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The people of the Earth Kingdom are proud and strong and adhere to a philosophy of peaceful coexistence and cooperation with the other nations of the world. Earthbenders use their abilities for defense and industry and fiercely defended their cities against Fire Nation attacks during the Hundred Year War. It also has a large economy based on agriculture and limited industry, though it is not as economically powerful as the Fire Nation, which benefits from advanced technology.
The Earth Kingdom is characterized by significant ethnic and cultural diversity, a consequence of the country's vast territorial expanse. As a result, it suffers from high levels of local autonomy and ethnic conflict, both of which began accelerating as the central government grew weak. Despite this division, the people's recognition of the Earth Kingdom as a single political entity is largely strengthened through the communal belief in a shared history and identity.
The Earth Kingdom long withstood encroachments on their borders in the Fire Nation's century-long imperialist war. Other than the Avatar, the Earth Kingdom was the only real obstacle that hindered the Fire Nation from achieving world domination. Though the Water Tribe aided the Earth Kingdom in the War, the conflict progressed poorly and took a heavy toll on them as the years passed. This continued until the Coup of Ba Sing Se, when Princess Azula of the Fire Nation seized control of the Earth Kingdom capital city, Ba Sing Se. By the following summer, the metropolis was occupied by the Fire Nation military, and although it had previously been asserted that the fall of Ba Sing Se would lead to the disintegration of any remaining Earth Kingdom forces, rebel fighters continued to resist foreign rule. This warranted Fire Lord Ozai's decision of burning the Earth Kingdom to the ground upon the arrival of Sozin's Comet.
By the end of summer 100 AG, Ba Sing Se was liberated from Fire Nation control by the Order of the White Lotus, ending the Fire Nation occupation of the city. This, in combination with the decisive defeat of Phoenix King Ozai, effectively liberated the remaining Fire Nation-controlled regions of the Earth Kingdom.
After the end of the Hundred Year War, numerous Fire Nation colonies throughout the western Earth Kingdom were transformed into the United Republic of Nations, a fifth nation founded by Avatar Aang and Fire Lord Zuko.
Seventy years after the conclusion of the Hundred Year War, the Earth Kingdom continued to be influential in world affairs with a representative on the United Republic Council until the council was dissolved in 171 AG.
At some point before 171 AG, Earth King Kuei was succeeded by his daughter, Earth Queen Hou-Ting. During her reign, roaming bands of barbarians destabilized the provinces, preventing the central government from efficiently raising revenues for the state coffers. Nevertheless, the prosperity of the Middle and Upper Rings of Ba Sing Se continued unabated, with the Dai Li maintaining tight control over the city as it had for centuries.
In the era of Raava, predecessors of the Earth Kingdom received the element of earth from lion turtles that granted the bending art through energybending. They could request the ability whenever they ventured into the Spirit Wilds, to aid in the gathering of food and resources. These people eventually congregated to form the Earth Kingdom after the lion turtles renounced their roles as protectors of mankind. At this point, the ancestors of the first Earth Kingdom citizens left the lion turtle cities in favor of establishing settlements throughout the mainland.
Several aspects of life and observances practiced by the predecessors of the first citizens of the Earth Kingdom became part of the nation's culture, notably in the creation of fortified strongholds constructed out of earth, akin to the structures seen in lion turtle cities populated by early Earth Kingdom citizens.
Citizens of the Earth Kingdom tend to have black or brown hair; green, brown, or gray eyes; and often have dark skin tones, though many nobles have lighter complexions.
Traditional colors worn throughout the kingdom range from vibrant greens and yellows to more muted beiges and browns. The people usually style their hair comfortably for work or elaborately for striking impressions. Members of the army wear green and beige uniforms that may have yellow touches to them, and they hide their hair in a conical helmet. However, fashions in the Earth Kingdom vary greatly from one region to another. In the West and South, men typically wear their hair in a top-knot, ornamented with various holders and pins, and they often have beards and/or mustaches. Women living in western and southern parts of the Earth Kingdom wear their hair down or piled on top of their head. In Ba Sing Se, however, women usually wear their long hair wrapped around a support, embellished with tassels or flowers; men usually don a plain queue. Omashu citizens typically wear tunics over a long robe or pants, with their hair hidden by a small turban or hat. Farmers and other laborers wear conical straw hats secured to their heads by a string to protect them from the sun.
The national emblem of the Earth Kingdom is a square inscribed with a circle, at the center of which is a much smaller square (like a Chinese coin or the 'Rock' Pai Sho tile). Its many layers symbolize the "depth" of the Earth Kingdom, both literally and figuratively; the insignia represents the "immeasurable layers of deep rock and minerals which earthbenders manipulate to maintain their great cities", as well as the depth of the inhabitants' commitment toward a peaceful and productive way of life. This emblem can be seen on the helmets of Earth Kingdom troops.
