Yung Shai is an isolated kingdom in the northern part of Syra. Fiercely independent, foreign traders are rarely permitted to do business more than a few miles within their borders. It is rarer still that any outsiders, save those on diplomatic business, are allowed within their capital of Shai-Tenghar.
Yung Shai is ruled by the Mandarin, a hereditary ruler who wields absolute power; succession passes through the eldest child of either gender. Though most Mandarins have held the best interests of Yung Shai foremost in mind, there have been more than a few who seriously abused their power; most of their rules ended violently, often precipitating dynastic changes in the process. Yung Shai is currently ruled by Mandarin Ru Ling Shan, of the Ru Dynasty.
Yung Shai was once two kingdoms: Kuzutoro in the west, and Shailiang in the east. While both kingdoms had similar cultures, they were bitter enemies for much of their long history. The two alternated between periods of open warfare and of tenuous peace; both periods could last anywhere from a few years to nearly a century.
It was Shiangliang that ultimately emerged the victor when, after series of decisive and particularly brutal victories, the Shogun of Kuzutoro finally surrendered in 2349. The Mandarin of Shiangliang accepted the Shogun's surrender, and allowed him to live out the rest of his days in luxury within the palace at Shai-Tenghar. As a final show of power, however, the Mandarin ordered the destruction of the Kuzutoran capital of Hashizawa. Shailiang's most powerful wu-jen summoned a legion of evil spirits, reducing the once-great city to a haunted ruin.
The Mandarin renamed the kingdom Yung Shai and quickly demonstrated that he did did not wish the Kuzu treated as less than the Shai; indeed, it was his desire that all would live together as a united people. What has emerged over the generations since has been a culture comprised of elements both Kuzu and Shai in origin, and Yung Shai has known relative peace since the Unification.
Yung Shai's army is predominantly - though far from universally - female. The upper echelons, the samurai, are largely drawn from the nobility. Traditionally, most female children who are likely to neither inherit nor be betrothed to other houses are trained in combat from an early age. When they become old enough to bear children they are encouraged to find husbands and do so, returning after a few years to complete their training; it is the husbands' duty to raise the children while their wives defend Yung Shai from its enemies, and considered a great honor for both.
With martial service being considered a primarily feminine activity, men in Yung Shai typically pursue less physically-demanding careers such as scholars, arcanists, and lawyers. As with their soldiers, though, such gender roles are not strict; many women train as wizards or ambassadors, though they are far less numerous than their male counterparts.
Yung Shai's population is almost entirely human. There are a scattered few members of other races living within its borders, though they are typically looked down on by the other citizens as outsiders, and are never truly accepted. The sole exception is the Deepiron Clan of dwarves that makes their home in The Teeth, who provide a significant portion of Yung Shai's metals. The government of Yung Shai considers the Deepiron Clan to be a part of Yung Shai, while the dwarves consider themselves to be independent contractors and trade partners. This tedious arrangement has persisted for several hundred years, in large part because it has never been challenged by either party.
The people of Yung Shai, for the most part, do not worship the gods (though they certainly acknowledge their existence). Rather, their worship is directed primarily at the four Great Elemental Spirits: Sunnis of earth, Zaaman Rul of fire, Chan of air, and Ben-hadar of water. While lesser elementals are not worshiped, they are generally treated with reverence.
However, they recognize that there is balance in all things; earth grows food and provides shelter, but tumbling boulders and rocky precipices are deadly hazards. Fire provides warmth, but also burns and consumes. Air is the breath of life, but also brings violent storms. Water is essential to all beings, but powerful waves can drag men below its surface and drown them. This balance is represented by the four Dark Elemental Spirits: Ogrémoch of earth, Imix of fire, Yan-C-Bin of air, and Olhydra of water. While the people of Yung-Shai respect their power and influence, only a madman would think to worship such destructive beings.