Circles within circles. I feel that this is the best way to go about thinking of the concept of Jiang Hu and the Wu Lin. In Qin, the characters are assumed to be part of a special class of individual, one not necessarily bound to the norms of Zhongguo’s society.
Whether by chance or choice, the characters exist in the “world” of martial arts where people behave under a different set of rules.
The World of Martial Arts has always existed, ever since the dawn of the Empire heroes came to learn unique fighting styles from the gods and immortals and used these skills for the protection of the people, and against the enemies of the empire. These wandering swordsmen, the Wu Xia, were known to travel the land to perfect their skill. These skills were then passed down from master to student, forming multiple schools and were blessed with honors and noble rank.
Unfortunately due to the loss of the Mandate of Heaven, the sweeping reforms of the various Kings forced changes that reduced the noble families of these Wu Xia to nearly nothing. Those who survived however, left for the remote regions, far away from the reach of the Kings, and established their own society, the Jiang Hu.
The Jiang Hu, the world of forests and lakes, is perhaps best considered as the frontier, a place still beyond the reach of common civilization. It is here that the former nobles have settled and become clans, enacting their own laws and alliances, and re-established the old moral codes of conduct.
It is within the Jiang Hu that there is a society of martial artists, the Wu Lin.
Life if different in the margins of the empire, and this chapter goes into detail on the nature of the clans that inhabit Jiang Hu, and the presence of the Da Xia and Outlaws that live on the fringe. There’s also special note of the women that go there to escape the chains of the patriarchal society of Zhongguo.
In an interesting turn, Jiang Hu conducts itself with a sturprisingly civilized manner despite being so far from the center of civilization. Traditions of Hospitality, Loyalty, Swearing of Oaths, Vengeance, Dueling, Martial Arts tournament and Honor are all given a thorough treatment in this chapter, facets of which should be very familiar to any kung fu movie fan.
The chapter wraps up with the summary of several factions in Jiang Hu, from skilled swordsmen to fearsome assassins to a supremely skilled Wu Xia spearman.
Qin is probably unique in that it has to present two kinds of settings in one go. Life in Zhongguo is important, but player characters should be familiar with the ways of Jiang Hu as well. I’m very happy with what they did with this though as it is perhaps one of the better portrayals of the genre that I’ve seen and most of it is pretty accurate to the genre. I’ll admit that after reading Qin and dabbling in Manhua like Blood & Steel, I’m starting to get more and more confident in running a Wuxia game knowing that I can do justice to the source material.
On Monday we take a look at two chapters, those dealing with Philosophy and Religions in Zhongguo.