The Kuong Kingdom, or simply the Kuong, was the southernmost nation in Malatra, lying amidst the dense jungles of southern Kara-Tur. It was home to the Kuong people.[1][3] With its priest-kings wielding absolute power in civil and religious matters, it was a theocratic empire dedicated to the Lords of Creation that dominated the Jungle Lands with expansion efforts and campaigns of conquest.[5][6]

Geography[edit | edit source]

The Kuong Kingdom was bounded in the south and west by the Himasla Mountains, bordered in the northwest and north by the empire of T'u Lung (along the Fenghsintzu River) and the Warring States, and in the northeast by the Purang hill country and the kingdom of Laothan.[1][7][8][9][10][11][note 1] The traditional border with Laothan was marked by the ruins of the oft-fought-over fortress of Tua Koh.[12]

While the underlying terrain was largely hills and steep ridges, rising to high hill country in the south, this was blanketed all over by thick jungles, with regions characterized only by density. Medium-density jungle grew in the west, on both sides of the Kunong River basin (fed by the southern hills) and along the border with T'u Lung. Meanwhile, high-density jungle—the greatest in all Malatra—lay south of the Dwai River in a wide coastal strip that continued all the way south past the Himasla Mountains.[1]

Geographic Features[edit | edit source]

Akashnu MountainsHimasla Mountains
Dwai RiverKunong RiverRanu River

Language[edit | edit source]

The inhabitants spoke the Kuong language. Coming from a different linguistic stock to the Laothan and Purang languages also spoken in Malatra, Kuong was distinctly unlike all other languages spoken in Kara-Tur.[4][1] Because it was so unique, the Kuong people believed it to be specially blessed. However, most linguists observed that it was highly complex, followed no logic, and thought it weird. It was difficult to learn for even the most gifted minds.[4]

People[edit | edit source]

The Kuong people were of similar race to the Purang people, having brown skin and wavy black hair, and lacking epicanthic folds. Though they had more in common culturally with them and with the Seng of Laothan than with the northern nations of Kara-Tur, their national character was very different. The Kuong were known to be hospitable and hardworking, but also remarkably accepting of fate and obedient to their leaders and not doubting their caste system and hierarchy.[1][3]

Government[edit | edit source]

An aggressive and expansionist empire,[6] the Kuong Kingdom was an absolute monarchy and theocracy dominated by the Priest-King, who was both head of civil government and leader of the church venerating the Lords of Creation. The Priest-King's authority was unquestioned and their power was full and far-reaching. Moreover, the Priest-Kings were believed to be divine, and the Kuong viewed them with awe. They were aided by a few advisors and councilors of their choosing, as well as senior priests.[5] In the mid–14th century DR, Priest-King Vishnan VII ruled the Kuong Kingdom. His chief advisor was his dowager mother, Lady Natiya, the leading member of the nobility.[5]

Beneath the Priest-King was an aristocracy, comprising lesser nobles and the royal family, their ranking determined by their relationship to the Priest-King and thus to the divine. Naturally, members of the royal family were foremost and had the most influence in the kingdom. In any case, they had only what authority and power the Priest-King deigned to give them. Typically, they governed provinces and lesser districts, provided armies, and oversee civil projects like building temples and bridges. Appointments were made with a preference for those who had close links to the temples. The Priest-King personally chose those who would reign as satraps over outer territories and serve as generals over those armies.[5]

Beneath them was a hereditary bureaucracy that managed the everyday matters of the kingdom. The Priest-King had the right to dismiss an irresponsible or incompetent bureaucrat and appoint a replacement; Vishnan VII did this often.[5]

Religion[edit | edit source]

The faith of the Lords of Creation was the state religion of the theocracy of the Kuong Kingdom.[13][3] It was not uncommon for worshipers to follow more than one deity in the pantheon, but Kuong monks, shukenja, and sohei notably followed only a single deity. However, Kuong followers of the Lords of Creation did not typically engage in philosophical considerations and did not place much value in respecting nature spirits. In fact, they were considered some of the most authoritarian and arbitrary believers of any faith in the Malatra region.[13]

Extravagant temples dedicated to one or multiple Lords of Creation were found all across the Kuong Kingdom. Worship of the Lords of Creation and hosting celebrations were almost their only purposes. Meanwhile, a complex network of monasteries both trained priests and served as administrative centers for the kingdom.[13]

