The Hsien, or Shinma, are the "little gods" of the Middle Kingdom.
Once servants of the more powerful gods in the Celestial hierarchy, they were responsible for answering the prayers of mortals in accordance with the wishes of their superiors. During the terrible events of the Dragon River War at the beginning of the Fourth Age, and the fall of the Wan Xian in the Third, many Shinma rebelled against their position in the Celestial Bureaucracy, either to help mortals or turn against them. As a result, they were punished by the August Personage. Those who had dared to place themselves in the position of the Wan Xian were cast out and forced to live among the mortals of the Middle Kingdom. Originally, they were without much protection from chi-leeching enemies until Hanuman managed to find a way back to Heaven and shared his knowledge of balance among the little gods.
In the Fifth Age, the hsien are cut off from much of their power, unable to enter the spirit realms, and must cloak themselves in the flesh of mortals (through a process similar to, but distinct from, the Changeling Way). They are thus superficially similar to the Kithain, some of whom believe the Shinma to be long-lost Asian kith, but the Shinma have no connection to the Dreaming and know little of the Kithain.
Factionalised and uncertain, some seek to answer mortal prayers without the aid of the bureaucracy of heaven, while others seek selfish dominion over humans or even to destroy the world, allying themselves with the Yama Kings as an act of revenge for their exile.
The Hsien have more in common with spirits than the creatures of the Dreaming. As such, Banality does not affect them and neither do many of the common weaknesses of the western Fae. Instead, they are spirits of yin or yang who have taken some part of their opposite force into themselves to stabilize their existence in the world of mortals. As a result, each Shinma has a special affinity to one of the five traditional elements.
Through the Kun Shou, the Hsien are able to assume mortal bodies, which they call hotei. In contrast to that stands their Wani Form, which shows their true form. When the hotei dies, the spirit of the Hsien travels to the spirit world, where he is judged according to how he fulfilled his duties. Most are sent back and are forced to inhabit a new body. In the process, they lose large part of their memories, which makes it difficult for them to recollect events from a past form.
The Shinma are, at their nature, celestial bureaucrats. Their main duty was to record the prayer of a mortal (not only restricted to humans, but also including animals and plants), delegate it to their superiors, the Chi Ling, who then would present the affair before the dragons. These dragons would then decide the matter or turn to the August Personage for a final verdict. Then, the process reversed, with the Hsien being informed of Heaven's wishes and instructed to act accordingly.
In the turning of the Wheel of Ages, the Shinma have been more and more on their own. With the rise of the Wall, it has become increasingly difficult to contact their celestial superiors and in the Fifth Age, with the Shinma banned from Heaven, different faction squabble about how and if this mandate should be fulfilled. Additionally, for their audacity, the August Personage also levied the original duties of the Wan Xian upon them.
The Hsien live among the whole of the Middle Kingdom. Among themselves, they are organized into eleven provinces that stretch from Mongolia to Sichuan. The demarcations of these provinces do not align to mortal politics, but much older lines.
The five noble Kamuii are aligned with the five elements:
The five commoner Hirayanu each transform into a certain type of animal:
- Fu Hsi (snakes)
- Hanumen (monkeys)
- Heng Po (fish, particularly carp or catfish)
- Nyan (cats)
- Tanuki (badgers)
Strengths and Weaknesses
The Hsien are vulnerable to jade, similar to their western cousin's weakness to Cold Iron. Unlike Cold Iron, the jade has to be aligned with the intent of harming another. Pulverized Jade is also detrimental to their health.
Changeling: The Dreaming Hsien