A Tour of Kara-Tur

by: Tim Martin

Main areas of civlization in Kara-Tur:

Kozakura - Or the "Little Cherry Blossom," is inhabited by the same race
of people as found on Wa, and has similiar customs and traditons.
Kozakura howerver is far from a unified state. For several centuries it
has been the scene of incessant warfare between powerful daimyos, all
struggling to gain the title of shogun.
        Kozakura exists as a number of islands (some volcanic), the largest of
which is Shinkoku. This island of snowy mountains, piney woods, dense
bamboo forests, and rice paddies is home to almost three quarters of the
Kozakuran populaiton, and is the center of Kozakuran politics, culture,
and civilization.
        Unlike Wa, Kozakura is open to foreign trade, and ships are able to
visit many ports. Shinkoku, as noted above, is a major population
center; among its larger cities are Fukama, Senita, Dojyu and Masakado.
Fukama was the original captial of Kozakura, and is best known for its
artwork, handicrafts, and its Noh. Senita has been known as an area of
fighting, but in more peaceful times exports of large amounts of rice,
its fine seaport, and its excellent horses make it a wealthy city.
Dojyu is the capital but due to fighting is many times not a port of
call to visiting ships. This grand city is rumored to be a major source
of leather, silk, and sake. Masakado has one of the finest harbors
anywhere, and is a site of the otherwise infrequent trade with Wa. It
is also known for its wicker and basket handicrafts and for a local red
dye made from the roots of an indigenous tree.
        The second largest island is that of Tenmei, which lies to the north of
Shinkoku and forms the northern barrier of the Inland Sea. Major cities
are Yoshida, which is the captial of Tenmei province and source of rice,
fish, and ceramics, and Tanegawa, which is inhabited by barbarian humans
and korobokuru and is the site of tin and copper exports.
        Major trade goods of Kozakura include rice, artwork, fish, handicrafts,
art, pottery, enamel work, obisidan, tin, copper, dyes, horses, and
        Kozakura is open to trade, but much of the country's focus is on the
struggle for power and national unification. The country is still
dealing, some nine years later, with the outcome of a major war - the
Hojo War. Factions fight factions, samurai battle samurai, and ninja
find much to do; the foreigner must be cautious.
        A notable religion of Kozakura is that of the Eight Million Gods; an
ancient religion of both Kozakura and Wa, a collection of beliefs and
rituals that relate to various nature deities. There is no great
teacher or book for the Eight Million Gods, nor uniform rituals of
worship. Observances vary from deity to deity and shrine to shrine.
        Nonhuman races also live in Kozakura. The Bamboo Spirit Folk are found
in forested areas. Hengeyokai live in isloated enclaves throughtout the
nation. Korobokuru (Kara-Tur dwarves) live in the remotest areas of
Shinkoku and Tenmei.

