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Summary Document Search: DIQIU
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Enigma sector, United Federation of Planets
The Class-M world known as Dìqiú appears on no standard galactic chart, at least under its own name. Although not technically a secret, it is virtually unknown outside a relatively select circle of insiders. Dìqiú and its moon, Yue, exist in a limited parallel reality, very slightly out of phase on the zorth axis from (but in all other respects coterminous with) the planet Zipang and its moon, Usagi. BPRD ætherealists who have studied this state of affairs report that the astral plane is "folded" between the two out-of-phase realities, causing a markedly above-average predisposition toward supernatural phenomena in both worlds.
The origins of this state of affairs are not known at this time; if it is a natural phenomenon, it appears to have occurred nowhere else in known space. Barring certain specialized sorcerous or metapsionic techniques, the Dìqiú side of this "astral fold" is accessible only through one of a handful of natural nexus points traversing it. Further discussion of this unique metacosmic situation is outside the scope of this document; for further information, please consult the BPRD's own files.
Profoundly isolated from the rest of the cosmos for most of its existence, Dìqiú developed a unique civilization which - either through parallel development or not-as-yet-understood temporal transmission - strikingly resembles a blend of a number of Earth's pre-Contact cultures, most notably imperial China and feudal Japan. When contact with Zipang was formally established by way of the aforementioned nexus points in the 24th century SC, the local technology base had only just reached a level comparable to that of mid-20th-century Earth, including early incarnations of such signature advanced technologies as digital computing and space travel.
Since then, technologies from the outer galaxy have been allowed to filter in only very slowly and carefully, so as not to disturb the delicate social and technological balance that exists within Dìqiú. The people there, by and large, enjoy their unique way of life and are cautious about how much of the "big universe" they let into it. Computing and transportation technologies have reached a level roughly equivalent to that of early-21st-century Earth. The medical sciences are somewhat more advanced, approaching the galactic state of the art circa 2300 SC.
Gender equality is well-advanced in most parts of Dìqiú at this point. Of the world's five main heads of state, two are presently women, and all the others have been women at some point in the last century. As in "mainstream" human society, some traditional gender roles persist (and, for that matter, are still widely valued), but transgressing them is no longer considered shocking or shameful by most people. Intermarriage between ethnic and cultural groups is likewise no longer cause for alarm to the majority, though this is a more recent development.
Penetration of the Standard language and calendar into Dìqiú society are fairly extensive at this point. The calendar required little reform, since the local one already matched the Standard calendar in everything other than the names of days and months and the numbering of years, which most people in Dìqiú still reckon under their old system except for international purposes.
Literacy and multilingualism are very common in Dìqiú. Most people today have at least the equivalent of a 12th-grade education, and most educated people are reasonably fluent in Standard as well as Dìqiú's own "world language", Tongyu, and usually at least one local language or dialect (depending on where in the world they are from; see below). Much of the world's great body of literature is available in Standard translation at this point.
The people of Dìqiú are biologically and culturally human to within one one-hundredth of one percent, apart from a unique, endemic metapsionic gift: roughly one percent of the world's population (which is presently estimated at around 500 million) are what is known locally as "benders", people who are able to psychically manipulate one of the four classical elements (earth, air, water, fire) through the practice of physical and mental disciplines very similar to conventional martial arts. Until recently, the different flavors of this gift were almost exclusively confined to one of the four traditional nations (see below), but in recent decades, as transportation and communications technologies have advanced and the world has become more cosmopolitan, this has become less assured.
The bending talent appears to be hereditary, but its genetic component (if there is one) is not well-understood, as no comprehensive scientific study of the phenomenon has been undertaken to date. If it has one, it appears to be a dominant trait, as only one parent must be a bender in order for there to be a chance that any given child will be one as well. The trait is known to skip generations sometimes, but otherwise breeds true (that is, one must have a bender of a particular element somewhere in his or her genetic past to have any chance of being able to use the same element). Children of mixed parentage (e.g., the son of a firebender and an earthbender) may be one, the other, or neither; never both.
One person (see The Avatar below) in Dìqiú at any given time can bend all four elements, but this is a unique power that appears to be an expression of a phenomenon on a much higher metaphysical level than "normal" bending and need not be discussed here.
