Kara-Tur is a continent on the world of Toril in the Forgotten Realms. It is east of Faerûn and seperated by steppes and the Great Wall of Stone. Kara-Tur ia an analog for East Asia. There are numerous nations in Kara-Tur, each based on a particular East Asian culture:
- Shou Lung (China)
- T'u Lung (Southern China; analog of various historical dissident states in China)
- Wa (Japan)
- Kozakura (Japan/Ryukyu Islands)
- Tabot (Tibet)
- Koryo (Korea)
- Ra-Khati (Nepal)
- Bawa (Philippines)
- Horse-Plains (Mongolia)
- Malatra (Indochina)
The vast human empire of Shou Lung is undoubtedly the most powerful nation on the face of Toril.. The empire was started by a simple peasant known as Nung Fu, who was invested with the Emblems of Authority by the semi-legendary Nine Travelers (although it was his great grandson that would be the first Emperor of the Li Dynasty). The Empire of Shou Lung is one of the earliest established Empire in Kara-Tur second only to the Empire of Wa. It has had six dynasties so far starting with Li Dynasty (Dynasty of Might), Ho Dynasty (Dynasty of Peace), Hai Dynasty (Dynasty of the Oceans), Kao Dynasty (The High Dynasty), La Dynasty (Wax Dynasty) and the Kuo Dynasty (Dynasty of the Nation). With an immense population, vast territory, and governed by an efficient and generally honest bureaucracy the Shou could, with a great deal of effort, come to completely dominate the planet. That they do not is due to cultural rather then military or economic factors. The Shou have been expansionists in the past, but the current emperor finds more pleasure in knowledge and culture then military conquest. This tendency has been reinforced by the recent Horde invasion, which devastated many of the northwestern provinces, decimated the armed forces, and left the upper ranks of the Mandarinate in a leaderless shambles. During this time, large number refugees fled to the Unapproachable East in Faerun and settled in the Thesk region. The nation is thus still recovering from the upheavals. So, while this nation controls the largest military fleet in Realmspace, those vessels are employed in a strictly defensive role, rooting out pirates and acting as a counter to the fleets of Wa and the Elves.
The official head of the government is the Celestial Emperor, but in practice everyday affairs of state are handled by the Chancellor, who executes the Emperor's decrees, oversees the bureaucracy and controls the information that reaches the emperor's ears. The current Emperor is Kai Tsao Shou Chin. The Wu Jen is the Emperor's official court wizard, who advises the Emperor's policies with divinations and deals with magical threats. The government is composed of eight ministries: State, War, Magic, Faith, Sea, Agriculture, Public Works and State Security. It is a meritocratic system; every year the Civil Service Examination holds examinations to test candidates for government jobs. The Shou have always had a strong trading relation with Faerun. In fact certain regions in Faerun make a living solely on the imports from Shou Lung and many merchants, settlers, and diplomats have come to Faerun in search of new opportunities in the West and set up the Shou Expatriate region. The people of Shou frown upon slave trade, and anybody found guilty is put to death.
The main criminal organization in the country is the Tsui Tong (analog for the Triad) which is given a certain degree of freedom to operate within the semi-independent port city of Kai Shan due to the aid and support they gave the Emperor during the Black Cycle which brought Shou Lung back from the brink of ruin. There are no Imperial troops stationed in Kai Shan, nor are there any magistrates or town guard. The city's reputation is its greatest defense, though the Shou fleet would certainly counter any attempts by outsiders to invade the city, as it is technically still a part of Shou Lung, and surrounded by other Imperial territories. It is rumored that the Tsui have contacts with the Chainmen (though selling Shou citizens to slavers would surely bring the wrath of the Emperor down on the city, if discovered), the Tenth Pit, and even the Zhentarim of Faerun.
The Shou practice mainly two types of religion, "The Path of Enlightenment" (analog for Confucianism) and "The Way of the Sword" (analog for Daoism). Majority of the people in Shou Lung practice The Path of Enlightenment where they worship the Celestial Emperor and the Nine Travelers and a whole host of lesser immortals called the Celestial Bureaucracy. Unlike the people of Faerun, devotion to single diety is rare in Shou Lung. The other religion usually referred to as simply "The Way" is more of a philosophy than a religion. It is a belief and a manner of looking at the world. It focuses on the enlightenment of the self rather than the worship of gods. Kana and her family are practitioners of "The Way".
