History of the Kuei-jin
The First Age
The First Age is generally taken to be the period before the creation of the world. Called the Age of Heaven, it marks the era when Yin and Yang had not separated, when all things were One, and that One was the August Personage of Jade. The First Age was a period of ultimate harmony, the first point of interconnectedness among all things. Many Kuei-jin believe that the fulfillment of their Dharmas allows them to return to this state of being; of course, many others discount the First Age as pure myth, and they prefer to think of Dharmic fulfillment as simply bringing an end to their earthly imprisonment.
The Second Age
The Second Age, or the Age of Beauty, marks the separation of the Yin and Yang Worlds from the Middle Kingdom, which bore elements of both. It is also the era that sets the Great Cycle in motion. During this Age, the Ebon Dragon and Scarlet Queen were born, and their interaction and opposition furthered the turning of the Cycle, coalescing matter and spirit stuff alike.
Soon thereafter, the Ebon Dragon and the Scarlet Queen learned to breathe, and as they breathed, the Ten Thousand Things of matter and spirit began to take shape. Where breathed the Dragon, spirits and properties of Yin appeared; where breathed the Queen, spirits and properties of Yang took form. Soon, the worlds of matter and spirit had been breathed into existence. Gods and dragons walked the young, vibrant world, and to them Heaven ordained duties and positions in the Spirit Courts.
However, as the celestial beings gravitated to their specific realms, some escaped the notice and tutelage of the Dragon and the Queen. These beings, deprived of proper instruction, neglected their duties and failed to make obeisance to the will of Heaven. Certain creatures became dualistically opposed to the others, while others combined Yin and Yang in unwholesome imbalance. Demons and monsters, greedy devourers of Chi, appeared during the Second Age.
The worst of these creatures made lairs deep within the wildest regions of the worlds. Disregarding the August Personage's authority, these demons drained entire regions of Chi, then claimed the blighted and diseased lands as their own. The demons warred among themselves, and the mightiest forced the other demons to swear fealty to them. Calling themselves Yama Kings, these archdemons ravaged their surroundings and plotted to garner vast amounts of Chi for their own selfish appetites.
To maintain the Cycle's purity in the face of the ever bolder Yama Kings, the Dragon and the Queen birthed shen into the world--shapeshifting hengeyokai, the kamuii fae and other creatures. These beings received various tasks to perform, so that the Cycle would spin as it should. Humans also came into being during the Second Age, a product of the Dragon and Queen's love for each other. This last act, in particular, was not received kindly by the monstrous Yama Kings. Jealous of their fairer brethren, the Yama Kings stalked amid the first mortals, afflicting upon them sickness, terror and destruction.
The August Personage grew alarmed at the demons' actions. But there were many Yama Kings, most of whom dwelt in dismal lairs, far from Heaven's scrutiny, and emerged only to ravage and conquer.
The Coming of the Wan Xian
And so, to protect its newborn charges, the August Personage bestowed its favor upon certain of the most superior mortals, and a new race of beings was born. The members of this race were not called Kuei-jin then--they were the Wan Xian, the Ten Thousand Immortals. Selected for their wisdom, power and balance, the Wan Xian were neither wholly mortal nor wholly spirit, but possessed elements of both. To become Wan Xian, a mortal soul had to cross into the spirit worlds, then enter the Middle Kingdom once more. Thus attuned to the world of spirit, the Wan Xian could draw upon the stuff of the Yin and Yang Worlds--Chi--and utilize it for sustenance and power.
These first Wan Xian ensured that all under Heaven was properly ordered. Above all, the Wan Xian were responsible for the first humans, from whom they had been selected. The Wan Xian needed neither food nor drink, for the dragons themselves gave of their bounty to the Wan Xian. As the gods subsisted on the Peaches of Immortality, so did the Wan Xian nourish themselves with Chi, which they inhaled in moderation from the ebb and flow of the world itself.
