Land of Legends
Culture of Sokoku
Sokoku is a melding of what was once 6 or 7 smaller kingdoms (or people) into a unified whole over a thousand years ago. Because of this their culture can be fairly broad at times, but they share some specific traditions in common.
Sokoku is ruled by the Holy Emperor who was considered semi-divine, an descendant of one of the greater spirits. During the Third Age the Holy Emperor made a deal which makes him the agent of the Greater Powers in Sokoku, though he cannot claim divinity. He also may call the ultimate shots, but he wields little direct influence.
A Legion of Governors works under the Holy Emperor doing most of the direct ruler. Governors can either control specific physical areas of land or control a specific aspect of government (such as justice, agriculture, commerce, or transportation). Governors and their families make up the bulk of the higher nobility.
Below the governors are two different structures. Governerors of aspects of government have legions of scholars who take care of the paperwork of government. Governors of regions have an army of local administrators in the form of ‘lords’, ‘mayors’, and ‘commanders’. Lords control cities. Mayors control towns and villages. Commanders are military offiers in charge of outposts. In all three cases they control the local military forces.
The easiest way for someone to become minor nobility is to become a scholar by passing the imperial exams. All the children of a Scholar become minor nobility, however to gain any real benefit these children must be given an office (lord, mayor,commander) or become scholars themselves and enter the burrucracy.
The alternative way is a life devoted to the military. Soldiers who perform great service for the emperor or who are determined to be officer material (above the rank of foot sergeant) are given the rank equal to minor nobility.
Families are the foundation of life in Sokoku. It is quite likely that three generations of a family will live and work together. This has lead to families owning large complexes that the family will live in for generations. The eldest man or woman will be the head of the family and all members of the family will defer to them.
Extended families, such as two connected families that each derive from a single great grandparent, form Clans. Clans can, and do, wield considerable power. Most clans are small with only a few hundred members, however the great clans often have thousands of members and usually a history of nobility that they inherit.
Women in Sokoku
Family Life is most typically strongly patriarchal, with men dominating the positions of power. This is often said to exist because the Emperor is always a man, a woman cannot inherit the position. Emperors also do not marry, instead Emperors have harems full of women to gaurentee sucession through heirs. Most Great Clans and even many lesser clans want their young women to be picked for the Holy Emperors harem as any offspring will give the clans a tie to the potential throne.
With that said their is one area that is not dominated by men. Women can reach very high levels of power through military ability. The best example for a great military leader who was a woman is Sun Xiang Ren of the Third Age who eventually lead the armies of the Holy Emperor and kept the outside forces at bay when they did not have the help of the Greater Powers. She was from a noble lineage and at least 3 great clans consider her an ancestor.
This kind of example has lead many disatisfied women to become wandering fighters or join the military, though even so many men look down on fighting women until they face one in combat.
Races of Sokoku
Most of those within Sokoku are Human, however some others exist. However from a Sokoku perspective they are all part of one clan, the Ibunshi. A small contingent of Do’Umer live in Sokoku. Chiara, Karisu, and Minza all live in Sokoku in descent numbers, in fact many stories here tell that they are related to the animal spirits of Sokoku. A fairly large number of Fey also live in certain places within Sokoku.
The most commn method of travel is by foot. Most peasants are very poor and transportation is just low on their list of extras. The second most ommon means of tranportation is the Ox. Oxen are the primary beast of burden and heavily used by farmers. The upgrade to this is the Ox Cart, which allows one to use Oxen to pull wooden carts of various sizes from the simple 1 person, flatbed cart to the 2 oxen ‘coach’. Noble families can use the horse as a means of transport and recreation and it is rare for a scholar who has taken their test to not buy a horse to reflect his station in life.
Water travel is dominated by barges and upgraded barges called ‘junks’ which can move in deeper coastal waters. Most coastal fisher families own junks. Above those are larger vessels for traveling between islands and for military use. Some very large military ships exist, but few Sokoku sailing ships are designed for long distance travel to places such as the mainland.
Sokoku does however have access to the technology to make airships. Though such lighter-than-air vessels are massively expensive and reserved for the nobility. A few great clans allow their merchant members to make use of these to move goods over long haul distances around Sokoku, rather than having to invest in sea going vessels.
Most holy sites, shrines, and temples are run by monks and it is rare for these monks to have any special non-martial powers. In fact many former army officers retire to the life of the monk in their final days, which has lead to a very strong martial tradition to back up their religious one.
Outside of monks who make up the bulk of the religious ranks are the Miko. Miko are women who follow a spiritual path while having mage gift. They do wield strong magical powers which they can use to heal or defend though, unlike monks. Miko are fairly rare, but their influence is very strong as their power is a great boon to the temples.
For more details see the Religion of Sokoku.
Two in 10 people in Sokoku are farmers, growing crops or raising animas. Among these people are the silk farmers who are generally well off as almost all clothing in Sokoku is made of silk. The amount of ariable land is actually fairly low, but it is also very labor intensive with some entire vilalges devoted to rice farming.
One in ten people is a fisherman or in the fishing industry. As an island nation fishing is extremely common as are fish products. Also in this group are non-military sailors.
One in ten people in Sokoku is in the military, either as a conscripted soldier or as a noble ‘officer’. Most male peasants serve a ‘tour’ of duty in the Sokoku military, or the much smaller Navy. These ‘tours’ last ten years barring injury or death and are paid when their tour ends. While female peasants are not conscripted, they may enlist for a half length tour.
Roughly one in ten people work in mining, providing both stone for construction and ore for metal working.
Craftsmen number around one in ten people, with weavers and dyers being the most common. Quickly followed by woodworkers, stonemasons, and Pottery crafters. The least common are metalworkers, leather workers, and glassmakers.
A large, but fairly unknown number of people work in the tea houses, inns, food shops, brothels, and other food or recreation occupations.
Alchemists, Distillers, and Midwifes are also fairly common with at least every village or outpost having one of each and larger settlements having several.
Merchants are fairly rare with less than 1 in 1000 people being a merchant. Merchants specialize in moving goods from areas where they are common to areas where they are rare. Merchants are not considered terribly honorable, but their wealth makes them somewhat popular among their own clans ranks.