|Common Nicknames||Easterners, Moon people, Lunars|
|Distinctions||Eastern Multi-Race Form Collective|
|Maximum Age||120 years|
|Eye Colors||Varying per Dynasty|
|Hair Colors||Varying per Dynasty|
|Skin Tones||Varying per Dynasty|
Sihai (Wa’an Script:ŦĨ̀ĦŨ̌Ĩ̀ Wa’co Script:Ksai'en'ra'ie'en pronounced:Xaiun-raeeyen), often also called “Easterners” or “Chi” by those lesser-educated Regalians, are a collective of heritage-fused Races that hail from the mysterious lands of the Four Kingdoms, Dexai (Wa’an Script:ƕɞʪŨ̌Ĩ̀ Wa’co Script:Te'c'wa'ie'en pronounced:Tu-su-wa’yen). This homeland of the Sihai is seen as a world in and of itself in Aloria and has its own rich history; Dexai’s history spans thousands of years and runs in tandem, without seeking contact, with the history of the Allorn Empire. The Sihai, a race divided by numerous sub-races (defined as “Dynasties,” not to be confused with a historic dynasty) have only recently ventured into the world beyond their native homeland, driven by a combination of necessity, curiosity and lust for conquest. Fueled by the powers of the Aether and Naether, the Sihai employ arts that are strange and absolutely foreign to the rest of the Alorians, and they profess a culture that is just as unique as their arts. Shy but curious of foreign contact, the Sihai have trickled into the major states of Aloria proper, bringing with them strange mysteries and eastern wisdoms as they spread the word of the Loong Dragons, a quasi-religion fueled by the resurgence of Dragon and Void activity around the Regalian Empire.
- 1 Sihai Language and Script
- 2 Physical and Mental Characteristics
- 3 History
- 4 Society
- 5 Religion
- 6 Economy
- 7 Combat and Warfare
- 8 Trivia
Sihai Language and Script
The Sihai developed far away from the Allorn Empire - thus, as opposed to using the Elven Script that is present in most other races, the Sihai have their own alphabet (called the Wa’an Script). This script follows both the same 24 letter structure and grammar as Elven Script, but is difficult to translate as it assigns two to four letters per vowel or consonant, effectively creating an alphabet of syllables. In order to properly translate the Wa’an Script, Ailor scholars developed the Wa’Co Script, an artificial script made explicitly to adapt Wa’an Script into the Elven Alphabet. Despite this translation medium, the language and script remain incredibly difficult to learn for outsiders.
The best way to translate Sihai and Wa'co is by using the translator tool we provide: https://www.massivecraft.com/massivetranslate
Sihai Naming customs can be a bit strange to get familiar with for outsiders. Foremostly, it is important to understand that the Sihai always place their surname first when addressing others, themselves or just anyone. This is because a person is always “that family” or “that clan”, before they are individually identified. This comes from a long line of parental homage as well as pride in family traditions, meaning most members of a family consider themselves to be less individually important than the reputation of the family. That being said, there are Sihai who use their first name first, especially when in Regalian, in order to more effectively adapt to foreign customs. This tradition swap sometimes causes confusion both among the Sihai as well as westerners, as a universally-enforced standard only exists in the Sihai Empire, while in Regalia, for example, anything goes.
A Sihai clan name is usually short, sometimes no longer than 3 syllables. For example, the name “Atu,” which becomes “Ie’de’an” in Wa’co, is three syllables. Another example, “Appi” which becomes “Ie’bae’bae’en” in Wa’co, is four syllables. Names are never written in Wa’co. Names are frequently simplified so that referring to people both in-person and elsewhere becomes simpler. This simplification requires a bit of getting used to, because there is no single right way to go about it (and thus Sihai name pronunciation can change fluidly from person to person).
The first step to simplification is to remove the Wa’co apostrophes. The second step is just to make the name sound better by either removing consonants from the Wa’co syllables or shortening the vowel sounds. A list of examples:
- Atu in Wa’co Ie’de’an, is simplified to Iedean and then to I'd-en, pronounced as “ee’duh-uhn”.
- Appi in Wa’co Ie’bae’bae’en, is simplified to Iebaebaeen and then to I’bae-b’en, pronounced as “ee’bae’b-uhn”.
- Zalt in Wa’co Liang'ie'm'de, is simplified to Liangiemde, and then to Liang-i’de, pronounced as “Leeyang-ee’duh”.
- Koor in Wa’co Ge'ing'ing'nn, is simplified to Geingingnn, and then to Ging’ing, pronounced as “Djung-Uhn”.
- Re in Wa’co is Nn’c, simplified to Nnc, and then to Nunchi, pronounced as “Nun-chuh”.
First names are similar, but may either be extremely short and not need any simplification, or be really long and feature excessive amounts of simplification. What makes first names more complicated is that names can either be single syllables, or completely made up words in the Sihai language, as long as it phonetically makes sense to them. When a name has only a single syllable, a suffix is usually added to allow similarly named members of the same family to be differentiated. This is particularly useful because Sihai frequently name their children after their parents or venerated ancestors. Generally speaking however, Sihai names are made up of two syllables, while aristocratic Sihai prefer a longer name (but can also still use a shorter name for ease of use). As such a good list of first names is:
- Yqy’ing’an (simplified to Yquian)
- Yqy'ing'm'ing'fu'ing'nn (simplified to Yqing-fu)
- Bae'ie'm'm'ie (simplified to Bai’mie)
- Xx (lengthened to Xx-Riang, Riang meaning “adorable” or “cute” one)
- An (lengthened to An-Xia, Xia meaning “wise” or “elderly” one).
Generally speaking, creating a name for a Sihai character requires a bit of experimenting with the translator link we provided above. It is also not completely unheard of for Sihai to adopt an Ailor name in Regalia just to fit in or be easier to talk to. It is not super important that the names make absolute 100% sense according to the translator, rather, the translator should be used as a guideline, and the syllables taken and changed into whatever fits on your character name bar, and what you like. In the very worst case scenario, adopting actual Han Chinese names is acceptable, but should be avoided as much as possible, because barely any Han syllables are backwards compatible with Wa’co.
Physical and Mental Characteristics
The Sihai are a peculiar Race, as their physical states can shift (much like that of the Slizzar), but in a much, much more radical fashion. While all Sihai are born into a humanoid form resembling Ailor (with some alterations), they can freely move between other forms during periods of the lunar cycle. There are five official Sihai “Dynasties” (as these forms are called): the Ailor-like Common Dynasty, the Ailor-like War Dynasty, the bird-like Greater Dynasty, the ursine-like Frivolous Dynasty, and finally the canine-like New Dynasty. There is one unofficial sixth Dynasty, called the Dark Dynasty, but those who belong to this Dynasty don’t appear as it merely because of the lunar cycle. Rather, they were corrupted by the Naether forces to become twisted forms of any of the previous five official dynasties. Each Dynasty has a very distinct appearance, but underneath that appearance the personality and mentality of a Sihai remains largely the same. That being said, all of the Dynasty Forms do have a particular predisposition to a particular set of mannerisms and personality quirks, which manifest heavily in Sihai as they change forms. These instincts are not so strong that they can overrule a default personality, but are often strong enough to impart a small impact on their day-to-day behavior. These forms may also enhance already-present personality traits. Many Sihai stick to a single Dynasty form and never switch to another for the duration of their lives, while some others switch every month. No Sihai has to switch if they don’t want to, as the whole change is only prompted through a specific ritual. That being said, most Sihai tend to spend at least one month in a Dynasty Form before deciding that it isn’t for them. Sometimes, their personality resonates strongly with a particular Dynasty Form, and they retain this Form indefinitely, refusing to switch away, but others embrace the chaotic nature of constant changing and become a mixture of different traits and instincts. Below follows a list of the lunar phases and Dynasties:
- During a New Moon lunar phase, any Sihai that is not a Common Dynasty Sihai can become one during the lunar ritual. Common Dynasty Sihai have a personality change emphasizing logic and calm reasoning.
- During a First Quarter lunar phase, any Sihai that is not a War Dynasty Sihai can become one during the lunar ritual. War Dynasty Sihai have a personality change emphasizing ferocity, aggression and personal pride.
- During a Full Moon lunar phase, any Sihai that is not a Greater Dynasty Sihai can become one during the lunar ritual. Greater Dynasty Sihai have a personality change emphasizing caution, but also wittiness and mentorship.
- During a Last Quarter lunar phase, any Sihai that is not a Frivolous Dynasty Sihai can become one during the lunar ritual. Frivolous Dynasty Sihai have a personality change emphasizing affection and gregariousness, but also cowardice.
