- This article is about the war initiated by Chin the Conqueror. For other similar uses, see Chin (disambiguation).
|"In my day, Chin the Conqueror threatened to throw the world out of balance."|
|— Avatar Kyoshi detailing the threat posed by Chin to Avatar Aang.|
The War of Chin the Conqueror was a major hostile takeover of the Earth Kingdom by the tyrannical warlord Chin, who intended to overthrow the 46th Earth King and end his authoritarian rule. Almost the entirety of the Earth Kingdom was invaded during the campaign, except for Ba Sing Se and a small peninsula home to Avatar Kyoshi. The war ended when Chin died while Avatar Kyoshi separated her home from the mainland, creating Kyoshi Island.
Chin's war had a massive impact on history, as it caused a series of events that eventually led to the decline of the Earth King's power. This development resulted in a 370 year long period of weakness, conspiracy, and corruption for the Earth Kingdom that ended with the 52nd Earth King's return to power in 100 AG.
- See also: Poisoning at the Avatar mansion
Since its foundation, the Earth Kingdom had never been truly unified under the control of the Earth monarchs. Instead, autonomous regional rulers such as the Kings of Omashu and respected elders known as "Earth Kingdom sages" wielded great influence. As a result, the Earth Kingdom's central government often left its more remote provinces to fend for themselves. This had grave consequences in the late 4th century BG, when the Earth Kingdom entered a period of great strife. The catastrophic Yellow Neck uprising broke out in the central kingdom, while sophisticated criminal groups known as daofei grew in power. At the same time, the search for Avatar Kuruk's successor failed, leading many to believe that the line of Avatars had ended and emboldening those seeking power. The Earth Kingdom's government proved to be too corrupt and self-serving to alleviate the crisis, while the regional leaders and sages squabbled among themselves. The country's slow descent into chaos was halted by the efforts of Jianzhu who created a far-reaching political network and employed brutal as well as ruthless methods to restore stability. He also identified a boy named Yun as the next Avatar, reinforcing his own position and strengthening the system he had created.
Jianzhu became the Earth Kingdom's de facto ruler, but his regime remained unofficial and precarious. His downfall took place in 296 BG, when it was revealed that Kyoshi, a servant girl, was the true Avatar. Jianzhu alienated Kyoshi, resulting in her flight and the gradual unraveling of his power base. Jianzhu's main rival, Chamberlain Hui, eventually assembled most of the sages of the western Earth Kingdom in a plot to dis-empower him. Jianzhu responded by poisoning them and blaming the daofei. Shortly afterward, Jianzhu was cronfonted and killed by Kyoshi and Yun in the town of Qinchao. This event had long-lasting repercussions: the inhabitants of Qinchao, most of them belonging to the Chin clan, blamed Kyoshi for the destruction caused by the duel with Jianzhu. Furthermore, the death of Jianzhu and Hui's faction rid the Earth Kingdom of a large part of its political leadership, causing great unrest in the kingdom's northwest. The public announcement that Kyoshi was the true Avatar also caused tensions, as Yun had been a popular figure, whereas Kyoshi was associated with the daofei. Kyoshi subsequently struggled to keep the Earth Kingdom stable amid the extreme corruption of the country's elite and a leadership vacuum that had resulted from Jianzhu's death. Disgusted at the self-serving nature of the Earth Kingdom government, she initially tried to avoid politics as much as she could, leaving many Earth Kingdom sages and nobles dissatisfied.
Instead of countering the crisis, the 46th Earth King was determined to exploit the tensions to establish an absolute monarchy with himself as supreme monarch. He did not care about his subjects, and his unpopular rule could thus count on little support from his people and the local authorities.
The resistance against the Earth King's authoritarian rule soon culminated in open revolt. A village leader associated with the Chin clan who later became known as "Chin the Conqueror", travelled to the northwestern Earth Kingdom and managed to raise a large army. He effectively utilized the 46th Earth King's unpopularity and lack of the regional elite that had been killed by Jianzhu, and quickly seized control of the areas bordering the Mo Ce Sea.
Chin's campaign proved successful; commencing from a small island in the northwestern part of the kingdom, his armies conquered every settlement along the way. In contrast, the Earth King seemed incapable of handling the war properly and barricaded himself in Ba Sing Se, leaving most of the kingdom under Chin's control. At the height of the campaign, only the capital city of Ba Sing Se and Avatar Kyoshi's home peninsula remained unconquered.
Chin ultimately decided to face the Avatar instead of the impenetrable walls of Ba Sing Se, leading his armies out to the neck of the peninsula where the Avatar was prepared to face him. In a standoff, Chin confronted Kyoshi and demanded her immediate surrender. Kyoshi, in turn, warned him that she would not sit passively while he took her home, but Chin refused to back down and challenged her.
