View Full Version : Touenkoku

08-10-2013, 05:35 AM

Yes, it's a Fantasy China through a Japanese lens for a multiverse of manga- and anime-trope based stories with one side character taking part in all of them. The idea for the setting (using a protagonist who lives at the crossroads of different genre domains and acts as a go-between and a surprise factor) is versatile, and I've had two versions in my head: Elizabeth Ekstrand (Ellie Extra), inhabitant of Not Sunnyville somewhere on the shores of I Can't Believe It's Not Lake Superior, and this one, with Yamada Tarou, normal boy. For reasons I will leave for the reader to figure out, I ended up thinking that making Yamada's story would be easier (because I am probably not going to figure out Minnesota), so here's one part of that multiverse. The previous map I worked on here was for Elysion, a more straightforward JRPG / Japanese high fantasy world that you'll find in this forum.

Touenkoku, the Land of the Peach Orchard, is a really fantastic, high-on-wonder Fantasy China. It is ruled by the Emperor or the Empress, may they reign a thousand years, milk flows and trees grow delicious fruit and animal does not kill animal because all the people are shapeshifting animals. The northern steppes have hordes of galloping horse warriors, or warrior horses, and the south is dominated by oxen in the fields, tigers and cats tend to go into law enforcement, and mice and rats are rich and poor merchants, etc. etc. Gain enough mojo and magic, and maybe your animal forms turns into a qilin or dragon or a justice beast (especially if you're a tiger already), gain enough strength and prestige and turn into a tiger if you're a cat, etc. etc. that sort of thing. The current Empress is a phoenix. Everyone is vegan. Well, maybe they might eat fish and insects, haven't figured that out yet.

The land is divided into five major provinces, eastern Blue, western white, northern Black, southern Red and central Yellow provinces. The capital, Ōkyō, the Yellow Capital, lies in Yellow province, Ōshū.

If Elysion was tied into the multiverse by being a story where a group of friends are the Chosen Ones ported into that world to defeat an evil emperor, Touenkoku is more of a paradise-like background place from where the powers of a group of taoist/onmyodo inspired magical girls originate. Their Magical Girl Magical Pet is a qilin, they wield swords or other weapons, and fight against spirit monsters that try enter Touenkoku by stepping through a portal that the girls opened with a magical scroll detailing divination techniques a couple years back. Besides fighting these spirit monsters hidden within time-stasis bubbles, the qilin is also a high-ranking member of the court whose job is really recruitment -- for example, recruiting young people who could be groomed into emperors later on during their "retirement" to Touenkoku.

For the map, I've chosen to use this map:

File:GeneralMapOfDistancesAndHistoricCapitals.jpg - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:GeneralMapOfDistancesAndHistoricCapitals.jpg)

as the basis of the style. The shorelines are different from what I usually do, for example: the "puff" outwards, while I tend to "carve" inwards.

But I've also decided to take it slow with this one, so hopefully I won't update too often.

08-11-2013, 05:42 AM
Here's something for the river police.


Adam Buxton does NWA - Help The Police - YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Kf4kyQabwQ)

They're canals.

08-11-2013, 06:19 AM
I like where this is going, your inspiration map is a golden find. (also with that many rivers in close proximity to each other It wouldn't surprise me if they were highly linked with canals) If anything the rivers on the map you linked are really crazy, yours are truly sedate in comparison..

08-11-2013, 10:54 AM

Just a parchment script test with updated river system.

I've gone with Spiro spline rivers to make them look more stylised and abstract. Next step is to modify them in raster, that is, carve out sharp corners, make some lakes, etc. etc. Maybe try to somehow make the strokes a bit less even and precise.

What I'd really like to know is where to find out what the iconography and text formats of the old Chinese EDIT: or maybe rather Korean andor Japanese :TIDE maps mean. I mean, obviously the red rectangles are town or villages, but then there's the red-outlined white rectangles that are found once or twice per nation (Summer and Winter capitals??) then there's big round ones you see around, and some of them have square zigzag lines to denote important walls or fortifications, etc.


And another one, now with wonkified rivers:


08-15-2013, 03:02 PM
I think I've come up with a basic method to make a bit more "freehand" looking rivers.

