Penglai - Sigma Draconis world settled by Chinese colonists

Image from Steve Bowers

Penglai Data Panel

System:Sigma Draconis
Planet:Sigma Draconis I
Planet Type:originally EoGaian, terraformed to Eugaian
Distance from Primary:0.8 AU
Year:0.736 earth-years
Diameter:15,281 kilometres
Density:1.2 times Earth
Gravity:1.421 g
Day:32 hours
Axial Tilt:15 degrees
Geography:Physical: The surface is 70% water, with several fragmented continents; overall the planet is quite mountainous but the mountains tend to be low due to the high gravity. The largest continent is Hanxiang on the northern hemisphere, with the extensive Lao plateau (where Tsi Leng is located). It sends out a rocky peninsula called the Three Mountains, the site for Hao Chen (capital Xiuyang). Around the peninsula lies the New Yellow Sea, with many offshore platforms and atmospheric conversion units. To the south lies the continent Dengdian, with Daonin on the extensive coastal plains (capital Hung-Ching) . To the southeast, on the island of Linyi lies Hsu Hsi (capital Nung-wu). The other continents (Lienru, Tienhu, Goufanglei) and major islands are largely uninhabited or set aside as parkland or natural reserves.

Climate: The weather is cool, with large icecaps on the poles and few truly warm summers even at the equator. However, whenever the vegetation is dry it can be ignited, and fires are a constant danger even in winter.

Biology and Ecology: The indigenous anaerobic ecosystem was completely annihilated by the increasing oxygen content and terraforming activities, apart from a few sealed preserves. The largest of which, Chang Biosphere, is a vast triple-sealed air-tight dome on the East Coast of the Yellow Sea. The surviving lifeforms are all microscopic and microbial, although anaerobic branching stromatolite analogues are common, especially in shallow sunlit waters, and can reach several meters in diameter.

The surface layers of Penglai oceans were and still remain very nutrient poor, while most nutrients are found in the depths. Penglai currently has extensive deep sea ecosystems, consisting of immense labyrinths of coral-like bacterial growths that seem to have somewhere hybridised with the terraforming microbes and acquired oxygen tolerance.

A few other indigenous microbes seemed to have survived the transition to the oxygen atmosphere, either through an intrinsic tolerance to oxygen or hybridisation with terraforming microbes. For the most part though the Penglai ecosystem consists of introduced Earth-derived organisms.

Natural Satellites: Penglai has a single moon, Yue. Yue is just 584 km in diameter, orbiting 600-900,000 km away in a rather eccentric orbit. This is the location of a small colony of heroms, and the old and historical Imperial Penglai fleet base.
AIAI overseers: the Heavenly Immortals (Sophic League affiliation0

AI's ethos: Encourages Local Culture, Mildly Interventionist, pro-human
PolityRepublic of Penglai Symbol: Penglaian Empire: A yellow star on a red background, surrounded by a black dragon holding it.
Penglai today: A black dragon against a red circle

Affiliation: Sophic League

Founded/Colonized: 578 a.t.

Timekeeping: The terrestrial measures are officially used, locally the Chinese calendar in various forms is used for dates. The day has 32 hours (with 14 leap minutes). In Daoling and Tsi Leng people live in 24 hour shifts, using hormone supplements to avoid jet lag. The original Chinese calendar, being lunisolar, was adapted to the long period of Yue (139 Earth-days, or 104.25 Penglai-days) by dividing it in three months of 34 or 35 days. The penglaiese solar year is 201.7 days, making it slightly less than six months long.

Psyche, Art, CultureMetapsychology and Metaethics: Neo-Taoist, Hsienist, and Sophist elements can all be found

Religion/Ideology: Reformed NeoTaoism (official), but Han Jovism, Penglaist Genetekkerism, Sophism, and Cosmosophism are all widely followed

Language: Penglaiese (official). Penglaiese Anglish, Chinglish, Douh, Brev, and Neo-Eridanus Mandarin are also among the many languages spoken

Aesthetics/Architecture/Style: In architecture, organisation and planning Penglai tends towards the huge and monumental. Everything is built to last, with big safety margins and heavy foundations. At the same time the ideas of neo-Taoist synergetics are prevalent: the immense should be built as elegantly and lightly as possible, often exploiting unusual symmetries and interlocking parts. Combined with a resurgence of traditional Chinese baroque (dragons, ornamental lattices, bodhisattvas etc), Old School Conver Ambi, and Sophic League Iconography, the result is a very unique style mixing old and new, robust with elegant, heavy with light.

