For it is written in the Book of Ti Pa Wang Kuo that:
There is One Shou only. It is like what it has received; proud and full of fire, yet wise and cunning. Above all, Shou, like the Dragon, is Eternal.
The great Empire of Shou Lung is the largest of the many lands that make up Kara-Tur. It is a place of learning, culture and government, with a proud history that chronicles nearly three thousand years, spanning the rise and fall of eight great Dynasties and over seventy Emperors. With its extensive history and stable governance, the Empire exerts a mighty influence over its neighbors. It is said that when the Emperor stamps his foot in the Capital, the earth shakes in Koryo; such is his power. Shou Lung is also a land of many complexities; a land wise in the ways of the world and its sophistications.
While much of the clothing worn in the lands of Shou Lung is similar to clothing elsewhere in Kara-Tur, there are several garments that are so typically Shou as to warrant special attention. One of these is the maitung, a tunic favored by scholars and officials. Floor length and buttoned to the neck with a high collar, it is usually crafted from subdued silks and woolens. The cheosong is a narrow, tight silk womans dress, common in the high court and more cosmopolitan cities. The skirt is very long, reaching almost to the floor, and has a slit running up either side, often to the hip. The bodice is very tight and buttoned with a high collar. Often, the dress is embroidered with gold or silk thread, depicting mythical beasts and legends which wrap around the body from chest to hem. The cheosong is not commonly found elsewhere in Kara-Tur, as it is considered far too revealing for a proper woman to wear in public. It is especially popular with sing-song girls and other female entertainers.
Older women wear a less revealing version of the cheosong, called the cheo-sam. It is more like a loose embroidered robe of floor length, with enormous sleeves and a high collar.
Unlike the short pants and tunic of the Northern lands, the samfu is a long sleeved, pajama-like outfit. While commonly made of cotton, silk is used in the homes of the wealthy. In colder climes, such as Ma Yuan Province, it is quilted and worn with high fur boots. The samfu is worn by all classes of people in Shou Lung, and serves as bedclothes, day wear and formal wear, depending on the richness of the fabric and the complexity of decoration. Occasionally, a small embroidered cap is also worn with it.
The waitao is a great heavy coat, with enormous sleeves, favored by soldiers, bailiffs and other military men. It is usually quilted and thus serves as some protection from sword cuts. The sleeves are excellent for carrying hidden weapons. On rare occasions, it may be embroidered. A variation of this is the hai-waitao, or ceremonial robes worn at court by magistrates and nobles. These robes retain the huge sleeves and floor length hems, but are heavily embroidered and trimmed with pearls, gems and rich furs. In most court situations, the hai-waitao is the dress of choice, allowing freedom of movement, limited protection against an assassins dagger, and allowing the wearer to easily conceal weapons and secret things within its sleeves. It is also worn with a small embroidered cap.
It is common for families to keep huge chests of clothes, passing the most treasured down through the Clan. Shou clothing is known to be extremely durable, even at its most fancy. The many layered kimonos of Wa and Kozakura have not taken well to the Imperial Realms, because they are considered too flimsy for daily wear.
Sing-Song and Flower Girls
The Shou Lung equivalent of the geisha, the sing-song or flower girl is an entertainer and singer. She usually performs in inns or wine shops for the entertainment of travelers. Unlike the geisha, the sing-song girl is not highly trained, nor is she the member of a geisha house. Instead, she is most often an ambitious young girl who wishes to secure a good marriage, and has decided that this is the best way to meet unattach- ed men. Famous sing-song girls have become the concubines of Emperors, or have gone on to raise great Festival houses frequented by powerful court officials.
The Trigrams are one of the aspects of Chung Tao magic that permeates all levels of Shou culture. An ancient means of divination, they were, according to legend, divined by the sage Hsin Fu Chan from patterns in the back of a great sleeping lizard. From this inauspicious beginning, the Trigrams were developed into the sophisticated form used today, in which a handful of broken and unbroken chopsticks are thrown into a circle, and six selected from the top. The resulting series of broken and unbroken lines are then compared to a matching trigram in the Book of Change to determine the meaning. There are two parts to the meaning. The first is the name of the Tri- gram, such as Love, Anger or Fellowship.
