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'Qigong Revolution'- Contemporary AH Wuxia/Xianxia World Building


The world-building for this AH Wuxia story's heavily inspired by the real-life story of the Qigong Boom, along with the establishments of Falun Gong and Zhong Gong by their respective founders, Li Hongzhi and Zhang Hongbao, and some (but not all) of the claims which are still being made by both of them today IRL- i.e, Li Hongzhi's assertions that his Mastery of the Void enables him to walk through walls and make himself invisible, that space aliens walk the Earth, with modern science's de-legitimization of Qigong as 'pseudoscience' (along with advocacy for race-mixing along with 'alphabetism') having been part of the aliens' ploy to overtake and subjugate humanity, as well as claiming to himself be an alien who transferred its soul into a human body, who has come to help humankind from the destruction it could face as the result of rampant evil; and Zhang Hongbao's proposed alternative Qi-based universal laws of science, including the 'spirit-matter dialectics' theorem (that both spirit and matter have objective existence and can transform into the other under certain circumstances), and a universal law of motion according to which all objects or matter could be subdivided into 'Yin' or 'Yang', with any thing or act which contravenes it "pre-determined to bring eventual disaster", and theories of 'promotion-restriction-inhibition-transformation' derived from the Five Elements.

So then, to set the stage for the world-building of this story, it's basically set in a parallel timeline, which only diverged from our own due to the scenario of its basic premise- in which either of these two movements' founders (or even both of them- or alternatively, the leader of another entirely fictional movement during the Qigong Boom, with an OC as its founder) was actually telling the truth. Or are close enough, at any rate; so that, even if they were delusional/BS-ing with most or all of their claims in this world, the practice of Qigong, aka 'Cultivation', offered by at least a few of them, actually works in the real world (though it only begins to have any noticeable effect in the late 60's, and be truly effective in the mid 80's, for reasons which'll only be explained later on, thus preventing any earlier butterflying away of world history by such variables as a successful Boxer Rebellion). In this world, the 80's-90's 'Qigong Boom' isn't mere pseudoscience or merely a new-age religion/spirituality popular movement as it was in ours, but instead ushered in the onset of an "Age of Cultivation" instead. As such, as in our TL, but to an even greater extent, since they pose an exponentially greater threat, on account of Qigong/'Cultivation' actually working and conveying practioners with superhuman abilities (albeit limited to Wuxia, or western RPG- i.e, max level D&D Monk Class- power levels at most, rather than full-blown Xianxia protagonists' ridiculous 'destroy this continent with my pinky finger' self-proclaimed power levels), as well as the subculture 'going global' and attracting a markedly greater number of formal and informal practitioners in this TL than in our TL, the authorities (starting in the PR of China, but with much of the rest of the world following suit as well) began instituting systematic crackdowns upon all Qigong organizations for their perceived challenges to the authority of the state, the status quo of law and order, and the threats which 'Cultivators' pose to national security.

The practice of Qigong gets widely prohibited, and even criminalized in many nations ITTL. The Shaolin Temple is among those institutions to have been officially disbanded, but as of the start of the story (in which they play a key role), it continues to operate in exile from its new HQ in Nepal- having re-established its primary base of operations there after the hand-over of Hong Kong, supported the Nepalese Royal Government in the Nepali Civil War, and thus facilitated their ultimate victory over the Maoist insurgency, along with King Dipendra’s subsequent rise to the throne (having risen to become an advanced disciple of the Shaolin Temple himself) and Nepal’s return to being an absolute monarchy ITTL. Under the leadership of Venerable Master Shi Yongxin, the 30th generation abbot of Shaolin Temple (born Liu Yingcheng, forced ITTL to formally take office significantly earlier than IOTL, in which he only took office 12yrs after he’d been appointed heir-apparent to the abbotship of Shaolin in 1987), the global expansion and commercialization of both Shaolin Kung Fu and of Qigong’s still proceeding apace in the early 2000’s- in accordance with his espoused beliefs that "commercialization or industrialization, whatever term you use it, is a path leading up to the truth of Zen. My vision is that Shaolin will eventually become a source of consolidating people's confidence and wisdom"- in spite of its increasing illegality, with the Shaolin Temples in places like London and Berlin continuing to operate openly (albeit with the advanced Qigong classes only offered in secret to a select few, and extremely questionable methods being employed to identify and recruit those who possess the innate ability to practice Qigong), but other branches forced underground.

