The Celestial Empire, also known as the Celestial Heaven or the Empire of Heaven, was 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, all through the Celestial Bureaucracy.
The Spirit WorldEdit
The Celestial Empire stood within the Spirit World, a plane that lay coexistent and coterminous with the land of Kara-Tur. Every deity who was a part of the Celestial Bureaucracy had a small realm attached to the Spirit World. The whole realm was known as the Celestial Heavens.
Sphere of InfluenceEdit
The Celestial Bureaucracy held dominion over the continent of Kara-Tur, from the empires of Shou Lung and T'u Lung in the interior; to the Ama Basin in the north; Koryo, Kozakura, and Wa in the east; Tabot in the west; and Malatra and Petan and the islands of Bawa and Bertan in the south. Its sphere of godly influence abutted the Faerûnian pantheon and the Mulhorandi pantheon at the Hordelands and the Utter East, and the Zakharan pantheon in its far southwestern corner in the Sempadan Forest. From the celestial perspective, the whole land was known as the Red Earth. This and the Sky above were all part of the Celestial Empire.
In the Shou view, as espoused by the Path of Enlightenment, the Red Earth was the Mirror of Heaven in all ways. Therefore, the existence of the empire of Shou Lung reflected the existence of the Celestial Empire, a divine state that ruled all of Heaven and the Red Earth. It was an empire of the spirit world, with a bureaucracy to match, populated by immortals, demigods, dragons, spirits, and other powers who served as the officials of the Celestial Emperor. The people of the material world, even its mortal emperors, were all subjects of the Celestial Empire.
The Celestial Bureaucracy was the government of the Celestial Empire. Most of the so-called spirit creatures of Kara-Tur were subjects of the Celestial Emperor, and many held positions or offices in the Celestial Bureaucracy.
At the head of this pantheon, the Celestial Emperor sat upon the Jade Throne in the Center of All Heaven, from which he ruled the Celestial Empire and oversaw the Celestial Bureaucracy. 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. He was also the architect of 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.
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.
- Ai Ch'hing: Goddess of love, marriage
- Chan Cheng: God of war, the martial arts, combat, bravery
- Shi Chia: God of artificers, the arts
- Nung Chiang: God of agriculture, fertility
- Ch'en Hsiang: God of poetry, music, literature
- Fa Kuan: God of justice
- Chih Shih: God of history, lore, tradition
- Kwan Ying: Goddess of compassion, mercy, joy
- Hsing Yong: God of fortune, prosperity
The Lesser Immortals were servants and aides to the Nine Immortals. They were drawn from the spirits of deceased sages, those who had in life been especially holy. The Celestial Emperor bestowed on them immortality and limited godly powers. Under the direction of one of the Nine Immortals, they also had certain tasks to carry out, whether in the Celestial Heavens or on the Red Earth of Kara-Tur. There were six main groups of Lesser Immortals.
The Moon Women had the great responsibility of maintaining Heaven itself. They refilled the oil lamps in the Sun, polished the crystal orbs of the stars, and steered the motions of the Moon and the constellations. Since these governed the calendar, Moon Women were patron saints of festivals, portents, auspicious moments, and other matters of time.
Serving Chan Cheng, the Spirit Warriors had the duties of creating courage and resolve in those who wavered, and leading armies of phantoms, the manifestation of which could swing a battle. Spirit Warriors also helped those who'd fallen in battle for a good cause, escorted the spirits of heroes for judgement by the Lords of Karma, and guarded the gates of the Underworld against trespassers.
Serving Nung Chiang, the Rice Spirits governed the harvest and fertility, causing rice to grow, animals to have their young, and women to bear babies, and decided if a family should have children.
Serving Fa Kuan, the Lords of Karma acted as defense or prosecution for the souls of the deceased before the Lawgiver, or sat as judges themselves. Together, they decided whether a worthy soul, one who'd lived a life of goodness and merit, should be raised to Heaven to be among the Ancestors, to be considered a Sage, or even to serve among the Lesser Immortals themselves. Those they found unworthy were condemned to remain as spirits, imprisoned in the Underworld in the day, and wandering the Red Earth at nights.
The Ancestors were the spirits of the worthy deceased who had been granted entry to Heaven. There, they always had delicious food and fine clothing, and enjoyed eternal lives without pain, weakness, or suffering. They had the responsibility of giving advice to their still-living descendants. Each had a secret name they told only to their most trusted child, which they could use to summon their parent to seek their wisdom.
A Sage (or "Budda", as they were known in Tabot) was a spirit who'd lived a life of boundless merit, purity, and resolve, with the sole goal of attaining perfection and becoming one with the will of Heaven, to become Heaven itself. They came from all classes of society, from any race or kind. Sages were allowed to walk beside the Lesser Immortals, but they were not yet granted godly powers or Immortality, not until they'd achieved in death the greatness they'd not yet achieved in life. However, some great people were considered Sages while they still lived, and they wandered the Red Earth, dispensing their wisdom and teaching others through example. When they died, they were raised to the ranks of the Immortals.
Living or dead, Sages dwelled apart from society, as hermits in caves in the mountains or secluded spots in the jungle, where they could seek peace and simplicity and achieve an inner harmony. This gave them knowledge, wisdom, and long life (if they still lived). They also acquired mastery of elements of the material world, gaining the power to perform great feats, such as walking across hot coals, breaking swords with but a touch, and quieting typhoons and earthquakes. Sages conversed with nature spirits, could command beasts to serve them, or cause monsters to retreat. Great creatures of the Celestial Bureaucracy such as dragons sometimes sought out the counsel of Sages, or merely desired to talk with them.
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 Kara-Tur, belief in the Celestial Empire was very strong. The Celestial Emperor 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. No one prayed directly to the Emperor; daring to call directly to him was seen as an act of utter impudence, one that would be answered with thunder and lightning.
There had only ever been one Celestial Emperor, he had ruled the Celestial Empire 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, the land of Kara-Tur.
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.
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- ↑ 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 1.15 1.16 1.17 1.18 1.19 1.20 1.21 1.22 1.23 1.24 1.25 Mike Pondsmith, Jay Batista, Rick Swan, John Nephew, Deborah Christian (1988). Kara-Tur: The Eastern Realms (Volume I). (TSR, Inc), pp. 24–26. ISBN 0-88038-608-8.
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 Julia Martin, Eric L. Boyd (March 1996). Faiths & Avatars. (TSR, Inc), pp. 3, 4. ISBN 978-0786903849.
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 Richard Baker, James Wyatt (March 2004). Player's Guide to Faerûn. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 65. ISBN 0-7869-3134-5.
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Gary Gygax, David Cook, and Francois Marcela-Froideval (1985). Oriental Adventures. (TSR, Inc), p. 116. ISBN 0-8803-8099-3.
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 Curtis Smith and Rick Swan (1990). Ronin Challenge. (TSR, Inc), pp. 68–69. ISBN 0-88038-749-1.
- ↑ Karen Wynn Fonstad (August 1990). The Forgotten Realms Atlas. (TSR, Inc), p. ix. ISBN 978-0880388573.
- ↑ Jeff Grubb (1988). Mad Monkey vs the Dragon Claw. (TSR, Inc). ISBN 0-88038-624-X.
- ↑ 8.0 8.1 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.