Tung-fang Shuo

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File:289px-Dong fang Shuo.jpg
A mid-19th century depiction of Tung-fang Shuo

(Also known, depending on which orthography / name schema one is using, as Shuo Tung-fang.)

Because the Chinese culture was astahfrith for many centuries, a surprising number of its wizards became famous in popular culture as well as among those familiar with errantry. Tung-fang Shuo would have been one of the best-known of these.

He was apparently born in the reign of the Han emperor Wu-Ti, in the mid-1st century BC. Early accounts say that he grew up with unusual speed, and began showing his powers at a surprisingly early age, performing great feats of colocation, relocation and timesliding (thus provoking the usual suspicions among the major wizards of the time that he might have been one of the Abdals). No details are preserved of his Ordeal, though there is a recurring legend of the period that he did not have one. If this is true, this would put him among the very limited number of wizards known to have been Abstainees in this particular mode. In his early days of errantry, Shuo was said to have "played with the elements in such a way that the whole universe was upset," giving rise to certain theories about him in later years.

He seems to have settled down somewhat in his adult practice...though even then his compatriates and work partners described him as "sometimes deep, sometimes superficial, sometimes open, sometimes secretive," saying that "it was always impossible to know where one stood with him." He journeyed widely, however, was of considerable service to the Emperor, and did much groundbreaking wizardly work in his late twenties and early thirties.

A great number of texts on wizardry, alchemy, and what would now be taken for "alternate spiritualities" are attributed to Shuo, one of the best-known involving his contributions to Spirit Tokens of the Ling Qi Jing (or Ling Ch'i Ching, depending on which orthography you're using.) This appears on the surface to be a book of commonplace oracles of the period, but its assumed content, when decrypted, shows it also to be a masterly discussion of the "lifestyles" of creatures native to other planes of being, apparently the fruit of a prolonged period spent traveling on the High Road. It is one of the first texts to describe the Transcendent Pig and the proper protocols for addressing it.

Also well known is the geomantic text Accounts of the Ten Continents, which discusses at length the questions of "national character" and continental personality, the issues surrounding the concept of the planet as a living organism and consciousness, and various other topics closely associated with geomancy and other "ground-bound" forms of wizardry.

Shuo vanished suddenly in what was believed to be his fortieth year of age, having not long before told the Emperor that "only the court astronomer knows who I really am." After the wizard's disappearance, the Emperor consulted the astronomer and discovered that a "guest star" or nova had been sighted just before Shuo's birth, and had just now reappeared in the same position. (The star in question appears to be one in Ursa Major: the name "Shuo" refers generally to the stars in the Chinese version of this constellation.) Wizards hearing this story, reluctant as usual to attribute the stellar event entirely to coincidence -- bearing in mind how rare true coincidences are when the Powers that Be are involved -- have come up with all kinds of theories, on none of which the Manual sheds any light. But two of the most popular are that Tung-fang Shuo was in fact one of the Immortals, temporarily exiled from the bureaucracy of Heaven for some kind of misbehavior: or else an Exhalation, whose time on Earth was actually his Ordeal.

(See also: Stellar wizardries: China.)