The Faith of the Nine Travelers was less a faith or religion and more a set of customs and a philosophy. It held that Heaven was a vast mirror of the empire of Shou Lung, with its own empire, government, bureaucracy, and emperor. All of this in fact correctly described the Celestial Empire, which held spiritual authority over Kara-Tur, more closely than other religion. Nevertheless, outsiders tended to disbelieve it out of hand, for the simple fact that it seemed so banal and mundane.
In particular, adherents followed the Nine Immortals, also known as the Nine Travelers, and held that they were enormously powerful beings of the Celestial Bureaucracy. Each was followed by a different sect. However, believers argued about which of the Nine was the leader, in which they were mistaken.[note 1]
A fundamental tenet of the faith was that even the lowest commoner could rise to become a ruler.[note 2] This view was openly commended by the nobility but of course not exactly encouraged.
Miraculous happenings were often attributed to the deeds of the Nine Travelers. One example was the portentous appearances of the Giants in Gray. However, when such things occurred, the Mandarinate of Shou Lung would immediately hold a Board of Inquiry from the Local Department of Certainty and Historic Worth to ascertain its genuineness. Although they produced vast archives of information about countless claimed miracles and gave many verdicts of "not proven" or "possible", they had not (by 1357 DR) declared the genuineness of any one miracle.
As a religion, the Faith of the Nine Travelers was perhaps the least powerful. It had no organized priesthood and very few temples. Instead, its true power lay in the many people of the lower classes and the bureaucracy who followed it. The Faith was practiced by monks.
Already the oldest faith in Shou Lung, during the War of the Nobles (Shou Years 435 (−815 DR) to 440 (−810 DR)), the bureaucracy adopted the Faith of the Nine Travelers as its own. The bureaucrats grew in power, learning to play the noble houses against one another and controlling access to the Emperor through careful bureaucratic bungling. Thus they gained ascendancy over the nobility. Over the years, the Faith became the guiding principle for scholars of the Mandarinate that came to head the bureaucracy; its basic tenet that a low-classed person could ascend to become ruler of all established their newfound dominance and thus they promoted it. Over the centuries, the Faith of the Nine Travelers stood firm against attempts to diminish its role.
However, the Faith was brought low in Shou Year 581 (−669 DR) when the first Emperor Chin of the Ho Dynasty proclaimed the so-called Organization of Thought, an effort to make the Path of Enlightenment the one and only faith of Shou Lung. Monks of the Nine Travelers were banished from Shou Lung, as were monks and priests of many other faiths. This triggered the Time of Contentions, in which rival faiths feuded and struggled against one another, among the people and the bureaucracy. Ultimately, both the first Emperor Chin and his son died mysteriously in Shou Year 630 (−620 DR). The grandson, now the second Emperor Chin, ended the Time of Contentions by decreeing the Time of Sharing Meals, outlawing temple militias but encouraging religious freedoms once more. The various faiths were accepted again, yet the Path remained the official religion of the empire.
By midway through the Kao Dynasty (Shou Years 1025 (−225 DR) to 2050 (800 DR)), the Faith of the Nine Travelers was well-entrenched in the Mandarinate and they'd written much on the subject. The nobility continued to oppose it to a greater or lesser degree, seeing it as a political threat.
The Faith of the Nine Travelers was most likely the oldest faith still practiced in Shou Lung by 1357 DR. It was popular with folk of the lower classes, especially merchants and those who worked to improve their lot through civil service, but it was also extremely closely associated with the high-ranking Mandarinate. As a result, it was a nicknamed a "faith of clerks". The Mandarinate reinforced the dominance of both it and the Faith by legitimizing the Book of Heaven and making its study an essential part of the civil service examination. Although heavily based on the Path of Enlightenment, it was written in the context of the reigns and deeds of the Nine Travelers.
It was also the oldest faith practiced in Wa by 1357 DR. It was followed by many in the lower classes. The upper classes tolerated it, but considered the precept that anyone could rise to the position of emperor to be obviously rather offensive.
- ↑ Little is known about the Faith itself, but it seems to be based around the legends of the Nine Immortals, also known to be nine great early emperors of pre–Shou Lung history.
- ↑ This most likely refers to the ascendancy of the peasant Nung Fu as the first emperor of Shou Lung.
- ↑ 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 Mike Pondsmith, Jay Batista, Rick Swan, John Nephew, Deborah Christian (1988). Kara-Tur: The Eastern Realms (Volume I). (TSR, Inc), pp. 27, 28. ISBN 0-88038-608-8.
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 Mike Pondsmith, Jay Batista, Rick Swan, John Nephew, Deborah Christian (1988). Kara-Tur: The Eastern Realms (Volume II). (TSR, Inc), p. 176. ISBN 0-88038-608-8.
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 Jeff Grubb (1987). Ochimo: The Spirit Warrior. (TSR, Inc), p. 5. ISBN 0-88038-393-3.
- ↑ David Cook (1990). The Horde (Cards). (TSR, Inc). ISBN 978-0880388689.
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 Brian R. James and Ed Greenwood (September, 2007). The Grand History of the Realms. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 41, 42. 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. 8. ISBN 0-88038-608-8.
- ↑ Jeff Grubb (1987). Ochimo: The Spirit Warrior. (TSR, Inc), p. 3. ISBN 0-88038-393-3.