|"The people of the Earth Kingdom are diverse and strong. They are persistent and enduring."|
|— Iroh to Zuko on the nature of the Earth Kingdom.|
The Earth Kingdom is one of the world's four nations. Spanning an entire continent as well as several subsidiary islands, it is the largest and most populated sovereignty in the world and encompasses much of the eastern hemisphere. The kingdom was originally operated as a monarchy under the rule of a king or queen, but in 174 AG, the 54th Earth King, Wu of the Hou-Ting Dynasty, announced his intention to abdicate the throne in favor of splitting the nation into independent states with democratically elected leaders, akin to the political system used in the United Republic of Nations.
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, the Harmony Restoration Movement aimed to bring all Fire Nation citizens living in the Fire Nation colonies throughout the western Earth Kingdom back the Fire Nation and return the land to the Earth Kingdom. However, a number of these colonies, especially the older ones where Earth Kingdom and Fire Nation citizens had learned to live together in harmony, forming mixed families, rejected this change. After the war nearly reignited, a compromise was reached between Earth King Kuei and Fire Lord Zuko with the help of Avatar Aang, wherein these territories were transformed into the United Republic of Nations, a fifth nation.
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.
When the Red Lotus staged an insurrection and killed the Earth Queen, the Earth Kingdom capital was thrown into chaos and anarchy. This upheaval quickly spread to the rest of the nation, causing the Earth Kingdom to fall into disarray with bandits roaming the lands and threatening states.
By 174 AG, the Earth Kingdom, through the efforts of Kuvira and her army, was stabilized enough to restore the monarchy. At the coronation of Prince Wu, Kuvira was supposed to relinquish her power to the reinstated crown. She refused, however, denouncing the king's authority and declaring the archaic Earth Kingdom abolished in favor of an "Earth Empire" under her leadership.
After Kuvira's defeat following the conclusion of her attack on Republic City, King Wu decided to abolish the monarchy in favor of democratically elected leaders in each separate state, an idea for which he received the support of Avatar Korra.
- See also: Era of Raava
In the era of Raava, most of the later Earth Kingdom was part of the Spirit Wilds, and its people were forced to survive the wrath of spirits and the untamed nature. The predecessors of the Earth Kingdom found several ways to survive these hardships: Some retreated into cities built atop lion turtles. They received the element of earth from these sentient beings that granted the bending art through energybending. The humans could request the ability whenever they ventured into the Spirit Wilds, to aid in the gathering of food and resources. Others chose a nomadic lifestyle, traveling the wilds and staying at one place only as long as they could. One particular tribe of nomads, however, was able to built a permanent city under the guardianship of the spirit Lady Tienhai in what would become the western Earth Kingdom. Several aspects of life and observances practiced by the predecessors of the first citizens of the Earth Kingdom later became part of the nation's shared 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.
Warring states period
After Avatar Wan closed the spirit portals and most spirits left the mortal world, the lion turtles renounced their roles as protectors of mankind. At this point, the predecessors of the Earth Kingdom left the lion turtle cities in favor of establishing settlements throughout the mainland, while most of the nomads settled down. Soon after, the ancestors of the first Earth Kingdom citizens began to wage wars, inventing the large earth coins as primary weapons for their earthbender warriors to use. Avatar Wan died after intervening in a battle of Earth Kingdom predecessors. Unlike the other nations, where one culture eventually prevailed, the later Earth Kingdom was so large and diverse that several cultures and ethnicities emerged and survived to fight for independence and dominance.
In the northeast, earthbenders carved a small subterranean settlement out of rocks. Mining and trading beautiful illuminated crystal, the agglomeration began to grow into a city until it reached the surface. Soon after, the catacombs were abandoned and the new metropolis on the surface became the mighty city state of Ba Sing Se. In its early days, Ba Sing Se was attacked by rival polities several times, but saved by its strategically favorable location: Its southern enemies had to march through the treacherous Taihua Mountains to reach the city, and were destroyed by the mountain range's horrible blizzards.
