Tian (human ethnicity)

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A Tian human.

The Tian (pronounced TEE-yawn)1 people come from the distant continent of Tian Xia, located far to the east of the Inner Sea.23 The few Tian who migrate from their homeland to the shores of Avistan and Garund are generally classed as a single ethnicity. The Tian people, however, come from an entire continent, and as such are not one united ethnicity, but many different ones. All Tian in the Inner Sea region, however, have one thing in common: they are thousands upon thousands of miles from their ancestral homeland.4


While composed of many different ethnicities—which foreigners find difficult to differentiate—the people of Tian Xia do have some features in common. First, they are generally smaller in stature than the average Avistani or Garundi human, with men rarely standing above five and a half feet tall, and women rarely rising much taller than five foot. Their builds are generally smaller as well, especially members of the Tian-Dan and Tian-Sing ethnicities (see below), who are often viewed as emaciated. Tian people generally have straight, black or very dark brown hair, regardless of ethnicity. Occasionally, Tian are born with pure white hair, which is viewed as a sign of greatness. The eye color of the most populous Tian ethnicity, the Tian-Shu, is brown, and so it is the most common eye color amongst the Tian in general. Eye color varies between the different ethnicities of Tian Xia, and the Tian-Min of Minkai boast the widest range of eye colors within the ethnicity.4


As has already been mentioned, the Tian do not form a single ethnic group, but are instead composed of many distinct cultural and ethnic peoples. Below is a description of the most-numerous of these.2


The Tian-Dan are the primary ethnic group in the country of Xa Hoi. After a period of great prosperity, their culture is undergoing a golden age, which is exemplified in their ornately decorated pagoda temples, colorful dress, and spicy, aromatic food. Some of the most common female names among the Dan are Hai-Minh and Que Xuan, while some of the most popular male names are Thanh Liem, Phung Trong, and Huu Tai.2


Yoon, a Tian-Hwan child.

The Tian-Hwan are native to the small nation of Hwanggot, located in the southeast of Tian Xia's northern landmass. Long under the heel of Imperial Lung Wa, they have only recently been able to re-establish their country and its unique culture. Tian-Hwan people have strong ideas about gender roles, although these differ from many other cultures: large percentages of Tian-Hwan women are soldiers and scholars, while men more commonly are farmers, craftsmen, or artists.5


The Tian-La are a semi-nomadic group who live in the northwestern Tian-Xia realm of Hongal, beyond the Wall of Heaven (known locally as the Qiang Tian). Compared with the other Tian ethnicities, they have curlier hair and paler skin, and consider the others', more sedentary, lifestyle a sign of weakness. Their bodies are also generally more muscular and stockier, and they have moon-shaped faces. Common male names among the Tian-La are Gansukh, Qorchi, and Tomorbaatar; common female names, Alerdene, Odval, and Narantuyaa.26 Their leaders are known to keep a breed of thylacine, called blood cougars, as pets and hunting animals.7


Ameiko Kaijitsu, a Tian-Min living in Varisia.

The Tian-Min are the primary ethnicity of the Minkai archipelago. They have the widest variety of eye color among the Tian, ranging from orange-red to green, violet, and blue, but also including the more common brown. Their culture places great importance on honor and loyalty. Popular female names include Hiriko, Umie, and Meguma, while Shirota, Yuto, and Zaiho are common among men.2


Yue Xin, a Tian-Shu man.

The Tian-Shu are the most populous of the human ethnicities of Tian Xia, and are commonly found in the former lands of Imperial Lung Wa, now known as the Successor States.2 Their culture is the oldest on the continent, pre-dating even Earthfall, and is now broken into hundreds of small kingdoms and city-states.8 Their skin is slightly darker than other Tian, and they have almond-shaped eyes and straight black or brown hair. Common male names include Bao, Shuo, and Zhen; popular female names are Meilin, Xue, and Chao.2


A Tian-Sing woman.

The Tian-Sing live in the southeastern corner of Tian Xia, in the great archipelago known as Minata or the Wandering Isles. Their skin is darker than most other Tian peoples, and their hair often has a reddish tint. Green eyes are also much more common among the Tian-Sing than in the rest of the continent. Popular female names include Indah, Nirmala, and Udara, while among the men, Budi, Kusuma, and Suryo are common.2


A magical student of Tang Mai.

