Fantastic Interactive Map of China

I have serendipitously found an amazing interactive map of China that lets you superimpose a variety of indicators over a 'Google Maps' kind of map of China. The map is consistent with the boundaries of China as of the end of the 20th century (i.e., PRC + ROC) meaning that, except for some borderland areas, it covers pretty much any region that the GM may use as the setting of his or her Celestial Empire campaign game.

Just click here, remove the already-superimposed grid, and experiment with:
 - religious sites
 - minority place-names
 - mountain peaks and passes
 - historical places: Míng garrisons, Qīng courier stops and routes, Míng/Qīng postal stations, exam seats, sections of the Grand Canal, Táng prefectural & county capitals,
 - vegetation

Postal routes and courier stops in Qīng China
Edit 24/02/2016: the interactive map has moved here.


the Big Swords Society (Dàdāohuì 大刀會)

Period of Time
late Qīng

The Big Swords Society (a.k.a. Big Knives Society in English) is a network of traditional peasant self-defence militias, widespread in North China during the Qīng Dynasty, and noted for their reckless courage. Their members are drawn from small-holders and tenant farmers, who organise to defend villages against roaming bandits, warlords, and tax collectors. In spite of its apparent secular aims, the Big Swords Society has a religious foundation in Chinese folk religion; its Grand Masters claimed to make the members invulnerable to bullets by magic.

Much like the Elders' Society, the Big Swords Society becomes active against the foreigners' encroachment at the end of the Qīng. On 1 November 1897, members of the Big Swords Society attacked German Catholic missionaries in Shāndōng. In retaliation, the German East Asia Squadron caused mass destruction (burnt villages, etc.). This swayed the local members of the Big Swords Society even more into an anti-foreign mood, paving the way for the Boxer Uprising a few years later.

As described above, wealthy peasants with a penchant for sword-fighting and vigilantism.

- Must be sponsored by someone who is already a member of the Big Swords Society.
- Wealth level must be at least Affluent.
- A fighting skill in cold weapons of at least 65%.

- Allegiance in Chinese folk religion +10
- New skill: Knowledge (Group: Big Swords Society) at a starting value of 25+3D6% - Can be used to find shelter, recognise fellow members, etc., but it only works in the region where the character underwent his initiation, as the various branches of the Big Swords Society are quite independent of each other.

- Must take part in the defence of one's village


the Elders' Society (Gēlǎohuì 哥老會)

Period of Time
late Qīng

The Elders' Society is a loose network of mutual-support groups that draw their members from the notables of a given region. Geographically, the Elders' Society originated in Sìchuān and Dàlǐ, in reaction to the Tàipíng Rebellion (second half of the 19th century), then expended into the rest of China at the end of the 19th century. The aim of the Elders' Society groups is to maintain the traditional structure of rural society, and to fight off foreign influence, especially Manchu and Christian influence. The Elders' Society of a given area will 'protect' the local peasants by controlling the local Folk religion temples and the local village militia forces.
At the end of the Qīng, the Elders' Society engages in several uprisings across China, most notably in South China in 1870-1; in the 1890s, the Elders' Society fosters anti-Qīng and anti-foreign sentiment in the lower Yángzi region. The Gēlǎohuì organises abortive revolts in central China in 1900, 1904, and 1906.

As described above, despite its focus on the protection of peasants, the Elders' Society attracts wealthy landlords and prominent members of the local élite.

- Must be sponsored by someone who is already a member of the Elders' Society.
- The new member must qualify as a 'well-to-do person', either through his wealth, or through his profession, or through his status.
- A single Knowledge skill related with the region must be at least 60%.

- Help from fellow members: after his initiation, the new member is considered as kin to the other members.
- Connections in society, since most members of the Elders' Society are well-connected notables
- New skill: Knowledge (Group: Elders' Society) at a starting value of 25+3D6% - Can be used to find shelter, recognise fellow members, etc., but it only works in the region where the character underwent his initiation, as the various branches of the Elders' Society are quite independent of each other.

- Must help fellow members
- Must defer to the judgement of 'resident elders' (dāngjiā)
- Risk of death penalty if caught by government agents


Maitreya, Millenarianism & Mòfǎ in the RPG Review

Issue 19 of the RPG Review is out. The RPG Review is a free, downloadable Australian gaming magazine devoted to RPGs, be it reviews, gaming theory, adventure supplements, gaming aids, industry gossip... Each issue has a central theme. The latest was 'the Apocalypse'.

Míng-dynasty Maitreya

Why am I mentioning this on the blog of The Celestial Empire? Well, the reason is that issue 19 of the RPG Review features an article by yours truly titled Maitreya, Millenarianism & Mòfǎ (p42-43), which is actually an expansion of my original April A-Z Blogging M-letter entry. Enjoy!


Spanish-Language Review of The Celestial Empire

The Celestial Empire has received a lengthy review by RuneQuest aficionado 'Cronista' on his Mundos Inconclusos blog.

I find his review spot-on, especially with regards to the shortcomings of TCE. What I can add to the defence of The Celestial Empire is that this very blog exists to improve/clarify the material presented in the book.


Jade Boy

In Chinese folk religion, Jade Boys are divine servants of the Jade Emperor, acting as his ears and eyes in Heaven and on Earth, since the Emperor never leaves his heavenly palace.

A Jade Boy simply wills himself somewhere, and he is instantly transported to that place, unless some exceptionally strong magic prevents him from doing so. Since both the Orthodox and Heterodox Daoist traditions recognise the suzerainty of the Jade Emperor, and since a Buddhist would not interfere with the Jade Emperor's will, such magic must necessarily be of demonic or foreign origin (or both).

A Jade Boy can grant any wish, provided the Jade Emperor empowers him to do so. What usually happens is that, during an errand on Earth, a Jade Boy will meet a mortal in dire need of help. After having enquired about the needs of the person, and if he is moved by his or her plight, the Jade Boy will usually travel back to Heaven, wait for an audience with the Jade Emperor, and expose the person's problem and the solution he has thought of. If the Jade Emperor agrees to the solution, the Jade Boy is allowed to travel back to the petitioner and grant him or her a wish. Petitioners helped in this way are obviously always pure-hearted people with high an Allegiance score (>50) in one of the purely Chinese allegiances (Chinese folk religion, Daoism, Heterodoxy).