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Thread: [ANW - Culture & Civilization] The Taiyang people and Dabei Dynasties

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    Default [ANW - Culture & Civilization] The Taiyang people and Dabei Dynasties

    Origins of the Taiyang people
    The Taiyang people as we know them today did not exist until the dawn of the Iron Age, approximately 10,000 AA. Prior to this, the region now known as the Beizhongyuan ('north-central plain') and its environs were home to several disparate peoples who, as far as modern historians and anthropologists could tell, spoke distinct languages that either belonged to the Proto-Taiyang family or were language-isolates. Of these, the most united and long-lasting was the collection of sedentary tribes living along the Hefang ('Royal Strait') River and its source at Dahu ('Great Lake'), known as the Zhonghe or 'Middle River' people.

    Extent of Proto-Taiyang-speaking peoples, 7,000 AA

    Taking full advantage of the fertility endowed on the land by the Hefang, the Zhonghe multiplied greatly, farming chiefly millet, rice and wheat and raising herds of pigs along the riverbanks; it is thought that, along with the precursors of the 'Awali, the early Zhonghe may have been the first people on the planet to adopt mass agriculture. Their Neolithic and early Chalcolithic population boom led directly to internecine conflicts between their petty kingdoms in the Bronze Age, though - led by warlords called Hezhu ('river lord') or Gōng ('duke'), the Zhonghe routinely fought one another for the best farmland, or else raided their neighbors' fields for crops with which to sustain their own exploding populations.

    Ancient Zhonghe farmers harvesting millet, c. 8,500 AA

    This constant conflict led them to congregate in towns protected by palisades and ditches, behind which the peasants who worked the outlying farms could retreat at the sight of an enemy army or raiding party, and the hezhu frequently came to build and live in fortified hill-manors they called shiwu or 'stone houses'. The discovery of vast troves of bronze weapons and mass graves filled with both human and animal bones dating back to this period has been taken as a sign that the Zhonghe mastered centralized mass warfare far more quickly than the Yahg and Fơng ever did, with the various hezhu amassing armies numbering in the low thousands and leading them against one another in a day and age where most 'Awali armies would have at best numbered in the high hundreds.

    Zhonghe warriors of the Bronze Age, c. 9,000 AA

    From their impressive collections of jade and gold or brass artifacts, usage of oracle bones and shells (usually taken from turtles, tortoises and snails), the ruins of their leaders' stone manors, terracotta figures of chariotry and equestrians, and evidence of both walled towns and bronze production on a mass scale, it has been surmised that the Zhonghe were one of the most advanced cultures in the Bronze Age world. These were a people who even had an archaic writing script, transcribed on oracle bones and clay tablets alike using reed styluses, and practiced a much more centralized form of leadership than the ancient Fng to their south: each hezhu was the absolute ruler of his own fiefdom, all at once a top judge who arbitrated in his people's disputes, a supreme warlord who led his armies from horseback or atop a chariot, and a religious head who was responsible for offering sacrifices (of animals, crops, jewelry and sometimes even enemy prisoners) to please the invisible spirits and the ghosts of his ancestors so that they might provide him with answers to the problems of his day.

    Zhonghe oracle bone of the pre-Taiyang period, dated to 8,285 AA

    But, as with anything and everything, this state of affairs could not last forever. The decades leading up to the Great Cooling of 10,000 AA saw an uptick in warfare between the Zhonghe statelets; when the Cooling actually hit, snows fell seasonally rather than once in a blue moon, and rice was no longer a viable crop this far in the north, such warfare surged in both frequency and savagery. The dying jungles of the north were cut down for firewood to survive the new winter season, and in the summer and autumn the various hezhu led their warbands not to simply pillage and steal crops from one another, but to conquer - not only would they now fight over the choicest farmland, but they sought to break and subjugate one another's kingdoms and enslave the defeated to grow more crops for themselves. From these dark days, the Hu Kingdom based around Dahu emerged as the strongest contender out of all the Zhonghe petty kingdoms, having been able to reliably grow foxtail millet and wheat around their lake. By 10,185 AA, Duke Gao Wen of Hu (as Hu's ruler came to be called in the annals written by his descendants' chroniclers) had overcome the last of his rivals and proclaimed himself the One King or 'Yiwng' of Hu.

