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"Selfless duty calls you to sacrifice your own spiritual needs and do whatever it takes to protect the world."
— Yangchen to Aang.[1]

Yangchen was the Air Nomad Avatar succeeding Avatar Szeto and preceding Avatar Kuruk. She grew up in a rather isolationist time for the four nations in the aftermath of the Platinum Affair.[7] After mastering all the elements in her youth, she was eager to make a difference in the world despite her inexperience.[8] Following her confrontation with General Old Iron in Tienhaishi, Yangchen resolved to adapt to the complex political strategy of the four nations, using manipulation, espionage, and deceit to her advantage in an era where loyalty was bought rather than earned.[9][10]

While on an official visit of the shang cities, Yangchen sought to alleviate the great divide between the rich and poor in Bin-Er. Working behind the scenes to put an end to the obscene amount of corruption, she worked with her new companion, Kavik, to investigate the Unanimity project which sought to put power in the hands of the shangs.[9] After defeating three combustionbenders that acted as human weapons and apprehending Zongdu Henshe, Yangchen covered up the crisis as an incident relating to spiritual imbalance, and successfully petitioned Earth King Feishan to be granted the administration of Bin-Er.[11]

She eventually became a respected figure and was hailed for her wisdom, determination, and power. Although Air Nomad culture emphasized pacifism and the sanctity of life, Yangchen was feared for her fierce willingness to do whatever was required to maintain balance and peace throughout the world in her duty as the Avatar.[12]

Due to her devotion, no threats of war occurred for an entire generation after her death.[3] In death, she was revered as a holy individual, and people in the Earth Kingdom even began to pray to her for protection.[13] However, her actions also contributed to a rise in dark spirit attacks during the time of her successor Kuruk.[14]

History

Early life

Yangchen was born and raised by Air Nuns in the Western Air Temple.[15] She always loved animals, and they were drawn to her. On Bonding Day, most of the bison calves flocked to Yangchen, but she picked one calf, who she named Nujian.[16] She was also plagued by the voices of Avatars before her for as long as she could remember.[9] At some point before she was eight, Yangchen began to periodically fall into extremely painful phases of fever and almost epileptic fits, initially rambling incoherently. The Air Nomad healers tried their best to help her, but found no cause. Over time, however, her screaming became recognizable as names and even sentences. Abbess Dagmola began to document the child's words, hoping that they might find some meaning in them. Occasionally, the young Avatar also reenacted scenes from her past lives. One day, Yangchen began talking to Earth King Zhoulai who had been dead for three centuries, but who was recognizable to her caretakers. Taken together with the notes of the abbess, it became clear that all the individuals Yangchen had talked about were companions of past Avatars. Her caretakers, most importantly Jetsun, realized that reading out texts written by these individuals would ease the girl's pain. This was especially important to calm Yangchen down when she relieved the personal losses and betrayals of ancient Avatars, suffering even more than usual.[17]

As result of constantly reliving the experiences of her past lives, Yangchen realized her Avatarhood by the time she was eleven. Though her fits of possession became less painful as time went on, the Air Nomad elders were troubled by the fact that these incidents kept happening. Jetsun, whom Yangchen regarded as an older sister, tried to figure out new ways to help her. Eventually, she acted as the young Avatar's guide so that Yangchen could meditate into the Spirit World. With the assistance of Abbess Dagmola and Librarian Tsering, the two made their first attempt at a meadow above the Western Air Temple. Using her latent Avatarhood, Yangchen managed to do it in her first try. Yangchen was thrilled at the beauty of the Spirit World at first, until they came on a group of shishi.[18][19] While Yangchen did not fear the spirits, one of her past life did, and she was overcome by a powerful memory while still in the Spirit World. The shishi turned dark and Yangchen regressed in age, with Jetsun trying to save her and shouting at her to wake up. While Yangchen made it back to the physical world, her sister did not. Yangchen was by her sister's side when she passed away, and she was honored as a temple elder and companion of the Avatar who had given her life to defend the bridge between humans and spirits. After the funeral, she spent time researching which of her past lives had triggered the memory, but found nothing, and started to wonder if it had been her fault.[16][19][20]

Early career as Avatar

Yangchen managed to start to control the memories of her past lives by practicing mental exercises with Abbess Dagmola, creating a sturdy bridge between the banks of her memories.[2] She performed her first act of waterbending on a small island in the Mo Ce Sea[21] and, like all Avatars, mastered the elements and the Avatar State in order to maintain world peace.[3]

Avatar Yangchen battled the spirit General Old Iron before striking a deal with him which led to the creation of Yangchen's Festival.