In the west, the two earthbenders in love, Oma and Shu, learned the earthbending techniques from the badgermoles, becoming exceptionally powerful benders. The villages the two were from were at war, however, and eventually Shu was killed in battle. Heartbroken, Oma used her abilities to ensure peace and force the villages to unite. The city they built was named Omashu, and became a powerful city state in its own right. The city of Lady Tienhai prospered and continued to grow as well. In the south, some earthbending nomads made the Si Wong Desert their home, learning to sandbend and finally forming the Sandbender Tribes. They were predated by the beetle-headed merchants, who had lived in the desert since ancient times, and continued to roam it for coming centuries.
Ascension of the Earth Kingdom
Over time, the monarchs of Ba Sing Se became increasingly powerful and began to unite and subjugate the numerous kingdoms and peoples of the later Earth Kingdom. They left some kings and nobles in power, however, as long as they submitted to Ba Sing Se. Eventually, one ruler of Ba Sing Se ended the unification wars in victory and crowned themselves the Earth Kingdom's first monarch, not to leave the capital city until their death. Despite Ba Sing Se's victory, the earth monarchs were unable to establish a centralist or authoritarian regime due to the kingdom's sheer size. As result, the Earth Kingdom became a confederate monarchy, divided into several semi-autonomous provinces. Over time, the power of the Earth monarchs would wax and wane, but none of them would truly control all of the kingdom. Some regions, like the Si Wong Desert were too remote and difficult to govern, whereas others were simply too unimportant for the central government to care about them. The government's inability to exercise full control allowed outlaw groups to become unusually sophisticated in the Earth Kingdom: They developed their own culture and code of conduct, and became known as daofei. Despite this, the Earth monarchs usually held absolute power in Ba Sing Se.
Some successive Earth Kings distinguished themselves as brilliant and far-sighted rulers, such as Yi Ming who constructed the Ba Sing Se monorail. Several Earth monarchs became firm allies of various Avatars, with the two sides helping each other. In Avatar Yangchen's time, the Earth Kingdom was relatively prosperous. The city of Lady Tienhai had grown into the grandest city of its time, but the metropolis was struck with disaster when its king caused the guardian spirit's death. Yangchen also signed a treaty with the Fifth Nation, an ethnically mixed people of pirates, which protected the Earth Kingdom's southern coast from their attacks.
Instability, civil war and constitutional change
After a long time of relative prosperity, the Earth Kingdom began to unravel during the life of Avatar Kuruk. His carefree lifestyle and early death at 33, along with the problems in identifying the next Avatar, resulted in power-hungry people, rebels, and criminals in becoming bolder throughout the world. This development particularly affected the Earth Kingdom, whose inner provinces slowly descended into chaos. Some daofei reorganized as rebels, launching the Yellow Neck uprising, and devastating large swaths of land in the name of their fanatical spiritual beliefs. Instead of quelling the rebellion, the Earth Kingdom government left its remote provinces to fend for themselves. Other daofei groups became more active as well, fighting each other in brutal turf wars. The Flying Opera Company crime network grew especially powerful, spreading across the entire Earth Kingdom. At its peak, the Flying Opera Company was powerful enough to force government officials to do its bidding. In the south, Tulok, leader of the Fifth Nation, broke the old treaty with Avatar Yangchen. His fleet consequently began ravaging not just trade routes but also the Earth Kingdom's coast. In the face of chaos and violence, desperate nonbenders flocked to spiritual and militant movements like the Kang Shen sect.
Even though the country was torn apart by unrest, much of the Earth Kingdom's leadership proved too corrupt and self-serving than to alleviate the crisis. Kuruk's former earthbending teacher Jianzhu consequently stepped in, assumed many of the usual duties of the Avatar, and struggled to keep the Earth Kingdom from slipping into chaos by creating a far-reaching political network. He greatly rewarded his allies, attempted to help the common people, but also used extreme methods to destroy those whom he saw as agents of anarchy. Most notably, he ruthlessly crushed the Yellow Necks, hunted down and killed daofei outlaws en masse, and destroyed several Earth Kingdom politicians who challenged him. By the early 3rd century BG, Jianzhu was the de facto ruler of much of the country. He eventually identified a young man named Yun as the Avatar, and thereby managed to further restore order in the Earth Kingdom. As it turned out, however, a servant girl named Kyoshi was the true Avatar. This revelation resulted in a series of events that antagonized Jianzhu and Kyoshi. The Avatar fled and joined the remnants of the Flying Opera Company, while Jianzhu desperately attempted to gain control over her. He hoped that he could train her into becoming the ideal Avatar who would restore order in the world. Although kept mostly secret, the hunt for Kyoshi weakened Jianzhu and was exploited by his rivals led by Chamberlain Hui. In the end, Jianzhu successfully murdered Hui and his allies, but was in turn killed by Yun and Kyoshi. The death of a significant part of its political leadership, most importantly Jianzhu and Hui, threw parts of the Earth Kingdom into chaos. In addition, the revelation of Kyoshi's Avatarhood upset many, as Yun had been a popular and charismatic figure, whereas Kyoshi was associated with criminals.
