Neural Stimulator III: A Not-So-Little Romance, Part I

The Romance of the Three Kingdoms series of video games by KOEI is a legendary franchise that could be said to define it's own unique genre. Each installment incorporates aspects of strategic wargames, character-building RPGs, and resource-management empire-builders. The series also inspired another offshoot: the Dynasty Warriors franchise, a smash-em-up tactical brawler that bleeds so much "This is Feng Shui!" it's not even funny. The historical novel all these games are based on is, quite obviously, a gold mine for any campaign involving ancient China: noble generals, cunning masterminds, dastardly villains, blood oaths, gut-wrenching betrayals, the turning tides of battle, dynasties forged and shattered by the hammer of destiny against the anvil of history and then quenched by the blood of heroes. Everything related to Romance of the Three Kingdoms is all so undeniably EPIC. The baffling absence of a Three Kingdoms Juncture in Feng Shui stretches the limits of inconceivability. At the very least, we could certainly use a Pop-Up Juncture!

Academics typically consider the Three Kingdoms period to cover 220 CE to 280 CE, but you could walk it back to the Yellow Turban Rebellion in 184 CE. Zhang Rang, ringleader of the Ten Attendants, is obviously an evil Lotus Sorcerer. 189 CE is even more interesting, when the Ten Attendants conspired to place the ailing Emperor Ling's 8-year-old son Liu Xie on the throne. However, the plot failed when Empress Dowager He and General He Jin elevated He's 13-old son to the throne as Emperor Shao and placed themselves as ruling regents until the young emperor came of age. The Ten Attendants lured He Jin into a trap with a fake summons, assassinating him in the palace, but when the military stormed the palace and started slaughtering everyone who looked like a eunuch, the coup fell apart. Zhang Rang and the remaining eunuchs fled with Emperor Shao and his 8-year-old half-brother as hostages, but they were captured by loyal troops at a riverbank. A tearful Zhang Rang threw himself into the river and drowned. Supposedly. But, hey, we all know that evil sorcerers are really good at faking their own deaths. Mabye Zhang Rang is still around, plotting another coup?

But I digress. What I really wanted to talk about was Romance of the Three Kingdoms VII, the strategy game released for the PC and Playstation 2 in 2000. This version features thirty legendary sites hidden in various cities throughout the game. Unlock all the sites, and you get more skill points to improve your officers' stats. The list of sites reads like what could be a laundry list for the thirty most powerful feng shui sites in China. Even better, most of them still exist in all four open junctures, presenting multiple opportunities fight over control of them. When I started working on this list, I didn't anticipate how involved some of these entries would be and it started to get quite long. So I'm going to break it up into three parts. Here's the first part, covering the first ten sites and how you might incorporate them into the Secret War:

  1. Great Wall of China.

Ok, this one was kind of obvious. It's too big to be considered a feng shui site itself, but there's no way it's not important to the Secret War in some way. Outside of the advantages of an easy way to move troops and supplies along a border that is difficult to defend, or force your enemies to sign a peace treaty against their will (a nod to another great video game franchise), the Great Wall could be used to channel chi energy back to the capitol. Similar to the neolithic concept of ley lines, the ruling faction in China could use the chi flow from the Great Wall to channel and collect magical energy. In the Ancient Juncture, in several tombs hidden under the nexus points, Lotus sorcerers collect this magical energy in giant urns covered with arcane runes. Are the urns an emergency battery they can tap into during a crisis, or are they stockpiling it as a "kill switch" trap, designed to unleash a horde of undead monsters as an unpleasant surprise if their enemies ever knock them out of power? (If so, why didn't it go off in 69 AD?) In the Past and Contemporary Junctures, the Ascended have adjusted the the chi flow so that now the ancient network of roads and towers supresses magic, and obviously they prefer it that way. But what if another faction figured out how to reverse the chi flow, and magic-friendly hot spots started springing up? There could be all sorts of monsters buried in those walls that might re-awaken and want to stomp around a bit. In the Future Juncture, recovering the Nine Tripod Cauldrons and placing them at key junctures along the Great Wall could be part of Battlechimp Potempkin's plan to jump-start the chi flow for the entire planet. What's left of the Eaters of the Lotus know the ancient rituals to get it started, but they are demanding an unsettling price: when the chi flow restarts, they want to bring magic back into the world. Is the Battlechimp crazy enough to strike a deal with the Lotus? Can humanity be saved only by delivering them in chains to demonic overlords?

