The timeline of the Shoukakegawa diverged from our timeline sometime before 1100. The Mongols failed to unite under Ghengis Khan, and never successfully invaded China or the Islamic world. The southern Sung dynasty gradually grew in power, and by 1370 several marine expeditions to Southeast Asia had occurred. While the dynasty expanded militarily north, Chinese traders began to expand into the Indian Ocean and south Pacific.
Europe had become embroiled in the episcopate battle, where an obtuse theological issue taxed the intellects of the scholastics and later also both nobles and popes. The issue of whether the episcopate is an order had extensive taxation impact, and as the battle grew much of theology got entangled in politics. Instead of the reformation various anti-intellectual or pietism movements spread, turning Europe inwards. The failure of the first crusade and the changed relationship between the king and church made king Louis VII disinclined to support the second crusade, and no further crusades occurred. The free trade eastwards made westward expansion uninteresting, and no attempts were made to cross the Atlantic. In 1574 the Chinese admiral Ssu-ma Anyen discovered America, news of which reached Europe more than two decades later.
The Chinese colonies spread across the Indian Ocean and pacific, sometimes coming into conflict with local rulers, sometimes instead allying. In 1431 the Japanese emperor married a Chinese princess after a period of civil war to gain the allies he needed to deal with an alliance of enemy nobles. The military support from the mainland remained, in 1450 Japan had become a part of China. The exchange of culture and skills amplified the imperial expansion, especially after some deposed Japanese nobles set out on their own to find new lands overseas.
The admirals and nobles across the Pacific rim were only marginally controlled by the civil officials sent by the Hangchow emperors. They grew in power and during the ”Battle of the Sails” 1563 the fleet of Hangchow was defeated by an alliance (”The Sea Dragons”) and the dynasty deposed by mercenary armies. The new dynasty, the Yang dynasty, mainly controlled the mainland while the Sea Dragons continued to expand. The Dragons were seldom unified, and instead often competed and warred – which spurred their logistic and technological progress.
By 1600, Islamic and Chinese science had discovered electricity, and in 1680 the first steam engines were constructed by Tufmir ibn Zarik. In 1632 Li Ho formulated his ”Principles of Dynamical Activity”, the foundations of economy and to some extent evolution. This resulted in an enormous interest that spurred the development of the early industrial revolution. The far-flung trade network and colonies stimulated biological, meteorological and mathematical research.
A setback occurred during the Red Sea War 1692-1701 between the reunited Caliphate and the Yang, which lost much of the trade in the Indian Ocean to the Caliphate. The aftermath led to the Great War 1702-1713, which ended with a splintered situation and an entirely powerless emperor. Over the next 50 years the different Chinese states formed an alliance to counteract the Caliphate expansion, eventually forming the United Dragons of the Pacific Rim in 1761, stretching from Tibet to Mesoamerica, from Alaska to New Zeeland.
In 1728 the Hawaiian Wu Weilang built the first airplane, and in 1753 the Kwantung government launched the first satellite. The remarkable geneticist Shi Zhihao (publishing through her husband’s name) achieved genetic recombination of the rice plant in 1749, and interest in biology and biotechnology became the vogue across the Pacific Rim states. Many of the states and clans specialized on certain organisms and applications, producing a network of interdependent but competing clan/corporations.
In 1806 phasing was discovered by accident, and scientists began to explore its properties. While most research was strongly aimed towards personal time travel and time communication, some mystics belonging to various Buddhist schools were fascinated by the suggestion that travel to a place outside time was possible. In 1810 and onwards, a number of monasteries phased to Ex Tempore (as well as various explorers).
Beyond this era, the timeline becomes blurred due to frequent time travel. Several futures appear to have encompassed post-singularity civilizations or femtotechnological disasters, but eventually an expedition from the Crikan Commonwealth (20th century east-Mediterranean nation) moved back to the 1030’s, accidentally releasing a plague. This shifted the timeline away from the original path and prevented the emergence of a time-traveling civilization. The Crikan expedition appears to have returned ”home”, where it was apparently destroyed upon emerging into a war zone. The re-appearance of various expeditions from Ex Tempore did not change the general stability of the timeline – some returned and joined the Shoukakegawa, the rest had no lasting effect except for the last returnee, Kong Manjian, who returned to a fairly primitive 1811 with sizeable amounts high technology and created the Immortal Kuang Empire – regarded by Ex Tempore connoisseurs as one of the most simultaneously culturally creative and politically repressive regimes in any timeline.