Before she started traveling, her elder caretakers made Master Boma promise to watch the young Avatar over until she could be on her own. A week after Yangchen had mastered the four elements, she set out with Boma and her two winged lemurs, Pik and Pak, on her sky bison on her first official mission as the Avatar to Tienhaishi, a shore-side city whose king had sent for her help. Upon her arrival, she was told by the king that the local fortune tellers had predicted a tragedy coming from the sea to befall the city that evening. Believing the fortune, Yangchen waited on a cliff overlooking the water. When past midnight an enormous spirit emerged from the water, she felt overwhelming grief emanating from the spirit and tried to make contact with him. He knocked her down, however, and the two engaged in battle, which would last through the night and leave the city in ruins.[8]

As dawn broke, Yangchen finally managed to convince the spirit to tell her who he was and what he wanted. She could not let him exact his revenge on the citizens for "killing" Lady Tienhai, however, so she struck a deal with the General Old Iron spirit, one she promised to maintain for eternity in exchange for a truce with the humans.[8] General Old Iron promised to never take up his armor against humanity, so long as the land remained free of human civilization. In return, Yangchen constructed a statue in Tienhai's memory and established a ritual among her people to visit the site once a year to prove that humankind could preserve and protect nature. So long as the land remained sacred to the Air Nomads, no one would dare develop the area and risk Old Iron's wrath.[22]

After the battle, Yangchen helped the people of Tienhaishi find new places to live, but doors kept slamming in their faces, and men told them to keep walking. They slept in fields and lived on alms, and started losing people to illness. She made a promise to use anything at her disposal to save the people under her protection, and began to play the game of politics properly, learning to manipulate others. She forged some letters to fabricate rumors that two competing nobles both wanted the craftsmen of Tienhaishi, and scared the spiritually inclined husband of a governor into getting her to open their territories. Eventually, the people were absorbed by the continent.[10]

Another one of Yangchen's earliest missions as a fully-realized Avatar was on Ma'inka Island, where unseen forces were causing damage along the edges of the villages of the Saowon clan. She worked with Duke Zolian and his heir, Lohi, informing them that the spiritual activity would stop if the inhabitants of the island kept more than three li away from the cenotes and caverns on the island that were home to the phoenix-eel spirits.[23]

Yangchen's attention began to turn to the shang merchants, as they had grown extremely wealthy and powerful since the major diplomatic blunder known as the Platinum Affair that had occurred in her childhood, limiting a controlled amount of international trade between the Earth Kingdom, Fire Nation, and Water Tribes to only four cities controlled by the shangs.[7] Yangchen took it upon herself to negotiate amnesty for Tayagum and Akuudan, two of Chief Oyaluk's once trusted warriors who had been imprisoned in the Earth Kingdom since the Platinum Affair occurred, and left to rot by the chief himself.[24]

Unanimity project

Yangchen and Boma began an official tour of the shang cities, starting at Bin-Er and taking up residence in the Blue Manse. Before she started the tour, she left Pik and Pak in the care of the Northern Air Temple.[2] They were joined by Sidao, an Earth Sage and the Minister of Special Territory Relations who became an ever-growing presence of retinue. She was assigned many personal guards, though she did not trust many who joined her party in the city of spies. For nearly a month, Yangchen scouted the docks of Bin-Er from above on Nujian, and noted how the shangs were violating the terms of their charter with the Earth Kingdom by failing to control the flow of traffic within proper limits.[25]

Just before Yangchen was due to meet with the shangs, the manse was raided by an errand runner named Kavik. After spotting him, she screamed for her guards, though they started violently beating him even though she told them to leave him unharmed.[26][27] This gave her the reason she needed to fire all her guards for refusing to follow her orders. With Kavik telling her that he was living in poverty and his parents were dead, Yangchen let him go, giving him a large number of coins.[6] However, she followed Kavik on her glider to see what he was up to, reaching his house and smiling as she met Kavik's mother and father.[28] The married couple showered the Avatar with respect, and she claimed to be there to listen to the problems of the ordinary residents of Bin-Er. Claiming that Kavik had saved a piece of her information from a thief, she asked to speak to him in private, pointing out that he was better off than he had claimed, and that she had been completely fooled by his act.[29][30] She then offered him a recruitment pitch to him, noting that she needed a personal informant in the city and that he was the perfect candidate, not beholden to anyone by money or debt, but low level enough to remain beneath notice, as well as being an excellent waterbender and informant. Deciding not to blackmail Kavik into acceptance, she went to his parents and proudly announced that Kavik would become her official companion in recognition of his bravery.[30]