    The Hu Kingdom's core territories and expansion by 10,185 AA


    Yellow - Hu Kingdom core
    Orange - Conquered Zhonghe states by 10,185 AA
    Red - Shendu ('divine capital'), the seat of power of the Gao clan which ruled Hu

    Having united their people by the sword, the Zhonghe now struck out against their new neighbors. Their first opponents were the Donghai or 'sea people', who lived along the lower reaches of the Hefang and along the shoreline. These Donghai appear to have spoken a Proto-Taiyang language distinct from that which was spoken by the Zhonghe, but lived much more similarly to the Fơng: they were divided into nomadic or semi-nomadic tribes (few of which had even mastered metallurgy) headed by elected chieftains, wore their hair loose, tattooed themselves and ate raw fish and shellfish. Only a few Dongyi tribes had settled down and abandoned their hunter-gatherer lifestyle in favor of agriculture, most prominently the Er Kingdom on the coast between the Hefang and Beifang Rivers. Almost needless to say, the well-armed and organized armies of Taiyang Huangdi overwhelmed the Donghai tribes with ease, bringing the entire length of the Hefang from Dahu to the sea under Zhonghe rule by 10,250 AA, at which point old Wen had died and been succeeded by his grandson King Zhao.

    Victorious Taiyang soldiers with a Donghai captive, c. 10,220 AA

    The defeat of the Donghai also resulted in their assimilation into the more advanced culture of the Zhonghe. For centuries after the conquest Donghai influences persisted along the villages and later, cities lining the Lower Hefang; these easterners were noted to have still frequently worn their hair loose even once they started putting on shirts and no longer tattooed themselves, and the architecture of even their nobility (descended from chiefs who chose to submit to Zhonghe rule rather than fight to the end) tended to be simpler and include more wood than the contemporary shiwu of their Zhonghe counterparts. Their local dialect also featured many patterns and loanwords that were decidedly not of Zhonghe origin. That said, they did abandon most of their more outlandish customs and their dialect was still just that - a dialect of the Zhonghe language. In effect, the two peoples had merged, but the customs and language of the Zhonghe were clearly in the ascendancy: it was around this time that King Zhao adopted the grandiose title of Taiyang Huangdi ('Emperor of Great Light'), and so his people came to be called the Taiyang, even though their dynasty was named 'Dabei' (Great North) - a name that would stick to the polity itself long after this first dynasty's fires had gone out.

    Taiyang conquests 10,185-10,250 AA (green)

    Soon after Taiyang Huangdi's death however, the Dabei Empire had fragmented. Taiyang Huangdi's son, Emperor Yao, was not half as competent as him; instead of being a stern (if also megalomaniacal) workaholic like his old man, he was by repute an indolent, though personally affable, glutton who delighted in the charms of his concubines and the fine meals prepared by his chefs. Central authority eroded under his rule and that of his equally unworthy heirs, until the Dabei dynasty only still directly controlled their capital at Shendu and its immediate environs: local governors and warrior-aristocrats took over most of the rest of the empire, while the central government had delegated all of its functions and powers to a corrupt eunuch bureaucrats who pocketed what little taxes could still be collected from the landowners and peasants that had remained directly sworn to Shendu. Iron was also starting to supersede bronze as the metal of choice at this time, not because it was necessarily stronger than bronze, but simply because there was so much more of it than copper and tin in the lands beyond the old Zhonghe heartland.

    The greatest of these local rulers, all of Zhonghe extraction though the ones ruling out east had by 10,400 AA probably mixed with the Donghai locals and adopted some of their customs, proclaimed themselves Kings. Though professing themselves loyal to the imperial court and its Sun Emperor, these Kings were virtually independent and had no problem with marching an army to the capital to force the Emperor to grant them royal dignity or give them prominent offices in his government, up to and including that of Zǒngxing - 'prime chancellor', essentially the Emperor's right-hand man and (should he be underage, incapacitated or declared as such...) regent. This time of fragmentation, known as the Six Feudatories Period, prevented the Taiyang from expanding against the Beishan mountain tribes to the north, the Ty Fng to the south and other Fơng-speaking tribes to the west, at least by 10,500 AA.