Other psionic and metapsionic traits that are endemic to other human populations in the galaxy appear to be missing from the Dìqiú human genome. For instance, the world has apparently produced no documented telepaths or telekinetics of the "conventional" type. It is possible that such people have existed there, and simply were not understood as such by their contemporaries, but none is known to exist today.
Dìqiú's biosphere contains many plant and animal species that would easily be recognizable to a botanist or zoologist from Earth, but many are hybridized in interesting (and evolutionarily improbable) ways. Chimerical animals such as the pigchicken, spider rat [N.B. Just as creepy as it sounds. -V-], and turtlesquid are very common, as are animals which only mirror one Earth species, but on a sort of paleogigantic scale (such as the elephant koi, which is like a normal koi, only about the size of a large orca).
For much of its recorded history, Dìqiú's known landmass was divided among three traditional nations, with a fourth claiming no physical territory. Geopolitical developments in the fairly recent past have led to changes in this picture, such that there are now five (or possibly six - see below), one of which is almost vanishingly small. Present-day Dìqiú does not have anything like a world government. Contact with the outer realms via Zipang is conducted by one nation with the support of the others (see Extraplanetary Relations below).
The currently extant nations of Dìqiú as of this writing are:
The Commonwealth of Air Nomads and Air Acolytes is a loosely defined theocracy, more a religious or spiritual order than a country in the modern sense. Due to the circumstances of its founding (see below), its population is very small and largely interrelated, more akin to a large extended family than a conventional nation. The Air Commonwealth is also unique in that, although an independent nation in a politico-legal sense, it claims no territory anywhere in the world. The Air Nomads - as their name suggests - roam the world in a cycle of regular migrations, stopping along the way at five permanent temples scattered around the world.
The Air Nomads themselves are all, without exception, airbenders. Their non-bender fellows, the Air Acolytes, generally do not migrate, but instead serve as permanent support staff at the five Air Temples. These temples are hosted, by long-standing arrangement, in the other nations, and though they remain the sovereign territory of the hosting nation, they enjoy a certain extralegal status. (Much of the legal framework still in use in Dìqiú is based in tradition and unwritten common law, which can tend to give "big universe" legal and political scientists fits.)
In 2119 SC, the Air Nomads were nearly wiped out in a surprise offensive launched by the Fire Nation (q.v.). Only one, Avatar Aang (2107-2272), survived; all of the 150 or so currently living Air Nomads are descended from him, and the modern-day Air Commonwealth is largely his invention. As one might expect, relations between the Air Commonwealth and the present Fire Nation remain somewhat less than entirely comfortable, though they are at least civil.
Despite its violent origins, the Air Commonwealth remains rooted in the prewar Air Nomad culture, which was founded on principles of nonviolence and contemplation. All able-bodied members of the community are highly trained and adept martial artists, and though not outright pacifists - they will fight to protect themselves or others - their natural response to aggression is to seek understanding. Because of this, they are highly regarded as diplomats and negotiators (similar to the role played by many Jedi Knights).
The Commonwealth's capital, inasmuch as it has one, is the Central Air Temple, which stands on an island in the harbor of Republic City, capital of the United Republic of Nations (q.v.). It is there that the spiritual leader of the Air Nomads, and the closest thing the Air Commonwealth has to a head of state, Grandmaster Jinora, lives. Jinora also holds the title Apsara Lama, reflecting her status as a teacher and guide to the ways of the air spirits. She is the eldest granddaughter of Avatar Aang, and, at the age of 130, by far the oldest of Dìqiú's present world leaders.
The Air Nomads' own language, Xiaerba (like the Air Nomads themselves), closely resembles a dialect of the Tibetan languages of Earth, and virtually disappeared at the start of the Hundred Years' War. Modern-day Air Commonwealth citizens do learn it, but tend to use it only for ceremonial purposes - though some have discovered that it makes a handy code when out in the world, since virtually no one else in Dìqiú can understand it.
The Fire Nation is a semi-constitutional autocracy based on an island archipelago in the northwestern quadrant of Dìqiú's inhabited hemisphere. Once the exclusive homeland of firebenders, it holds the double-edged status of being the place where much of the impetus for the world's societies to change and grow comes from. Partly that's because firebenders are stereotypically restless and inquisitive types who are constantly experimenting with new, more efficient, or at least more interesting ways of doing things, and so have historically been the drivers of much technological innovation in the world... but partly it's because they also have a long track record of militarism with occasional fits of violent imperialism.