The Shou Way of Combat
The Shou are not known for the quality of their sword makers. They have not yet mastered the thousand fold techniques of the swordmasters of Wa and Kozakura, which make swords unnaturally strong. Therefore, Shou blades tend to be heavier and not as sharp. This lack of fine blades has tended to damp their enthusiasm for the sword as the chief weapon of combat, although they are known for the creation of several interesting variations on the sword, such as butterfly blades.
Therefore, the Shou are not, for obvious reasons, devotees of the sword duel. This is not to say that they refrain from war. Indeed, warfare is seen as a just and honorable way to settle disputes and conquer new territory. Many a man will speak proudly of his service in the Emperors armies, fighting the horse barbarians and the unwashed Kozakuran scum to the West. Soldiers and warriors are highly respected for their *professionalism and bravery.
And this may be the point professionalism. Rarely, if ever, will one encounter a Shou version of a kensai or ronin, wandering the land with sword in hand. The Shou consider this sort of single-minded devotion to mayhem with the same view as you of the Realms would view a madman rampaging about with an axe. In the Shou viewpoint, the time to draw swords is when a proper war has been declared, the boundaries are known, and all are agreed upon how to divide the loot when the fighting ends. Duels in vengeance for lost honor are considered foolish at best. Why should one cause so much pain and disharmony over saving face, when it would be easier to either have the offender put to death by the local magistrate, or quietly poisoned by a hired sing-song girl? Everyone will assume you arranged his death, and that he was a fool to have opposed you. In this way, you will have saved face.
One should not mistake this calm and rational view-point to be cowardice. The Shou love to fight. But unlike the combats of Wa or Kozakura, which are usually to the death, the Shou prefer to beat their enemies senseless using the one skill they excel in above all others; the fighting style of unarmed combat, or kung fu.
The Masters of Kung Fu
The Shou are known as the best martial artists in all of Kara-Tur. They are the inventors of the science of unarmed combat, and have devised literally thousands of styles (each style may have its own name, but the overall concept itself is, of course, known as Kung Fu, or Strong Discipline/Devotion to Excellence). Each town has at least two or three teaching halls, or dojos, where students come to master techniques and skills. In addition, every Shou-ling sect has its own martial arts school and each disciple is rigorously trained in these skills. I have taken time to speak of these schools in greater detail in my descriptions of the Monasteries of Shou Lung.
The masters of the open hand art fight often. There are contests between rival schools, in which students champion their particular style of kung fu. There are often conflicts between warring Orders of the Shou-ling faith, where the weapons of the body are the only weapons used. As most people of Shou Lung know at least a little martial arts, it is a common way to settle disputes and vendettas-two merchant clans may meet and battle each other in the streets, or two local tongs may have kung fu skirmishes to decide the control of a particular city. There are also many commercial contests, where fight promoters or wealthy nobles will put up a rich purse and invite all interested fighters to compete. Occasionally, the local magistrates will get into the act, arranging kung fu exhibitions or grudge matches to settle a dispute between two feuding clans.
The Shou also excel in the construction and use of martial arts weaponsmost of the most bizarre weapons you will encounter in traveling the length of Kara-Tur have originated here in Shou Lung. Man catchers, sectional staves and rods, lajatang, two-section staff, three-section staff, and sang kauwthese are the weapons of the average Shou warrior, rather than swords and bows. Many of these weapons are nearly unknown outside of the many temples and dojos of the Empire, yet are the subject of almost every Shou tale of combat. The sai and nunchaku are from Wu, and not commonly found in Kara-Tur.
The way of kung fu permeates almost every level of Imperial Society, and Shou peoples are all familiar with at least one martial art (although not always very well). There are even specialized styles for women, children and old people (such as tai chi chuan, a flowing dance movement style).