Cantha

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A map of Cantha, found in the Special Collections of the Durmand Priory.

Cantha is an old land, and one that has been occupied by humans from their first days. In fact, the northern coastline of Cantha is the earliest known location of human settlements.[1][2] Cantha could be called humanity's birthplace—at least until more evidence comes to light. While Cantha has its own rich and well-developed history, it has also been gripped with periods of isolation.

Cantha has mostly been ruled by a single empire, called the Empire of the Dragon (or alternatively, the Empire of Cantha[3]). A direct descendant of the empire's founder still rules the continent today.[1]

Cantha expelled all nonhumans and closed its borders long ago. There is currently no diplomatic contact with Cantha.[4]

History[edit]

Dragons have been incorporated into Canthan art and architecture throughout history. Several of these "dragon lighthouses" were constructed by the Empire of the Dragon off the coast of Shing Jea Island and Kaineng City.
See also: An Empire Divided: A Selected History of Mysterious Cantha for the Traveling Scholar

Pre-imperial era[edit]

The time before the empire's founding is referred to as the pre-imperial era, which is further divided into loosely defined early, middle and late pre-imperial eras. This is because the Canthan calendar lacks the precise means of recording dates before 0 CC, which corresponds with 510 BE in Tyria's Mouvelian calendar.

Dragons of all shapes, sizes, and origin have called Cantha home for thousands of years, since long before the human tribes of old joined to form the empire that took dragons as its symbol.[5] Despite this, in contrast to the northern continent of Tyria, the extent to which Canthan prehistory is shaped by the Elder Dragons is not well-known, except that the early pre-imperial era has been mentioned in the context of research about the cyclic nature of Elder Dragon awakenings.[6]

In terms of the "elder races" (that is, races that were around at the time of the last dragonrise), there is evidence of a Forgotten presence in Cantha,[7] as well as relics of a mysterious race speculated to be an offshoot of the Deldrimor dwarves,[8] dating back to before humanity's arrival in the world of Tyria. The buildings of the Altrumm Ruins in the Echovald Forest also serve as evidence of a pre-human civilisation in Cantha, but their architects are unknown.

In 786 BE, the Six Human Gods first appeared in Cantha, bringing humanity with them.[2] The Luxon and Kurzick tribes did not emerge from the Canthan people and arrived separately at a later time, in unclear circumstances,[7] as did the human tribes of the northern continent.

Age of the Marmoset (510 BE–205 BE / 0–305 CC)[edit]

In 510 BE, the Canthan tribes united under a single leader, the warlord Kaing and established the Empire of the Dragon with Kaing taking the mantle of emperor with the name Kaineng Tah. However, the first emperor died under mysterious circumstances in 464 BE while riding his favorite horse on a hunting expedition. Although official history describes Kaineng Tah's death as purely accidental due to him falling off the spooked horse, fragmentary records have mentioned unexplained wounds on the horse's rump and on the emperor himself with a few records even suggesting some involvement from his fellow huntsmen. The late Kaineng Tah was succeeded by his ruthless eldest son, Yian Zho.[7]

During Yian's reign, the Luxon and Kurzick tribes united into 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 would remain for over a thousand years. After Yian Zho's reign, Cantha remained fairly isolated in the south, only opening trade with the northern continents centuries later in 221 AE, when resources became low for their growing population.

Age of the Falcon (205 BE–1 AE / 305–510 CC)[edit]

The Age of the Falcon, which spanned from 205 BE (the year that humans first appeared on the northern continent of Tyria) to the Exodus of the Gods, was an age of isolationism. By this time, the Empire of the Dragon was already sprawling,[7] and had little impact on the development of the Kingdom of Tyria (which would, after the Exodus, fragment into the kingdoms of Ascalon, Kryta, and Orr). This era also marks the granting of the gift of magic to the mortal races of Tyria, including humans in Cantha (whose ritualists already had something which they called "magic", but was actually power granted to them by ancestor spirits).

Age of the Bat (1–221 AE / 510–730 CC)[edit]

The gift and subsequent partial revocation of magic caused the widespread practice of the heroic professions, including in Cantha. Chanang, the eldest prince of the imperial line, defined the wishes of his father and chose to follow the hero's path. He became a warrior/monk and an ascendant, and upon succession refused the title of "lord emperor" and became the first "ascendant emperor". Since then, all emperors have been required by family tradition to practice at least two of the heroic professions.

