Xīn Dà Míng
Posted on Monday, March 5th, 2012
This is the third in a semi-regular series about the world of Novagallia. I write a lot about Novagallia because it’s the first Ingressaverse world I created and, not coincidentally, it’s the one on which I have the most stories to tell.
Xīn Dà Míng (often simplified, such as in this article, to Xindaming) is the largest nation on Novagallia, both by population and area. Its reach can be felt in every corner of Ebrasae, the largest continent on Novagallia, and it alone among all the world’s nations holds colonies on every other continent as well.
Xindaming originated when refugees from the collapsing Ming Dynasty of China fled to Novagallia around 350 years ago. A year or so after the apparent disintegration of the Ming Dynasty with the suicide of the Chongzhen Emperor, his only surviving daughter, Princess Changping, faked her death with the help of those few retainers still loyal to her family and joined the dwindling stream of refugees. On Novagallia, Princess Changping rallied together generals and bureaucrats, couriers and scholar-officials, merchants and peasants, and established a new Ming Dynasty.
This new dynasty found itself just one of a diverse conglomerate of warring kingdoms, khanates, and self-proclaimed empires of peoples who came to Novagallia from areas near China on Earth. The Empress Changping induced her husband Zhou Xian and the other Ming generals to raise an army, which they did in short order. Over the remainder of their lives, Zhou Xian and his generals won victory after victory over their neighbors, expanding the new Ming Empire with few setbacks. Changping and the officials who came with her assembled a government more stable and orderly than any ever seen before or since on Novagallia; the combination of efficient conquest and effective governance allowed the empire to expand quickly.
Although its growth slowed considerably following the Great War (the conclusion of which stripped the empire of some territories in exchange for others, with a net increase in the area under its control), with few exceptions Xindaming has only enlarged since its founding. Many of its neighbors express concerns that the empire is conducting an extremely slow campaign to conquer the entire planet. Xindaming and its allies laugh off the suggestion, of course, although its extraordinary reach cannot be denied.
|Xīn Dà Míng|
Relations With Factions
The growth of Xindaming over Novagallia draws comparisons with the dominance of Roma Exterra on Denuo, Socrates, and Colonia Roma. Its close ties with the empire do little to assuage these concerns. The political closeness between Xindaming and Roma Exterra fluctuates, depending on the personalities of whichever emperor and Caesar currently rules each. When Caesar Pictor Cresentius married the Ming princess Mingxia, relations between the two empires strengthened considerably—most people today conclude the two are closer than ever. That the heiress-apparent for Roma Exterra is half Ming makes her—and by extension Roma Exterra itself—quite popular among the peoples of Xindaming, aristocrats and commoners alike.
Although the Caesar and his Ming princess brought the connection between the empires into the public consciousness, marriages between Ming and Roman citizens was not uncommon before then. Numerous Roman enclaves stand on lands leased from Xindaming, allowing for a steady intermixing of the two both on Novagallia and throughout the Ingressa.
The ties between Ming and the Roman Empire influence its relations with the other factions. The Janus Syndicate, Order of the Red Clover, and TDA are all welcome in Xindaming. Despite cultural and ancestral similarities, the Wàiguó Liánméng is not; this occasionally sours Xindaming’s relations with Toshima, Yamagawa, and several of its neighbors aligned with the union. Known Derinam who appear in Xindaming often just disappear when exposed, their fates unknown.
Xindaming is a hereditary constitutional monarchy and the emperor (or empress) retains executive power and is considered the head of state—and is no mere figurehead—although he lacks absolute powers. The Xuéshù Emperor (學術, or “Scholarly,” and often simplified to Xueshu), grand-nephew of the late Princess Mingxia, recently celebrated his seventh year of rule.
Beneath the emperor extends a ponderous but efficient and effective civil bureaucracy. Civil bureaucrats maintain control across the empire’s scores of administrative districts, where they act as governors and magistrates. High-level civil bureaucrats replace (or rather, fill) traditional aristocratic roles, and many of those transfer along family lines as if the offices were noble titles.
In theory, the army’s generals, who supposedly answer directly to the emperor and no one else, provide the nation with checks and balances against the excesses of bureaucrats. In truth, though, most of these generals also hold high-level offices in the bureaucracy.
The true balancing power in the empire lie with its cadre of imperial couriers and the growing merchant class. Couriers of Xindaming originated as part of the military, a tradition brought to Novagallia from the Ming Dynasty. Over time, they effectively divorced themselves from the military and formed their own branch of the government. Although they no longer serve the military directly, their training in armed and unarmed martial arts continues unabated to this day; many supplement these skills with ki mastery or magery.
Powerful merchant guilds, comprised of sub-companies
Several powerful merchant guilds, which represent companies of all sizes from individual consultants to vast conglomerates, account for more than half of the nation’s gross domestic output. These guilds use their wealth to exert influence over the government, and although they stop short of publicly bribing bureaucrats, nobody doubts the guilds use back-room dealing to smooth the interactions between government and commerce.
Xindaming covers roughly a third of Ebrasae and possesses holdings and colonies on every other Novagallian continent as well. Dozens of smaller nations lie along these sprawling borders, and Xindaming alone looks out over all three of the oceans that surround the continent. Several enclaves and spurs of imperial holding press the empire into nearly every latitude from the equator up to the arctic circle within the Taiga.
