The people of Tian Xia keep to themselves, for the most part. They are quite and polite, and become increasingly so the angrier they get. A Tian who lapses into complete silence is probably very angry , and it’s best to appease him quickly. An apology goes a long way toward reconciliation. Sit down a Tian and pour a little alcohol in him, though, and you quickly learn that just because he’s reserved doesn’t mean he doesn’t know how to have fun. – Jak Merrikander, Magnimarian merchant
Physical Description and Physical Outlook
As a people, Tian tend to be smaller and slighter than those of Avistan and Garund. Men only infrequently grow as tall as 5-1/2 feet, while women often barely break 5 feet in height. Even among the generally thin and narrow -bodied Tian, the Tian-Dan, and Tian-Sing frequently appear particularly skinny, often looking emaciated even when well-fed. In contrast, the northwestern Tian-La generally possess moon-shaped faces and squat, muscular bodies. The Tian-Shu and Tian-Min, as with most other comparisons of Tian extremes, comprise a middle ground. While Tian themselves can frequently discern these subtle differences, Avistani generally cannot.
The most common Tian race, the Tian-Shu, possess dusky skin, almond-shaped brown eyes, and straight black or dark brown hair. Almost all other Tian races descend from the Tian-Shu, and share at least some features with them. In the north and west of Tian live the Tian-La, a semi-nomadic people with coarse, curly hair and lighter skin. Far to the south, the Tian-Sing have reddish tints to their hair and produce more green-eyed folk. The Tian-Min of the Minkai archipelago possess the widest variety of eye color, encompassing various shades of blue, green, violet, orange-red, and (of course) black and brown.
Tian dress favors loose clothing, regardless of the wearer’s wealth or social standing. Wealthy Tian wear robe-like garments they call kimono or hanfu, while peasants and laborers wear simple kilts or trousers with linen wraps, leather jackets, or nothing at all on their upper bodies. Most clothing worn by Tian is colorful, and only the poorest peasants wear undyed cloth. Those who can afford it decorate their clothing with elaborate embroidery, often of scenes from nature or of powerful creatures such as dragons or phoenixes. For those who don’t labor, silk is the most popular choice of material, but most clothing is made from cotton or flax. The desperately poor wear canvas and the truly destitute make simple smocks from discarded canvas rice bags.
Tian Xia owes the greatest of its cultural influences to the Tian-Shu people, whose culture predates Aroden’s raising of the Starstone and the founding of Absalom. Over the past 7 millenia, the Tian-Shu have lived in hundreds of different nations and city-states, as well as three empires. The last empire to rule over the Tian-Shu, Imerial Lung Wa, collapsed a century ago and was replaced by the current battling nation-states. With the fall of a strong empire, the cultures of other Tian people have flourished in the past century. In Xa Hoi, for example, the Tian-Dan people’s native culture has proliferated, resulting in a rise of beautifully decorated pagoda temples, colorful outfits, spice-laden cuisine, and a variety of alcohols made from rice and native fruits.
Although the people of Avistan and Garund see the distant Tian as one single ethnicity (a misconception the Tian reciprocate with Avistani), the people collectively known as the Tian encompass a number of different distinct ethnicities. Most of the Tian who come to the Inner Sea region originate from Qin or Minkai, so the Avistani are most familiar with these two cultures (which they mistakenly assume represent the full depth of variety on the continent).
The Tian take tea very seriously. Numerous legends of its introduction exist, although most scholars agree that famed imperial adviser Luyu, the Father of Tea, introduced the concoction to the Imperial Court. According to the official imperial histories, Luyu first discovered the tea plant while on a journey to Nanang Province, near the border with the small kingdoms of Xa Hoi and Dtang Ma. All true teas contain leaves from the tea plant, known in Tian Xia as cha. Wild cha trees still grow high on the slopes of the domestic cultivation throughout Tian Xia. Roughly 4 millenia ago, imperial traders crossed the Vudran Sea bearing, among other things, bricks of tea and a sack of tea plant seeds. Tea became popular among Vudrani shortly thereafter, and over time they cultivated their own subspecies of the tea plant, which they then exported back to Tian Xia. The small, mountainous island nation of Onshing grows 64 strains of cha plants, many of which are known as monkey-picked teas (as the plants grow so tall that “only monkeys could pick the leaves”). Some 2,000 years ago, the courtiers of the ancient Empire of Yixing sought to create an art of the preparation and consumption of tea, and from their endeavors came the chadao, or tea ceremony. A few decades later, visitors from Teikoku (predursor of the Minkai Empire) visited the Yixing court and were so impressed by the chadao that they sought to emulate it in Teikoku. As a result, two similar but different tea ceremonies exist throughout Tian Xia: the chadao, practiced in the remnants of Imperial Lung Wa, Xa Hoi, and Dtang Ma, and the chanoyu, practiced in the Minkai Empire, Cho-zen, and Onshing.
