Formerly known as Choson, the Empire of Koryo, commonly known simply as Koryo, was an association of three kingdoms—Silla, Koguryo, and Saishu—on the southern end of the Koryo Peninsula in northeast Kara-Tur in the mid–14th century DR. They were home to the Koryoan people, a proud, exuberant, and fearless folk who were keenly defensively minded.
- 1 Names & Etymology
- 2 Language
- 3 Environment & Geography
- 4 Government
- 5 Economy
- 6 People
- 7 Culture
- 8 History
- 9 Notable Locations
- 10 Appendix
Names & Etymology[edit | edit source]
The land was formerly known as "Choson", a name that translated to "morning calm". After King Wanang Sun reformed the Sillan Empire into the Empire of Koryo, the land became known as simply "Koryo".[note 1][note 2]
Language[edit | edit source]
Koryoans spoke the Koryo language, which descended from the ancient Han language, with many loanwords from Wa-an and Kao te Shou borrowed over centuries. Owing to its similarities with other languages, it was easy to find Koryoan translators for many languages, though few learned Kozauran, owing to enmity between the peoples.
Environment & Geography[edit | edit source]
The land of Koryo stood isolated on the two prongs of the very southern end of the great Koryo Peninsula, which swept down from northeastern Kara-Tur to the rugged islands claimed by Wa and Kozakura. The terrain was rough and mountainous, dominated by the Vorkani Mountains that arced around the end of the peninsula.
Climate[edit | edit source]
Geographic Features[edit | edit source]
- Vorkani Mountains • Wei Do Peak • Zigero Range
- E'Tyon Bay • Kang Bay • Mo'ki Bay
- The flaming seas • Straits of Koryo • Dragon's Teeth • Yellow Sea
- Kanko • Quelpart • Saishu • Su'un
- Quang Muku Forest
- Hoparatu River • Malu River • Tumen River
- Dang Caverns • Koryo Peninsula • Naktong Moors
Government[edit | edit source]
The land of Choson originally comprised three separate and only loosely associated kingdoms: Koguryo, Saishu, and Silla. However, in the early 14th century DR, the kingdom of Silla conquered Koguryo and Saishu, swelling into the Sillan Empire, also called the Choson Empire. The Sillan Empire was ruled by the despotic king of Silla, until he abdicated and fled the throne around 1350 DR. Wanang Sun, a general of Silla, took the throne after him as a warlord, but bound the three kingdoms and their factions together under his strong leadership. He reformed the Sillan Empire into the Empire of Koryo.
Around 1357 DR, King Wanang Sun administered his realm via royal appointment of governors to each of the 21 city districts of Koryo. Most appointments were made for political reasons, both to solidify Sun's support and to strengthen relations with Koguryo and Saishu, but a few chosen governors were personal friends or advisors. The governors acted autonomously, handling their districts as they chose, but they answered directly to the king. The wily Wanang Sun was not above engineering these appointments and creating custom posts. For example, governorship of Foo Nakar was much sought after in court, but he preferred Pouri Lam's existing unofficial leadership. Thus he named a close friend as governor, but moved the position to the capital on a permanent basis, and instead created the post of First Emissary for Pouri in order that she continue her de facto governance. He permitted the former leader of Saishu, Dan Zor, to stay on as governor, with the honorary title of "Master of Cheju". Meo Yungdo of Xai Chung was one of Sun's top advisors, and Sun also consulted the shukenja Korax of Manchar on magical and scholarly matters.
Ruling from the capital city of Xi Hulang, he held court only with his governors, trusted advisors, and important dignitaries. As a former general, Sun ran his government and kingdom like an army, maintaining supply lines, constructing defenses, and establishing and enforcing strict laws and regulations, including curfews, licenses, and annual censuses. Sun was strongly supported by his governors, but he feared that, after his passing, the old petty lords of each city and subkingdom would try to revolt and reclaim their former independence. Therefore, he played a long game as well, focusing on bettering the peasants' lot in life and attracting the people to his rule, so that any future rebellion would likely fail. Twice or thrice a year, he went out among the people of Xi Hulang and listened carefully to their views and received their complaints, before correcting their misconceptions and explaining why he would not alter his rules. The workers of the city respected and admired him for this. He was known to be open-minded, proactive, and dismissive of pomp and ceremony.
Nevertheless, Sun could be underhanded as well. His spies were rife in crime-ridden Ojy-do and the floating city of Tu Pe. He also established the hichikung nio, a secret society of skilled people placed in key posts in local and regional bureaucracies. Their aim was to improve the lives of the peasantry through the established system.
