Zhǎngshān

Surface gravity 11.1 m/s², 1.14 g
Day length 190 ks, 52.8 hours
Year length 29.2 Ms, 0.925 Earth years
Month length 1.29 Ms (6.8 local days)
Seasonal change Mild
Atmosphere 88 kPa, 22 kPa partial pressure O2
Fires burn easily
Climate Warm
Notable features Tectonically active, mountainous. Giant moon. Purple vegetation.
Population 35 million; Majority Human.
Capital city Zhōngyāng
Wormhole terminus Hēi hú
Current Governor Wu Shènglì
Interplanetary organizations Lǜ Shuǐ Base (Republican Army)
Prominant businesses Mining, forestry, agriculture.

Natural Features

Zhǎngshān is a relatively young, massive, tectonically active world. Its churning mantle has driven repeated collisions of crustal plates resulting in long chains of towering mountains rivalling and exceeding Earth's Himalayas; along with extensive chains of active volcanoes, flood basalt plains, hot springs, geysers, and frequent earthquakes. The tectonic activity helps to fractionate minerals and concentrate valuable ores, giving Zhǎngshān rich deposits of mineable minerals.

Zhǎngshān's moon is larger and closer than Earth's moon, and generally brighter in color. It is a major feature in the sky, even in daytime, when it is above the horizon. The size and proximity means that Zhǎngshān's coastlines experience large tides. This, in turn, leads to more rapid coastal weathering and broad intertidal zones.

The autotrophes native to Zhǎngshān are technically funguses, although they bear little resemblance to Earth mushrooms. They have undergone evolutionary convergence with plants, displaying vascularized stems, leaves, seeds, flowers, and in some species woody stalks (although the structural components of the wood are protein chains such as keratin and silk rather than cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin). They photosynthesize using endosymbionts similar to chloroplasts, but with a purple photopigment. In simple terms, the native "plants" of Zhǎngshān have purple leaves.

Zhǎngshān animals are generally called pángxiè (crabs) or chóng (worms), as befits their appearance as either chitinous multi-legged arthropods or wriggling vermiform things. Many of these reach a size large enough to be a threat to an adult Human, and the predatory varieties are suitably rapacious as to attack people and have not yet learned to fear Humans. Those who enter untamed Zhǎngshān jungle are advised to go armed.

With Human settlement, many introduced plants and animals from Earth have become established. Bamboo and grasses are some of the most prominent, and give patches of green in among the native purple.

History

The wormhole that landed on Zhǎngshān touched down in an extensive rift valley. After the initial survey was complete, the Chinese government quickly opened Zhǎngshān up to colonization. The fertile fields of deep, rich soil along the river floodplains attracted many settlers, who began growing rice and other crops. When mineral surveys revealed rich veins of copper, silver, tin, zinc, tellurium, thallium, tungsten, indium, cadmium, selenium, antimony, and bismuth, even more immigrants flowed in to operate the mines and transport the ores back to Earth to be refined. Soon, Zhǎngshān became one of the most populous worlds in the Chinese bough.

When Zhǎngshān was acquired by the Americans during the re-capture of the worlds upstream of Jefferson, American presence was not easily tolerated. The Zhǎngshānese rose up against this foreign imperialistic alien presence. With their high and distributed population, Zhǎngshān was never easy to police or govern. Rebellion boiled over. While the Americans were able to occupy the major cities, including the capital and wormhole terminus, they lacked the resources and will to pacify the rural areas.

Xiá

When there is great injustice, heroes will arise to fight it. On Zhǎngshān, these are the xiá (pronounced hsia, with a rising tone). Xiá are brave souls who reject selfishness and the corruption of their society to fight for justice and right wrongs. Despite the common translation of "knight errant", xiá are usually commoners who take up the mantle of protector of a community or a wanderer who roams widely having adventurers, proving his or her virtue and martial prowess, and bringing relief to the oppressed. A common element in the forging of a xiá is a period of intense martial training under a master. Modern xiá of Zhǎngshān train in marksmanship in addition to more traditional pursuits of meditation, breathing, and unarmed and melee martial arts. Some xiá are loners, while others work in bands of heroes to do great deeds.

The code of the xiá: While some who call themselves xiá are no more than bandits, a true xiá is expected to display kindness, bravery, loyalty, and righteousness. The xiá should follow his conscience rather than the demands of the law. Xiá value martial competence and reject wealth; conflicts between xiá are often settled with kung fu fighting. A xiá's family is his martial school and master as much as his parents and siblings, and he or she is expected to show true loyalty to his teacher, class, and training institution. Beyond this, some will respect xiá who hold grudges against rivals and seek vengeance against enemies; others stress the importance of Buddhist ideals of forgiveness.

The governors and regional administrators in remote areas took direct control of their territories. Although many started out with altruistic motives, their soldiers and essential supporters needed to be provided with resources and weapons and military equipment were not cheap. Those who were unwilling to do what was needed to make sure that these influentials were prioritized soon found themselves replaced by those who were. Taxes would be raised on the farmers; or the mineral riches could be exploited as a source of much-needed funds, sold to smugglers or unscrupulous corporate agents. Over time, the former governors effectively became independent warlords running their territories as their own personal fiefs.