Yangchen's retinue relocated to an ancient inn for security reasons after the break in at the Blue Manse. She was due for her first official meeting with the shangs, and paraded through the streets of the city on Nujian with Boma next to her. There were several troublemakers in the crowd, throwing rotten fruit at first, which then turned to an elderly man striking Boma with a clay jug. She was furious that her friend had been hit, and threw the fruit into the crowd.[2] After formally introducing herself to the shangs and Zongdu Henshe, she received a lecture on the history of their system. While Sidao praised the marvel of human accord, Yangchen stated that no system was perfect, and pointed out the suffering and misery in the city could not be overlooked. Asking for workers to be fairly paid and for alms to be given out, Sidao stated there were no formalities in place for what she was asking, and Shang Noehi stated that she had no power after the Avatar asked them to implement charitable reforms once more.[7] Knowing that she would fail to appeal to any sense of generosity they had, she spoke about the Earth King caring about treason, and revealed that she had records of the shang failing to keep traffic within city limits, and speculating that there was a large unofficial economy that had gone unaccounted for.[31] Privately meeting with Henshe, she said she regretted the delivery of her message, but not the contents. She then asked Boma to take on a task for her, and got her guardian to disguise himself as the Avatar and leave on Nujian, giving her an opportunity to spy on the shangs from underground flues. Struggling to maintain balance, she was overcome by the memories of a claustrophobic past life, but got herself to snap out of it and spied on the shangs, hearing them speak of the mysterious Unanimity project.[32] She arrived at the inn covered in soot, and began to make plans to travel to Jonduri so that she could investigate what Unanimity was.[25]

Yangchen came to meet Kavik in the Golden Cloudberry teahouse, disguising herself by wearing Earth Kingdom winter clothing with a wig styled in a fashionable Fire Nation hairstyle. They discussed a letter that Yangchen had told Kavik to give his broker, Qiu, revealing that it was garbage that could be use to track a chain of leaks. While charming the owner of the teahouse, she explained to Kavik that the shangs were planning to get their hands on an asset that would give them unlimited leverage on the people of their cities and the four nations. Kavik agreed to take on the mission on the condition that she could get exit passes for his family, which she wished to, but explained that it would tip people off that Kavik's family was up to something. Yangchen and Kavik agreed to partner for the mission, though only after the Avatar was absolutely sure that Kavik was not a plant attempt by Henshe or the shangs of Bin-Er.[33] After leaving the city, Yangchen returned to the Northern Air Temple, meeting up with Kavik at the large village hospital at the base of the temple that cared for the wounded who made the trek from Bin-Er. While Yangchen deflected Abbot Sonam's protest to her bringing her "spy" into the temple, she worked to stabilize a woman suffering from a raging fever, refusing to give up her healing attempt. With Kavik helping her with his waterbending, she managed to break her patient's fever, though learned that the woman's son had not been found with her, and saw the woman extremely worried for her child.[34] Yangchen and Kavik went on to the temple grounds, and saw her new companion bond with Nujian as they went flying together for the first time. Once they reached the top of a turret, Kavik asked Yangchen about how much more heroic and inspiring she seemed around the Air Nomads. Yangchen reminisced about her actions about Tienhaishi, and explained how seeing people suffering made her determined to learn the arts of politics and intrigue so she could use such tactics to help others. She also saw Kavik try to fight off Pik and Pak when they arrived, mad at her for leaving them in the care of the temple for so long. That night, Yangchen practiced her bending with frustration on the airball court, unwilling to let go of her defeats.[10]

