Primary language: Yanweian
Primary religion: The Church of the Four is the national religion, with close ties to the government and strong influences over the culture.
Government: Yanwei’s ruling class, the patricians, form a senate with one vote per official family group. Since the senate meets in the capital of Nijin, the patrician class is largely concentrated there, though many keep country homes and business interests elsewhere.
Geography: A cool/temperate climate with cold winters and mostly dry summers. Yanwei is largely grassland, cultivated with wheat, rice, and grazing land for cattle and horses. There is a forested region across the western third of the country, which grows more mountainous toward the south as it approaches the border with Kavera.
Cultural and historical notes
Yanwei has a history thousands of years deep, and has been influential to some degree on all of its neighbors. Its social structure can seem complicated to outsiders, and it is very nuanced in practice. Its core is the extended family, or clan, and networks of family businesses. Most people expect to work in their parents’ businesses, or with another family member, and often learn the trade with an associate of their parents in the same trade. This norm is formalized in many industries into a guild structure, especially in cities, where population density has led to steeper competition.
Family unity and reputation are extremely important, because the livelihoods of all of the members of the family depend upon them. This can lead to a supportive and energetic environment or one that is secretive and abusive, depending on the family in question; or both, at different times or to different degrees. Peer pressure and parental pressure usually keep family members in line, which, as noted, can be positive, negative or both depending on the situation.
If a family decides it needs to cut a member loose to protect the rest of the family, the individual in question is then considered no longer a member of the family, disallowed from using the family name, and no longer protected by the clan’s reputation or goodwill. And of course, this option can be exercised in bad faith, to oust a whistleblower or a troublemaker.
In addition to those driven out of families in good standing, those born to parents who are already not officially in a named family are themselves outside the clan system. This forms an underclass in Yanweian society, commonly called the nameless.
Nameless are considered untrustworthy by most named people: they don’t have a family reputation to speak for them, and there is a sense that they must have done something terrible to be disowned. And because the guilds and most trades are closed to them, some nameless people do resort to crime.
Paradoxically, though, one of the other possible paths for a nameless person is into the churches. All of the Churches of the Four readily accept nameless people as apprentices or assistants regardless of age or history, and once ordained, priests are among the most esteemed figures in Yanweian culture. From then on, the priest is considered, in effect, a part of the Church’s “family” — and few families have the powerful reputation of the Church.
The Churches also accept such individuals as younger siblings whose family businesses have no room for them. All such distinctions are considered erased upon entering the Church’s “family”.
Cities and regions of note
Centrally located in the plains, Nijin has been the capital of Yanwei for nearly a thousand years. The Central Church, the central authority of the Church of the Four, is also located here.
Beginning as a fort near the Kaveran border, Ceien also grew in size and population due to its proximity to the ranching and farming regions around it. It grew from fort to market town, and then added the University of Ceien, which drew scholars and priests. At the time the story takes place, Ceien is poised to benefit from increased trade over the mountains from Kavera.
Northeastern, Northwestern, and Southeastern Regions
Mentioned in passing in book 3 particularly: the northeastern region is gently hilly grassland, with extensive grazing land; horse ranching is more common in the northeast, and cattle ranching in the southeast (bordering Laketon in Kavera). The northwest is one of the more heavily forested areas of the country, with carefully managed timber forests that supply the rest of the country with building material.