The History of the Great Sects is a long and honorable one, stretching back to the first dynasty. Though their rise to prominence and prestige is much more recent, the Sect system is one almost as old as the empire itself. However it is only the infinite wisdom of his divine eminence, Emperor An, that has allowed the Sects to become as important and productive as they are in the modern day.
However, it remains important to study and understand the Sects' more humble origins, which provide the foundation for the system which brings such glory to the Empire today. The first sects were humble things founded amidst the misty valleys of Celestial peaks province during the First Dynasty, in the wake of the strife that followed the death of the inimitable Sage Emperor. The Sects were born from the remnants of scattered families and settlements as places to preserve their knowledge and arts against the dissolution of time. More powerful clans allowed these groups a degree of succor in exchange for tribute, and for many millenia, the sects existed as just that, a minor matter beneath the notice of the imperial throne.
Some wise clan heads came to use the Sects as testing grounds, providing them funding, or reducing their tribute in exchange for research into arts and formations, the fruits of which went were delivered the sects ruling clan. The risks inherent in such research were thus passed on to the much less valuable folk who made up much of a Sect’s numbers, rather than talented scions of high bloodlines. Some even came to rely upon their sects to train their militaries, in an echo of the things to come. However, those of the first dynasty lacked the superlative wisdom of Emperor An in organizing such matters, and as such the practice fell out of favor due to several unfortunate insurrections brought on by poor management.
Throughout the First and Second dynasties, as well as the modern third, the practice of allowing sects spread throughout the empire, though they remained but a footnote in the annals of the Empire’s great clans, toiling ever to study and improve upon arts for their patrons, and taking in those of lesser blood who were beneath the eyes of the great clans, but whose talents might otherwise have gone to banditry or other unvirtuous pursuits.
However, that came to change in the last millenia. The ruling dukes of the Emerald Seas province had grown decadent and foolish, neglecting their duties to the land and its peoples, and as is expected, the perfidious and greedy tribes of the Wall, the great mountain range which marks the southern border of the Empire saw this weakness clearly. Under the Great Khan Ogodei, the barbarians laid waste to the province, riding swiftly through the skies to sack villages, towns and cities alike.
The clans of Emerald Seas scrambled to keep up with the barbarian, without any effective central leadership, their defenses floundered, and the wily barbarians slipped easily through their disorganized defenses. Of course, our wise Emperor Si, father of the illustrious An, was aware of the plight of his people, but the ancient pacts which bind the Empire together held his hands. The foolish dukes of emerald seas insisted that the problem was under control and refused his generous aid, allowing only a a trickle of soldiers and men in to ‘assist’ their poorly led and disorganized forces.
Emperor An, then only Fourth Prince was selected to lead these forces. Our wise future emperor found himself horrified by the waste and hedonism he found in the south. In their nigh unassailable capital, the Hui of Emerald Seas still behaved as if this were but a minor raid!
It is here that Emperor An made a decision for which many unable to see the virtue of his actions criticized him for at the time. Refusing the accept the orders that he remain at the disposal of the duke, the Prince struck out into more contested lands, unilaterally invoking Imperial authority.
There in the south, which had largely fallen to the barbarian Khan, he found the bastion of imperial strength and resistance. It was not the clans, who had remained embroiled in their squabbles even as they were overrun, but rather, a collection of Sects, who had banded together for survival.
We will not go further into the history of the war with Ogodei in this work. Suffice to say that under the prince’s superlative leadership, and the core of strength arising from the Sect’s the barbarians were defeated. In the wake of the Khan’s death the Great Sect’s were born.
When the prince returned to his father’s side, even gentle and merciful Emperor Si was horrified by the poor stewardship of servants in emerald seas, and even their ducal peers scorned their cowardice and inaction. So when the emperor decreed that certain lands and privileges would be granted to three sects on the southern border, the complaints of the Hui clan were ignored.
Such is the Great Sect System. Answering directly to the Imperial Throne, these bastions train warriors and research arts as they always did, but now, they also serve the purpose as rallying points from which the Imperial Throne can reach out in times of need. Though the lands of course, remain property of the provinces they stand in, in times of emergency an Emperor or Empress can take direct control in order to organize defenses more effectively, without breaking old agreements.
However, the rise of these sects did not go unnoticed by the clans of the empire, with the backing of the imperial seat, their prestige was now such that many clans wished to enroll their second sons and daughters in the sects programs, in order to expand the clans knowledge and garner favor. This influx of noble applicants multiplied the Sects funding many times over from their humble beginnings.
In the centuries that followed under Emperor An, the concept has since spread far and wide and now each province holds at least one Great Sect, save for Ebon Rivers, Golden Fields, and the recently settled Western Territories.
-Excerpt from the introduction of a scholarly treatise extolling the virtues of the Sect System.