The Hang family is one of the more recent ones on the scene. They started fifty years ago when a powerful person, Hang Bu Fang was evicted from the Ming Court for having committed a crime. (On behalf of the then Ming Emperor.) The Ming Emperor sent him to the city of Hei Churl which had just been destroyed by internal fighting to make a show of sending him away, but also to keep him close in case he was needed.
Hang Bu Fang has built up a powerful city (Hel Churl) and now has a respected place in the Ming Court because he is their main supplier of slaves.
The Hei family is the second wealthiest in the Middle Kingdom. Only the Mings have more wealth. The Hei family attained their current position by closely allying themselves to the Ming family, through judicious marriages and placement of clever, loyal family members in the upper echelons of the bureaucracy.
Hei Ho Ban has been selected by the Hei family to marry Princess Ming Su Ling. All had been ready to go ahead with the gradual assumption of the imperial throne when Wu Tze Lee stole the opals. Now the emperor, in his efforts towards regaining the opals and some respect in the eyes of his people, has offered the hand of Ming Su Ling to whoever can find and return the opals.
Through their family dragon in the Celestial Bureaucracy the Hei family were able to have Wu Tze Lee imprisoned in the Five Element Mountain and force the decrepit (from old age) Ming dragon head to take direct control of the emperor.
The family has been able to secure the services of the Imperial Fleet and Ming Army in their bid to regain the opals. They hope that this will have two benefits. The Ming Army will regain the opals for the Hei family and ensure the succession of power to them and they will be able to gain control of the capital with their own forces while the bulk of the Ming Army is dealing with Wu Tze Lee.
After a long shaky start the Ming family have now been controlling the Middle Kingdom for four hundred years in peace and prosperity. Perhaps too much peace and prosperity as they have been slowly losing their grip on events around them. The Hei family have been gradually making inroads into Ming power, constantly outflanking the Mings over the last one hundred years. It was against this backdrop that the emperor sought the help of Wu Tze Lee, the most powerful wizard in the world, to disgrace the Hei family. Things have gone horribly wrong with Wu Tze Lee betraying his trust and stealing the Three Heavenly Opals. With Wu Tze Lee at the peak of his powers, his fortress is impenetrable. So the Emperor turned to the Celestial Bureaucracy for help. The Celestial Bureaucracy was not impressed with the events and have forced the Ming's hand. They have started by imprisoning Wu Tze Lee and announcing the quest for the Three Heavenly Opals. The only reason the Mings are still in control is that the Jade Emperor (ruler of heaven) is worried by the amazing power of the Hei family and that the Jade Emperor wants a smooth transition to a new family in a way acceptable to all the other families.
The Tang family's power is based on being in control of one of the largest and best placed cities in the Middle Kingdom. That city is called Liang. It is a prosperous trading centre with the second most renown magic school (after the Ming's magic school) in the land.
Over the past century the Tang family has been cleverly out manoeuvred by several other families, the most notable of which is the Hei family. Their power has slipped to the extent that now the only city they control is Liang. Only the size and prowess of their local army prevents others from attempting to take this city.
With the Empire in such a state of turmoil and the eminent rise of the Hei family it has been decided by the family heads to send a small group to Nu Gong Zao, while the army stays in Liang to defend it in the civil war that will shortly start. Tang Li Bing cannot take troops with him as the family believe they are all required to defend the city.
The Wing family is a new family. Wing Ting Mai is the founding member, his parents unknown. The Wing's have ruthlessly taken control of the town they control and renamed it Wing Ting Mai in the tradition of naming a town after its current ruler. They are only a small bit player in the overall power struggle, except for their close ties with Wu Tze Lee and the fact that they have been given an opal to keep safe. They will probably fade into obscurity after the new Emperor is chosen.
The Wu Family have always been a thorn in the side of the Mings. They have effectively controlled most of the Shan Peninsula, though with the arrival of Hang Bu Fang they have lost their grip over about half the peninsula.
No one believed it when Wu Tze Lee was chosen as the next Emperor's magician. It was widely said that this would bring the downfall of the Ming Empire. (A rumour circulated by the Hei family.)
With the stealing of the opals and the sending of the Imperial Fleet it appears as if the Wu family is about to come to an abrupt end. This is not the case. Wu Tze Lee is not dead. Wu Tze Fang and his generals know this because Wu Tze Fang is the next in line. The family has a special tattoo which magically transfers to the next in line. Wu Tze Fang has not received this tattoo. Though Wu Tze Fang dies in the battle, Wu Tze Lee does not and a child of the family miraculously survives the destruction of the city. (With a lot of help from the family dragon.)
(c) 1990, 2000, 2001 Brian Yap and Bradley Bush
02 January 2001