The cartography, writing, and ramblings of one crazy winter lover who likes to blog about the fun and inconsequential.

The Winter Period

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This is a world that diverged from our own in the years 420 and 421 AD, as the Jin Dynasty in China falls terribly hard at the same time that Constantius III, Emperor of Rome, does not suddenly perish and so the world is forever changed. The times after the point of divergence begin to truly diverge from our own as the Roman Empire, in a last saving throw, manages to stay together thanks to Constantius III and his successors. In China, the invasion of northern nomadic peoples spells doom for the tenuous dynasties that had asserted themselves after the fall of the Jin. The Northern China Plain and Yangtze River Valley were split into many competing and divided states warring upon one another. In the south, the Liu Song hold on for a bit longer, laboring under the idea that they will usher a return to China’s glory, but it is not to be. The remnants of the Liu Song will instead reform in the south around Guangzhou and eventually form the modern state as Yue.

Time passes and the world changes. Rome survives through the better incorporation of Germanic peoples into the empire, particularly in border regions that allows them to the weather the storm of nomadic migrations, even if they have a few crises along the way. Some time later In Arabia, the nomadic Arab herdsmen are united by a new religion arising out of the powerful coastal towns of Mecca and Medina. They unite Arabia under a single empire led by a Caliph, and take stabs at breaking out into Roman and Persian territory. These attempts, however, fail and force the restless Muslim warriors, traders, and diplomats in another direction: Africa. Crossing the Red Sea into the land of Axum, the Arabs carry out long campaigns throughout coastal East Africa (and inland where they can survive) that sees massive tracts of land brought under control of a centralized settled government for the first time, and united even more strongly by the religion which spreads rapidly in the region. It will not be the last place Islam spreads, but it will be where it is strongest outside Arabia itself. For centuries afterward, East Africa will be the central axis of power around which the Muslim world rotates, providing great amounts of resources, trade, and manpower directly to the Caliph that allows him to stand on more equal footing with the other great Muslim rulers of Persia (converted through a mix of invasions and diplomacy) and the Muslim empires in India (converted through missionaries). The focus on the spread of Islam through seafaring trade and missionary work will later help convert much of Southeast Asia, with particularly large effects.

The Roman Empire, at the same time, is not slow to realize the potential of Africa either. Camels were brought into Rome for the first time with the Arab invasions, and left afterwards by the invaders and their numbers increased through trade with the Arabian Empire. These animals, for the first time, would allow enterprising Romans to cross the vast sands of the Sahara into the fertile Sahel of West Africa, and the great peoples that dwell there. The traders who ply the dangerous desert routes for gold, salt, and ivory bring with them new architectural techniques, Latin systems of writing and books, Roman organization, and most importantly of all: the Christian religion. Christianity spreads like wildfire across the Sahel, particularly as Rome tends to favor the peoples of the Sahel who are Christian over those who aren’t, and gives them weapons, training, and supplies in exchange for spreading the word of God across Africa. The trade would go on to make all sides rich, and the great kings of the Sahel will become, in time, some of the richest men in history.

It is in China, however, that some of the greatest and most rapid strides are made in virtually every field. While Rome and Arabia struggle to keep vast empires together and play family politics and while India is stuck in a cycle of empires continually growing and shrinking, the stabilizing of the Chinese states in the 9th and 10th centuries allows for great amounts of growth. Competition breeds ingenuity, and the Chinese are no stranger to either. The warring states, stuck in a vastly long Winter Period since the fall of the Jin in 420, make great technological strides that put them ahead of much of the world. They learn how to use wooden blocks to create crude but efficient printing presses, and to use special chemical mixtures to create powder that lights upon contact with fire. The smaller states that will later be formed into Qin find themselves constantly competing for more innovations and ways to gain a foothold against each other. Literacy begins to climb for the first time since the fall of the Jin, bureaucratic reforms enable smaller states to fight far above their weight class, examinations for government officials weed out the week, and improved methods of trade and travel enrich coastal nations like Yue and the peninsular Lu. Chinese writing, art, philosophy, religion, mathematics, and economics spread rapidly through East Asia, particularly in the states of Goseon (particularly Goguryeo who uses these advantages to take over and rule the peninsula after a century of conflict), the Viet state of Cham Pa to the south, and to the Yamato of Nihon. These changes not only effectively Sinicize much of East Asia but also rapidly advance the states that lie within. These reforms even reach the nomads of the north and will eventually lead to the conflicts between the settled and nomadic peoples of the Grass Sea that form the Grand Khaganate.