The Age of Legends
The Third Age, or the Age of Legends, was a glorious time during which the Wan Xian bore their Heavenly mandate proudly. They were immortal emperors, the demon slayers, the gods who walked among humanity and guided its progress. At the directive of the Ebon Dragon, the Scarlet Queen and the August Personage itself, the Wan Xian purged the world of the Yama Kings' servants. If a spirit or demon grew unruly, the Wan Xian could drive it from the Middle Kingdom, then report the transgression to its spirit master; if a mortal ruler strayed from the way of Heaven, the Wan Xian could set the mortal aright. As Wan Xian gained in wisdom and completed their tasks, they passed from the world to join the gods, and the Ebon Dragon and Scarlet Queen then selected more Wan Xian to replace them.
The Wan Xian took it upon themselves to watch over many of the fledgling settlements of humanity that settled in Tibet and along the Yellow River in ancient China. The Wan Xian guided the people in their endeavors, guarding them and ensuring that all acted in accordance with Heaven's will. The old scrolls speak of the Yellow Emperor, Oh-kuni-nushi, and other heroes. Drawing on the gifts of the Dragon and the Queen, the Wan Xian cleared the earth of the Yama Kings and their minions by driving these unruly creatures deep into the Yin and Yang Worlds or by destroying them outright.
Because of the near mythic status of these first Kuei-jin, the Third Age is referred to as the Age of Legends. It is also during the Age of Legends that the majority of the Cathayans' founding texts and sacred writings were composed, although few of these works survive in complete written form today.
Years passed, though, and the whispers of the Yama Kings darkened the noblest of ears. The Wan Xian turned from their sacred duties and betrayed their trust. During the Third Age of the Great Cycle, certain Wan Xian learned a terrible secret. The gods had taught them how to harvest Chi from the natural eddies of the Middle Kingdom--but Chi could also be taken from other creatures. Chi permeated flesh; it flowed through blood, and breath and jade. And it could be wrested from beings weaker than the Wan Xian.
At first, the Wan Xian stole Chi only from demons, monsters and other enemies. As they did so, though, it became easier and easier to justify their cravings. And the more they stole, the more they hungered.
The Age of Beautiful Sadness
The Fourth Age of the Great Cycle dawned in fear and flame. Wan Xian warlords stained the soil with blood. Immortal generals led hordes of slaves in ceaseless raids for jade and blood. Death cults arose among the mortals, cults devoted to feeding the Wan Xian's ever-growing appetites. The Wan Xian made war on the other shen of the Middle Kingdom, even going so far as to set the hengeyokai against one another, that the Wan Xian might plunder their sacred sites. Even the spirits grew fearful of the greedy Wan Xian; the Yin and Yang Worlds withdrew further from the Middle Kingdom, and the road between the two grew difficult. Sages and spirits alike tried to reason with the Wan Xian, but their greed and hunger blinded and deafened them. At last, the Wan Xian's gluttony grew intolerable, and the dragons cried to Heaven for succor.
And Heaven answered. The Wan Xian were cast from their thrones and scattered to the Five Directions. From them the August Personage stole the knowledge of how to breathe. They became cold, unliving things. Yet neither were they dead. Without breath, the Wan Xian found themselves forever separated from the living world. Yet, having rejected their purpose, they had no passions to sustain them among the Dead. New Wan Xian, denied true rebirth, were forced to inhabit the corpses of their mortal lives. And, since they were so eager to wrest Chi from others, the August Personage saw to it that they could nourish themselves in no other fashion.
Then, its work done, the August Personage turned its face from the Middle Kingdom, Spirit Courts and Great Cycle alike. Deprived of supervision, the Yama Kings and their demon minions seeped back into the Middle Kingdom. The hengeyokai, angered beyond reason by the Wan Xian's depredations, fell upon the humans who had foolishly followed their immortal masters.
The Dragon and Queen, ashamed, likewise turned away from their errant children, but not before leaving the secrets of the Dharmas hidden in clouds, wind, rain and blood, so that one night the Wan Xian might redeem themselves and regain their place in the Cycle.
As the Cycle turned, the Wall between the mortal and spirit worlds grew thick, and Wan Xian could be born only with great effort. Slashing through the spirit walls became a brutal task, and only individuals with strong P'o souls could muster the necessary savagery. In an ironic judgment, Heaven had seen to it that only souls weighted with evil could become Wan Xian. Wan Xian would continue to walk the Middle Kingdom, as had been decreed in the early days of the world. But because they had rejected their ordained place, their numbers came only from mortals whose hungers and lusts had overwhelmed them. And so, those beings created to be the Middle Kingdom's guardians instead became its eternal misery.
