Deadlands: Anastasis & Wormwood
Chinese Culture in the Weird West
Illustration by Bohuslav Kroupa
Joss house (local temple)
Every Chinese community has a joss house at it’s cultural center. Inside the joss house, even those in isolated communities worshippers burn incense before elegantly carved ivory and jade figurines. Paper lanterns cast a flickering glow across hand-painted porcelain pots and statuettes of bronze and gold. Brass gongs announce the comings and goings of the faithful. Not only did the joss house provide a center of culture and a place of devotion and repose, it was a link between the New World and the Old. To go inside was to return home, to be in China again.
Triads, also called Tongs
Triads are Chinese secret societies or sworn brotherhoods usually criminal. They are governed by strict codes and an inflexible hierarchical system. Betraying your sworn brothers is punished by death by a hundred cuts.
Joss sticks (incense)
Dried squid is a popular food, often imported from China.
Colors and Numbers
Certain colors and numbers are significant in Chinese culture. More than just symbolizing concepts, they attract the things associated with them.
Red is the most important color. It represents happiness, good fortune, beauty and success and is considered very lucky.
Green symbolizes prosperity.
Yellow is beautiful and prestigious, also heroic (as opposed to Western cowardice). Historically it was associated with Chinese royalty.
Black is a neutral color and commonly worn for daily wear. Black is also the color of the Tao and the color of the Heavens.
Blue (qing) is associated with vitality, Spring, nature, and renewal.
White is associated with brightness and purity and is used in mourning (as opposed to black in the West).
8 is the most important number and brings luck.
9 is believed to bring permanence, especially to a new business.
The ancient tradition of Chinese medicine is a broad mix of herbal medicine, acupuncture, massage, and diet sharing common beliefs. Doctrines are concerned with the flow of vital energy and the harmony of the body with itself and the environment. Wu Xing is very often a part of the diagnosis and treatment.
Wu Xing, the Five Element Theory
A philosophy permeating Chinese thought and belief. It concerns the way energy interacts moving through things, transforming and changing them. It is largely about the motion of these energies as they create and destroy each other according to their nature. In the diagram the outer circle shows how the elements generate each other while the inner arrows demonstrate what they overcome. Wu Xing is seen in everything from cosmic cycles to the succession of political regimes, to the workings of internal organs.