Symbols from Chinese Cosmology and Unicode

Just been playing around with Unicode symbols. I have discovered that the Unicode standard has provided codes for all the symbols from Chinese philosophy. Unfortunately most browsers only seem able to display the trigrams.

The two monograms
⚊ 陽 Yáng (solid line)
⚋ 陰 Yīn (broken line)

The four digrams
⚌ Greater yáng
⚍ Lesser yīn
⚎ Lesser yáng
⚏ Greater yīn

The eight trigrams (bāguà 八卦)
☰ 乾 qián
☱ 兌 duì
☲ 離 lí
☳ 震 zhèn
☴ 巽 xùn
☵ 坎 kǎn
☶ 艮 gèn
☷ 坤 kūn

The sixty-four hexagrams — these are from the Book of Changes (Yìjīng 易經)
䷀ 乾 qián
䷁ 坤 kūn
䷂ 屯 zhūn
䷃ 蒙 méng
䷄ 需 xū
䷅ 訟 sòng
䷆ 師 shī
䷇ 比 bǐ
䷈ 小畜 xiǎochù
䷉ 履 lǚ
䷊ 泰 tài
䷋ 否 pǐ
䷌ 同人 tóngrén
䷍ 大有 dàyǒu
䷎ 謙 qiān
䷏ 豫 yù
䷐ 隨 suí
䷑ 蠱 gŭ [yes this is the same character as in sorcery]
䷒ 臨 lín
䷓ 觀 guān
䷔ 噬嗑 shìkè
䷕ 賁 bì
䷖ 剝 bō
䷗ 復 fù
䷘ 無妄 wúwàng
䷙ 大畜 dàchù
䷚ 頤 yí
䷛ 大過 dà guò
䷜ 坎 kǎn
䷝ 離 lí
䷞ 咸 xián
䷟ 恆 héng
䷠ 遯 dùn
䷡ 大壯 dàzhuàng
䷢ 晉 jìn
䷣ 明夷 míngyí
䷤ 家人 jiārén
䷥ 睽 kuí
䷦ 蹇 jiǎn
䷧ 解 xiè
䷨ 損 sǔn
䷩ 益 yì
䷪ 夬 guài
䷫ 姤 gòu
䷬ 萃 cuì
䷭ 升 shēng
䷮ 困 kùn
䷯ 井 jǐng
䷰ 革 gé
䷱ 鼎 dǐng
䷲ 震 zhèn
䷳ 艮 gèn
䷴ 漸 jiàn
䷵ 歸妹 guīmèi
䷶ 豐 fēng
䷷ 旅 lǚ
䷸ 巽 xùn
䷹ 兌 duì
䷺ 渙 huàn
䷻ 節 jié
䷼ 中孚 zhōngfú
䷽ 小過 xiǎoguò
䷾ 既濟 jìjì
䷿ 未濟 wèijì


Agartha (cont'd)

My post about the mythical subterranean Asian kingdom of Agartha ended up as one of the most viewed of my blog — which confirms the general fascination with "Hollow Earth"-themed fiction.

I have found further information about Agartha on the excellent Penny Dreadful wiki:

Agartha is an ancient kingdom in either Sri Lanka or Tibet (travellers are not sure which, for reasons which are explained below). The kingdom, which may be mythical, would seem to have a strange effect on outsiders: they either do not notice it as they travel through it, or they forget about it once they have seen it. There are many rumours about Agartha, however. It is said that its capital, Paradesa, holds the University of Knowledge, where the occult and spiritual treasures of mankind are guarded. The capital also is home to an enormous gilded throne which is said to be decorated with the figures of two million gods, and it is further rumoured that their combined good spirits are what hold the world together; if they are angered by a mortal, their wrath will descend upon the world, drying the seas and smashing the mountains into deserts. Finally, it is said that Agartha holds the world's largest library of stone books, and that strange fauna inhabit the kingdom, including sharp-toothed birds and six-footed turtles as well as the natives, who are born with forked tongues. The guardians of Agartha are the Templars of Agartha, a small but powerful army.