Personal clothing tends towards the warm and practical. Coats are cylindrical affairs with thick arms, not unlike Old Earth Russian bojar coats.
Territory and PopulationPopulation: Penglai Surface Total - 16,144,202.
Hao Chen: 5,209308.
Daonin: 5,967,446.
Tsi Leng: 1,241,861.
Hsu Hsi: 3,725,587.
orbital: 153,262,000.

Population breakdown: Surface: Penglaiese tweaks (Homo penglaenisis - heavy world and local biochemistry adaptations) make up 72 percent of the population. There is a smaller number of bioborgs, heroms, vecs, and other groups

Orbitals: a combination of baseline/near baseline, genetekkerese heroms, virtual, non-genetekkerese tweak, space-adapted tweak, bioborg, vec, splice, and other races
Territories: Penglai, Yue, and Orbitals, all of Cis-Penglai Space, several minor asteroids

Planetary Nations.
Tsi Leng is located on the Lao Plateau, which covers much of the continent Hanxiang. The climate is harsh, with cold northerly winds blowing for much of the year and occasional sweeping fires. Still, the plateau is the most mineral rich part of the planet, with huge resources of everything from copper to rare earth metals. These were extensively mined during the Federation period, but the remaining resources are now protected. Tsi Leng has never had any real capital, since the widespread settlements and outposts were tightly connected through the net; just like on Nova Terra instead a virtual government did as well as a physical. Decisions are made through an invisible virtual bureaucracy where the hyperturing bureaucrats are widely dispersed but connected; it is sometimes jokingly called the Celestial Bureaucracy. While this gave Tsi Leng one of the most flexible governments on Penglai, it has not been enough to get the nation competitive, even at the height of the Penglaist empire. People have whenever possible moved to other nations, orbitals, or worlds, and by the 15th century the brain-drain to Daonin became serious. Since the early Empires age the whole country has retained a rural, faintly neo-primitivist air, and it is a popular spot with traditionalists, ludds, and anti-aioidists. The local administrations sometimes provide token work, there have been little energy or manpower left to develop the potential of the plateau. It is even today an old Penglaiese joke that Tsi Leng is the place where nothing has ever happened and never will.

Hao Chen is a rainy, mountainous peninsula. Due to the high gravity rain falls heavier, making people loath to go outside without protection. Most cities have at least covered walkways and streets with glass ceilings. At first the sub-colony was quite successful, becoming a major supplier of heavy manufacturing equipment and cultured meat (China had solved the problem of keeping people supplied with protein in the 150s by culturing meat in nutrient tanks instead of as inefficient grazers; this has become a staple on Penglai to a much larger extent than it ever did in China, in fact Penglaiese often prefer cultured meats to natural ones). Following the Dirty War (893), the country became a center of social unrest and on-going headache for the dynasty. The country remained a mess until the Hsien Dynasty managed to restore some measure of order, but social problems remained well into the Interstellar Empires era. Since the Second Federation period the area has been only very lightly populated.

Daonin is historically the most successful of the nations of Penglai. Blessed with a fairly pleasant climate, good farming and a concentration of the intellectual capital, it was the richest and most dynamic nation. Most of the rains that plague Hao Chen pass right overhead, releasing their water in the interior mountains instead on the coastal plains. Several deep and powerful rivers pass through Daonin, which is still toady often called the Land of Bridges. The capital Hung-Ching is the major city on the planet, with the premier universities, largest corporations and the Electric City, an area where many of the rich and famous have congregated. The Electric City got its name from a popular song in the 1520's; it is a park-like area where unassuming but very, very expensive buildings overlook the canyon of the Ao river. Many people have flocked to Daonin from the other colonies and form important subcultures; in addition the inhabitants are known to be less rigid and traditional than the other nations and take a pride in inventing new outrageous styles. Unlike the other colonies Daonin is fairly conservative and bureaucratic, at least officially.