This unrest was exploited by the 46th Earth King who believed that the vassal rulers and provinces around his realm had too much power. Strong-willed and imperious, he intended to change the Earth Kingdom into an absolute monarchy with himself as supreme monarch. This aroused his subjects' anger, and eventually one warlord named Chin took up arms to seize power from the unpopular king. He began a revolt in the western parts of the Earth Kingdom that had been most adversely been affected by the events surrounding Jianzhu's death. Chin's rebellion quickly escalated into an open civil war, while the Earth King proved incapable of stopping him. Chin's armies conquered the whole kingdom, including mighty cities such as Omashu, until only Ba Sing Se and the home peninsular of Avatar Kyoshi remained free. Chin attempted to force Kyoshi into submission as well, but this led to his death and the creation of Kyoshi Island. Without his leadership, the revolt was suppressed and the Earth King resumed his rule over the whole kingdom. Nevertheless, his inability to deal with Chin's rebellion had repercussions. The peasants of Ba Sing Se, believing the monarchy to be an outdated regime only oppressing them, rose up in defiance. The Peasant Uprising in Ba Sing Se threw the capital into chaos, and only when Kyoshi forced the 46th Earth King to accept a new constitution that limited his power while empowering the common people, the peasants dispersed. In return for the king's reluctant cooperation, Kyoshi created the Dai Li as secret police of Ba Sing Se. These elite earthbenders were intended to defend the Earth Kings' interests by suppressing and imprisoning subversive individuals and groups.
Decline and imperialist aggression
The new constitution greatly weakened the Earth Kings, and the empowered bureaucracy soon became the true ruler of the kingdom. Nevertheless, the monarchs that succeeded the 46th Earth King did nothing to regain their power. Instead, they delegated their authority to the bureaucrats and officials in favor of pleasure-seeking and leisure. Relishing its new power, the bureaucracy grew extremely corrupt over time, and used its power to further its wealth while sidelining the earth monarchs. The central government's increasing stagnancy and weakness allowed the provincial governments and vassal rulers of the Earth Kingdom to exercise more and more autonomy until they were effectively independent.
Despite this political weakness, the Earth Kingdom remained an economic and military power to be reckoned with. The west and south of the kingdom continued to flourish, and great cities like Taku and Omashu benefited from trade and industrial growth. The military of the Earth Kingdom was still fiercely loyal to the monarchy, and much of its forces remained reliable and experienced.
This situation took a change for the worse with Fire Lord Sozin's initial attacks on the Earth Kingdom around 30 BG. The Fire Nation easily conquered a number of cities and resource-rich areas in the northwestern kingdom to transform them into colonial possessions. The Earth Kingdom government proved unable to defend its territories, and only when Avatar Roku intervened was Sozin's expansion stopped. The colonies remained on Earth Kingdom soil, however, and after Roku's death the Fire Lord launched an all-out invasion of the kingdom. Western trade centers like Taku were completely destroyed, and by Sozin's death in 20 AG, the Fire Nation had gained a strong foothold in the northwestern continent. The Earth Kingdom military fought with great determination and slowed the Fire Nation advances down as best as it could. Its efforts were not enough to stop the Fire Nation, however, and by 79 AG most of the west and northwest had fallen to the invasion forces. The Earth Kingdom suffered terribly due to the war, experiencing destruction, hunger, and displacement. Thousands of refugees fled into the safety of Ba Sing Se, swelling the slums of the Lower Ring.
