Xiao Fa's Notebook

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Xiao Fa's notes and such. Mostly in-character. Please suggest corrections on the Discussion page.


Inside the Front Cover

In separateness lies the world's great misery. In compassion lies the world's true strength. Compassion alone stands apart from the continuous traffic between good and evil proceeding within us.

I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.

With courage you will dare to take risks, have the strength to be compassionate, and the wisdom to be humble. Courage is the foundation of integrity.

Enlightenment, Justice, Purity. Compassion, Service, Bravery. Philosophy?

On Starting on the Path of Statecraft

"So, where does one begin if one desires to be principled and taken seriously but is beginning from a standing start, as it were?"

You open the book, looking for something to catch your eye, and spot a story. There was a woman, the second of four daughters, who was wise and kind. Her family began to turn to her for advice, and she did her best. Then the lord raised taxes on the village, and people gathered at the mayor's house to see what they might do. The woman came on behalf of her family, and met with others from other families, and they discussed things, and came up with ideas. The woman was wise and kind and clever, so when the mayor sent someone to the lord to speak on behalf of the village, he sent the woman. The lord saw many petitioners, including the woman, and he found her to be wise and kind and clever and insightful in the ways of villages, so he spoke to her at length and gained insight as to many of the problems of the other petitioners. And so the lord hired the woman as an advisor...

The story continues, including some implausible bits about the lord having no children and declaring the woman his heir, but the takeaway message seems to be: if you're the best at statecraft / leadership / cat-herding in your group, whatever that group is, then you'll float up into to the next level group.

On Being Emperor

Usually from reading 'State and Statecraft,' unless noted otherwise.

  • Support of the People

There are a lot of anecdotes about beloved rulers, or respected wise men, or feared-but-treasured warriors.... it seems to boil down to

A reason for popularity (what do you do for them in general)
A reason for cheering right now (what did you just do)

From the anecdotes, it sounds like it's possible to fake one or the other with propaganda / persuasion / etc, but that trying to fake both of them will lead to Being Found Out In The End. At least in the stories. :)

  • Support of the Army

You skip past some stories about being an acclaimed general, or about being a heroic soldier, or about being an acclaimed general or a heroic soldier in a different army, or about being a retired soldier, and find one small anecdote about having an acclaimed general in the army who is your best friend and boon companion. (But mostly, it seems that army tends to like army).

  • Being a blood heir
  • Support of the Regency Council
  • Support of the Dragon
  • Omens of Thrones

And when the wandering pilgrim Guoxiu first rode to the City of Spires, as he passed through the gate into the city, the clouds overhead split, and a beam of light shone down upon him. The clouds swiftly blew away, save a golden sunlit cloud shaped like a crown, which sat above the city, unmoved by the wind, all the rest of the day.

(Also, "Whoso pulleth out this sword of this stone and anvil is rightwise king born of all England.". Also, "In the case of the Stone of Destiny, it was said that when a king of the royal blood sat on it, it would cry out. If an imposter sat on the throne, it would remain silent.")

From thinking about Imperial Shticks:

Omen of Thrones needs to be something that other people can observe well enough to make an Interpret Omens roll on (though possibly after it's pointed out to them.)

Demonstrating some of the Imperial shticks might be part of an Omen of Thrones. (For example, one of the Omen of Thrones for the Dalai Lama clearly involves the use of Imperial Eye, picking out the correct items that belonged to the previous Dalai Lama).

  • Support of the Bureaucracy
  • Support of the Nobility

The book tends to make a smaller distinction between the nobility and the government mechanics than you might expect. The most effective way to get the country's elite behind you is to leverage strength/victory in their national mechanics. In the Dragon's Throne, that's Illumineaucracy, in the Arcade that's the Game of Houses, in the Meadows that's the Court of Distinction. In the others, it varies...

  • Support of the Imperial Consort

The Imperial Consort is essentially the First Lady of the Empire - she will tend to have a sphere of influence which is narrower and distinct from the Emperor's, but she is kind of pre-eminent in that sphere. Choosing the proper Consort will allow an Emperor to fill a weakness, or protect a vulnerability, for no one can be pre-eminent in all things.

