The people of Li-Guo call themselves Li-Ren and are an assortment of different races, though the population is predominantly Farfolk with pale to sallow skin, dark hair, and dark eyes. With their long history of trade and diplomacy, other races such as elves and dwarves have made Li-Guo their home, choosing to adopt the customary dress of Hanfu.
Hanfus are characterised by their flowing sleeves which act as extra storage, as well as the tight belt that holds the ensemble together. The placement of the belt depends on the gender of the wearer, with males loosely cinched about their mid-waist whilst females’ are bound round the chest to emphasise posture.
The rich and aristocratic favour luxurious silks and intricate embroideries, with decorative elements such as buttons or jade pendants hung from the belt are used to denote status. As it is customary for both genders to leave their hair long, hair ornaments such as a small crown and pin for men, or an intricate dangling buyao for ladies are used to style hair in elegant coiffs.
[! Skin references below in OOC]
As one of the first centralised civilisations on Ai-Zho, Li-Guo’s history is rich just as their fertile soils and beautiful rivers. Situated in the heart-land of Ai-Zho, the first Li-Ren were a myriad of ethnic minorities that thrived off the yellow silt of the Huang-he river. Much of their early history is shrouded in myth, with only meagre carvings and relics hinting at the society before the first Unification.
The First Era
The first Emperor Li Huang was an apt politician skilled in diplomacy. He unified the ethnic minorities that had taken residence around the Huang-he river through using his cunning, earning the trust of the people and slowly eliminating his competition until only he stood atop. Although his reign was controversial, Emperor Li Huang established a solid foundation in terms of the early development of a ‘universal’ written language and measurement system for all different dialects of ethnic tribes to communicate with. He also established the earliest semblance of Li-Guo’s judicial system, although historians would look back on his approval of legal polygamous marriage with disapproval after the Fourth Era. Despite his prowess in leading the nation, Emperor Li Huang was unable to prevent the inevitable, as before he could complete his work and stabilise Li-Guo, he died due to sickness. The underlying tensions between the different ethnic groups eventually burst, causing a long period of political infighting that eventually led to Li-Guo’s downfall.
The Second Era
The stability of the Li Empire did not last and soon, the court was embroiled in another round of in-fighting. The greatly weakened power of Li-Guo made it easy for the Hou-zi, a superior foreign race of sentient monkeys to invade and conquer the Li-Ren in one fell swoop. The existing cultural differences between the small minorities were quashed under the indoctrination of Hou-zi, resulting in a homogenous culture largely derived from Hou-zi teachings. Despite recognising the advantages of adopting Hou-zi practice, the proud people of Li-Guo still harbored dreams of a return to their former free state. After many centuries under the yoke of the Hou-zi, the remnants of the Li-Ren decided to act. Using the influence they had carefully cultivated over the ages, the Li family successfully rallied the various human peoples of Ai-Zho, amongst them the Oyashimans, Huinans, Zhous, and Salamduels. They rose up against the Hou-zi Empire and broke free from the shackle of Monkey rule, yet that was not the end of the fighting. Hungry for more, the Li-Ren quickly turned on their allies and conquered them one by one, forming a new era of glory for Li-Guo.
With the newly formed Li Kingdom and the conquered human neighbours, the Li Dynasty is formed, and would rule over the Eastern peoples for 400 years.
Contrary to expectations, the Hou-zi governors were allowed to remain in Li-Guo as a well-respected minority valued for their cultural knowledge which informed much of the Eastern people’s new cultural practices. Several cultural, religious, and lingual revolutions occurred in this era, with the development of Li-Wen, a derivative dialect of the Hou-zi tongue used throughout Li-Guo as the official language. On the religious front, the Hou-zi spread the teachings of the prophet Hualian, making Hua-jiao the dominant religion among the commoners of the Eastern Peninsula, with off-shoots such as Shidoism and varying interpretations emerging from their scriptures.