Fúsāng (扶桑), the Leaning Mulberry

The Classic of Mountains and Seas (Shānhǎi Jīng 山海經) is a compilation of mythological texts from well before the Hàn dynasty, i.e., from a period of time when the Chinese had a completely different set of religious sytems than in Imperial times — see p35-36 of The Celestial Empire.

As per the shamanic part of the archaic belief system, the sun was believed to rise from a gigantic mulberry tree in the far east, called the Leaning Mulberry (fúsāng 扶桑). This tree is obviously an axis mundi type of tree, common to all shamanic belief systems. The interesting difference here is that the fúsāng is supposed to be in the far eastern end of the world rather than at its centre.

The sun would follow the leaning branch of the mulberry tree above the earth, up to the far western end of the world: the Kūnlún Mountains. There, depending on the version of the myth, the sun would either die and be reborn the next day in the east, or it would be carried back by a three-legged crow (sānzúwū 三足烏) or in a carriage driven by the sun goddess (Xīhé 羲和). In any case, these myths were already considered as being non-historical in the late Hàn.

It is interesting to note that the earliest versions of the myth mention ten suns, who would travel round the sky one after the other. This could be the origin of the ten heavenly stems.
One day, the ten suns all set out at once by mistake, threatening the burn the world. Hòuyì (后羿) the archer saved the day by shooting down all but one of the suns. Hòuyì is celebrated at the Mid-Autumn Festival, see p14 of TCE.


Generate Your Chinese City

All Chinese walled cities are built according to the grid diagram below. The white lines are avenues. The three horizontal and vertical central avenues connect the city gates. The yámen is always in square 5.

Standard map of an Imperial Chinese walled city

Roll 1D10 and 1D8 to place the other important city elements. If any one of the dice yields a result that has already appeared, re-roll. This means that 8 out of the 10 elements from the first table must end up shared between the eight outer city squares.

die - Element
1 - Audience hall
2 - Barracks
3 - Temple of agriculture
4 - Flowery business quarter (brothels)
5 - Temple of the City God
6 - Temple of Confucius
7 - Temple of ancestors
8 - Emperor Guān Temple (temple of the war god)
9 - City market
0 - Execution ground

die - Square
1 - 1
2 - 2
3 - 3
4 - 4
5 - 6
6 - 7
7 - 8
8 - 9

The GM needs to create a city. He uses the table in this post; he rolls 2D10 (0, 5): the city is called Wángchuān.
The city has a square grid as per the picture above.
The GM now rolls 1D10+1D8; results: 5, 3: The temple of the city god is located in square 3.
The GM rolls 1D10+1D8 again; results: 8, 7: The temple of the war god is located in square 8.

Now here is a fictional Chinese city map drawn by Robert van Gulik for his Judge Dee mystery stories. This one has the nice addition of having a river run through the city.

1. Tribunal
2. Temple of the City God
3. Temple of Confucius
4. Temple of the War God
5. Bell Tower
6. Drum Tower
7. Pagoda
8. Northern Row
9. Southern Row
10. Chien Mow's Mansion
11. General Ding's Mansion
12. Eternal Spring Wineshop
13. Hermitage of the Three Treasures
14. Mrs. Lee's House
15. Former Yoo Mansion
16. Yoo Kee's Mansion
17. Watergate
18. Execution Ground


Blogging from A to Z April Challenge (sort of)

Every year in April, several blogs participate to the A-Z April Alphabet Blogging Challenge, which consists in writing every day a post that starts with a letter of the alphabet, and in the order of the alphabet.
I have toyed with the idea of creating a 'Blogging from 一 to 龠 challenge' myself, but it would last ⅔year because of the sheer number (214) of Chinese radicals...

For those unfamiliar with the intricacies of the Chinese language, I will write a few words about sorting order in Chinese.

