Regency of Dulimbai
Golden Dulimbai is the second of the great southern powers, a nation founded as an invasion beachhead a thousand years ago, shortly before the Shattering. The Middle Empire of a far land had sent a numberless fleet of ships to seize the continent for their emperor. Dulimbai was the first-taken land along the coast, with its original Patrian inhabitants driven north or enslaved. Even today, many Dulimbaian families have a strong strain of Patrian blood.
When the Shattering happened only a few years later, the invaders were forced to rely on their own initiative and chose a regent from among their military leaders. Various viceregal dynasties have risen and passed away in the thousand years since but their heirs still defer to the fiction of loyalty to a long-lost emperor.
Dulimbai is a rich and cultured land, blessed with fruitful rice paddies and good grazing lands in the northeast. The hierarchical nature of the original invasion force still shows in the very low status of ordinary commoners. These xiaoren (“she-ow rehn”) are largely indistinguishable from the slaves some of them keep, placed under the charge of a district magistrate and taxed ruthlessly to support the endless hostilities with the neighboring Patrian Empire.
The only hope of a Dulimbaian xiaoren is to have a son or daughter excel at the Great Examinations, annual challenges meant to test a candidate’s martial or cultural knowledge. Keenly aware of their distance from their mother-nation, Dulimbaians fiercely maintain the ways and aesthetics of their ancestors. The mastery of their ancient books, poetry, music, and jurisprudence is the hallmark of a junzi (“jun-zih”), or gentry-class citizen. Those unfortunates who cannot master the writing brush can instead prove their valor in martial skills, though talent with a sword is considered greatly inferior to expertise in the finer points of calligraphy.
Junzi form the scholar-official class of Dulimbai, managing all the myriad offices and positions required to keep the Regency running. Their offspring are given no special consideration in the Great Examinations, so there is constant pressure for them to excel. Those who pass most gloriously can expect important official positions. Marginal success might win a modest but profitable office, while the many who fail entirely must resign themselves to a supplementary role at best, tapped to carry out the decisions of more accomplished officials. Some rich candidates apply liberal amounts of gold to avert this fate.
Dulimbaians possess a strong cultural conservatism and are reluctant to admit any change that might threaten their beloved traditions. Some murmur that the stalemate on the Patrian border has persisted so long because the Dulimbaians do not actually want to win the war so much as maintain it as a national custom. The junzi consider other nations to be uniformly barbarous, and strictly reject any importation of foreign customs or habits as potentially corrupting their culture.
This doesn’t prevent Dulimbai from doing much trade with Vissio and the Bright Republic, however, though under the guise of “tribute” to the Regent and “gifts” to subject nations. Dulimbai’s xiaoren are disciplined and industrious, and the fruits of their farms and mines buy luxuries for the junzi and armaments for the war with Patria. Foreign students also come to Dulimbai’s universities, the better to absorb the famed sagacity of Dulimbaian scholars and poets.
Dulimbaians are found in many far-flung lands, mostly xiaoren families who fled unpromising lives for a new start elsewhere. These exiles often have mixed feelings at best about their former home.