Tales of Wuxia
Rénmín is one of the largest and oldest of empires. Their name is simply ‘the people’ as they consider themselves the heart of civilization.
Rénmín has a wide variety of geography, though the eastern areas are the heartlands and are gathered along the three great rivers of their nation and the coast to the Great Sea. It is also split historically into ‘northern’ and ‘southern’ regions with the culture somewhat different between them, though the geography doesn’t really support such a split. The country is also divided into 31 Provinces.
Rénmín has a rich history extending back to a legendary origin almost 5,000 years ago. Tradition suggests their were a series of clans in the heartlands before the Golden Emperor unified the clans and formed the first empire in a decades long war. Since then three different dynasties have ruled the empire and it has expanded into the monolith it is today.
Rénmín thinks of itself as the only civilized culture in the world. Everyone else are barbarians. The culture is feudal, but the royal family is the only aristocracy. Instead civil servants handle the middle layers of government. This also includes a number of private groups, such as some of the guilds that control aspects of developing materials throughout the country.
The life of the average commoner is hard, but not usually horrible. Few can expect their children to enter the ranks of the civil servants or scholars, but may find a place in the army, guard, a religious order, or a guild.
The civil servants come from the ranks of the scholars, at least originally. Someone whose parent was a civil servant gains a boost to taking the exam in the capitol that gets them a place in the bureaucracy.
Above it all is the royal family lead by the Emperor, or in a few cases Empress. The raining ruler is expected to bear many heirs and having one wife and multiple concubines is expected. In fact a order of priestesses exists specifically to be the concubines of the current emperor and bear his offspring.
Three martial traditions exist: The Local Guard, the Army, and the Xia. The Local Guard act as police and militia and are under the direct control of the bureaucracy. The Army is under the control of the emperor and his appointed generals. Finally, the Xia are martial artists not directly controlled by the government. They are not always popular with the bureaucracy. They can be useful, but the powerful typically see them as one of society’s plagues. Xia often being as dangerous, scruffy, and poor as the bandits and evil doers they fought. Xia most typically deal with the bandits, local injustices, and corruption that thrive in the Rénmín Empire. Some governors are just and fair, while others are corrupt or cruel.
To this mix is aided the secret societies, which the Rénmín have a long history of. Some of these are fairly innocuous or even benign. Others are dedicated to overthrowing the government or restoring an earlier dynasty. In some areas they amount to little more than bandits or organized criminals. In others they become the de facto local government. A few are so powerful they may be the government of a region.
The Rénmín often claim that Northern martial arts are “long” while Southern ones are “short”. Many Northern styles do feature deep stances, lunging punches, and high kicks. Southern arts often favor narrow stances, close-in punches, and low-line kicks. Weapons also follow this separation. Northern stylists frequently encountered military and aristocratic arms thanks to their proximity to the capital: spears, polearms, and swords. Southern fighters who are generally commoners favored everyday tools like: staves, knives, cleavers (“butterfly sword”), etc.