The Free Zhǎngshān Army began as a movement among a few militant monasteries, who coordinated elements of the rebellion. Early successes against the occupiers gave the FZA credibility, which morphed into legitimacy. In the early days, the FZA was seen as less corrupt than the governors, lending them support among the populace. The regional warlords often courted this legitimacy by offering support to the FZA, or joining alliances with it. Over time this early idealism necessarily faded and the FZA was forced to turn to criminal activity and corruption in order to maintain the cash flows to finance their rebellion, but by this time they had cemented their position as an influential player on Zhǎngshān.

The Bump in the Night was just a small blip for most of the already impoverished and isolated people of Zhǎngshān. The polity controlling the region around the largest cities of Zhōngyāng and Hēi hú was recognized as the legitimate government by the other worlds. Initially, this government had no interest in joining the fledgling Republic. This did not sit well with the leaders in Jiàngluò, who felt that another Chinese world would help to offset the American influence and protect Chinese traditions and values in the Republic. With their wealth, Jiàngluò was able to engineer a coup against the recognized government and buy the loyalty of the new administration, which then petitioned for membership status in the Republic. Many of the American worlds were dubious, concerned about the relative lack of democratic institutions and worried about the on-going violence. However, Jiàngluò was wealthy and influential. In addition, many throughout the Republic were concerned that Zhǎngshān wouldn't be able to hold off the Squirm on their own, and would then become a staging area for a Squirm invasion of the rest of the Verge. A few lucrative back-room deals smoothed things out and a close vote approved Zhǎngshān's acceptance as a Republic world.

In the 3 gigaseconds (century) since then, Zhǎngshān has not been pacified nor integrated. The central government remains restive under Republic control, and a near-constant insurrection has pestered Republic authorities. The farther provinces are not recognized as separate governments and the official position is that they are Republic territory, but for all practical purposes the Republic has little influence in those areas and they are controlled by strongmen and warlords.

The Republican Army has had to intervene against Squirm incursions on three occasions. Relying on satellite surveillance, the infestations were detected before Zhǎngshān was completely overrun. When Squirm are detected, the Army goes into full sterilization mode, cauterizing the infection before it can spread. Unfortunately, this indiscriminate warfare tends to cause significant collateral damage among the civilian population. Although the Army justifies this by noting that all those people would be dead anyway once the Squirm got to them it does little to endear the Republic to the people of Zhǎngshān.

Government

Zhǎngshān is nominally a parliamentary democracy. In practice, the ruling coalition ensures that it maintains a strong grip on the parliament. The governor has considerable personal power, and uses the ongoing rebellion as justification to curtail many freedoms that other worlds of the Verge Republic take for granted. Corruption is rampant, primarily by siphoning off the vast mineral wealth flowing through the wormhole at Hēi hú, enriching the wealthy and influential even further at the expense of the common person.

There is considerable discontent among the common people in the areas of central government influence. The Free Zhǎngshān Army rebellion recruits heavily from these regions. The FZA also operates heavily in rural areas, governing some areas and fighting warlords in others. FZA pays lip service to bringing freedom to the people of Zhǎngshān, but in practice they maintain power through terror, commit atrocities, and finance their operations through crushing taxes, controlling the trade of mineral wealth, and growing drugs such as opium and cocaine. The relationship between the FZA and the warlords ranges from cozy to fractious, depending on their mutual or competing interests. They smuggle mineral wealth from the warlords in the boondocks into the rest of the Republic, run guns from the Republic to the warlords, take a hefty cut of the profits, and launder their own and the warlord's filthy lucre into coin more easily spent.

The Republican Army maintains a large contingent on Zhǎngshān, conducting patrols from fortified bases to root out rebels. Relations between the Army and the Governor are not always easy, since the Army is a competent and professional organization that does not trust the Zhǎngshān central government.

In the hinterlands, the warlords and rebel leaders run their territories as autocracies. Heavy taxes on the peasants and cozy deals with mining operations allow the leaders to buy the support of their cronies and purchase weapons and other military equipment from gun runners. The people have no say in policy matters, and are denied basic freedoms. The warlord's thugs commonly commit atrocities such as torture, murder, rape, and mass killings. Warlords often fight each other for more territory and wealth.

Among the common people, there has arisen an organization parallel to the ruling class. Called the Jiānghú, these range from beggars, wanderers, criminals, and bandits to honest craftsmen, farmers, laborers, and shopkeepers. They operate a network of secret societies to serve the needs of the lower classes against a corrupt system of law. Their rules are relatively simple, based nominally on moral behavior rather than power, but also emphasizing loyalty to the Jiānghú, honesty, honoring one's sworn word, secrecy, and vengeance against those who have betrayed them or exposed them to the authorities or outsiders. Differences are resolved through mediation or negotiation or, failing that, kung fu. Societies within the Jiānghú are often based around a school of martial arts, and enforce order and their own laws with their best fighters. Members of the Jiānghú who develop relationships or close cooperation with the elite are suspect, and are likely to be challenged, disrespected, and lose their authority. Unofficial contact with lower order functionaries of the ruling class is tolerated, even encouraged, as mutually beneficial to both the Jiānghú members and the official staff. This can take the form of favors or bribes, or just the convenience of having the Jiānghú enforcing order so the local enforcers don't have to. In return, the Jiānghú are likely to be tipped off to raids or investigations, officials will turn a blind eye to many Jiānghú operations, and jailed members are often given preferential treatment.