- During the final days of the Waning Crescent (just before the New Moon), any Sihai that is not a New Dynasty Sihai can become one during the lunar ritual. In the New Dynasty, there is no real personality instinct; Sihai of this Dynasty become a perfect reflection of their otherwise normal personality as a Common Dynasty Sihai.
- For ease of reference (and because lunar phases aren’t super consistent) we maintain the OOC understanding that New Moon is on the 1st of the month, First Quarter on the 7th, Full Moon on the 14th, Last Quarter on the 21st, and the final days of the Waning Crescent on the 26th or 27th. All Sihai children are always born on the 1st of the month, without fail. They are also always born as Common Dynasty, regardless of what form the parents were in either during conception or birthing. Sihai can reproduce with races outside of their own, but only while in the Common Dynasty form. Additionally, a Half-Sihai child born will not have any form-changing abilities, will take more after the non-Sihai parent, but will also inherit some trace physical features from the Common Dynasty. These features tend to disappear on the second generation.
While the physical characteristics of the Sihai race are varied depending on their Dynasty form, they all share a few common traits. First, a Sihai’s eye color, physical abnormalities, and bodily markings always remain consistent across all Dynasties. For example, a scar on a cheek will transfer across all forms, while tattoos will turn into fur patterns for the Frivolous and New Dynasties and colored feathers on the Greater Dynasty. Lost limbs and damaged body parts remain consistent, as do any diseases and afflictions (as Sihai can be affected by both Vampirism and Silvenism).
The Common Dynasty is a collection of the smaller historical Chi, Zen and Gai Dynasties which are all practically the same, thus referred to as the Common Dynasty. Note, it is thus possible to be of either Chi, Zen or Gai Dynasties, though there are no physical or mental differences between these Dynasties beyond cultural norms. As such, when identifying to foreigners or their own people, these Dynasty subspecies are simply referred to as the Common Dynasty. These Dynasties ruled the Sihai lands for the longest and are also the most numerous among the Sihai people, and are thus what many foreigners identify as a typical Sihai individual. The Common Dynasty Sihai are proportionally Ailor in build. They are, however, shorter than the Ailor, standing between 5 and a half feet to five feet and eight inches tall. Their skin tone is pale and somewhat yellowish in complexion, while their most notable physical trait is the epicanthic fold in their eyes (giving their eyes a more squinted appearance). The Common Dynasty always has black straight hair, minimal facial hair growth, and their eyes are shades of brown. Mentally, the Common Dynasties are considered intellectual and are stronger logical thinkers than most Humanoid races. They have a longer attention span and are excellent at working with numbers, but like Allar they have trouble grasping abstract thought. Those that favor the Common Dynasty as their main form are generally curious, scientific, and have a great love for rich culture.
The War Dynasty is a collection of the smaller historical Huai, Huon, and Zuge Dynasties, which have only small physical differences between them. The War Dynasty people look visually the same as the Common Dynasty with their black hair, brown eyes and epicanthic eye folds, though they have different bodily proportions. The War Dynasty Sihai grow taller than the Common Dynasty, and reach up to a little over six feet tall. The War Dynasty appear universally more masculine; even the females, who can look intimidating and aggressive - all of which are temperaments that carry on in their personalities. Additionally, each of the three War Dynasties also has a special trait associated with them. The Huai Dynasty Sihai have a long, prehensile, monkey-like tail longer than the length of their legs. The Huon Dynasty Sihai have a similarly prehensile tail, though theirs is thicker, covered in lizard scales and range from gray to green in color. Finally, the Zuge Dynasty has no tail, but has far more aggressive facial hair and body hair presence than is normal for either War or Common Dynasties. Despite these small differences in appearance, the War Dynasties are all still just classified as a single War Dynasty because they also share numerous traits. All of them have a skin tone variation that ranges from the common yellowish pink that the Common Dynasties have, to skin tones more frequently seen among the Qadir and even the lighter skinned Songaskia, while their hair color is always black. Those that favor the form of the War Dynasties as their main form have a jovial and excitable, but also aggressive temperament prone to violence. They frequently end up in fights and wish to outcompete one another, but also dominate the other Sihai Dynasties which they see as physically inferior.
The Frivolous (Guo) Dynasty is sometimes called the Fat Dynasty, which is an insult borrowed from their short and uneventful rule over the Four Kingdoms. The Frivolous Dynasty, also referred to as the Guo Dynasty, have a humanoid bodies that are somewhat chubby - not necessarily because of large amounts of fat (though they tend to pack on fat very, very easily, which is a hazard for those spending too much time in this form) but rather because their body is covered in a thick carpet of red or orange fur. Their arms, hands, legs, and padded feet have a dark brown or black fur color, and their backs have rust-brown stripes. Their most curious visual feature is the fact that their head has a very bear-cat like appearance, with a short whiskered snout covered in patches of white fur, fluffy, pointy white ears, and two dark-brown stripes running from their brown eyes to their chin. The Guo Sihai furthermore have a very fluffy and extremely soft, silky tail about the length of their back, which has a slightly lighter fur color than the rest of their body, but also with deep rust-brown stripes that span from their back and across their tail. The Guo Sihai are practically always chubby and have a wide variety of heights. Those who favor the Frivolous Dynasty form tend to be somewhat cowardly and strive to avoid confrontation and conflict. They revel in games, rich food, drinking competitions and general fun and debauchery. They are a carefree kind which generally just want to make others (and, by extension, themselves) happier. They have a similar predisposition to intellect that the Common Dynasties have, but avert this capacity more to cultural arts and proficiency. Generally speaking, for a Guo, the more someone else relies on a Guo or puts expectations on them, the more likely the Guo is to procrastinate and become uncomfortable. Guo prefer to do their own thing at their own pace and do not tolerate meddling or others telling them how to live.
The Greater Dynasty, is also referred to as the Lova Dynasty or the Scribe Dynasty. The Lova are covered from head to toe in a plumage of feathers, colored either white or beige (with diverse patterns of lighter or darker brown or black spots). Their head is not like that of a Human, but rather that of an Owl with a beak, set with two dark brown, owl-like eyes. The Lova don’t have wings like actual owls (though their arms have many more feathers than the rest of their body and can thus give off the impression of being wing-like, as their hands are hidden under a thick layer of fluff). Their feet, while having the same yellow, scaly texture as avian legs, have a human shape. Those that favor the Greater Dynasty form tend to be the most reclusive of the Sihai and distrust outsiders - they are the reason why the Four Kingdoms remain closed to the outside world. Furthermore, the Lova Dynasty Sihai have perfect recall memory, meaning that from the moment they are in this form, they are able to remember everything in extreme fine detail, down to the dates, colors, smells, shapes and position of the sun, the moon, and the stars (though this ability disappears when they switch to another Dynasty). Those that favor this Dynasty tend to be more artistic, classy and elegant, yet also are very skittish and anxious of social contact, preferring the close proximity of a paint brush or book over strangers. This Dynasty is referred to as the Greater Dynasty because of the great leaps of knowledge and historical writing the Sihai gained from it, a period which was generally seen as a golden age.
The New Dynasty, or the Htai Dynasty, is the youngest Dynasty of the Sihai and the third animal-like Dynasty. The Htai Sihai can best be described as a furred combination between marsupials and canines. Their Body Build is agile and strong and their body covered in fur patterned with earthy or gray-tone colors. They have softer, lighter colors on their abdomens and thighs. They universally have horizontal black stripes on their backs that continue down their legs to their padded feet and across their tail, which dangles a little past their knees. Their head appears like that of a canine; either that of a Thylacine, a Gray Wolf, a Fennec fox, or a mixture. They have pointy ears and a variety of dark-patterned stripes in their faces. Some Female Htai Sihai may develop abdominal pouches of skin when they have given birth to infants, which are capable of carrying their infants around - they usually retract when their children become old enough to walk on their own or when they switch Dynasty. Those who favor this Dynasty as their main form tend to be more kind and forgiving, often to a fault, but their personalities are much more flexible than all other Sihai Dynasties; they can range from doglike and docile to passionate and aggressive depending on their development in their lives. While they have claws and canines sharper than that of any other Dynasty, many of them would be the last to use them; they would much rather make friends with anyone, but they can have a temper. Unlike the Guo, New Sihai like making friends for the sake of making friends but keep most of them at an arm’s length unless the relationship is particularly deep. Those who favor this Dynasty as their main form can however be very passionate about protecting others or their loved ones, and may as such adopt some stances of the War Sihai.