Rivers made with vector tools, like Inkscape (which is what I've been using because I needed tapering) tend to end up too perfect for my tastes, you can see what I mean from the examples above. I like the stylisation of the Spiro splines, though, so I'd like to just modify the rivers a bit. I tried the iwarp tool in GIMP but that is completely impractical for this scale.

I decided to use it again today, after a break for work and stuff this week again, and accidentally picked the other warp tool, which warps using a b&w filter or map as a basis and went hm.

The rivers in this:


Are too blocky and artifacty, obviously, because I did it all as a test with a 1000x1000 copy of the image, but you see what I mean. As the maps, I used two random noise maps: one desaturated Plasma render and another with a bit more smooth Solid Noise. First the solid noise, then the plasma to "rough" out the outlines on a copied layer. Then adjust the levels to get rid of the greys, and it looks pretty good.

Yeah, not going to use this exact example, but I liked it enough to ask for opinions. I'm going to edit the rivers by hand a bit still, smooth out corners and riverbanks etc, then do this process at full scale (4000 x 4000 for now should be enough I hope).

08-15-2013, 03:41 PM
It sort of look like it works, but it almost gets too deliberately messy for my tastes. :p
It's kinda hard to tell with how rough it all is though.

08-15-2013, 04:55 PM
So many rivers, too many for me. But I like the general style.

08-15-2013, 06:22 PM
You seem to be going to a lot of trouble to make the rivers look freehand. Is there a reason you aren't doing them freehand? Just mildly curious and amused. It is a fabulous style.. I like the greener-grey on parchment test, but the blue is nice too.

08-16-2013, 01:17 AM
You seem to be going to a lot of trouble to make the rivers look freehand. Is there a reason you aren't doing them freehand?

There is such a thing as too much freehand. I don't have the skills and/or I don't have the patience to do tapering rivers by hand. But I don't want them to look too perfect.

Thanks for the comments, I'll keep them in mind. When I do the roughing up on a larger canvas, it should both look a bit smoother, but still have a good effect.



half-and-half image, left After, right Before.

One other reason why I do it this way is to get a workflow where I can go back and change things in the original vector (which is simple), and then just redo all the steps up that. It could even be scriptified.

Which I am considering doing now, thinking about adding islands to the south.




08-16-2013, 11:26 AM
http://i.imgur.com/6ejuR1cl.jpg (http://imgur.com/6ejuR1c)

Added those islands, went through all the junctions to smooth them out.

Added a couple of test labels, GIMP is not suitable, I'll do the rest in Inkscape.

I am not looking forward to naming everything. 1. it's hard to come up with something that isn't already used (Taoyuan=Touen is a city in Taiwan, for example), 2. man foreign languages with their writing system yknowhatimean 3. have to figure out the icons and stuff and also what terms to use for provinces and stuff, might go for dō/dao instead of shū etc.

One nice thing I've realised is that it's probably super simple to generate surnames for people by using all hanzi that refer to animals. Ma, Horse, is a real-life example. Then, Saiunkoku Monogatari style, colour terms, starting with the usual suspects.

The new city in the east is going to be the place where the East portal exists. I named it Fusangmen, Fusoumon, "Fusang-gate". Fusang is the mythical tree to the east of China upon which the ten Suns perch as they're waiting for their turn to light up the day (until nine were shot down by a mythical archer for staying in the sky with their brothers), and later Fusang became a placename for a mythical eastern land that became gradually associated with Japan or something close by.

08-16-2013, 11:47 AM
There is a little too much BRAAAAINS effect into these rivers for my taste. Also the "soft", and semi-circular, coastline does not help with that.

08-16-2013, 12:11 PM
I don't think I'm going to restart the project from the rivers at this point. I'll populate the rest of the map and see where the dice fall.

also is everyone a damn zombie, always thinking about brains grmbl grmbl

08-16-2013, 12:40 PM
It is well thought out. :)

08-16-2013, 10:17 PM
Ah well maybe rivers are just super important in this place :) It looks nice so far!

08-17-2013, 05:41 AM

Ok, I went and modified the rivers.

1. Straightened them out a bit, less loops, less brain problems.

2. Joined together some upriver bits of coastal rivers to make larger watershed for *Yangtze and the *Yellow River equivalents.

08-18-2013, 07:05 AM
http://i.imgur.com/Wy0SRX9l.jpg (http://imgur.com/Wy0SRX9)

Mountains, walls, various easy-to-make borders done.