Relations[edit | edit source]
The Koryoans seemed to be always holding off and repelling Kozakuran invaders, but had launched at least one attempted invasion of Kozakura themselves under the king of Silla. This long history of conflict led them to despise the Kozakuran people, their culture, and even their language. Trade with Kozakura was banned and its currency was not accepted; nevertheless, criminals maintained an illicit trade with that land. Tu Pe's floating city was thought to be the center of this, but Kozakurans were sighted there only very rarely. Around 1357 DR, the two peoples were at war.[note 3]
Koryo's defenders also regularly beat back invasions by the wild tribes of the northern Koryo Peninsula.
Shou Lung made no serious attempts to expand its empire into Koryo, finding the mountainous terrain too rough and difficult, and the land itself too distant. Thus Koryo remained independent. In the mid-1300s DR, Shou Lung considered Koryo to be a collection of petty kingdoms that were tributary states of the empire. In Shou Lung, at least, it was said that when the emperor stamped his foot in Kuo Te' Lung, the earth trembled in Koryo. Some of Shou Lung described the Koryoans as "unlearned savages", an attitude perhaps more telling of the Shou than of Koryo.
Koryo was on peaceful terms with neighboring Wa, with Wanese traders and their currency seen in Ansong and Tu Pe. Meanwhile, Koryoan merchants, sailors, workers, and dignitaries appeared in Nakamaru in Wa.
Defenses[edit | edit source]
Always guarding against invasion, Koryo was battle-ready and its defenses strong against external threats. The kingdom's fleet was based out of the fortress at Quelpart, off the coast of Tu Pe. The city itself was particularly well-defended, and could muster sizeable armies without resorting to conscription. Mounted forces patrolled the coasts on the lookout for invaders.
Economy[edit | edit source]
The Koryoans adopted the Shou Lung model for currency, using the copper fen and yuan, the paper ch'ao, and the silver tael and ch'ien. In exchange rates, Koryoan currency was worth half the amount of Shou currency, but was equal to Wa's currency. The coin of Kozakura was not even treated as legal tender.
People[edit | edit source]
The Koryoan people tended to have black hair and high cheekbones, and had moderate heights and builds; they most closely resembled the people of Chukei province in northern Shou Lung. They were sometimes nicknamed "Cold Koryoans".
They were a proud folk, known to be fearless in a fight and exuberant in a celebration. However, the people were molded by a history of war and invasion and of living under threats of such. They were always alert, but tended toward xenophobia, preferring to trust a fellow Koryoan over a stranger. It wasn't unknown for one to wrongly blame a foreigner for some crime, rather than suspect or doubt one of their own people.
Culture[edit | edit source]
Koryoan folk of both genders commonly wore linen tunics and pants, all in white. These served as their daily work-wear. Warriors usually wore a heavy padded armor that kept them warm in winter. Silk was expensive and hard to come by, so only the wealthiest could afford it; rich women normally wore ornate satin dresses with silk veils. The city of Tu Pe was a center of fashion for the upper classes and some of the most talented designers and clothiers worked there. A few of them were wu jen, who weaved magic into cloth to create beautiful and hypnotic displays in their masterpieces. Around 1357 DR, the general fashion in Tu Pe was high-shouldered linen gowns adorned with silk belts and scarves and revealing the neck, which was in contrast to more conservative fashion of silk dresses elsewhere in the kingdom.
Noble scions could be kept cloistered in family mansions, learning such things as calligraphy, courtly etiquette, languages, and poetry. Many were sent at a young age to military academies like the Do Jang of Won Kwang, where they learned the arts of war, armed and unarmed martial arts, history (especially military history), animal husbandry, geography and other knowledge of the kingdom, and meditation, as well as calligraphy and courtly etiquette. Koryoans of all classes and walks of life tended to learn history.
All Koryoan men trained in the "foot and fist" martial art of tae kwon do, which had a number of different styles and forms. Archery was also commonly practiced and respected, and treated as a competitive art. Koryoan warriors could be heroic and stalwart defenders of the homeland, trained to hold firm against being overrun by onrushing enemies. Some were hardy folk, as resilient and rugged as the mountains, and especially hard to kill.
Religion[edit | edit source]
Koryo lay within the sphere of godly influence of the Celestial Bureaucracy of Kara-Tur, and so fell within the dominion of the Celestial Emperor and the Nine Immortals. As a result, the Spirit World was present in Koryo, and replaced the Astral Plane there. A spirit representative of the Celestial Empire would appear beside King Wanang Sun to consecrate his rule under their guidance in the annual ceremony on Wei Do Peak. Numerous local spirits were found within Koryo, such as the Cosalla Huin To in the Quang Muku Forest and the frightful spirits of the deep pits of Dang Caverns.