The Li Dynasty has ruled for nearly 400 years in peace thanks to a series of wise and able rulers. However, the peace came to an end with the Emperor Li Liu-Hong, who had ascended the throne and become complacent. He over-indulged in wine and women, with historical annals narrating his Garden of Sweetmeats and his Harem of a Thousand. Taking advantage of the Emperor's lavish lifestyle, corrupt officials began lining their pockets with the people’s taxes, gradually increasing them until the rage finally boiled over. With the Empire rotting from the inside, the former allies of Li-Guo saw this as their chance to seize back their independence, with Oyashima being the first to take the charge. Soon the Huinan, Zhou, and Salamduel people followed in their steps, breaking away and setting up their own civilisations, leaving the once-great Li Dynasty to crumble.
Fifth Era (Current Era)
A series of succession wars destroyed what was left of the Li Dynasty, with many families fleeing the Ai-zho peninsula, setting out on their great ships to head towards a better future. A small few, namely the medical branch of the Li family, the Tianrui family, and a couple other citizens sailed Far West, braving many perilous storms and sea monsters until they finally landed in Arcas where they set their roots anew. This would be later known as the Great Journey to the West by their descendants. Starting over in a new country surrounded by foreign faces and foreign tongues proved difficult, with many of the former glorious houses resorting to less than honorable work during these hard times. Whilst the Li family continued to earn coin through medical practice, they were met with great resistance as many of the Westerners were not fond of the idea of acupuncture. Meanwhile, the Tianrui family resorted to becoming sell-swords in order to make ends meet. Just when they believed their foundations were set in Ves, the city was razed by Dragon Knights and Legion troops after political tensions, forcing the families to flee once again. Whilst the Li Family immediately sought for a secure home for their people, the Tianrui family found themselves embroiled in the Empire’s civil war, with the failure of the siege of Helena ending in the execution of two of their family members. Reeling from their sudden loss, the Tianrui family reunited with the rest of the community in the city of Thyra, Korvassa, and eventually moved the community towards Talon’s Grotto where they live today. Having gone through these trials, the Li-Ren learned from their past mistakes. The matriarch of the Li family, Li Xiu-ying, ironically was the first to suggest abolishing her claim to the throne out of shame for the past sins of her family. The small community elected a ruling council to govern the people, with a focus on meritocracy rather than lineage based on the ministers’ contribution to the village. Several laws were also passed, most notably the enforcement of monogamous marriage and the banning of katanas. To this day, the Li-Ren live quietly on the fringes of society, having been humbled by their experiences, of course, there are the few who still hunger for glory...
Cathant Culture is founded upon the core tenets of Order and Respect. Everyone does their share for the betterment of everyone, where the youth respect their elders and the elders are to take care of the youth as if they were their own. The Li people are known for their neutral stance on most political and religious issues, not imposing their judgement on others yet not allowing imposition either.
The general greeting performed by Li-Ren is a salute by putting the left palm on top of the back of the right hand and pressing outwards towards the person being greeted. Women tend to add a little bend in the knees, but that is completely optional. It is important to note that Li-Ren will never bow their heads to someone else unless they hold that person in high esteem, or are asking for forgiveness on a grave trespass.
The social hierarchy of Li-Guo is an interesting phenomenon amongst the Cathant subraces. Whilst there is a degree of rigidity in terms of respecting your elders and superiors, social mobility is significantly easier than the other Cathant ethnic counterparts, such as Oyashima.
Historically, Li-Guo has always been ruled over by the Imperial Li family, alongside the nobles acquainted with them. Separate to the aristocrats are the cabinet of Ministers and officials which serve to aid the country. These seats are usually taken up by people of the scholar or military class, having proven their worth in their contribution to building the community’s knowledge or ensuring the people’s safety. It is important to note that anyone is capable of applying to be an official, as the selection process is based on passing an exam with a combination of the people’s votes. The domination of the cabinet by the scholars or military is only due to the nature of the requirements needed to become part of a ministry. Noble and Commoner alike have equal chance at official seat.
Underneath the scholar and military class is the peasant or farmer class. Greatly respected for being a core tenet of Li-Guo, these people who work the fields are held in high esteem for keeping the country going in rough times.