On a smaller scope, a repair mission could be the perfect job for a band of do-gooders. A minor earthquake in a remote province has disrupted the chi flow along the Great Wall. One of the court geomancers suspects a clay tablet buried under one of the guard towers was broken. He's prepared a new tablet, and the PCs are sent to make sure it gets installed correctly. But when the broken tablet is replaced, something goes horribly wrong, and an ancient demon is released instead. The demon possesses the garrison's commander and uses mind-control sorcery to enslave the soldiers to do his bidding. Is the geomancer a Lotus spy? Can the PCs figure out what went wrong with the tablet, defeat the demon, free the troops, and restore the chi flow?

  1. Peach Tree Garden.

This is the location where Liu Bei, Guan Yu, and Zhang Fei swore the Oath of the Peach Garden. Located reputedly at Qui Zhou Ping's house in Lou Sang village (most likely what would now be present-day Zhouzhou), the tranquil home town of Liu Bei, there are undoubtedly historical examples of peach tree gardens that could have really, really good feng shui. If a fictional novel written in the 14th century was based on actual historical events (and in Feng Shui why wouldn't they be?), then this site might be easiest to locate in the Ancient Juncture. Peach trees are only supposed to last about 12 years, but if they were cultivated with positive chi energy, who says they couldn't live another 500 years? There's no reason why it couldn't be found in the Past or Contemporary Junctures as well: finding the original location of the garden and planting new peach trees could bring it back as a revitalized feng shui site. The Peach Tree Garden is a powerful site that, in addition to the typical benefits of attunement, offers an additional benefit: anyone linked to the Peach Tree Garden has a special bond with everyone else linked to the garden. Even when separated across continents, they can sense when one of their Blood Brothers (or Blood Sisters) is in trouble and can spend Fortune points on their behalf.

Other ideas could involve the trees or fruit. A branch from one of the peach trees given to a companion could inspire undying loyalty and render them immune to mind-control sorcery. The peaches could be a magical curative used to reverse a magical illness or break a demonic curse. Peach pits harvested from the original garden could be planted in a new location to create a new feng shui site, supercharge the chi flow of an existing site, or perhaps even bring a burned site back to life (something else Battlechimp might be very interested in).

  1. Mount Taishan.

The Five Great Mountains probably deserve their own article, but for some reason not all of them were included in this list. Still, as far as mountains go, this is one of the really important ones. In Chinese geomancy, there are five cardinal directions (North, South, East, West, and Center), and the Five Great Mountains all correspond to one of the directions. Mount Tai represents the Eastern direction and one of the Five Manifestations of the Highest Deity. Since the sun and moon rise in the east, the mountain is associated with sunrise, birth, and renewal. Although it isn't the highest of the Five Great Mountains, its proximity to the sea and the Yellow River mean it "outranks" the other Five Mountains in power and importance. Jade Empreror Peak is an important pilgrimage for everyone from exalted emperors to lowly farmers. When a new emperor takes control of China, conducting a ceremony at the peak of Mount Tai is usually the first item on his "To Do" list. While the mountain itself is too big to be a feng shui site on its own, it obviously helps focus powerful chi energy for all of the temples, shrines, and other important locations built on and around the mountain.

Dai Miao, or Temple of the God Mount Tai, is located at the foot of the mountain in the city of Tai'an, and was first built during the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BCE), but also includes a replica of the imperial palace built during the reign of Emperor Huizong of Song (one of the emperors who recast the Nine Tripod Cauldrons). Perhaps he could have hidden the original cauldrons somewhere inside the palace?