Chinese is not an alphabetic language, and the two native Chinese initiatives at alphabetising the language for ordering purposes, Zhùyīn fúhào and Pīnyīn, both date from the 20th century and are hence unknown in Imperial China — and thus in your Celestial Empire game.

So how did the Chinese order their documents, their books, etc. and the names within the books themselves, before the 20th century? There were two main systems in use.

The first system is aimed at ordering tomes, much like we do with 1, 2, 3... or I, II, III... This system is based on two sets of Chinese characters specifically designed for reckoning and called 'the ten heavenly stems and the twelve earthly branches' (gānzhī 干支). The ten heavenly stems used alone: 甲, 乙, 丙... are equivalent to our numbering method 1, 2, 3... but only enable to number up to 10 since there are only ten such characters. If the amount of items to be numbered is >10, then the ten heavenly stems and the twelve earthly branches are used in combination: 甲子, 乙丑, 丙寅... The first term combines the first heavenly stem with the first earthly branch; the second term combines the second heavenly stem with the second earthly branch; this continues, generating a total of 60 different terms (the least common multiple of 10 and 12), after which the cycle repeats itself. This sexagesimal cycle is closely related to the sexagenary cycle mentioned on p15 of TCE.

The second system is aimed at collation, much as we do when ordering names according to their first letter: Alice, Bob, Charlie... This system is based on the elements that constitute a Chinese character. I won't go into too much detail here, but it is sufficient to know that amongst the many elements that make up a Chinese characters, there is a unique one that is called its radical, e.g., the character 安 (ān, 'peace') is made up of two elements, 宀 and 女, the former being the radical. The radical 宀 is radical No.40 in the canonical order of radicals. So any word or name starting with the character 安 will find itself collated with any other words or names that start with a character having 宀 as its radical — thus after words or names starting with a character having a radical in the 1-39 range, and before any other words or names that start with a character having a radical in the 41-214 range.
Within the words or names starting with a character having 宀 as its radical, there is a further sub-ordering based on the number of strokes that make up the character: 安 is made up of the radical 宀 and of the element 女, written with three strokes. Thus words or names starting with 宊 (radical 宀 + an element made up of four strokes) would be listed after 安, whereas words or names starting with 宄 (radical 宀 + an element made up of two strokes) would be listed before 安.

Now you can start and use this post to devise language-based riddles and enigmas in your TCE games :)


Chinese-themed Dreamlands

I am a long time fan of HP Lovecraft's Dreamlands and, as is obvious if you are reading this blog, of all things Chinese.

There are many instances in Chinese literature and folk tales of men travelling to a kind of Chinese equivalent of the Dreamlands, which are usually portrayed as a place where the society of men is replaced by that of animals like ants or of mythological beings like dragons, but being in all other aspects very similar to Imperial China. Thus dragonfolk exhibit the same filial piety as the Chinese do, and the society of ants is governed by the same laws as that of the Chinese.

An extremely famous example is the Táng dynasty tale titled the Governor of the Southern Tributary State, in which a disappointed scholar and military man dreams up an entire lifetime of promotion, war, honour, marriage, family and demotion as the governor of the prosperous tributary state of Nánkē, only to suddenly wake up and slowly become aware that it was but a dream, and that a mere half-day has passed in the waking world. The startled man looks around himself, slowly readjusting to reality, and eventually noticing a large ants' nest. The man closely observes the ants' nets and is shocked at the realisation that it is in all aspects identical to the province of which he was the governor. Because of the popularity of this folk tale, the phrase "dream of Nánkē" has become synonymous in Chinese with "inanity of human ambition".

There are other similar tales, and they usually end with some moral teaching. As we can see, whereas Lord Dunsany's or HP Lovecraft's dream-tales are escapist in nature, the Chinese ones are edifying. Which doesn't mean we as players shouldn't enjoy dreamland adventuring in a Chinese setting :)