Hsu Hsi (originally called Yangko) is located on the fertile Linyi island in the southern Yellow Sea. It is a nearly flat island, which has some flooding problems when the winds become too strong. Many of the buildings and cities are built on heavy concrete foundations or inside geodesic domes. It was here Yuan Guen worked, and neo-Taoism is also strongest here. The Hsien revolt began here, and during the later Federation period the continent was given preferential treatment and became the planetside center, with the capital Nung-wu. Today the old administrative centers are popular tourist stops. The shrine located on the spot where Master Michael Qian Ganymede is said by popular folklore to have ascended bodily into posthumanism, and serviced by several local monasteries, is another spot worth visiting.

Penglai Map
Image from Anders Sandberg

Immigration:Immigration: currently 1.5 million per tenyear
Emigration: currently 5 million per tenyear
Immigration laws are very strict on the surface, little less so in the Orbitals.
Government and AdministrationGovernment Type Representative Cyberdemocracy7 under mild hyperturing supervision

Administrative divisions: Terrestrial and Planetary Provinces with limited local autonomy

National holidays: A number of local festival dates

Constitution: Penglai Charter of Polityhood (Sophic) - this being an update of the previous Hsien version

Legal system: Standard Sophic League law applies, with local modifications

Foreign Policy: Good relations with other Old Core worlds, with the Sophic League, and elsewhere
Economics, Local InfrastructureEconomy: Sophic Socialism

Currency: Penglaist Yuan. The various nations and orbitals have their own scrips of lesser value.

Major Industries: alife, tourism, virches, personality constructs, memetic templates, wetware, pharmopoetics, bioborg parts, persona compoids, crude organobiota.

Angelnetting : In some surface cities and a number of orbitals
Major Orbitals: Shun-Xie, Jade City, several smaller orbitals

Penglai Surface
Image from Anders Sandberg
Penglai Surface


Early History
The Jian Dynasty Period
The Cinnabar Alliance
The Federation Period
The Hsien Ascendancy
The Penglai Empire
Penglai Today - Institutes

Early History

Penglai was colonised by middle management Ethnic Chinese Orbitals and other nationals, mostly wealthy baselines with some capital and looking for a better life away from the stifling conditions of Earth, who bought up settlement interests from a Chinese orbital conglomerate known as Heavenly Palaces Incorporated. Others in the mission included Jovian, especially Genetekker, interests and several terran, cis-lunar, and Martian megacorp colonists. The unilateral independence of the Jovian League and the loss to the inner worlds of the cheap He3 resources had put a damper on Terran and Cis-Lunar interests in colonising nearby star systems. While Earth and the Orbitals struggled with expensive and unreliable amat technology, Heavenly Palaces Inc had become hot news due to their new alliance with the several Genetekker Clades, among them the Ch'i Hai (Sea of Ch'i or Sea of Lifeforce). With access to vast He3 resources, and big investment by the various startup companies riding the space migration boom, employed people with liquid assets, the big Chinese Economic Autonomous Zones like Shanghai, Beijing, and Hong Kong, but also the North and South Chinese Governments (or what was left of them after the secession of EAZs), the stock prices for Heavenly Palaces had gone through the roof. H. P. Inc was now engaged in a number of major colonisation projects together with Clade Sea of Ch'i. This involved construction of an elaborate pellet stream system. The most exciting of these was a mission to Sigma Draconis - a K0 star 5.61 parsecs distant, which had been shown to have at least one reasonably Earth-type planet.

Long range observations indicated Sigma Draconis I had a reducing atmosphere not unlike that of Archaean (early Precambrian) Earth. Scientists were divided as to whether this indicated an absence of life or a rich anaerobic eco-system. In any case, spectroscopic evidence and computer simulation indicated that the world could be terraformed given enough time and sufficient bio-nanotechnology; in fact terraforming would probably be easier and quicker than Mars. This was the decision behind Heavenly Palace's choice of the world, for which, in conjunction which the Jovian League and the other accompanying megacorps, had bought terraforming, limited colonization and mining rights.