Earth Kingdom currency consists of gold, silver, and copper pieces of varying sizes, which are used by Earth Kingdom citizens to purchase goods and services; they are fashioned in the shape of the national emblem, though gold pieces have four notches on the edge, giving them a flower-like shape.
The geography of the Earth Kingdom varies tremendously due to its immense size. The northwestern areas are mountainous and covered in dense coniferous forests with the only known settlement in the area being a merchant town, while the western coast harbors a warmer climate and many deciduous forests. The inland west is also home to several swamps and the arid Great Divide, while the center of the Kingdom is comprised of the enormous Si Wong Desert. The southwestern coast is covered with lush forests – however, a rain shadow leaves the Kolau Mountains and areas to the southwest as arid mountain ranges with sparse grasslands – the only major settlement in the area being Omashu. The southern coast is a lush area filled with rivers and forested areas, populated by wealthy towns like Gaoling; north, over the mountains, the land turns to sparsely populated plains which once again meld into the Si Wong Desert. The northeast is mostly uninhabited beyond Ba Sing Se.
Though at first glance they would appear to be the simplest of substances, rock and stone turn out to be the Earth Kingdom's greatest natural resources. As such, they are widely used and manipulated to many ends, from tools to entire metropolises. While the Earth Kingdom as a whole does not make use of fossil fuels nearly as much as the industrialized Fire Nation, coal is mined in certain villages for fuel. The timber of their forests also serve as fuel along with being lumbered for building.
Architecture, farming, carpentry, hunting, and mining are among many significant Earth Kingdom industries. Its citizens have managed to develop an advanced trade and commerce system so that almost all may benefit. From the complex sewage and postal system of Omashu, to the Ba Sing Se metro transit stations, and various inventions and their inventors, such as the mechanist, all serve as demonstration of the Earth Kingdom's surprisingly sophisticated society.
An abundance of fresh vegetables grows in the rich fertile soil, and fruit and nut trees are plentiful. Animals thrive in the lush forest and farmlands, providing beef and poultry to add to the fruits and vegetables.
Government system: Confederate Constitutional Monarchy
Head of state: Earth monarch
Head of government: Grand Secretariat of Ba Sing Se
The Earth Kingdom is a large nation divided into provinces and semi-autonomous major cities, such as Omashu, among others. The capital of the Earth Kingdom is Ba Sing Se. While there is a central ruler of the entire Earth Kingdom, known as the Earth King, who lives in Ba Sing Se, the city of Omashu is known to have its own king as well. While the Earth Kingdom is definitely shown as being interwoven militarily, bureaucratically little or no influence seems to be exerted upon the constituent towns and regions by the imperial government, especially outside of the major cities. Isolated regions like the Si Wong Desert are havens for criminals, and many agricultural regions have little or no contact with officials from the central government. In addition, the Earth Kingdom has no unified system of laws, with each town having its own legal code. Complex organization within the government is not seen outside of Ba Sing Se and its surroundings, such as Full Moon Bay.
The decline of imperial power was coupled with the decline of the personal power of the Earth King, as successive kings delegated their authority to the bureaucracy in favor of pleasure-seeking and leisure. During the conspiracy of Ba Sing Se during the reign of the 52nd Earth King, the Earth King had little true power, and while he was greatly revered, most of the governmental power in Ba Sing Se was entrusted to various advisers and counsel under the control of Long Feng, the Grand Secretariat of Ba Sing Se and head of the Dai Li. Within Ba Sing Se, the government had near total control, with Long Feng using the Dai Li to suppress dissent and talk of the Hundred Year War, turning Ba Sing Se into a police state. In order to promote the idea of Ba Sing Se as a peaceful utopia, forcible elimination of opposition through methods such as brainwashing were used. The government of Ba Sing Se was incredibly bureaucratic, since it took at least six to eight weeks to process a request to meet with the king (though this may have merely been an effort to stall Team Avatar).
Royal Earthbender Guards
- Main article: Royal Earthbender Guards
The Royal Earthbender Guards of Ba Sing Se, also known as the King's Guards, are affiliated with neither the Dai Li nor the military and instead serve as personal protectors of the Earth King. There seem to be hundreds of them guarding the Royal Palace. They have also been seen as the gate keepers of the Outer and Inner Walls of Ba Sing Se. The guards use specialized surface-to-surface rocks against invaders approaching on foot, but the projectiles are displayed to be able to also serve as surface-to-air rocks against airborne intruders. They sport dark green armor with a green feather at the top of the helmet.
Not much is known about the law enforcement in the Earth Kingdom. However, during the Hundred Year War, crime seemed to be a daily problem. Thugs and thieves used the chaos of war to rob refugees and peasants in regions uncontrolled by the Earth Kingdom Army. Even in Ba Sing Se, the greatest city in the Earth Kingdom, many citizens and refugees of the Lower Ring felt they had to turn to crime for survival, due to the extreme nature of poverty there. Law enforcement was often left to local authorities and the military, but neither of them succeeded in effectively curbing crime.