However, this was, of course, often hypocritical- more than a few political leaders (along with plenty of business and/or crime leaders) of more dictatorial dispositions have also adopted Qigong techniques in this world to increase their own strength, vitality and longevity; mostly illicitly, with these including more 'dark'/'demonic', explicitly taboo practices, techniques and methods to enhance themselves, such as the primary motive and advantages cited by the Falun Gong organ harvesting scandal IRL- namely, the premise that the superior efficacy of Qigong practioners' organs can be transferred to non-practitioners via organ transplants (especially kidney transplants, with practitioners' kidneys allegedly being storage organs/'cores' for Yuan Qi, the type of Qi responsible for promoting and enhancing the physiological functions of the Zang Fu/internal organs, the Jing Luo/meridians, and tissues of the body). Among the more notable of these were such figures as Kim Jong Il (who's still alive and well in this TL), along with Idi Amin, Mobutu Sese Seko and Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo (all three of whom are also still alive and in power in this TL, having effectively became what's known in the genre as "demonic cultivators", and acquired increased strength, power, vitality and longevity primarily by way of regularly cannibalizing dead practitioners' kidneys; which are supplied to them predominantly by the PRC, with the Chinese having established an even stronger grasp over Africa as a result of dominating this illicit trade in harvested practioners' organs in our TL, with Mobutu's Zaire being the PRC's oldest and most useful African ally, and with Idi Amin having successfully overthrown Musaveni to reinstall himself as ruler over Uganda with the support of the PRC and Zaire in the early 90s).

Thankfully for the MC though, the UK, where he was born and grew up, isn't one of those where Qigong's been criminalized, nor harnessed to force the implementation of increased authoritarianism (not quite yet, at any rate, at the point when this story starts, and the first arc of this story takes place, just after the turn of the millennium). But this world has already gotten a lot more violent than our TL's world, at the same stage in history. The membership, and average 'cultivation level', of several emergent 'Cultivation Cults', aka 'Sects' still continues to grow inexorably in the shadows in spite of (and in many instances, because of) having been widely outlawed. And a few of the most powerful, ambitious, radicalist and/or megalomaniacal of these Sects' leaders share the sentiment that the time to overthrow society, and establish a New World Order under their leadership, is nigh. As this story stands thus far, it's sort of an SI light novel, starting off relatively small, and also drawing a bit of inspiration from the superhero genre (with the first story arc, wherein the teenage central protagonist decides to use his self-taught abilities as a Qi user, along with his fighting skills, to take up vigilantism and try to tackle local street-level crime, making significant headway but also drawing unwelcome attention to himself, both from the authorities and from shadier elements farther afield).


Just under 1 in 14, or 7%, of the general population, possess the hypothetical capacity to unlock their meridians, and utilize Qi (correlating with those who possess 9-dimensional fractal brainwaves, as opposed to the 5-8 dimensional fractal brainwaves of all other cognitive lifeforms, though quantum science hasn’t progressed nearly far enough yet to identify this as the key marker for cultivation potential); roughly on a par with the share of the general population which possess the latent potential to use 'Ki' in the canon of Capcom's Street Fighter universe (a franchise which still exists in this world, but is itself viewed as being a semi-satirical political commentary on ongoing 'current events'). The children of practicing cultivators are slightly likelier to possess this capacity themselves, but not by much (8-10%), and this correlation doesn't increase with consecutive generations, with no apparent inheritable genetic trigger. Of course, only a small percentage of these people actually have done so, or ever will; but this is increasing all the time, as public knowledge of 'Cultivation' becomes more widespread, and more people make more of an effort towards this end. And to add a bit more depth and flavor to the world-building, I decided to utilize a random celebrity generator, and go along with the premise that every fourteenth or fifteenth person picked by it would have the capacity to practice Qigong (or the equivalent arts) in the setting of this world (excluding those who weren't alive between the 70's and the 00's); eliminating all of the other celebrities which it picked in between them, as people incapable of cultivation. And the results were pretty interesting to say the least. Here's the list of the first 18 names which came up, using this methodology:

Chris Eubank (Snr)
Steve Irwin
Yoko Ono
Stephanie Meyer
Lucy Liu
Matt Damon
Evel Knievel
Rob Dyrdek
Donny Osmond
Uri Geller
Timothy McVeigh
Ewan McGregor
David Carradine
Margrethe II of Denmark
Shane del Rosario
Michael Jackson
Tupac Shakur
Jean-Claude Van Damme
Lucy Lawless

So as you can imagine, when these individuals unlocked their potential to practice Qigong and use Qi (or some of them did, at any rate; at least as few of them don't, on account of never attempting to do so), they altered the course of history quite a bit- some, more so than others. I'm planning to introduce Timothy McVeigh, for instance (better known as the Oklahoma City Bomber, IRL), in later arcs as an important character, developing into a recurring antagonist.