The Red Gate, about 20 minutes from Dai Temple, is where most tourists start climbing the 7,200 steps to the peak. Along the way you pass the Ten Thousand Immortals Tower, Arhat Cliff, and the Palace to Goddess Dou Mu. Upon reaching the Halfway Gate, tourists or would-be emperors can start up the 1,827 steps of the Shibapan (meaning "eighteen-level stairs") to the South Gate of Heaven... or if they are really tired, they could take a cable car to the peak. Seriously, how can you play Feng Shui and not have a fight in a cable car at some point? Just below of the peak is Bixia Temple, also called Shrine of the Blue Dawn or Temple of the Princess of the Azure Clouds, which was also built during Emperor Huizong's reign. From there the South Gate of Heaven stands inside the Jade Emperor Temple, just a short walk away.

Ideally, the best way to include Mount Tai in a scenario might be a series of chase scenes as the PCs fight their way up the mountain, starting with Confucian monks at the base, a couple busloads of Pledged Agents at the Halfway Gate, maybe a gaggle of mountain ogres throwing rocks or rolling boulders down the Shibapan, and then finish up with Taoist sorcerers riding whirlwinds and hurling lighting-bolts at the peak. It's a race to the top because a ritual at the peak has to be completed (or prevented) at a particular time, otherwise all heck breaks loose. Other ideas involving Mount Tai might be a curse-breaking potion recipe requiring a flower or clump of dirt collected from the peak, or using iron roof tiles from Bixia Temple to reflect spells back at a sorcerer, or the old stand-by "dig up an artifact buried at the peak 1,000 years ago". There's also the legend that anyone who climbs to the peak is guaranteed to live at least 100 years.

  1. Confucian Garden.

The game locates this garden in the ancient town of Xiao Pei, in Xu Province (now modern Jiangsu). However, the center of Confucianism is widely regarded as the city of Qufu, in Shandong Province, where the "San Kong" (Three Confucion Sites) are located: the Temple of Confucius, the Cemetary of Confucius, and the Kong Family Mansion. Still, there's no reason you can't build a garden dedicated to Confucius somewhere else. And since it's dedicated to Confucius, you can bet it's firmly in the grip of the Guiding Hand. Likewise, you can bet the Ascended would love to pry it away from them. As far as fight scenes go, the garden isn't really described, so feel free to fill it full of stone statues, sculpted topiary bushes, koi ponds, cute little wooden windmills, conveniently-placed rakes, and of course mild-mannered gardener monks who respond to any loud noises with blackout-inducing windmill kicks. The PCs might go there to meet a Guiding Hand agent passing along some sensitive information on an Ascended operation, or they might need to track down an ex-Triad informant taking refuge from his enemies by hiding among the monks.

If the PCs manage to convince the Hand that they are dedicated to promoting the principles of Confucianism (possibly by accident...?), or if the Hand owes them a big favor, they might be persuaded to allow the PCs to attune to it. As a stronger-than-usual feng shui site, attuned heroes gain an additional benefit: the tranquil cultivation of life-energy in the garden gives them the Bloody But Unbowed schtick (FS2 p. 124). If they already have this schtick, they gain another level of it.

  1. Temple of the White Horse.

Established in 68 CE (interesting date if the 69 juncture reopens!) just outside the walls of the Eastern Han dynasty capital Luoyang, the White Horse Temple is the first Buddhist temple built in China. Legend has it that after Emperor Ming Di had a dream vision about a tall golden man with a glowing head, he dispatched two emissaries to search for Buddhist scriptures. The emissaries encountered two Indian Buddhist monks and convinced them to bring their scriptures, relics, and statues of Buddha to China, carried on the backs of two white horses. The two monks stayed at the temple and helped translate their sacred texts into Chinese, most notably the Sutra of the Forty-Two Chapters. As Buddhism began to spread into China, this of course thoroughly annoyed the Taoists, who demanded that the Emperor test which religion was stronger. The Emperor decreed that the sacred texts of both religions should be brought to the White Horse Temple. A bonfire was built, and the Emperer ordered that the sacred texts should be thrown into it, and whichever documents survived the fire, that would indicate which religion he should follow. The Taoists lost, and reputedly the two priests who had challenged the strength of Buddhism were thrown into the fire as well.