The Dark Dynasty is not officially a Sihai Dynasty, as they have no historical date by which they ruled. Instead, the Dark Dynasty are Sihai from any of the other Dynasties, but have fallen under the influence of the Naether Corruption that bleeds from the South Well like a gaping wound. The Dark Sihai are considered lost by the other Sihai and behave more like rabid animals intent on killing or infecting all other Sihai regardless of their Dynasty. The Dark Dynasty Sihai can be recognized by their skins covered in black-tar like scales, empty eye sockets and complete lack of any body hair, nails or capacity for speech. In many ways, they appear as emaciated, charred burn victims. They are docile during the day and crawl around during the night, feasting on anything alive. The Dark Dynasty are the greatest threat to the Sihai in the Four Kingdoms. but are also an ongoing fascination of the Lova Dynasty (who are actively attempting to find ways to reverse the Naether Corruption in the Dark Dynasty’s bodies).
Note: Dark Dynasty Sihai are not a playable Race, they are more like a zombified corrupted person, and are only subject to Progressions.
Early Kingdoms Period
Early Sihai history remains somewhat of a mystery, largely due to the non-existence of the Wa’an Script until the first Chi Dynasty. Historians believe the history of the Sihai people starts somewhere in 5000 BC, which in Sihai dating is roughly 200 AC (the Sihai abbreviation is for “After Creation,” not to be confused with the common Regalian historical term After Cataclysm). Sihai legend maintains that the Loong Dragons created the Sihai, gave them life and purpose, and planned the original structures of their society. The myth suggests the Loong taught the original Sihai their language, suggested they look up at the stars and the moon for guidance, and also guided the construction of the various dragon temples. In the earliest days of the Early Kingdoms Period, the Sihai were a singular race with no Dynasty Forms. All Sihai were of the Common Dynasty and the whole Race’s culture was consistent across the various kingdoms of their civilization. These kingdoms were the Ta’anku Kingdom in the south (commonly shortened to the Tan Kingdom), the Xx’en Kingdom in the north (commonly shortened to the Xxen Kingdom and pronounced as “Shen”), the Ge-ie’mie-en Kingdom in the east (commonly shortened to the Germien Kingdom and pronounced as Yurmee-yen), and the Ra'ie'm'ie'en Kingdom in the west (commonly shortened to the Ramien Kingdom and pronounced as Ramee-yen).
These Four Kingdoms formed the basis of the Sihai world, referred to as Xx'ie'm'de'ing'ing and pronounced as “Shur-ding-ung,” and kingdoms were all independent of one another. Each had their own ruling dynasties throughout the Early Kingdoms Period, none of which are particularly remembered through time. It is said that during the Early Kingdoms Period, life was hard but also very peaceful and simple. Later Dynasty eras often looked back favorably on the Early Kingdoms Period as a time when life was more in tune with the Loong Dragons and without court politics playing a role in everyday society. The Early Kingdoms Period would last roughly 800 years until around 4200 BC (or, in Sihai dating, 1000 After Creation). The event that occurred before the end of the Early Kingdoms Period is called the Xx’an’ha (pronounced as “Shan’hur”) in which it is said that the Loong Dragons came forth from the Temples to aid the people. All over the land, blackened creatures appeared and attacked the living, and the peaceful, pacifist Sihai had not developed any means for warfare or self defence over the centuries, given that the Loong Dragons always prevented any conflict.
During the Xx’an’ha, the Loong Dragons blessed the Sihai people with the first Dynasty Form - the War Dynasty - to give the Sihai a fighting chance against the “blackened creatures” (of which there is no further description than just the name). With the lunar phase allowing the more diminutive Common Dynasty to become the War Dynasty, and with the knowledge of weapons granted by the Loong Dragons, the Sihai were able to repel the strange creatures from their land. The blessing of the Loong however, came at a cost. The introduction of warfare, martial skill, and death in Sihai lands caused a fundamental shift in attitude among some of the Sihai. Many of those Sihai who lunar shifted to the War Dynasty Form retained this form and proposed that conflict was a good way to expand their local Kingdoms. While previously the Kingdoms were independent but united against a common invading force of evil, now these Kingdoms were equipped with the military means and the know-how to fight each other in the absence of a common foe. The Loong Dragons, unable to bring battle against their own creation, returned to slumber in the Dragon Temples leaving the Sihai to their fate.
In the closing of the Early Kingdoms Period in the year 4174 BC, the wars between the Kingdoms reached a boiling point with the king of the Xxen kingdom conquering all the other kingdoms and unifying the Sihai lands into the Ksai'en'ra'ie'en (pronounced as Ksai’unra’ee-yen) Empire, founding the first Huai Dynasty.
Huai Empire Period
The Huai Empire Period was extremely short lived in comparison to the other Dynasties that followed. Emperor Huai D’iem was the unifier of the Sihai lands, but died several years after taking the Loong Throne (as the official seat of Imperial rule would later be called). He was succeeded by his son Huai Ging-bae, who was murdered in less than a year later by his uncle Huai An’ring. The chaos of succession among the Huai Dynasty left little in terms of societal progress, and in general the Empire started regressing. The Loong remained silent, and as such, it was that the disgruntled army leaders under the leadership of general Huon Jae’i-ming started a rebellion from the south. The Huai Empire Period came to a crashing end a mere 5 years after the closing of the Early Kingdoms Period in 4169 BC, though scholars still classify this period as the earliest War Dynasty era, because it was considerably important for the future formation of the Sihai Empire.
Following the collapse of the Sihai Empire of the Huai Dynasty and the beginning of the Huon Rebellions, the Sihai lands descended into utter chaos. Commoner rebellions occurred all across the lands and numerous War Dynasty army leaders staked their own claim to form their own kingdoms in some valley or mountain retreat. In the end, the Huai Empire shattered into no less than two dozen different small kingdoms; orders between the realms constantly shifted, while the only really stable realm that existed for a longer period of time was the Huon Dynasty claimant to the Sihai Empire. Huon Jae’i-ming was able to conquer most of the southern Tan Kingdom of the former Sihai Empire and re-proclaimed the Empire’s formation. That being said, he never truly conquered any of the other Four Kingdoms, leading the Tan Kingdom formed Sihai Empire to be a sizeable claimant to the Loong Throne at best.
The lands beyond the Tan Kingdom were considered wastelands, and bandits, rogue armies and other criminal elements tyrannically ruled over the Common Dynasty locals. Huon Jae’i-ming tried numerous times to invade the lands of the bordering Kingdoms, but was repeatedly repulsed, sent back into the Tan Kingdom with losses far surpassing original expectations, or was otherwise unable to hold conquered territory for long. He eventually died of natural causes in 4139 BC, with his youngest son Huon Ing’de’ing succeeding to the claim of the Loong Throne. Huon Ing’de’ing was the first in a line of relatively incompetent and tyrannical Emperor-claimants. They would eventually lose control of the Tan Kingdom to the scheming of court advisors, all of whom were Common Dynasty Sihai.
After several generations, in 4011 BC, the Common Dynasty advisors at court managed to outplay the Imperial Guard and War Dynasty generals by secluding the last Huon Emperor-claimant to the deep inner court where none but his closest trusted advisors could reach him. It has been long claimed that the last of the Huon Dynasty, Huon Su-unn-cha, died almost a decade before the end of the Huon Dynasty was announced, though another version recalls how Huon Su-unn-cha’s son Huon Pu’chen was placed on the throne as a five year old puppet Emperor. The schemes of the Common Dynasty Sihai (which in present times are commonly seen as a benevolent end the chaos in the Sihai lands) would eventually bear fruit; they eliminated several major warlords across the Four Kingdoms through guided rebellions of the lesser-physically capable Common Dynasty against their War Dynasty tyrants, by using their vastly outnumbered forces to crush War Dynasty opposition to their rise. The end of the Huon Rebellions Period was officially announced in 3990 BC, when the last Emperor was proclaimed dead, and Chi Liang-ra, one of the original conspirators who outplayed the War Dynasties, ascended to the throne.
Under the rule of Chi Liang-ra, the Sihai Empire made a recovery. Many of the War Dynasty forces along with the repressed Common Dynasty forces welcomed the rule of law and sensibility back into the Empire, joining the Tan Kingdom’s forces often out of free will and not resisting their invasion. The Sihai Empire was formally re-united in 3980 BC with Emperor Chi Liang-ra officially taking back the Loong Throne and no longer being classified as a pretender. Under the closing years of Chi Liang-ra’s rule, much of the Empire’s damaged infrastructure was replaced and repaired and life slowly started returning to normal. By the time Chi Liang-ra died in 3964, he was celebrated as the best Sihai Emperor of all time, and would even later be regarded as one of the more praiseworthy Emperors who lived to serve the people and provided safety and stability by keeping the War Dynasties in check and the Common Dynasties happy.