The 2119 SC genocide of the Air Nomads by the Fire Nation's armed forces inaugurated a war of world conquest which was to span a century, a conflict now inevitably known as the Hundred Years' War. It ended with the defeat of Fire Lord Ozai at the hands of the time's current Avatar, Aang, in 2219 - but not before the Fire Nation's armies, failing in their original goals of conquest, had attempted (unsuccessfully) to wipe out both the Water Tribes and the people of the Earth Kingdom (q.v.). The aftershocks of the war continue to reverberate throughout Dìqiú's civilization today.
The modern Fire Nation is a better place by almost any measure than the warped and cruel total-warfare state of the Hundred Years' War, but it remains the most conservative and militaristic of the nations, having refused to abandon many of its centuries-old traditions in the wake of the war - a war, its modern partisans point out, it did not actually lose, but in fact simply declined to win when Fire Lord Zuko took the throne after his father's defeat and changed the national policy. Military service and personal martial prowess are still highly prized and regarded as virtuous by the average Fire National.
The Fire Nation's capital was for years, in a typical exercise of the country's attitude toward these things, simply known as "the Capital". Since the reign of Fire Lord Zuko, however, it has been known as Caldera City, after the volcanic crater in which it sits. The country's highest office was the last of Dìqiú's leadership positions to relinquish absolute monarchy, and its holder is still an autocrat with only limited constraints imposed by the elected parliament below. This person is still called, as he or she has since time immemorial, the Fire Lord. (Both men and women have held the position, and the title does not vary depending on which is in office at any one time.)
The current Fire Lord is also the youngest and most-recently-crowned head of state in Dìqiú, the nineteen-year-old Fire Lord Katara. Named for a friend and colleague of her late great-great-grandfather Zuko's who played a major role in the end of the Hundred Years' War, the Fire Lord - sometimes known as "Katara the Younger" to distinguish her from her illustrious namesake - celebrated her coronation just last year.
The language historically employed in the Fire Nation is called Kokugo, and bears a striking resemblance, in both its spoken and written forms, to 19th-century Japanese. It is still the official language of the Fire Lord's court, but has largely been supplanted in everyday use by Tongyu (q.v.).
The Water Tribes may de facto be two countries, politically speaking, at this point, but they remain united de jure, still use a common national emblem, and have sufficient ties of culture and language that they can be considered one people, if no longer a single polity. They inhabit Dìqiú's polar regions, on landmasses known (a bit confusingly, to outsiders) as the North Pole and the South Pole. These are the historical homelands of the world's waterbenders.
The two Water Tribes (they hardly ever refer to themselves as branches of a singular Water Tribe any longer), inhabiting diametrically opposed parts of the planet, yet speak a common language (albeit with increasing dialectic drift as the decades wear on) and have many cultural similarities; however, the great distance between them, their long period out of regular contact thanks to the disruptions of the Hundred Years' War, and their differing circumstances at the end of that war (which found the Northern Water Tribe relatively strong and prosperous, and the Southern nearly wiped out) have all led to a continuing social drift.
Relations between the two were further strained in 2290, when forces from the North attempted to reassert the authority of the Great Chief over the South as well. Today there is little love lost between the two, with each nation cherishing several derogatory stereotypes about the other. Northerners, it is said, customarily see their cousins at the South Pole as louche and irreverent to the point of folly, while the people of the South see Northerners as self-righteous, treacherous prigs. Sociologists within Dìqiú remain divided as to whether there will ultimately be a rapprochement or a complete dissolution sometime in the near-to-medium term.
For the moment, the Northern and Southern Water Tribes remain technically one nation, with the North Pole capital city of Sanirajak listed in most Dìqiú atlases as the capital of the singular "Water Tribe", and the North's Great Chief setting policy for both lands with the advice and consent of his Council of Elders in the North, and a second, separate one in the South Pole sub-capital of Nanisivik.
In practice, however, no Great Chief has been fool enough to make any attempt to control anything they do in the South for more than a century, and the current holder of the office, Great Chief Inarik, is viewed as little more than a distant figurehead by the people of the South. He isn't even on their coins; no one is, since the Southern Water Tribe's population is such that it can function perfectly well with a sort of amplified tribal council style of government and has no singular head of state.