There's also a connection between White Horse Temple and Empress Wu (yes, that Empress again). According to legend, Empress Wu Zetien was wandering through her moonlit garden after the first winter snowfall, and was delighted to see hundreds of red blooming flowers. She announced to her court, "I'll stroll through all the gardens tomorrow. Let the God of Spring know that all flowers must bloom in the shade of night and not wait for the harsh winds of winter." At daybreak the next morning, the entire court entered the gardens and saw thousands of the flowers blooming in brilliant bursts of color. However, the Empress' joy was marred by the disobedient peonies, whose buds all remained tightly shut. The enraged Empress banished the peony from the capitol and ordered all bushes outside the capital to be burned to the ground. The exiled flowers settled around Mount Mang near the outskirts of Luoyang. When Spring arrived, the entire mountain was wreathed in bright red flowers. The Peony Festival, held every year on April 10th-25th to commemorate this floral relocation, attracts large crowds to Luoyang and the White Horse Temple.

In most of the open junctures, the White Horse Temple is controlled by the Ascended. In the Ancient Juncture, the Ascended recently took control of the Temple partly to annoy the Confucians and Taoists, but mostly to thumb their noses at Empress Wu, who still has the anger and frustration over the Peony Incident fresh in her mind. In 1850, Buddhism is one of the three official religions recognized by the Qing dynasty and considered an important part of Chinese culture. The Ascended still control the temple, but relations with the Buddhist monks are strained as the Qing dynasty starts to collapse from internal corruption and external foreign encroachment. In the Contemporary Juncture, with the rise of the increasingly secular Communist government in China, the Ascended's relationship with the Buddhists has frayed to the point that White Horse Temple could be considered low-hanging fruit to be picked off by another faction. If the PCs wind up attuning to the White Horse Temple, they gain a small measure of the ability to shrug off suffering that Buddhist monks are so well-known for: they can ignore one point of Impairment.

  1. Shi Huangshi Mausoleum (Qin's Tomb).

Only one word can really cover this location: Dungeoncrawl! Qin Shi Huang is recognized as the first emperor to unify China in 221 BCE. When he died in 210 BCE, he was burried with more than 8,000 terra cotta soldiers, 130 chariots, and 670 horses. His Terra Cotta Army was rediscovered in 1974, but the tomb itself has yet to be opened. We do have some tantalizing clues about what it might contain: models of the palaces and towers built under his reign, a replica of the lands he conquered complete with rivers and streams made of mercury flowing to the sea through mountains and hills of bronze, a map of the heavens on the ceiling studded with pearls and precious stones to mark the sun, moon, and stars. According to an account written by Sima Qian during the Han dynasty, it's also full of traps. Several video games have explored what might be inside the tomb, notably "Qin: Tomb of the Middle Kingdom" in 1995 and by everyone's favorite two-fisted archaeologist "Indiana Jones and the Emperor's Tomb" in 2003. If the tomb itself is a feng shui site (why wouldn't it be?), then it's currently unclaimed, as in every juncture it's buried under quite a lot of dirt. But Qin Shi Huang went through quite a bit of trouble to bury all those terra cotta warriors... did he foresee his return from the dead, his army of terra cotta warriors clawing their way out of the dirt and lining up before him, ready to conquer China again?