Making her way to Jonduri, Yangchen dropped off Kavik to be picked up by Tayagum so he could enter the city undiscovered.[35] She continued into the city with a formal delegation from the Northern Air Temple, leaving her animal companions with Monk Samten. When Yangchen met with Zongdu Chaisee, she was introduced to the works of Guru Shoken among the opening pleasantries. The Avatar was told that the zongdu would commit to implementing charitable policies in Jonduri, though after she failed to answer how long it would take, Yangchen realized she would not stay true to her word. Disgusted by Chaisee's allusions to making her rivals "disappear", Yangchen was next alerted to an urgent situation with the Saowon on Ma'inka Island.[36] The Avatar had no choice but to make a diversion from her investigations, flying to Ma'inka and expressing her fury to the Saowon for having broken their agreement with the spirits.[23] After learning that their children had been curse to never wake from their sleep, she ventured toward a cavern on the island, noting the damage the branch houses had been doing to the environment. When she met the dark phoenix-eel spirits, a tendril approached her during a struggle, giving her a vision of Jetsun trapped in a howling mist. Desperate to resolve the situation, she begged the spirits to renegotiate by claiming she could exact a more lasting toll on the Saowon than a loss that would burn out in a generation. She returned to the Saowon manor, learning that three days had passed in the physical world. She then delivered the new agreement, where the Saowon would not regrow their hair for fifty years and take on many taboos and quirks that would ruin their reputation and incomes. While the Saowon heir, Lohi, was furious, Yangchen encouraged him to look to the future where the Saowon could prosper again one day. She returned to Jonduri as soon as possible after reading a letter from Chaisee, learning that the zongdu had supposedly caught the Avatar's spy.[16]

Yangchen returned to the city to meet up with Kavik at Tayagum and Akuudan's inn. After she learned that Sidao and Qiu had been killed by Chaisee's association, she was frozen in shock to learn she had indirectly caused their deaths, running off in a panic. Kavik found her by the loudest beach in Jonduri, and she considered pulling out of the mission, but Kavik encouraged her to press on. She performed a mourning lament for Sidao and said words of remembrance for Qiu before they left.[37] Kavik then prepared to take on a job raiding a key warehouse in Jonduri, and Yangchen helped him prepare, as they believed that a logbook would be there that held details on Unanimity. She helped brief him on the situation in the city and his plan inside the warehouse, and gave him Nujian's bison whistle so she could extract him from the mission if needed.[38] When Kavik returned, he told Yangchen they had been wrong about the warehouse, and that Unanimity was still on a ship called the Sunbeam, due to take the project from Port Tuugaq to Jonduri. Leaving Akuudan and Tayagum to look out for warehouse workers under threat from Chaisee, and leaving Kavik to stay with his cover at the association, she left for Port Tuugaq, ready to put an end to Unanimity.[39]

She made her way to Shimsom Big Island without sleeping after she had a nightmare about Jetsun.[19][20] Although she was very hungry and desperate for food and rest, she got Nujian to land further away from the city, before using earthbending and airbending to create enough of a distraction so that she could slip by the gate into the Port Tuugaq. As she tried to get to the docks, she realized she was being tailed and was being sent east, but she used earthbending to defeat two of them, and then took down a third with airbending, exposing to him that she was the Avatar. As she now had captives, she realized she had to get them somewhere secure, and decided to appeal to the Order of the White Lotus, sledging the bodies with earthbending to a qarmaq where she knew the order would be. She repeated the recognition codes she had learned from a past life to a confused man who said he would find a higher-ranking Lotus.[20] After taking a nap and having some stew, she was introduced to "Mama", who knew she did not personally knew the codes. When Mama began to criticize Yangchen for being too proactive, Yangchen deduced that the White Lotus must have been investigating something important, and offered an information trade. Mama told her to stop and think about what Avatar she should be, pointing out that she could illuminate people with the truth rather than deceiving them, but accidentally revealed she knew about Yangchen's strong connections to her past lives. Yangchen was deeply upset when she realized that the White Lotus must have had a contact in the Western Air Temple, her own home. After she calmed down, she told Mama that she had tried to seek out the advice of her past lives, and that none of them wished they had been any more passive in trying to solve problems. She then managed to learn that Mama was investigating bright lights and noise, and, hoping that she would not regret it, told her everything she knew about Unanimity.[40] Mama was surprised, but told her that she had not seen any records of a Sunbeam docking in the city within the past two months. Energized by having eaten, Yangchen asked to be taken to the site of supposed spiritual activity, landing on a large hill inland. Yangchen sensed no spiirts, but Mama noted that there were uneven depressions in the environment. Yangchen entered the Avatar State to clear a large amount of snow from the area so that they could investigate the area. Mama noted that the depressions were evenly spaced out like a grid for a target range, though Yangchen knew of no machine or regular bending that could cause such damage.[41]