If, before, they had been gods, the Wan Xian now resembled the very demons they had pledged themselves to overcome. And, the Wan Xian realized to their sorrow, the Middle Kingdom itself had been turned into their Hell. Thus did the Ten Thousand Immortals become Wan Kuei--jin Thousand Demons.
The Fifth Age
Now, in the Fifth Age, the Wan Kuei, or Kuei-jin, are wretched creatures indeed. Driven to madness by the P'o, forced to reanimate corpses and sustain them with stolen life-force, most Kuei-jin endure existences every bit as miserable as those of their Kindred rivals. In fact, for the Hungry Dead, unlife is often worse, for their personal struggles are overlaid with tremendous, collective guilt.
Even their Chi sight continually reminds them of their failed responsibilities. With their Yin sight, they see the decay of the Fifth Age eat away at the Middle Kingdom. With their Yang sight, they see the rippling, jagged energies of hatred, war, rage and terror. Indeed, for many Kuei-jin, the Second Breath catapults them into a dreamscape of unending nightmare.
The Kuei-jin must now decide whether they should seek to right the Great Cycle, attempt a desperate escape or succumb to their curse as monsters. And their decision must be made soon.
The Future: The Sixth Age
The Sixth Age is the Age of Sorrow. It is the lowest point on the Cycle, which many Kuei-jin believe will usher in a time of apocalyptic disruption, when the Yama Kings will rise and rule among the nations. How long the Sixth Age will last is indeterminate, but all are convinced that it is imminent and will be violent.
Kuei-jin are of several minds as to what will occur either during or after the Sixth Age. The most optimistic Kuei-jin believe that the spirit worlds and the Middle Kingdom will reunite, that the dragons and spirits will resume their Heavenly duties. Others feel that this reunification will occur, but that it will signal the end of the Middle Kingdom, as everything is suffused back into the first true state of interconnectedness. And still others, having traveled frequently to the Yin and Yang Worlds, believe that the mightiest Yama King will rise and rule as Demon Emperor in the August Personage's stead, and the Kuei-jin will be cast from the Great Cycle into eternal oblivion.
The state of the Wheel of Ages concerns many Kuei-jin at the brink of the Sixth Age. Many Kuei-jin who have resigned themselves to a bitter and brutal Age of Sorrow contend that, despite the inevitable suffering and death, the Sixth Age will eventually end and the Great Cycle of Being will come full around to the First Age again. But an equal number prophesy that the accumulation of centuries of karmic debt will weigh down the Wheel of Ages to the point were it stops turning. This, they say, will herald a horrific end to the world.
The Age of Sorrow will definitely be some sort of end; on that all Kuei-jin agree, as do the Western Kindred, who refer to the time as Gehenna. Yet, for the Kuei-jin, the fact of the Great Cycle makes the Sixth Age inevitable. Unlike the panicky Kindred, who will attempt any measure to halt its arrival, the Kuei-jin are far more resigned to this end. Whatever form it takes and however long its duration, the Age of Sorrow will come, and it will arrive hard and ruthless.
It is the way of the Great Cycle of Being--the way of life itself.
Dharma, The Great Principle
The Great Principle is the code by which all Kuei-jin adhere. Much like the rules of the Camarilla, the Great Principle is there to guide help guide Kuei-jin to the path of correct behavior. Also like the rules of the Camarilla, the Great Principle isn't always adhered to.
The Way of Origin Remember whence you came, for it is the unchanging whole of your purpose.
The Way of Lineage Heed well those who have come before, and respect those who come after, for they are all part of the truth.
The Way of Integrity Maintain your honor and trust in all thought, word, and deed, for the behavior of one affects the entire community.
The Way of Obligation Understand your duties to your brethren, to the forces of the universe, and to yourself, and do all to fulfill them.
The Way of Propriety Practice correctness in all you do, for the Great Cycle, in its every aspect, has its own nature, and that nature must be followed.