Shou Lung - Or "Receiver of the Dragon," is the largest and most
powerful empire of Kara-Tur. It is also the oldest state of Kara-Tur
and has been in existence for over 1,200 years in one form or another.
It has been ruled by an emperor for all of its history, except for a few
periods of turmoil. The bureaucracy he heads is manned by thousands of
officials, major and minor, chosen by a system of standarized
examinations given throughout the land.
        Shou Lung is divided into 14 provinces, headed by a governor. The
provinces are connected by a well-maintained network of roads and
bridges, as well as Imperial Messengers. Dikes and dams are construced
to control flooding, and coinage and paper money is minted and honored
throughout the land (and indeed most of Kara-Tur and as far away as
Afyal in Zakhara).
         These paper notes are called Ch'ao. One cha'o is equal to 100 fen
(lowest denomination coin, copper) or 20 yuan ( a higher denomination
copper coin). Ch'ao come in various amounts - one, ten, and 100 notes
being the most common. Ch'ao, because they are easier to handle, are
preferred when dealing in amounts of 100 fen or greater. Silver coins
are used, either the tael (equal to about 10 western silver pieces) or
the ch'ien (equal to either 100 silver pieces or 5 gold pieces). Gold,
although quite valuable, is not considered a proper form of currency.
Rather, this metal is reserved for artistic and craft purposes.
        A number of cities are already known to westerners from the Silk and
Spice Roads.
        Karatin is a large seaport city located at the mouth of Hungtse, which
one must pass to reach the Shou Lung capital. Built mostly on swamps,
it is one of the older cities in Shou Lung and its particularly noted
for its architecture. With a deep and well dredged harbor, ships
constantly come here to trade for silk, rice, spices, and the advanced
sciences of the Empire. It is a bustling port, where one can find
almost any type of goods, and meet people from all over Kara-Tur, and
even Zakhara. It is the largest city of Hai Yuan or the Maritime
Provinces, and is a conduit for Keelung tea and silk.
        Kirin is another major port city, largest one of the Hungtse province.
Originally named Hai Sheng, the third Imperial capital was renamed for
the huge kirin who visited the city during the years of the Ivory
Plague, saving the populace from certain death. It is a noted source of
rice, tea, and silk.
        Tsingtao is north of Kirin, and is the largest city of Ti Erte or
Second Province. It is famed for its beer and wine and its fine but
very hot food among its many products, and is a major population
        Other port cities of note include Taoshin, Hsiang, and Lo'Shan.
        Shou Lung is famous for the Dragonwall, which marks the current western
border of Shou Lung, forming a protective barrier thousands of miles
long. Said to be the hardened body of a great dragon.
        Ruler of this nation of well over thirty million people is Emperor Kai.

Tsao Shou Chin - Samurai emperor of Shou Lung and possibly the most
powerful individual on all of Toril. Known as the Rebuilder of the
Dragon, he is known as a reformer, seeking to heal religious shicsms in
Shou Lung, replace corrupt officials with new blood, protect the
peasants from nobles attempting to create new fiefs, and elevate science
and alchemy to the traditional ministries.
        Underneath him is the Mandarinate of Shou Lung, which is made up of the
upper echelon of scholars and officials, and includes both court
scholars and the heads of official ministries of the bureaucracy. It
includes the Chancellor (right hand of the Emperor), the Chamberlain
(responsible for maintaing the Household of the Imperial Court), the
Emperor's Wu Jen, the High Priest (of the official Faith), among others.
         The Emperor and the Mandarinate rule from the Forbidden City, located
in the heart of Imperial Capitol. It is the truly the Empire of Shou
Lung's center. Within this compound are the Palaces of the Emperor and
his family, the halls of the government, and the great Hall of Judgement
where the Son of Heaven sits upon the Jade Throne and rules the Empire.
It is surrounded by huge walls nearly three stories high and about as
        The dominant religion is The Path, which is the officially recognized
"state" religion of Shou Lung, primarily due to a well organized temple
militia and strong influence at court. It emphasizes honor, duty, and
respect to one's elders, ancestors, and the Imperial family. Out of
character, it is Confuscianism. (The Path of Enlightenment is also
observed among the Seng of the Jungle Lands). The Path also stresses
respect and homage to the Celestial Emperor, the Nine Immortals, and
other members of the Celestial Empire.
        Shou Lung is far in advance of Faerun in technology, and while many may
try to gain these advances, they will not come easily or cheaply. Shou
Lung has had paper, printed books, and fireworks for centuries. Shou
Lung inventors were the first to devise the compass, the sextant, the
water clock, the treadmill-driven paddle boat, water pumps, the drill,
and the chair. Paper money first appeared in the Empire. Shou Lung has
also invented the kite and the hua hsiang chi or glider, the first
nonmagical way to put a man aloft. Shou Lung mathematicians,
astronomers, and physicians are far in advance of the West, and only the
Zakharans come close in these fields (though there some notable Maztican
astronomers). Although reality has shown the Shou Lung navy to be far
behind in comparison to Western nations such as Cormyr or Sembia, wise
men can see that this will not be the case for long.
         Shou Lung is not merely a nation of humans, but contains a number of
nonhumans as well. The province of Sheng Ti, "The Sanctuary Provinces,"
are one of the few places in Kara-Tur where fox folk and hengeyokai
citizens walk openly, even in their bipedal forms. Also in this
verdant, wooded province one can find a relativel large number of spirit