Classes[edit | edit source]
Koryoan adventurers were often fighters. As in other civilizations of Kara-Tur, shamans were usually found among the common people, working as elders, healers, and midwives, even local leaders. Koryo was also home to wu jen and some shugenja, often served as spiritual advisors among the nobility. Runepriests (of the Defiant Word) were common in Koryo.
There were also a number of ninja. They trained at certain do jang (martial arts schools) that taught ninja techniques and were shunned and considered dishonorable by the wider community. These ninja gathered into brotherhoods, sometimes called "night brotherhoods" or "nameless ones". Parents used them as boogeymen to get their children to behave. They engaged in theft, assassination, and kidnapping, and battled each other over dark secrets, leaving their bodies in the streets. They were whispered to have strange powers, to climb like a spider or be unable to feel heat or cold, and they used sleep powders to knock out their targets. There were many different night brotherhoods in Koryo, like the Soretyo, the Vi'oontu, and the Panthers of Xi.
History[edit | edit source]
The history of Koryo is largely unknown, pieced together from disconnected legends.[note 4]
Prehistory[edit | edit source]
Han magicians crafted a number of legendary vessels of power, each of which would play an important role in later Koryoan history. The Wo-ha Ui-jung were ten vessels that each bestowed great and strange powers to those who used them. These became separated over the centuries and some were lost. Another was the Hu'i Wing, a huge brazier that granted visions of the future.
When the Kanko volcano rose up out of Kang Bay and erupted, it was said that the very skies over Koryo caught fire. The land was devastated; the city of Old Bejung, closest to Kanko, was engulfed in poisonous gas that killed all the people, before the city itself was obliterated in a matter of seconds and buried in ash. According to legend, the entire Han clan sought shelter in the vast Dang Caverns.[note 6][note 7]
An ancient civilization once stood in the Quang Muku Forest, remembered only in local myths of a lost city of temples and men who stood 8 feet (2.4 meters) tall. By the 14th century DR, the ancient people lived on as forest-dwelling tribes, known to the Koryoans as savages and strange cannibals.
One branch or descendants of the Han were the Chinhan people. History recorded them as the last to hold the coiled dragon, the greatest of the Wo-ha Ui-jung, in around the 7th century before Dalereckoning.[note 8]
The descendants of the Han people became the Koryoans, who founded the three kingdoms of Koryo. An offshoot branch of this mainland people were thought to have settled the island realms of Wa and Kozakura, lying to the south of the Koryo Peninsula, in ancient times.
Early history[edit | edit source]
In Koryo's history, great noble houses and kingdoms have been known to be brought low by a certain love potion from the Quang Muku Forest. Under its effects, Queen Ki Hiar of the kingdom of Saishu fell in love with a pirate from Wa, and Prince Du-yang of the kingdom of Silla was slain by the jealous husband of a plotting woman.
Kozakuran forces once ruled the Koryoan city of Karak and built a subterranean fortress beneath the city. Some ten generations before 1357 DR, these Kozakurans stole the Hu'i Wing, a sacred relic in the town of Goisho, and carried it off to Karak, where they built it into the fortress.
Around the year 1200 by Koryoan reckoning, a great many refugees fled Karak by junks, journeying down the coast to the city of Tu Pe. They moored their ships at the Long Pier, creating a neverending traffic jam that grew into a veritable "floating city".[note 10]
Modern history[edit | edit source]
In the early 14th century, Silla was at war with both Koguryo and Saishu. Instrumental in Silla's campaign was General Wanang Sun, a master of strategy who, even as he aided the king of Silla in overcoming the other kingdoms, plotted to become king himself and lay the foundation for a more secure and prosperous realm.
In the 1330s DR, the king of Silla conquered the rival kingdoms of Koguryo and Saishu, unifying the whole land of Choson into the Sillan Empire and defending against all threats.[note 11] However, the Sillan king proved to be a tyrant, inflicting crippling taxes and martial law on Saishu, occupying it with Sillan troops. However, Wanang Sun protected Dan Zor, king of Saishu, even arranging a marriage between their families.
Over the next fifteen years, the king of Silla began to plot an invasion of Kozakura, and in secret assembled a fleet of ships for the purpose.
Around 1350 DR,[note 12] the king of Silla ordered "nameless ones" to kidnap the teenaged children of Meo Yungdo, a noble of Xai Chung. His reason remains unknown; it may have been leverage against Yungdo, or in cruel revenge over some perceived offense. Meo Cha and Meo Li managed to escape, and stowed away on a ship that, rather than being bound for Xai Chung, was in fact part of the king's own secret invasion fleet, now underway for Kozakura. Ultimately, a tsunami wrecked the whole armada, and the Meo children were washed ashore, alive and well, in Shou Lung.