Timekeeping

Each Zhǎngshān day is divided into two cycles of 26.4 hours, approximating the sleep-wake cycle of Humans and Pannovas. Farmers often just work their fields as long as there is daylight, although the brightness of Zhǎngshān's moon makes working at night more feasible when the moon is near-full. Hours and minutes are used to keep track of time over intervals smaller than a day.

People

The Zhǎngshānese are descended from Chinese, and with less immigration from the rest of the Verge than Jiàngluò they tend to remain largely ethnically Chinese.

Name

Zhǎngshānese. Informally, Shans (translation: "Mountains").

Attitudes

The ideal Zhǎngshānese is expected to respect and obey his elders and uphold his family's honor. If male, it will be upon him to carry on his family's name to the next generation. The ancient traditions are to be observed, and one's ancestors who have passed on are to be remembered and venerated.

A Zhǎngshānese can trust his family and (usually) his neighbors. Outsiders are usually up to no good, and are best dealt with cautiously until they have proven themselves. Lords, leaders, and important men will not have your family's interests in mind – lie to the authorities as necessary, and give enough obedience that punishment is not brought down on you and yours. Cooperation at the village level, however, is necessary to ensure a good crop and manpower to keep up the dikes and irrigation systems – village leaders should be given deference and obedience.

The wealthy and powerful must be generous with their essential supporters, but the peasants are of little consequence. Those who are fortunate enough to have a wealthy sponsor are expected to give that patron loyalty and obedience. Wealthy and powerful men usually have many wives; the more wives you have, the more powerful and virile you are thought to be. Occasionally, a woman will rise to a position of prominence – these women are free to keep stables of husbands if they so wish.

Architecture

The frequency of earthquakes and the relative poverty of Zhǎngshān means that most dwellings are made from bamboo or the "wood" of local "trees". This allows the building to sway without breaking. Most people in the countryside live in simple huts, while the cities have many shantytowns. Warlords far from the central government often have fortresses ringed with thick stone walls, although the living spaces inside are generally made of bamboo or wood. Closer to the central regions, the threat of Republican Army strikes makes stealth a better survival strategy than strength, and the elite will live in camouflaged but comfortable abodes. Major cities feature modest skyscrapers and apartment blocks, and the wealthy live in mansions built in protected and walled neighborhoods patrolled by private security forces.

Cuisine

The primary staple of most people of Zhǎngshān is rice. This may be supplemented with an egg, fish, insects, and home-grown vegetables; for special occasions the meat of pigs, ducks, or chickens is consumed. The local Zhǎngshān animals often end up in people's dishes and stomachs as well, although intensive hunting near populated areas means that the local wildlife is often scarce near settled regions. When meat is prepared, nearly all of the animal is utilized, even parts that most other worlds would consider garbage such as feet, heads, and offal. Orchards provide apples, plums, peaches, citrus, and cherries when in season. Food is stored by pickling, salting, drying, or canning, since many do not have access to reliable refrigeration (or even electricity). It may be seasoned with ginger, chili, garlic, black pepper, onions, chives, coriander, anise, cloves, fennel, or vinegar. Rice and eggs are usually steamed, other foods are commonly chopped up into bite-sized pieces and fried in a wok with a bit of vegetable oil. The wealthy may dine elaborately on sumptuous feasts of meat and expertly flavored vegetable dishes but this is beyond the means of most Zhǎngshānese. Food is almost always eaten using chopsticks as utensils, save for soups which are eaten with broad spoons or drunk straight from the bowl.

Languages

The primary native languages of Zhǎngshānese are Cantonese, Hokkien, and Mandarin. English is part of the curriculum of the schools in the central government and the wealthy worldwide usually learn to speak English well enough to get by. The literate and educated write the Chinese-descended languages with Chinese characters (called hànzì in Mandarin) although many also learn and use pinyin for dealing with Mandarin-speaking outsiders.

Religions

Most Zhǎngshānese are Buddhists. Taoist and Confucian philosophies are also highly influential to the Zhǎngshān way of thinking.

Monasteries are common, often in out of the way places, where the monks meditate with shaved heads and simple robes. Some practice martial arts to teach discipline and meditation, and to bring the body and mind together as one.

It is common to believe in qì (or ch'i), a vital life force that flows through one's being and the world. Views of qì shape the Zhǎngshānese approach to medicine, exercise, architecture, urban planning, and even marital relations. Sicknesses are explained as a blockage of qì, and traditional practices can be used to restore one's flow of qì.

Superstition is common in Zhǎngshān, from fortune telling to practices designed to fend off bad luck and evil spirits. There are many on Zhǎngshān who work as wizards and diviners, and are commonly consulted before serious undertakings.

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