the Sovereigns and Emperors. In Chinese, they are the "San (Three) Huang, Wu (Five) Di."

Anyway, for our purposes, Sima Qian's Records of the Grand Historian is the list I'll be using. In Sima Qian's list, the Three Sovereigns are titled as the Heavenly Sovereign, the Earthly Sovereign, and the Human Sovereign, and their identities are Fu Xi, Nu Wa, and Shennong. Shennong, in my mind, is a useful analogue for Lodril if you want to give Kralorea such a thing.

Shennong's name can be translated as "Divine Farmer" or "Divine Peasant." Another of his names is Wugushen, which translates to "God of the Five Grains." As you might guess, Shennong is credited in Chinese myth as the inventor of agriculture; he discovered how to cultivate grains and invented the plow so that people could do so (much as Lodril is credited with among the Lodrili, who use fire-sharpened sticks to make simple plows). Because of this, it is considered inappropriate to sacrifice cows or oxen to him, as they are better put to use in the fields, and instead pigs and sheep are sacrificed to him. Since he also invented the storing and trading of crops in storehouses and weekly farmers' markets, traders also worship him.

In addition, he is also revered as the "Medicine King," because he personally tasted hundreds of herbs and plants to determine their effects, identifying poisons and antidotes and figuring out what was good for people and what was bad; some legends claim he died when he tasted 70 poisons in a single day, and so he is sometimes venerated as the progenitor of traditional Chinese medicine. Most portrayals of Shennong in art show him tasting some kind of herb or plant to test its effects.

Finally, Shennong is often identified with a mythical figure or a family dynasty called the Flame Emperor (Yan Di), who was an early enemy of the Yellow Emperor (who is usually one of the Five Emperors, though he's sometimes one of the Three Sovereigns instead). It is believed that this title is a reference to the practice of slash-and-burn agriculture, wherein fire clears the fields and the ashes fertilize the soil.

In Chinese foundational myths, the last of the Flame Emperors (who according to the Records of Emperors and Kings authored in the 3rd century AD was the 8th generation descendant of Shennong) was forced northward by the powerful warlord Chi You and came into conflict with the Yellow Emperor. The two fought a series of three battles, which ended with the Flame Emperor's surrender, after which the Yellow Emperor (Huang Di) united the two tribes and renamed them the Yan-Huang Tribe, and the now-unified tribe later went on to defeat Chi You and other threats and became the progenitors of the Chinese people. In fact, one of the names for the Chinese people is the "Yan Huang Zisun," the "Descendants of Yan and Huang."

Some records also state that the Yellow Emperor himself was related to Shennong; while Shennong was the creator of the basic necessities of society (farming and the like), the Yellow Emperor and his court were considered the foundation of Chinese culture and identity, with inventions like writing and the production of silk credited to them. As a Han Dynasty tomb inscription reads, ""The Yellow Emperor created and changed a great many things; he invented weapons and the wells and fields system; he devised upper and lower garments, and established palaces and houses."

Incidentally, Chi You is also a very interesting figure. In Han Chinese (i.e. the majority ethnicity of China), Chi You is presented as a wicked tyrant, described as a cruel and greedy warmonger, but certain ethnic minorities in southern China (most notably the Miao ethnic group, a Chinese umbrella term that actually accounts for a wide range of peoples like the Hmong, Xong and A-Hmao) consider themselves descendants of Chi You and regard him as a sagacious mythical king. But that's getting into another long post all it's own.

Shennong2.jpg

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1 minute ago, Leingod said:

Chinese myth venerates (among countless others) eight divine or semi-divine figures usually referred to in English as the "Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors." The Three Sovereigns, also called the Three August Ones, are demigods or god-kings who improved the lives of the people by imparting a lot of the essential skills and knowledge needed for civilization. The Five Emperors are exemplary sages who possessed great moral character and virtue, lived to incredible ages, and ruled over a period of unsurpassed peace and plenty. The exact identities and chronology vary greatly depending on who you ask, several sources considered authoritative have different lists and the reasons for that are many and would take a long time to explain.

My impression is that the feats and accomplishments, as well as the semi-divine status of the Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors has basically been adopted by the Emperors in Glorantha. The different Emperors (both pre- and post-Draconism) are attributed with many of the same inventions and innovations.

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19 minutes ago, Sir_Godspeed said:

If the Chinese Confusian system was anything like the Japanese idea of The Four Professions, farmers would actually be ranked above merchants and craftsmen. Theoretically, at least.