Age of the Hedgehog (221–694 AE / 730–1203 CC)[edit]

221 AE marked the first formal contact between the Empire of the Dragon and the kingdoms of Tyria. Cantha provided valuable knowledge and technology to the less advanced kingdoms, and in return received badly-needed resources. This allowed the recovery of Shing Jea Island, which had been damaged by overlogging, to begin, eventually transforming it into pastoral agricultural land.

Age of the Tortoise (694–872 AE / 1203–1381 CC)[edit]

The Age of the Tortoise began with the death of the tyrannical Emperor Singtah and the burning of the first Raisu Palace. It continued with his son Emperor Senvho's reconstruction of the palace, a task which obsessed him and consumed him for the remainder of his eighty-year reign.

Age of the Dragon (872 AE–? / 1381 CC–?)[edit]

Kuan Jun Temple, the epicentre of the Jade Wind.

The Jade Wind[edit]

The Jade Wind was a formative event in Canthan history. It occurred when the bodyguard Shiro Tagachi assassinated his master, the 26th emperor of Cantha, Angsiyan. Shiro was a formidable warrior in his own right, but he also performed a number of dark rituals in preparation for his actions.

Shiro did not live long after committing the murder. Three of the emperor's guard, the Luxon spear master Archemorus, the Kurzick Saint Viktor, and the assassin Vizu, attacked him. In a climactic battle, Archemorus and Viktor were able to wrestle Shiro's swords from him and, turning them against their wielder, nearly slice him in two. In Shiro's final moments, he called upon dark powers and sucked out the fallen emperor's very soul. Tagachi's death cry released the foulest of magic, a horrific wail that rose like a gale over the land. This Jade Wind spread from the temple, turning the sea into solid jade and petrifying everything it touched (trees, animals, and people) within Echovald Forest.[9]

The newly crowned emperor, the late Angsiyan's son Hanjai, took the throne. The next summer, he instituted the Dragon Festival. It was meant to commemorate those who had lost their lives in the Jade Wind, unite all denizens of the empire, and celebrate the establishment of a community on Shing Jea Island.[1] It also symbolised the survival of the Empire of Cantha in the face of calamity.

Tengu Wars and division in Cantha[edit]

In 880 AE, tension rose between the people of Cantha and the tengu. While Emperor Hanjai's ambassador was able to avoid open war with the Angchu clan of tengu, the Sensali clan declared them traitors and continued their acts of aggression.

In 1017 AE, the Luxons and Kurzicks ceased regular diplomatic contact, communicating with each other only through liaisons of the Celestial Ministry when absolutely necessary. For many years to come, they would remain more focused on their divisions than on the problems that damaged their lands from within.

In 1071 AE, after 191 years of hostility, the Tengu Wars were finally brought to an end.

Return of the Betrayer[edit]

Shiro "the Betrayer"
See also: Storyline of Guild Wars Factions

Two hundred years after the Jade Wind, events occurred that revealed Shiro Tagachi's evil was not fully destroyed. The heroes of Tyria joined forces with Emperor Kisu, his half-brother Master Togo, and Togo's former student, Brother Mhenlo.

The journey began with the appearance of a horrible plague, which turned the victims of the disease into violent creatures, called the Afflicted. After researching the disease, the group found evidence of Shiro Tagachi, a man long dead. However, beings from the afterlife, called envoys, told them that Shiro was turned into a sprit. The envoys' task, as penance for crimes committed in life, was to guide the souls of the dead. Instead, Shiro was corrupting the spirits, merging them with magical constructs (the Shiro'ken), and building an army.

The group attempted to destroy Shiro, but were unsuccessful. They needed allies. Emperor Kisu was easy to convince, the Oracle of the Mists, Suun, also contributed valuable knowledge. After several negotiations, they convinced the Canthan vassal states of Luxon and Kurzick to join them. The dragon Kuunavang taught them valuable skills and agreed to fight alongside them.