Ecclesiastical matters were managed ultimately by the High Priest; in the mid–14th century DR, this was High Priest Malvaya. Officially, the church hierarchy had little say in the governing of the Kuong Kingdom, yet the influence of faith was felt in Kuong festivals, civil projects, and the favoring of nobles with temple links for appointment to certain positions.[5] Moreover, the church was required to approve almost all areas of life. This led to bribery, extortion, and selling favors becoming rife and the jinyan crime families, though they still supported the temples.[13]

Economy[edit | edit source]

The Kuong were masters of stonecutting and stone-carving, a talent testified to by the massive yet intricately carved stonework in their magnificent temple cities.[14]

The land was also rich in minerals, giving the Kuong a great source of wealth. They mined gems in the Akashnu Mountains and collected precious metals. However, they enjoyed jewelry made in southern Laothan.[14]

Owing to the dense jungle, many villages practiced slash-and-burn agriculture and every ten to twenty years had to relocate to find and create fresh fertile farmland. They focused on growing tropical fruits and vegetables, rather than rice, which required building dams and waterways. These difficulties sparked the Kuong Kingdom's desire for the agriculturally well-developed lands of Laothan.[14]

Relations[edit | edit source]

Being surrounded by dense jungles and fierce tribes, the Malatran nations were protected from most external threats but also constrained and trapped together. Through their shared history, the Kuong, the Seng, and the Purang had long fought one another and several times pushed their borders back and forth. Among them, the Kuong Kingdom was the most dominant politically and took an imperialistic and aggressive approach.[6] Many Kuong viewed their neighbors as barbarians and uncivilized.[1]

The Kuong Kingdom coveted the fertile agricultural lands of Laothan and desired northern expansion and conquest. It had spies in King Thok Lian's court keeping the priest-king apprised of Seng troubles and in 1357 DR was laying the groundwork for a surprise invasion.[6][15]

Similarly, the Kuong Kingdom once tried to annex the Purang hill tribes, but struggled against their guerilla tactics; the Purang excelled at hit-and-run attacks and resisted being drawn into battle. The Kuong could not gain a foothold and suffered losses, and finally gave up on conquering the hill country.[6]

The Kuong Kingdom's other important neighbor was the empire of T'u Lung. As a show of strength, the Kuong built fortresses along the border, by the Fenghsintzu and Kunong Rivers. However, for its part, T'u Lung displayed little interest in marching over the border.[7][2]

Culture[edit | edit source]

Kuong clothes were made of light silks and gauzy fabrics, and men and women both wore sarongs and brightly colored billowing trousers, as well as a variety of gold and silver jewelry.[1]

Settlements in the Kuong Kingdom were centered around temples and government buildings. In the villages, most of the buildings were constructed of bamboo and palm leaves woven together. These were raised off the ground on stilts in order to keep the floor dry during the rainy and flood seasons and for protection from insects and wild animals. Meanwhile, in the towns and cities, the majority of buildings—namely the houses and palaces of the wealthy, important public buildings, defensive walls, fortresses, and most businesses—were built of stone, so that they might stand forever alongside the reign of the priest-kings. The stone was quarried locally where available but usually hauled great distances. Their exterior surfaces were always carved and occasionally even painted or inset with gems and precious stones, displaying historical events, Kuong legends, and the Lords of Creation. Temples and government buildings were the most intricate and extravagant, while defensive walls and fortresses were quite impressive.[7]

Wealthy Kuong could have multiple wives and consorts in their households.[2][15]

Society[edit | edit source]

Despite Kuong respect for authority,[1] the Kingdom had an extensive and well-established criminal underbelly. Ironically, this grew out of the priesthood: as the church must approve almost all areas of life, bribery, corruption, extortion, and selling favors followed and became routine for many priests. Those engaged in the black market grew into a criminal network by the mid–14th century, independent but still with connections to the clergy and supporting the temples, at least when it was in their interest.[13] They were known as "jinyan" (called yakuza elsewhere).[13][3] The strongest jinyan family was the Jarvatya, based in the capital of Ranguri.[13]

Use of magic was strictly the preserve of the priesthood, as it was believed only those devoted to the Lords of Creation had the wisdom to use magic properly. The only wu jen allowed were also practicing priests, whether monks, shukenjas, or sohei. Otherwise, all magic-users acting outside the priesthood were seen as abominations and evil-doers, hated and feared by all, and they were hunted down and impaled in public. Needless to say, such wu jen were barely known of within the Kuong Kingdom, but it was thought they learned their art in secret from the wu jen priests and identified each other via secret passwords, symbols, and talismans.[5] Thus witch hunters were active here.[3]

Among the warriors, singh ragers were especially well known.[3]

History[edit | edit source]

Early History[edit | edit source]

The ruins of a Kuong city, overgrown by the Malatran jungle.