Next on the rung of the social ladder are merchants, who despite the perceived lack of honour in trade are one of the key players and most socially mobile in Li-Guo’s society. Many past instances of merchants hitting it rich and marrying into nobility or getting into government demonstrate that despite the social order, these underdogs are not to be sniffed at.
Lowest on the social food chain are criminals or traitors, they are marked by a branded Li character on their face, detailing the crime they committed. They have limited rights in terms of property ownership and business conduct.
The Li-Rens practice a variety of religions, primarily Dharma and Tzaoism, however it welcomes all religious practices so long as it doesn’t threaten the public peace.
To become an individual that is connected to the world and enlightened to the true cycle that has the world’s peoples reborn continually, an individual must liberate themselves from the cycle of rebirth that has encompassed the land through the following of the seven noble paths of the Dharmic religion: Good conduct, good speech, good livelihoods, good effort, and a good conscience. By following these seven paths, one can release themselves from the cycle, ending one’s ignorance and one’s rebirth - The true goal of the Dharmic individual.
Where there is light, there is dark. Two opposites cannot exist without each other, the balance must be preserved. Followers of Tzao recognise their place in the world and also their own abilities to carve out their own path. They exist in a plane of neutrality, seeking to attain immortality by gaining more knowledge and understanding about worldly sins. The ultimate goal of a Tzaoist is to cultivate their mind and inner energy until they ‘ascend’ into higher beings, detached from the world.
The philosophy of Shidoism rests in the idea of doing one’s best to be morally good and achieve true inner peace through mindfulness. To be good to one another and free of suffering through the teachings of Dharma and Tzaoism. It is an off-shoot of the two main religions, taking more from the ancient religion of Hua-jiao than the other two more modern counterparts.
On the surface, Li culture may seem patriarchal but upon closer inspection, it is clear that there is little way of difference in terms of gender power imbalance. In following the way of the Tzao, it is believed that Men are like the Sun, bright and valiant, whilst Women are like the Moon, gentle and demure. As such, on the surface level men are tasked with handling civil and military affairs whilst women are charged with handling domestic affairs such as household management. However, in Li society men and women both have equal opportunities at business and official positions. In the course of Li-Guo’s history there have been many able women and men serving the Emperor in his court, much to the surprise of those unfamiliar with Li culture.
New Century (December Month OOCLY):
It is Li custom to wear red when welcoming the New Century. Sumptuous feasts are held and Fireworks are lit in order to scare away evil spirits and celebrate new beginnings. There are many performances, in particular Lion dances inspired by martial arts with plenty of tumbling and acrobatics.
Lunar Festival (August Month OOCLY):
The Lunar Festival celebrates the waxing of the full moon. Night banquets lit by lanterns are held where people gather with their friends and family, drinking tea and alcohol whilst admiring the natural beauty of the night sky. Mooncakes, sweet lotus-paste filled confectionaries are commonly eaten during the Moon Viewing feasts.
Hell Gate Festival (October Month OOCLY):
Once every year the Gates of the Underworld open, the boundary between the Other and the Living thins to the point where you will frequently see spirits walking around. To appease the restless spirits the Li people leave out food and wine as well as small gifts, sometimes conversing with their ancestors or seeking advice from people passed.
Winter Solstice Festival (March Month OOCLY):
On the coldest night of the year, the Li people dedicate a whole day to spend with just family. All work is stopped and loved ones gather round the fire, drinking a special warm broth and bonding over fond memories of the past year.
Contrary to most other cultures, Li wedding apparel is a bright festive red with lots of gold decorations. The process begins with a marriage proposal from the groom’s family, facilitated by the match-maker where both families will give the marriage their blessings.
Then on the day of the wedding, the groom’s family will bring a parade of dowry gifts to the door of the bride’s family residence and pick up the bride.
The groom and bride will then proceed to the Temple, where they will bow thrice; the first time to Heaven and Earth, the second to Family and Elders, the third to each other.
Once the bowing ceremony is done, the couple will share a cup of wine, linking arms and tie a red ribbon on their wrists, signifying their eternal bond with each other.
