Culture of Tuthina
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"Gentle like water; acute like blossom."—Anonymous
As one of the oldest surviving cultures in Esquarium, and being mostly isolated from the rest of the world by the ocean for millennia, the culture of the Most Serene Empire is widely regarded as one of the most unique cultures in the region, with many characteristics from both architecture and arts, to philosophy and religion unique to the Imperial people. Since modern times, the traditional Imperial culture, or at least the officially-recognised form of it, is cherished by both the government and the people as a way to construct a unified national identity in face of foreign cultural invasion.
Arts and paintings have been an integral part of Imperial culture since the early days of the Empire. While many forms of artwork has flourished in some point of the long history of the Empire, ink brush painting, or sumiwe, remained the most well-recognised and characteristic art style, as artists strive to express their thoughts and the nature using only the colour of ink and the blank background.
Unlike most countries in Esquarium, the Empire continues to use a lunisolar calendar for official records and daily activities.
In the official Imperial calendar, each day is divided into 12 koku. Each day is divided into a "day" portion and a "night" portion, each with six koku. Because the length of each portion is variable over the course of the year, as well as the geographic location of a particular place, the length of each koku is different across the realm. Each koku is further divided into five ten, the length of which is also variable depending on the length of koku. In common figure of speech, though, one koku lengths two hours, and one ten lengths 24 minutes. Since the modern era, smaller temporal denominations have been developed to calculate shorter time span, which is based on a decimal system.
The closest equivalent of a week is called zyun, which is made of 10 days. It is most often used as a reference of holidays and other regular activities such as frequency of magazine printing. Other than that, it is not considered particularly important within the calendar. On an unrelated note, zyun, when referring to the age of human or other entities, can also mean the length of 10 years.
Months in the Imperial calendar are lunar months, with a length of either 29 or 30 days. Usually, short months and long months alternate each other, but in order to synchronise the calendar with the phases of the moon, every 15 to 17 months will have two long months in a row, and there are additional long months in longer intervals as well. While the months are usually numbered, most of the time they are referred with their own name, which usually reflects the characteristics of said month, or its cultural significance to the Imperial culture.
Because of the lunisolar nature of the calendar, there are two concepts of "year" within the Imperial calendar. A solar year, which is about 365.25 days long, is referred as sai or tosi, while a "lunar year", which is either 12 or 13 lunar months long, is referred as nen. Culturally, nen is considered more important than sai, as it marks the official start of a new year for both celebration and government activities. Agriculturally, however, sai is more often used as it correlates to the climate and thus farming practice more than the lunar calendar.
There are three common methods of marking years in the Imperial calendar. The first, and the most common one is the regnal year, which are marked by the regnal name or era name used by the Emperor. For example, the current year is the fourth year of the reign of Emperor Akiyasu, who use the era name syuubun (修文), and thus the year is marked as the 4th year of Syuubun in official documents.
The second method is the Imperial year system. Starting with the year of the legendary foundation of the Empire by the first Emperor, it is usually used side by side of the regnal year system, or by historians to mark the time of ancient events, where the regnal names might not be easily associated with its particular time frame. The current year is marked the 3,325th year of the Imperial calendar.
The third method is the sexagenary method. Formed by the combination of the ten heavenly stems and twelve earthly branches, the sexagenary system repeats itself every 60 years. Although not suitable for marking long period of time, it is quite commonly used by the commoners alongside the regnal name to refer to the year, with the name of it being shorter than any other methods.
Unlike in many other countries, prostitution in the Most Serene Empire is not only legal, but considered a very important aspect of the Imperial culture and politics, reflecting the attitude of the traditional Imperial society towards pleasure and sexuality. Despite their namesake, sexual interactions is not considered the sole, even the main part of the service of prostitutes, even for those of lower social standing. It is believed that such discrepancy between Imperial prostitutes and their foreign counterpart is partly because of the liberal view towards sexuality in traditional Imperial culture, and partly because the gentrification of prostitution in the Empire provided even the lower prostitutes with a more varied source of customers. Apart from sexual gratification, prostitutes, especially those of higher social status, also provide art, entertainment, even intellectual and intelligence exchange for their customers, in exchange of wealth and connections with all classes of the Imperial society. Because of that, some of the top prostitutes and their brothels are said to hold enormous political influence over the entire Empire.