Most numerous in the nation of Tang Mai9 in southern Tian Xia, the Tian-Tang people (also known as Tian-Dtang) are seen by others as light-hearted and full of wisdom. They generally have slender builds and tan skin. Dark brown or black hair is the most common, although men often shave their heads, leaving only a single braid or topknot.5


A Tian-Yae woman.

The Tian-Yae are descended from the Shory people of Yjae. They have inherited the darker skin and straight hair of their ancestors, and are strongly attuned to air magic.10


The history of the Tian culture is the history of an entire continent on the opposite side of the world from the Inner Sea, and as such, not much is known outside their own lands. The civilization of the most numerous people of Tian Xia, the Tian-Shu, has existed since before the fall of the Starstone, and its current form is reckoned to be 7,000 years old. Tian Xia has seen the rise and fall of three great empires in recorded history, the most recent empire having collapsed a mere hundred years ago, leading to a revitalization of the various cultures of Tian Xia.4



Being a continent of considerable size, Tian Xia is home to as many native (or more) religions as can be found in Avistan and Garund. Vudrani missionaries brought the teachings of Irori to the Tian in ages past, and his worship became the state religion in many of their nations. Many of those who emigrate to the Inner Sea region, however, eventually adopt the worship of local gods.2


Most Tian prefer to wear loose-fitting garments, no matter their social standing. Those who can afford to, wear brighly colored, robe-like clothes, elaborately embroidered with nature scenes or exotic animals such as dragons or phoenixes, while the poor often make due with simple kilts or trousers with linen wraps or course, and leather jackets on their upper bodies. Almost all Tian prefer bright and interesting colors; only the poorest wear undyed cloth.


Tian are known to value family and genealogy, and most of the nobility are able to trace their ancestors back at least a few dozen generations. One Tian-Shu king even claims to be able to trace his lineage back 11,000 years. The Tian gained their knowledge of genealogy from the dragons, who are known to obsess over their lineage.4

Tea ceremony

Amara Li, a Pathfinder Society venture-captain, is well versed in Tian tea ceremonies.

Tea culture is another unique facet of Tian life, as the Tian take their tea very seriously. Tea is prevalent in all walks of life and all levels of society in Tian Xia, and it is more popular than alcohol in much of the continent.4 Courtiers from the ancient empire of Yixing first began to formalize the drinking of tea, or cha in their language, in 2664 AR. These customs eventually grew into the highly ritualized chadao, or tea ceremony. Some decades later, visitors from Teikoku (the modern day Minkai Empire) copied them by creating their own chanoyu tea ritual. Today chadoa is practised in what was once Lung Wa, Xa Hoi, and Tang Mai, whilst chanoyu takes place in Minkai.1112


For additional as-yet unincorporated sources about this subject, see the Meta page.

  1. Erik Mona, et al. “Appendices” in Campaign Setting, 247. Paizo Inc., 2008
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 James Jacobs, et al. The Inner Sea World Guide, 20. Paizo Inc., 2011
  3. James Jacobs, et al. The Inner Sea World Guide, 204. Paizo Inc., 2011
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Erik Mona, et al. “Chapter 1: Characters” in Campaign Setting, 32–33. Paizo Inc., 2008
  5. 5.0 5.1 James Jacobs, et al. “Races of the Dragon Empires” in Dragon Empires Gazetteer, 5. Paizo Inc., 2011
  6. Erik Mona, et al. “Chapter 2: The Inner Sea” in Campaign Setting, 157. Paizo Inc., 2008
  7. Tim Hitchcock, et al. Stolen Land, 87. Paizo Inc., 2010
  8. Erik Mona, et al. “Chapter 1: Characters” in Campaign Setting, 32. Paizo Inc., 2008
  9. Paizo referred to Tang Mai as Dtang Ma until the publication of Tian Xia Days and the Tian Xia World Guide.
  10. Paizo Inc., et al. Humans” in Character Guide, 8–9. Paizo Inc., 2019
  11. Erik Mona, et al. “Chapter 1: Characters” in Campaign Setting, 33. Paizo Inc., 2008
  12. Erik Mona, et al. “Chapter 5: The World” in Campaign Setting, 202. Paizo Inc., 2008