Conspiracy and fall
In 79 AG, the 51st Earth King died, leaving only his four-year-old son to succeed him. The ambitious Grand Secretariat of Ba Sing Se Long Feng recognized his chance to seize power over the kingdom and made child-king Kuei his puppet. Using the Dai Li, Long Feng suppressed knowledge about the war in order to maintain social order and a stable economy, effectively outlawing every mention of it within the Upper Ring and preventing the king from even learning about its existence. However, outside the safety of the walls and away from the watchful Dai Li, disorder in the midst of the war was pervasive; in some areas, officials and soldiers abused their power by bullying and extorting the local population. In other areas, citizens were largely left to fend for themselves.
The war, meanwhile, went increasingly badly for the Earth Kingdom. The Fire Nation advanced east and south, subjugating the west, the shoreline of the West Lake and much of the south. In 94 AG, the Fire Nation Army under Crown Prince Iroh reached the Outer Wall of Ba Sing Se, and began the six hundred-day Siege of Ba Sing Se. Even though the Crown Prince's troops breached the Outer Wall, they retreated after the commander's son Lu Ten was killed in action. Nevertheless, the siege was a disaster for the Earth Kingdom, as it had not only lost large quantities of resources and manpower, but also received a crushing blow to its population's morale after Ba Sing Se was proven not to be impenetrable.
The Earth Kingdom finally fell five years later, after a time of hard fighting that saw the loss of Omashu, the last stronghold in the west. After Avatar Aang had forcefully ended the Conspiracy of Ba Sing Se, Earth King Kuei's power was briefly restored and Long Feng imprisoned. Despite this, the Dai Li remained loyal to Long Feng, as the secret police feared that the king would deprive it of its power. At the same time, the Fire Nation Crown Princess Azula and her team infiltrated the capital. Long Feng and Azula began to cooperate to end Kuei's reign and the Avatar's life, culminating in the Coup of Ba Sing Se. Azula and the Dai Li forced the king into exile, only to betray Long Feng and claim the city in the name of the Fire Nation. The Dai Li's betrayal thus led to the fall of Ba Sing Se, and with it, the Earth Kingdom.
Restoration and reformation
The Fire Nation military used this opportunity to invade the remaining Earth Kingdom, but despite the fall of the central government, Earth Kingdom citizens continued to resist. Rebellions began to spread, while remnants of the Earth Kingdom military remained a threat to Fire Nation rule. The Fire Nation was unable to suppress the revolts, and on the Day of Black Sun, the rebels managed to liberate several cities such as Omashu. Soon after, Avatar Aang defeated Fire Lord Ozai, ending the Hundred Year War with the victory of the Earth Kingdom. Kuei returned to the throne, and the Earth Kingdom government was reformed with the Earth King regaining the power his predecessors had lost.
Together with the Avatar and Fire Lord Zuko, Kuei started the Harmony Restoration Movement to remove the Fire Nation colonies from Earth Kingdom soil and resume peaceful cooperation between the different nations. The announcement of the Harmony Restoration Movement triggered a great celebration in Ba Sing Se. Initially, the decolonization was successful and without incidents, but after one year the oldest colonies were to be disbanded. As these cities were over one hundred years old, their population was by then ethnically mixed and deeply rooted in the country. As a result, there were political complications that threatened to restart the Great War when Kuei attempted to forcefully remove the colonies, believing the lands to be rightfully part of the Earth Kingdom. Only when Avatar Aang intervened was the conflict resolved by granting the colonies complete autonomy. In the next years, the colonies and adjacent territories in the northwestern Earth Kingdom continued to prosper. At one location, a large industrial agglomeration sprung up. The settlement became known as "Cranefish Town" and became a major economic hub.
Meanwhile, Earth King Kuei struggled to rebuild his nation, while strengthening cooperative relations with the other countries. Despite his efforts, he could not solve all problems of his war-ravaged country. At some point during Kuei's reign, the former Fire Nation colonies and other ethnically mixed areas such as Cranefish Town were transformed into the United Republic of Nations. The Earth King agreed to cede large parts of the northwestern kingdom to the new sovereign country, resulting in lasting animosity among many Earth Kingdom citizens who regarded the United Republic as illegal occupation. Regardless, many people of Earth Kingdom origin migrated to the new state in hopes of better employment and more freedom.