His successors, unlike the Huon and Huai Dynasties, were equally moved by the plight of the common people by virtue of institutionalized court culture, and a sense of safety, security and benevolent rulership returned to the Empire. The Loong Dragons awoke from their slumber once more when chaos abaded, to uproarious celebration, and continued to guide the people in matters of art and culture. It was during the timespan between 3900 and 3600 BC that the Chi Dynasty saw a renaissance in music and art, and the government itself acted as patron to the new architects of Sihai society and culture. The Loong Throne was moved to the capital which sat in the center of the four Kingdoms, creating an Imperial district out of land ceded equally by all four Kingdoms. This city was called Da’rann, and the first Imperial Palace was built there in the old Kingdom style.
The Chi Dynasty ended in the most peaceful manner, in comparison to all other Dynasties that would invariably end because of chaos or violence. In 3524, the last Chi Dynasty Emperor Chi Lu’iem died peacefully in his sleep, never having sired any daughters or sons to succeed the throne. With the direct lineage dead, the throne passed to an extremely distant relative called Zen En’man who would go on to found the Zen Dynasty. By far the crowning memory of the Chi Dynasty was the development of the Wa’an Script and essentially giving the Sihai literacy, something that would be very important to their race in the millennia following.
The Zen Dynasty was founded by Zen En’man and was a peaceful continuation of Chi dynasty policy. During the Zen Dynasty, Sihai culture flourished with the beginnings of early pottery and sculpture. The old Chi Architecture era of style was quickly revised during the Zen Dynasty, with the development of the traditional curved roofs and wooden lattice construction. Zen En’man was succeeded by his son Zen Bae’ing’d’ing who built the Seven Great Roads of Xxan’deryen, greatly expanding the infrastructure of the Sihai Empire, connecting all the regional capitals with the government seat at the Loong Throne, and establishing roads to the slumbering Loong Temples that were nestled in the mountains of each of the Four Kingdoms.
Zen Bae’ing’d’ing was succeeded by Zen See’yi and his three younger brothers, all in rapid succession due to an outbreak of plague in the capital during the 3500-3474 BC period, which severely decimated the capital’s population. During the succession of Zen De’anyqy, the policy of the Rotating Heavens was established. Under the policy of the Rotating Heavens, the calendar year was divided into four different seasons along the Sihai Calendar (which is the same as the Ailor Calendar, except that the new year falls instead on the summer solstice). During lunar phases, the Imperial Court of the Sihai Empire would move from the capital along the Seven Great Roads to the outer palaces: large complexes, one built for each of the Four Kingdoms. They would then observe the Dynasty Form shifts among the court away from the capital. Naturally, because of the large processions of the Imperial Court moving practically every week, this policy would prove to be extremely expensive.
It was another Zen Dynasty successor Zen En-ding who would outlaw the War Dynasty Shift in 2781 BC. During this period, the War Dynasty Sihai were declared barbarians and rebels to the crown if they refused to shift back to the Common Sihai Dynasty upon the next lunar phase. All across the Sihai Empire, pogroms were held against the War Dynasty Sihai, who could easily be distinguished because of their larger than normal features. Many of them went underground, retreating to cave systems in the northern mountains, and some even used the Loong Temples as a neutral ground to escape persecution. It was during the rule of the last Zen Emperors that War Dynasty Sihai were outlawed across the Empire, resulting in a sizeable rebellion movement eventually forming in 2511 BC. Under the leadership of one De’en Fei, a massive plan was hatched to exact revenge on the Imperial Family.
It was thus a few years later in 2505 BC, that the War Dynasty Sihai enacted their revenge on the ruling family. During one of the cycles of the Rotating Heavens, the War Dynasty Sihai fell on the exposed Imperial procession on its way to the Southern Kingdom, murdering the entire Imperial Court. Further coordinated attacks against aristocratic families and regional governors across the Sihai Empire quickly annihilated the very upper classes of the Empire, throwing it into absolute turmoil as inept governors and local rulers tried to control the situation and reassert government authority. The unprepared Common Dynasty Sihai security forces were completely incapable of handling the situation.
It was due to the timely grace of the Loong Dragons, who awoke prophetically from their slumber, that absolute disaster was averted among the Sihai. A powerful priest caste preacher by the name of Guo Ra’en-ming spearheaded a large effort to convince the Loong Dragons of the goodness of the Common Sihai and the evilness of the War Dynasty Sihai. He would further champion a cause for an even more aggressively peaceful Sihai society, which the Loong Dragons, swayed by Guo’s argument, eventually committed to under partial pressure of so many worshipers flocking to Guo’s designs. Much like the Loong had granted the Sihai the War Dynasty to fight a foe that would destroy them from without, the Loong now granted the Sihai the Frivolous Dynasty to fight the competition and mental anguish that could destroy them from within. All the War Dynasty Sihai in the land were transformed into Frivolous Dynasty Sihai against their will and confined to this form for the rest of their lives by the Loong Dragons, while Guo and his closest supporters were also made Frivolous Dynasty Sihai and the new de-facto ruling classes of the Imperial Court.
The Guo Dynasty thus started on the notion that the Sihai wanted to forget the past and live in a state of tranquil happiness. The War Dynasty brought trouble wherever they went, and the Loong had given them a solution to end the bloodshed and forget their wrongdoings. Under the leadership of the Guo Dynasty, the Imperial Palace became ever more secluded, undoing the Rotating Heavens policy and neglecting the Seven Great Roads as Sihai society became lazy and more sedentary. Agricultural produce boomed during this era, resulting in an over-abundance of food and a huge population growth as a result of corresponding debauchery. New Sihai ales were developed and Sihai Cuisine reached its height, with each town hosting some sort of grand feast before the end of the week to celebrate the tranquil state of their society without the War Dynasty Sihai.
As time went by however, the Guo Dynasty would regress in terms of civil advancement. Much of the Zen and Chi developments in literature and architecture came to a halt, these arts ignored in favor of brewing and music and stage play. The Imperial Palace and the Loong Throne became dilapidated. Libraries built by the first Chi Emperors collapsed and the general lack of progress in society worried the Loong Dragons who continued to spectate from atop their mountain temples. Eventually they came to a consensus that Sihai society was becoming undeserving of the Loong Throne, like wayward children. Sihai society was turning into a self-pleasing rabble of self-pleasing sycophants who refused to do anything but party ravenously and postpone their problems perpetually.
The Loong Dragons made a rare one-time intervention, raising one of the few Common Sihai scholars that did raise concerns about the regression of Sihai society to become the new Emperor, forcing the last Guo Emperor to abdicate in 2111 BC; the cowardly Guo Emperor fittingly did so immediately, afraid of retribution from the Loong Dragons. With Lova Bae’c-pei-pei becoming the first Lova Dynasty Empress, the Loong Dragons reverted their pro-Frivolous Dynasty policy, creating the fourth Dynasty Form, that of the bird-like Greater dynasty. The Imperial court was flushed of the Frivolous Dynasty Sihai, replacing all their vacant positions (quite notably with a huge number of women in comparison to men who had previously controlled the court) with Greater Dynasty Sihai, who would usher in a golden age of philosophy and reason for the Sihai people.
With the rule of Lova Bae’c-pei-pei, the Imperial Court and all official state apparatusses were quickly and extremely efficiently restored to their former glory. It was Empress Lova Bae’c-pei-pei who also nullified the laws barring the existence of War Dynasty Sihai, believing in an ethical and more balanced approach to governing. She developed the new rotations of heaven policy, believing that true balance did not come from gratifying the nationalistic tendencies of the Sihai from the Four Kingdoms, but rather would come from gratifying the balance of Dynasty Forms in society. Indeed, in the decades following her decision, the rise of War Dynasty Sihai given a proper place in society calmed a lot of the tensions, and created a harmony in society where each of the Dynasties could fulfill the role they excelled at. The Common Dynasty tended the Empire’s structure, the War Dynasty preserved law and order, the Frivolous Dynasty provided for the people’s happiness, while the Greater Dynasty ruled all from above.
Lova Bae’c-pei-pei oversaw the great Winged Academy of Sihai Learning that would create educational lodges all over the Four Kingdoms. She founded the Ministries of the Loong, where Greater Dynasty Sihai worked tirelessly to proactively invent new governance mechanisms for the Empire. Two of these mechanisms, the Ministry for Literature and the Ministry for Agriculture, expanded the wealth of culture and food produce in the Empire by leaps and bounds. The great Chi Dynasty libraries were repaired and filled with thousands of volumes - not only of day-to-day life, but also great political works and ideological treatises. Philosophy became a major pastime for both the Common and Greater Dynasties, while the War and Frivolous Dynasties were content with their roles and lots in life - the acts of entertainment made the War Dynasties less aggressive, and the mutual protection provided made the Frivolous Dynasty Sihai feel more safe. It was this era under the rule of the Lova Dynasty that is generally considered to be the Golden Age of Sihai history, in which all were at harmony and peace with one another.
