[Let’s Study Qin: the Warring States] Part 1: The History of Heaven and Earth

Posted: August 14, 2012 by pointyman2000 in Articles, Let's Study, Qin: the Warring States, Roleplaying Games
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The chapter starts off with the literal beginning of order from chaos and the birth of the world. Qin touches on some of the major myths of the Chinese culture, starting off from the separation of the primordial forces of Yin and Yang, the birth of the elements and the drawing of the borders around heaven and earth. A sidebar also gives an alternative myth on the separation of the elements as performed by a giant named Pangu, who hatched from a cosmic egg, fun reading if you like seeing things from a different perspective. It also has a short account of Yi, the Divine Archer and the ten suns.

The Three August Ones, divine rulers sent from heaven to guide mankind are also given attention here. Fu Xi, Nu Wa and Shen Nong are each given a short section explaining who they are and their contributions towards the birth of a civilization. Fascinating stuff really, and helpful to pin down just exactly where these gods belong, as they’re important in the myths involving the establishment of civilization but don’t get a lot of mention afterwards.

The Yellow Emperor, Huang Di is discussed at length as he was the first human emperor to rule over the empire after the divine. His achievements as a warrior king, and ingenuity as an inventor of weapons were noted, as well as his skill as a conqueror who united the tribes into a single nation. Furthermore, his contribution to the establishment of Law, the invention of Calendars and Money are all vital towards the creation of a singular identity of the empire as a united group of people.

At this point, the chapter begins to talk about the Dynasties, when Emperors began to choose their own sons to rule after them, first out of merit… then soon, as tradition. This hereditary principle was possibly the cause of much grief, as some emperors were more cruel, or incapable than others. Thus began a cycle of greatness, punctuated by the loss of the Mandate of Heaven, and the arrival of heroes to set things straight and establish harmony across the land once more.

Finally we reach the most recent era, where the Zhou Dynasty still holds the Mandate of Heaven, but is barely an empire thanks to the bickering between vassals who have declared their independence. After several wars, only seven states that remained, each claiming dominance over the empire.

Among the seven, Qin rose to dominance through cunning and eventually, military might, subjugating the Zhou territories and turning it’s eye towards the conquest of the remaining seven states.

Overall, I think I learned more about Chinese mythic history here than in most of the online sources I’ve scoured on my own. Being of Chinese descent, Qin is a particular interest of mine since I’ve always wanted to see a game pull off a game that cleaves as close to “low-powered” wuxia as I can get, without venturing too far into the high powere hijinx of Storm Riders or Weaopns of the Gods.

So far the History of Heaven and Earth is a great start to the book, mixing just enough of history to keep it grounded, while implying vast amounts of opportunity for a glory-seeking Da Xia wandering swordsmen

Tomorrow we skip past a few chapters to look at more of the setting with The Warring States. I’m deliberately skipping a few chapters to follow my let’s study article of Yggdrasill, which I feel had a better organization of information with most of the setting up front, then in-game  and character chapters later on. Here in Qin, it presented the History first, then dives full-on into character generation and the taos and magic, which I’ll come back to later once I’ve gotten all the substantial setting chapters out of the way.

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