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The Platinum Affair was one of the greatest diplomatic blunders between the four nations, occurring in the early childhood of Avatar Yangchen. The incident led to the Earth Kingdom, Fire Nation, and Water Tribes to pursue highly isolationist policies and restrict international trade to four special territories.


Feishan and Nong's war[]

Like many rulers across Earth Kingdom history, Earth King Feishan had enemies who tried to depose him. In Feishan's case, his rule was contested by General Nong, who organized rebel legions in an attempt to usurp power. Though at war, the two sides held off on engaging in a pitched battle, neither one wanting to throw away their chances for success in a single moment. The Avatar could not intervene, as Yangchen was only a young child, her position known only to the elders of the Western Air Temple.

The rulers of the Fire Nation and the Water Tribes eventually grew impatient with the prolonged war, and conspired to secretly back Nong by sending him valuable platinum ingots while loaning paper bank notes to the Earth King, the idea being that the more substantial wealth would tempt royalist soldiers to Nong's side. The plan failed when Feishan suddenly and unexpectedly destroyed Nong and his army at Llamapaca's Crossing in year 9 of the era of Yangchen, securing his position as Earth King.[1] During this time, Feishan captured both the platinum ingots and several foreign agents at Llamapaca's Crossing, including Chief Oyaluk's followers Tayagum and Akuudan, and discovered what had happened.[2]

Era of isolationism[]

In retribution for what his fellow heads of state had done, Feishan closed his nation's ports, cut off diplomatic communication, and expelled foreign ambassadors. He kept the captured platinum, melting it down and using it to plate the giant badgermole statue behind his throne, and decreed that relations would return to normal when the surface fully tarnished, which would be approximately one hundred years or more. Feishan also began to successfully purge his court of many spies.[3]

In response, the Fire Nation and Water Tribes announced similar isolationist policies, making it nearly impossible for people other than Air Nomads to travel the world. Despite the worldwide isolationism, there was still a strong desire for the luxuries of foreign imports from the Earth King and his court, as well as money to be made through exports. In an agreement that led the nations to save face, a few cities were chosen to handle controlled amounts of international trade under the purview of noble and merchant families.[1]


Bin-Er, Jonduri, Port Tuugaq, and Taku were chosen as the four cities that would be special territories open to international trade. The noble and merchant families in the cities became known as shangs, choosing a zongdu from among their own as an elected officer for the city. The special position of the cities meant that they were not allowed to keep any kind of military force. Failure of hunts in the west of the Northern Water Tribe led to migration to the shang cities in search of a better life, as well as a general desire for opportunity.[1]

The shangs quickly became an extremely corrupt class, refusing to properly pay their workers, while living conditions in the shang cities worsened as the settlements swelled in size. While people were encouraged to move to the city, the corrupt control offices did not allow people to leave unless it benefitted to the shangs, compounding the problems of unemployment and poverty. Information became an extremely valuable resource in order to keep track of the vast informal economies of the shang cities, meaning that many were known to be cities full of spies.

The issues in the shang cities attracted the attention of Avatar Yangchen shortly after she became a fully-realized Avatar, making her first formal visit to the shang city of Bin-Er. While meeting with the shangs of the city, she exposed that they had violated their charters by allowing more ships to dock that they had been permitted. Worried that the Avatar would expose the corruption in the shang cities to the mercurial Earth King, and that he would prohibit them from raising an army to defend themselves, the shang merchants began to consider implementing the Unanimity project, a secret plan to use a display of mass destruction in order to free themselves from the Earth Kingdom.[4]


  • The Platinum Affair and its aftermath were partially inspired by the real-world cohong system and the Cold War.[5]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Yee, F. C. (author). (July 19, 2022). Chapter Nine, "Theater". The Dawn of Yangchen. Amulet Books.
  2. Yee, F. C. (author). (July 19, 2022). Chapter Eighteen "A Place to Lay One's Head". The Dawn of Yangchen. Amulet Books.
  3. Yee, F. C. (author). (July 19, 2022). Chapter Two, "Voices of the Present". The Dawn of Yangchen. Amulet Books.
  4. Yee, F. C. (author). (July 19, 2022). Chapter Ten, "Keeping Score". The Dawn of Yangchen. Amulet Books.
  5. Basco, Dante (host), Varney, Janet (host), Yee, F. C. (guest), Wu, Nancy (guest). (February 20, 2024). "Bookbending! with F.C. Yee & Nancy Wu". Avatar: Braving the Elements. Episode 106. iHeartRadio.