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China is the cradle of civilization in East Asia, along with being among the oldest in the world, profoundly shaping the culture, society, philosophy, and language of this region. It has been a premier regional power throughout its millennia-long history, a history largely characterized by a cycle of fragmentation, reunification, and dynastic succession.

The first imperial dynasty was the totalitarian Qin whose first emperor, Qin Shi Huang, was assassinated by the proto-Assassin Wei Yu in 210 BCE, resulting in its abrupt collapse after only fifteen years in power. During the Song dynasty, it endured a harsh war in defence against the Mongol Empire, gradually losing territory after territory from the north until it was finally extinguished in 1279 in spite of the best efforts of the Chinese Brotherhood of Assassins. When indigenous rule was restored with the Ming dynasty in 1368, the government fell under the sway of the Chinese Rite of the Templar Order, becoming increasingly despotic and enacting innumerable purges against the Assassins and any civilian associates. As with the Song before it, the Ming eventually collapsed under the onslaught of a northern enemy: the Manchus who established the Qing dynasty in 1644.

The Qing proved to be the last imperial dynasty of China. Upon its overthrow in 1912, the Chinese revolutionaries under the leadership of Sun Yat-sen proclaimed the Republic of China, but neither the Assassins nor the Templars were able to prevent the fledgling republic from shattering almost immediately into dozens of warlord states. Sun's successor, Chiang Kai-shek, ultimately failed to defeat his last foe, the communists led by Mao Zedong, and in the present day, China remains divided between the People's Republic of China, which possesses all of Mainland China, and the Republic of China, now limited to Taiwan.

Beijing, the former capital of the Ming dynasty, has retained this status in the People's Republic of China.

History

Qin dynasty

In 210 BCE, China was under Templar domination in the form of Qin Shi Huang, who had proclaimed himself the first Emperor of China after reunifying the nation. That year, the emperor was assassinated by the Assassin Wei Yu, who slew him with a spear.[1]

Song dynasty

By the beginning of the 13th century, the Song was the reigning dynasty of China, and it was during this period that China's northern neighbors, the Mongols, emerged as an empire newly-unified under Genghis Khan. With a Sword of Eden in hand, Genghis embarked on a series of conquests across Asia, threatening northern China. In the 1220s, recognizing the peril, the Assassin Mentor Altaïr Ibn-La'Ahad, his wife Maria, and their son Darim traveled to the region, liaised with Qulan Gal, a Mongolian Assassin, and assassinated the Great Khan while he was besieging Xingqing, the capital of the Western Xia Empire.[2]

Genghis Khan's demise, alongside that of many of his sons,[3] did little to stymie Mongol expansion and by the middle of the century, the Mongol Empire had annexed most of China. In 1259, the Mongols led by Möngke Khan, the first Mongol Great Khan to be inducted into the Templar Order, assaulted Diaoyu Fotress. Thanks to the sacrifice of a Chinese Assassin simultaneously serving as a Song commander, the Mongols were forced to withdraw for the timebeing. On 11 August 1259, the late Assassin's daughter, Zhang Zhi, avenged him by assassinating Möngke after being recruited into the Chinese Brotherhood of Assassins by its Mentor Kang.[4]

Yuan dynasty

As with Genghis before, Möngke Khan's death only forestalled the Mongol conquest of China which was ultimately completed in 1279 under Möngke's younger brother Kublai Khan who inaugurated the Yuan dynasty. During his reign, the Venetian merchants Niccolò, Maffeo, and Marco Polo, who had been entrusted by Altaïr with carrying on the Assassin Brotherhood, infiltrated the court of Kublai.[3] There, after many decades, they managed to recover Altaïr's Codex which had been lost to the Mongols shortly after the Fall of Masyaf.[2][3]

Ming dynasty

By 1368, the Chinese had definitively threw off the yoke of Mongol domination, restoring indigenous rule with the Ming dynasty begun by the Hongwu Emperor. During this time, the Chinese Brotherhood based themselves in the city of Beijing and were led by Fang Xiaoru. In 1402, the throne fell to the Templar-allied Yongle Emperor, who had thousands of suspected Assassins across the country arrested and executed, including Fang Xiaoru. Li Tong, a female Assassin whose parents had also been killed during the purge, was able to escape Beijing with an apprentice and an Apple of Eden. In 1424, while the Yongle Emperor was trying to suppress a rebellion near the Gobi Desert, Li Tong entered his tent and assassinated him.[5]