Hou-Ting's reactionary regime and collapse
- See also: Anarchy in the Earth Kingdom
Following Earth King Kuei's death, his daughter Hou-Ting assumed power. She revised many policies of her father, and preferred to rule as autocrat for her own benefit. Many parts of the Earth Kingdom continued to suffer from great poverty and became increasingly outpaced in regards to technology and economy when compared to the Fire Nation, United Republic, and Water Tribes, due to a lack of funds attributed to the development by Queen Hou-Ting. Instead of alleviating the crisis, Hou-Ting used the Dai Li to silence dissidents and expanded her military. Faced with these developments, some regions of the Earth Kingdom such as the city state of Zaofu distanced themselves from the central government until they became factually independent. Smaller insurgencies also erupted, as rebels prevented the collection of excessive taxes.
Fomented by increasing social conflicts under Hou-Ting's authoritarian regime, the Red Lotus' assassination of the Earth Queen in 171 AG sparked an open revolt of Ba Sing Se's lower class citizens. Since Hou-Ting had stripped the bureaucracy of all meaningful power and claimed it for herself, there was nobody able to effectively step in and maintain order after her death, causing a total collapse of social order all across the Earth Kingdom. Many loyalists to the monarchy went into hiding and almost all royal artifacts were lost in the looting that pursued, with a single earring being one of the few remaining items. Despite international efforts, the anarchy led to the complete fragmentation of the kingdom into independent states, while massive, well-equipped bandit groups began to terrorize the people.
Rise of the Earth Empire, and end of the Earth Kingdom
- See also: Formation of the Earth Empire
The leaders of the other nations decided that if order in the Earth Kingdom was to be restored, the power vacuum needed to be filled; to that end, they attempted to enlist Suyin Beifong. When she declined, Kuvira, the captain of Zaofu's guard, gathered several wealthy citizens of Zaofu, as well as parts of the Zaofu security team, and stabilized Ba Sing Se. This action prompted the world leaders to place their trust in her, and they appointed her the provisional leader of the nation. In this capacity, she expanded her army and began the task of reuniting the Earth Kingdom. Soon becoming known as the "Great Uniter", this interim president restored law and order in large parts of the nation through annexation and military discipline. However, as Kuvira's influence and territory grew, she began to enact more totalitarian measures as a means of securing complete control over her occupied provinces. These included rounding up dissidents and ethnic cleansing of people of Water Tribe and Fire Nation ancestry, locking both up in detention and reeducation camps. She also had her scientists, led by Varrick and her fiance Baatar Jr., begin research into the use of spirit vines as military weapons.
With the nation reunited by 174 AG, she was supposed to step down after Wu's coronation ceremony, but when the time came to transfer her power to Wu, the great-nephew of the late Hou-Ting, Kuvira denounced Wu's authority and claimed power for herself, renaming the Earth Kingdom the "Earth Empire". However, the other nations no longer acknowledged her rule as legitimate, denouncing her ruling her nation as a military dictatorship. Unfazed, Kuvira consolidated her power by conquering Zaofu, the last independent state in the new Earth Empire, despite Avatar Korra's interference.
With all Earth Kingdom states now united under her banner and her spirit energy cannon completed, Kuvira declared it was time to reclaim the land that now formed the United Republic of Nations, proclaiming the nation had been founded on stolen Earth Kingdom land. With the spirit cannon mounted on a colossal platinum-plated mecha suit, Kuvira marched her army into the United Republic and attacked Republic City,<re name="KG" /> decimating large portions of the metropolis and its military defenses. After Korra saved her from being killed by her own energy cannon and the two of them ended up in the Spirit World, Kuvira finally surrendered and ordered her troops to lay down their weapons.
After Kuvira's defeat, the monarchy was restored as the center of power. King Wu decided, however, that it would be better if the monarchy was abolished in favor of independent states with a democratically elected government, akin to the system in the United Republic, an idea supported by Avatar Korra, who vowed to assist him in making the idea a reality. Despite opposition by several political factions, Wu and the governments of the Earth Kingdom's states eventually worked out a plan for the gradual democratization and dissolution of the country. The State of Gaoling was selected as the site for the first elections, but remaining Earth Empire loyalists under Commander Guan exploited the opportunity to attempt a resurgence.
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 with 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 only known settlement in the northeast is Ba Sing Se. The Earth Kingdom borders the United Republic to the east, which was formerly part of the Kingdom.
