The term "Kuei-jin" is a portmanteau word consisting of the Mandarin word for ghost (kuei) and the Japanese word for person (jin). It is a relatively recent construction designed to indicate the commonality of the undead condition throughout the Middle Kingdom. The term Cathayan is often used by Western Cainites to refer to the Kuei-jin. The word is borrowed from the classic name for China, Cathay. It is perceived as offensive by the Kuei-jin themselves.
It is said that the Kuei-jin are the corrupted descendants of the Wan Xian, the "Ten Thousand Heroes" chosen by the August Personage of Jade to guide and protect the universe in ancient history (and the predecessor to the Exalted). The Wan Xian were originally chosen by tests of skill and courage, and fed on the ambient chi of the universe. However, they fell from grace, learning to feed off of the chi of living beings and corrupting the tests of worthiness. Their children, the Jin Hai tried to keep them on the path of righteousness, but were eventually killed for their presumption.
As the blood of the Golden Children cooled, the August Personage pronounced judgement on His former champions. He cursed them to live as undead, unable to acquire chi except from drinking the blood of the living, and to exist in a brutal mockery of their former state. He revised the tests so that the former heroes and champions were replaced by criminals and murderers who escaped from Hell itself. Then He left the Wan Kuei alone to contemplate their crimes.
Since that time, the Wan Kuei, the fallen Wan Xian, have developed a redemptory religion while occupying an ecological niche akin to Western vampires. There are many paths initially ascribed to Xue, the Grand Arhat of the dead. However, the road to the Hundred Clouds is long, and the Kuei-jin are ultimately forced to stay on the Wheel of Ages as history slowly grinds towards the inevitable victory of hell and the rise of the Demon Emperor.
Supernatural Characteristics Edit
In the Middle Kingdom, all creatures are believed to have two souls: a Hun, or higher soul, and a P'o, or lower soul. In general, the P'o is a brutal aspect of a person, while the Hun is more refined, intellectual and impotent. When a person who has led a less than exemplary life dies, that person goes to Hell. There, the P'o and the Hun are generally shredded for chi, unless they can strike a deal and find a way out.
On the rare occasions they can, the body takes its "second breath" and rejoins the land of the living as a cannibalistic demonic hellbeast. If not caught, these creatures will go on killing sprees and rampages of destruction – which is why the capture and civilizing of infant devils is a critical part of Kuei-jin society. All Kuei-jin begin in Hell and then graduate to a mad cannibal in a human body; it is only through discipline and whipcracks that they can move above that level.
Physical Nature Edit
The Kuei-jin are physically akin to the Risen, in that their physical bodies are powered by mystical energy and that energy serves to heal them. Unlike the Risen, who rely on pathos to power them, the Kuei-jin use chi. Depending on the type of chi used, a Kuei-jin's body will have different attributes – ranging from a low-energy corpse like state, to a feverish state close enough to life that they can create new life. Apart from being faster, stronger and tougher, a yang aspected Kuei-jin appears to be a living human being.
Kuei-jin are less tied to their bodies than might be expected - because they are spirits wearing bodies, they can take an enormous amount of damage, including a little death that wipes out the body and forces the Kuei-jin to seek out a new host. There is a subspecies of Kuei-jin, the Yulan Jin who do this on a regular basis.
Kuei-jin are effectively unliving chi batteries; they need and hunger for chi the same way that the Kindred hunger for blood, and they need no other sustenance, although they take more pleasure from food and sex than the damned do. With the right chi, Kuei-jin can even withstand the sun for a short period of time. Chi is divided into Yin and Yang, which have both drawbacks and advantages when Kuei-jin imbalances himself to one of them.
Spiritual Nature Edit
The Kuei-jin have an awakened P'o which seeks to make them fail. This P'o behaves like a wraith's Shadow and can temporarily take over the Kuei-jin. As a result, Kuei-jin are constantly struggling against a far more intelligent and wily opponent than the Beast that bedevils the Kindred.
More importantly, Kuei-jin are creatures on a spiritual trek. They have been granted a second chance by Heaven, and must earn their redemption in this new life. To do so, each Kuei-jin subscribes to a Dharma. Each Dharma outlines a different view of the universe and the means towards achieving enlightenment. In addition to spiritual comfort, enlightenment brings strength - as a Kuei-jin advances in his dharma, he learns to feed off things besides blood, his ability to manipulate chi increases and his abilities can achieve new heights.
Kuei-jin are not created through the act of another, like western vampires are, and their numbers are limited and can not be easily replenished. Their blood has no supernatural properties of its own and cannot create Blood Bonds or ghouls.
The sun is just as dangerous to the Kuei-jin as it is to their western cousins. Kuei-jin, however, do not begin to burn when exposed to sunlight, instead, their flesh begins to rot until nothing remains but a putrified carcass.
A stake through the heart does not automatically paralyze a Kuei-jin. However, the heart is instrumental in processing Chi energy, and certain types of attacks can disrupt the Chi flow in a Kuei-jin's body. Vampires of Yin prove vulnerable to wood, the element of Yang; conversely, vampires of Yang are vulnerable to metal, the element of Yin.