After successfully unlocking his meridians and becoming an increasingly accomplished 'Cultivator' (in his teens, at the point where he became a recluse and took refuge in a fantasy world where he imagined retaliating against those who allegedly bullied him at school), McVeigh still drops out of college and enlists in the US Army as he did IRL, and effectively becomes a more evil, morals-reversed equivalent of Kurtis Stryker or Guile; serving in the Gulf War, but racking up more promotions and commendations than he did in our TL (with the US military turning more of a blind eye to his overt racism and white supremacism, on account of his superior performances, being a Cultivator with far superior physical stats, fitness levels, reaction times and sensory capabilities), and subsequently being fast-tracked through the assessment and selection course for the US Army Special Forces (better known as the 'Green Berets'), before being appointed as the 'Detachment Commander' of a Special Forces Operational Detachment Team comprised entirely of Cultivators, in the revived 4th SFG.

In this world, McVeigh's reported complaints about the Army implanting a microchip into his buttocks so that the government could keep track of him are actually valid (and with good reason); but he's nonetheless suitably mollified by the power and influence he holds in his command post, his improved fortunes with money (getting well paid by the US Army) and women (becoming a serial womanizer), and his effective 'license to kill' in specs ops missions against designated terrorist cultivators (especially non-white, non-American ones), to refrain from actively participating in anti-government activities. For the time being, at least; before the point as which he's set to enter the story, in the mid to late 00's...


Myth Weaver
First thought: The governments that criminalize this process will develop effective means to counter it. Not 'might,' but 'will.'

Second thought: 1 person in 14 able to tap into these abilities is a lot, even at the 'theoretical max' levels. Should even 1 in 100 of these candidates develop these abilities, the result will be massive social unrest.

Third thought: what of other paranormal abilities - clairvoyance, telekinesis, and so on developed outside this structure?


First thought: The governments that criminalize this process will develop effective means to counter it. Not 'might,' but 'will.'

Second thought: 1 person in 14 able to tap into these abilities is a lot, even at the 'theoretical max' levels. Should even 1 in 100 of these candidates develop these abilities, the result will be massive social unrest.

Third thought: what of other paranormal abilities - clairvoyance, telekinesis, and so on developed outside this structure?
1st thought- Indeed, they will. In several cases (like the aforementioned PRC, and a fair few other more authoritarian regimes) they already have developed effective means to counter it, by the time when the first arc of the story starts (in 2001). But countering a process like cultivation (honed via meditation, and freely accessible to 1/14 people, with no genetic on/off switch to facilitate the option of developing a 'cultivation cure') would be a challenge at least on a par with outlawing alcohol (when practically anything edible can be fermented in a shed). Even in those nations which have "developed effective means to counter it" though, it'd be hard to justify these methods being any more effective than those which counter alcohol consumption in the Arab World IRL (where in spite of the Islamic policies that not only forbid the consumption of alcohol in any of its forms, but stipulate that Muslims should avoid even indirect association with alcohol- with penalties starting with flogging for first-time offenders, progressing to jail time and deportation for a second offence, and even to the death penalty for the fourth offence- it's still estimated that 30% of people over 50yrs old, and 15% percent of people under 25yrs old, still illicitly drink alcohol regardless nowadays, with knowledge of how to home-brew having become too freely accessible to stifle). And I was thinking it'd be most logical and plausible for things to follow a similar pattern with Cultivators ITTL. Even with it being illegal, with no means to truly prevent it, you'll still get a bunch of people doing it in secret regardless. The majority of whom won't be doing it simply to be able to beat other people up, but to make the most of the huge health, immune and lifespan benefits available.

2nd thought- 1 in 14 is indeed quite a lot, and the result has indeed been massive social unrest; the world map in this timeline's noticeably different from our own already, as of the turn of the century, almost entirely due to the shockwaves caused by the awakening of 'cultivation'. But it's also worth mentioning that the typical Xianxia-canon that "each tier of cultivation is exponentially ten times harder to attain than the one below it" still more-or-less applies in this universe; and that the abilities bestowed to those who unlock their meridians to attain the very first tier of cultivation, in this universe, are basically just on a par with those who receive cellular rejuvenation therapy (i.e, what scientists can achieve with stem cell technology already today, in real life, right now). So whilst 1 in 14 can unlock their meridians and start cultivating, that'd effectively equate to c. 1/1400 (which admittedly still equates to 4-5M people in total- nothing to sneer at, but for context, still only c.16-33% the size of the peak Mutant population in the Marvel Universe) who're capable of reaching the second tier of cultivation, and attaining 'peak human' status; and 400-500k who'd hypothetically be capable of transcending that to become truly 'superhuman'. And the summary execution and organ-harvesting of lower-tier cultivators in many of the world's most populous nations (as Falun Gong asserts is still happening to its members in China IRL right now), in turn, greatly reduces the likelihood of these candidates making it to the higher tiers. The MC's 'Cultivation Quotient' is on a par with my IQ, making it into the 140,000th percentile (i.e, just about breaking into the 4th tier of Cultivation) as of the start of the story; but there are none (as of yet, with 'Cultivation' having only been unlocked less than 40yrs prior, and being an extremely long and arduous process) who've yet made it into the '8th tier' (equating to the 'max level D&D Monk Class' level referenced earlier), and only 3-4 individuals with the latent potential to ever do so who still survive (with at least 1-2 having been killed off before they had the chance to get anywhere near that far).