Although all citizens of the Most Serene Empire are required to be members of its state religion, the Imperial Cult, the decentralised nature of indigenous belief system known as Kamism, as well as the Cult's high tolerance towards religious syncretism, meant that many individuals within the Imperial realm hold drastically beliefs and rituals despite all nominally following the same denomination of Kamism.
The society of the Most Serene Empire is highly stratified, with clearly-defined lines between various social classes. Because of its pseudo-feudal political structure, many of the nobility enjoys considerable income through both taxation of its subjects and rents from its owned lands, as well as numerous privileges granted by the Imperial government in exchange of taxation, levy and loyalty to the throne.
The largest descent group within Imperial society is called phratry (姓 syou or kabane). The translation of the term is based on a anthropological term despite being closer to clan in academic sense. Formed by a collection of clans, an Imperial phratry is usually formed by the shared recognition of ancient, if not legendary, ancestors. Unlike clans, the name of which can be changed by merits, location, occupation, or even at will to avoid confusion or unfortunate implications, phratry name, as well as its emblem (mon), cannot be changed easily, for these symbolisms are essential for the clan members to remember and revere their connection with their ancestors.
Since the formation of the Empire and the creation of a formal social hierarchy, phratry is expanded and transformed to designate the different social standings between the various clans. Apart from the Eight Great Phratries, these "new phratries" includes kuni-no-miyatuko (國御奴), agata-no-nusi (縣主), tomo-no-miyatuko (伴御奴), wake (別) and konikisi (王), all of which denotes different origin and ranks of local landlords and their subordinates.
Due to the sheer size of most of the phratries, as well as their disconnection with mundane events, the importance and mutual connection within a phratry gradually diminishes as the population of the Empire grows, with clan replacing the original intention of social cohesion in modern Imperial society. Nowadays, phratry activities are rare, unless festivals and rituals are to be held in the name of the ancestors of the phratry, in which case a grand meeting by all member clans of said phratry will gather together and discuss the details of such activities. That said, many clans under the original phratries still uphold the duty of hospitality to members of the same phratry, especially in rural regions where population exchange outside the region is uncommon.
In modern Imperial culture, clan (氏 si or uzi) is the main social unit of the society. Despite being translated into a common term in anthropology, an Imperial clan shares more similarities with family, as it is formed by the offspring of a traceable individuals for up to six generations, as well as people married, or born into it. A clan can be formed in various ways, most commonly by splitting from an existing clan due to geographic isolation, change of career from the traditional clan career, or receiving a new family name to honour one's merit. However, it is also not uncommon for a group of genealogically unrelated individuals to form a new clan due to necessity to concentrate resources, census registration, or simply as a means to unite people of liked minds. In either case, the name of the new clan is usually related to the name of the previous clan, or more often, to the new environment, occupation, or merits that characterised the new clan. For example, a clan with a name of Kobayakaha-Kinosita would be a branch of Kinosita phratry that migrated to Kobayakaha.
As the population of the Empire grows, and the population disperses to colonise the expanding border territories, many clans spread across the realm as well, further creating new clans and lineage in the process. However, clan still holds important social functions within Imperial culture, as many rituals and ceremonies revolve around membership of individual clans to maintain the connection between members despite geographic and social distance. Similarly, marriages within a clan regardless of actual genealogical distance is often frown upon in Imperial society, although exceptions are not uncommon.
Because of the traditionalist nature of Imperial culture, the clan and phratry identity is very important for the locals, as not only are most daily necessities provided by the clan one belongs to, the connections between clans are often essential to facilitate business and political deals, or even to get a job in certain career. As many clans are born from specialisation of occupation by the founding members, being in a clan usually denotes not only the social status and interpersonal relation between individuals, but also the way one is raised. Many of the more traditional business and guilds would think twice, if not outright refuse to hire or train people from clans without certain reputation, and individuals not conforming to the stereotype of some of the more characteristic clans are usually discriminated against by people in and outside of one's clan.