Tien Shih Tao

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The Tien Shih Tao, or Temple of Celestial Mastery, is an Ascending Path sect located in the Mountains of Heaven somewhat south of the Iron Mountain capital. Founded centuries ago by Master Gan Zhong-ke, their way of life is inspired chiefly by Master Gan's magnum opus, the Taiping Jing Sacred Scriptures of Great Harmony. Despite its title, the Taiping Jing is a somewhat apocalyptic text, prophesying that the (then) peaceful and orderly rule of the Dragon Emperors was nearing the end of its cosmological lifespan, and that a period of imbalance, gradually sliding into more and more terrible chaos, would ensue. It then details the methods to be used to restore order to the world, primarily by learning the secrets of Great Mastery (also called Celestial Mastery or Harmonious Mastery, distinct from the more familiar concepts of True Mastery and Perfect Mastery) and conveying them to worthy bearers and protectors in succeeding generations.

After the death of the last Dragon Emperor, the temple cloistered itself against the predicted cataclysm, carrying out their Master's instructions that they should practice continuous self-improvement and pass along their mastery to succeeding generations as a way to preserve it for a future time when it would be needed to restore order to the world.

It has been rumored that the first Bear Emperor, Foon Cha'ni, was abandoned on the doorstep of the Tien Shih Tao as an infant, and that the monks, recognizing certain signs foretold by Master Gan, raised the boy according to specific instructions given in a secret codex of the Taiping Jing. While this is likely fanciful, as documentation exists pointing to a more mundane childhood for the future Emperor, what is certain is that after five Cycles of seclusion, the monks emerged in force, promptly allied themselves with Foon, and proved to be surpassingly capable kung fu warriors and an invaluable asset in Foon's legendary military victories.

In the Great Cycles thereafter, the Temple of Celestial Mastery rendered occasional assistance to the Foon Dynasty (in much less dramatic fashion), and after the end of the Foon Dynasty, with the Temple's purpose somewhat less clear, returned to being a more normal Ascending Path sect, albeit one especially dedicated to the acquisition, preservation, and transmission of secrets of Great Mastery. When asked if the all of the Taiping Jing's prophesies have come to pass or if there are some yet to become apparent, the monks have in general been somewhat less than perfectly forthcoming.