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MyGURPS - Tian Xia Abridged Gazetteer

Tian Xia Abridged Gazetteer

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For more detail, see the full TianXia Gazetteer.


Shénzhōu ("shen-zhoo") is inspired by mythical ancient China, where flawed-yet-brave heroes protect folk from bandits, evil magicians, and monsters. The Imperial Bureaucracy is a tower of stability and support, but corruption runs rampant in that tower's shadow. Heroes and villains are diverse in gender, race, sexuality, etc.; what matters is who you are inside.

Shénzhōu is divided into provinces, that roughly fall into these regions:

  • The South: Temperate to tropical. Trade is focused on the Da Jing ("Great River"). Considered remote, thus somewhat undeveloped and underpopulated. Popular for rebels, exiles, pirates, and smugglers.
  • The East: Rural farmlands inland, becoming cities near the coast. Access to all trade routes. Contains Zhōngzhōu ("zhohng-zhoo") Province, the imperial capital. Civilized and orderly.
  • The North: Tundra, hills, and forests, with the Great Wall as the north border. Hard people live a hard life; many are mixed stock of Shénzhōu and "foreign barbarian."
  • The West: This area is dominated by Jiāngzhōu (jee'yong-zhoo) Province, a border region known for bandits, gangs, and corrupt officials, which is the default location of a TianXia game.

Jiāngzhōu Province

A large transient population, thanks to trade along the Jade Road and Silk River, makes this a chaotic place filled with traveling merchants, mercenaries, spies, and oh-so-many bandits. The latter clash with local security companies who are often little more than bandits themselves. Merchants and thieves fight over land, trade, and gold, and the common folk suffer under the corruption and lawlessness.

This conflict draws warriors of all types and for all reasons: work and money, a way to escape the past, a place to hide, or to prey on the weak. Monks and priests come to enlighten or exploit the populace. And necessity or opportunity draws scholars, doctors, entertainers, spies, courtesans, and even dispossessed nobility.

Important landmarks include:

  • The Jade Road: The main trade route, connecting the central provinces to the western border. Named for the local jade mining trade. Security and safety varies wildly.
  • The Silk River: Ranges from northwest of the province down to the sea. Named for the silkworm farms which border its banks. Watch out for river pirates.
  • Băo Jiāng ("bow jee'yong"): Capital of Jiāngzhōu and the default city for a TianXia game. Just Băo to the locals. Located between the Jade Road and Silk River roughly in the center of the province. City officials cannot keep up with the overwhelming number of transient visitors, which has led to various organizations (both legitimate and criminal) stepping up to pick up the slack.


The three most common religions in Shénzhōu are:

  • Bodhism: To attain enlightenment, the followers of Bodhisattva reject wealth and privilege, as those lead to suffering and jealousy. They try to avoid violence and mitigate the suffering of others.
  • Daoism: Daoists seek universal harmony, a balance of positive and negative forces, by living naturally, simply, and spontaneously. Many become exorcisms or embrace other mysticism.
  • Legalism: The official religion of the Empire, which focuses on spiritual contentment and universal harmony through obedience to law, social tradition, and family loyalty.

None are exclusive; many people pay at least lip service to all three. All three roughly agree on cosmology (gods, planes of existence, etc.); for details, see Spirits, Beasts & Spells, pp. 16-21. There are as many irreligious (or even anti-religious) folks as there are truly pious ones, with the vast majority falling somewhere in between.

(Note: While these were obviously adapted from Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism, they are fictional faiths designed to fit into this setting. Any differences are intentional, not discrepancies.)

Social Classes

People in Shénzhōu are generally thought to be grouped into four categories. In rough order of ascending social importance these are: nong (peasant farmers), gong (craftsmen), shang (merchants), and shi (noble scholars).

Wu (warriors) are seen as outside of this social order, with their own "Jianghu" subculture which is both romanticized and avoided by many. Monks and priests similarly stand apart, but are usually well respected by all for their wisdom and spirituality.

For more detail, see the full TianXia Gazetteer.

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