Lying between Kara-Tur and Faerun is a Great Wall of stone. According to legend, a wu jen wizard was tasked by the emperor to find a way to keep the Tuigan hordes from raiding Shou Lung's northern provinces. The wu jen stole the Jade Mirror from the sea dragon Pao Hu Jen, whose body was thousands of kilometers long. The wu jen led the dragon on a chase along the border, and at a certain point stopped and held up the Jade Mirror to the dragon's eyes, which instantly turned him to stone. After his petrified body fell to the ground, the emperor had his engineers carve fortifications into it so that it could serve them as a defensive wall.
T'u Lung has been a separate state from Shou Lung since breaking away from its northern neighbor nearly three centuries ago. It used to be the southern part of the Shou Lung Empire. Since the establishment of the Lui Dynasty (the Green Dynasty) and the founding of the T'u Lung Empire, Shou Lung and T'u Lung have officially been at war, although the conflicts have ebbed and flowed, of course, but the provinces along their borders have become deserted and ruined from the endemic warfare. There is currently a truce between the two nations.
Composed of six provinces T'u Lung is everything Shou Lung could become but is not. The provinces are ruled by hereditary nobles who pay as little attention to the T'u Emperor as they can get away with (although the real power rests with Empress Dowager Wai Locunni Eio). Taxes go unpaid, free men are enslaved, and criminals left free. The government is corrupt on all levels, though in some rare districts a local magistrate may be somewhat honest and honorable. Poverty runs rampant throughout the nation. Unless forced to unite by some outside force (in the past this has most often been an invading Shou army) the nobles of T'u Lung fight incessently among themselves.
Many of the cities and towns are now in ruins, even those which have not been abandoned have many ruined buildings within their town limits. On the other hand, the nation's corrupt, ineffective government allows neogi, Chainmen, and pirate raids unheard of access. Only the random presence of powerful wu jen or shukenja in some of the smaller villages appear as potential dangers to raiders. The nation has a strong slave trade often capturing and selling Shou people to the Thayan Slavers in Faerun.
Emperor Kochi first claimed the island of Wa and started his empire when the Sacred Wand and the Moonlight Arrow, emblems of the Imperial office, were given to him by the Spirit of Wa. This was the first empire to be established in Kara-Tur. The island nation of Wa has much in common with Kozakura culturally, despite (or perhaps because of) the two nations' traditional rivalry but is mostly inhabited by non-human races such as the Hengeyokai. The Hengeyokai are humanoid animals which come in many forms such as rats, foxes, dogs and cats. Like Kozakura it is composed of a series of islands clustered around a large central island, Tsukishima. Over 80% of Wa is moutainous, the other 20% composes the strips of habitated land along the coasts. Wa is particularly cursed by nature, Typhoons and earthquakes are not uncommon, and many of Wa's volcanoes are still active.
Waan government is similar to that of Kozakura as well, there is an Emperor of the Jade Throne but his position is largely ceremonial, the real ruler of the nation is the Shogun, Matasuuri Nagahide. Unlike Kozakura, however, the Shogunate of Wa is strong and vital, in fact Wa is enjoying the longest period of peace of any nation in Kara-Tur. Peace has led to advancements in education and the arts, as well as a general increase in prosperity. The official religion of the country is a variation of The Path of Enlightenment. A rigid social system ensures domestic tranquility, distinct social classes are strictly adhered to, travel is monitored, and religion is regulated.
The nation is rather xenophobic and contact with foreign elements is forbidden. Foreign vessels are only allowed to dock at the port of Akkaido. Those who have adopted foreign customs and ways are oppressed, especially those who follow the imported Western deity, Chauntea. In fact, most officials will go out of their way to make life hard for foreigners while they stay there. The nations prosperity is limited to the upper classes, the peasants stagger under a dizzying array of obligations, rules, and taxes. Ironically though, Wa has a good trade relation with Shou Lung. Even though both nations were once at war with each other, the two are the closest allies in Kara-Tur. Anyone from Wa is granted Shou citizenship if they can prove they have Shou ancestry since many Shou soldiers remained in Wa and intermarried with the locals after the Omi War. In fact, the famous Grey Blossom mercenaries of Wa were started by the Shou soldiers who decided to stay in Wa.