Afterwards there will be a feast for all to partake in before the newly married couple will enter their residence together.
When a loved one passes, the family will don white headbands as a sign of mourning and wail as they carry the coffin to the Temple. The Eldest son and daughter will lead the procession, including the prayers at the Temple.
After sending prayers and burning incense for the deceased, the direct family members (children, siblings, and parents) will cremate the body and keep the ashes in an urn. The urn is then put in the temple under the family’s register as part of the ancestral shrine.
Li cuisine is filled with a variety of different styled dishes packed with intense flavours and spices. The typical course of Li cuisine includes the staple white rice, with several side dishes sporting a combination of savoury, sweet and/or spice.
Different regions within Li-Guo have different palates, with the northern dishes more focused on a salty-savoury taste, with plenty of helpings of meat and pickled vegetables to balance nutrition. On the other hand, southern dishes are known for their heavy use of spice, specifically Ma and La flavourings (pepper and chili) in accompaniment with stir-fried food.
Li desserts are just as varied in range as Li dishes, with pastries made of rice-flour to shaved-ice and fruit parfaits. These sweet snacks are often based around red, green or lotus paste with a combination of berries or natural sweeteners to enhance the original flavour of the ingredients.
Beverage-wise, Li-Ren hold Tea in high esteem. In Li culture, serving tea to guests is a primary way of showing respect, to the point where it has evolved into an entire art. The tea ceremony is only used for distinguished guests or banquets, often solemn and lengthy in process emphasising grace and tranquility.
MUSIC AND ARTS
Throughout their history, Li-Ren have held the Arts in high regard, with rich arrays of different cultural practices that have been slowly cultivated over the eons into an art form. Li-Ren arts mostly revolve around their appreciation for the cultivation of the Self, with inward reflection and expression of emotions as an outlet given their conservative society.
Unlike other subcultures, Li-Ren write using a brush made out of horsehair, dipped in ink ground from an inkstone. This way of writing is highly dependent on the steadiness of one’s brush as many variations of script style can be created just from a change in the pressure exerted when writing. Script styles vary from war-like and valiant to smooth and flowing, sometimes blending characters together to create a deeper impression. It is believed that one’s calligraphy reflects one’s true spirit.
Tea ceremony is a long and lengthy ritual reserved for guests of the highest esteem. It begins with the careful selection of the dried tea buds and preparation of the tea set. White porcelain is usually used for green tea whilst Red sand clay is reserved for black tea. Here are the steps below:
Begin boiling the water. Spring water is best, as it enhances the natural flavour of tea leaves the most.
Rinse the teapot and teacups with the hot spring water - just before it finishes boiling. This helps preheat the cup which enhances the fragrance of the tea.
Put the tea leaves into the teapot until it is a third filled.
Pour the boiling water into the teapot and let it steep for a few seconds before quickly pouring it all out down the grate in order to Wash the tea leaves of any impurities and dirt.
Brew the tea. Pour the boiling water back into the teapot for a fresh batch and let it steep appropriately.
Pour tea into a larger tea cup first before filtering it and pouring the tea into the smaller serving cups. This is to filter any loose leaves from the kettle.
Serve the tea. It is important to use both hands as a gesture of respect when you serve tea to the guests.
As the recipient of a tea ceremony, there are certain etiquette guidelines you should follow. When you watch the person brew the tea, remain still and respectful with your questions. When you are served tea, accept with both hands to reciprocate respect, and always appreciate the fragrance of the tea first before taking a sip.
Li-Ren dance uses the whole body, using their long sleeves, fans, or soft swords as props to emphasise the beauty of the dance. Li-Ren dances often put intense strain on the dancer from the sheer demand of flexibility, grace, and acrobatics involved, a skilled dancer will seem like they are soaring in the air, body ceaselessly moving with the flow with dazzling twirls and bends that are admired by those far and wide.
Li-Ren Opera is a peculiar type of theatre and an acquired taste for outsiders. Plays are sung in a whiny, flowing tune that may be unpleasant to those unaccustomed to Li-Ren songs. Unlike the Western counterparts, Li-Ren theatrical works contain archetypal characters signified by the mask or face makeup they wear as well as the gestures they make. Heroes will usually wear a red mask and gesticulate broadly, whilst Villains wear black or green masks and tend to slink around on stage. Many slapstick comedies were also derived from this practice.