The Shoukakegawa culture in Ex Tempore emerged fairly naturally from the emergence of about 20 major expeditions, dominated by Japanese Buddhist monastic explorers and their sizeable entourage of support staff. The main motivating factor was the doctrine of the Point of Stillness (sometimes the Axle of the Great Wheel), which suggested that the point at the center of time would be, if not Nirvana, then at least a Heaven.
After arrival and a great deal of reconsideration, the people from the United Dragons of the Pacific Rim settled Guntatoukai. The local Lamplandae accomodated the clans settling the islands and bringing a more efficient infrastructure. They took the name Shoukakegawa after a mythical monk who brought the Buddhist monasteries to the Japanese islands and turned them to the sanctuary for Buddhism they were regarded as when the arrivals arrived. The name had by now become synonymous with the meaning “Isolated Land of Monasteries”.
In the years after the arrival, the monasteries declined in role. Secular society asserted itself, and the clans re-developed. The reconsideration of the meaning of Ex Tempore and the needs of colonization made the monastics politically irrelevant – they were revered or at least tolerated, but it was clear the situation was far more profane in Ex than had been expected.
The encounter with the Republica Aquincorum brought conflict. Both were trade nations, but had fundamentally different outlooks on life, business and society. That the republic had a serious fear of the “eastern menace” did not help relations. What especially angered Shoukakegawa was their claims to all council chambers and hence dominion over access to the Consensus. When Ishdubar gave certain clans access to ultratechnology they started to use them to oust the NRC from control across Namaqua. Although the other clans were not eager to fight, once things started they were forced to go into battle to defend themselves. The unification conflict was largely inconclusive; neither side truly understood their most powerful weapons and the nature of Namaqua made warfare complex. When the Ishdubar supplied technology began to fail there were no longer any real reason to fight except revenge and a desire to prevent the other side from winning.
Since the unification conflict Shoukakegawa has continued to grow, but is nearly always in opposition to the NRC and its rules. The political and economic games have continued, slowly hardening into a kind of cold war.
The Shoukakegawa is notable advanced in the use of biotechnology to produce things. Computers employ cultured neural networks connected to microcircuitry, or programmed bacteria to lay down circuit patterns. Cultured muscle cells are used as motors, and solar collectors shaped like leaves grow nearly anywhere to supply household appliances with energy.
Biological materials are used extensively for most applications; in fact, they have replaced plastics, metals and alloys nearly everywhere. While not as strong as many inorganic materials they fit in with the Shoukakegawan ethos of recycling, low intensive energy use and flexibility. A strong cultural view holds that an object with living qi is better than an inorganic object.
A side effect of the wholesale use of organic technology is that many devices are indivisible wholes: they cannot easily be taken apart, repaired (beyond their own healing abilities) or modified. This fits the economic system well, in that new devices have to be continually bought when the previous ones grow too old and that they have to be created through the internal efforts of tightly knit clan corporations.
Farming is not just food production; it supplies raw materials, acts as chemical industry and to some extent manufacturing. Kelp farms produce biomass that is used in bioreactors – combinations of artificial digestive systems and factories - to supply all forms of bioproducts as well as foodstuffs.
Transportation is advanced; a huge variety of ships, aircraft and personal transportation devices are in used. Most are fuelled with hydrogen fuel cells or glucose-driven muscle packages. There are chitin covered spacecraft and boats with undulating tailfins. In general they are fast, flexible, silent and extremely streamlined (or covered with friction-reducing fur or sharkskin).
General tech level: 8. TL 9 for transportation, TL 6 materials.
Shoukakegawan society is an aristocracy / technocracy. It is divided into clans, remote descendants of Fan Chung-yen’s Confucian idea of clans but with corporate overtones. Each clan is essentially its own micro-nation, with a shared history, loyalty and identity. Most of the established clans are descended (more or less legitimately) from the different United Dragons nations, although several are younger creations after the arrival to Ex.
Society is hierarchical, with a sizeable power distance: superiors have to be obeyed; inferiors can be expected to obey. Clan Management (“Zhuren”) is partly hereditary, partly a matter of skill; to reach the upper levels a combination of family ties and proven technocratic skill is necessary – neither is enough on its own to truly gain power. The administrative system suffers from widespread corruption, and it is not uncommon that competing clans infiltrate each other or try to bribe their way. Ironically the corruption also helps circumvent many of the rigidities and deadlocks of the system – without it the system would likely break down.
The global span of the United Dragons and their somewhat mixed ethnicity has produced many skilled linguists, and it is common for citizens to learn several languages. This has proven extra valuable in Ex Tempore, where Shoukakegawan translation services are highly valued when AI translation isn’t available or trusted.