The Water Tribes' language, Tukisi, bears little resemblance to Kokugo or Tongyu; instead, exo-linguists have discovered that it corresponds to the native language group of the Inuit peoples of Earth's Canadian Arctic. The Northern and Southern Water Tribes speak different dialects, not always intercomprehensibly. As with the Air Nomads' language, Xiaerba, few other people in the world can understand either one.
The Earth Kingdom is Dìqiú's largest and oldest nation. A relatively loose federation of semi-autonomous regions, principalities, and even smaller kingdoms sprawling across the planet's enormous central continent, it is ruled by the Earth King. This individual is ostensibly an absolute monarch, but in practice is more like the chief administrator of a vast, ancient, and largely self-sustaining bureaucracy. How much direct influence the Earth King has over any given place within his kingdom is proportional to how near it is to his capital. In the hinterlands, his name (if he has one; see below) may not even be known to much of the populace.
It's difficult to generalize about so huge and diverse a place as the Earth Kingdom, but there are a few things that seem at least stereotypically true of the place and its people. Having held out the longest against the assault of the Fire Nation during the Hundred Years' War, the people of the Earth Kingdom treasure a well-burnished reputation for being sturdy and enduring, like the element in their country's name. That the kingdom is also the historical seat of earthbenders only adds to this mystique, which most modern-day Earth Kingdom subjects are only too happy to embrace.
The Earth Kingdom's capital, the vast walled city of Ba Sing Se, is no longer indisputably the biggest or greatest city in the world, since the meteoric rise of Republic City, but it still contends gallantly for both honors. It remains a cultural and educational center, home to Dìqiú's largest, oldest, and most prestigious university, as well as the place from which much of the world's high fashion and great traditional (as opposed to new-media) art emanates.
The ruler of the Earth Kingdom is known as the Earth King or Earth Queen, depending on gender; there have been many of both in the country's long history. Most abandon their own names when crowned and thenceforth are only referred to numerically. The current holder of the office, the 55th Earth King, is an observer of this tradition. He ascended to the throne in 2394 with the death of his mother, the 54th Earth Queen. (N.B. Earth Kings and Earth Queens are both included in the total; the Earth Kingdom has not had 107 monarchs.)
Because of the Earth Kingdom's vast size and extensive cultural influence, its official language, Tongyu (very similar to 19th-century Mandarin Chinese), has been the language of international commerce and learning in Dìqiú for centuries. Even in the Fire Nation, which spent the entirety of the period between 2119 and 2219 engaged in a bitter war of conquest with the Earth Kingdom, and which has its own long and rich literary tradition in Kokugo, fluency in Tongyu is de rigueur.
The youngest and most dynamic polity in Dìqiú, the United Republic of Nations was founded in 2224 by Avatar Aang, Fire Lord Zuko, and Earth King Kuei (the 52nd Earth King, and one of the few to use his own name during his reign) to provide a new political and cultural identity for a group of former Fire Nation colonies in what had been the western hinterlands of the Earth Kingdom. These areas had been occupied by the Fire Nation since very early in the Hundred Years' War, and so had undergone such a cultural melding of identities that they could not be separated with the Fire Nation's withdrawal from the Earth Kingdom after that war's end.
The new nation was conceived as a place where all the world's cultures could come together and find a new harmonic balance, since a return to the old, traditional way of keeping the peoples of the world entirely separate was plainly impossible by that point. (This philosophy was later extended to reflect a growing awareness of the importance of bender/non-bender relations as well.) As such, it almost immediately developed into a vibrant and cosmopolitan place. In an idealized view, it's meant to combine the Fire Nation's historical knack for innovation and exploration with the Earth Kingdom's solid reliability and steady good sense. In practice, of course, there are always shortfalls, but the fact remains that the United Republic is what we on the outside would recognize as the closest thing Dìqiú has to a modern nation-state, with a representational government and blanket civil rights codified in law (as opposed to recognized by long tradition).
The hub of the United Republic is its capital, Republic City, which stands at the western edge of what was the Earth Kingdom of old, or the eastern edge of the Fire Nation, depending on how you reckon these things. Constantly vying with Ba Sing Se for the titles of world's biggest or greatest, it is much more technically and socially advanced than its rather staid eastern rival, but, its detractors claim, also less stable and more decadent. It's true that the city has a long-standing, endemic organized crime problem, despite dogged efforts by the local police to clean it up, but it remains statistically a fairly safe and desirable place to live.