The heartland of Xindaming lies in the east, where its coastal terminus puts it adjacent to its traditional rivals, Toshima and Yamagawa, as well as numerous smaller nations south of them. In the southern extremes of its coastal territories, the land gradually gives way to marshes and wetlands. Andesite monoliths and basalt intrusions punctuate these lowlands, and these outcrops of stone become more common as one moves north, eventually becoming highlands that form imposing cliffs overlooking the ocean.
The empire’s heartland is made up of plains divided by jagged mountains that rise abruptly from the otherwise gentle terrain. These short ranges branch from the major ranges to the south. The flatlands turn into hills in the west and north and rise abruptly into the high mountains in the south. Much of this flatland is under cultivation, as are the terraced slopes of many of the mountains. Through each divided flatland area flows one of Xindaming’s impressive rivers, which gives the empire one of its more famous nicknames, the Land of Eight Rivers. Debate continues about which eight of the major rivers are meant in the name.
The western hills evolve into a plateau that extends from the mountains on the southeastern border of Suri Nur-Ramsur. A narrowing band of the empire wedges between Suri Nur-Ramsur and Kasalfki Tsarinate before terminating a hundred kilometers from its separated mountainous prefectures nestled into the mountains shared with Mureure and the Vomburg Principalities. That separated pocket of the empire controls several mountain valleys rich with arable lands, including numerous mineral-rich peaks home to a sprawling dwarven delve.
The Ming people dominate most of Xindaming, particularly in its heartland. The Ming of Novagallia originated as Han Chinese from Earth, and changed their name with the foundation of the Ming Empire and their integration with other ethnic groups in the area. Most of Xindaming speak Mingan Chinese, a dialect mutually incomprehensible with, but descended from, modern Mandarin. An enclave of ethnic Ming lives in the separated mountain prefectures along the Mureure and Vomburgian border.
A number of minorities share the eastern heartland of Xindaming with the Ming.
Of course, Romans and the wide range of ethnicities they represent fill the numerous Roman enclaves and trade cities within the empire. Those cities that grew up around Roman trade centers and fortresses support cosmopolitan populaces and a mixture of Roman and Ming architectural and artistic influences.
Large concentrations of ethnic Toshimese live along the borders with mainland Toshima and Yamagawa. Although Xindaming no longer forces the ethnic Toshimese to relocate away from the borders with their ancestral homelands (a practice still applied to other ethnic groups elsewhere in the empire), it does incentivize them to do so. Those Toshimese who work in the government tend to be transferred to the western prefectures of the empire. The government gives tax breaks to corporations that make similar transfers of their Toshimese employees.
Other large minorities in the eastern prefectures include the Dan, Vout, Lao, and Van. These groups have largely assimilated into the major culture of the nation, although many still hold to some of their own traditions. Several pidgin languages exist in these areas.
Xindaming no longer forcibly displaces those it conquers near its heartland, it nonetheless continues the practice in slow westward expansion under the belief that moving people away from their former homelands encourages them to assimilate into the culture (thus reducing the likelihood of rebellion). Several groups of Vomburgians and Sur live scattered about the empire. Both groups were moved in this manner when Xindaming acquired their territories through conquest or treaty.
None can deny the power or influence of Xindaming over Nogallia. Thanks both to its connection to Roma Exterra, but also to its own size and position on such an important world, Xindaming’s influence is felt beyond just Novagallia.
Many of the smaller nations that border Xindaming augment their native alphabets with Chinese characters. The cultivation of tea and the use of pagodas in architecture have spread across not just Ebrasae but much of the world. These influences can be found in Suri Nur-Ramsur, Kasalfki, Mureure, and Sakosta, although they are rejected with zeal within the Vomburg Principalities.
The people of Xindaming largely practice a form of Buddhism heavily influenced by the All-In-One faith of the Order of the Red Clover. This cloverite Buddhism finds adherents all over Novagallia and has gained popularity in Roma Exterra as well.
In fashion-conscious Mureure, the Lady Delinoix made a bold statement about a decade ago in a traditional-styled handmade silk dress made as a gift specifically for her by Yang Shou, an esteemed silk weaver serving the emperor in Xindaming’s capital. That and the high-collared jacket of her male attendants created an overnight sensation for Mingan-style traditional clothing. Although the fad has largely faded, designers across Mureure—including Lady Delinoix herself—continue to borrow elements from imperial culture, and contrary to more contemporary fashion sense Lady Delinoix still occasionally appears at functions in authentic, imported Xindaming dresses.
Finally, Novagallia is a dangerous world, and many people across the planet have trained in Mingan-style ki schools. Most practitioners consider the Mingan schools superior to those developed in other nations, but that is difficult to prove, of course. Easier to prove is the increasing numbers of Murse and Sakostan commoners taking lessons in Mingan ki schools. Shut out of the higher echelons of governance in their magocratic nations, the non-mage commoners seem to grasp for any advantage they can find. Mingan ki schools are currently one of the most popular methods for such citizens seeking some parity with the nobles.