The Dai Li
- Main article: Dai Li
The Dai Li are the cultural enforcers of Ba Sing Se, created by Avatar Kyoshi after a peasant rebellion in Ba Sing Se. In addition to distinct uniforms, they are notable for sporting rock gloves and shoes, which can be used to great effect as weapons through earthbending. Though they allegedly serve the Earth King, their loyalty shifted over time toward the Grand Secretariat of Ba Sing Se, especially when Long Feng was in power, and they functioned as a sort of secret police, arresting and re-educating anyone who broke regulations concerning mention of the Hundred Year War. By the time of Earth Queen Hou-Ting's rule, they served as her personal guards and secret police.
From the enforced culture of Ba Sing Se, to the initially isolationist inhabitants of Kyoshi Island, the culture of the Earth Kingdom is far less defined than those of the other nations, a result of its immense size and diversity. Due to their manipulation of earth, which Iroh refers to as the "element of substance", earthbenders are virtually immovable, as reflected in the personality of the Earth Kingdom's citizens. Many hints indicate that the creators of the show based the Earth Kingdom off Chinese and Korean culture, with reference to the hairstyles, architecture, geography, and relations to other countries.
Earth Kingdom architecture varies by province. Like the other nations, it is based on its elemental color, in this case, green. The majority of the buildings are made of stone, wood, and plaster; these may be used in conjunction with one another or separately, depending on the available resources. Most buildings have sloping roofs covered with dark gray or green tiles; yellow tiles denote wealth and are used by aristocrats in Ba Sing Se. The Earth Kingdom insignia is often put on important buildings and fortresses as a symbol of the government. Roads vary considerably – in the country, they are usually made of well-worn dirt, while cities have well-made flagstone streets.
The population of the Earth Kingdom is among small villages, larger towns, and the capital city of Ba Sing Se, which contains a significant portion of its citizens. Tiny villages of ten or so inhabitants dot the landscape; larger towns, such as Chin Village and Gaoling, are found more infrequently. Because of Fire Nation assaults, many of the once great cities of the Earth Kingdom were either destroyed, as was Taku, or taken over, as was Omashu. Smaller towns are usually forced into slave labor by the Fire Nation, to mine coal and ores to build and fuel their warships.
As a result of the various minerals the country's soil contains, Earth Kingdom farmers are able to grow a wide variety of foods to support their diets, including vegetables, fruit and nut orchards, and rice, the Earth Kingdom's staple crop. The wild game which thrives within its many dense forests and domesticated animals found on many farms add meat and poultry to the Earth Kingdom citizens' diet. Tea is the most common drink and is made from many plants, including ginseng, leechi, jasmine, and the rare white dragon bush.
Each of the four nations is influenced by their own distinct, dominant season. The Earth Kingdom's dominant season is spring, the time when several living things on Earth are reborn. To an effect, more earthbenders are born during the spring than any other season and their powers are at their strongest during the springtime.
- Main article: Military of the Earth Kingdom
Since the Earth Kingdom is geographically the largest of the four nations, it possesses a large variety of combat organizations and personnel.
Like the Fire Nation, the Earth Kingdom armies consist of benders and normal foot soldiers. Soldiers, both benders and nonbenders, carry a wide variety of weapons, from spears, swords, and other various polearms, to more unusual weapons such as hammers, axes, and sickles.
The cavalry consists of ostrich horses, which can vertically climb short distances and run at high speeds. These, along with eel hounds, are also used as transports.
Earthbenders use stones shaped like the Earth Kingdom emblem as artillery and catapult projectiles. These person-sized round coins are invaluable weapons to the earthbenders. The coins can be lined up side by side to make a defensive (and mobile) wall, or stacked to make an impromptu lookout tower. Skilled earthbenders can use these coins as a vehicle and "ride" in the hole in the middle of the coins.
During the Day of Black Sun, Earth Kingdom forces assisted in the invasion of the Fire Nation, bringing with them five tanks assembled by the mechanist. These tanks are operated by four earthbenders using their earthbending for mobility, and they can carry multiple troops into battle. These tanks have incredibly strong armor and their segmented design allows them to cross any terrain as well as to crush elevated targets. Finally, they have side flaps that open up to allow earthbenders to fire their rock projectiles.
After the Hundred Year War, the Earth Kingdom Army expanded. When Earth King Kuei marched to Yu Dao, his army consisted of several earthbending-powered tanks and modified versions of the hot air balloon.
In 171 AG, after the Harmonic Convergence and the subsequent awakening of new airbenders in the Earth Kingdom, Earth Queen Hou-Ting ordered the Dai Li to kidnap every single airbender to forcefully conscript them into her army, which comprised of military units such as the 1st Airbending Regiment.