Yangchen concluded that she and Kavik had simply been wrong about the Sunbeam, and sped back to Jonduri.[42] As she approached, Nujian beelined to a meadow where Kavik's partner, Jujinta, was meditating and blowing on the whistle that Kavik had given him. Though Kavik was gone, she took Tayagum, Akuudan, and Jujinta along with her to Bin-Er for their protection and the extra help.[43] Conferring with Kavik in Boma's inn, the rest of Yangchen's allies learned that Unanimity was actually a trio of three firebenders with an extraordinary ability (later called combustionbending) that were being used as human weapons, and as leverage against the Earth King. They were able to tail the three combustionbenders just before their display of power began, with Thapa firing a warning shot toward the Earth Kingdom army, and Xiaoyun and Yingsu intimidating the residents of the city.[44][43] They first executed a smooth raid of Xiaoyun's position, with Yangchen using a "vile" technique to remove the air from the room and restore it in enough time to keep him alive, but unconscious. After Tayagum and Akuudan dragged him away, they repeated the process for Thapa just before he was about to shoot a devastating explosion toward the Water Tribe Quarter, and were able to apprehend both the combustionbender and Zongdu Henshe himself.[44] However, the raid on Yingsu was more challenging, as she realized that something had happened to her fellow benders and fell back to the gathering hall as a fallback location. Kavik was forced to follow her, but he entered Yingsu's line of sight. Yangchen thought that Kavik was going to die, and Jujinta said that he could shoot an arrow at her, but there were too many places where she could be. Yangchen took the risk of launching herself at Yingsu and bellowing at her, commanding her to stand down, staying out of the Avatar State in case she died. While Yingsu fired an explosion in the Avatar's direction, she was able to save herself with her airbender-powered speed, and ran to the gathering hall. Instead of removing the air from the room, she realized she had a choice to not act with full force, and instead began to heal Yingsu with waterbending, realizing that she would have died otherwise. By accepting the Avatar's mercy, her opponent had surrendered, and the last member of Unanimity was apprehended.[43]

After the incident, the shangs stayed out of sight, and monks from the Northern Air Temple arrived to provide alms and blessings.[11][45] However, she received and read a letter that Kavik had sent while believing she was still in Port Tuugaq, confessing that he had betrayed her by feeding her false information about Unanimity. When she met with Kavik, she told him that a part of her truly believed his confession, but that she could no longer trust him. She deemed that he was no longer her companion, though stated that he could still be an asset with all the ways he was connected and everything he knew.[42] Yangchen soon left Bin-Er for Ba Sing Se, where she met with Earth King Feishan, with both disguised while meeting in a wine shop in the Middle Ring. With the Earth King having heard reports of fireballs in the sky, she told him that the city had fallen out of balance due to its greed. Taking a risk, she blamed the Earth King for his mismanagement of the situation after he complained about losing face and losing revenue, and then asked to take on the administration of the city to ease the burden of its residents while increasing the king's revenue. This was granted after she lied that Avatar Szeto would be able to make all the calls, and that her own involvement would be minimal. The Earth King did raise that he had received a cryptic message from Henshe before the incident, and threatened that he may do something terrible if he learned that it was a man who caused what had happened, but still toasted to a brighter future with Yangchen.[11] She then returned to the Northern Air Temple, where the combustionbenders had been confined to hamlets that were impassable without a flying mount, and Henshe confined to a room in the temple. Thapa refused to give up any more information, and Henshe only offered a lead which she already knew. Abbot Sonam was disappointed in her for having made jailers of the monks, warning her that they would no longer be Air Nomads if they got a taste for holding domination over other human beings. Retreating to the Avatar's quarters, Yangchen pondered what it would be like to retreat from the world and become a figurehead, giving her enough time to find Jetsun. However, Sonam arrived and told her that the woman she healed had found her son, which reminded Yangchen of her duty to save others, and how she never gave up on people. She promised to visit the woman and her son the following day.[46]

Later life

Yangchen liked to use the Avatar State to practice her airbending in a meadow near Yaoping Town.[47]

Yangchen went on to face great dangers together with her team of companions; another of Yangchen's bending masters and friends died while defending her from enemies.[48] Over time, she also became well learned[49] and studied many different philosophies, including the writings of Gurus Laghima and Shoken.[48] At some point, Yangchen met the leader of the Fifth Nation pirate fleet and signed a treaty with him, according to which the corsairs would leave the Earth Kingdom's southern coast in peace.[4] She also made further pacts between humans and spirits, such as in the case of the Heartwalker of Yaoping Mountain.[14]

Avatar Yangchen died in 345 BG[4] and was reincarnated as Kuruk of the Northern Water Tribe in accordance with the Avatar Cycle.