Perhaps the greatest effect the Chinese states have on the world, however, is yet to come. Islam reaches Southeast Asia in the 11th century, and results in a vast series of wars between Muslim and non-Muslim southeast Asians. The Chinese occasionally meddle in the affairs, but largely the conflicts go ignored until the mid-14th century when the Malay peoples form a single dynasty controlling the straits that link the Donghai and Ratnakaran Oceans. After a century of conflict that had begun to include quarreling with the decidedly non-Muslim Chinese (though large enclaves in the Chinese states exist, particularly in Guangzhou and Lin’an), the new dynasty closed the straits to Chinese traffic except without heavy tolls and promises of special treaties with the Malays. This measure immediately impacted the profits and sustainability of coastal Chinese states and of the trade-heavy Nihon. A solution eventually arose: traders had for quite some time ventured north past the island of Ezochi and the string of islands there and towards a different string of islands that, it was said, led to an entirely different and vast land. The Emperor of Nihon had already been sending ships north to explore the lands after he had decisively claimed Ezochi just a decade before, and so sent vessels further north and to the legendary lands beyond. These lands would turn out to be the northernmost region of Jinshan (Gold Mountain), the first of two continents found by the East Asians. News of the discovery spread fast, even if not every Chinese state was interested. It would be the coastal states like Yue, Lu, and the Later Yan who would be the first to tentatively send their ships, crews, and later settlers beyond the bounds of East Asia towards the promised riches of the New World. Crossing the Donghai Ocean straight across was not possible at the time, and so a steady stream of ships turned north, around the curve of the world and cold waters of northern Asia and Jinshan, and then headed south to the warmer and richer lands there. They found areas like the Golden Bay to make land, interact with the natives, and set up trade. Some went even further south and found the great empires of the New World, the Aztecs, Mayan states, and the new but powerful Inca.

The interactions between the East Asians and peoples of Jinshan and Yinshan were complicated from the start. Disease brought from the Old World, even in far more limited forms than our own world, inflicted pain on the native populations and the population suffered. The Chinese were not ones to conquer, however, and instead worked on setting up trade, alliances, and settlement among the peoples already there. This was particularly apparently in regards to the Aztecs and Incans, who managed to hold on despite population and became well-regarded by the Chinese despite some of their violent ways. Settlement of the Chinese in their own states was largely confined to the West Coast of Jinshan, where connection to East Asia was easiest.  Settlement among the Aztecs, Incans, and other peoples certainly happened but there would not be any Chinese-led states in the region. Chinese contact would instead help spur on further developed of the native states throughout the two continents, with many formerly tribal or Bronze Age peoples flourishing with new technologies, philosophies, and weapons of war and trade; the horse was something of a revolution. In the east, Norsemen happened upon the places they called Newfoundland and Vinland and established colonies of their own there, though the sparsely-populated outposts would never achieve the political or cultural dominance the way the Chinese could. The balance of power in the Shans was forever after in Southern Jinshan and Western Yinshan. Over the next few centuries, native empires grew rapidly in the Mississippi Valley (using our own term for convenience) and in the south of Jinshan where various Aztec dynasties grew northwards, creating ever-larger empires of commerce and resource exploitation. The Incan Empire itself, under Chinese influence, grew to new heights of power and extended across much of the Western Coast of Yinshan.