Ronin and out of work bushido have caused many problems since the Shogun's adminstrative reforms reduced the numbers of the nobility and soldiery to more reasonable levels. The Shogun has been considering setting up a colony on Garden for the express purpose of reducing the number of trouble makers in his realm. Like Kozakura, the main criminal organization is the Yakuza.
The island kingdom of Kozakura was founded by Emperor Miki late into the Omi Wars when the land was not yet "discovered" by the Shou and Wa nations. The land of Kozakura is inhabited mostly by humans and Koropokkuru (dwarves) and full of beautiful mountains, thick forests and sparkling seas. The majority of the inhabitants live on the main island of Shinkoku, but there are nearly a thousand islands surrounding it. Because the Koropokkuru living in the the empire are often treated as lower class citizens and the memories of being subjugated by the humans during the forming of the empire is still alive in the Koropokkuru's memories, many of the Koropokkuru live along the coasts, deep in forests and the central mountains far from human settlements. Powerful samurai rule the land, in theory their power devolves from the Emperor. For many years this has been a purely symbolic office, however, the real power has rested in the hands of the Shogun, the military commander of the nation. The nation is currently undergoing a civil war and has not had much contact with outsiders. The official religion is called The Eight Million Gods (analog for Shinto), which involves worship of a host of nature deities including a sun goddess and the Emperor of Kozakura who is believed to have descended from divine ancestry. There is also another popular religion called "The Way of Enlightenment", which is a variation of the "Path of Enlightenment" that was brought over by Shou priests and the name also serves as a cheap shot at the other Shou religion "The Way". The main criminal organization is called the Yakuza.
The Tabot nation was formed during the "Year of Frost" when Ho Dynasty decreed that The Path of Enlightenment be the official and only religion in Shou Lung. Many monks and religious orders were persecuted in Shou Lung Empire and they fled to the mountains. The temple militias that fled there formed and alliance against the Shou and founded Tabot. The Shou attempted invasions well into the early Kai Dynasty but had little success due to the Crystalline Warriors of Ji that protected Tabot. Centuries later, the nobles of Tabot were overthorwn by a six year old boy called The High Lord of Oceans, and established Tabot's current government.
The Kingdom of Koryo holds power over the entire penisula of Choson. The empire has it origins in the Kingdom of Silla. When the King of Silla attempted to launch an attack on their hated enemies the Kozakurans (whom tried to invade them in the past), his fleet was destroyed by a tsunami, which allowed one of his generals, Wanang Sun to dethrone him. Under Sun, he was able to unit all the factions in Choson and establish the Koryo Empire.
The barbarians of the Horse-Plain has tried countless times to invade their neighbors, the Shou and T'u Lung and have been successful on a few accounts, but their victories were often short lived. Recently though, Tuigan tribes successfully breeched the Great Wall of Stone and devastated many of the northwestern provinces of the Shou Empire. During this invasion, many Shou refugees fled to Faerun and settled in the Thesk region of the Unapproachable East. The Horde tribes were eventually driven and much of the Shou military have been on high defense guarding against further invasions.
During the Hai Dynasty in Shou when Wa pirates raided the Celestial Sea and Shou coast lines, the Shou Emperor was convinced that the Wa warlords had something to do with it. He demanded that the warlords cease and desist and swear fealty to him. Offended, the Wa Emperor refused and gave no reply to the Shou. Seeing no end to the raids and attacks by the pirates, the Shou Emperor amassed a fleet of 100,000 ships and set an invasion for Wa. Hearing of the invasion, the Wa Emperor enlisted the aid of a scholar named Nobunaga who prepared Wa’s defenses and sent the ninja master Fukio to infiltrate Shou.
Shou quickly captured the northern and southern parts of Wa but the fortification of central Wa by Nobunaga proved stronger and central Wa avoided invasion. Many captured northern and southern Wa daimyos betrayed Nobunaga after their cities fell and aided the Shou generals.