Council of Five
- Main article: Council of Five
The Council of Five is a group of five high-ranking Earth Kingdom generals, including Generals How and Sung, who decide the best use of their armies fighting outside the walls of Ba Sing Se. It is the Council of Five who designs and implement any war plans, which includes the best means of protecting the capital city as well as the proposed invasion of the Fire Nation. In addition to this, the Council also controls the King's Guards, an elite force of guards who protect the king. The Council of Five has been together for as long as there has been a king of Ba Sing Se, and up until Long Feng came into power, it has always worked hand in hand with the Earth King to ensure the city's well-being.
- Main article: Terra Team
The Terra Team is an elite platoon of earthbenders under the command of General Sung. They are considered by him to be a capable group. Their uniform differs slightly from regular Earth Kingdom soldiers. During their short appearance when they were called to stop the Fire Nation drill, they were shown to act in a cohesive way, coordinating their attacks. Despite this, they were quickly and easily disabled by Mai and Ty Lee.
Not much is known about the Earth Kingdom Navy, except that it is likely inferior to that of the Fire Nation. The Earth Kingdom's General Fong explicitly stated that invading the Fire Nation with its ships would be suicidal. Three junk ships used by the Dai Li patrolled Lake Laogai. Additionally, given that earthbenders require a physical connection to the earth to bend, being on a wooden or metal boat would render the earthbenders almost totally powerless, unless the ships carried earthen projectiles. Without benders, the Earth Kingdom Navy would be at a severe disadvantage in terms of naval combat compared with the Fire Nation or the Water Tribes.
The Earth Kingdom also acquired the specifications for the hot air balloons, which were once Fire Nation exclusives, and incorporated them into their own line of warfare, albeit modified to bear the Earth Kingdom emblem and colors. One such unit was used to carry Earth King Kuei as he led the Earth Kingdom Army to Yu Dao to enforce the Harmony Restoration Movement.
- Main article: Kyoshi Warriors
The Kyoshi Warriors are an all-female group of fighters led by Suki on Kyoshi Island. Their fighting style and clothing mimic those of their founder, Avatar Kyoshi, although the most current fighters do not implement any of the bending arts in their physical movements. Clad in ornate, green armor and Kabuki-like makeup, designed to intimidate opponents, Kyoshi Island Warriors use metal fans as their main weapons. It was later revealed the warriors also utilize katanas and wrist shields. Holding the fans like extensions of their own arms, they aim to turn the strength of their opponents against them, a principle also hinged upon in waterbending. The female warriors do not take kindly to training outsiders, let alone men, in these unique methods. Traditionally, only women are trained as Kyoshi Warriors, however there have been exceptions over the years, such as Sokka.
- The Earth Kingdom seems to resemble the Ming and Qing dynasties of China, with buildings in Ba Sing Se that look very much like those in the Forbidden City. Omashu however, is an exception with the city fairly prevalent with pyramid-like structures. However, during Bumi's liberation of Omashu, and Aang's wild ride, it is seen that the buildings within the structures also look like Chinese ones. The people of the Earth Kingdom also possess a Chinese appearance, the king himself wearing the clothing of a Chinese Emperor during the Qing Dynasty. The only notable exceptions are the citizens of Kyoshi Island and King Bumi, with Bumi's wardrobe being exceptionally strange and the people of Kyoshi Island having a more Japanese appearance, as discerned from the name. Also, some of the peasants in the Earth Kingdom, such as Song, have been seen wearing Korean-style clothing.
- The Earth Kingdom was the most focused upon in the series, allowing information regarding culture, military, and diversity to be explored and found.
- The Earth Kingdom seems to run like the Holy Roman Empire, with many smaller kingdoms such as Omashu and Kyoshi Island answering to an overarching ruler.
- The Earth Kingdom national emblem resembles one of the six coins of the Sanada clan emblem (insignia for bravery).
- Since the Earth Kingdom is so large and diverse, it actually holds locations claimed by each of the other three nations within its territory. The Northern Air Temple is in the northeastern Earth Kingdom, the Foggy Swamp Tribe is in a southwestern swamp, and numerous Fire Nation colonies dotted the western Earth Kingdom.
- It is known that there are sixty-seven different royal seals, used on different occasions, depending on the document in question.
- The Earth Kingdom is roughly analogous to the real-world Eurasia.
- The various types of armor and uniform of the Earth Kingdom troops are reminiscent of those of the Manchurian soldiers of the Qing dynasty.
- Earth Kingdom fashion and architecture seems to be influenced by Chinese, Korean, and Japanese cultures. There are also visible influences from Manchu, Mongol, and nomadic cultures from Central Asia that border the deserts.
- The Earth Kingdom has the smallest percentage of benders among the four nations.