With peace would eventually come contentment, and with contentment would eventually come complacency. Complacency would eventually result in a weakness that allowed the War Dynasty to gain the upperhand. Being inherently cowardly, the Lova were unable to contain the War Dynasty’s ambitions, while the Common Dynasties were too absorbed with their recordkeeping and retrospection to look further into the future. It was during the latter 9th century before Cataclysm that the so called Warlord Era would start, in which the War Dynasty generals started aggressively playing court politics in local provinces. The Lova Empresses and Emperors remained on the throne for a longer period of time, and were respected and well loved, but often had no actual control over the soldiers or the generals and became nominal figure heads of cultural movements.
The Warlord era saw the increase of crime and graft even among the Common Dynasties. It is commonly believed they were coerced into engaging in state-wide corruption, but it is more closer to the truth that not every downfall of Sihai morals could be blamed on the War Dynasties; the Common Dynasties had plenty of vices of their own that emerged as soon as the Loong Dragons were no longer present to enforce societal virtues. With the decrease of religiosity - largely because no Loong Dragon had awoken for nearly 500 years to dispense wisdom - the general majority of the population even stopped believing in them as anything other than myth and legend. The priestly caste were appalled, but powerless to stop the coming Interlude Era.
The Interlude Era is commonly perceived as the time frame between 900 BC and 600 BC in which there was no effective Imperial authority. While the Loong Throne was never empty, it was often occupied by a puppet or child Emperor or Empress from the Lova Dynasty. The Imperial court was flushed and replaced with a nearly-exclusively War Dynasty force, and generals started behaving like local lords. It is true that some lords remained very loyal to the crown, like generals Yai Te'ing'm and Ma See'ie. These two generals in particular fought a long and bloody campaign against the tyrant Zuge Te'ing'ha'ku, shortened to Zuge Tegu.
Zuge Tegu led a massive army that occupied the capital and started issuing Imperial edicts as if the Zuge clan ruled the Empire. It was the Yai and Ma clans that fought to restore the rightful Lova Imperial control, but perhaps they too realized that the rule of the Lova Dynasty was coming to an end. The temples were all but abandoned, books and scrolls from the great libraries were being burned for telling the wrong version of history on the crimes of the War Dynasties, and Sihai of their kind aggressively fostered a policy of trying to correct public opinion of them as the rightful rulers of the land rather than the ones who repeatedly tore it apart. The Yai clan and Ma clan were defeated at the battle Ranmieng, where the Zuge clan led a decisive victory over the coalition forces trying to push them out of the capital. With all opposition gone, Zuge Tegu proclaimed himself Emperor, discarding and executing the last royal Lova Dynasty members, and establishing his clan’s tyrannical dynasty.
If the Lova Dynasty was considered the most peaceful and glory era of the Sihai, the Zuge Dynasty’s rule can be considered one of the most damning and darkest chapters of Sihai history. Greater Dynasty Sihai across the land were outlawed, hunted by the War Dynasties for sport and using the Lunar cycle to become Greater Dynasty had also become outlawed on the punishment of death. In fact, War Dynasty soldiers were stationed in most cities and towns to observe an active curfew, but in an inverted manner. Instead of forcing the members of the public to stay at home during the hours of the moon’s presence, they were all forced to stand in the street during the night, to show their faces and make it impossible for them to perform the ritual needed to be of the Greater Dynasty. It is an often ignored fact that the War Dynasty could only perform these acts due to the collaboration of the Common Dynasties and the woeful ignorance of the Frivolous Dynasty, who were frequently on the receiving end of ridicule and mistreatment as barely part of their society.
Zuge Tegu was a vile Emperor who lived far beyond his life expectation. It is later claimed that in his enduring quest for immortality and permanent rule, he consorted with dark forces and called forth a disease of undeath onto the Imperial Sihai Court, turning all the courtiers into zombies and himself into their undead Emperor. While these rumors could never be verified because he never left the Imperial Quarters, supposedly his rule lasted from 600 BC until well into 300 BC. The event that would lead to the end of the rule of the Zuge clan however, was a relatively unexpected court administrator who somehow convinced many of the officers under Zuge leadership to rebel against their ruler. It is more commonly believed in modern times that this was an inevitability, because the tyranny of the Zuge clan also extended onto the other clans of the War Dynasties, and they nominally only went along with it out of fear for reprisals. The bureaucrat who overthrew Zuge’s rule came from the Gai family, named Gai Xx'ie'en'ku'ie, usually shortened to Gai Xxie.
Gai Xxie’s rule was a very strange period for the Sihai and lasted from around 300 BC until around 200 BC, with the latter few decades seeing Xxie’s replacement by his youngest son Xx’en. During this period, the Sihai collectively attempted to purge from history the misery of the Zuge clan’s rule and pretend that its events did not happen. This often caused strange rituals where, for example, someone who had been isolated from ongoing events at court would arrive and try to understand what had occurred, only to be told that they were likely feeling ill and needed some herbal tea to feel better. This showcased the great predisposition for Sihai to try and forget about their problems rather than face them. This inner emptiness with regards to societal reconciliation however did have a positive outcome: the Loong temples were once more filled with the faithful calling on the Loong for guidance.
With these terrible memories fresh on the mind, the people clamored for spiritual guidance - this guidance would eventually come in the form of the Yellow Peace movement led by Liang’an Ku’c, who was at first a small-time preacher but eventually came to reach near-epic cult status among the faithful who came to the Loong Temples almost daily. Ku’c did not preach against the Gai Dynasty rule, or against any of the particular Dynasties. Rather, he preached for the need of full harmony in light of the Lunar Cycle. He preached that, because the Lunar Cycle was not yet complete or whole. He reasoned that while there wasn’t a fifth Dynasty that would make the Lunar Phases in harmony, society could also not be in harmony. This caused the people to call upon the moon and the Loong to guide them into true harmony and for the first time in centuries of absence. The Loong Dragons, called upon for the first time in centuries, awoke and traveled the land hearing the prayers of the people as they swam through the clouds like a procession of the gods.
It was eventually that they blessed the Sihai people with the final Lunar Cycle, that of the canine New Dynasty. It was here that the Loong finalized all the Dynasties in one, the capacity for intellect and studiousness, but also frivolity and laughter. The capacity for strong military discipline, but also the means for cowardice and reservedness. It was in the new Dynasty that the Loong imparted the ability to be all these things and none of these, and to have the choice to make for one’s self. Unlike with previous Lunar blessings however, the Loong did not force anyone into this Dynasty, instead offering merely the choice, before disappearing again for the last time to return to their slumber.
The transition from the last common Dynasty under Gai was remarkably peaceful. One of the War Dynasty clans, the Htai clan, is said by historians to have converted to the New Dynasty under the guidance of the Loong Dragons. The Htai negotiated with the Gai Dynasty to take over the Loong Throne, which the Gai willingly and eagerly handed over. It was made clear later that the Gai Dynasty had never considered themselves the true rulers of the Empire, but rather just temporary stewards until a more ethical and effective Dynasty could take over. The sudden rise of the Htai Dynasty was seen as something blessed by the Loong, as the Htai were the first to transform en-masse, throw off their old War Dynasty forms and clan-like structure. They even established a form of co-Emperorship, wherein the brothers of the first Htai Emperor, Htai Xx'en'bae, would rule the four Kingdoms while he remained in the central capital.
The rule of the Htai Dynasty, despite the religious promises of Liang’an Ku’c, turned out to be far less pivotal than anticipated. Their rule was anticlimactically monotonous, but political scientists suggest this was exactly what the Sihai needed at the time: normality. After centuries and even millennia of explosive events and rule, the general unremarkable nature of the Htai Dynasty’s rule felt like a breath of fresh air. It was during this period that the Sihai people developed a famous saying: “All is fair and well on the throne, all is fair and well in the realm, and so there is enough breath to sigh”. For the first time, the concept of societal apathy became apparent. The Sihai people grew in population, and while advances in medicine, philosophy, and other arts and sciences were certainly made, many smaller communities felt more insular than ever before. Life simply continued without the prior prevailing philosophy of unity.