Zhengde Emperor

The year 1505 saw the accession of the Zhengde Emperor, a young ruler whose hedonistic lifestyle and negligence of state affairs set a trend for the emperors to follow. Moreover, the Templars and Assassins continued to secretly battle for influence in the imperial court during his reign, with the former faction largely consisting of a group of corrupt eunuchs known as the Eight Tigers led by Liu Jin. In 1510, the Assassins compelled Zhu Zhifan, the Prince of Anhua, to revolt against the Zhengde Emperor, only for the rebellion to be swiftly put down by the efficient command of Liu Jin. Due to a power struggle among the Eight Tigers, however, Liu Jin himself was implicated in treason by Zhang Yong, his second-in-command, and executed not long afterwards. Aside from these intrigues, China in this period continued to suffer frequent raids by the Mongols which the Emperor personally fought to defend against.[6]

In 1521, the Zhengde Emperor died without an heir, resulting in a brief but chaotic month of interregnum. The Templars seized upon the lack of imperial authority to enact a massive assault on Assassin forces in the capital of Beijing. Word of this operation leaked to the Assassins by way of an imperial concubine, Shao Jun, and they countered with a preemptive strike that nevertheless ended in a catastrophic defeat. The Eight Tigers thereby seized control of the court and were able to secure the accession of the Jiajing Emperor, a cousin of the Zhengde Emperor who made a ready puppet for them. In the meantime, innumerable innocents throughout the country were arrested, tortured, and executed in a nation-wide purge of Assassins and suspected accomplices.[6]

Jiajing Emperor

Like his predecessor, the Jiajing Emperor refused to responsibly partake in his duties as a ruler, preferring to leave them to his court officials while he indulged in a life of luxury. As a result, his government fell under the domination of the Templars and their chief instrument, Yan Song. By 1524, the Jiajing Emperor was manipulated into succeeding where the Yongle Emperor failed. Rather than have himself adopted by his predecessor's line, he declared his own father an emperor posthumously, precipitating a political crisis known as the Great Rites Controversy. Under the pretext of purging dissenters to the Emperor's will, this was seized upon by the Templars to organize a campaign against the Chinese Brotherhood that by the end of the year annihilated them down to only a few Assassins left.[6]

Despite the decisive Templar victory, the survival of an Assassin, the former concubine Shao Jun, spelled their doom as she almost single-handedly assassinated each of the Eight Tigers from 1526 to 1532. This shadow war conducted in the backdrop of Chinese affairs led to several disasters such as the burning of Macau in 1526 and the destruction of the Forbidden City in 1530. In a bid to preserve his power, Zhang Yong made a secret pact with the Mongol Altan Khan in 1532, allowing them a free pass through the Great Wall of China to invade the country as his allies. The conspiracy was thwarted by Jun during her assassination of Yong, and she subsequently revived the Chinese Brotherhood.[6]

Decades later in 1567, Shao Jun, now a Mentor, sent one of her agents to poison the Jiajing Emperor with a lethal dose of mercury disguised as an elixir of life.[6]

Republic era

In 1912, the last imperial dynasty, the Qing was overthrown in by republican revolutionaries which led to the foundation of the Republic of China with the Templar Grand Master Sun Yat-sen as its provisional president. China soon after fractured into dozens of warlord states, and the Shanghai Rite of the Templar Order struggled to maintain order. All the while, crime syndicates such as the Green Gang led by Du Yuesheng plagued large urban centers like Shanghai. The Templar's efforts were not helped by the demise of Sun Yat-sen at the hands of the Assassins in 1925, but Sun's successor in the Nationalist Party, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, made a strong push for the reunification of China.[7]

His military successes were welcomed by followers of the Communist Party of China and the Templars, both whom eagerly awaited his army in Shanghai and the latter whom desired Chiang as their new Grand Master. Albert Bolden, the Black Cross, personally destroyed the armored train that kept Chiang pinned down in Chekiang Province to facilitate his arrival, but Chiang, in collusion with the Green Gang, had no intention of swearing allegiance to the Templar Order and wanted China for himself. Breaking ties with not just the Templars but the communists as well, on 12 April 1927, he initiated the split by massacring the communists cheering his arrival in Shanghai.[7] The massacre triggered a conflict that escalated into the Chinese Civil War,[7] fought between Chiang Kai-shek of the Nationalist Party and Mao Zedong of the Communist Party. Mao, a Templar, would ultimately emerge the victor and found the People's Republic of China in 1949.

In 2012, the Templars were planning to launch a satellite into space with a Piece of Eden attached to it. The Assassins listed China as one of the possible countries where the satellite was located.[8]

References