There have been some cases where an Emperor died young and his heir was not of age; the Consort tends to continue on until he comes of age, and sometimes continues on for a second Emperor; this would be like having a First Lady who isn't your wife - not the usual, but it happens.

On What Is

"Closing your eyes does not make the room dark." -Master Kwan

On What We Wish There Wasn't

"There is no fixing change, Xiao Fa." -Master Kwan

On Chi

"It is not possible to have the chi of a place completely unconnected from the rest of the world. So it is important to shape the connection, as well." -Master Tranh

It is also notable that the empire seems to have pinched off bits of the terrains of the northern and southern barbarians (Qin Chao and the Strand, respectively), perhaps to anchor the empire's chi to the world surrounding it? Are there therefore other anchors as well?

This one helped to create a new meditation garden for the Green Pagoda. It feels strongly like it is my garden instead of a garden. This is somewhat unsettling. However, it is very comfortable, and I think it is working the way we intended. It seems to be good for reflection and introspection; less so for zen letting go of self. After the plants take root, Monk XX will let me know how he finds it. Perhaps Cai Wen can be convinced to go meditate there and share his thoughts.

Or perhaps even Master Zhou.

First I Ching Reading

Enemy becomes friend through sacrifice. Friend becomes more through union. Two paths stand before him. Return to power through betrayal of the self. Or destiny through betrayal of the other.

On Right Actions

"Common courtesy should never put one out." -Qin Yanyu

Sapora Oil Recipe

A recipe for distilling Sapora Oil.

Snake Oil

Put Snake Oil recipe here, when I know it.

New Rivers

Healing Wounds

  • All better! Next to consider is what else can be done for the region.
  • Two infrastructure wounds remain
  • Two resources wounds remain

Widows and Orphans Fund

Currently contains 79 li, 36 zhu. Li Merit gave it all to this one.

On Garnering Help

Currently asking Brother Sochu (and possibly Sister Aiyu) of the Meihua Sannong to come inspect the situation and tell him what they think the next steps are. Brother Sochu and Sister Aiyu think that they cannot spare the time to go look at New Rivers, as they feel Brother Changling will become Abbott if they leave for that long.

Noodle Recipes

A noodle recipe. Hard to make out what several of the ingredients are. There are a couple of scribbles, and crossed out bits.

Underneath it:

Late Spring Taiga Noodle Soup: Ingredients (includes 'Mindfulness' in addition to other more predictable ingredients) , but also includes ramps and peppercorn flowers, and Method (includes 'Meditate on the recipe', and 'Mix with Intent'). "It is the Taiga, so celery is predominant, with other Taiga flavors, and a sense of burgeoning summer."


  • Resolve with Meditation to focus the mind on the recipe, then empty the mind.
  • Chi with Chi Mastery to feel the chi of and ride it into the cooking
  • Int with Cooking to make the soup

On Being Master Tenzin's Great Work, and Severings In General

Question 1

So what's the endgame? You have someone whose Chi has been severed and they are still a whole person: Eventually, does their chi regrow in a new pattern, do they live out their lives severed, too bad, does there need to be some cool ritual to fill in the holes, where does a plan like that go in the end?

The answer to this depends somewhat on how much you sever. The more gets removed, the harder it is for the chi to grow again quite as fully - and it's something that happens over time, not immediately. But in general, yes, the chi grows anew (not quite "regrows", it's not what was there before, it's chi based on what is there after the severing).

(The metaphor might be if someone lost a beloved spouse - there is a hole immediately, and perhaps they will never be quite as innocently joyful as they were, but with time and growth, they can stop grieving. For a less painful seeming metaphor, perhaps it's like giving up smoking; there may always be that particular thing missing, but that doesn't mean you're Always Lessened.)

You could probably expand the ritual to put new things in the holes (then you'd get something more like Mirris); Master Tenzin doesn't seem to have pursued that. When you prune a limb from a bonsai tree, you do not stuff a different plant in; you prune to the shape you want, and then let it grow anew from there.