The Naether Aetherium
The most astonishing development that occurred in the last Htai Dynasty was the chain of events that eventually led to the Naether Aetherium. In 112 BC, the Sihai made contact with a Altalar ship that beached on the Sihai shores after having been blown far off course while on a slave raid. At first, the Sihai responded with apprehension to these strange creatures, as the realization that other races existed beyond the borders of their Empire was something that was not supported by religious doctrine. There were those who called for the immediate expulsion of outsiders and the closing of borders from any other barbarian Races, but the Altalar were entertained at the court of the Htai Dynasty nonetheless, albeit disturbed at first over having to show homage to an Emperor who, to the Altalar, was essentially a dog-man.
Still, the Altalar could recognize the richness of the Sihai Empire, and made the appropriate gestures to ensure good relations. It was through the Altalar that the Sihai learned of the world’s greater history, the Seraph, and the other Races which were quickly classified as the barbarian races. Indeed, every slave Race the Altalar introduced in the Htai halls caused some form of revulsion, and quickly the Sihai speculated that the Loong did indeed bless the Sihai, but that somehow for the balance of the Lunar Cycles to be true, the Solar Cycles also produced broken Races on other places in the world. Indeed, the Altalar in return were intrigued by the fact that the Sihai had somehow existed without even acknowledging the destruction of the Meraic Civilization or noticing anything of prior Void Invasions.
It was through Altalar encouragement that the Sihai started experimenting with tearing the Veil and began actively approaching the subject of Magic, something that had previously been right kept very secret and rigidly controlled in the Empire before. It is even said, though this cannot be verified, that the actual Naether Aetherium occurred because the Altalar interfered with superior Sihai scholars and Mages, who supposedly had the experiment under control. Whatever happened, a massive magical explosion decimated part of the Southern Kingdom, creating a phenomenon known as the South Well; a magical occurence that would bleed what would later be called as Aether and Naether energies into the Sihai realm.
Modern Scholars have in fact speculated that the creation of the South Well caused a massive surge of magical energies into the world, and might have indirectly assisted in the Void Invasion in the Allorn Empire, hastening the collapse of the Veil. It is now also commonly believed that the western side of the world (as it is known where the Regalian Empire and Allorn Empire exist) was responsible for the connection with the Void and Exist, while the eastern side of the world (in which the Sihai Empire exists) was responsible for the connection with the Aether and the Naether, two distinct and separate dimensions like the Void and Exist.
This dimensional bridging has for all intents and purposes largely gone unnoticed in the west, even among the scholars and Mages, where only those focusing on Eastern Magic know of the Aether and Naether. Even fewer still are able to tap into their powers, due to the distance between the Sihai Empire and the Regalian Empire. Despite this, calamity struck the Sihai Empire in the wake of the Aether Naetherium - the explosion and subsequent creation of the Southern Well wiped out nearly the entire Southern Kingdom, and instead replaced it with a smouldering landscape filled with hellish beings that consumed the flesh of living. The Htai Dynasty was competent in leading the Sihai people in their defence against the onslaught of what they would later call the Dark Dynasty, but failed to effectively push them back and reclaim lost lands. The Southern Kingdom was eventually just closed off with a massive 200 foot tall wall, ironically built with Altalar magics. When the wall was completed, all Altalar were expelled from the Sihai Empire and the borders were largely closed, leaving only small, isolated western trading ports open to foreigners.
In modern times, the Sihai Empire continues to be ruled by the Htai Dynasty and remains relatively stable despite constant incursions of the Dark Dynasty all along the Great Wall border in the south. Explorers and daredevils frequently adventure into the darkness, some never to return, while others have brought back dark tales of macabre scenes and strange events that happened in a world that seemed entirely unlike their own. Many Sihai have fled the continent, expelled from the Southern Kingdom as it died, or have simply moved away from Sihai society to live in the west. The Sihai Empire remains immensely powerful, ruling over dozens of millions, but has become extremely isolationist, preferring not to be involved with whatever occurs in the distant West. The Loong Dragons remain isolated, slumbering in the Temples high in the mountains, priests preaching that one day they might again awake to solve the Aether Naetherium.
Sihai Society is incredibly rigid, yet flexible based on the concept of Mandated Bureaucracy. Essentially, Sihai Society is orderly and uses numbers to validate most decisions. While they have a concept of aristocracy and the upper class, as well as a ruling hierarchy, the Mandated Bureaucracy Examinations which occur every year are used to pluck useful subjects out of the common people, presenting a means for poor individuals with skills to be moved up in society to perform ever more important tasks. As such, many families who exist in Sihai society thrive off a single highly educated member raising their entire clan or family up. Sihai Society, when compared to Ailor and Altalar society as such, is strictly aristocratic but has a strong meritocratic element to it that allows for more vertical ascension - as well as descenscion - in societal politics and fortunes.
Most Sihai live in large walled cities officially called Ing'de'en, or more commonly nicknamed Ingdi. These large cities feature a harmonious design, with districts built in such a way that all houses have a high window facing the moon’s trajectory, and also built in such a way that the main causeway from the front gate to the seat of governance at the center is aligned with the moon’s descent in preparation for the Lunar Festivals that frequently occur in Sihai Society. There are also smaller Temple settlements, coastal villages and hillside towns, though these smaller settlements generally exist to service the larger regional cities which dominate the provinces.
Sihai Politics is rigid and stable in comparison to the Regalian Empire’s constantly fluctuating political landscape. At the very base of society exist the farmers and the workers, who make up the majority of the Empire’s population, largely as the Common or Frivolous Sihai. New Sihai are also making a rise in this population group, but they remain rather rare. Above the common people exist the Administrators, such as scribes, task masters, collectors and record keepers. These in turn are managed by the Executor of the Government Office, who manages all the Administrators of a Region. Executors in turn are controlled by the Imperial Lecter, who rules usually from a Provincial city, though also does so in tandem with what can best be described as a Duke in the Sihai form. The Dukes do not formally control any people, but represent hereditary Imperial control in a region. Above these Dukes and Executors are the Governors who govern a so called Kingdom Sector. Above the Governors exist the Imperial College which is a set of ministers who manage the day to day running of the Empire, while at the very top sits the Emperor. Currently the Emperor of the Sihai Empire is Htai M'ing'ha'ku'see'c'ha, who is often also nicknamed Htai Mingcha, or the Hakusee or protector in the Sihai language. Htai Mingcha has ruled the Empire for over 30 years and, despite being only in his early 40’s, has proven to be a capable leader who defends the southern border well and sometimes even goes into battle himself.
Sihai Culture is extremely varied between the various Kingdoms, so it is hard to truly pin down a single cultural form or standard. The standard set out here-in is not an absolute, and should be seen more as a guideline than a strict set of rules in Sihai culture. Sihai food emphasizes elegant finger food with a strong reliance on presentation and freshness of produce. It can safely be said that, as long as one is not dealing with a criminal element, a Sihai will never present food that is not at its utmost quality and freshness, as to present unripe or expired food is seen as a heinous act of disrespect and callous disregard for one’s fellows in society. Sihai food is often made to be bite-ready, meaning it can simply be picked up and put in the mouth without any additional preparation, and is often brought together with five specific harmonious sauces meant for taste. These are the bitter-sweet, sweet-sour, sweet-spicy, bitter-salty, and spicy-sour sauces, of which the sweet-sour is particularly loved among the Sihai (and always finished first). Rice is a particular mainstay in Sihai cuisine. Steamed milk bread is often also eaten, and Sihai noodles are a great product that became an instant hit in Regalia. Sugary rice products are extremely popular among the Sihai, especially during festivals where See’cha is sold - a form of beaten rice cakes that are made less sticky on the outside due to a dusting of powdered sugar, colored with natural coloring spices, but retain their sweet and sticky rice-like flavor when eaten. Marshmallows, as they are called in Regalia, were also invented by the Sihai and popularized as some form of roast over a fire, something that became very popular among the younger generations of nobility. Tea is naturally also a product that hails from the Sihai lands, though it is not an exclusive product. Sihai tea tends to be more fruity than the traditional Altalar tea, which is more bitter in its nature, and the two frequently combat each other on the Regalian market for dominance, ebbing and flowing with the ever-fickle tastes of nobility. Sihai, despite being naturally terrible at holding their liquor (except for the Frivolous Sihai) have developed a number of world-famous sweet flavored liquors, as well as the infamous Frivolous Ale, a special recipe of 44 ingredients that remain a mystery, but which always flows richly and is always popular at any foreign or domestic festivity.
