Government Economy and Culture

Government, Economy, and Culture

The Empire is a network of provinces maintained by local governors, who in turn command increasingly smaller regional officials. Each of these commands a retinue of officers, appointees, and other bureaucrats. Above all stands the Emperor, but at the moment this title is contested by Prince Hovd, Princess Atas, and Prince Bayanhongor.

The economy of Wu-Yu is sustained by wet rice cultivation, especially in the Imperial Lowlands. Hill rice is grown in the highland areas. Raw goods such as lumber, iron ore, copper ore, and silver are taken from the Imperial Highlands. In human areas of the Highlands, an opium trade is also emerging. Silk, as well as pottery and basketry, are specialties of the Imperial Lowlands. Lumber and cosmetics are harvested from the Yellow Forest. Incense comes from the Blackbark Woods west of the Jie Die River. The Shen Bei Jungles are braved by explorers in search of diamonds and other jewels. The greatest metalwork, including weaponry, comes from the Tathatan area of the West. Salt is also a Western specialty. The Southern Islands are raided for spices and slaves. Halfling traders plying the east coast bring furs from the north, lumber, dyes from the Anga Highlands, tin from the Anga Mountains, and gold from the Eastern Islands. They also trade with the Yuan-ti Empire far to the south, bringing in exotic textiles, jewelry, and slaves.

The exchange unit of the Wu-Yu economy is the iron shu. This Imperial coin is used throughout the Empire. It is worth 100 copper meng, and 100 shu are worth 1 silver li, in turn worth 100 gold long. Many Imperial peoples, however, never lay eyes on coinage, living instead by barter or a system of patronage.

Most trade is done in Imperial, the language of the Empire. It is understood in all cities as well as the countryside of the Imperial Lowlands and Highlands. In areas more remote than these, communication takes place through local languages, broken Imperial, and gestures. The Western Provinces speak the Dwarven language, even in the cities. The eastern coast and Eastern Islands speak the Halfling tongue. On the plateau of Trulkor, only Gnomish is likely to be understood.

Literacy is normative only among the aristocratic and merchant classes. The majority of people in Wu-Yu cannot read or write. However, it is common to find bards with whole books committed to memory. Bards are also the traditional keepers of ancestral genealogies, and most villages have at least one with the major local families committed to memory.

Popular religion in most of the Empire is dominated by ancestor veneration. Even the gods are cast as ancestors of mythic proportions. It is thought that after death, one’s spirit goes through varying levels of purification before returning to dwell in the plants, animals, and landscape of the world. In other words, all the world is full of ancestors, from the air breathed to the dirt walked on. Particularly important are the ancestral spirits that dwell in and bless the rice crop, who receive great rituals and festivals. The path to becoming a helpful ancestral spirit, however, is fraught with dangers. If the circumstances of death are suspect, or if proper funerary rituals are neglected, the spirit can become a ghost. The disturbed dead have led many a farmer or traveler to their doom. Many illnesses, misfortunes, and crop failures are caused by the dead. Talismans, purifications, and wards against them are popular in both rural and urban areas. In this age, many a traveler make a living healing, purifying, casting out spirits, appeasing angry ancestors, laying ghosts to rest, and performing rites for the dead.

The educated elite, however, tend to look down on such superstition. For them, religion is either an affair of political duty, a philosophical way to understand the world, or a path to immortality. They observe the same names and ritual forms, but with different interpretations. Others turn to sorcery, an esoteric art feared and mistrusted everywhere but Trulkor. It is steered clear of by those who fear lynch mobs.

Both the educated and uneducated populace are turning more and more to new cults and spiritual movements. There are those who preach a return to strict, traditional observance, such as the dwarves of Tathatan. Others favor withdrawal to spiritual communes to await the immanent destruction of the world. Such monasteries are springing up all over the Imperial Lowlands. Still others find hope in renewed enthusiasm, such as the goblinoids who have revived an ancient practice of spirit possession.

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