Legacy

As a revered Avatar, Yangchen was honored with two statues, one each at the Eastern and Western Air Temples.

Following her death, Yangchen became revered as a holy figure in the Earth Kingdom and among the Air Nomads; people in the Earth Kingdom would even pray to her for protection and luck.[4][50] Wayside shrines were dedicated to her throughout the Earth Kingdom.[21] The devotion to Yangchen was such that people even prayed to her when facing another Avatar, such as Kyoshi.[13] Her compassion toward others became a legend and she was remembered for this characteristic of hers.[14] In remembrance of her intervention with General Old Iron, the Air Nomads continued to make yearly pilgrimages to the statue of Lady Tienhai, renaming the ritual Yangchen's Festival.[22] The island on which Yangchen had first used waterbending became a holy site to the Air Nomads until it was accidentally destroyed by Avatar Kuruk.[21] Over time, the Air Nomads made two statues of Yangchen: one in the Eastern Air Temple and one in the Western Air Temple.[3]

Yangchen's political decisions also had a long-lasting impact. Her devotion to her duty as the Avatar ushered in a prolonged period of peace, as no threats of war occurred for an entire generation after her death.[3] Communication between the nations was also a lot more open and calm after her death than it had been during her youth.[51] The Fifth Nation pirates honored her treaty for three generations until it was broken by their commander, Tulok, shortly after Kuruk's death.[4] Her political decisions were also analyzed by scholars, who would write treatises on the subject. These were read by Yun, who was initially presumed to be Kuruk's successor.[52]

Contrary to popular belief, however, her effect on the world was not wholly positive. When humans and spirits came into conflict with each other, she often sided with the humans, trusting they would respect their end of the bargain to take care of the physical world. While some humans did respect the new treaties, as in the case of Tienhai's city, many others did not. When humans violated the new promises, many spirits turned dark. This led to an abundance of dark spirits in the lifetime of Kuruk. After her death, she regretted that she gave the four nations everything they wanted. She acknowledged that no-one was entitled to their every desire, and in order to live in true balance, humans must know when not to take everything from the world, and from each other. The ramification of her choices in favoring humans over the spirits led to her reincarnation's suffering, which weighed heavily on Yangchen in her afterlife.[14]

Appearances during Kyoshi's life

Kyoshi wished to contact Yangchen many times in her early life, though was not able to until she came to terms with her immediate predecessor, Kuruk.

Yangchen first appeared to Kyoshi in a spring located in the forests near Yokoya. Initially, the Earth Avatar thought she was speaking to Kuruk, and then gasped in shock, believing she was seeing the ghost of her Air Nomad mother, Jesa. After she realized who Yangchen was, she explained the confusion, causing the compassionate airbender to meet a tearful Kyoshi with a gentle embrace, and she told Kyoshi that all would be right.

Kyoshi raised that she had so many questions, as Yangchen was the first Avatar who could properly guide her. When Kyoshi explained her doubts about Kuruk hunting dark spirits, Yangchen explained that he was forced to take on the responsibility as a direct result of Yangchen's policies relating to spirits, and that every Avatar makes mistakes. She sensed Kyoshi's disappointment, but her successor simply responded that she was confused. She advised Kyoshi that she must give up looking for an easy answer, as even if she spent a thousand years talking to the past Avatars, she would not know how to best guide the world. Before she dissipated, she asked Kyoshi to replace a clay turtle that she had broken, a traditional relic that identified the Air Avatars.[14]

Appearances during Aang's life

In 100 AG, Yangchen was sought out by Aang in the Spirit World, who was in a coma at the time. During their brief meeting, she discussed Aang's failure at protecting Ba Sing Se from Azula. Amid the young Avatar's embarrassment, Yangchen convinced him to not feel guilty for his shortcomings, as previous Avatars had also made mistakes and struggled to successfully perform their duties. Although she told Aang little about her personal experiences, she was empathetic toward his shame and sadness.