Industrialization brought only more complications to the world. Beginning in the 17th century and progressing onward, the industrialization of the Chinese states and those in the Shans spread a whole new world of technology different from anything seen before. Travel on rails, mass media and production of books, high rates of literacy and the sciences, and revolutions in warfare. A few times states almost conquered all of China, most notably the expansionist Shu Republic, which was the first of its kind in China. Rail lines crisscrossed the width and breadth of East Asia, and the Grand Khaganate began to come into its own as a major power, conquering and pacifying many parts of northern China that had once belonged to the states now part of the Han Summer Union. Africa was particularly affected by industrialization, as the new methods of fighting disease and faster transportation allowed both native African states and settlers to reach deep into the continent. The centuries-long Scramble for Nzere began in earnest, with the result being a massive organization of many industrial states of various origins. Rome was slow to catch on to industrialization for some time, even as the nations of the Riksradet caught on, and languished thus. For a time, it seemed that internal rebellion and outside intervention might topple the Roman Empire as the 19th century began. At the same time, in the second wave of industrialization, the nations of the Shans came into their own, particularly the oil-rich nations of Anahuac and the Federation of Jinshan. The world’s first collectivist state also came about in the era with the birth of the Nēhiyaw Collective in 1795.

The 19th century, however, would be the time of greatest change, and have a massive effect on the world as it is today. It would be the so-called “Ice Age Century” in which temperatures around the world dropped even as tensions heated. Wars were fought across Africa and the Shans as industrial powers jockeyed for power and alliances were formed, fought, and were broken almost constantly. The House of Islam, for a time, was all but shattered as religious divisions threatened to unwind it, and it was only the so-called “Reformation” that could reunite the quarreling wings of Islam, though not nearly to the degree it had once been. Anahuac fought wars overseas for its allies, becoming the first power native to the Shans to exert itself on the world stage. The greatest conflict, however, came in the form of the Winter War, fought from 1829-1842. It involved virtually every nation in East Asia and only ended with the total destruction of the state known today as the Late Chu state. At the time, it was declared as the Late Chu dynasty in a fit of nationalist fervor following conflicts and famine earlier in the century and sought to unite the entirety of China under a single government and used brutal means to do so. The Chu managed to conquer almost all of the Chinese states before being defeated by a broad coalition including the Grand Khaganate, Nihon, and Cham Pa, as well as the Federation of Jinshan, though at the cost of millions of lives. At the same time as this bloodshed, The Troubles raged in the Roman Empire as it came apart at the seams to a series of governments and movements and warlords that saw the empire almost completely fall, were it not for a revolutionary government that arose, spread throughout the Roman lands, and eventually united them all in the new Spartacist Republic of Rome. Never before in human history had so many been witness to the violence that gripped the world in the 19th century.

Now, as the world moves into the 20th century, the peoples throughout seek to learn from the mistakes and take advantage of the breakthroughs that occurred in the past. The world has found itself in a long peace, with the various alliances and organizations managing to hold together in peace and harmony for a time. The Spartacists rule Rome and have helped it progress to a mighty nation, even if one still struggling behind its past greatness. New nations to become powers such as the Malagasy Empire—united by brilliant rulers and industrialized by their successors into one of the most dynamic growing powers—and the Mississippi Union seek to take up the mantle from the great nations of the last century who have begun to recede from past heights. It is a time when people are far more connected than ever before, where new technologies and breakthroughs are behind every corner from outer space to cyber space. The coming challenges as the world warms up seem at times almost trivial to the potential humanity wields.

At the forefront of all this is the Han Summer Union. It was conceived in the ashes of the last war, as humans looked up from the rubble and ruin towards the sky and the stars beyond, and the boundless potential that they as a united China and world would have. The Qin, successors of the so-called Late Chu, were one of the original supporters, strange as it may seem. They and the other states of the Chinese were able to see past their petty grudges and rivalries and the endless conflict that had plagued the long and brutal Winter Period towards the birth of a new Summer Period, in which a union of all Han peoples could make them all richer, smarter, and safer. It is not an easy union to maintain and has been rough around the edges. Some of the nations immediately outside of the Chinese sphere refuse to join, and movements inside sometimes threaten to unravel it. Yet it is a union worth fighting for and the many millions of China will not stop working hard to see that the birth of this new Summer Period will usher in a new age for all Chinese and for peoples across the world, moving towards an ever-brighter future.


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