In Kuong belief, after the Lords of Creation made Malatra, the god Yama populated the land with animals and peoples he had created. Thereafter, with great interest, he monitored their development. Early on in its history, Malatra was reigned over by Yama's near-demigods, but over the centuries they declined in power and stature. In time, their descendants became the ordinary humans of Malatra. The Kuong most firmly recalled this point, and maintained that the direct descendants of the Lords of Creation were, naturally, their divine priest-kings.[6]

The Kuong Kingdom arose in the Akashnu Mountains, founded by Vishnan I with the ancient city of Suranatra as its capital. From the outset, it was an aggressive and theocratic empire.[6] Funded by the gems and precious metals of the Akashnu Mountains, the rich and puissant priest-kings of Suranatra[1] expanded their dominion to the Kunong River and to the coast.[6]

Eventually, to better administrate this greater territory, the priest-kings were forced to relocate their capital to Parmahana.[1][12] However, some time in the early 8th century DR,[note 2] the Kuong deserted Parmahana, leaving much behind.[12][note 3] The people made an exodus through the jungle, founding a temporary capital at Beradandar, before moving on to the permanent capital at Ranguri.[7]

When Priest-King Vishnan IV discovered a spring that produced elixir of youth, he established the temple and town of Durapatya.[7][note 4]

At one point, Kuong temple soldiers came across the ancient city of Visrana. In exploring the ruins, they inadvertently unleashed spectres, nats, and other things. A priest-king of the time forbade further exploration of the area.[5][note 4]

From Ranguri, the priest-kings turned their attention north, conquering fresh territories and making their first incursion into the southern jungles of Laothan, the land of the divided Seng kingdoms. They even seized the important fortress city of Tua Koh, which would pass back and forth between Seng and Kuong multiple times.[12][6] In response, the Seng united under King Thok Hueng in the mid–12th century DR,[note 5] defended Laothan, and repelled the Kuong.[6] The final siege and battle saw Tua Koh ruined.[12]

Since then, the Kuong Kingdom focused on the jungles to the east and south of T'u Lung and, from around 1300 DR, apparently gave no thought to expanding northward.[6] In fact, the Kuong consolidated their western holdings and grew their army.[15]

Modern History[edit | edit source]

Hungry for its prosperous agricultural lands[15] and spurred by Lady Natiya's dreams of empire, Priest-King Vishnan VII called for a new assault on the northern nation in the 1350s DR. He placed his brother, Divine Prince Puran, as general of the "army of conquest".[5] His spies in King Thok Lian's court told of the Seng's poor defenses and internal conflicts[15] and the carelessness of Kwang Tre's defenders.[16]

In 1356 DR, a Kuong temple sohei tried to assassinate the great Seng wu jen Hueng, master of a school of magic in the town of Deikhou. The attempt failed and the assassin died.[7]

Moving covertly, the Kuong army of conquest began marching north in 1357 DR, going through the Purang hill country between Feng Nu and Lumpur and entering Laothan in secret. While the Blood Tree and Twisted Palm tribes were well aware of the army passing through their lands, the Kuong carefully avoided conflict and gave gifts to make up for the intrusion. The Purang tribe leaders were in various on whether to accept this. Meanwhile, the Kuong forces assembled at a secret camp in the jungle between Tua Koh and Kwang Tre. Once they'd mustered a sufficient force, the Kuong army planned to seize Kwang Tre,[15] expecting an easy victory,[16] then rush down the Phu River to surprise the capital Cheinang and strike a decisive blow against the Seng.[15] However, the Kuong Kingdom had its own internal troubles: High Priest Malvaya invented reports of unrest at the border and covered up predictions by Kuong diviners that the army of conquest would suffer misfortune, as part of his own power play.[5]

Notable Locations[edit | edit source]

Apanu • Banda • Denokanburi • Garuji • Yanajalan
Srelanat Road

Appendix[edit | edit source]

Behind the Scenes[edit | edit source]

The Kuong Kingdom appears to be loosely inspired by the Khmer Empire (later Cambodia) and the Ayutthaya Kingdom (later Thailand), in which the Hindu gods were venerated and the monarchs were treated as god-kings.