Now to populate it.

But honestly, that sounds like a lot of work, just these easy ones were hard.

For the icons I've decided to go with:

(Japanese, Mandarin)

Red rectangle is a city. Fusangmen, Mulberry Gate, Fusōmon is the only example here.

White rectangle with black border is a town, no examples because honestlyyyyy.

White rectangle with a coloured border is a capital, red for land, and one unique blue one for Dragon Palace City in the ocean. Huangjing/Ōkyō in Yellow province, Huangdao, Ōdō

Rounded white rectangles are islands: Penglai/Hourai, Fāngzhng (方丈), Diy (岱舆), Yunjiāo (员娇) on the north east, the five islands where Immortals dwell. Urashima / Pudao?, named after a Japanese fairytail figure who visits the undersea Dragon kingdom and gets Rip Van Winkled.

Rounded red rectangles provincial capitals: Seishū, Genshū, Hakushū, Shushū, Blue, Black, White, Red provincial capitals resp.

Blue rectangles are under-sea cities. Longmen, Dragon's Gate south of Red Province, Ao Palace City to the east of the mainland, named after the surname of the dragon kings of the ocean...

Various mountains, Kunlun, Buzhou, Feather Mountain, Jade Mountain, Jade Pond for that lake up there probably change it.

These are mostly names taken from various Chinese and Sino-Japanese myths, or variations from them, like Ao Palace City or Fusang Gate. The provinces are named after the colours and the guardians of the five cardinal directions.

08-18-2013, 02:19 PM
Pretty hills. Those bright red walls are a titch painful to look at, because of the brightness+saturation. But it could be because the surrounding background is also very bright, as the red label on the right seems fine. You might consider taking the highest value of the parchment down a notch. Then again, it might be only my eyes or monitor or both.

08-19-2013, 01:13 AM
Pretty hills.

Ah yes, my Fantasy *Himalayas.

Those bright red walls are a titch painful to look at, because of the brightness+saturation. But it could be because the surrounding background is also very bright, as the red label on the right seems fine. You might consider taking the highest value of the parchment down a notch. Then again, it might be only my eyes or monitor or both.

I think I'll wait for a second opinion, because honestly that sounds like a pretty bright monitor. The white is an offwhite, no that close to #FFF at all.

08-19-2013, 02:16 AM
I think the red of the walls is fine.

08-19-2013, 04:13 PM
Only my eyes then. It doesn't look all that close to FFF on my monitor... just seems bright.

08-24-2013, 05:12 AM
EDIT: Yeah ok imgur is purposefully mocking me by changing the quality settings of every single image I upload so whatever, I will upload here.:EDIT

Place names are hard. Place names are also pretty pointless in this case because there's probably like one or two people here who might care about me mangling Chinese.

The difficult comes from myself, because I don't want to reuse real place names from Real China. Taoyuan is meant to exist in a multiverse together with our Earth: it's a recreation, a sanctuary for Chinese mythological fluff. An imperfect, yet more perfect recreation of the world, a merger of Earth and Heaven.

So there's basically two things I can do:

1. Use Chinese mythological places. This is more difficult than it sounds, because it is hard to find good sources on this on the internet beyond some funny PDFs without hanzi and hard-to-verify sources and claims, and Wikipedia, and also because lots of Chinese mythical places are associated with real life places. The more mythological and the more historical/mythological a place is, the more I like to use it (like Kunlun and Buzhou and Fusang), but then there's stuff like the great rivers and mountains that I might like to rename or use an archaic name for.

2. Generate new names. This is relatively simple, if tedious and unimaginative, but you can pretty easily generate Chinese place names by using common toponymic words with something else. The earliest place names I did where the provinces (-> provincial capitals) and the imperial capital: those were colour terms associated with the cardinal directions and geomancy + -zhou or -jing like in Guanzhou (Canton, capital of Guangdong) or Beijing (Northern Capital). Red Provinc(ial Capital), Yellow Capital, etc.

The new stuff you see now is two batches. Western cities that are named after the Kings of the Chinese Underworld (the ten kings in the Taoist version, and I mean version because it's all a hodgepodge of Buddhist and Taoist stuff). I took their names and maybe parts of their titles, and made them place names. There's a king whose title is Chu River King, so there's a city named after Chu River, and the King's name itself became 歷 + 州 Lizhou.