Ethnically the majority is pacifican, with a strong Asian ancestry. However, among the people migrating to Ex there were approximately 5% of middle east background (mainly Caliphate ex-citizens) and 2% of European and African descent.
A special group is the Buddhist monks of the still extant temples. While regarded as holy, their influence is marginal. Their most notable feature is their poverty: they have not just taken a wow of poverty, but Shoukakegawan law actually forbids them from owning anything. Instead caring for each monastery is the duty of the local clan(s).
People live in extended families with both matri- and patri-linear lineage. Patriarchy is strong, although women are not barred from many professions – they are just expected to be subordinate. Marriage is free and only regulated by contract and clan consensus; within the United Dragons both monogamy and polygamy were common in different regions, and homosexual pairings were acceptable as long as they were male.
Children are highly valued and pampered by everybody both inside and outside the family. Children in Shokukakegawa are very rarely unwanted and if parents cannot take care of their child they will be adopted by another part of the family or clan. The idea of moving a child to the best possible home is strong, and special adoption analysts decide which home would be ideal. Quite often orphans are adopted at a far higher social stratum than their parents. A general eugenic policy is in place, where the cultural ideals of harmony, wisdom and a perfect life motivate parents to use genetic screening or engineering to ensure that their children have only the best starting circumstances. As they grow up, expectations grow.
The legal system is based on economic concepts. Crimes should be restituted either to the victim or his clan. Most result in monetary reparations; if the guilty part cannot pay either his clan has to pay (a serious dishonor) or a fraction of his future income will be paid as reparation. The enforcement level is fairly mild, and social pressure is often a stronger factor in deterring from criminality.
Business, trade and economy are overall of central importance thanks to the doctrines of dynamical activity due to Li Ho that emphasize the creative forces of entrepreneurship and wealth creation. It is important to not just accumulate wealth but to constantly invest it and make it grow. Wealth should not be hidden, but rather proudly displayed. The clans acts as networks of corporations, often with hereditary specializations complemented by a flurry of young untested businesses that are run by individual members trying to strike out on their own. Successful businesses can mean social advancement or even the formation of one’s own clan.
While business is in general free, there are certain things that are illegal. One major headache is the black market in Republic pornography that seriously upsets traditional morals.
Shoukakegawa is undergoing a crisis of stability, something generally experienced by everybody but something nobody would ever mention. The internal and external competition is putting a great deal of strain on the social structure. The main problem is competition between the clans, but an internal struggle within the leadership also worsens the problems. As faction struggles intensify, corruption and crime is on the rise. At the same time the conflict with the Republic is destabilizing the society as much resources – both time, money and people - are spent on costly diplomatic and investigating missions across Ex. Many of the young are becoming influenced by other cultures, escaping into virtuality or even questioning the Zhuren.
Culture of Mind
The most powerful idea of Shoukakegawa culture is harmony. It is the concept that has been debated, fought over and striven towards for all history - and worth it. True harmony is regarded as more than just a pleasant state, it is true enlightenment. If a person or society can achieve harmony, it is complete.
Of the virtues, especially cooperation is viewed as central. One has to cooperate with other humans, especially one’s family, company and clan. Uncooperativeness is to withdraw from harmony, to hurt oneself and others.
There is also the concept of “controlled disharmony” or “necessary decadence”. It is impossible for imperfect humans to achieve perfect harmony all time, and aggressions, repressed desires and anxieties must be handled somehow. This is achieved by blowing of steam in specific ritualized ways – at the drunken festivals, in violent games and special “quarrel meetings”. The Shoukakegawa regard the ability to control decadence perfectly as one of the great virtues: the perfected person would only sin in controlled ways, otherwise living a flawlessly harmonious life.
Wisdom has always been revered, and is one of the major motivators for intelligence enhancement genetic therapies. The image of the wise old technocrat is common, and people who have exhibited great wisdom are respected regardless of social class or other merits.
Openness is also valued, but mainly horizontally. A member of a team or group must always tell the truth to other members and never hold anything back – to keep silent is to hurt them all. At the same time the group must act together, and if something is revealed in confidence it may not be revealed outward.
To fear nature is a vice. The beauty of nature may of course be enjoyed, but it must never be feared. It means putting the impersonal, amoral forces of nature above the human will. Humans have a duty to impose harmony on nature, just as Heaven has a duty to impose a harmony on humans.
The main religion of Shoukakegawa is clan worship. It is a mixture of reverence of the ancestors (today mostly seen as symbols of the spirit of the clan), reaffirming of clan ideals and a ceremonial representation of the altruism within the clan. It has been described as worship of the abstract image of what the clan truly is. Some Buddhist and Islamic syncretism also occurs, mostly limited to the monasteries.