  1. Jian Ge (Sword Gate Pass).

This narrow mountain pass is located on the road between Hanzhong and Fucheng. Steep cliffs on all sides and a narrow approach make this a natural fortress, allowing even a small force to hold the pass against a larger force pretty much indefinitely. Basically, this is the Chinese version of Thermopylae. RTKVII doesn't mention it by any other name, but it sounds like this is the same location as the "Saber Gateway" (mentioned in the novel) or Jian Men Guan (literally "sword gate pass"). When Zhuge Liang was repairing the gallery roads of the Shudao ("roads to Shu"), he noticed the terrain would be a perfect place to set up a defensive position for Shu, and directed a military gate be built there. In 263 CE, the state of Wei launched an invasion of Shu. Wei forces were divided into two groups with Deng Ai on the northern border and Zhong Hui on the eastern border. After Zhong Hui's forces crossed the border, the Shu generals had hoped to stop him at the fortified fortresses of Han and Yue, slowly wearing him down and waiting for his supplies to run out. However, Zhong Hui quickly bypassed both forts and continued to push futher into Shu. General Jiang Wei fell back to the Saber Gateway, and managed to bring Zhong Hui's advance to a halt. However, Deng Ai's smaller northern force had managed to pull off the impossible, essentially the Chinese version of "Hannibal Crosses the Alps", moving his troops through Yinping pass and over treacherous mountainous terrain that the Shu commanders had assumed was absolutely impassable. While Jiang Wei and Zhong Hui were bottled up at the Saber Gateway, Deng Ai marched toward the capitol of Chengdu, and after fighting a bloody but decisive battle at Mianzhu Pass, the Shu forces were defeated and Liu Shan was forced to surrender. With the fall of Shu, the "Three Kingdoms" became only two: Wei and Wu.

The original Sword Gate Tower, built at Zhuge Liang's direction, stood until 1935 when it was demolished to make way for the Sichuan-Shaanxi road. (As Mr. L. Prosser might say, "It's a bypass! You've got to build bypasses!") However, it was rebuilt in the 1980's as a popular tourist attraction, and although it was damaged by a fire in 2005 and by the Sichuan earthquake in 2008, it was repaired in 2009. Thus, it would still be present in the Ancient, Past, and Contemporary Junctures. In 1850 and the present day, it's held by the Ascended, but it might be up for grabs in 696. As a feng shui site, the Saber Gateway offers the usual benefits of attunement, as well as an additional ability: after a fight, attuned heroes can remove one Mark of Death before they have to make any Death Checks.

  1. Dong Ting Lake.

For most of China's history, Dongting Lake was the largest freshwater lake in China. As one of the main flood basins for the Yangtze River, it's size varies greatly depending on the season and the amount of water from the rivers flowing into it. From it's normal size of 2,820 square km (1,090 square miles), it can increase up to 20,000 square km (7,700 square miles) during flood season (July to September). Hubei and Hunan provinces are named based on their location in relation to the lake, as Hubei means "north of the lake" and Hunan means "south of the lake". "Dongting" literally means "grotto court", which refers to an ancient legend of the Xiang River Goddesses. The legendary Emperor Shun, in the last year of his reign, decided to tour his domain. However, he fell ill and died suddenly while traveling near the Xiang River. His two wives, named Ehuang and Nuying, rushed to the river to search for his body, and wept by the river for days. Their tears turned to blood and stained the bamboo growing by the river, which became known as "spotted bamboo" or "mottled bamboo" for the reddish teardrop marks. Overcome with grief, both women threw themselves into the river and drowned. Their spirits now reside in an underwater grotto (hence the name of the lake), which reputedly is connected to underground passages that connect to all parts of the empire. (That sounds an awful lot like a portal to the Netherworld.)

One of the larger islands in the lake, Junshan Island (meaning "Princesses' Island") or Love Island, is dedicated to two love stories: the first being that of the drowned consorts, and the second from the Tang dynasty, the story of Liu Yi rescuing the Dragon Princess. The island is a treasure trove of possible feng shui sites: the Tomb of the Two Empresses, the Xiangfei Memorial Temple, the Mottled Bamboo Grove, the Liu Yi Well (reputedly this leads to the underwater palace of the Dragon King), the Sending-Letter Pavillion (to commemorate Liu Yi jumping down the well to deliver the Dragon Princess' letter to the Dragon King), Dongting Temple (dedicated to the heroic Duke Liu Yi), and 7,000-year-old neolithic rock paintings. An easy scenario idea could be to recreate Liu Yi's legendary journey: a weeping shepherdess gives the PCs a letter they must deliver to her father, the Dragon King. They must find the sacred orange tree next to a well on an island in Dongting Lake. Once they've located the tree, they must strike the tree three times with a belt and call three times, "Dong Ting Jun, I have a message for you." If they have performed the opening ceremony correctly, a messenger will appear and lead them down into the the palace of the Dragon King. They can then deliver his daughter's message... or perhaps ask to borrow Riyu Jingu Bang, the Wish-Following Staff famously stolen by Sun Wukong, the Monkey King. There is currently no orange tree next to the well in the Contemporary or Past Juncture, but perhaps it's still there in the Ancient Juncture? Locating the sacred orange tree, known as Protector of the Soil, could also be an important quest: retrieve one of the oranges in order to lift a magical famine that is destroying the crops of an important village.