On the first gaze, Kuei-jin appear relatively uniform, as all orthodox groups accept the Great Principle as outlaid by Xue. On the second, the Kuei-jin struggle to adapt to a rapidly changing world. Western ideals begin to influence their homelands, toppling traditions that have existed as long as they can think. Chi corruption grows and the influence of the Yama Kings in the Material World is on the rise, as misery and exploitation creep into the cities. The young refuse to bow before their Elders, forming societies on their own that challenge the established rule. Court works against Court, the distrust between them founded in mortal feuds that are not forgotten. The numbers of heretics and akuma are growing, as more and more of the Hungry Dead become disillusioned with the world. Such happenings symbolize to the Mandarins that the Sixth Age, an age of degeneracy and decay, will soon pass.
Since before recorded history, the Kuei-jin have been divided into a variety of Courts that cover various geographic regions. The five greatest of the modern courts comprise the Quincunx in China, but there are also the uji of Japan, the Golden Courts of Southeast Asia, the Green Court of Korea and the Infinite Thunders Court of the Indian subcontinent.
Unlike the relatively anarchic Kindred, Cathayans have an elaborate society and governmental system which each vampire is expected (or better yet, required) to join. As a result, the training for a Kuei-jin is much longer than the expected training period for the undead, and the Kuei-jin are quite willing to execute any prospective candidate who fails their tests. In the modern era, this training is even more extensive to rub off some of the western taint, a newly reborn vampire can expect to learn etiquette, politics, the use of disciplines, silent feeding, poetry and the elaborate Kaja script.
Cathayans are bound together in wu, circles of Kuei-jin mystically linked to each other and a guardian nushi. A Wu is the fundamental social unit of Kuei-jin society, and many Wu have famous histories. Traditionally, Kuei-jin were expected to join an existing Wu.
- Main article: Dharma
Outside of the wu system (which intentionally transcends dharmic boundaries in order to promote harmony), Kuei-jin will also obey the strictures of their dharmas. Each dharma has its own methods of enlightenment and internal hierarchy, ranging from the extremely formal testing procedure of the Devil Tiger dharma to the individualistic teaching style of the Path of a Thousand Whispers path. Each dharma is a religious school, one that is followed with intense devotion by the Wan Kuei, as the alternative is the madness of the chih-mei. There are dharmas outside of the fivefold path of Xue, although these are considered heretical and are followed by a vanishingly small number of Wan Kuei.
For the children of Caine, the Kuei-jin are a conundrum. They are close enough to them to be classified as vampires, but different enough that they warrant a whole new category for themselves. Until recently, the two supernatural races were content with avoiding each other, although there were always populations of Cainites within the Middle Kingdom that managed to coexist with the Kuei-jin. Most assumed that the orientals were merely exotic bloodlines of one of their own Clans.
As the Great Leap Outward sees an influx of Kuei-jin into their territories, Western Kindred try to understand what exactly these beings are. Within the Camarilla, the Tremere spearhead the research into these entities via Project: Crosshairs. The Sabbat's Necronomists have launched their own theory, having come to believe that the Kuei-jin are the progeny of a yet undisclosed member of the Second Generation, whose curse has changed and has become predetermined by Fate instead of the Embrace.
While the werewolves of the west rarely care to differentiate between a Kuei-jin and a vampire, the Hengeyokai are often forced into contact with them. The Beast Courts keep up formal, if not warm, relations with the Kuei-jin; although these walking corpses are certainly vile, they do have their purpose under Heaven. Some Dharmas, like the Dance of the Thrashing Dragon, are accorded with more respect than others (like the Devil-Tigers).
The mages of the Middle Kingdom know that the Wan Kuei are ruthless, manipulative and cunning, but that even they still serve a place in the Celestial Bureaucracy. When they interact, it is often through lens of diplomacy and tradition, to curtail their own arrogance when dealing with another. Others, especially young mages, find themselves called to purge infestations of Kuei-jin from their territories. Both sides' elders have agreed to treat this as squabbles of children, and rarely interfere unless it is a danger to the whole territory.
The Technocratic Union has the same modus operandi they have when dealing with Western vampires. Since the Kuei-jin pose no threat to the Masses and manage to conceal themselves just fine, most Technocrats are willing to live and let live.
The relation between the Kuei-jin and the Hsien, the Little Gods of the Middle Kingdom, is stressed. The Hsien blame the Kuei-jin and their predecessors, the Wan Xian, for corrupting the world into its current state and dragging the Little Gods outside of Heaven. The fact that some Kuei-jin hunt Hsien for their potent chi and the substance called Yugen makes matters even worse.
The Mummies who have the most contact with the Kuei-jin are the Wu T'ian, who have an ambivalent stance on them. On one hand, the Kuei-jin are undeniably cursed and have fallen from their original place in the Celestial Bureaucracy. On the other hand, the Wu T'ian consider themselves the successors of the Wan Xian, and some hope to aid their errant brethren to reach whatever enlightenment their codes of behavior might grant them. Since Mummy blood contains potent chi that can make a Wan Kuei addicted, most prefer to keep their distance.
Background Information Edit
Ostensibly, the name "Kuei-jin" is supposed to represent the two major cultures involved, with the Mandarin "demon" (kuei/gui) and Japanese "person" (jin) being combined into a single name. Unfortunately, this would only make sense with Western audiences, and wouldn't make any sense at all with the writing systems of the cultures in question.
The same root writing system is used for both Chinese and Japanese. A Mandarin Chinese speaker seeing 鬼人 (or 人鬼 read right-to-left) would read it as "gui-ren," while a Japanese speaker seeing the same characters would read it as "ki-jin." While the meaning (demon-person or ghost-person) remains the same, there is no way to write the phrase in a manner which would be read as "kuei-jin" by either culture, unless using a Western alphabet.