Skull and Shackles
Languages: Common, Tien
Favored Regions: Absalom, Katapesh, Lands of the Linnorm Kings, Nidal, Realm of the Mammoth Lords, Varisia
Favored Religions: Abadar, Calistria, Desna, Erastil, Irori, Shelyn, Zon-Kuthon, ancestor worship, Tian pantheon
Female Names: Tian-Dan — Bach Hien, Do Quyen, Hai Minh, Ngoc Yen, Que Xuan
Tian-La — Alerdene, Bayandash, Surenchinua, Narantuyaa, Odval
Tian-Min — Hiriko, Kaede, Kasuri, Meguma, Umie
Tian-Sing — Indah, Lestari, Nirmala, Sangati, Udara
Tian-Shu — Chao, Hua, Meilin, Qiao, Xue
Male Names: Tian-Dan — Tuong Kinh, Huu Tai, Phung Trong, Toan Hao, Thanh Liem
Tian-La — Batsaikhan, Enqbatu, Gansukh, Qorchi, Tomorbaatar
Tian-Min — Kousei, Shirota, Sunaki, Yuto, Zaiho
Tian-Sing — Budi, Hamengku, Kusuma, Purnoma, Suryo
Tian-Shu — Bao, Jianguo, Shuo, Xiaoran, Zhen
Appearance: Tians tend to be smaller and slighter than the races of Avistan and Garund. Men rarely grow taller than 5-1/2 feet, while women often barely break 5 feet in height. Even among the generally thin and narrow-bodied Tians, the Tian-Dan and Tian-Sing frequently appear particularly skinny even when well-fed. In contrast, the northwestern Tian-La generally possess moonshaped faces and squat, muscular bodies. The Tian-Shu and Tian-Min, as in most other comparisons of Tian extremes, compose a middle ground. Although most Tians have dark hair, children are occasionally born with shock-white or silvery-white hair, which is considered an omen of greatness. Such children frequently become influential leaders and poets of the highest caliber, and families into which they are born receive great honor and frequently an increase in rank and wealth.
Far to the east of the Inner Sea region, beyond the continent of Casmaron, lies the sprawling continent of Tian Xia, known to many as the Dragon Empires. Cut off from easy trade to the west by one of Golarion’s greatest mountain ranges, the Wall of Heaven, the vast majority of trade with Tian Xia funnels through a gap in these mountains at the immense port city of Goka or swings to the north over the Crown of the World. Of the attempts to establish trade routes by sailing south of Tian-Xia, none have succeeded, due to the myriad dangers that lurk in the Valashman Straits and among the Wandering Isles.
Yet despite this isolation, the Tian peoples have a significant presence in the Inner Sea region, particularly along the shores of the Inner Sea itself and in the north, where the trade route across the Crown of the World branches into the Lands of the Linnorm Kings and the Realm of the Mammoth Lords.
Tians have almond-shaped eyes and tend to stand several inches shorter than the native people of the Inner Sea region. Although the residents of Avistan and Garund see the Tians as a single ethnicity (a misconception that the Tians often reciprocate), these people actually comprise several distinct ethnicities. The majority of those who dwell in the Inner Sea region come from a region called Minkai or from the continental mainland, where the Successor States are located.
Tian-Min: The Tians of the vast peninsula nation of Minkai display the widest range in eye color among the people of the Dragon Empires, from the typical black or brown to blue, green, violet, amber, orange, red-orange, and even gold. Some believe a person’s eye color determines or reflects her personality and aptitudes, and therefore her place in life. Pale skin is considered the most attractive, so many Tian-Mins (particularly women) wear white face-powder and paint their eyelids and lips a darker shade to enhance contrast. Tattoos are popular among Tian-Mins, and among certain organizations such body art is used to denote station and power as much as for decor. Images of mystical creatures like dragons, kami, kirin, oni, and undead spirits are typical subjects, although colorful animals and plants are common as well. Straight black hair is the most common. Women grow their hair long, and often wear it coiled or pinned beneath a headdress or veil; male hairstyles are typically shorter, with longer hair indicating higher status. Warriors and nobles of both genders wear their hair in a topknot. Tian-Mins tend to be as fastidious about personal cleanliness and appearance as their wealth and station allow, bathing daily, wearing perfume, and adorning themselves in the finest clothes they can. Honor is of great import to Tian-Mins, as is respect for elders and superiors in both family and government.
Tian-Min value their isolation not only from the rest of the world, but from the rest of Tian-Xia, yet the honorable traditions of their samurai and the legendary skills of the region’s ninja clans are known across the world. The majority of the Tian who live in northern Avistan are Tian-Min, as are the residents of the Ushinawa Isles.
Tian-Shu: The most populous of the Tian peoples are the Tian-Shu. This ethnicity dominated the central mainland for hundreds of years, and even after the collapse of imperial Lung Wa over a hundred years ago and the foundation of the many Successor States, the Tian-Shu remain powerful. They possess duskier skin than most other Tians and usually have dark brown or black hair. The majority of Tians found in southern Avistan and Garund are Tian-Shu.
Other Ethnicities: Although much more rare in the Inner Sea region, other Tian ethnicities exist in Tian Xia. To the north, near the border of the Crown of the World, roam the nomadic Tian-La, while far to the south can be found the green-eyed Tian-Sing. A fifth ethnicity, the Tian-Dan, rarely leaves their remote empire of Xa Hoi, partially due to tradition but primarily because of their longstanding war with the serpentine denizens of Nagajor — an empire ruled by nagas that separates civilized Tian Xia from the monster-infested Valashmai Jungles to the south.
While the nations of Tian Xia are as varied and complicated as those around the Inner Sea, they nonetheless share a multitude of qualities that define all inhabitants of the region as residents of the Dragon Empires. These similarities range from religious to economical, and all help establish Tian Xia as the land that it is.
The shared philosophy known as sangpotshi permeates much of everyday life in Tian Xia; it is the belief that one’s birth is never accidental, and that one’s karma and fate determine what station one will be born into. A person’s deeds in past lives influence her current lot, and those born into nobility or royalty must have accomplished great things in previous lives, while the souls that inhabit mere peasants or beggars must have at one point committed truly grievous sins. Rebels and revolutionaries are viewed with scorn by many, who believe that the leaders of their nation reached such prestige through great deeds in previous incarnations — if a rebellion succeeds, however, the insurgents are seen as having a divine right and being fated to perform such deeds. It is thought that only by reaching one’s maximum potential or by making unforgivable errors can one escape the cycle of reincarnation to reach the Great Beyond, where final reward or punishment is delivered.
Yokai is the Minkaian term for the creatures of the spirit world, from helpful kami to vengeful ghosts, and many regard such creatures with as much fascination as fear. Tian Xia is a land rife with superstition, as would be expected in a place where the otherworldly often interact with mortals on a daily basis, and such superstition can be a powerful force. Peasants and rulers alike respect the power of yokai, whose aid or interference can be of vital importance throughout the course of life. Both the dead and the magical are referred to as yokai, for the term is often simply used for things beyond mortal comprehension — which can be a great variety of things in a land as magical and mysterious as Tian Xia.
The use of magic is likewise viewed with both awe and fear in Tian Xia, for the powers of the arcane can lead to the salvation of a nation as quickly as to its destruction. Many think of magic as merely enhancing what is already present in the mortal world, leading to increased happiness if the world is in a good state or pain and suffering in a world that has been overrun by cruelty. Some nations seek to register every citizen with magical abilities in the hope of controlling such unknowable forces, while others let the arcane and divine wash over the land, letting the forces of magic thrive where they wish.