The directions are your job in Kuei-jin society. They don't have to affect your personality, but instead they determine what other Kuei-jin expect you to do. Direction is determined by the the stars of the Kuei-jin's birth. It's a guide...what you would best be suited for. A Southern directed Kuei-jin won't be happy trying to uphold the pillars of tradition. Unhappy Kuei-jin usually have bad manners...no one likes bad manners. Keep in mind, though, direction is not a set of walls, a corridor down which you must walk. It's an idea that by following should bring you enjoyment and happiness. Happy Kuei-jin are always good. Good Kuei-jin are not always happy.
Vampires of the north are stereotypically viewed as cold, logical, just and heartless. They are often, though not always, attuned to Yin. North vampires are charged with maintaining the traditions of the Kuei-jin -- and with passing sentence on individuals who transgress. North vampires act as the magistrates and judges of their kind, by investigating and arbitrating disputes; woe betide the mortal or shen who violates a north's laws.
The wind that blows from the north is cold and bitter. It is sharp and stings deep on weakened flesh. Water turns to ice and the earth grows hard to avoid its kiss. Kuei-jin with northern direction are unwavering students of law and order. Impervious to emotions and able to withstand the weakness of spirit in others, but never to accept it, they thrive on adversity.
Strong headed or stubborn, the north does not accept defeat. Northern Kuei-jin set their goals high and attain them with honor and precision. One who spent most of his mortal life denying the structure of authority may find himself in the Second Breath being expected to not only support the laws, but to uphold them -- even if he has yet to learn them all.
The northern direction is straight and narrow, accepting no deviations from its purpose. It is steep and unforgiving and its child must be strong as well. But it is also lonely. The world fears the northern Kuei-jin. Secluded by their belief in tradition, Kuei-jin of the north direction see change as a threat. Honor is paramount. Justice is God. Laws are to be obeyed. Those who break them are to be punished. There must be order.
Kuei-jin of northern direction are expected to carry out the judicial duties of the court. From the lowly Steward of the Mist Serpent to the esteemed Minister of White Jade at Midnight, all north-aligned Kuei-jin must be impartial in their steadfast natures. Emotions cannot enter into their decisions, even when sentencing another Kuei-jin to the Final Death. To simply keep their emotions to themselves, behind austere and officious facades. They honor their courts with their resolve and have a deep and abiding love for stability and tradition. Failure is disgraceful and a Kuei-jin of the north never gives up; only by overcoming adversity can one strive for enlightenment. It is with the north that the elders of the courts place their trust.
The favored color of the north is black. Black is solid and stable, not casual. It is the sign of seriousness. A figure in black gains notice and respect. There is no joy in wearing it, nor pride. Black is the absence of all other color. As such, the robes of office always contain black. With their passion for law and their penchant for order, north-aligned vampires have little use for frivolity or garish color.
Vampires of the south are the dynamos keeping the Wheel of Ages in motion. Ever changeable, never predictable, a vampire of the south often finds herself at odds with the more traditional members of her society. Although their fellows often consider them insufferable, south-aspected Cathayans are tolerated for their formidable intellects and fighting prowess. They are the Kuei-jin's creators -- and destroyers. A "firebird's" temper often gets her into trouble, but just as often extracts her from it.
From the southern realms comes warm air and promises of rebirth. There is also a price for the new unlife, though -- as always, the old must give way to the new. Nature creates in its womb massive powers of Heaven and Earth. The ground must thaw for things to grow. Warm winds also bring rain and storms, thunder and lightning. The wind of the south is a tempest of creation, and the Kuei-jin of the south is no different. The air around her is warm and inviting, but also dangerous.
Kuei-jin of the south direction are comfortable with their new unlives. They accept their existence, but recognize the need for change. They provide insights to the elders. They give advice on adversity. Easily bored and constantly searching for newer, more exciting activities, the south-oriented Kuei-jin breed excellence through conflict, by discarding the old ways to make room for newer, better paths. Although ambition is definitive to their character, they do not make good leaders; the constant demands of change and growth cast aside forms and structures of rulership and hierarchy. South-aligned Kuei-jin are more likely to be in positions of change. Conquest is the nature of the southern wind -- destroying that which has no purpose, ushering in the new ways -- but these vampires are forever on the horizon, seeking new places to bring change.
Mystery and excitement are the passion of vampires of the south direction. These vampires exult in the differences between people, places and ideologies, taking those elements that are pleasing and active, burying the detritus of useless matter. Conflict inevitably follows in the wake of such actions. Cutting loose the chaff of society, the southern winds bring uncomfortable but necessary chaos, so that new forms may rise.