Across all of Tian Xia, children very rarely are born with shock-white or silvery-white hair, which the Tian consider an omen of greatness. Such children frequently become influential leaders, and families into which they are born receive great honor and frequently an increase in rank and wealth. The Ruby Emperor Shing La Po of Wan possessed white hair, as did the Perfect Swordswoman, Setsuna Kuga.
Generally speaking, Tian consider the family of great importance. They learned the art of genealogy from dragons and in some cases can trace their bloodlines back to a time before the Earthfall and the collapse of Azlant. The king of the Tian-Shu nation-stae of Qin, for example, possesses a 93-foot-long scroll showing his descent from the first Tian emperor, Mu Lung, some 11,000 years ago. Emperor Shigure of Minkai can trace his family line back 296 generations to the Minkan goddess Shizuru. Less extreme examples also exist, of course, but many nobles and most Tian royalty can trace their lineage back at least a few dozen generations. Family names tend to have meanings in their native tongues, and usually these meanings identify where the family originated or who founded it.
Collectively, the Tian attempt to live in ways that minimize the disruption of the natural order. Parks and gardens fill their cities and cause their urban areas to sprawl across spaces far greater than similarly sized Avastani settlements. Despite their larger footprints, though, Tian cities tend to incorporate the natural world in their design and layout better than those of the distant West.
Religion varies across Tian Xia as much its people. Since its introduction by Vudrani missionaries in 2187, the church or Irori (called Iro-Shu) has spread across Tian Xia, becoming an official state religion in most nations. Several gods from Avistan have also found their way over the Crown of the World, and the worship of Desna and Erastil is not uncommon to the north. Most Tian, however, retain their traditional religions, all of which involve some degree of animistic nature worship, ancestor worship, or the supplication of kami (visible manifestations of spirits and gods). In addition, all Tian people also have their own major deities, some of whom are gods worshiped in Avistan under different names and some of whom are unique to the people who venerate them.
Language and Naming
Most Tian speak Tien, the traditional language of the Tian-Shu and the official language of kingdoms and empires across the continent. Most other languages spoken by the Tian at least partially descend from this ancient tongue, and most have some other cultural influences as well. Minkan, the other language of the powerful Minkai Empire, borrows only some of its words and half its alphabet from Tien, and therefore sounds unrelated to Tien and the other continental languages.
Names vary greatly across the many people of Tian Xia, although the Tian people universally offer their family names first. Most family and given names derive from words of the language the family speaks. Family names represent some aspect of the family’s history, while given names usually reflect the aspirations or traits the parents wish for their child.
Male: Tian-Dan – Dac Kien, Giap, Huynh, Nam, Sihn, Ton Tian-La – Batsaikhan, Batukhan, Chuluun, Gansukh, Naranbaatar, Tomorbaatar Tian-Min – Gendo, Heihachi, Ichiro, Juro, Kyo, Toshiro Tian-Sing – Budi, Hamngku, Kusuma, Purnoma, Setiawan, Suryo Tian-Shu – Bao, Hu, Jianguo, Syaoran, Tao, Zhuang
Female: Tian-Dan – Binh, Dao, Huhn, Ly, Nai, Thien Tian-La – Altantsetseg, Bayarmaa, Khongordzol, Narantuyaa, Odval, Sarngerel Tian-Min – Hidari, Hitomi, Kyoko, Reika, Sae, Yumi Tian-Sing – Bethari, Lestari, Megawati, Nirmala, Sangati, Wulan Tian-Shu – Chao, Hua, Meilin, Qiao, Xue, Ziyi
Sources: Pathfinder Chronicles Campaign Setting