Yangchen also imparted to Aang the reason the Avatar takes human rebirth each time: in order to have a desire to protect humanity, the Avatar must feel compassion toward humans and the only way of doing so was living among them. If the Avatar was instead an all-powerful immortal spirit living at the top of a mountain, he or she would not have anything in common with ordinary people. She acknowledged that the Avatar must experience human life and emotions, such as sadness, anger, joy, and happiness, in order to learn how precious human life is and therefore understand the need to protect it. Thus, with every reincarnation, the spirit of the Avatar comes closer to fully comprehending what it truly means to be human.

Yangchen taught Aang the meaning of the Avatar's humanity during his journey in the Spirit World.

At the end of the meeting, Yangchen told Aang that the spirit of the Avatar had been healed, though his ability to use the Avatar State was disrupted and he would, therefore, need to rely on his friends, not past lives, for guidance. As Aang departed, Yangchen told the young Avatar that the memory of his journey in the Spirit World would be erased once he awoke from his coma.[53]

When on the lion turtle, Yangchen was the last of his past lives Aang summoned for advice on how to defeat Ozai without killing him, thinking a fellow Air Nomad would easily sympathize with his views and support a bloodless victory over the Fire Lord. Although Yangchen remarked the Air Nomad belief that all life was sacred, she reminded Aang that the Avatar could never detach themselves and achieve spiritual enlightenment as their sole duty was to the world. As such, she imparted him with the wisdom that selfless duty required him to sacrifice his own spiritual needs and do whatever it takes to protect the world, which left Aang deeply discouraged.[1]

Yangchen tried to warn Aang about something, but he could not hear her speak.

In 102 AG, the day before Yangchen's Festival was to be celebrated, Yangchen appeared as a mysterious hooded figure to Aang in Yu Dao and led him onto a balcony. She tried to speak to him, though Aang could not hear her voice. After she disappeared, he eventually concluded that she came to remind him to revive the celebration. When Team Avatar subsequently made their way into a town that was built upon a meadow sacred to the Air Nomads, she appeared to Aang once more, leading him to investigate the grounds of the Earthen Fire Refinery and discover a polluted river. Some time later, she appeared a third time and imparted a vision upon him of a monster destroying a settlement, leaving him to wonder whether it was a vision of the past or the future.[54]

Later that day, when Aang was saying a blessing before having the ceremonial meal of Yangchen's Festival with the Air Acolytes, he crossed over to the Spirit World, where he was able to fully connect with Yangchen. She explained to him that all the Avatars are connected to one another like a chain, so when he broke off his relationship with Roku, he also damaged his connection to all the Avatars that preceded him. However, traditions like the ceremonial meal served as a temporary conduit for them to connect. Yangchen told him of her past dealings with General Old Iron, though before she could complete her story and tell Aang the specifics of the deal she struck with the spirit, Aang's meditation was interrupted by another earthquake.[8]

Yangchen told Aang of her agreement with General Old Iron.

Aang later repaired the connection with his past lives by re-crafting the fire medallion on his meditation beads. After reconciling with Roku, Aang made his way down to Yangchen, whom he urged to finish her story. After she did, she confirmed that the metal that had been dug up was Old Iron's armor and warned Aang that his return was pending. As Yangchen lamented that her promise had been broken, Aang suggested that he could bury the armor once more and return the land to its natural state. She did not answer, instead telling Aang to return to his friends.[22]

Appearances during Korra's life

Yangchen and the past Avatars appeared before Korra as she found her spiritual connection.

Yangchen was among all the other Avatars when Aang passed on the knowledge of energybending to Korra and restored her bending, representing the newly established connection she made to her spiritual self.[55]

While Unalaq was attacking Raava, Korra envisioned Yangchen among the Avatar lineup she had seen prior to regaining her bending; however, her connection to Korra was severed due to Unalaq's assault on and subsequent destruction of the light spirit.[56]

Personality

Yangchen was an encouraging, empathetic woman toward others, including her successors, and was remembered for her great compassion.[1][14] She valued her friends and family greatly, and though usually level-headed and friendly, she could become extremely angry upon seeing them being hurt.[2] Yangchen also disdained unnecessary violence, especially when it was paired with cruelty.[36]