Junshan Island is featured in another legend, this one about Emperor Qin Shi Huang returning from a visit to Mount Heng, the southernmost of the Five Sacred Mountains of China. Upon passing close to the island, a terrible wind blew his boat off-course and threatened to sink it. When he reached dry land, Emperor Qin asked about the temple on the island, and was told the legend of the Xiang River Goddesses. Enraged that his trip home had been delayed by goddesses revered by his old enemies in the Kingdom of Chu, Emperor Qin ordered 3,000 convicts to cut down every tree on the island and paint it red (the color of clothing worn by convincted criminals). The island is not known for it's lack of trees or the color red, so presumably the punishment bestowed on the island was as short-lived as the emperor's temper.

Dongting Lake is also famous for another drowning: the master poet Qu Yuan. During the Warring States period, slanderous accusations from a jealous minister caused King Qingxiang of Chu to exile Qu Yuan to the regions south of the Yangtze River. During his exile, he collected legends and folktales while traveling through the countryside. He also wrote some of the greatest poetry in Chinese literature. However, anxiety and depression over the fate of his homeland threatened his health. He would take long walks and look at his gradually thinning reflection in a well that became known as the "Face Reflection Well" (reputedly located on a hillside in what is presently known as Xiangluping). In 278 BCE, Qu Yuan learned that his country's capital had been captured by General Bai Qi of the state of Qin. After completing the lengthy poem "Lament for Ying", he committed suicide by wading into the Miluo River while holding a rock. When the locals around Dongting Lake heard that he had drowned himself in the river, they rushed to the river in their fishing boats, beating drums, splashing paddles, and throwing rice cakes into the water to prevent fishes and evil spirits from devouring his body. This reputedly is one of the origins of Dragon Boat Racing, a competetive rowing sport that has been practiced in China for over two thousand years. During the annual Duanwu Festival (known to Westerners as the "Dragon Boat Festival"), races between decorated dragon boats take place not only on Dongting Lake but on waterways throughout China and Southeast Asia. Scenario ideas might include locating the Face Reflection Well as a possible feng shui site or to receive a poetic clue from the ghost of Qu Yuan himself. I also really like the idea of the PCs entering a dragon boat race, competing against various factions to win the favor of an important leader, such as one of the Four Monarchs or one of the legendary emperors. They could be up against boats full of Lotus sorcerers, Guiding Hand monks, Ascended transformed animals, or supernatural demons.

  1. Han Dong Long Tai.

The name of these towers appears to be mis-translated. It should probably be "Cong Tai", which translates as "thicket of towers". This system of towers linked by walls was constructed by King Wuling of Zhao in his capital city of Handan during the Warring States period, so this would put their construction somewhere between 325 BCE and 299 BCE. This predates the Three Kingdoms period, which doesn't happen for another 400 years, so I'm not sure how many of these towers were still standing by 220 CE. They were in place at 260 BCE, when Zhao forces retreated back into Handan after a crushing defeat by Qin forces at the Battle of Changping. Qin laid siege to the city for three years until troops from the neighboring states of Wei and Chu arrived and the combined forces routed the Qin army in 257 BCE. The system of walls and linked towers pioneered by King Wuling would certainly have been well-known by future emperor Ying Zheng, who was born in the city of Handan, conquered it as King of Qin in 228 BCE, and when he crowned himself Emperor Qin Shi Huang in 221 BCE, used it as the model to begin building the Great Wall of China.