Clade Ch'i Hai consisted largely of taoist transhumanists who sought to gengineer themselves for maximal vitality and longevity. Whereas the Cosmists and the gibsons dreamt of uploading their consciousness into the core of an AI, thus merging with the AI and attaining immortality in the Matrix, and the Extropian Cyborgs tried to engineer nanotech bodies for themselves (usually less than successfully), Clade Sea of Ch'i used body-enhancing practices like Tai Chi, martial arts, and especially Nei Tan (Internal Alchemy). Their belief-system was based on a synthesis of yogic Taoism, elements of ecology, Feng Shui, biotic transhumanism, and complexity theory. Although Clade Sea of Ch'i did not have the clout of the superwealthy clades like Clade Sterling and Clade Erotic Ascension, they had sufficient He3 investments to give support to the project, and pull some diplomatic strings with the other clades.

The Sigma Draconis project caused more than a little diplomatic tension, coming as it did when the new superpowers were squaring off, and it is believed that the rest of the Genetekker clades gave the mission support out of resentment for their exclusion from the Nova Terran mission. As a result the conglomerate Heavenly Palaces was blacklisted by many of the other orbitals (apart from the GenTEK and a few others who always had longstanding Genetekker sympathies), and were doubly resented when they were granted Favoured Trade Status by the Gengineer Republic.

The four colonisation ships were launched in 414-416 a.t.. Propulsion was via mass-driver-launched pellet stream and plasma-sail. The Clade Sea of Ch'i representatives refused the bradymetabolic hypersleep that would enable only 5 years of aging over the century-long period. They believed that hypersleep irreparably depleted the ch'i, thru deleteriously effecting the meridians (and it is true that those colonists who underwent hypersleep in those days generally had their mean life expectancy reduced by some 15 or 20 years, and often required indefinite medical nano). Besides, having spent their whole lives in the cramped and relatively low-tech conditions of the genetekker habitats, actually found the colony ships like luxury hotels, especially after they had draped the austere settings with vegetation, sand and rock and goldfish ponds, and numerous wooden furnishings.

Piloting and maintenance was done by robot, overseen by the Heavenly Palaces crewmembers on rotating shifts (2 years on, 20 years off). The Orbital high tech crew shifts resented the numerous genetekker modifications to the living quarters of what they considered "their" ship, and the lo tech but hi yogic Clade Sea of Ch'i shared the general Gengineer/Genetekker contempt for anything Orbital. The two factions had lukewarm relations at best, and politely stayed out of each other's way in a manner of mild mutual contempt.

It was during somewhat early in the voyage, when the ships had left the other limit of the Sol System Oort Cloud, that one of the genetekkers, Michael Qian Ganymede, had a vision (although he always claimed it was a concrete experience) in which the the Three Immortals appeared to him and told him of the new world they would settle, and the many difficulties that would be faced before they became a mighty empire

The lead colony ship arrived in 578, the others at ten year intervals. Master Michael Qian Ganymede, now a senior member of the mission subclade, was by this time over two centuries old, although his tweaked constitution, symbiotic bionano, and long regular practice of internal alchemy had kept his body unusually youthful and supple, and in appearance he looked no more than a baseline 30. Whereas Heavenly Palaces corporation had already named the innermost and only earthlike planet in the system New China, Ganymede and his followers insisted be named Penglai after the paradise island of the immortals.

Penglai proved to be not quite as earth-like as the long-range probes had indicated. The day was too long, the gravity high, the air allergenic (due to immune system response to local micro-organisms), and the indigenous bio-chemistry incompatible with terrestrial life.