The Japanese took that idea directly from China (and a lot of other things besides), the only difference being that they placed hereditary warrior elites at the top rather than the meritocratic scholar-gentry.

17 minutes ago, Sir_Godspeed said:

My impression is that the feats and accomplishments, as well as the semi-divine status of the Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors has basically been adopted by the Emperors in Glorantha. The different Emperors (both pre- and post-Draconism) are attributed with many of the same inventions and innovations.

Yeah, pretty much. Shavaya the Emperor of Splendor is the closest analogue to Shennong of them, given that he introduced rice and built dams and ditches. However, most of the Kralorean Emperors are far more esoteric and mystical in their contributions than the Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors, who usually are ascribed far more practical and down-to-earth things to humanity. I imagine all the high-minded enlightenment stuff is probably the stuffy, official religious dogma, but that on the ground the average person would be more likely to worship the emperors and gods for the more practical benefits, in much the same way that Daoism as a literary philosophy and Daoism as a popular religion could be totally different but still operate under the same name and basic ideas. In that way, a Shennong or Lodril analogue (maybe Shavaya) could have a lot less emphasis on his more high-minded achievements and more on an aspect as a "divine peasant."

Edited by Leingod
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9 hours ago, Sir_Godspeed said:


It's not like it's not there - the Yellow Elves to the south, the monsters and Hsunchen in the Shangshang, and Ignorance to the north. There's definitely stuff to play with, but it needs attention, and personally, I think the focus on isolation is to Kralorela's detriment.

 

It depends on how you run your Kralorelan game... Obviously if you're in a central province it will all be Kralori-centred, but the closer you get to the margin*, the more important these barbarian intrusions will become. It feels very authentic to me. My main beef is not about Kralorela per se, but about her depiction as fantasy Míng/Qīng China, which completely clashes with the Bronze Age feel of the rest of the Lozenge.

 

*a very Chinese concept BTW in terms of adventuring

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This is very interesting stuff. Sorry to be pedantic, but @Leingod I need to point out that it's Kralorela, not Kralorea (a very minor point, I know).

Please continue with the very interesting insights. I too have always thought it was a shame that Kralorela seems to be a pretty generic fantasy China, and I wonder if this is something that Greg would like to have - erm - Gregged in time.

 

 

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5 hours ago, Steve said:

... I wonder if this is something that Greg would like to have - erm - Gregged in time.

Something tells me that when/if Kralorela gets "fixed" after the manner of Greg -- gets posthumously 'Gregged' -- it will make Greg's spirit laugh.  A lot.

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55 minutes ago, g33k said:

Something tells me that when/if Kralorela gets "fixed" after the manner of Greg -- gets posthumously 'Gregged' -- it will make Greg's spirit laugh.  A lot.

I think he'll be overjoyed. He was always proud of the way his first wife's family exposed him to real Chinese culture beyond the broad strokes of '70s kung fu.

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So, you guys have noticed the recent announcement that a Kralorela book is in the works, right?

(I have nothing to do with it, just saying.)

Personally, I'd love for Kralorela to go back in Chinese history and use more of the really weird shit (visually and otherwise), that doesn't even sound Chinese to us westerners. Through a few interests of mine I only barely scratched the surface and it's so wonderful.

(like the various connections to the northwestern horse riding nomadic cultures that influenced very early China a lot, the early shamanic aspects of the religion(s), or the absolutely bonkers ghost stories we have in many collections - not just "Strange Tales From a Chinese Studio", but books like "Garden of Marvels" that collect the less known ones.)

And of course, since it's already the case that Kralorela draws from kung fu movies, I'd love to see more of that. But not the pastel-coloured CG wuxia with all the flying on bamboo in flowy silk dresses.

No, the super violent batshit crazy late 80s, early 90s wuxia!

Fewer idyllic rice paddies and more scorching deserts, or snowy heavenly mountains. Or evil mountains? There's a lot chaos stuff in these movies, which could fit into the whole Kingdom of Ignorance area, with its many chaos temples. (like in Zu Warriors From the Magic Mountain, the evil cultists doing a synchronized flag dance to welcome their prey always crack me up: 

(skip to 20:45)

It'd also be fun to see something from a recent guilty pleasure of mine - Chinese grave robber movies/novels. Imagine Indiana Jones, or Lara Croft if they were Chinese, a lot weirder and oddly Lovecraftian.)

