The Shen is a religious and temporal position, and the ruler of the Liang state and leader of the Angjao religion. It's holder sits upon the Jade Throne, one of the Three Thrones of Macalgra - considered the most ancient and important royal lineages on the planet. The Shen's seat of power is presently located in Dien Chen and the current Shen of Liang is Lian Jia. The title has been fought over in civil wars and between competing claimants, but has been recognized for over six thousand years.
The Shen's present line is a hereditary position. It has not always been. Previous Shen were elected by the nobility, appointed by the priests of Ochino, chosen by their armies, among other forms of government that have existed in Liang's history. The present royal line of the House Liu has ruled since the time of Kusha, taking the throne in 2889. The House Liu was chosen by a congregation temple leaders of the Angjao religion, one of the few times the religion's leaders have organised in such a way. It is presently handed down to the first born child of the preceding Shen, with no regard for gender.
The Shen is the absolute ruler of Liang, within only the limitations of their popularity. Like many monarchs, the ability to exert ones power is limited by backlash from an angry populace. However, in day to day duties, the Shen has ultimate authority. Most Shen choose to appoint a inner council to assist in the realms governance, but retaining ultimate say. All levels of Liang's bureaucracy ultimately answer to the Shen. The various instruments of government are led by ministers appointed by the Shen, and report to the Shen. As well as undertaking the leadership of government, the Shen is responsible for certain sacred ceremonies for to honour Ochino, including leading festivals, rites and prayers. Shen often gives these duties to their second son. The Shen's Wuzin, the national academy for mages, is under the Shen's direct control, outside of the national ministries. The Shen oversees direct control of the academy, its curriculum and teachers. In addition, the military of Liang ultimately answers to the Shen, though day to day operation is within the remit of the Old Admiralty.
The origin of the title of Shen is murky. It is stated that the Pele Ochino was the father of the first Shen, and this demi-god emperor united the early tribes of Liang. The date for this supposed first Shen is around 5000 RC, based mostly on claims of his marriage to Tamenei, daughter of the legendary first mage Anenky. The first historically documented ruler was that of the First Dynasty of Liang in 3000 RC, but most of the names of these Shen have been lost to time. The title evolved over subsequent dynasties, from a high priest who wielded power, to a more temporal ruler. For a time in the Intermediate Age, the Shen ruled only the capital Akachi, while Liang was plunged into a dark age. The Shen Aterui led the initial expansion beyond those walls around 1000 RC, creating the Second Dynasty, and the first true empire of Liang. Upon her ascension his daughter Sutsa founded the great city of Dien Chen to centralise governance of her new empire. Aterui's ancestry is entirely unknown, and the scant records from the period claim various divine lineages instead of true familial trees. The House of Sutsa ruled for an unprecedented fifteen centuries. The House of Meng gained control of Liang in a palace coup during the long conflict in Okinochi, and ruled until the 19th century. They failed to solve the Okinochi situation, leading the nation to only gain meager and ultimately costly colonies that they would lose centuries later. Then the Xiao dynasty, cousins of the Meng family, seized control in another palace coup.
The Xiao dynasty's most most notable Shen was Shinuru, who led the nation into the Gold Blood War with the Sura Empire. The costly war, though perhaps justified, led Liang towards a dark age that was ultimately confirmed with the Dark Plague in the 26th century. Despite Liang's ultimate victory, the cost of the war included their colonies on Okinochi, and many of Liang's naval trade routes.
House LiuThe house of Liu rules as the presiding Shen of Liang. Liang had faced a long, slow decline over the preceding decades before their appointment in the 2889. Multiple dynasties rose and fell, generally through inheritance, but not without palace coups either. The disastrous rule of Hao Yahui, who led a court renowned for excess and corruption and accumulated vast debt, proved enough to push the citizenry close to openly rioting. Hao died without heir in a situation thought ironic by many; victim to food poisoning following one of his extravagant dinner parties. In response a gathering of the priests of the nation's thousands of shrines and temples was called by the temple of Ochino in the capital of Dien Chen. With the public confidence in the monarchy eroded to almost nil, this unprecedented action was the last chance to restore faith in the monarchy. The gathering convened for over a month before they elected Shen Kusha of House Liu. Kusha was a minor noble, the young head of a family known almost exclusively for their small rice alcohol export business, yet they were neutral, traditionalist, unrelated to the previous monarchy, considered outstanding businessmen and without reproach in reputation. The congregation was unable to choose among more controversial candidates with both strong support and derision, and so decided upon a compromise in House Liu. Shen Kusha would lead the nation to great success, primarily by taking advantage of the Golem crisis ten years after his reign began. He re-positioned the nation from being in many ways decades behind the world to leading golem technology. Where other nations tried to stall the progress, he pushed Liang to embrace it. The Shen's Wuzin were instructed to copy Juventian golems, and did so with haste. Their early adoption led to improvements in every field of industry, while their neighbours still struggled with religious or political debates over the technology. His descendants still hold the throne, their reign secured by his quick action. The ruling Shen is Lian Jia, who took the throne in 3230 upon the death of her father.
- Dien Chen - Capital city of Liang, famous for its pink walls.
- Pele - A peh or spirit that has reached godhood in the Angjao religion.
- Liang - Ancient western nation that follows the Angjao religion.
- Sura Empire - Largest empire in the eastern world.
- Akachi - Ancient capital of Liang.