|"It's especially bad in the Earth Kingdom. We call the prominent elders 'sages', but they are not true spiritual leaders like in the Fire Nation. They're more like powerful officials, with all the politicking they do."|
|— Yun to Kyoshi.|
The Earth Kingdom sages, less commonly known as Earth sages, were a collective of prominent elders who held significant authority over the Earth Kingdom during the late 4th and early 3rd centuries BG. By this point, they had mostly discarded their spiritual roots and instead become de facto officials, exerting political influence over the nation. However, infighting and struggle for control over the guardianship and training of the falsely identified Avatar, Yun, led to the deaths of a large number of sages at the hands of Jianzhu.
The Earth Kingdom's first sages were immigrants related to the deeply spiritual Bhanti, though their nature changed over time due to widespread corruption. People seeking influence could effectively buy the title of sage, resulting in the rise of many unqualified individuals. Many sages consequently had little interest in spiritual matters and instead used their authority as elders to gain more political power, though as their influence grew they became increasingly affected by factionalism and struggle for control.
The Earth Kingdom sages were heavily involved in the search for Avatar Kuruk's successor after his death in 312 BG by relying on the rituals of directional geomancy. However, seven years later, their efforts had proved unsuccessful, leading the sage Jianzhu to use the Air Nomad method of identification, a set of relics owned by previous Avatars, though this method too failed to recognize Kyoshi as the true Avatar. The constant failures had a devastating effect on the sages' morale. Many of them, especially the earthbenders, believed themselves abandoned by their ancestors and the spirits, and some even concluded that the line of Avatars had ended, dooming the world to descend into chaos. Jianzhu eventually falsely identified Yun as Kuruk's successor, becoming his guardian and earthbending instructor at the agreement of the other sages.
Shortly after the defeat of Tagaka and the Fifth Nation, Lu Beifong held a celebration to commemorate Yun's victory that was attended by a number of other sages. When Lu's chamberlain, Hui, was told by Jianzhu and Hei-Ran that the whereabouts of the Avatar were unknown, he quickly proceeded to inform Lu and the rest of the gathered sages about the situation.
After Hui discovered that the Avatar had been found with outlaws in the Taihua Mountains, he gathered a conclave of Earth Kingdom sages intending to discuss the potential removal of Jianzhu as the Avatar's guardian. The group, which did not include Lu Beifong or anyone from Omashu and Ba Sing Se, traveled to Yokoya, where Hui informed Jianzhu he was no longer fit to serve as the Avatar's master. Jianzhu angrily rebuffed the statement and asked the assembled sages what Hui had bribed them with. Before the chamberlain could call a vote, he and the other sages collapsed and died, poisoned by the tea Jianzhu had given them. Shortly afterward, Jianzhu himself was killed at Yun's hands, and Kyoshi's identity as the true Avatar was revealed. Several surviving Earth Kingdom sages protested this turn of events and publicly accused Kyoshi of being illegitimate. They sent angry messages to the Council of Elders at the Southern Air Temple, where Kyoshi had taken refuge after her revelation.
Even when Jianzhu's testament confirmed Kyoshi's Avatarhood and she publicly demonstrated the ability to bend the four elements, some Earth Kingdom sages continued to claim that she was not the true Avatar, as they hoped to coerce her into doing their bidding in order to earn their support for her Avatarhood. Their plan failed, however, much to the frustration of the corrupt sages, as Kyoshi largely ignored them. In comparison, Kyoshi's relationship with the sages who acknowledged her was not much better, as she continued to search for Yun despite their disapproval, given that the sages who supported his legitimacy were heavily scandalized. This issue particularly degraded the relationship between her and Lu Beifong.
A delegation of Earth Kingdom sages traveled to the Fire Nation for the Festival of Szeto the following year, where several sages greeted Avatar Kyoshi. Governor Shing tried to raise a land dispute with his peasants to the Avatar, but was quickly shut down by Kyoshi, left humiliated. Shockingly, Lu Beifong was murdered in the Fire Nation Royal Palace that night by Yun, as part of his vengeful quest to kill anyone who had lied about his supposed Avatarhood.
- Buro - King of Omashu
- Jianzhu - Sage of Yokoya, de facto ruler of the Earth Kingdom, and guardian of the Avatar; murdered in 296 BG.
- Lu Beifong - Head of the Beifong family; murdered in 295 BG
- Neliao the Gardener
- Pan - Herbalist of Taku; murdered in 296 BG
- Ryong - Sage of Pohuai; murdered in 296 BG
- General Saiyuk - Lord Commander of Do Hwan Fortress; murdered in 296 BG
- Shing - Governor of Gintong Province
- Zhang Dakou - Sage of the Zhang tribe; murdered in 296 BG
- Neliao is the only known female Earth Kingdom sage.
- The Earth Kingdom sages did not all reach their positions on the basis of merit. General Saiyuk, for example, was considered a political appointee and unqualified for his position as lord commander.
- Though many sages were earthbenders, it was not a requirement to join the collective.