Finally, the group ascertained Shiro's final goal. He was trying to return to life, and he only needed one more thing: to spill the blood of a member of the imperial bloodline. Togo, Mhenlo, and the heroes wasted no time in returning to the palace, but they only arrived at the last second. Battling their way through the Shiro'ken, the group reached the Imperial Sanctum to find Shiro standing over Emperor Kisu, about to give the final strike. Master Togo, in a desperate act, rushed to his half-brother, taking the blow. The emperor was saved, but Togo sacrificed himself—and Shiro, with his quest now complete, had achieved his goal. The betrayer left to complete his spell, leaving the survivors behind to mourn a great man.

In attempt to avenge his teacher, Mhenlo rushed into the Imperial Sanctum to confront Shiro, and the group followed him. They found Shiro Tagachi fully restored, a deadly and formidable assassin—but once again, a mortal one. A terrible battle ensued, but the party was able to bring down Shiro. As Shiro lay dying, the Oracle Suun appeared, using his power to encase Shiro's body in solid jade. The envoys also arrived, seeking Shiro's soul. The last remnants of Shiro Tagachi were consigned to a special place in the Underworld, where his spirit was imprisoned and forced to answer for his many crimes.

Winds of change[edit]

See also: Storyline of Guild Wars Beyond

Though the Betrayer was stopped, the plague persisted in Cantha. Countless lives were lost, from the families of people forced to live in the streets to prominent families like the Yuudachi, head of the Sai Ling Order. Ashu Yuudachi survived the slaughter under miraculous conditions, and came into the care of his aunt, Reiko Murakami.

In 1073 AE, Reiko, then a member of the Ministry of Flame, made her first strides toward rallying the people of Cantha to fight back against the Afflicted. With Ashu at her side as a symbol of hope, her message resonated with the people. Little by little, Canthans began to take their fate into their own hands. Reiko began to rise in the ranks of the Ministry of Flame, as she and Ashu became renowned public figures. They spoke more often with the people of Cantha, offering the promise of change and the hope for a better future, free of the Affliction. Over the next couple of years, Reiko would become increasingly dissatisfied with the restrictions of the Ministry of Flame. Finding flaws in the system—the needless bureaucracy, political maneuverings, and personal agendas—she came to the conclusion that something greater needed to happen if Cantha was ever going to be able to move forward.

In 1077 AE, Reiko officially established the Ministry of Purity, with Ashu as a central figure. The Ministry of Purity made dealing with that which harmed Cantha its goal: to take action when all other branches of the government were content to turn a blind eye, pass the issues off as the emperor's problem, or fault the other Ministries. Two years later, Ministry of Purity began in earnest its campaign to finally rid Cantha of the Afflicted. Brave men and women rallied to their cause, eager to make their homes safe once more. In the course of the campaign, which lasted under a year, the Afflicted were vanquished alongside the Jade Brotherhood and Am Fah, and the tengu were branded as traitors and routed. The Ministry then set its sights on sweeping social reform.

In 1080 AE, Reiko was assassinated by Miku Yuudachi, who believed that the Ministry of Purity, in its zealotry, had become a threat to themselves and to others. She believed that she was rescuing Ashu from Reiko's grip; however Ashu refused his sister's protection after Reiko's death and took control of the Ministry of Purity, pledging to show the people of Cantha the correct path to walk and to make Cantha whole again.

Contact lost with the other continents[edit]

See also: The Movement of the World

By 1127 AE, the people of Tyria were on their own. The new Canthan emperor, Usoku, finally unified his continent into the Empire of the Dragon. His armies conquered the vassal states of Kurzick and Luxon, making his power absolute. These efforts were supported by the Ministry of Purity,[1][10] which was originally established by Reiko Murakami to combat the Afflicted. Emperor Usoku begun to purge the lands of rebels, the sick, and any non-humans, including the tengu who were forced to flee north to Elona and Tyria before eventually building a new sanctuary called the Dominion of Winds for their persecuted clans.[11] It was not long after the purges that Canthan embassies started to follow Usoku's isolationist policies.[4] The rising of Orr, caused by the awakening of the Elder Dragon Zhaitan in 1219 AE, further reinforced Cantha's isolationism as the western seas became dangerous to travel for sailors due to the increasing menace of Zhaitan's Risen minions patrolling the waters on black ships around Orr.[12]

Recent developments[edit]

Spoiler alert: The following text contains spoilers relating to the personal story.