This catastrophe saw the end of the king of Silla's reign; he abdicated and fled. In his place, General Wanang Sun seized the throne, becoming king and reforming the Sillan Empire into the Empire of Koryo. He welded the old factions of Choson into a unified nation. He granted Dan Zor governorship on Saishu, lifted the martial law, and cut taxes, winning the support of both Zor and the Saishu people.
However, the former king of Silla and his most loyal supporters escaped to the Dang Caverns. There, in secret, he mustered an army with which to reconquer Koryo, apparently paid for with looted treasures and gems mined in the caverns. He also made pacts with wicked wu jen and dreadful spirits of the deep pits for their aid.
By 1357 DR, Koryo was at war with Kozakura. Karak was at the center of an ongoing war for territory between the kingdom of Koryo and advance forces of Kozakura. The war left many innocent people injured, and around a thousand people fled north to Singye and camped outside that city. One morning, the bodies of fifteen black-clad ninja were discovered in the streets of Karak, and they were seen as evidence of Kozakuran encroachment. King Wanang Sun considered dispatching more soldiers to the area. The city of Tu Pe kept vigilant with patrols along the southern coast to Karak to watch out for invaders.
Notable Locations[edit | edit source]
- Koguryo • Saishu • Silla
- Foo Nakar • In'ani • Koje • Konang Pen • Pyong Do • Singye • Tu Pe • Xi Hulang
- Ansong • Bejung • Cheju • Goisho • Karak • Manchar • Mo'ki • Ojy-do • Paektu-san • Pan • Taiku • T'o na'Chee • Xai Chung • Xi
- Golden • Mu Tong • Ra'koo
- Muradi Lighthouse • Quelpart
Appendix[edit | edit source]
Behind the Scenes[edit | edit source]
Koryo was inspired by Korea, with the names of many kingdoms, settlements, and locations borrowed from Korean history and geography, including the martial art of tae kwon do. This was confirmed in the article "Kara-Tur: Ancestor Feats and Martial Arts Styles" in Dragon #315.
Notes[edit | edit source]
- Like many sites in Koryo, Choson and Koryo share names with real-world counterparts in Korea. "Choson" comes from Joseon (also written "Chosŏn"), the name of a medieval Korean kingdom, and still the Korean name for North Korea. A translation of "Joseon" can yield "morning calm", giving rise to an English nickname, "The Land of the Morning Calm". Similarly, "Koryo" comes from Goryeo (also written "Koryŏ"), the name of another medieval Korean kingdom, from which the English name "Korea" ultimately derives.
- It is unknown where the name "Koryo" comes from within the setting. It may come from the subkingdom of Koguryo (itself named for the real-world Goguryeo (also written "Koguryŏ", from which Goryeo was named) or from the Koryo Peninsula named in The Forgotten Realms Atlas, pages 13 and 19. The Koryo Peninsula appears to share a name, but not a geographic connection, with the Koryaz Mountains in greater Kara-Tur.
- The wars between Koryo and Kozakura are not mentioned at all in the Kozakuran chapter of Kara-Tur: The Eastern Realms, nor in any other source to deal with Kozakura, so the cause and nature of these conflicts are unknown.
- The history of Koryo and the Han people as presented in Kara-Tur: The Eastern Realms: Volume II is scattered, mostly disconnected, or without context. The two local calendar years of "Koryo 812" and "1200" have no connection to any other calendar or event, nor to a present date. Furthermore, parts are told in flashback, related by characters speaking several years before the setting date of 1357 DR. Therefore, except where specified, the dates of many of the following events are unknown and the chronology is hypothetical. Dates that can be calculated are assumed to be based on a present date of 1357 DR wherever possible. All known and estimated dates are presented in Dalereckoning for consistency and clarity, despite this calendar most likely not being known in Koryo.
- This Shou invasion could have occurred at any time after the First Age of Shou Lung in −2487 DR, or more likely, the ascendancy of the first emperor in −1250 DR.
- Hypothetically, this eruption could have ended Han culture and civilization, as suggested by the destruction of Old Bejung. However, it is also possible that the "Han clan" surviving in Dang Caverns founded the subsequent Han culture.
- For simplicity, these eruptions of Kanko have been merged; the intent behind the sourcebook was likely that these were part of a single event. Nevertheless, it is possible that Kanko erupted multiple times.
- It is unknown who the Chinhan people are, but, by context and similar name, it is assumed they are a branch or descendants of the Han people. The date can be estimated from the statement that the coiled dragon "has been lost for 2000 years" by the setting date of around 1357 DR.
- This is "432 years ago" from an assumed date of 1357 DR, or several years before.
- It seems likely these refugees fled the Kozakuran occupation of Karak.
- This is "15 years before" a point "several years ago" from 1357 DR.
- "Several years" before 1357 DR.
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