The first task was building a communications link to Sol and using the ship as a temporary orbital base above Penglai. In addition to Penglai there were three other large planets in the system; gas giants named Turtle, Carp and Dragon. There was some disputation between the genetekkers, the non-genetekker Jovian League reps, the Heavenly Palaces administration, and the other megacorps as to who would lay claim to this rich resource, and it was decided to put the matter on hold until receiving a reply form the Sol system

A scouting party sent down to the surface discovered an abundance of anaerobic bacteria belonging to several distinct very phyla and a dna-analogue genetic structure, but metabolically not unlike the thermophiles and methanogens of Earth. Immediately a heated argument began among the colonists over whether they had the right to annihilate an entire biosphere and replace it with their own. The ecologists, headed by Mission 2nd in command Dr Phileus Chang, wanted the Penglaian biosphere left intact and suggested instead construction of permanent orbital habitats along the O'Neill line. The genetekkers were happy with this; they had spent most of their lives in space so it would not be a radical step. Unfortunately his party was in the minority and most colonists sided with the Mission commander Ricardo Xiang, who, while sensitive to the ecologist position, argued they had not come trillions of kilometers just to remain in orbital habitats. Michael Qian Ganymede himself remained silent on this matter.

By 609 all ships were in Penglai orbit, with the first two ships already having set up several small orbital habitats using asteroidal material. The four ships set up four semi-independent colonies in the vicinity of each other. The idea was to adapt to local environments and to have the Heavenly Palaces' and other megacorps management coordinate and lead the colony governments. It was a giant social experiment, based on a sort of hopeful compromise between the megacorp bureaucratic management, the more spontaneous attitude of Clade Sea of Ch'i, and the squabbling needs and wishes of the colonists themselves. In time the local Heavenly Palaces admin came to deeply rue the deal their parent Corporation had made with the genetekkers and the other corps, who in turn chaffed at the fearful cautiousness and "inferior man" policies of the Board, and the colonists meanwhile insisted on setting up their own governments with bioregional e-democracy based on the system they knew at home. Problems included lost transports, language confusion due to different dialects, resource shortages and unregulated movement complicated things seriously. The local governments gradually became more and more independent, despite the attempts by Heavenly Palaces management to keep everything on track.

In 612 the arriving news (via radio wave) from surviving habitats of the widespread destruction from out of control nanoswarms technology in the Sol System led to uncertainty and anxiety. Heavenly Palaces has suffered less than some of the orbital conglomerates, thanks to blue goo shielding, all of whom were doing better than the Earth-bound corporations, almost all of which had ceased to exist as functioning units. Basically, Heavenly Palaces headquarters back home was parcelling off the Sigma Draconis system, even before receiving news from the colonists about conditions. The Jovian League had fallen apart, and the surviving Genetekkers of Clade Sea of Ch'i and the rest of the Gengineer Republic had broken from Heavenly Palaces and were migrating out system, or huddled behind blue goo shielding. Meanwhile, the surviving deep space investment megacorps still wanted the asteroid belt and half of Penglai, while the Provisional Gengineer Republic Government (in orbit around Neptune) announced territorial ownership of the three gas giants and all associated moon systems.

At Sigma Draconis the local colonial management was in crisis mode. Factions developed, the split being between company loyalists (representing the main administration) and young turks under Jian Hsin who had the support of Clade Sea of Ch'i and most of the colonists in wanting to declare independence. Meanwhile, Clade Sea of Ch'i had in turn split, with Michael Qian Ganymede declaring his support for Administrator Jian Hsin, while the Jovianist faction wished to colonise the gas giant moons.

In 615 Jian's faction led a bloodless coup. On attaining power they called themselves Penglai Colony Administration (PCA), with Jian himself as First Colony Administrator and Michael Qian Ganymede as Sage-Advisor. The old leadership was placed under indefinite house arrest. Riding on the wave of popular support and independence following their unilateral declaration of independence, Jian Hsin (or Jian-tze as he now liked to style himself) the new PCA made the local districts of Hao Chen, Daonin, Tsi Leng and Hsu Hsi became nations in their own right, and they were formally recognised by the PCA. The PCA retained control over the defence forces and acted as a kind of UN with enforcement powers. Under an agreement of alliance, the other megacorps were given ownership of most of the large Draconis Belt, while the Jovianists were allowed one of the colony ships and the gas giant moons, along with he3 mining rights.