On Shaping Your Chi

"I would say to you that if your chi is not as you wish it to be, to shape your actions and your surroundings to be most harmonious to that which you wish to be, and your chi will grow to join that harmony." --Chi Master Ko

Question 2

Is this a technique that could be expanded to be used on places as well?

Not trivially; places have less of a sense of self, and are less able to participate fully in this sort of change. The Great Work was clearly something that involved a willing and participatory subject, not an unwilling subject. On the other hand, a place is also not likely to resist in the same way as an unwilling subject would.

So it would definitely be an expansion to do it on a place, but it's likely possible, with research and work.

Question 3

How many participants are required for the severing, and any ancillary necessary steps?

8 altogether (although this number might have been relevant as this one was once a Spider). There are a bunch of roles: one for Yang, one for Yin, and two for Chi (one of the Chi guys is more like the overall ritual master). Then, there's someone to act as the connection to the Material World, and someone to provide the connection to the World Above, and a healer. Oh, and the target. It is possible to combine roles, though it would require much more ability for the combined-role person.

Question 4

Do the notes indicate whether the severing could be done more than once on the same person, and are there any indications that it was done to Xiao Fa more than once?

Well, technically, you could do it more than once - keep cutting off bits until there was just the teeniest stub of a person left. Ew. Though, there would be issues with having their active participation, even after the first one, if part of what they lost was the plan; they might have to re-learn it all.

From the reading, though, you don't think Master Tenzin would ever have been likely to *do* that - the philosophy would be to choose the *right* cut to make, not to just randomly chop off bits until it was good. If a second severing was needed, that would mean the first one failed in its ends, so figuring out why would be more important, and then figuring out why a second one would be any more likely to work.

Question 5

Is there a sense in which the pruned branches (to use the bonsai metaphor) can be saved? Can the severed chi be preserved somewhere, in a living thing, or an element, or grafted onto another being's chi?

The ritual isn't at all designed for that. The idea is somewhat distasteful, but you imagine it might be possible to graft onto another person. You would probably want to have a second group dealing with that, rather than adding to the functions of the group performing the main ritual. You can't think how it wouldn't end up with something like a mess like Ting Ting, though.

On Teachers and Students

"It is said that we are who our teachers make us.  You more than most, I am sure - you speak now much more like he did.  If you do not remember who he was, look inward to see who you have become - his thumbprints are all over your clay." --Yanzi, speaking of Master Tenzin and Xiao Fa

On Too Much of a Good Thing

Do buffs, especially external ones, put the chi of a person out of harmony with themselves? Kind of...

Ting Ting's Wisdom

"The weight of the mountain is as nothing compared to the sorrow of a burdened heart." -
"When all one has to carry a flame in is one's hands, there is no question of whether there is harm.  The hands may be burnt... or the flame may be extinguished." -
"It is a wise man who knows when he is the hunter, and when he is the prey." -

She called this one the "Hand of the Dragon."

On Helping Li Kao

I feel badly that we failed to do anything with Li Kao's prayer beads. We had them for so long, but did not know what to do with them. I hope to be able to do something about rescuing or helping him. When visited the Temple of Invisible Wind, chose to listen to the wind for a way to help Li Kao. Saw this vision:

You look out over the mountain, and the plains beyond and the rivers and hills... it's very hard to see. Something blocks your sight, but there are two men, your men, sitting across from each other at a campfire, waiting for you. They do not share your goal, but you may be able to get them to assist during their attempt at their own.

Keepers of the Hoard???

Revered Takanata thinks Silver Dragons is more likely.

Second I Ching Reading

"Your path is difficult to see, as you are tied to impossible changes in the world, changes that are only now just barely becoming possible.

"You have chosen not to lead those changes, but to guide them. You will still wield a strong influence over those changes, but less than if you had chosen to be the leader. Possibly your influence will be broader, and more subtle.