Scarlet splashes color the southern wind. Blood is red. Fire's embers glow red. Red is movement and the need to be in motion. Anger and passion are elements of southern winds, and lust and rage give rise to revolution. For this reason the southern directions adorn themselves with tokens of their commitment to motion; decorations and clothing prominently speak of flames that purify and renew.
The vampires at the center of the Great Wheel are, metaphorically speaking, the soul of their society. They explore their own nature, and also help others find a place in the great tapestry of the universe. Vampires of the center often assist in inducting new Kuei-jin into the larger society, through some withdraw altogether, preferring personal quests into the wilderness or the spirit worlds.
In the eye of the hurricane there is calm. The winds are quiet and there is an oasis that can soothe the tempests that swirl through the Middle Kingdom. All forces circle around the calm center and in that one place there is peace. Those who follow the center direction are the anchors to the society of the Kuei-jin. They are the ones who gather the wayward and bring them home, teaching and supporting those who are newly returned into unlife, supplying information and understanding to those whose demon threatens to destroy them. Center-aspected Kuei-jin uphold the virtue of Balance. Respected and understood by all others, compassionate to the ways of other directions, they are the mothers and fathers to the children of darkness.
At the center there is also the greatest responsibility: holding tight to keep the others from flying apart. The pressures are strong and not without their price. Children of the center are expected not to have needs or desires for themselves. Their duty is for the good of the court. They must strive to maintain harmony. Sacrifice is not a question; it is an obligation. If the center loses its grip, all of Kuei-jin society would be rent asunder.
As the Sun calls to the plants, or as gold catches the eye, the center child wears yellow as a beacon to the court around them. Warmth to those who are cold and light to those in darkness they wear their golden adornments as a symbol of what is required of them.
Vampires of the west, so say the sages, maintain ties to the dead and the worlds beyond. Even other Kuei-jin find them bizarre and somewhat alien. It is the job of west-aspected vampires to carry out the dictates of the mandarins, and they do so with merciless precision -- but it is also their responsibility to interpret and carry out the spirits' wishes in the Middle Kingdom. These Kuei-jin are often punishers or executioners, but they also serve as sorcerers and messengers.
Death is the world of the Kuei-jin. Of the directions, those of the west are closest to the dead. The spirits of those who have passed on whisper into the ears of the western child. Dancing with the dead clouds in their minds, they are feared by, and distant from, the other Kuei-jin. Although made separate by their own design or by the fears of the others, the western faces do not walk alone. The west wind constantly carries the voices of the spirits. Whatever the cause, the path of the est is mysterious. The sun sets in the west and it is there that the kingdom of the dead begins.
The west aspect often leads into rectifying wrongs. While the Kuei-jin of the north pass sentence and weigh justice, the west vampires are the executioners. They must listen to the voices of those who have not returned. They also guide the court to its destiny to fulfill the tasks that are required of them by the dead. Memories and broken promises are presented to these Kuei-jin, which they relay to the court. By learning from the wisdom of the ancient dead, the Kuei-jin of the west exercise restraint and terror in equal measure.
White is the favored color of the west because it symbolizes the spirit. Clear and clean of guilt and impurities, white is as innocent as only those newly born can be. Often the western child wears robes of white or a simple white scarf. Additionally, white is the color of mourning in many Asian countries -- no coincidence; the Kuei-jin of the western direction do not hesitate to show the ties between white color and spirituality.
Vampires aspected to the east are the "harvesters" -- the farmer caste of the Kuei-jin. It is their responsibility to move among the mortal herds by night, ensuring that all is harmonious. Of all vampires, ones of the east tend to be most comfortable with their former species and most capable of guiding -- or manipulating -- mortals "for their own good." They are also the Kuei-jin most likely to try to return to their old lives -- typically with tragic results.
The sun rises in the east, signifying the beginning of the new day. A new life and a rebirth comes with each rise of the sun. The Kuei-jin of the east are, thus, anchored to the world of the living and to the powers of creation. Of all the hungry dead, they are the most comfortable with mortals. Many Kuei-jin of the eastern direction continue to live among mortals, guiding and watching over them. The vibrant Chi of the living is to be treasured and guarded; the Kuei-jin of the east live in the midst of the ebb and flow of life, taking what they will and feeling again the sensations lost with their heartbeats.