Clothing and Recreation
Sihai clothing is varied, but follows a number of core principles. Firstly, jewelry is seen as a form of unwanted vanity, so golden jewelry barely exists in Sihai society, especially because of their disdain for gold as a material. Instead, the Sihai have a strong history of facial make-up (even among the men), and thrive in creating beautifully elegant clothing. The fabric of a Sihai dress might be extravagant and colorful beyond words, but shaped in such a way to create an elegant shape that does not reveal much, nor cause too much movement when walking. Unlike Regalian fashion, Sihai fashion lacks embellishments such as frills, buttons or clasps and belts, using the fabric’s natural weight as well as folds and ties and knots to keep everything together. Decorations in the hair of women are often in the form of tassels and flowers, while men wear a simple headband or neckband. Jade earrings do exist, as well as Jade necklaces, but they are often only worn during special occasions (for IRL Sihai clothing reference, look up Ming Dynasty clothing). Clothing for the Sihai is never meant to be seductive or telling, but rather is meant to display one’s societal status, as well as one’s values, via the fabric embroidery and its display of symbols and patterns.
Sihai recreation is wide and varied, ranging from fishing to recreational pole climbing (attempting to climb a pole with just two rough shoes, a set of trousers and a cloth band), sports games and particularly Go, an abstract strategy board game for two players, commonly seen as the eastern version of Regalian chess. Sihai greatly appreciate recreation and love leaving the house to get it. Every Sihai society or community has some form of harmony garden in which there is a general understanding that no violence and trouble must besmirch the garden’s environment, so that everyone may come there and enjoy their free time in whatever manner they see fit. Such gardens frequently have vistas and seating areas where Sihai write or recite poetry, lecterns where they might philosophize, small seating areas in pavillions where women can be seen embroidering or men playing a game of Tsai’en’ka, a form of debating combat where the participants come up with increasingly more convoluted combat strategies and tactics to make-pretend war on a battlefield. Jogging is a practice that is also common among the simpler folk, while communal dancing is sometimes also done at the entrance square.
In the performance arts, the Sihai universally love Sihai opera. This includes the dramatic Lu-ra-ku opera, with its themes of death, love sickness, war and disaster, as well as the Lu-ra-ma opera, with its themes of comedy and healthy ridicule, as well as life lessons packaged in humor. The noteworthy point about these Sihai operas, however, is that they are almost universally performed as silent operas, where body language and emotive dancing is the key to conveying sentiments to an often very small crowd. As opposed to large theatres in Regalia, Sihai opera is done on a small stage either in private homes or in larger assembly rooms with crowds no larger than 20 or so. Crowds are frequently also enticed to respond vocally to the ongoing opera, wherein the opera actors prance around the stage wearing very dramatic looking masks and large colorful outfits.
Sihai Festivals are performed during each Lunar Cycle as well as during the Emperor’s name-sake day, his coronation day, as well as several festivals to commemorate the lost and dead from the Southern Well. Sihai generally have some form of midnight celebration every month. Additionally, the Sihai have two major festival months that are observed in some form or another by every Sihai group, at home in the Sihai Empire and abroad. During one month of the year, the Sihai do not consume any food during the day and instead share large quantities of food with their neighbors and loved ones in extravagant feasts when the moon rises. This month is known as the C’en’te, in which the Sihai praise the Moon and its role as servant of the Loong in their grand design. This celebration carries over to Sihai dress and decoration - for the entire month of September, the Sihai wear nothing more than bright, elegant white robes, representing the white Loong Dragons, which are contrasted by brilliant and colorful masks resembling those worn in Sihai opera. They also decorate their houses and streets, draping them in sheets of billowing white silk and streamers with intricate designs.
The second major Sihai festival is celebrated from the first day of March through the vernal equinox (March 20). This festival, called Mieha-da, lauds the beauty of Sihai artistic and philosophical traditions and celebrates the relationships and hierarchy of the Sihai community. This month-long festival is filled with artistic celebrations of the Sihai Emperor and the imperial court, and large gatherings congregate in Sihai communities to create and display painted, carved or engraved works faithful to intricate Sihai artistic styles, and to engage heavily in communal activities like Tsai'en'ka debate or games of strategy like Go chess. Like C’en’te, Mieha-da also incorporates a heavy emphasis on food and decoration. Notably, there is a large focus on light, and the dozens and dozens of artistic lanterns hung throughout the street and in homes make Sihai districts sparkle.
Sihai art is often entirely Loong dominated, or has at least one physical or metaphorical representation of the Loong somewhere in it. Even Imperial portraits show a Loong as embroidery, or as a hat decoration, while still-life paintings of a pond may feature a Loong lurking in the reflection of the sky in the water, or a small Loong-like dragonfly sitting on one of the lilies in the pond. This has become an unspoken cultural rule in art, ranging from sculptures to woodcarving to painting; a Loong must always be present somehow and somewhere. Sihai Art is often described as simplistic in Regalian terms, but this is largely because of the Sihai value of beauty in simplicity - detail within the lines, not chaos in excess. The Sihai paint in such ways that most westerners cannot tell the characters apart from each other, while Sihai can recognize a world of difference. Sihai painted and fabric-embroidered panel screens are extremely popular in the Regalian Empire for their exoticism, while Sihai Silk embroidery is becoming ever more popular. Sihai Sculptures finally rarely ever showcase a real person. Among the Sihai, creating a sculpture of a person is said to bring them bad luck, as a reflection of themselves in another material might become a root cause of disharmony - after all, the world is not meant to perceive itself, and so it is a bad thing for Sihai to look directly upon themselves.
Gender Roles and Marriage
Sihai gender roles are practically invisible. Because their society is so fluid (as their members can seemingly change sub-race within short periods of time), most people end up being very gender blind. Women and men equally hold office in government institutions, and throughout history women have sat on the Loong throne just as frequently as men. However, women do tend to control most of the educational positions as well as intellectual offices, while men retain most of the bureaucratic and medicinal offices. These are some of the few sectors where Sihai see some gender preference. Sihai families are mostly monogamous, but it is not uncommon for a Sihai family to be polyamorous (a couple having a third spouse essentially), or for a man to have multiple different families, each operating separately. Unlike the rather adulterous nature of Regalians, however, this practice is socially acceptable in Sihai society and is only engaged in with the full consent of all individuals, including the children who are born after it is commenced. If a child at any point objects to a poly-marriage (as it is known in Sihai culture), the parents engage in a very insightful dialogue with the child. Sihai society is the only society that listens intently to its children and considers a child’s opinion to be just as valid as an adult’s when it concerns the sanctity of the home. Children are encouraged to experience all Lunar cycles early on, and are never pressured to choose the same as their parents. In return, children adore their parents and it is hard to find a broken home among the Sihai people. This love eventually translates to great veneration of elders, and care for elderly parents, with grandparents often living in the same house as their children and grandchildren.
Sihai, because of their flexible marriage understandings, have very loose views of same-sex marriage, or even interracial couples of the Sihai Dynasties. While the War Dynasty tend to be rather isolated from the rest and often prefer their own, Greater Dynasty in particular often choose partners that complement their personality, not just one of their own species. That being said, interracial relationships and even half breeds outside of the Sihai Dynasties is considered a great vulgarity among the Sihai. While there are Sihai outside of the Sihai Empire who adopt a much looser stance and might even indulge in having a relationship with for example an Ailor, strict Sihai doctrine dictates that all races created outside of the Sihai Empire are barbaric reflections of their own creation theory, and should as such not be interacted with on such a personal level. Half breeds are not allowed to enter the Sihai mainland, and any Sihai who has actively produced offspring is often shunned to the outer isles where foreigners are permitted.
Social Conventions & Foreign Relations
The Sihai are remarkably resistant to foreign missionaries or conversion. Because the divinity of their Loong Dragons has been shown to them in recorded history, they believe that they possess irrefutable evidence that their faith is the true faith. Abstract concepts of Unionism and Shambala are entirely incompatible with the Sihai mode of thinking, requiring some form of tangible evidence to accept something as true, or at least the very slightest measurement tool used to the effectiveness of a target’s divinity. It should therefore not surprise anyone that the Sihai put great emphasis on education. Indeed, the Sihai Empire is filled with great philosophical institutes that are far more advanced than the Regalian institutes. It is even believed by some tacticians in the Regalian Empire that the Sihai Empire’s combat strategies are far greater than what Regalian can muster, especially since their academies have existed for much longer, and their history for warfare is much older. As such, the western seaports of the Sihai Empire are a hotbed for espionage, not only Regalian, but also Altalar, Songaskian and Sendrassian agents move around trying to get any of the officials to share Eastern Knowledge.
