The Celestial Emperor, also called the Celestial One and the Master of Heaven, was a deity who ruled the Celestial Empire and oversaw the Celestial Bureaucracy, the dominant pantheon of the continent of Kara-Tur, especially the empire of Shou Lung, and the overarching spiritual state managing its gods, spirits, dragons, and other creatures. Some sages speculated that he was an Overgod.
The Celestial Emperor was depicted as a tall man of aristocratic aspect, with a face at once both stern and compassionate, with eyes that blazed white with the inner fire of karma. He dressed as a lord, wearing the high crown of the emperors of Shou Lung and shimmering robes of many hues. He held in his left hand Lien Min, "Compassion", a golden chalice bearing the Essence of Life. He held in his right Kun P'ing Shen p'an, "Justice", a mighty scepter fashioned of silver and intricately worked.
The Celestial One was said to have all-seeing eyes, able to see even that which was concealed, so his officials could hide nothing from him. He also had infinite wisdom and power.
He held in his left hand Lien Min, "Compassion", a golden chalice bearing the Essence of Life. He held in his right Kun P'ing Shen p'an, "Justice", a mighty scepter fashioned of silver and intricately worked.
The Celestial One ruled the Celestial Empire and oversaw the Celestial Bureaucracy, which governed all the spirits, dragons, and other creatures of Kara-Tur. From this lofty position, he decided the path of What Has Been and Will Be. He determined that Heaven and the Red Earth should mirror each other in the pursuit of perfection. To this end, he created the Path of Enlightenment.
A master of delegation, he gave every deity their divine duties, and appointed the Celestial Court to deal with trivialities like dealing with humans. At his behest, each of the Million Officials of the Bureaucracy carried out his orders and bestowed rewards to the good and punishments on the evil. At the beginning of the New Year, the Celestial Emperor called his court to an audience before the Jade Throne, and every one of the Million Officials gave their reports on their work, their successes and failures, and even their misdeeds, as the Celestial One saw through any deception. With each report, the Celestial Emperor gave his judgment, reward, or punishment, as appropriate. Rogue officials, those who'd proved incapable, corrupt, or ill-behaved, were formally devested of their position and powers and sent to the Underworld.
In addition to the subjects of the Celestial Empire and the officials of the Bureaucracy, the Celestial Emperor commanded the Nine Immortals, who stood beside his Jade Throne, always ready to do as he bade as agents of his divine will. At his direction, they commanded the Lesser Immortals and other officials and each took responsibility for one aspect of the Path of Enlightenment.
There had only ever been one Celestial Emperor, he had ruled since the start of the Great Cycle, since the beginning of time.
In the beginning, when the worlds were but newly formed and molten, the Celestial One blew his cool, misty breath—a divine wind called the kamikaze—upon the land, cooling the fires and making it fertile. Meanwhile, he had his kami, the spirits of nature, wander the land to still its upheavals. And thus was born the Red Earth, as the land of Kara-Tur was known to those of Heaven.
It wasn't long before humankind arose from the dust of this Red Earth, but they were savage, argumentative, and belligerent. The Celestial One disapproved, and wished for their lives to be a reflection of Heaven, to follow his Path of Enlightenment. To this end, he sent to the Red Earth his emissaries, the Nine Immortals, who would each teach one aspect of the Path and serve as the first emperors of Shou Lung. He caused red lightning to inscribe the precepts of the Path into the sheer granite of the Cliffs of Tanghai along the Hungtse River, so that people would never forget them.
According to recorded history, the Celestial Emperor blessed Chan Cheng, a great leader who'd unified a number of warring states along the Ch'ing Tung River in −1887 DR, making him the first of the Nine Immortals.
In Kara-Tur, belief in the Celestial Emperor was very strong, yet no one prayed directly to him. He had appointed each of his Immortals to oversee all the relevant matters, and humans were expected to call to the appropriate Immortal. He had also organized the Celestial Court to handle trivial matters like speaking with humans. Daring to call directly to the Celestial Emperor was seen as an act of utter impudence, one that would be answered with thunder and lightning.
Nevertheless, the Celestial Emperor was most closely associated with terrestrial emperors: namely, the emperors of Shou Lung. Conveniently for them, the Path of Enlightenment declared the living emperor to be the mirror of the Celestial Emperor, deifying him and raising him in importance to the level of the Celestial One. It also instituted veneration of emperors both past and present. The Shou emperor had the right to speak as an equal directly to the Immortals, though he remained a subject of the Celestial Emperor.
The Celestial Emperor is most likely inspired by the Jade Emperor and Shangdi of Chinese mythology and religion, and based on the god Shang-ti of D&D's Chinese pantheon, presented in On Hallowed Ground page 152 and Legends & Lore page 37.
- ↑ 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 Mike Pondsmith, Jay Batista, Rick Swan, John Nephew, Deborah Christian (1988). Kara-Tur: The Eastern Realms (Volume I). (TSR, Inc), pp. 24–27. ISBN 0-88038-608-8.
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 Ed Greenwood, Julia Martin, Jeff Grubb (1993). Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting 2nd edition (revised), Running the Realms. (TSR, Inc), p. 61. ISBN 1-5607-6617-4.
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 Richard Baker, James Wyatt (March 2004). Player's Guide to Faerûn. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 165. ISBN 0-7869-3134-5.
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 4.2 Gary Gygax, David Cook, and François Marcela-Froideval (1985). Oriental Adventures. (TSR, Inc), p. 116. ISBN 0-8803-8099-3.
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 Mike Pondsmith, Jay Batista, Rick Swan, John Nephew, Deborah Christian (1988). Kara-Tur: The Eastern Realms (Volume I). (TSR, Inc), p. 31. ISBN 0-88038-608-8.
- ↑ Brian R. James and Ed Greenwood (September, 2007). The Grand History of the Realms. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 33. ISBN 978-0-7869-4731-7.
- ↑ Mike Pondsmith, Jay Batista, Rick Swan, John Nephew, Deborah Christian (1988). Kara-Tur: The Eastern Realms (Volume I). (TSR, Inc), p. 69. ISBN 0-88038-608-8.
- ↑ Gary Gygax, David Cook, and François Marcela-Froideval (1985). Oriental Adventures. (TSR, Inc), p. 118. ISBN 0-8803-8099-3.