After the defeat of Zhaitan, contact with Cantha has not yet formally been re-established by the nations of Central Tyria, and Usoku is the last Canthan emperor whose name Tyrian scholars know.[13] Even fragmented, Zhaitan's Risen minions continue to pose a threat as they rally together under their unchained champions, and are expected to continue to do so for some time.

Cantha's influence continues to affect humans in Central Tyria up to the present day as many families of Canthan origin have settled there. Divinity's Reach, capital of the kingdom of Kryta, dedicated an entire city district to refugees and immigrants from Cantha, until the district was destroyed in the Great Collapse in 1325 AE and was rebuilt as the Crown Pavilion in 1326 AE. Inspired by the Pact's victory over Zhaitan, Captain Hao Luen of the Captain's Council reimagined Tyria's version of the Canthan Dragon Festival as Dragon Bash, a festival to celebrate the defeat of the Elder Dragons, in Lion's Arch in the same year.[14]

Despite Cantha remaining inaccessible to the common Tyrian and Elonian, it is hinted that the Zephyrites managed to reach Cantha aboard their floating Zephyr Sanctum and traded with the locals as recently as 1327 AE.[15][16]

In 1331 AE, the asura scholar Taimi said that Canthan sailors had recounted tales of strange creatures (speculated to be connected to the deep sea dragon) emerging from the oceans.[17] This is the most definitive report of contact with Cantha to date.

Geography and climate[edit]

Verticality is a common feature of Canthan architecture, with the rapid expansion of Kaineng City necessitating that careful use be made of all available space.

As of the last contact with Cantha, the empire contained four distinct regions: Shing Jea Island, Kaineng City, the Echovald Forest, and the Jade Sea. Kaineng City dominates the other regions, a dense, dirty megalopolis that grew out of the refugees from the Jade Wind.

Shing Jea Island[edit]

Shing Jea Island is the largest of an island chain to the west of the Canthan mainland's northern tip. The island is idyllic and rural, and was shared between humans, the native tengu, yeti and naga. Humanity's spread had caused conflicts with the tengu, sparking the Tengu Wars, though a crude peace was in place until Usoku took power and drove the tengu out.

Kaineng City[edit]

Originally only being part of the northernmost tip and surrounding Kaineng Center, Kaineng City expanded greatly to accommodate the flood of refugees and quickly spread to cover roughly half of the empire's land after the Jade Wind in 872 AE. 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, which is far more open and has a distinct architectural style.

Echovald Forest[edit]

The largest forest of Cantha, the Echovald Forest was home of the Kurzicks before they were conquered by Emperor Usoku. The Kurzicks were an oligarchic theocracy led by their Council of Nobles. When the Jade Wind struck, the trees and wildlife turned to stone, petrifying it. The Kurzicks crafted their homes and citadels from the gargantuan stone trees.

In the six years following the second and final defeat of Shiro Tagachi, life had begun to spring up in Echovald Forest as many areas saw new growth take hold.[18] This growth presumably continues to this day, with most if not all of the damage done by the Jade Wind having been reversed.

The Jade Sea[edit]

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 Luxon Armada. The now literal Jade Sea became a resource as the jade it produced was both magical and beautiful—being used for weaponry and decoration.

In the six years following the defeat of Shiro Tagachi there were unsubstantiated rumours of a change in the Jade Sea similar to that in the Echovald Forest—small pools of water forming or even waves moving beneath the frozen surface.[18] Pieces of jade that have been removed from the radius of the Jade Wind, however, such as the Jade Wurm or Jade Wind Orbs, have remained solid.

