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In Age of ConanEdit

The ancient empire of Khitai is a stronghold of the world’s greatest wizards and masters of the eastern world. Khitai is nearly legendary to the western Hyborian races. Khitan society has a place in the structure and codes of behaviour which must be followed. The Khitans believe that those who best obey the codes will be rewarded by the gods. From this, they deduce that "the winner was right," and this success-oriented approach gives them a penchant for treachery and double-dealing which would cause a Hyborian noble to blanch. The Khitani are similar to the Chinese/Korean of ancient history.

The Khitan people are the people of Khitai have merged into a homogeneous race: slender, of medium height, with parchment-yellow skin, slanted eyes, sharp features, high foreheads, and oval faces. Some regional variation exists (Southerners, for example, tend to be shorter and thicker about the waist), but the distinctions are almost invisible to Westerners.

One confusing aspect of these codes is the extreme politeness of the Khitan demeanor. Most Western traders find this unctuousness irritating, if harmless; successful traders recognize the traps concealed in this veneer of respect and watch their backs.

Khitan HistoryEdit

"Like the Hyrkanians, the Khitans are Lemurian diaspora who were enslaved by the proto-Stygians. By the time of Conan, there appears to be three distinct ethnicities within Khitai.

The first, and most ancient of these, are the civilized descendants of the Lemurians who make the bulk of Khitai’s populace. Howard describes the Lemurians as short and swarthy, yet their offspring the Hyrkanians are tall. No doubt the hard lifestyle and high protein diet of the steppe nomad contributed to the Hyrkanians’ height: since the Khitans are largely city-dwellers, they’d probably have a more sedentary lifestyle with a grain-based diet. Admixture with taller Hyborians may also be a factor in the height difference, at least among the more westerly Hyrkanians and Turanians. The temperament of these Khitans is largely unknown, but since they send trade caravans out, dwell in cities and have built ships, they’re probably the most akin to the Medieval Chinese. These are also the Khitans most likely to worship Yun, with their votaries living isolated lives in the lost jungles, and possibly Ishtar and other deities. Civilized Khitans also seem to be fairly hospitable to foreigners: Conan visited Khitai at an undefined point in his life, as did the Aquilonian nobleman Valerius. Belesa even considered making a new life for herself and Tina in Khitai. Even though it’s on the opposite end of the world-continent to Zingara, Khitai seems civilized and welcoming enough to Belesa for her to consider it a new home.

The second type are a curious race of jungle-dwellers. According to “The Tower of the Elephant,” Yogah considered the people of Khitai to be “kindly jungle-folk”. This matches the description of the race Ishtar dwelt among in “Marchers of Valhalla,” who were “strange and kindly.” In “The Hyborian Age,” Howard refers to “a curious race of intelligent, though stunted, aborigines” conquered by the Hyrkanians on their eastward drift, who dwell in “the mountains east of Vilayet.” It’s possible that these Khitans mixed with similar aboriginals in the jungles, and instead of joining their city-dwelling kin, they live a more tribal existence akin to the tribes south of Stygia. The jungle Khitans are known to worship Yogah.

The third type are altogether more mysterious, yet they are also the only Khitans we meet first hand: the four exiles of The Hour of the Dragon. The contrast between these is intriguing: while they are described in similar physical terms outside of their height, they are much more sinister in aspect and demeanour. It is likely that the Khitan sorcerer of “A Witch Shall Be Born” who raised Salome is of similar stock, and perhaps also Zang, Salome’s attendant priest. The most likely explanation for their height is admixture with the proto-Stygians: while most Lemurians were enslaved, it’s perhaps inevitable that a certain amount of mixing would occur, with these mixed race individuals being shunned by both communities. Admixture with fellow sorcerers in Kosala in the years following Khitan emancipation is also a possibility. When the Lemurians cast off the proto-Stygian yoke, they would be driven deep into the jungles–perhaps to the Swamps of the Dead–or in isolated communities among the enemy, much as the Acheronians did in the three millennia since their kingdoms’ fall.

In modern times, the insidious “Khemi-Khitans” have grown stronger, with Salome’s teacher residing in a golden tower in Paikang, where he spends “long hours staring into a crystal globe,” reading “incantations written on serpent’s skin in the blood of virgins” and “poring over musty volumes in forgotten languages.” No doubt Salome’s teacher had to be careful, else he would be discovered, and expelled from the kingdom as the four exiles of Dragon were for delving into “the deeper gulfs of cosmic sorcery.” Since Khitai is an old, old nation, decadence and sorcerous corruption are likely to be rife, if not quite as despotic as Stygia or Zamora.

In order to exist in a part of the world rife with the danger of Hyrkanian raids, Khitai much have had a fairly strong military. Since jungles and swamps take up much of Khitai’s landscape, horse cavalry might not have been as instrumental a factor as with their northern cousins. With difficult to navigate terrain and strong fortifications, the Khitans may have favoured infantry. The trees and foliage of Khitai’s jungles would neutralize the vital mobility and range of Hyrkanian horse archers, forcing them to move uncomfortably close to the enemy. From their fortifications, Khitan archers (crossbowmen with the dreaded Chu Ko Nu?) could rain death upon the Hyrkanians from an attainable range, Khitan halberdiers could bring down the horses and riders with their Ji, and veteran swordsmen would cleave through mount and warrior alike with their terrible two-handed Zhanmadao.

There is also the possibility that, like the people of Thailand, Burma and Vietnam, the Khitans utilized elephants. According to a certain wandering Shemite who spoke to Conan, elephants can be found in herds of hundreds in “the land of the Hyrkanians”–if the Hyrkanians aren’t using them for mounts, perhaps the Khitans are. Indeed, elephants could be useful not just in war, but in construction, hauling, and transport, as well as possibly revered religiously."

Hyborian Age Gazetteer - khitai part three

See Also: Aquilonian ~ Stygian ~ Cimmerian

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