The Shou Emperor, who was aboard the royal flagship, was assassinated by the ninja Fukio during a freak storm at sea that was conjured by Wa sorcerers. However Fukio was not able to escape and was killed by the Emperor’s wu jen Rourke. The Emblems of Authority were recovered by Rourke but he was slain upon returning to the imperial palace. With no heir, many of the most powerful Shou generals withdrew their troops and returned to Shou to fight for power leaving only a handful to continue the invasion on Wa and cutting off troops already stationed there from the mainland. The Shou leadership was thrown in despair and this period is known as the Black Cycle. With the greatly reduced number of troops, Wa was able to take back most of the provinces from Shou. Even though most Shou troops were driven back, they were never truly defeated and Wa was in a state of sporadic warfare. Some of the remaining Shou generals continued fighting with guerrilla tactics while others offered a truce to the Wa Emperor and were granted governorship over the territories they controlled and adopted Wa customs. When a new Shou Emperor returned and tried to reenlist his former generals, many of them realized that they would lose power under the new government and decided to side with the Wa throne instead. Even so, their resistance was futile since the remaining Wa daimyos were divided and suspicious of each other and the years of war had left Wa with no effective government. Shou soon took control of Wa.
When the first signs of division between the north and the south in Shou Lung appeared and threatened civil war along with the Horse-Barbarian invasion of the outlying provinces of Shou, the government turned most of their attention of the invading hordes. The remaining daimyos took advantage of this opportunity and under the united banner of Hidden Shogun Nitta Shogoro they were finally able to overthrow the Shou governors and destroyed many things of Shou culture in their land. With their forces split between putting down rebellions in the southern provinces, fighting the Horse-Barbarians and fighting the rebellions in Wa, the Shou conceded defeat and Wa was declared as an equal and independent state to Shou. The two countries quickly reconciled though and monuments of both emperors were built in each other's nation as a sign of friendship. Trade agreement was quickly established and ports opened to allow on trade between the two countries. The Grey Blossom regiment of Shou asked permission to remain in Wa since they had been stationed there for so long that they had gotten use to life there. The Shou and Wa Emperor granted them permission and they would become one of the most famous mercenary bands in Wa. People from Wa were granted Shou citizenship if they could prove they had some Shou ancestry. But in under less than 5 years, the petty Wa warlords turned on each other and the Wa government was split into factions yet again and plunged the island into 200 years of civil war before any type of stable government was established.
When the Shou Emperor was assassinated during the Omi War and there was no heir to the throne, the leadership of Shou fell into chaos. The southern provinces were marked by repeated invasions from southern barbarian tribes. Only a small number of cities that still had noble lords in power maintained any resemblance of order. The most famous of these noble families were the Yang and Wai clans, which would later play a big role in the Shou and T’u Lung civil war. The western lands also fell under the control of Copper Demons who ruled the land in a brutal fashion. A criminal family from Kai Shan eventually seized control of the city and became semi-independent. The family later supported an adventurer name Wo Mai, who claimed to be a descendant of the empire’s founder, in recovering the Emblems of Authority and was crowned the new Emperor and established the Kao Dynasty. Because of the criminal family’s aid to Wo Mai, the city of Kai Shan to this days retains it’s semi-independence and the family grew into what is known today as the Triad or Tsui Tong. Wo Mai and the Seven Heroes and Seven Nonmen soon set forth for the western regions and ended the reign of the Copper Demons. They also soon defeated the last of the barbarian tribes invading the southern regions and reestablished control. Also at this time, a secret organization called the Cult of the Black Panther were helping peasants that were displaced by the war between Imperial troops and the invading southern barbarians. After this it would be Wo Mai's son who would resume the invasion on Wa.
The civil war in Shou Lung the north ans the south had its seeds planted way back when the first Li Dynasty was established. During that time, a secret organization known as the known as the Cult of the Black Panther was at the zenith of their power and claimed that they were immortals who aided the Nine Travelers in ruling all of Kara-Tur when they were still humans. They claimed that they were rightful successors to the Nine Travelers, not Nung Fu. Because of their mystic powers, they gained more fear and reverence in the southern lands than the Shou Emperor. Led by the great General Wo Chan, Shou troops fought the Cult of the Black Panther in what would later be known as the Battle of Infinite Darkness, and managed to destroy their temple in Durkon and finally end the resistance in the southern lands and established control over the area. The leader of the Cult was never found.