The United Republic has Dìqiú's only fully representational system of government, with a legislative Senate and a chief executive who are elected separately. The current President of the United Republic, President Genzo Nobu, is a third-generation Republic citizen with antecedents from as far away as the eastern edge of the Earth Kingdom, the southern outpost of Kyoshi Island, and the central Fire Nation; he likes to bill himself in public appearances as a sort of human embodiment of the United Republic's melting-pot ideal.
Both Tongyu and Kokugo are widely spoken in the United Republic, and both are to be found on "civilian" signage throughout the country. For the sake of efficiency, and to better interoperate with the Earth Kingdom's own colossal state bureaucracy, the official language of the Republic government is Tongyu.
As mentioned above, Dìqiú has no central world government, nor even an advisory "supranational" agency like the old United Earth. Instead, in theory, each of its nations is free to treat with any other government, including those on other worlds, on its own. In practice, this has proven far too complicated for most of the rulers of Dìqiú's nations, and in 2393 the Earth King, Fire Lord, Great Chief of the [Northern] Water Tribe, and Apsara Lama signed the Outer Galaxy Accord, by which they devolved responsibility for relations with polities beyond Zipang onto the United Republic.
The Republic Senate, with the OGA signatories' knowledge and consent, then passed the Interstellar Relations Act 2394, which established the post of Minister for Interstellar Relations as part of the Republic President's cabinet. President Hua then appointed the Air Nomads' Apsara Lama to that post, which she has held uninterrupted, and indeed unopposed, through the four presidental administrations since; and so it has been she who has served as the principal liaison from Dìqiú to the Babylon Foundation and the International Police.
In practice, the Apsara Lama is far too old and busy to leave Dìqiú and travel to the various conferences and occasions required of such an individual. She receives a delegation from the Foundation at her headquarters in the Central Air Temple approximately once a year (this is usually the Chief of the IPO), but customarily delegates all other matters pertaining to the Ministry to her semi-official deputy minister, Avatar Korra.
The present Avatar has served since 2289, when she first emerged from the seclusion of her training and became a public figure. Her career and her person are both colorful and involved enough to warrant documentation in their own right. For our purposes, it is enough to know that she is the only person in Dìqiú who can bend more than one element, having command of all four, and possesses other supranormal abilities besides. A personal friend of the Chief and his family and a household name throughout her homeworld, she 's never far from the public eye, however much she often regrets her own prominence. Inasmuch as Dìqiú even has a public face to the rest of the galaxy, hers is it.
Although not a closed or secret world, Dìqiú is and prefers to remain obscure. People traveling from there to the "big universe" do so, by arrangement with the Government of Zipang, on Zipangi passports, and only speak of their true homeworld with trusted friends and colleagues. Similarly, although Dìqiú welcomes visitors from outside, permanent emigration and immigration to and from anywhere beyond Zipang remain tightly controlled (although efforts are underway to change that).
This preference for obscurity results from the convergence of Dìqiú's history and the present galactic situation, as it is understood there. Having suffered the devastation of a prolonged war of genocide and conquest, the peoples of Dìqiú are, understandably, not eager to experience its like again. The world's leaders are deeply concerned about the consequences should an organization known for coveting and even illegally conscripting people with metapsionic abilities, such as the Earth Alliance Psi Corps or certain arms of the international crime syndicate Big Fire, learn about their world's large population of powerful elementalists and martial artists.
As such, Foundation and IPO personnel are requested to maintain Level Four information security regarding Dìqiú, and particularly its whereabouts and methods of access, at all times. Our agreement with the United Republic contains no actual provision of penalty for disclosure, and indeed there is no law anywhere in Dìqiú prohibiting cross-border tourism or the maintenance of personal ties across the boundaries, but it is considered a matter of courtesy.
Recognizing that this strategy of security-through-obscurity is extremely unlikely to succeed indefinitely, the Office of the Chief has for years maintained an ongoing consultation with the Ministry for Interstellar Relations regarding possible failure states and reaction plans for each. We (the Babylon Foundation and the IPO) are determined to be ready to help manage the situation however our friends in Dìqiú wish, when and if the time comes that the Wrong People discover them.
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