At the beginning of the Three Kingdoms period, when Cao Cao was appointed general-in-chief by Emperor Xian of Han in 196 CE, Handan was in decline and most government and military functions had moved to the city of Ye, which Cao Cao captured in 204 CE. In 213 CE, Emperor Xian declared Cao Cao "Duke of Wei" and granted him ten cities as his fiefdom, which would have included Ye and Handan. After Cao Cao's death in 220 CE, his son Cao Pi forced Emperor Xian to abdicate, and Cao Pi proclaimed himself Emperor of Wei. To the south, Liu Bei immediately contested Cao Pi's claim to the throne and declared himself Emperor of Shu Han in 221 CE, while his neighbor to the east Sun Quan declared independence from Wei in 222 CE and eventually assumed the title Emperor of Wu in 229 CE. The rest, you might say, is history.

In modern-day Handan, what's left of this "thicket of towers" is called Wuling Cong Tai Terrace, situated in Cong Tai Park. It doesn't have any towers, but it does have the legendary Xuebu Qiao, also known as the "Learning to Walk Bridge" or "Toddler Bridge". Legend has it that a nobleman from Yan came to Handan because he had heard that the people of Handan had perfected a particularly elegant style of walking. He spent weeks walking across this bridge to master this new style of walking. When he proved unable to master the new style, he discovered that he no longer knew how to walk normally, and had to crawl like a toddler all the way back to Yan. Either the Terrace or the Bridge would make excellent feng shui sites. As additional attunement powers, Wuling Cong Tai Terrace offers one free Fortune point per session that can be spent on any Driving Check involving horses or any Guns Check involving archery, and the Toddler Bridge offers a +2 AV bonus once per session when the hero attempts to use a skill they don't have.

  1. Lang Ye Tai.

I'm having a lot of trouble nailing down where this mountain should be. It may be a translation error, as I'm also not sure where Lang Ye is supposed to be, either. When Qin Shi Huang unified China, he performed sacrifices on the "Four Mountains of Qi", which are listed in some texts as Mount Tai, Mount Yi, Mount Zhifu (or Chifu), and Mount Langye. Mount Tai is pretty obvious, but the others are not listed among the Five Great Mountains of China, the Four Sacred Mountains oF Buddhism, or the Four Sacred Mountains of Taoism. Mount Yi is mentioned occasionally, but I have no idea where Mount Zhifu or Mount Langye are supposed to be. If these were supposed to be the four most important mountains of Qi, then that probably means they were all in what would now be considered Shandong province, so that may help narrow things down. The most notable mountain in Shandong that directly faces the ocean is Mount Lao, so that may be Mount Langye, or close enough for our purposes. Qin Shi Huang left stele inscriptions on all four mountains, and at least one stele from Mount Yi survived long enough for the inscription to be copied and translated, but the stele itself was destroyed in a fire sometime during the Tang dynasty (608-907 CE). This could mean the Mount Yi stele is still intact somewhere in the 696 Juncture, and could be rescued. As with the Nine Tripod Cauldrons, this could be an important artifact in the Secret War, capable of redirecting the chi flow through an entire province. If the Mount Yi stele was recovered, or one of the other three steles were discovered, then a faction might be able to tip the balance of power away from the Ascended.

Another possible scenario might start with the PCs hiking on a mountain trail while vacationing in Laoshan. A recent landslide reveals an ancient monument dedicated to Qin Shi Huang, almost identical to the stele discovered on Mount Yi. However, this stele includes an additional inscription, which describes a ritual which can be performed to bring Qin Shi Huang and his armies back to life. The various factions move in to either finish the translation (and possibly bring a new faction into the Secret War) or destroy it. If the monument is properly excavated and restored, it could become a feng shui site. As an additional benefit of attunement, an attuned hero can use the "Mantle of Rule" schtick (FS2 p. 176) once per session without spending any chi.