Sihai greetings are far simpler than the more complicated Regalian greeting protocol, which is often also why the Sihai make mistakes with these protocols when trying to adapt to Regalian culture. The Sihai simply state “Lu’liang-ch’ing” which roughly translates to “Great deferential greetings to you from the Loong in the clouds”, but said in a single word. Physical contact between Sihai is strictly forbidden in public, and even in the house, those who are not intimate with one another never touch without the separation of a piece of cloth or handkerchief between two skin surfaces. This is also why women frequently have long sleeves, so that their hands are covered in a resting pose, allowing them to retain their modesty and reserved options. It is not so much that the Sihai are socially or emotionally repressed, it is simply that the extravagance of excessive emotional outbursts is seen as something barbaric and unclean, reminiscent of the War Dynasties excesses, but also behavior that leads to misunderstandings and misinterpretations. The Sihai remain a largely utilitarian race, that with the exception of the War Dynasties, relies on factual analysis to understand the world around them.
Sihai home decorations are one of the few things that are strictly dependent on the Dynasty in particular. For example, a Common Sihai will have a very structurally organized home with harmonious placing of the furniture according to the principles of the heavenly format. They prefer clean and geometric positioning of decorations, which are often very minimalistic, or extremely seasonal. For example, every Sihai house tends to have an alcove or some sort of wall hole of sorts that features a display representing the goodwill of the household. For the Common Sihai this is a wall scroll with incense, for the War Dynasty this is a weapon rack or a shield with banner, for the Frivolous Sihai this is a liquor cabinet, for the Greater Dynasty this is a rack of scrolls and scriptures, while for the New Dynasty, this can be any collection of great memorabilia of past events and cherished memories. War Dynasties in general feature more exaggerated features in their house, furniture with spiked decorations and lots of usage of the color red. The Frivolous Sihai are messy, often in direct opposition of the Common Sihai, while the Greater Sihai love the presence of floral display. The art of floral decoration, to speak a story or teach a life lesson through floral arrangements is a huge past-time activity for many Sihai, and the reason why in Regalia itself, the Sihai are the largest flowers and greenery buyers, even outshining the Yanar who are numerically in larger number.
Sihai Faith is surprisingly simple to express, despite likely being the oldest and nearly most-practiced faith in the world. It has remained largely unchanged for all time. At the very core exists the divine beings, the Loong Dragons. Loong Dragons appear as white snake-like Dragons without wings that glide and swim through the clouds as if in water with a great level of elegance and poise. The saying goes that the Loong Dragons created all life among the Sihai, and this can in large parts be said to be true, because the creation of the Lunar cycles has been directly witnessed by the Sihai people. The Loong exist in a cyclical manner for the Sihai, slumbering for centuries on end and only awakening whenever the Sihai people are in dire need. Why these Loong Dragons appear so sloth in comparison to other Dragons that once existed in the west is unknown, but some Regalian scholars have speculated that the Loong Dragons use a form of Magic that has since largely died out in the world, and that after performing their form of Magic that was once abundant they need long periods of rest to ensure they do not become strained.
The Sihai, however, believe that this is because the Loong are their creator-deities and do not take an active role in stewarding the daily lives of the people. Throughout history, great prophets have had the blessings of personal contact with the Dragons, but by and large, the Dragons do not acknowledge individuals and rather address the needs of the Sihai people as a whole when the time is right. As such, it should also not come as a surprise that the Sihai don’t engage in active prayer or worship of the Loong - rather, their faith is more praise than worship. The Sihai give thanks and offerings in the names of the Loong to thank them for creation, not to continue asking for their personal blessings. Most Sihai are not so naive as to believe that a Loong would ever care for the woes of a single Sihai, and that the Sihai were instead equipped with the means to use the Lunar Cycles to solve their own problems.
That said, the Loong continue to have a strong presence in Sihai symbolic culture, being present on things like clothing embroidery, paintings, architectural embellishments, song, dance, and even physical papier mache representations during festivals. A Sihai home is not complete without at least one Jade or Bronze altar of a Loong, often perched in a snake-like manner, with a few candles and incense nearby to give votive offerings. A Sihai will evoke verbal praise of the Loong when appropriate; however, unlike most other faiths, it is actually permitted for one to be critical of the Loong for their decisions - this act is not entirely heretical, though most refrain out of respect. The Sihai have a priestly caste that performs communal worship, usually to a larger statue representing the Loong, but this priestly caste has very little political or even social power in Sihai society - they are mostly delegated to roles that care for the dying, perform ritualistic blessings for births, act as mentors during ties of family tragedy, and as spiritual guides for those in want of one.
The Sihai Empire’s economy is vast and woefully incompatible with western economies. The Sihai coin is made of Jade, as opposed to the western Regal, as Gold has very little value in Sihai society. Gold is considered a vulgar material that reflects too much - reflections, and especially mirrors, are seen as bad fortune among the Sihai because the world is not meant to be reflected and is only meant to exist unseen by itself. That said, the Sihai do use a faux-Gold material called Kai’tsen’ur, which is an alloy containing a number of materials including Gold, resulting in a much more matte gold without reflections. The Sihai do not have an organized economic system like the Regalians do, largely functioning on a local barter system, but do have a very extensive tax system that would put the Regalian Bureaucracy to shame in terms of its effectiveness and number management. Vast sums of trade do transfer between the Sihai and the Regalians, but the Sihai import scientific knowledge and earth metals while the Regalians import Sihai art, spices and Jade. Trade occurs via small coastal island ports which are declared free-trade zones in which non Sihai may move about, though they must always refrain from entering the mainland or face summary execution. Only a single group of non-Sihai was ever allowed to enter the eastern lands, when Emperor Cedromar I led a small Unionist Holy War against the Dark Sihai in assistance of the Htai Emperor, a venture to improve relations and ensure the Sihai would not side with the Songaskians in the geo-political conflict in the west. This venture turned out to be a military failure, with less than 30% of the force returning, but it did improve relations between the Regalian and Sihai Empires, and brought back bales upon bales of rare materials and artefacts that gave the Regalian public a desire for exotic eastern goods. This is a phenomenon that is best described by the term Eastern Craze, something Sihai merchants quickly made use of, explaining the large presence of Sihai merchants in the Regalian capital.
Combat and Warfare
The Sihai military is largely still controlled by the War Dynasty Sihai, though the New Dynasty Sihai have recently also started advancing in the ranks. Common Dynasty Sihai have become more popular after the introduction of cannons, stolen or adopted from the Regalian supply trains as they moved through Sihai lands during the military expedition. The Sihai military functions identically to the Regalian Empire’s, with standing armies based on state taxation bearing armor and weapons sourced from government-approved vendors. Ranks delineate a strict hierarchy which also enforces an equally-strict code of conduct and martial law. Outside of the rigid army structure, War Dynasty Sihai love exploring their own martial skills, and especially the New Dynasty Sihai love seeing the world beyond the Sihai Empire, and would not be uncommonly seen even in Regalian employ as mercenaries who are trying to explore the world.
The Sihai have a unique weapon type that is produced in the Sihai Empire but rarely exported. It is extremely unusual for a non-Sihai to have any Proficiency in the Eastern Blades Skill; not because it is impossible to learn, but simply because of the earlier-mentioned disdain the Sihai hold towards working closely with foreign barbarians - in particular, the War Dynasty Sihai closely guard the secrets to their weapons. The Eastern Blades can best be described as a longsword with a smaller off-hand grip - the main longsword bears a curved single-edged blade with a usually circular guard and a long grip to allow for two-handed wielding. The smaller weapon features a similar design, but is much smaller, sometimes even half the size of the longsword. As opposed to the western technique of wielding the longsword in one hand and the arming sword in another, eastern combat techniques dictate that the longsword should be wielded with both hands, while the smaller remains in its hilt on the hip-belt, allowing the wielder to strike out when the longsword is caught in a fixed position, or to suddenly change up the technique to surprise the opponent. Eastern blades are sometimes also found in antique stores sold as curiosity items, as their design is completely alien to western warriors. That being said, even swords which have been made hundreds of years ago retain their sharpness due to the expert forging of the Sihai master swordsmiths. Aside from these weapon curiosities however, the Sihai don’t have much military equipment that differs from that of the west. They are able to adapt to other weapons and fighting techniques quite well (especially the War Dynasty Sihai), and make very little use of shields or bows, preferring hook-spears, spears or cavalry.
- Music is an incredibly contentious topic in Sihai society. Most of those serving in the Mandated Bureaucracy believe it to be a distraction and frequently introduce legislation against it. However, the Frivolous Sihai loathe not hearing some form of music daily, and the War Dynasty insist on combastic drums during their martial activities.
- Sihai architecture can look very foreign to Regalians with their large wind-screen covered windows and sometimes even round windows and doors. There is actually a street ordinance in Regalia that bans these round windows and doors, as some nobles have reported fainting at the sight of them.
- Regalians frequently ridicule Sihai as being interracial breeders, but Sihai are actually very reserved. Intimacy in marriage is not something that is done with terrible frequency, and most Sihai will become uncomfortable with the subject of intercourse when it is spoken about.