(an example of a plot from one such movie: The heroes, an ancient family of grave robbers, are forced to open and explore a tomb in Mongolia by a rich western villain, who is searching for eternal life. Of course, the tomb holds an Indian priestess who long ago married a Chinese emperor and was actually infested with an alien fungus (sometimes it's a giant ginseng with tentacles - very Aldryami) that granted her immortality among other "magic". Flesh eating ants! Exploding blue fire bats! Many deadly traps! I'm kind of mixing a few movies together, but it's great. Horrible schlock, but great.)

Edited by JanPospisil
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Kralorela is already very post-Chin dynasty in its flavor though, with a strong central government and bureaucracy.  Historically, bronze age China did have the Shang and Zhou dynasties.  The Shang pioneered the use of the Dagger Axe, which is no small thing given its 3d6 damage, and the weapon remained in service into the Han period.  Given the versatility of the weapon, it is a wonder they were ever retired.  The Shang seem to have placed a great importance on divination and oracles, with much written material covering the reading of turtle shell and ox scapulae and other bones.  It has been suggested that Chinese writing derived from the oracular readings, though clearly pictoglyphic elements are involved too.  The role of shamanism is debated about the Shang, but we need not be nearly as careful as scholars when it comes to such things.  On the other hand, as a literate culture by bronze age standards, we should see something approaching sorcery and theism too.

The Zhou dynasty's ascension sees the introduction of the idea of the Mandate of Heaven, as a means of justifying their establishment over the top of the defeated Shang.  The Zhou had a system with much in common with feudalism in Europe and had a system of serfdom.  They were a  bureaucratic and chariot culture who would feel at home in Glorantha.

In terms of Wuxia and martial arts, there are early records in the Spring and Autumn annals of martial arts being practiced, and the wuxia who emerge during the Warring states period were often drawn from the ranks of the dispossessed and obsolete tribal warrior nobles of the Zhou dynasty.

In Gloranthan terms, what is interesting is that we need not slavishly adhere to China as a model, but have an opportunity to play with ideas.  For example, while the Kingdom of Ignorance is clearly peripheral to Kralorela, and generally what cultural traffic there is will be from civilized Kralorela to the KoI, however there is always some transfer the other way too.  In what ways could troll cults and society affect Kralorela?  Well, China managed to domesticate two species of insects, namely the honey bee and the silk worm, so just imagine that they had access to Gorakiki products?  Imagine a building that had been roofed with opalescent beetle chitin tiles, or a broad see-through rain hat made of translucent dragonfly wings?

Then we have the Hsunchen cultures that are always on the edge of being entirely dominated by the central Kralori.  They would be a source of ongoing shamanic traditions, and would quite likely have "animal styles" of martial arts for those times when the central authority disarms them.  They would also have robust animal hide clothing, and important advantages like more meat in their diets that would make them larger and stronger.

In terms of settled Kralorela, the focus on agriculture would be pretty alien to a Theyalan.  The main meat animals would be chicken and pigs, that are farmed pretty intensively, with the addition of fish and game animals.  The deity Kralora the Grain Goddess of Rice would be worshiped, but what of the Sun, the Rain, and the fertility of the Earth and the abatement of floods? We might see the worship of River Dragons, and other elemental forces being expressed in similar ways. The RQ3 cults book suggests that the Solar cult is well represented in Kralorela, but we must take that with a little skepticism, except that the influence comes from Pentan nomads.

Pentan nomad culture would have been very influential in Kralorela, having conquered the land in the past.  One of the main things the Pentans may have introduced would be boots, but they would also make the lack of cavalry in Kralorela a painful issue.  On the other hand, clearly the Pentans have some measure of ability to trade with Kralorela, and this right has been extended to the Lunar Empire, but the yearly caravan would be a minor event.

It is interesting that Kralorela has neither Mostali nor Aldryami, and while we know that the dragonewts are there, we don't know too much about how they integrate.

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10 hours ago, JanPospisil said:

So, you guys have noticed the recent announcement that a Kralorela book is in the works, right?

No, where was this announced?!

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20 minutes ago, Darius West said:

The Shang pioneered the use of the Dagger Axe, which is no small thing given its 3d6 damage, and the weapon remained in service into the Han period.  Given the versatility of the weapon, it is a wonder they were ever retired.

The dagger-axe declined in importance because as they started moving away from battles between small numbers of trained aristocrats to larger armies of infantry fighting in packed formation, a long polearm with no point for thrusting that needs to be swung around just isn't ideal. But it didn't disappear, it just evolved into the Chinese halberd later in the Zhou Dynasty.