Qu Currently enjoying tremendous prosperity thanks to a trade treaty with a major Trilo company-society regarding cells producing diamond enforced chitin.
Weng-Shou On Earth they were involved in shipping. In Ex, they have continued to work with shipping, transport and phasing.
Domdauren The Domdauren clan is strong in media and information services. Their translation filters are priced for their speed and reliability, though rumours of unorthodox manufacturing methods abound.
Shoumen An old, conservative and traditional biotechnology clan. On Earth they owned most patents for collagen derivatives dating back to the earliest days of biotechnology. In Ex they are struggling to find a new niche; one area they are attempting to break into is xenogenetics and the use of it for radical new uses. The ruler of the Shoumen house, Lao-jen Chou, is the main reason Shoumen still exists: through a tangled web of investments and unorthodox economics he has held the House afloat through these trying times. He is also one of the main contacts for the Aquincorian trade missions, something that does not endear him to the other clans. He secretly detests Domdauren for their unorthodox manufacturing methods.
Onelai A very young clan that emerged only 10 years ago as an offshoot from a subsidary clan of the Weng-Shou. Their meteoric rise was due to a set of deals with the Aescul Strigae that gave them preferential treatment for heavy transport contracts within the human habitats. The base industry of Onelai has diversified since, but is still heavily oriented towards heavy transports. Some small production of consumer goods is run as a franchise in other human habitats. The Onelai are currently enjoying an uneasy alliance with the Shoumen – both need each other but are well aware that they each pursue different ultimate goals.
Tunh Tunh has mainly dealt with human biotechnological enhancements, although the clan is also involved in neurocomputing and low-level metabolic engineering. The involvement of Tunh and Songbi-Zhen in the attempted coup against Republica Aquincorum caused them to lose much face and holdings. It is slowly recovering, but still largely distrusted.
Songbi-Zhen A merchant and finance clan formed after the arrival to Ex. Fiercely competitive and willing to risk much in its pursuit of political and economic power. Its alliances are fleeting and dynamic things even by Shoukakegawan standards. Some of the other clans attribute this to the clan’s need to establish a tradition of face and longevity. The real reason for the clan’s dynamic attitudes, however, is a covert investment project involving the Ekichou. In short, they owe the birds substantial favors, something the Ekichou are not above cashing in upon with alarming frequency.
Khen A clan oriented towards housing and maintenance, the Khen has substantial assets, though most are tied up in equity, land or buildings. Their design institution is commonly referred to as the “earth-prison” by young design students. It offers relative job security at the cost of creativity and original ideas. In spite of this, they hold more than 45% of the Shou market in housing and internal infrastructure, though those who can afford it by design upgrades from elsewhere. The maintenance section is relatively well armed, and tactical strikes have been made towards various public health hazards encroaching upon the infrastructure serviced by Khen. Their relations with other houses are quite peaceful (again, by Shou standards), but occasionally, they will war over some symbolic issue, mainly to please statistics.
Chen-Mill This clan specializes heavily in (mostly non-lethal) advertising. Their copywriters are feared throughout Shou for their competence at creating precise media spins, insert subliminals and encrypted communications through biotech structures. They also have numerous profitable side enterprises. One of these is the manufacture and sale of the dancing virus to the Aquincorian black market. Another is the production of highly immoral soaps to the UJKH settlements.
Lamplandae Lamplandae are just as splintered and unwilling to unify as Shoukakegawa, making them potential allies. Several clans have established ties with Gog Owza and the Belkazanthe, opening profitable trading relations.
Republica Aquincorum The Republica is regarded as the great opponent; officially this is just competition – both are trading nations with a great deal of expansiveness – and seriously different views on how access to the timeline should be regulated among humans. But it also provides a shared opponent for the deeply divided Shoukakegawa clans to unite against, something which forces Shoukakegawa to expend much energy.
The Republica is viewed as lax, chaotic and disharmonious. Especially the demarchist system is regarded as distasteful – people are promoted (albeit temporarily) at random instead due to breeding or skill. Differences in sexual morals and remaining republican suspicion against easterners also contribute.
UJKH: Although culturally more understandable than the Aquincorians, the UJKH has always supported the idea of an unified human culture and hence the NRC. Some Shoukakegawan policy analysts think that it would change allegiances if it could be shown that Shoukakegawa was a more viableunifying force.
Magellanica Relatively unimportant newcomers.
Third British Empire Somewhat worrying and aggressive, but with some bioengineering expertise of interest.