Meanwhile sporadic transmissions from Solsys made it was a frightening time, and as with the other colonies, the local Internet buzzed with rumour and speculation, and every incoming piece of information was scrutinized, amplified, and commented on. Some of the more traditional colonists wondered at their fate for being afflicted with that familiar Chinese curse - "May you live in interesting times"

Jian hoped to build a powerful fleet to protect the Sigma Draconis system, but social problems, cultural clashes, and petty rivalries slowed things down, to say nothing of disagreements about the best design to use (especially after the original plan to convert some of the colony support vessels to fighters and light cruisers proved impractical), and after ten years they still did not have a single ship ready. Meanwhile the colony ships were being used as Standard Interplanetary Operations type ships to explore the gas giants and outer asteroid belt and set up habitats there.

Penglai Night
Image from Steve Bowers
Penglai at night

The Jian Dynasty period.

In 673 the Jian Family announced that the Penglai Colonial Administration was now a hereditary dynasty, hence-forth to be called the hereditary Jian Dynasty. The bionano-yogic Michael Qian Ganymede, disgusted with the such machiavellianism and the increasing bureaucracy, broke with the Jian Family and retreated with his followers to Linyi island, Yangko

During this period, the surface based Daonin and Hsu Hsi were the most successful nations, while Hao Chen (located on the mountainous Three Mountain Peninsula) became involved in a succession of internal conflicts, corruption affairs and outbreaks of violence, and Tsi Leng on the mineral-rich but cold-dry Lao plateau had a hard time developing its potential. To compound the problems the different colonies have Chinese and other cultures of different nationalities, and language became a problem. Despite the fear of backyarders and nanotech destabilisation from Earth there was a lot of rivalry, dissension, and administration problems on Penglai. The Dynasty administration several times had to organise action against deserters who in response to the allergens, tried to engineer ready-made bio-organisms that would interfere with and further disrupt the already difficult process of terraforming.

The core of Penglaiese politics at this time was the guanxis. A guanxi is a personal network, a bit like old school ties but with stronger Confucian and hierarchical implications. A subordinate friend is obliged to help his superior in all things, and can expect the help and protection from the superior. Certain guanxis become extremely powerful, ranging over the whole colony and enabling the leading members to influence just about everything through their widely distributed net of obligations. The PCA had originally tried to prevent this by setting up the four sub-colonies in isolation from each other, but the result was that guanxis gained much stronger local control (an additional factor to their independence), and once the policy was softened guanxis began to spread internationally. In order for anybody to rise above the national political level they need support from the international guanxis, which by now dominate the PCA.

The Jian Dynasty always thought big. The various projects instituted from the start consumed tremendous resources, but also became useful rallying points for the different colonies. The atmospheric modification units in the New Yellow Sea and on the Lao plateau converted carbonates into huge amounts of carbon dioxide in an attempt to warm the planet, while a great orbital catapult was constructed near Daonin. Another area where Penglai developed was materials science; the Daonin project and the needs of the colony necessitated the development of light, strong, flexible and cheap materials. In time designer materials became a major product, including smart materials with noticeable computing power, ultra-strong composites and moving gels.

Pen-Yu Hospital
Image from Anders Sandberg
The PCA hospital at Pen-Yu in Hao Chen. The hospital complex, built during the early colonisation effort, was deliberately built to withstand extreme weather and major loading. It has submarine hangars to deal with causalities from the Yellow Sea projects, and was equipped to act as a local disaster relief centre. While these functions were underused, it also housed the PCA Adaptation Program which co-ordinated the adaptation measures made to help humans adapt to Penglai.

The hospital was a major PCA stronghold. During the Dirty War it remained neutral ground, and PCA activities in Hao Chen were coordinated from there. There were rumors that the complex was the headquarters of a secret PCA surveillance progam, but these rumors have never been confirmed.

