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The Gaijin's Guide to Rokugan

Part I: The History of Rokugan

The Great Sleep of the Naga

Many, many years ago, long before men knew the truths they know now, the land that would become the Empire of Rokugan did not belong to men. It belonged to the Naga. The Naga were a race of shape-changing serpents who practiced art and war and worshipped the life-giving sun. Their civilization thrived for a thousand years until finally, they grew into a state of quiet contemplation and waited for the time of the "Great Sleep" to come upon them. While they knew that the Great Sleep would last for many centuries, they were confident in the belief that their way of life would through the ages. They were certain they would awaken to find the world unchanged and waiting for them to continue their eternal rule.

The Sun and Moon

Since the beginning of time, Lord Moon has chased Lady Sun about the world. When the Naga fell to sleep he caught her, and many months later, there were Nine Children: Hida, Doji, Togashi, Akodo, Shiba, Bayushi, Shinjo, Fu Leng and Hantei. Lord Moon knew that any children whose veins carried both elements of Sun and Moon would grow to be greater than he, and so, despite protests of Lady Sun, he swallowed the children, one by one. As he began swallowing the children, Lady Sun offered him a cup of sake after each one. She put a drop of poison in each cup, until Lord Moon became so drunk and numb that he did not notice that she had replaced the last child, Hantei, with a rock. Soon, Lord Moon fell to sleep and as he slept, Lady Sun trained Hantei in the skills he would need to defeat his father. Lord Moon awoke, Hantei was ready. The battle that took place between them was great, but in the end, Hantei sliced open his father's belly and the children fell out to the Earth below. Only Fu Leng remained, clinging to his father. Hantei sliced his father's hand, breaking his grip, and causing Fu Leng (and Lord Moon's severed hand) to follow his brothers and sisters to the Earth below. But, at the last moment, he reached out and Hantei, dragging his brother down with him. Hantei and Fu Leng fought as they fell. As soon as the Children of Sun and Moon touched the Earth, they ceased being divine. While they were still not mortal men, they were also no longer gods. They gathered together (except for Fu Leng who disappeared after his fall and could not be found) and decided that they would hold a tournament to see who should rule among them. The winner of the contest was Hantei, and it was decided that his dynasty would rule the others. As Hantei was the Emperor, each of his brothers and sisters went out into the known lands and created the seven Clans. Hida formed the Crab Clan, Doji formed the Crane. Togashi formed the Dragon Clan and Akodo formed the Lion. Shiba formed the Phoenix Clan while Shinjo formed the Unicorn. Lastly, the Scorpion Clan was formed by Bayushi. Together the Clans took mortal man (an uncultured, uncivilized creature) under their wing and began a new age.

The New Way

Hantei had very little time enjoy his new Empire, for from the outskirts of the known lands came Fu Leng's armies of unspeakable horror. Try as they might, the armies of Hantei could not overcome the shape-shifting, sorcerous beasts. On the edge of defeat, Hantei was visited by a small man with a shaved head dressed in robes. The man introduced himself as "Shinsei", which means "new way." He promised the Emperor that he could defeat the armies of the outlands, but the Emperor was unimpressed. He commanded the peasant removed, but when the guards tried to remove the little man, Shinsei - completely unarmed - defeated all twenty of the Emperor's finest guards. Then, he turned to the Emperor. "Let me take seven warriors, brave and true, to the outlands. There, I will stop the armies that march on your land."

Hantei was curious. All night long he spent questioning the little man, and while he questioned, Shinsei answered. (This conversation was recorded and the original transcript - The Tao of Shinsei - can still be found in the Emperor's library.) At the end of the evening, Hantei was convinced. He wished to send his brothers and sisters along with Shinsei, but the little shook his head, saying, "No. It must be mortal men, for fortune favors the mortal man." Hantei agreed and sent one of each of the Clans along with Shinsei. The little man went into the foresaken wastes of Fu Leng - the "Shadowlands" - with his band of "seven thunders." Many weeks passed. Finally, the raids on Hantei's lands ceased and a single samurai returned. It was the Scorpion samurai, and he returned with twelve scrolls of black leathery parchment and a hand of a strange obsidian. "Hide these scrolls," he said, "for they were the doom of Fu Leng." Then, the Scorpion samurai died.

The Emperor gave the duty of guarding the black scrolls to the Scorpion.

He then commanded the Crab to build a great wall between the Empire and the Shadowlands and to guard the Empire from its evil. The Crane and Lion Clans vowed to protect the Emperor. Doji was selected to be the first Emerald Champion while Akodo led the Emperor's armies on the field of battle. The Dragon and Phoenix chose the paths of contemplation. While the Phoenix took the Tao of Shinsei and incorporated it into their own understanding of sorcery, the Dragon retreated into the mountains of Rokugan to contemplate the truths revealed by Shinsei's words. Lastly, the Unicorn Clan left the Empire to find what lay beyond its borders.

The Hantei Emperors have ruled over Rokugan for a thousand years, and while their authority has remained unconquered, wars between the Clans remained constant. The duty of administering the Emperor's justice falls upon the shoulders of his Emerald Champion who holds the title until his death, at which time, a new tournament is held to determine the new Champion.

Source: This is part 1 of a 4 part series by John Wick posted to the L5RStory listserver. Contents Copyright (C) 1996 by FIVE RINGS PUBLISHING GROUP, INC.



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