"It is a Yin path you have set for yourself, as the Guide is reactive, rather than proactive. But the change required will need you to be active, and to move beyond that which makes you comfortable.

"In order to guide yourself, you must find within yourself and the world all of the infinite questions that need to be asked."

On Asking Questions

What questions need to be asked? How will this one discern those questions that will guide him?

  • Darkest Well-Water. Is this relevant somehow?

Dates of Note

  • Date of Severing, according to Sister Aiyu: "Early Tiger in the eighth Year of the Tortoise since the beginning of the Stewardship. So nearly eight springs ago."
  • Date of Dragon Aspect: The Day of the Early Spider in the Month of the Butterfly in the first Year of the Spider since the White Pagoda was abandoned. (Last year)


  • Defied his necromantic captor Mu the Mad, and used my Chi Mastery to destroy his wretched Army of the Undead
  • Faced down the fear of a haunted house and claimed the Skeleton Key, which opens all locks
  • Wrested the very chi of the empire from the Jade Throne, disrupting for a time the flow of chi to his enemies
  • Dove into a volcano to meet the Great Phoenix Spirit and came out unburnt
  • Sailed the World Ocean, and visited far-off, exotic lands unheard of from the Empire
  • Redeemed the corrupted Ghosts of Imperial Soldiers ensnared by Northern magics, bid their shades be bound back into their bodies, and caused them to be reborn as Imperial Citizens, whereupon they entered his service
  • Unmade a vile necromantic relic and freed the soul of the Imperial citizen trapped therein

Chi Reserve Research Notes

  • 1. Find and examine N different sorts of chi reserve (currently Tao Rock, Wall reserve, Inflicted Senchi Chamber)
  • 2. Come up with N sorts of differences (currently vulnerability, access, and purpose)

For each increasing N, you can make a roll to ask the GMs a question, with N dice and N skill; the question should be either about the subject in general, or one of the particular chi reserve mechanics. 1 success is needed for a Y/N question, 3 successes for a short answer, 5 successes for a short essay.

"How would I do this myself" is a valid short essay question, but may require more research than a single question. :)

Tao Rock Wall Reserve Inflicted Senchi Chamber
Vulnerability The rock made subject's chi more vulnerable by providing an avenue to the subject's Tao. Possession of the vessel was sufficient to allow chi combat with the subject. Damage done to the Wall by northern magics drained the reserve of the subject. Symbological analysis suggested that if the subject joined a new House and the House was utterly defeated, the Wall itself would probably also be damaged. Two-way vulnerability? Did the fact that subject was not a proper senchi chamber make the senchi chamber's chi more vulnerable? I did suspect at the time that strengthening subject's chi to withstand the senchi chamber might damage the chamber's chi, and since it was not a living thing, the chi might be permanently damaged. The inappropriate vessel was a potential vulnerability for the senchi chamber's chi.
Access Tao placed in the rock was not accessible to subject until he expended it in the form of karma. The Wall seemed to have access to Wei Han's reserves of Tao when it was damaged by shaggy elephants. Subject had access to senchi abilities. Accessing abilities reduced dissonance of unusual relationship: using a senchi chamber's abilities is not dissonant, but having a senchi chamber forced into your own chi is.
Purpose To allow subject's Tao to be expressed directly as karma when used The human reserve of the Wall exists to give the Wall the chi of a living, adaptable thing? A Senchi chamber is a means to focus the chi of an area to make it more potent and to allow direct expression of some of the more subtle effects of the local chi.

Questions so far:

  • 1. "Does the 'human reserve of the Wall' exist to bring the chi of the Wall closer to that of a living being?"

Yes, but that is understating it by a lot.

  • 2. "Would strengthening Ting Ting's chi to the point where it could withstand the chi of the senchi chamber actually have endangered the chi of the chamber?"

Scuffed? Yes. Bent? Maybe. Broken? No.

  • 3. Is the expression of saved Tao as karma an effect repeatable by chi reserves in general?

No, it's not a general chi-reserve power, but chi reserve is a useful tool in building that effect.