Cantha, also known as the Empire of the Dragon, is a vast empire located to the southwest of Tyria, across the Unending Ocean. It is the oldest known human nation, and the oldest known land for humans to have lived on, though legends tell of other lands across an ocean the Canthans came from. Cantha became isolationist under Emperor Usoku's rule, cutting ties with the northern nations. Prior to Usoku's rule, Cantha was growing xenophobic through the influence of the Ministry of Purity, though because of the isolation, it isn't yet known to what extent the Ministry of Purity's influence grew in political and social terms. The rise of Zhaitan had further cut off Cantha when his risen fleet took control of the Strait of Malchor. The only proof that Cantha still exists are sporadic sailors washing ashore on the Tarnished Coast.
Though once containing prairies and a multitude of forests, the development of Kaineng City has removed much of this. The empire contains four distinct regions now: Shing Jea Island, Kaineng City, the Echovald Forest and the Jade Sea.
 Shing Jea Island
The Shing Jea Isles are a large island surrounded by smaller islands to the west of the Canthan mainland's northern tip. Once used for excessive logging, Shing Jea had been a farmland for centuries, shared between humans, the native tengu, yeti and naga. Humanity's spread had caused conflicts with the tengu, bringing forth the Tengu Wars, though a crude peace was in place until Usoku took reign.
 Kaineng City
Originally only being part of the northernmost tip, surrounding Kaineng Center, after the Jade Wind in 872 AE, it expanded greatly to accommodate the flood of refugees and quickly spread to cover roughly half of the empire's land. The speedy expansion turned market districts into residential districts and created a multitude of slums and wrecked buildings as houses were built atop older ones. In the north lies Raisu Palace.
 Echovald Forest
The largest forest of Cantha, the Echovald Forest was home of the Kurzicks before Usoku conquered them, though their current fate is unknown. When the Jade Wind struck, the trees and wildlife turned to stone, petrifying it. Since the Kurzicks had crafted their homes and citadels from the gargantuan stone trees, though some of the oldest ruins, made of true stone, are said to not be of Kurzick origin such as those of Altrumm Ruins. Since Shiro Tagachi's second defeat in 1072 AE, it is said that the forest had slowly become unpetrified and new plant-life could be found.
 The Jade Sea
Originally a sea of a greenish hue, the Jade Sea was crystallized by the Jade Wind, killing hundreds of naga and landlocking the nomadic sailors, the Luxons. The now literal Jade Sea became a commodity resource as the jade it produced was both magical and beautiful - thus being used for weaponry and decoration. Similar to the Echovald Forest, rumors claim that since Shiro's second defeat the Jade Sea had been liquifying once more.
- Primary article: An Empire Divided
The oldest records of Canthan activities date back to 786 BE, when humanity first arrived along the northern shores of the continent. In 510 BE, the Canthan tribes united under a single leader, Kaineng Tah and established the Empire of the Dragon, with Kaineng as their emperor. However, Kaineng Tah died under mysterious circumstances 46 years later and was succeeded by his ruthless son, Yian Zho. During Yian's reign, the Luxon and Kurzick tribes united into the two nations and seceded from the Empire, only to be forced back with military might as vassal states. This time was also the birth of the hostility between the Luxons and Kurzicks that remained for over a thousand years. After Yian Zho's reign, Cantha remained fairly isolated in the south, only opening trade with the northern continents in 221 AE, when resources became low for their growing population.
In 872 AE, the 26th emperor of Cantha, Angsiyan, was slain by his trusted bodyguard, Shiro Tagachi, who was tricked and corrupted by a Fortune Teller that foresaw his demise at the emperor's hands. Utilizing dark rituals, Shiro Tagachi consumed the emperor's life force and a gift of magic from the gods, twisting it. He was defeated shortly after by three champions. In his death wail, he unleashed the magic he absorbed all at once, petrifying the surrounding area and all life within it in an event now known as the Jade Wind.
Two hundred years later, Shiro Tagachi's spirit returned as an Envoy, seeking to become living once more. His search through Cantha's places of knowledge caused the appearance of a horrible plague that turned victims into violent, bloated creatures called Afflicted. During his pursuit, he abused his powers as an Envoy, and instead of guiding souls to the afterlife, he forced them into serving him as Shiro'ken. Shiro was eventually defeated by the united forces of Cantha - including the warring Kurzicks and Luxons, as well as the dragon Kuunavang. However, he had already succeeded in his plans to return to a mortal by slaying Master Togo, half-brother to Emperor Kisu, and using his blood in a ritual. Upon his second defeat, Shiro was turned into a jade statue and his soul sent to the Realm of Torment for punishment.
Following these events, a new ministry was formed. The Ministry of Purity set out to do what the other Celestial Ministries would not: to cleanse Cantha of the Afflicted, crime, and all other hostilities. Their leader became corrupt with power, however, and was slain, but the Ministry of Purity remained and continue to lead the way to a more peaceful life. The Ministry of Purity paved the path for Canthans' mentality of increasing xenophobia. This mentality culminated in 1127 AE, when Kisu's successor, Emperor Usoku, raised the Canthan military by spending millions in gold and conquered the still-warring vassal states of the Luxons and Kurzicks, forcing them fully into the empire once more. With this done, he then drove out all non-humans and closed the borders to Cantha. Said to be tyrannical and fierce, those who disagreed with Emperor Usoku left their homeland and sought refuge in Elona and Tyria.
When Zhaitan caused Orr to rise and spread its naval army, any ship attempting to sail in nearby seas were sunk. This caused Cantha to be completely and fully isolated, and all refugees - including the Xunlai Guild - had heard nothing of their homeland. The only evidence that Cantha still exists is when sporadic sailors have washed ashore on the Tarnished Coast. A globe found in the Chantry of Secrets shows Cantha altered from its state 250 years prior.
- The book Winds of Change found in the Divinity's Reach chapter of the Durmand Priory suggests that there were no Elder Dragons in Cantha at least until the rise of Zhaitan when contact was lost with Cantha and Tyria.
- In Guild Wars Factions, Cantha was inspired by a blend of different East Asian cultures.
- At one point, Divinity's Reach contained a Canthan district similar to the Ossan Quarter. The district was removed late in development and was replaced with an arts district that became The Great Collapse. Map artist Josh Foreman has said that a lot of the development team would like to return to Cantha and encourages interested players to ask for a future Canthan region.
- ^ Guild Wars 2 - The Lincolncast » Blog Archive » A Lincolncast Interview with Josh Foreman (Episode 34)
- ^ Guild Wars 2 Forum - Guild Wars 2 Discussion - How is getting rid of Cantha a 'universal' representation of humanity?