The new cities in Taoyuan proper are named after the Zodiac animals. Pig Country, Dog City, Snake (river) Junction, South of Snake, North of Snake, Dragon Hillock etc. Dragon Gate was an earlier place from myth, where carps who leap through the gates turn into dragons. The myth places it inland at the source of a river, there's a real life place on the southern coast but whatev.

I hope the themed names don't sound too ridiculous. Taoyuan is a place where every person is a shape shifter, and people have animal surnames (though they aren't necessarily their name animal). Most Chinese place-names are pretty pragmatic: [Thing][Place], like Pearl Harbor or [Direction][from][Other Thing Like River] or alternatively various lucky sounding words like Double Fortune or A Lot Of Happiness.

I made zodiac themed names because that's a must-have group, but I'll probably add lots of more animal places, after all, names for those don't run out that fast. Lots of stuff to use.

08-24-2013, 11:44 AM
You could also use names of mythical characters.

I like where your map is going, your doing good.

08-25-2013, 05:26 AM

Just some translitterations and English guesslations.

Some background lore that's been growing in my head.

In the first post I said that this was a setting for a multiverse within a kitchen sink adventure manga universe, and that Touenkoku / Taoyuangou was supposed to be the background Magical Realm for a bunch of themed magical girl characters (think Sailor Moon).

I already had an idea for another Domain within that multiverse (ESP) that tied into a fortune telling boom in a middle school in Not Sunnydale, and only later realised that I could easily tie other domains into it, in this case the Magical Girls who, it turns out, had Onmyodo/Yin Yang magic/Fengshui style divination-based powers (dodging, knowing instinctively what to do etc.). Using onmyodo/taoist/five elements magic as a theme led to a Chinese Magical Realm and a Qilin as their Magical Pet (these are genre conventions), which led to this map.

Anyhow, the girls find a magical book, I think I'll call it Fusangmenji, Fusoumonki, the Chronicle of the Mulberry Gate, which opens up the titular Fusang Gate into Taoyuan, and then they have to defeat the spirit monsters that arise from the earth and try to get through back to Taoyuan. I even wrote a bit with one of the Sun Crows that Yu the Archer shot down in Chinese mythology was one of the monsters...

As I worked on the map, I made Alterna-Korejapon into the eastern province of the Empire, because the East is the domain of the Green Dragon and the element water. Fusang, as in the Leaning Mulberry Tree on which the ten Suns sit waiting for their day of the ten-day Chinese week, became associated with Japan because obviously the Fusang is somewhere in the east, and Fusang / Fusou became a poetic name referring to Japan, so of course the Fusang was on *Japan from the very beginning.

As I worked on this map, Taoyuan became more and more fantastical, Heaven merging with Earth. In Chinese mythology, the Heavens became in time more and more like a large Imperial bureaucracy, with ministries and ministers in charge of, well, Acts of God. But the Chinese are also very pragmatic with their gods: if a god is underperforming, sack them and replace with a new one. If a god is doing well, promote them! Partly religious, sometimes diplomatic or political, the Chinese pantheon was pretty fluid, and in addition to that, mortal people on Earth became associated with those "positions" that the gods had in the Heavenly Ministries: a virtuous or great minister might become worshipped as an aspect of divinity sort of thing. So, on Taoyuan, this is even more real: the Imperial ministries do control the world, as far as they can. The ministries of rain and rivers are stocked with Dragons, there's a bunch of ministries related to health that control diseases, etc. etc.

But you can't control that which is beyond your grasp. The Empire conquered the western provinces so that they would have access to the gods that dwell at the rivers' origins, obviously. So what could they seek in the east?

Here's a small derail: there's a tale in Chinese mythology about Yi the Archer. One day, all the Suns decided they'd stay in the sky all at the same time, and the world burned, so Yi was sent out to shoot them down, and he did, shooting down nine (and getting punished for it, but that's another story). Obviously, Suns can be a problem, and why shouldn't there have been a new bunch of Suns on Taoyuan? I can imagine it, tired of dangerous Suns messing with their calendars and burning fields or staying away too long, the Empire conquers the eastern isles.

They also do a calendar reform, and synchronise the motion of the Suns and the Moon to get a good, even number of months and days.

But again, some of the Suns perish, and go into the ground and become evil spirits waiting for their chance of revenge, and this is where the original plot comes along.