Demographics[edit]

Language[edit]

The Guild Wars Wiki has an article on Old Canthan

Religion[edit]

As of 1072 AE, the worship and perception of the Five True Gods within the Empire of the Dragon had taken on a uniquely Canthan cast. The greater gods of the pantheon shared the Canthan heavens with an assortment of lesser demigods, as well as eternal ancestor spirits and legendary heroes granted divine status by the diverse inhabitants of the realm.[5]

  • Dwayna is often depicted as young, tall, and slender, rising above the ground on huge feathered wings. Canthan artists often depicted her floating above the vibrant, living souls of their eternal ancestors.
  • Balthazar is frequently shown holding a greatsword, its tip lodged in the ground, with a pair of battle hounds sitting at attention at his feet. In Cantha, the sword was usually one of the single-edged imperial style, and the battle hounds were usually replaced with winged drakes.
  • Statues of Grenth depict the god with the body of a man and the narrow, skeletal head of a beast. Canthan artists tended to add a draconic look to the skull. The Canthan version of Grenth stood astride a small mountain of the dead, but in Canthan art the faces of these corpses were always averted from the god of death, as if in shame, to distinguish these enslaved dead from the "living" ancestor spirits.
  • In Cantha, Lyssa was not only the goddess of beauty and illusion, but also represented the incarnation of luck, both good and bad. Many Canthan assassins revered Lyssa more for her intrinsic duality than her famous beauty, and had been known to invoke her charms. Depictions of Lyssa in Canthan culture reflected the typical northern style: lithe twin figures of exquisite beauty entwined in an eternal dance.
  • Melandru was frequently depicted in Cantha as a tall, winged dryad from the waist up. Canthan artists usually described a severe figure ensconced in an outcrop of Echovald quartz. Melandru's roadside temples offered shelter, food, and water to weary travelers even in Cantha, though such shrines were few, and separated by long stretches of lifeless stonescape.

It is not known how Canthans reacted to the Ascension of Kormir. There are no known Canthan depictions of Abaddon or Dhuum.

Luxons and Kurzicks[edit]

Among the two most populous and distinct vassal cultures in the Empire, the Kurzicks practiced a particularly devout and pious form of worship tied to the great Kurzick Houses. The Luxons, on the other hand, believed not only in the five greater gods of the Tyrian pantheon, but also three demigoddesses—the three queens Alua, Elora, and Ione.[5]

Culture[edit]

Buildings in the Canthan district of Divinity's Reach, prior to the Great Collapse.

Notes[edit]

  • The Empire of the Dragon, as of last contact, practiced agnatic primogeniture as its succession law, although there has been at least one Canthan empress (although not necessarily an Empress of Cantha).
  • Concubinage was practiced in Cantha, by Emperors from Kaineng Tah to Kintah.[7]
  • The book Winds of Change found in the Durmand Hall suggests that Cantha has not been affected by the current dragonrise, at least prior to the rise of Zhaitan when contact was lost with Cantha.
  • A group of dredge once tunnelled to Cantha from Sorrow's Furnace, escaping from their Stone Summit dwarf masters.[19] Their fate is not known, given Emperor Usoku's purge, and their tunnels are presumably no longer accessible due to the minions of Primordus.
  • There used to be an asura gate beneath Cantha, indicating that the asura under-empire stretched at least that far south.[20] This gate was part of the first asura gate network, which is now unusable after Primordus' rise destroyed the Central Transfer Chamber.
  • Several low-resolution textures depicting a world map of Tyria, such as the map in the Durmand Priory or the Order Threat Assessment Board, depict Shing Jea as being a peninsula rather than an island, as it was in Guild Wars Factions. These maps also do not depict the Jade Sea as an inland sea but as part of the landmass, but this may just be because Cantha's isolationism makes it impossible to know its internal geography.

Trivia[edit]

  • In Guild Wars Factions, the Empire of the Dragon was inspired by a blend of different East Asian cultures, whereas Kurzick and Luxon names were respectively more German- and Greek-flavoured. The overall art direction for the Kurzicks was heavily inspired by Gothic architecture.
  • The name of Kaineng City may be a reference to Kaifeng 开封, a major ancient capital of several dynasties in China.
  • The design of Kaineng City was inspired by Kowloon Walled City.[21]
  • Shing Jea vocally pronounced in Mandarin means 'Star 星 Cape 岬', Shing Jea Island literally means "Cape Island of Stars".
  • At one point, Divinity's Reach contained a Canthan and Arts district similar to the Ossan Quarter and Rurikton; however, developers have pointed out that the canonicity of the Canthan district's existence is dubious due to changes made prior to the game's launch.[22] The district was removed late in development and was replaced with the Great Collapse.[23] 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.[24]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Gwwlogo.png The Guild Wars Wiki has an article on Cantha.