On Sunday, March 6th, Hera (Zee9) opened a new setting for people to visit and appreciate. Called Shangdu, its name might for some call forth thoughts of the original northern capital of the Yuan dynasty, the successor to the Mongolian Empire as founded by Kublai Khan; a place we in the west perhaps more familiarly know as Xanadu.
However, this build is not in any way reflective of, or inspired by, the words penned by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in his poem Kubla Khan, itself the result of an opium-fuelled dream, or anything to do with the city. Whilst fantastical in nature, the poem is nonetheless rooted in descriptions that, passing by way of Samuel Purchas (from whom Coleridge might be said to have gained his opening line for the poem, Purchas having written In Xandu did Cublai Can build a stately Pallace) all the way to Marco Polo, who did visit the fabled city some time in the late 1270s.
Instead, Hera uses the name Shangdu to evoke a sense of the Yuan period, and to evoke a feeling of natural beauty, rather than the artificial opulence born of Coleridge’s poem or Purchas’ words. In fact, what we have here is a painting in 3D, a watercolour we can walk through.
The difference here being the opulence is in natural beauty. I first did this about 20 years back in Unreal Tournament; I was looking for something completely different to create and I found these beautiful paintings of a Chinese water Village. [However,] this is a complete fantasy, I have not tried for any particular accuracy in the buildings, although the textures are all taken directly from photos of the village.
The setting presents a walled village through which narrow canals run to both feed and be fed by a moat that encompasses around two-thirds of the village as its sits beyond the high walls and which is it turn directly fed from falls dropping from the northern-western uplands that cup the remaining corner of the village.
The landing point sits as the exit of a tunnel, a rutted track running from it to curve gently to the only landward gate into the village, presided over by an imposing gatehouse ready to defend the wooden bridge below. The tunnel offers the sense that visitors are travellers – perhaps on the Silk Road and following Marco Polo, even if this is not the Shangdu – coming to this place after a long journey.
With watch towers sitting notably on the north and east walls of the settlement, it’s clear where the greatest threat to its security might originate – not that this is a particularly a place of war; far from it in fact: the overall impression is that this is a place that might be linked to fishing for sustenance, given the eastward lake sitting beyond the walls, and where at least one silk trader has established a presence, whilst in another resides an artist. However, outside of these and the local temple and a house, the majority of the building here are façades rather than furnished places.
But having so few interiors to explore in no way detracts from the setting; rather, it helps spur the imagination as to might otherwise lie behind the doors to the houses and other buildings, allowing us to add to Hera’s 3D painting with the colours of our own imaginations. As we wander along the narrow streets, cross the wooden and stone bridges, passing under blossoming trees and by stone seats and wooden benches, it is hard not to imagine the local denizens also passing along the same cobbled ways, the smells and sounds of cooking coming from within different abodes, mixed with the sounds of animals in the little yards and the shouts of merchants and other echoing down the alleyways.
For those prepared to look for them – but within the village walls and beyond – lay places to sit and / or mediate. Signalled by the presence of small pillows, some of these are relatively easy to find, but one might require some care spying to locate 🙂 .
Set within its own EEP Day Cycle, as used in the images in this article, and including both an ambient sound scape and an appropriate music streams for those who would care to listen as they explore, Shangdu is another superb design and gift to all of us from Hera. Should you drop in, do please consider making a donation to the heron at the landing point to help Hera with the costs involved in building her creations (again, note that is common for Hera, the buildings to be found within the village are all of her own creation).
- Shangdu (Island of Jahesa, rated: Adult)