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. It's possible that the Warring States, which occupy much the same area on the The Forgotten Realms Atlas and Forgotten Realms Interactive Atlas maps, are a part of or else include the Kuong Kingdom.
  2. No local calendar is given for the Kuong Kingdom or Malatra, so estimated dates are presented in the standard Dalereckoning for consistency and clarity, despite this calendar most likely not being known in the Kuong Kingdom. This event is "over 600 years" before a setting date of 1357 DR, so some time before 757 DR.
  3. The reason for abandoning Parmahana is unknown. While it might be another shift for administrative ease, the description suggests a disaster of some kind, possibly disease.
  4. 4.0 4.1 This event is undated and unrelated to the larger history. It is placed here for convenience.
  5. This is "almost 200 years" before a setting date of 1357 DR, so some time after 1157 DR.

Gallery[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 Mike Pondsmith, Jay Batista, Rick Swan, John Nephew, Deborah Christian (1988). Kara-Tur: The Eastern Realms (Volume II). (TSR, Inc), p. 99. ISBN 0-88038-608-8.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Mike Pondsmith, Jay Batista, Rick Swan, John Nephew, Deborah Christian (1988). Kara-Tur: The Eastern Realms (Volume II). (TSR, Inc), p. 102. ISBN 0-88038-608-8.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 James Wyatt (January 2004). “Kara-Tur: Ancestor Feats and Martial Arts Styles”. In Chris Thomasson ed. Dragon #315 (Paizo Publishing, LLC), pp. 62–63.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Curtis Smith and Rick Swan (1990). Ronin Challenge. (TSR, Inc), p. 87. ISBN 0-88038-749-1.
  5. 5.00 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 5.05 5.06 5.07 5.08 5.09 5.10 Mike Pondsmith, Jay Batista, Rick Swan, John Nephew, Deborah Christian (1988). Kara-Tur: The Eastern Realms (Volume II). (TSR, Inc), p. 104. ISBN 0-88038-608-8.
  6. 6.00 6.01 6.02 6.03 6.04 6.05 6.06 6.07 6.08 6.09 6.10 6.11 Mike Pondsmith, Jay Batista, Rick Swan, John Nephew, Deborah Christian (1988). Kara-Tur: The Eastern Realms (Volume II). (TSR, Inc), p. 106. ISBN 0-88038-608-8.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 Mike Pondsmith, Jay Batista, Rick Swan, John Nephew, Deborah Christian (1988). Kara-Tur: The Eastern Realms (Volume II). (TSR, Inc), p. 100. ISBN 0-88038-608-8.
  8. Mike Pondsmith, Jay Batista, Rick Swan, John Nephew, Deborah Christian (1988). Kara-Tur: The Eastern Realms (Maps). (TSR, Inc). ISBN 0-88038-608-8.
  9.  (1989). Kara-Tur Trail Map. (TSR, Inc). ISBN 0-88038-783-7.
  10. Karen Wynn Fonstad (August 1990). The Forgotten Realms Atlas. (TSR, Inc), pp. ix, 22–23. ISBN 978-0880388573.
  11. ProFantasy Software Ltd. (1999). Forgotten Realms Interactive Atlas. TSR, Inc. File: ?.FCW
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4  (1988). Kara-Tur: The Eastern Realms (Volume II). (TSR, Inc), p. 103. ISBN 0-88038-608-8.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 13.4 13.5 13.6  (1988). Kara-Tur: The Eastern Realms (Volume II). (TSR, Inc), p. 105. ISBN 0-88038-608-8.
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2  (1988). Kara-Tur: The Eastern Realms (Volume II). (TSR, Inc), pp. 105–106. ISBN 0-88038-608-8.
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 15.4 15.5 15.6  (1988). Kara-Tur: The Eastern Realms (Volume II). (TSR, Inc), p. 107. ISBN 0-88038-608-8.
  16. 16.0 16.1  (1988). Kara-Tur: The Eastern Realms (Volume II). (TSR, Inc), p. 101. ISBN 0-88038-608-8.
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