Mingling among mortals, a Kuei-jin forms attachments. They may be descendants, lineage or a loved one left behind. Some form relationships that remind them of their mortal passions and while others merely consider the living as pets or playthings. But it remains constant that they remain close to those who are able to walk in the light. The eastern aspect draws its followers back to the flame of life like moths. Of course, tragedy often follows in this wake; the Demon makes sure that the Kuei-jin fights and kills the beloved. Still, this doesn't stop many Cathayans from trying to recapture the lives they once lived, if only vicariously.
The role of the eastern Kuei-jin is to walk among the mortals. They gather and guide them. Unlike the Cainite of the West, the Kuei-jin do not follow the rules of the Masquerade for fear of destruction. It suits their nature to be unknown to the mortals, all the easier to dwell among them. These Kuei-jin are the shepherds that watch over the sheep. Of their fellow Kuei-jin, those of the eastern direction often have the most compassion and the most humane demeanor.
The favored color of the east is blue. Memory of the world denied to them in this new existence, blue is symbolic of the sunlight sky. Both water and sky, the essences of freedom, have always been presented by the color blue.
War Between Kuei-jin
The Chinese have a lot of social customs. Most of them are to prevent insult. However, nothing's perfect. When two Kuei-jin (or wu or organizations) have an argument, they're expected to try and work it out between themselves without devolving into killing each other. If one Kuei-jin kills another, and it wasn't sanctioned, and it's found out about, there's some serious whup-ass comin' down on somebody's head.
If the two Kuei-jin can't work it out between themselves, they go to court and petition for a Twilight War. The court then assigns another unrelated Kuei-jin as a mediator ("case-worker"). The mediator then meets with both of the grievers and hears each side of the story, then sets an appointment date. It's customary for the two contenders to bring gifts for the mediator at the appointment. The appointment consists of the mediator setting a challenge for the two contestants. This can be just about anything. From "the first to draw a sword on the count of 3" to "you each must take control of a village and use it to destroy the other's village." The latter has fallen out of use in the past 100 or so years. The mediator always chooses a fair challenge. Neither of the contestants will have any advantage. So if one of the characters is a war-monger and the other isn't, the challenge won't involve fighting of any kind. But if they are... Most often the challenges are picked to promote growth in a way that each Kuei-jin need. Like if both Kuei-jin are Yin balanced, they may have to do something dealing with mortals (something more in line with a Yang vampire).
When the challenge is finished and a winner is declared, that's the end of the argument. Everyone should consider the matter closed, including the two who had the grievance. If the matter is pursued further, it's considered rude by the pursuer. It's also rude of the winner to gloat.
Sometimes the matter is continually pursued, or sometimes the slight is so grievous as the two parties will settle for nothing less than the death of the other. When this happens the court is petitioned for a Midnight War. I don't have my book with me and I don't expect this to happen in the the campaign so I'll give more details later. It breaks down like this though: the wu or organization (it's rare (and vulgar) for an individual to declare Midnight War) goes to the court and explains why it needs a Midnight War. The court then sanctions it or doesn't. If it doesn't sanction the Midnight War, nothing happens, however, the wu may decide to go to another court and petition.
If a court does sanction the Midnight War, the next night there's a big elaborate ceremony. Then a week goes by. During this week messengers are sent out to all the other shen and the other courts. Basically saying, "Look out, dudes, some shit is about to hit the fan." All the other shen are warned that a Midnight War is about to begin and to take whatever steps they feel is necessary. In this week, it's perfectly acceptable (and sometimes seen as the wiser thing to do) to back down. Basically, you've had some time to cool off and hopefully cooler heads will prevail.
Should the party decide to continue with their action, they have another big elaborate ritual. Then everything goes to hell.
The next night anything goes. One wu or group or whatever's purpose is soley to destroy the offending party. The offending party feels the same way about the other group. They are allowed to use whatever means they feel is necessary. Literally, anything goes. Some Midnight Wars have lasted only a few days, others have lasted for months. The result is always the same...the Middle Kingdom is plunged into chaos and a lot of people die. Needless to say this kind of thing isn't allowed to happen very often.