T'u Lung - "Earth Dragon" was a part of Shou Lung until a dispute over
imperial succession 300 years ago. Claiming its own emperor, T'u Lung
set up a separate imperial court. After many wars between the two
states, the situation has stablized, though no love is lost.
        In the wars of succession, the Emperor of T'u Lung was supported by
powerful officials and nobles of the rebelling provinces, though this
later proved to be a problem, as future T'u Lung emperors were unable to
rule without the nobles' support. The nobles replaced the examination
system with hereditary positions, and T'u Lung's public works in its six
provinces subsequently declined.
        T'u Lung was once as vibrant and civlized as Shou Lung (as of course it
was once part of Shou Lung), but is now racked by corruption, decadence,
and chaos. T'u Lung is open to trade, but can be unsafe; conscription
is daily fact of life, corrupt officials demand high taxes and
kickbacks, the government does not control bandits and wako, and the
government is rife with political conspiracy. Travelers beware.
        Major port cities are Pe Nok, H'sin-to, Chunming, Ausa, and Keeling.

Wa - A series of islands that are a unified military state. Like
Kozakura, Wa is a nation of islands, with Tsukishima being the largest,
home to the captial of Uwaji. Although there is an emperor, the title
is honorary and real power rests in the hands of the shogun or
"barbarian-suppressing general." The island is divided into fiefs,
granted by the shogun, and ruled individually by the daimyos.
        Within Wa the status of the warrior, particularly the samurai, has been
raised above all others. Each daimyo maintains a household of samurai,
each expected to give absolute and loyal service to their daimyo. Under
the warriors come the peasants, then the craftsmen, and finally the
        Wa has a culture similar to that of Kozakura, but here law and order
prevails. The same rigid social system which ensures domestic
tranqulity borders on tyranny and oppression for most. Distinct social
classes are rigidly enforced, travel is closely monitored, even relgion
is regulated by the state. Prosperity is concentrated among the ruling
military, condemning a staggering number of commoners to lives of
hardship and poverty.
        Regardless of their social status, the citizens of Wa are united by
their fierce national pride and deep distrust of foreigners. Contact
with the rest of the world is limited to a few trusted Kozakuran
merchants, and very few details of Wa are known outside its borders even
in Kara-tur.
        Foregin and especially non Kara-Tur ships are intercepted by ships of
the Wa navy and are not permitted to make landfall. Wa apparently has
no interest in relations with its neighbors, let alone gaijin.

Northern Wastes - Uncivlized region to the south of the Land of the Snow
Demons and north of Shou Lung. It is primarily made up of the Ama River
Basin, which includes extensive regions of taiga and swamps. The
Northern Wastes also includes the northern Koryaz Mountains.
        Three "nations" or tribal groupings live in the Ama Basin, differing
according to appearance, dialect, and culture. They are the Issacort
(the most cohesive, forming a tribal confederation), the Pazruki, and
the Wu-haltai (the least cohesive, its clans forming alliances only in
times of need).
        Aside from the three nations, there are a number of small native
tribes, some thought to be recent immigrants from the Plain of Horses or
the Land of Snow Demons.
        The Northern Wastes are a very difficult region to travel and trade in,
and there are no port cities in the region.