3rd thought- Of 'other paranormal abilities'- these exist, to an extent, but are inter-related facets of the same underlying phenomenon. For instance, the MC's innately heightened levels of extra-sensory perception lend themselves toward him effectively specializing in 'external cultivation' and 'Qi projection'; utilizing, projecting and manipulating Qi to perform feats of telekinesis, as well as afflicting him with 'affective empathy' or 'hyper-empathy'- with further honing of his abilities and control enabling this to eventually develop into what could be construed as a form of 'clairvoyance' (courtesy of replicating fMRI techniques, and slowly learning how to read, predict and interpret peoples' true thoughts and emotions directly with them), several years later. These aren't different 'paranormal abilities', though'; merely different 'cultivation techniques', of which there are several. Also worth mentioning, though- almost all candidates capable of developing cultivation are also synesthetes in some shape or form- since their brains are capable of processing stimuli so that a person can experience it as two or more senses at the same time; this is thought to be critical to developing the capacity to sense and experience Qi, since humans don't possess any sensory apparati specialized to sense Qi, making the ability to sense Qi comparable to that of blind people whose visual synaesthesia enables them to 'see' colors via other sensory info, such as hearing, touch, taste or smell. As a result, the majority of these, including the MC, 'visualize' Qi, in spite of the fact that Qi itself is invisible and emits no photons. And some of the most common cultivation techniques in this universe harness and weaponize induced synaesthesia. For instance, one of the MC's original group of companions is highly unusual insofar as she 'tastes' Qi instead (i.e, possessing the capacity to sense Qi via taste synaesthesia rather than visual synaesthesia). And in her own journey of cultivation, she develops and refines a cultivation attack technique that can inflict specific flavors (extending to 'spiciness', aka 'pain'+'burning') upon others, to any parts of their body with taste receptors (which include one's brains, lungs, guts and genitalia) at any level of intensity- which, as you can imagine, winds up being horrifically effective...


Hm, well seeing Xianxia has captured my attention, but I'm afraid that I have no head for alternative history. Shame to see that you're tuning down the power level. That's always one of my favorite parts of the genre.


I dont know...I think I would stay away from Timothy McVeigh. My sense is this is still in the 'too soon' area.
I get that; wouldn't have thought of adding him if the random generator hadn't tossed his name up as one of those who'd be capable of cultivation in this universe. But figured that, since it had added his name to the list, he'd definitely make for prime antagonist/villain material...
Hm, well seeing Xianxia has captured my attention, but I'm afraid that I have no head for alternative history. Shame to see that you're tuning down the power level. That's always one of my favorite parts of the genre.
One of mine as well, to an extent; but when one stops and thinks about it, it's one of the parts of the genre which makes the least sense from a world-building perspective, as well as being directly responsible for the most lambasted elements of the genre- reducing any and all human interactions, and humans themselves, to nigh-irrelevance. And of course, bear in mind that I'm world-building this setting at the stage when the practice of 'Cultivation' has only worked at all for the past 40yrs or so, and where it's only become widely known as anything more than 'religious nonsense' or 'pseudoscience' for the past 20yrs. Think about how old pretty much all of the powerful cultivators are, in most Xianxia settings (bar the SI central protagonist himself, since of course this is a power fantasy genre). And how much progress that they themselves (excluding the protagonist) canonically managed to make, in the first 20-40yrs of their Cultivation journeys. Given the timeframe, those sorts of power levels just aren't remotely feasible... Yet.

Besides, I prefer to keep some degree of in-universe logical consistency, and go with more of a hard 'science-fantasy' approach than a more wish-washy 'it's magic, so it's not supposed to make any sense' approach. If the power levels are so high that any sufficiently powerful cultivators can effectively send civilization back to the stone age (since all that any mountain-buster'd have to do, on our planet, to trigger a repeat of the Toba Catastrophe, is head to the nearest super-volcano and punch it), and that such cultivation levels are well known as being attainable, relatively easily and in short order, then realistically, how would any room for individual freedoms or human rights exist in such a world? Not planning on going full-blown uber-authoritarian dystopia straight off the bat- I've got a narrative journey to think about, after all.