Note: Use the following alterations to Kyuden Gotai’s settlement stats while in this district: Economy +3; Law +4; Lore (religion only) +6
The Temple District is one the primary districts within Kyuden Gotai, and it is the center of religious worship for both the city and the Empire as a whole. As such, it is one of the most important and sacred locations in all of Azeshouri.
Legend holds that when the Great Kami fell to earth, the site where the Heavenly Temple now rests is where they landed. The site where the Shrine of Shinsei now stands is held to be the location where the great monk Shinsei first tutored the kami Hantei, the First Emperor, in what would later come to be called the Tao of Shinsei, one of the Empire’s three major religious backgrounds, and among its most holiest of texts.
The temple district is overseen by a number of different monks and priests who see to it that the district is upkept and pristine, and that all religious rituals and ceremonies are properly observed.
The district is surrounded by the Enchanted Wall, a large edifice 60 ft. wide at the base and 25 ft. wide at the top, standing 30 ft. tall. Each of the Great Clans contributed to its construction, with each clan sending architects, artisans, and shugenja to work on a portion of the wall, infusing it with various magical wards and defenses, with the Lion, Crane, and Phoenix clans being the primary contributors.
Upon passing through the single gap in the Enchanted Wall, one passes under the first of the two Great Torii, which serves to bring any who pass through it into a realm close to the Spirit Realms. For this reason, visitors must go around a great stone Dragon Screen erected in the entrance – a barrier designed to keep spirits from passing through the gap either in or out of the district.
The first area a visitor encounters is the Court of Heaven. This area sees the highest concentrations of traffic. Many vendors set up stalls in this area, as well as a number of beggar-monks. Various items used for religious rituals are sold here, as well as precious fingers of jade. From here, a visitor may go east or west towards the areas set aside for individual family shrines, or proceed northward up the Serene Path towards the Heavenly Temple.
The Family Shrines are only for those of some measure of wealth who can afford to erect a shrine to family members. Only the richest merchants and higher up the social caste can afford to have their shrines here. Shrines can vary from anywhere to a small, fenced-in plot barely big enough to hold a single spirit tablet, to an enclosed structure large enough to accommodate multiple individual minor shrines to generations of past family members. There are easily upwards of a couple hundred shrines between both areas. Each shrine is the responsibility of its family to maintain, but the monks and priests take pains to ensure that everything is at least generally maintained (it is expected that donations are given to the temple for this upkeep).
Proceeding northward up the Serene Path leads visitors into the Ten Thousand Shrines, the largest portion of the Temple District. The path meanders through an area that is an artful blend of natural and sculpted landscaping, created by accomplished Crane and Phoenix artisans. Hills, streams, gentle waterfalls, trees and manicured bushes, bonzai and rock gardens, torii, stone lanterns, and bridges can all be found here, with dozens of smaller paths that split off from the main path and run through this section.
Within this area are several thousand shrines – one dedicated to each Fortune, greater and lesser, as well as to some individual kami and spirits. Each fortune’s individual shrine is generally a reflection of their status, with larger shrines dedicated to the greater Fortunes, the largest of which are usually structures 40 ft. by 40 ft., with the smallest being nothing more than a single statue in honor of the spirit. A visitor could easily spend a few days wandering the paths and visiting each shrine. Many find this area to be a peaceful one in which to reflect and meditate, and it is quite common to encounter various priests, monks, artists, and shugenja doing just that.
Once through the Ten Thousand Shrines, one comes to the Imperial Path, just beyond the second Great Torii. This is a broad path made of polished golden marble, flanked by stone lanterns and 15-ft. tall statues of Azeshouri’s previous emperors on either side, standing on massive pedestals. This area also contains most of the administrative and dwelling structures for the temples’ priests and monks – relatively simple structures. The largest and most ornate dwelling belongs to the High Priest and the Administrative office, but even it is relatively simple when compared to the structures within the Imperial District. Individuals who are not of high social class are expected to walk on either side of the path to the temple, and not to set foot on the golden marble. Additionally, from here one can head east, to the Temple of the Moon, or west towards the Temple of the Sun.
The Imperial Path leads directly to the doors of the Heavenly Temple, the largest (though not the tallest) structure within the district. Standing approximately 40 ft. high, adorned with a Golden Dragon on its roof, twin 10-ft. wide red lacquered doors lead into the structure, flanked by Imperial Foo Lions.
(Still yet more to come…)