Malatra - Or the Jungle Lands, are south of T'u and Shou Lung, and is a
collective name, encompassing several peoples. The main civilizations
are the Kuong Kingdom, the hill tribes of Purang, and the Seng of
        Laothan is the northern jungle area of Malatra, sweeping south in a
curve from the T'u Lung border to the Dwai river. A region of vast
rainforest and monsoons, its people bear many similiarities with those
of T'u Lung.
        The largest seaport of Laothan is Sayan, known for doing much trade
with seafarers from more northerly countries. It is also known to be a
town ruled by a powerful clan, and is widely considered to be a center
of decadence.
        Another place is Deikhou. This town is a source of pottery, tiles, and
other ceramic goods sold all over Laothan and the region. Deikhou is
well known as a haunt for the mysterious wu jen.
        The Seng are noted for a small amount of spices, but more so for vast
quantities of rice, for leather and wood products produced by skilled
craftsmen, silver, and jewelry. Many exotic woods such as teak are
bought through the Seng of Laothan.
        Purang is a hilly region, little known, home to primitive tribesman,
noted for hunting with blowguns and poison darts. This region of dense
jungle is fiercely defended by its inhabitants. Their contact with
outsiders is limited, and trade and travel through and with the Purang
is practically nonexistant.
        Kuong is the southern jungle country of this region, and has the
heaviest jungle of all Malatra. The people are racially similiar to
those of Purang, but more advanced. Its people worship what are known
here as the Lords of Creation, a pantheon of deities that includes
Indra, Garuda, Yama, etc (i.e. the Indian pantheon).
        The people of the Kuong Kingdom concentrate a great deal less on rice
and more so on fruits and vegetables. Obvious to any casual visitor is
that the Kuong are master workers in stone, as evidenced by their temple
cities, made of massive and elaborately carved stone. Gems are another
major source of income.
        Largest seaport, and indeed largest readily accesible city is that of
Marabaya. The largest seaport in the entire region, seafarers take on
cargos of gold, silver, ivory, furs, exotic woods, spices, and precious
gems in Marabaya and deliver silk, pottery, sugar, and other goods to be
sold throughout the Kuong Kingdom. It is worthy to note that due to the
great distance from major armed forces and the lucrative trade here,
wako are well known in local waters.
        A general note - the Jungle Lands are an area where borders are
irrelevant. In the dense jungles, swamps, and misty mountains of the
region, home to fierce poison-using tribesmen, tigers, and worse, it is
considered very unsafe to venture far from the coast or the few towns in
the region. Foreigners are welcome only in a few places. Even Shou Lung
and Kozakura traders occasionally disappear in the region if they get
too far off the beaten path. The Jungle Lands are truly the "heart of
darkness" on Toril.

Koryo - A long peninsula that extends from Shou Lung down to the
northern islands claimed by Kozakura. This mountainous land was once
known as Choson, and is really a loose association of three kingdoms,
united under a strong warlord king.
        Koryo is a heavily militarized state, always watchful for Shou Lung and
more likely Kozakuran invasions. War and invasion are constant threats
which keep the people of Koryo ever alert, and these people only trust
their own, often wrongly accusing strangers rather than malign a fellow
        Koryo is not a friendly place to visit, and the foreign ships are not
welcomed in its ports.

Island Kingdoms - Series of island nations to the south of the main
continent of Kara-Tur. The most well known are Bawa and Bertan. Known
for their volcanic origins, dense jungle, seagoing merchants, and wako
(Kara-Tur buccaneers or pirates).
        In Bawa, a caste system is rigidly enforced; from top down are the
nobles, the propertied, the laboring, and the outcasts. This is similar
to what is found in Afyal in Zakahara, evidence of a common cultural
        One of the most important settlements in Bawa is Djagong, the hub of
much commerical acitivity. Goods from across the sea and the interior
of the island can be found here. However, despite the wealth that
passes thorugh its gates, Djagong is a squalid city, teeming with poor
driven from the countryside by economic need. The yakuza (thieves)
thrive in this environment, and to a large extent are better regarded by
the populace than the merchants.
        Most merchants have moved to the city of Nadepa'an instead, which is
growing in commerical importance. This the is proud, elegant capital of
Bawa. The name means "scented," as the city is the heart of the spice
trade in the region; nutmeg, cinammon, cloves, mace, and other spices
are found here. Also, the abundant local flowers are used to make
exotic perfumes that are known and prized throughout the Orient.
        The kingdom of Bertan has a very similar culture to that of Bawa. The
main geographical difference is that Bertan evolved as a collection of
small islands, while Bawa has been formed on a single piece of land.
Some of the Bertanese islands used to be wako haunts, and this one
reason that Bertanese are sometimes derisively labeled as a nation of
        The islands of this region are also infamous for cannibals and

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