The Dirty War

In 889 the Hao Chen government was toppled by a serious corruption scandal (including sex, murder, abuse of power and many juicy details) leaving a major power vacuum. The Jian Dynasty administration moved in too late, several dissenting fractions jockeyed for power and the "compromise government" the Dynasty set up found itself opposed from all directions. Over the span of a few years it weakened more and more, despite strong Dynasty support, and in 893 the rising level of street violence grew to civil war. The "Dirty War" as it became called lasted just for a few months. The Jian Dynasty used its influence to open the borders of Hao Chen so that anybody who wanted to leave for the other colonies could do so; this quickly bled the Hao Chen economy dry and drained away most of the non-aligned people. Then the Dynasty gave its full support to one of the strongest fractions, the Three Yard Guanxi, and made it the new government. Unfortunately the émigrés did not all move back as intended to rebuild the land, and a complicated process of semi-forced relocations, changed citizenships and minor terrorism gave the Jian family gray hairs. In the end some enclaves of ex-Hao Chen people remained in Hsu Hsi and Daonin, in time becoming important in planetary trade and industry despite the imposed borders. Hao Chen slowly recovered, but the government remained shaky. Several times it has fallen, only to be restored after more or less devious manoeuvring among the "fractions", the different groups that try to rule the peninsula. To make matters worse, many of these fractions now have complex ties to the other colonies, the underworld, terrorism or even the Dynasty in various ways.

The Cinnabar Alliance

Hsu Hsi (originally called Yangko) where Master Michael Qian Ganymede retreated following is break with the Jian family. When the nation became independent a radical anti-Jian neo-Taoist group, the Cinnabar Alliance, tried to gain power but were rebuffed by the regional government. However, over time they gradually won influence, and in 2935 they actually managed to reach the presidency. One of their first acts was to rename the nation, and then they began a program to undercut Jian influence. The Dynasty, wise of the mistakes it had done in Hao Chen did a surgical political strike against the Cinnabar Alliance, succeeding in removing the leadership and putting a moderate fraction back in power. The other nations supported the move (more or less), and in the end the radical reforms were removed, except for a few popular ones like the name of the nation. The strike was fairly unpopular in Hsu Hsi, and added to support for the Hsien. The nation remained both unwilling to submit to the Dynasty leadership and fairly independent right up until the Hsien coup. The large oceanic installations of the Yellow Sea were often based on Linyi, and the island reaped great economic benefits from every new construction regardless of who pays for it.

The Federation Period

The arrival of the Federation was a period of tremendous cultural development for both sides. While the Penglaists gained from the influx of Federation ultra tech and the opening up of new trade routes, the Federation renaissance was fascinated by Penglaist ideas, as it was by all the colonies. And among the most influential elements of Penglaist culture to infuse the federation were the various schools and sects of Neo-taoism.

From the beginning, Taoism remained popular, and several schools developed. In addition to the orthodox school of Master Michael Qian Ganymede there was the more intellectual development of researcher-artist named Yuan Guen and his students. This placed less emphasis on difficult and esoteric Chinese yogic practices and more on a synthesis of quietist Taoism (drawing heavily from Lao-tze and Chung-tze) with the synergetics of Buckminster Fuller and complexity theory. Being more accessible to the intellectual middle management types, it emerged to become an important influence in Penglaiese society, art and technology. While some offshoots resisted the terraforming projects, the mainstream neo-Taoists embraced them wholeheartedly, developing better ways of using a minimal amount of matter and energy to change the planet.

During the early Federation Period the Jian Dynasty was still going strong. It had become a huge bureaucracy with many departments, officials willing to organise/interfere with the national governments and subtle power-gaming between different guanxis, departments and views. Most of the higher administration was located on the big orbital Shun-Xie, but many departments were located in immense bureaucratic arcologies on the ground.

The Jian Dynasty's on-going attempts at terraforming the planetary ecosystem, changing it from a reducing to an oxygen atmosphere had not gone well, and even after centuries of terraforming, adapting to Penglai was tricky. The day was too long, the gravity high, the air oxygen poor and often unpleasantly allergenic, due to an unexpected cross-hybridisation of local microbes with terraforming organisms; the latter has been called Penglaian's' Revenge. These problems were eventually solved by various medical treatments and some limited genetic modifications of children; even to this stardate the Penglaiese today tend to be short, stout, have a longer diurnal cycle and are highly resistant against many allergens. However, these measures were less implemented in certain districts, and other solutions such as exoskeletons were also used. The neo-Taoist purity ideals contradict the adaptation ideas; there have been fierce debates on whether the modifications are a dangerous pollution of the bodies of the citizenry. In the end, the neo-Taoists split into a spectrum ranging from the small "School of Inner Alchemy" (derived originally from Master Michael Qian Ganymede which thinks that all the changes are negative and should not be given to children, and the more liberal "School of Outer Alchemy" which claims these changes really are part of the Way. An even more extreme group, the Hsien, claim further enhancements are the Way, but this view was disliked by most of the population. Overall, even today, the Penglaiese value purity and perfection highly. A spotless design, a clean room, an illustrious career is regarded as ideals to strive for.