    The Six Feudatories, 10,400 AA onward


    Yellow - 'Zhili' (direct imperial control)
    Orange - Kingdom of Xihu
    Blue - Kingdom of Ying
    Salmon - Kingdom of Huai
    Green - Kingdom of Yang
    Teal - Kingdom of Baihe

    Life in the early Dabei period
    Taiyang language
    Incorporating linguistic influences (mostly loanwords) from the other Proto-Taiyangic peoples of the Beizhongyuan, the tongue of the Zhonghe eventually evolved into what we now recognize as the Taiyang language. The name 'Taiyang' itself means 'Great Light', which was also their word for the Sun and a sign of what the Taiyang thought of themselves in a region dominated by those they considered barbaric and beneath their growing civilization.

    Modern speech Taiyang
    Man, men Rān, Danrān
    Woman, women Sei, Fsei
    Light Yng
    Virtue Baid
    Millet Xibi

    Taiyang society
    Taiyangic society was extremely hierarchical, centralized and rigid, more comparable to the westerly 'Awali and Azem than to the neighboring Ty Fng. At its apex sat the Huangdi or Emperor, in theory the absolute ruler of the land. Like other Bronze and Iron Age monarchs, he was supposed to be a supreme military, political and religious leader, commanding over armies in the field and religious processions dedicated to the spirits of the Sun, the stars and the Taiyang people's ancestors at home: even underage Emperors were expected to at least be present in the rear of their forces, for to not appear on the battlefield at all was to look like a coward and demoralize the men. In this age before a written law, the Emperor's word was law instead, and his judgments in all legal question from the intrigues of nobles to 'which farmer does this chicken belong to' were absolute and unquestionable (except, of course, by the sword). The Sun Throne of Taiyang Huangdi was passed through the system of 'jchng rnmng', or 'inherited appointment': an Emperor could designate any of his legitimate children as his successor, though the children of his wife had to be considered ahead of those of his concubines.

    What Taiyang Huangdi himself would have probably looked like, c. 10,220 AA

    Tradition dictated that the Emperor live in the Fāguāng Digōng or 'Luminous Palace', a luxurious palace complex built in Shendu's heart on the shore of the great lake Dahu. No man save the Emperor and his sons, brothers and nephews (even uncles and cousins were sent away) was allowed to live within its walls. Naturally, this meant the Palace was mostly inhabited by female concubines and servants...and eunuchs.

    The Luminous Palace in Taiyang Huangdi's day, c. 10,220 AA

    For that reason, in the early days of the Taiyang, a cabal of eunuchs formed the Emperors' closest and most immediate supporting bloc. Once these men would've been boys, a mix of slaves and children whose noble families had volunteered them who were then castrated at the earliest age possible (for it was believed that without their reproductive 'goods' and thus the ability to father children, they would not be tempted to depose the Dabei dynasty) and educated in letters, mathematics, astrology and politics by the older eunuchs already in the imperial service.

    Early Imperial eunuch and low-ranked concubine, c. 10,250 AA

    These eunuchs attended to the imperial family's every whim, but the role they're best known for is dispensing advice to the Emperor whenever it was requested of them, as well as controlling access to the Emperor. Indeed, the chief of the eunuch corps was titled 'Gujiā' or 'High Steward', and was effectively the Dabei dynasty's chamberlain: nobody could see the Emperor without a personal invitation from the latter without first going through him. The tallest and strongest eunuchs, usually boys and young men who'd been castrated in puberty and thus had some time to undergo hormone-driven changes to their body, were trained in arms rather than the civil service and formed the 'Hēibiǎo' or 'Black Watch', the elite guard of the Luminous Palace whose eponymous blackened armor made them stand out against the white and golden walls of the building.

    Beyond the Luminous Palace, power broadly resided in the hands of the noble clans, or shūfān ('feudatories'). These were families descended from either cadet branches of the Dabei dynasty, or pre-Dabei-conquest local leaders who wisely submitted to imperial authority. While they were affirmed in their status as the dominant landowners of their region, being graciously granted the right to lord over their ancestral lands and the peasants within by their new master in exchange for swearing oaths of fealty, their primary roles boiled down to: one, organizing and leading local military forces at the Emperor's command; and two, levying a tax on their subjects, the proceeds of which were then to be sent to Shendu for redistribution to the capital's residents and then to the shūfān in general, the latter then being responsible for redistributing whatever he didn't keep for himself back to his people. The most favored of their subjects would serve as the tax-collectors and policemen of their estates, the so-called gnrān or 'club-men', whose moniker obviously came from the copper-studded cudgels they'd beat lazy or disliked peasants with.