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. By 174 AG, the Kingdom's vast mineral wealth was among the most sought after commodities by the other nations, primarily by the United Republic of Nations.
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 city-states such as Omashu and Zaofu. 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.
After the end of the Hundred Year War, the system was reformed, with the Earth King having full power once again. During her rule, Earth Queen Hou-Ting took to exercising tighter authority over all the kingdom's provinces and regions, being aware of noncompliance with her rules in regions outside of Ba Sing Se. After she was assassinated by Zaheer, a power vacuum formed in the Earth Kingdom's government while the nation descended into a state of anarchy.
Over the course of three years, anarchy swept through the country, with large, organized bandit groups terrorizing the populace. In an effort to reestablish order, Kuvira was appointed as interim president to reunite the country. By 174 AG, she had successfully united ninety percent of the Earth Kingdom, convincing the other nations it was safe enough to reestablish the Earth monarchy. At the coronation of Prince Wu, Kuvira was to step down in favor of the reinstated monarch. She refused, however, stating Wu was unfit to rule and that the archaic government of Earth Kingdom was the very reason that it collapsed. She proceeded to declare that the Earth Kingdom was no more, proclaiming the establishment of a new "Earth Empire" under her rule.
After Kuvira's defeat, Korra wondered if Wu was excited to finally claim his throne. Much to her surprise, however, the royal announced that he intended to abolish the monarchy altogether in favor of independent states with democratically elected leaders.
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 and they have also functioned as gatekeepers 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 reeducating anyone who broke regulations concerning mention of the Hundred Year War, before they ultimately committed high treason and helped the Fire Nation seize the capital. 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.
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.
After the Hundred Year War, several people from the Fire Nation and Water Tribes made their home in the Earth Kingdom.
The Earth Kingdom has one of the poorest reputations for acceptance of same-sex relationships out of the world's nations; despite having been the home to powerful and influential citizens such as Avatar Kyoshi, who was known to have engaged in relationships with both men and women. The Kingdom struggles to accept same-sex relationships in everyday life and has historically been militaristically repressive toward people who engage in relationships with people of the same gender. However, some regions appeared to be more tolerant than others, as Maizu Village had two men who were married with an adopted daughter.
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.
By 171 AG, the Earth Kingdom had acquired airships from Cabbage Corp; although cheaper compared to the ones built by Future Industries, they were less sturdy and easily sustained damage during a fight.
- 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.
Military of the Earth Empire
- Main article: Military of the Earth Empire
Following the insurrection of the Red Lotus in 171 AG, Kuvira, former guard captain at Zaofu, left the city and stabilized Ba Sing Se with the help of Zaofu's security team. This action prompted the world leaders to appoint her the provisional leader of the nation and she was tasked to stabilize the Earth Kingdom in time for Prince Wu's coronation as the new Earth King. As such, she amassed a large army to subdue rampant bandit activity and re-establish order. Due to the severity of the crisis within the country, Kuvira resorted to bribery and intimidation to have state governors sign contracts not only for protection from bandits and sustenance for their hunger-stricken constituents, but also to keep their posts. Over time, they took over the entire nation and renamed it the "Earth Empire".
- The Earth Kingdom seems to resemble the Ming and Qing dynasties of China, with the exception of Gaoling, which appears to culturally resemble the Tang dynasty. The buildings in Ba Sing Se look like those in the Forbidden City. 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. There are some exceptions, however, for instance: the citizens of Kyoshi Island seem to have a more Japanese appearance; King Bumi had a wardrobe, which did not really follow a defined style; and some of the peasants in the Earth Kingdom, such as Song, wore 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, specifically the 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 located at the northern coast, 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.
- During Earth Queen Hou-Ting's rule, the Earth Kingdom was the only nation that refused to recognize the United Republic of Nations. After Kuvira renamed the Earth Kingdom to Earth Empire, she also refused to acknowledge the United Republic.
- Wu's plan to abolish the monarchy in favor of a democratically elected government was inspired by the democratization of the Kingdom of Bhutan.
- ↑ Avatar Extras for "The Crossroads of Destiny" on Nicktoons Network refers to Azula as "Earth Queen Azula", meaning that she reigned in the nation as ruler beginning from Long Feng's second incarceration and likely until she left Ba Sing Se. However, Azula was never officially crowned, and thus she can only be considered a usurper.