Culture Corner #2: Immortals
Welcome to the Culture Corner
Welcome back to the Culture Corner with Tao Jones. If you’re new to the Culture Corner, this is a little column that is your guide to the world. It’s great to be a hero, but if you don’t understand what it is you’re trying to save, then it’s a little harder to appreciate it. That’s what I’m here for. Each column, I’m going to take a part of Chinese culture in our games and explain it in a little more depth.
One thing you’re going to inevitably notice in Zentia is the world “Immortal” being thrown around. Your character was once an immortal, and is trying to become one again. A good number of Taosts in the world are trying to become immortals. Immortals themselves sometimes hang out in the world and help you out. So what are they?
Well, you might have guessed, but they’re a lot more than just people who live forever. An immortal is someone who has attained enlightenment. It’s actually a lot like the original concept of alchemy. Alchemists wanted to turn base metals into gold, but they also wanted to obtain eternal life and infinite wisdom. Becoming an immortal is more about the spiritual rewards than the physical. However, it’s not just humans who can become immortals, though. Animals can become immortals as well. In fact, you may have already met some, although we’ll cover that some other time.
A group of immortal hopefuls in their natural environment.
Caution: Taking their heads will not also take their power. Well, maybe if it's Tiger Baby.
Becoming an immortal includes a number of benefits. The most obvious one, as you could probably guess from the name, is eternal life. Enlightenment and an ultimate understanding of the universe are nice too, but those are things you have to obtain on the way to becoming an immortal. The primary benefit really is about the journey and less about the destination. However, actually becoming an immortal does have a number of benefits. They gain a wide variety of supernatural powers, such as the abiltiy to fly, cure disease by the power of thought, and making three-minute ramen in three seconds. Okay, maybe not that last one, but you get the idea.
Of course, actually becoming an immortal is not exactly easy. In Zentia, you have to go through the Heavenly Tests, but all that really measures is how powerful and determined you are. And like you might guess from the alarming number of evil immortals out there, it doesn’t exactly filter for people who care about anyone else.
In actual lore, becoming an immortal requires a lot less spiritual advancement through combat and a lot more rigid training. This can involve endless experimentation to create an elixir of immortality, countless hours spent on breathing and meditation, refraining from eating grain and meat, or other methods. It requires a tremendous amount of work and dedication, and it’s impossible to live a normal life.
Even when someone finally does become an immortal, not all immortals are ascended equal. See, the traditional Chinese cosmology, in spite of all its fantastical elements, is heavily based on the imperial bureaucracy. That means that everyone has their place, and newcomers aren’t instantly treated as equals. You’re the new intern, and everyone is going to want you to get their coffee. Kinda puts the Zentia background in a new light.
And none of that instant stuff, do you hear me?
Those ever-present Earth Immortals you see around are there for a reason. The other immortals won’t let them leave the Earth, hence their name. They’re just one type of a new immortal, having used a method to transform all of their yin chi into yang chi and attained immortal bodies. They don’t need to eat or drink, and they don’t care if the weather is hot or cold. However, they still have bodies, so they’ve got to stay on Earth. So after all that they’ve been through, their climb up the metaphorical immortal corporate ladder isn’t done yet. They’re just getting started. The next step is to shed their bodies, and then once they’re promoted, they’ve got even more work ahead of them, assuming they don’t want to just settle into their position and be content.
Still, it does have its perks. Immortals get to live forever. They get a variety of supernatural powers, as well as being freed from the limits and needs of the body and attaining spiritually enlightenment. People also look up to them as spiritual role models and heroes. It’s a lifetime of effort for countless lifetimes of reward (and also countless lifetimes of effort). Pursing the path to becoming an immortal isn’t for everyone, but with the potential payoff, it’s not hard to understand why people would undertake an immortal journey.
Until next time, take care.
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