During the Black Cycle, the southern area of Shou Lung (now the Empire of T’u Lung), was marked by repeated invasions from southern barbarian tribes. Only a small number of cities that still had feudal lords in power maintained and resemblance of order. The most powerful of these feudal families were the Yang and Wai clans. Also during this time the Cult of the Black Panther reappeared and were helping southern families that were displaced by the war between the Imperial Army and the invading Barbarian tribes. 300 years after the reconquest of Wa, trouble stirs in the southern lands as nobles begin to refuse to pay taxes to the Emperor and Horse Barbarians invaded the Silver Grasslands and conquered many outlying Shou provinces. Shou troops were sent to deal with the Horse-Barbarians and this distraction gave the Cult of the Black Panther enough room to operate. Shortly before the Wa declaration of independence, the southern lands were plagued with screaming spirits that killed many bureaucrats in what is now known as The Nights of Screaming Demons. It opened the way for southern nobles to quickly seize governance and soon many key military positions in the army were filled by people from the southern lands. In fact, within a short time, southern troops loyal to the nobles out numbered the northern troops loyal to the bureaucrats. When the southern barbarians again attempted to invade, the united Shou army made short work of the invading barbarians. After the death of the last Emperor of the Kao Dynasty, he was succeed by his cousin who was weak willed and established the La Dynasty which was easily infiltrated by the Cult of the Black Panther who secretly ruled and manipulated the government from within. The Yang and Wai clans soon led a revolt against the corrupt northern bureaucrats and quickly established a power base in the south. At this point the nobles of the south consider themselves separate from the bureaucrats of the north, but for appearance's sake claimed they were still loyal to the Emperor.
When two concubines of the last Emperor of the La Dynasty gave birth within hours of each other, he refused to name an heir knowing that if he did, his life would be in jeopardy. Years later he died before naming either of his sons as heir. The northern bureaucrats favored Shin Lu while the southern nobles favor Shin Gisen who was more malleable. War broke out between the north and the south. Shin Lu’s forces defeated Shin Gisen’s troops but were too weak to pursue. Shin Lu proclaimed himself the Emperor of Shou Lung and established the Kuo Dynasty. Shortly after Shin Ginsen proclaimed himself as the first emperor of the Lui Dynasty and established the T’u Lung Empire. In order to the repel the Shou troops Emperor Ginsen, with the support of the Wai and Yang clans, appealed to secret societies such as the Black Leopard Cult and granted them amnesty along with any other organizations that were considered illegal in Shou Lung. For the next 250 years, Shou and T’u waged what is called as the Uncountable Wars until both nations came to agree on a truce. Whether there were really uncountable wars between the two nations is up to debate. The T'u Lung claims there only a little over 70 invasion attempts but the Shou Lung refutes that claim saying it was much higher.
The Great Hunt
When Wa was planning to expand its territory, they sent an invasion fleet with 1,000 ships to Kozakura led by Hidegari Iegusa. They Wa fleet was able to capture the southern tip of Shinoku with little trouble but could not advance further because of Kazakuran fortifications. The borders of the captured territory were raided constantly by Kazakuran villagers. Both sides attempting to break the deadlock, the Kazakuran troops led by Honda no Mototsune launched a naval strike against the Wa ships and for days battles raged on the decks of 300 ships. In the end, Iegusa was killed and his army driven out of Shinoku. During this period, the non-humans in the captured areas rebelled against their Wa colonizers and established independence. They hunted down all Wa survivors and stragglers and exacted a violent revenge on them. They made it into a sport and this period eventually came to be known as the Great Hunt. When Motosune drove out the remaining Wa fleets, he tried to reestablish control in the southern areas. To his surprise, the people of the areas previously captured by the Wa forces refused to be reincorporated into the Kozakura Empire and insisted in being independent. Motosune massacred the village and reclaimed control over the southern areas.
- Several equiptments in the NWN2 have been stated as being imports from Kara-Tur.