    A nobleman and his wife from the Six Feudatories Period, c. 10,425 AA

    This palace economy was more advanced and rigorous than its distant Allawauric contemporary to the far west, for imperial overseers were dispatched to every feudatory's court to ensure that not only was each lord paying his fair share to the central government, but that the villages and farmsteads under his control were appropriately specialized. As an example of how this worked, a town built at the mouth of a copper mine would naturally be tasked with extracting that copper and working it into tools, weapons and armor, while one lying next to a river would be charged with growing wheat; then, once their proceeds have been returned to the local shūfā, he would be expected to give wheat to the mining town and new tools to the farming village, and so on.

    Following the gradual recession of imperial authority and the fragmentation of the Dabei Dynasty's holdings into several independent kingdoms, this economic and political system continued to be practiced by the ascendant Six Feudatories (just with their respective Kings taking the Emperor's place as the ultimate re-distributor of resources) save Yang, which further delegated the process of resource redistribution to its shūfān in return for them paying enough taxes to support a standing army - the first real one of an appreciable size in Taiyangic lands - with which the Kings of Yang could defend their lands from the incursions of Fng barbarians to their south.

    Beneath the nobility were, well, everyone else: the peasants, craftsmen and traders of Taiyang society. While it is obvious that there were people from all walks of life in every village - there was no single Taiyang town where everyone was a farmer and nobody was a smith, for example, because that'd mean the villagers would have to go to the next village over to get any broken tools fixed - it is equally obvious that nearly everyone in every village would've had to work in the field that the empire's overseers dictated they should specialize in. This meant that in a place designated as a farming village, for example, all but one to three families would've had to grow wheat and millet in the fields & tend to herds of cattle and pigs; one family might've been designated as the hereditary village blacksmiths, another would be the herbalists, and a third would be the fishermen. All were unable to leave their home village unless granted permission to do so by their ruling local noble. Merchants were a unique exception to that rule, as their job required them to constantly travel between villages, bartering the goods from one settlement for goods from another and getting to keep a slice for themselves.

    A humble Taiyang village, c. 10,500 AA

    In this time period, none of these 'Three Lowly Professions', as smithing, farming and trading were known, were considered above one another. They were all equally lowly, and sat near the very bottom of society with only the slaves below them. Slaves were considered the personal property of their owners and could be killed, sold or bought at a whim with no legal repercussions for the owner at all. Most would've been owned by the shūfān, who were in the habit of renting them out to their subjects; a farming family could borrow a slave or five from their overlord to help work their fields in exchange for handing over one of their fattest cows for slaughter or agreeing to a higher quota of crops to turn over at the end of harvesting season, for example.

    Finally, there are those previously-mentioned imperial overseers to consider. Termed kanch ('inspector', pl. kanchun), each of these men was a sorcerer, and beyond being tasked with enforcing the Emperor's will, they were also trained to be as literate as the eunuchs and so doubled as the realm's philosophers and scholars. Their counsel was sought out by the Emperors on matters of great importance, though beyond that, their existence was universally a highly solitary and heavily guarded one. They will be further discussed in their own section below.

    Taiyang folk religion
    WIP

    Early Dabei period warfare
    At the core of the Dabei dynasty's armies sat the 'Hēibiǎo' or 'Black Watch', the elite palace guard composed of eunuchs castrated during or near puberty to ensure that (thanks to having undergone at least some hormonal changes) they'd be taller and stronger than their bureaucrat peers. Their name came from their armor, bronze helmets and vests of bronze plates stitched onto a leather or rawhide backing weather-proofed with black lacquer, and carried three weapons; a bronze-headed spear or glaive, a bronze sword, and a hickory flatbow with bronze arrows, all of which they had been trained to extreme proficiency in wielding.

    The Black Watchmen were the only true standing professional unit in the early Taiyang army, initially numbering only 200 who were further divided into the 'Xīnglong' ('Scarlet Dragon') and 'Tiānlong' ('Azure Dragon') regiments, so named after the color of the feathers in their helmets: each regiment consisted of ten three-man (including one unarmed driver), two-wheeled chariots and seventy footsoldiers. While both regiments guarded the Luminous Palace in peacetime, the Scarlet Dragons traditionally enjoyed the honor of accompanying the Emperor to the battlefield during wartime while the Azure Dragons were left behind to protect the women and children of the Dabei dynasty.

    WIP
    Last edited by Barry Goldwater; October 01, 2018 at 12:34 PM.

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