The Hsien Ascendancy

The Hsien, "the immortals", began as a libertarian transhumanist-genetekkerese-neoTaoist movement with strong bionano augmentation. They were and still are individualistic and opposed to the hierarchical Penglai society with its taboos on human enhancement. Originally a group of quite diverse radical neo-Taoists in Hsu Hsi, Daonin and on some Dragon orbitals, they were suppressed by the Jian dynasty when they broke against the genetics laws to improve themselves. The Jian Family however had no jurisdiction over the gas giant orbitals, and they continued their culture there. Their core belief was that the human body and mind can be perfected by neo-Taoist principles, genetic engineering, symbionts and training. The Jian's suppression of Cinnabar Alliance, while popular among the nearbaselines, added greatly to support for the Hsien offworld, and by neo-taoists on Penglai. By the 10th century the Hsien developed into an underground network working against the Penglai Dynasty and blamed for terrorist activities across Penglai; untangling what is real Hsien activities, unrelated groups, rumours and propaganda proved almost impossible for the authorities. Their secret leader (or leaders) are referred to The Great Sage, Equal of Heaven (a reference to Sun Wu Kong, the rebellious monkey king in Chinese legend who perfected himself and sought to overthrow the Jade Emperor of Heaven).

With the arrival of the Federation, the Hsien mystique inspired many romantic and dramatic interactives and other classic literary medias, some of which, like Gen Li tsu's Monkey of Penglai, remain much-loved classics both on Penglai and throughout the civilized galaxy, to this very stardate.

The rising popularity of the Hsien infuriated the Jian Dynasty, who protested against the Federation and Nova mediacorps. But their heavy-handed attempts at memetic censorship only added to the sympathy for the Hsien.

In 1205, with local Jovianist and Federation Genen help, the Hsien managed to organise a bloody revolt. The by now much loathed Jian Dynasty was toppled, and the Hsien Dynasty instituted in its place. Despite Federation objections (the Federation had offered the leadership a safe haven at Cis-Lunar in exchange for their stepping down and avoiding further bloodshed), the old leadership was executed for "crimes against the people"

The Penglai Empire

In the following centuries, under Hsien leadership, the Penglai planetsiders, the belters, and jovianists merged in a solar-system wide empire. The Hsien approach was much more fluid and libertarian than the old Jian Dynasty. While many differences remained, the various factions realised they had more in common with each other than with the Federation, who by the 1500s was seen to be a lackey for off-system megacorps interested only in exploiting their natural resources.
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Image from Anders Sandberg


All of the once-vibrant Penglai Institutes are now hide-bound in centuries of tradition, most under hereditary meritocracy or aicracy Evoltech is a hereditary /Old House consortium selling evolved software, alife and other products of complexity engineering offplanet. It has long-standing links with a number of other old core worlds, including Nova Terran and Unity AI companies and Atlantean micro-trading software.

The Association of Free Enquiry began as a scientific association working for academic freedom. Over time it changed, and by the Hsien era it had now become a part of the Penglaiese academic establishment rather as an oversight group and special interest organisation working closely with the PCA Education Department. Since the Empires period it has been under hyperturing rule

The Order of I is a neo-Taoist/post-Confucianist/Quasi-Sophist conservative religious group. I is a concept in Confucianist ethics denoting acting right in any situation without any thought of personal gain. They wander around Penglai, preaching neo-Taoism and promoting their own religious values. Many regard them as moral busybodies, more interested in explaining to others what they are doing wrong than changing anything themselves. The movement has some following among ethnic Penglaiese and others throughout the Nexus.

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Development Notes
Text by Anders Sandberg and M. Alan Kazlev

Initially published on 23 July 2000.

Fiction relating to Penglai

Traveller's Notes - Penglai