26 minutes ago, Darius West said:

The Zhou dynasty's ascension sees the introduction of the idea of the Mandate of Heaven, as a means of justifying their establishment over the top of the defeated Shang.  The Zhou had a system with much in common with feudalism in Europe and had a system of serfdom.  They were a  bureaucratic and chariot culture who would feel at home in Glorantha.

It's actually kind of a funny transition you see in Zhou; to compete with each other more effectively, many of the aristocratic rulers of the feuding Zhou duchies and kingdoms enacted innovative government and societal reforms to create the kind of bureaucracy needed to fuel an effective war machine, meaning that the gradual shift from a feudal to a bureaucratic system was by and large carried out by aristocrats (more than a few of whom didn't come out the better for it, even).

30 minutes ago, Darius West said:

Pentan nomad culture would have been very influential in Kralorela, having conquered the land in the past.  One of the main things the Pentans may have introduced would be boots, but they would also make the lack of cavalry in Kralorela a painful issue.

You could definitely draw from Zhou border states like the kingdoms of Yan and Zhao, with the former in particular adopting a lot of the ways of the "northern barbarians" in order to more effectively fight and sometimes even conquer them, a strategy that often involves intermarriage that the more protected central peoples might find weird or even shocking given that the border people tend to be the most aggressive in campaigns. And combine that with the mixed feelings that arise from the fact that they often hire mercenary cavalry from said barbarians...

33 minutes ago, Darius West said:

On the other hand, clearly the Pentans have some measure of ability to trade with Kralorela, and this right has been extended to the Lunar Empire, but the yearly caravan would be a minor event.

You could probably get away with something like the heqin ("peace marriage") system pursued early in the Han Dynasty, whereby the empire married off princesses from minor branches of the imperial family (or just well-trained servants and ladies-in-waiting at the palace; not like those barbarians will know the difference, right?) to rulers of the northern tribes, which usually led to more frequent "tributary missions" between the two. And like the Xiongnu did, the Pentans probably make sure to marry defecting Kralorelan officers or officials to their daughters or sisters.

1280px-Chinese_dagger-axe_and_related_polearms.svg.png

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The main difference between the Bronze Age China and Kralorela is that the Bronze Age had a lot more noble families.  The statewide. examination system didn't come into being until the Sung.  So I really operate on the following scheme.

  • Daruda et al:  Shang Dynasty
  • Yanoor - Zhou Dynasty
  • Shang-Hsa (may his name be cursed) - Qin Dynasty
  • Godunya - Tang with some elements of later dynasties.
  • Sheng Seleris - Elements of Mongol, Khitian and Manchu.

One way to turn make Kralorela more archaic would be to split up the mandarins into orders based on the Emperors.  The followers of Daruda would be outright shamans, the followers of Mikaday are yer classic mandarins/Judge Dee types with other chinese tropes - eunuchs, warlords etc - corresponding to different emperors.

 

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32 minutes ago, JanPospisil said:

It was mentioned in a big post on FB, listing all the books that are being worked on. 

On Chaosium's page, or somewhere else?

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On 12/21/2018 at 2:08 AM, metcalph said:

The main difference between the Bronze Age China and Kralorela is that the Bronze Age had a lot more noble families.  The statewide. examination system didn't come into being until the Sung.  So I really operate on the following scheme.

  • Daruda et al:  Shang Dynasty
  • Yanoor - Zhou Dynasty
  • Shang-Hsa (may his name be cursed) - Qin Dynasty
  • Godunya - Tang with some elements of later dynasties.
  • Sheng Seleris - Elements of Mongol, Khitian and Manchu.

One way to turn make Kralorela more archaic would be to split up the mandarins into orders based on the Emperors.  The followers of Daruda would be outright shamans, the followers of Mikaday are yer classic mandarins/Judge Dee types with other chinese tropes - eunuchs, warlords etc - corresponding to different emperors.

 

You could also preserve more of the shamanistic traditions of Shang and Zhou as well, with oracle bones used for divinations that affect government policy and a proliferation of bronze ritual wares like tripod cauldrons and animal-shaped wine vessels. You could also make the written language look more like Shang oracle bone script, or the latter derivatives that proliferated in the Zhou like the "bird and worm scripts" of the southern kingdoms of the Warring States.

Another interesting practice was people wearing masks or speaking behind statues during rituals to "become" departed ancestors or gods, and there's speculation that things like the dragon and lion dances practiced at festivals grew out of dances where people wore the masks of animals and mimicked their movements for ritual purposes, stuff that seems like it would definitely fit into a spirit magic tradition in Kralorela that's been marginalized but can still be found on the fringes of society.

Edited by Leingod
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