Shou Lung is a country in the continent of Kara-Tur, which is located to the east of Faerun. It is arguably the largest and most powerful nation in the world. People from Shou Lung are referred to as Shou.
Lying between Kara-Tur and Faerun is a Great Wall of stone. According to legend, a wu jen was tasked by the emperor to find a way to keep the Tuigan hordes from raiding Shou Lung's northern provinces. The wu jen stole the Jade Mirror from the sea dragon Pao Hu Jen, whose body was thousands of kilometers long. The wu jen led the dragon on a chase across the border, and at a certain point stopped and held up the Jade Mirror to the dragon's eyes, which instantly turned him to stone. After his petrified body fell to the ground, the emperor had his engineers carve fortifications into it so that it could serve them as a defensive wall.
Faiths of Shou Lung
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 honor 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...
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!
...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 belives that all the work of Heaven can be done by one god is an idiot.
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 center of each area is a small dot of the opposing color, 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......
The official head of the government is the Emperor, but in practice everyday affairs of state are handled by the Chancellor, who executes the Emperor's decrees, oversees the bureaucracy and controls the information that reaches the emperor's ears. The current Emperor is Kai Tsao Shou Chin (LG lvl 10 Samurai/Noble). The Wu Jen is the Emperor's official court wizard, who advises the Emperor's policies with divinations and deals with magical threats.
The government is composed of eight ministries: State, War, Magic, Faith, Sea, Agriculture, Public Works and State Security. It is a meritocratic system; every year the Civil Service Examination holds examinations to test candidates for government jobs.
The Forbidden City is a walled compound which contains the Imperial Palace and the halls of government. Only governmental staff are allowed inside during the day, and during the night only the royal family and their domestic staff may remain; trespassers are punished by death.
The nobility of Shou Lung is much weaker than those of most Faerunian nations. They have less power than government ministers, and their private armies are kept small by law. They constantly scheme to wrest more power from the priesthood and bureaucrats.
The great 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. With its extensive history and stable governance, the Empire exerts a mighty influence over its neighbors. It is said that when the Emperor stamps his foot in the Capital, the earth shakes in Koryo; such is his power. Shou Lung is also a land of many complexities; a land wise in the ways of the world and its sophistications.
The Honor of the Shou
The Shou are a very honorable 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 honor 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 honor.
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 honor 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.)
The center 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 favor 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 honor 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 dishonor, 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 dishonor 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 Honored 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 honor 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 honored. 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 honor of his ancestor.
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 honored and respected indeed.
The vast empire of Shou Lung is undoubtably the most powerful nation on the face of Toril. With an immense population, vast territory, and governed by an efficient and generally honest bureacracy the Shou could, with a great deal of effort, come to completely dominate the planet. That they do not is due to cultural rather then military or economic factors. The Shou have been expansionistic in the past, but the current emperor finds more pleasure in knowledge and culture then military conquest. This tendancy has been reinforced by the recent Horde invasion, which devastated many of the northwestern provinces, decimated the armed forces, and left the upper ranks of the Mandarinate in a leaderless shambles. The nation is thus still recovering from the upheavals. So, while this nation controls the largest military fleet in Realmspace (45 War Dragons) those vessels are employed in a strictly defensive role, rooting out pirates and acting as a counter to the fleets of Wa and the Elves.
Shou Lung remains a fairly popular destination within Realmspace. The popultion is civilized, enlightened, and spelljammer aware. The taxes are (mostly) reasonable and laws concerning spelljamming vessels follow common sense guidelines (flying over cities at low altitude is prohibitted, for instance). The nation's primary port, Karatin, is as welcoming to spelljammers as it is to any other foriegn trade.
Karatin is the capital of the Hai Yuan, or Maritime provinces, and is said to be the home of the legendary Sea Lords of Karatin. Besides acting as the headquarters of the fleets of the Ministry of War and the Ministry of Glorious Flight, several nobles and temples from the region have dabbled in spelljamming themselves. The people of Hai Yuan province are particularly confident and adventurous, vessels seeking crew should have little trouble hiring sailors here.
The landlocked Kao Shan province holds the only other important spelljammer port in Shou Lung, the semi-independent city of Kai Shan. A den of vice, corruption, and shady dealings Kai Shan is ruled by the Tsui Tong, the largest of the criminal organizations in Shou Lung. The Tsui are permitted a free hand in Kai Shan due to aid they gave to Wo Mai, the Emperor who brought Shou Lung back from the brink of ruin during the Black Cycle (985 Shou Reckoning). Kai Shan can only handle vessels able to set down on land, but it sees a steady traffic in pirate Wasps, smuggler's Dragonflies, and other vessls. It is rumored that the Tsui have contacts with the Chainmen (though selling Shou citizens to slavers would surely bring the wrath of the Emperor down on the city, if discovered), the Tenth Pit, and even the Zhentarim of Faerun. The accuracy of such rumors is doubtful, but the Tsui certainly have contacts among the space going Wako, and this port is considered the best place in Realmspace to sell items of doubtful origins, no questions asked.
There are no Imperial troops stationed in Kai Shan, nor are there any magistrates or town guard. The city's reputation is its greatest defence, though the Shou Spelljammer fleet would certainly counter any attempts by outsiders to invade the city, as it is technically still a part of Shou Lung, and surrounded by other Imperial territories.
The dragonships of the Ministry of War and the Ministry of Glorious Flight are the official representatives of the Shou in Realmspace, but there are many nonofficial vessels as well. The Order of the Dragon (a monastery devoted to the Path and the Emperor) sponsored several vessels, as have several of the richest noble houses. The Society of the Purple Lotus, a group of noble artists, has also sponsored several dragonships. This is disturbing to some, as it is rumored that this group of decadent, languid nobles is secretly a group dedicated to restoring the power of the nobles and destroying that of the bureaucracy. It also seems that the Kuo-tan, a secret society dedicated to supporting the Emperor, has established a branch on the Rock of Bral. This branch calls itself Yakuza, a term more properly applied to Waan or Kozakuran criminal groups, those in the know say this is simply to cover its tracks. The Kuo-tan is led by the Shou Emperor's maternal grandfather and they are deadly enemies of the Tsui Tong.