Li-Ren music exists on a different scale and tone than its western counterparts. Although not as dark and moody-sounding as Oyashman’s music, it carries a hint of a minor tone and moves in a pentatonic scale (by fives). Songs in Li-Ren culture are often epic ballads or small drinking ditties to be sung whilst playing drinking games. The ballads often are recitations of historical events, seen in their valiant war songs and romantic tragedies, whilst the drinking ditties tend to be coarse in their euphemisms, perhaps learned from the sailor merchants that trade with other nations. Below are a couple of instruments unique to Li culture:
Zither: A harp-like musical instrument laid horizontal, strings strung onto a blank of hollowed out wood plucked with long nails and fingers with pegs to adjust the tuning. It is the equivalent of a piano in range.
Pipa: A guitar-like instrument without the hollow base and several more frets than its Western counterpart. The curves of the body resemble a lute but the sound is distinctly more twangy and exotic.
Erhu: A vertical string instrument with only two strings, its baleful sound can mimic the fiercest of battle cries or reduce a listener to tears with its haunting melody. The base is made of sturdy wood with snakeskin as the covering, whilst the two strings are strung upon the body with the horse-hair bow cinched in between them. It is played in a similar way to a cello might be, though the register would sound similar to a violin’s.
Bangdi: a bamboo flute played horizontally, with a varied range of keys and tones depending on the length of the flute. It is light and compact, with six finger holes and a range of two octaves, usually relegated to the melody line in an ensemble.
Li Wen is vastly different from the existing languages on Arcas, borrowing greatly from the Hou-zi in its use of characters and pronunciation, often very difficult for those unfamiliar to pick up. Words are often made of a combination of up to three syllables in phonetics, with five different inflections. One mispronunciation of an inflection can result in calling your mother a horse. It is heavily context-laden and lacks preposition, requiring knowledge of background information before full understanding of a conversation. Below are some basic words and phrases for the layman to enable sufficient communication.
Lí hó = Hello
Hó, to xia = Good, thank you
Zai jin = Goodbye
Bai tok = Please
To xia = Thank you
Mian keki = You’re welcome
Xi = Yes
M-Xi = No
Paí se = Sorry/ Excuse me.
Gong Liyu? = Do you speak Li?
Wo aí lí = I love you
Jit = 1
Nng = 2
Sa = 3
Si = 4
Go = 5
Lak = 6
Jit = 7
Bue = 8
Gau = 9
Tsap = 10
Ba = 100
Nai nai = Grandma
Ye ye = Grandpa
A-yi = Aunty
Shu shu = Uncle
Mu tsin = Mother
Fu tsin = Father
Jie jie = Older Sister
Go go = Older Brother
Mei mei = Little Sister
Di di = Little Brother
Nu’er = Daughter
Er’zi = Son
Sun zi = Grandkids
Li naming practices consist of a surname of a single syllable which comes before the real-name of the person. For example, in “Zhu Geliang” the “Zhu” is the surname, and “Geliang” is the real-name. Below are some Male and Female naming ideas, along with some non-binary ones.
Jinxiang = Flying, soaring
Wencheng = Cultured, accomplished
Junming = Valiant, bright
Xue Hai = The sea
Danian = Long life
Mengli = Fierce, war-like
Shihuang = Emperor, leader
Anli = Refined, peaceful
Xifeng = Flourishing phoenix
Daiyu = Black jade
Wenqian = Refined and modest
Xiuyue = Gentle moon
Tzilian = Lotus child
Shuqin = Delicate lute
Yinyu = Calm rain
Linli = Smart, daring
Xiaoxi = Little river
Xiaoming = Little Light
An’an = Peace, harmony
Zhiyi = Follower of Knowledge
Yangqin = Bright Sun
Mengyou = Wanderer
Jiaoxi = Playful
Dafu = Fortune in abundance.