Kyoshi decided against fighting Chin, instead choosing to unleash a display of bending prowess in the Avatar State by creating a large fissure across the width of the neck of the peninsula to sever it from the mainland. Bending lava, she deepened the crack and completely separated her homeland before using airbending to blow it away from the mainland. The ground shook as the newly formed Kyoshi Island slowly drifted toward the middle of the ocean, leaving Chin standing on an unstable cliff. Although the cliff started to crumble away underneath his feet, Chin, screaming in anger over Kyoshi's actions, refused to move. As a result, he plummeted to his death in the depths below, ending the war.
Although the Earth Kingdom was freed from the threat of conquest, it remained in civil unrest. Chin's army was disbanded, but loyalists of his regime founded a settlement in the southern Earth Kingdom. Many citizens were furious at the Earth King's military incompetence and tyranny during the war, inciting revolts throughout the nation.
Uprisings, such as the Peasant Uprising in Ba Sing Se, nearly plunged the kingdom back into civil war. It was Avatar Kyoshi's intervention that ultimately resolved the conflict peacefully; she forced the Earth King to listen to the peasants' grievances, turning his authoritarian regime into a constitutional monarchy. In return, she created the Dai Li to protect the city's cultural heritage and the king's interests. Overall, the position of the Earth King was massively weakened, both in power and reputation, and successive kings did nothing to regain their power. Instead, they delegated their authority to the bureaucracy in favor of pleasure-seeking and leisure.
During the next 270 years, the developments started by Chin's war continued; the monarchy became stagnant and corrupt, and its power declined. At the same time, the power of local rulers and bureaucrats increased, dividing the Earth Kingdom into independent provinces, local kingdoms, and city-states with their own armies and laws. This territorial division increased to the point where the Earth Kingdom's monarchy had little control over its rural and peripheral regions. Eventually, the kings even lost control over Ba Sing Se to the Dai Li. By that time, the secret police had discarded all loyalty to the monarchy and began to work only for its own benefit.
Around 20 BG, Fire Lord Sozin took advantage of this weakness, establishing several colonies in the western portions of the continent, occupying former Earth Kingdom territory. The Earth Kingdom government did not protect its western provinces or declare war on the Fire Nation for its aggressive imperialism, as it would be unable to stop the formidable Fire Nation military. Avatar Roku was able to prevent the establishment of more colonies after he confronted the Fire Lord. Nevertheless, after his death, the Hundred Year War began, and most of the weakened Earth Kingdom was conquered by the Fire Nation. By this time, the 52nd Earth King, Kuei, had become a mere figurehead, while the Grand Secretariat of Ba Sing Se asserted control over the Earth Kingdom.
This conspiracy was eventually revealed by Avatar Aang in 100 AG, and some of the Earth King's power was briefly restored until the Coup of Ba Sing Se. During this overthrow, Princess Azula of the Fire Nation usurped and abolished the Earth King's position, ending the long line of powerless puppet rulers to the Earth Kingdom. The nation itself was shattered; most of the country had been conquered by the Fire Nation, while the rest fell under the control of warlords, local authorities, and loyal remnants of the fragmented Earth Kingdom Army.
However, in 100 AG, 370 years after Chin's death, very few commoners remembered Chin's war, and the details of Chin's death became unclear despite his impact on the nation's history. The citizens of Chin Village were the only known people in that time to commemorate Chin's death; they created the Avatar Day festival to express their disdain over the Avatar's supposed murder of their leader.
The village had already celebrated the holiday on those grounds for 370 years, when Team Avatar arrived at the village in 100 AG. Upon their arrival, Avatar Aang agreed to stand trial for the "murder" of Chin the Great. While Aang was in jail, Katara and Sokka set out to investigate the true nature of Chin's death. Although he was immediately condemned following Avatar Kyoshi's admission, Aang was able to clear the Avatar's name by saving the village from an invasion by the Rough Rhinos. From that day onwards, Avatar Day became a day to celebrate the Avatar.
Before the battle at Wulong Forest, Aang summoned Kyoshi for guidance on how to defeat the Fire Lord. She reminded him that her forceful ending of Chin the Conqueror's war for dominance brought a "great era of peace". Aang pointed out that she did not actually kill him, but that Chin's own stubbornness led to his own demise. Kyoshi replied that she saw no difference in the two situations, and told Aang that she would have done anything necessary to stop Chin. Aang subsequently expressed regret over consulting with Kyoshi.
Kuei returned to power after the liberation of Ba Sing Se and the end of the Hundred Year War. The Earth Kingdom government was reformed, and the Earth King regained much of the power his predecessors had lost over the past 370 years.
Avatar: The Last Airbender
Book Two: Earth (土)
- 205. "Avatar Day" (flashback)
Book Three: Fire (火)
- 319. "Sozin's Comet, Part 2: The Old Masters" (flashback)
- According to Avatar Kyoshi, Chin's death brought "a great era of peace". However, even though there was no open warfare for the next 233 years, Chin's death did cause the violent Peasant Uprising in Ba Sing Se and a time of civil unrest in the Earth Kingdom.