She was deeply afflicted by her constant reliving of past Avatars' experiences to the degree that it resembled schizophrenia;[2][32] Yangchen herself admitted that the voices "never stop".[37] She used different techniques to force herself to remember who she was,[2] yet often fell into moments where she lost sight of her own reality and even personality. Even after gaining a rough control over the foreign memories as a teenager, Yangchen could fall into periods of possession and panic for an extended time.[32][6] The overlap between herself and the past was so intense that the phoenix-eel spirits of Ma'inka described her as an "hollow shell".[16]

Beyond these direct burdens, her scrambled but strong connection to her past lives meant that she felt tired and trapped as if in an endless wheel: Just as every Avatar before her, she would always chose to help others and try to change the world for the better. However, she also knew that every Avatar had failed in some way, and that regardless of their efforts, the suffering would never fully disappear. Sometimes, she struggled to care any longer about the wider world and just secretly wished that she could escape it all.[46] Yangchen was especially frustrated by humanity's seeming inability to learn from mistakes, including its tendency to break deals with the spirits or to chose short-term gains even if it resulted in long-term problems.[2] As a result of her relativist worldview and the experiences beyond her age, Yangchen was open to different philosophies,[48] and was convinced that no absolute truths existed, including no absolutely correct way to act as Avatar.[14] Despite being raised by the Air Nomads and understanding their respect for all life, Yangchen was thus also willing to put pacifism aside to fulfill her duties, believing that the goal of protecting the world and human emotions justified the means.[1]

Regardless of her private reservations and struggles, Yangchen was never able to just completely give up on herself and others, even as she wished for it.[46] Although the Air Nomads taught separation from the physical realm, she believed that the Avatar can never do this because their sole duty is to the world.[1] She maintained a strong desire to prove herself and to perform her duty as the Avatar, even putting on a facade of confidence during fearful situations.[8] In her duty of protecting life and improve the situation of others, Yangchen displayed a willingness to make deals with criminals and engage in espionage and conspiracies to prevent bloodshed.[2][4][30] To deescalate a situation or save lives, she was even ready to make deals which would cause other suffering over extended periods.[16] Regardless, this view of the dark side of life and the personal betrayals connected with it took a further toll on her mind.[46][37][42]

Abilities

Bending

As a reincarnation of the entity known as the Avatar, Yangchen possessed the power to bend all four elements, making her the most powerful bender of her time.

Airbending

Yangchen was an airbending master.

Yangchen was an airbending master, having achieved arrow tattoos at a young age. While in the Avatar State, she could form circular air currents strong enough to even move the sky.[57] She continued to hone her airbending skills even after her formal training had ended.[47] A signature technique she used was using her bending to raise her voice in order to attract attention to herself.[43] She also knew the "vile" technique of removing air from a room in order to suffocate someone, though her pacifist philosophies meant that she only did this so someone would feel dizzy or pass out, and always returned the air before death could follow.[44][43]

Waterbending

A waterbending master, Yangchen was particularly known for her skills as a healer, and the four nations loved the image of the Avatar healing the sick with her own two hands. She treated many gruesome conditions, and saw the worst of physical damage.[23] Yangchen knew several skilled techniques, such as preventing frostbite through healing, and could stabilize patients and cure illnesses by breaking a fever.[6][34]

Earthbending

After mastering earthbending, Yangchen showed a lot of skill at the element. She was able to use her bending to stabilize herself in the underground flues beneath the Bin-Er gathering hall, and later tunnelled a safe passage so that she could escape from the building.[25] When she came to Port Tuugaq, she found herself in a situation where she could only rely on her earthbending, and was able to bend the sod belonging to a house, making it burst and knock out two of the three men trying to apprehend her.[20]

Firebending

While Yangchen often relied on her airbending if she could, she was still a firebending master. She used her bending to create a candle's worth of flame to light the way through the flues under the gathering hall of Bin-Er, though had to trade this for earthbending once she began to slip.[25]

Medium

As the carrier of the Avatar Spirit, Yangchen had the capacity to act as a medium, a bridge between the mortal world and the Spirit World. She sensed and comprehended the complex nature of the Avatar Spirit, including its needs of human reincarnation.[58] Her spiritual abilities were extremely strong, to the point of being a hindrance, as she had started talking to visions of past Avatar companions since before she was eight years old.[17] At the age of eleven, she was able to cross over to the Spirit World shortly after her very first attempt at meditation, [18] although she was unable to stop herself from being overwhelmed by a traumatic memory from one of her past lives, leading to the spirits turning dark.[19]

As she grew older, Yangchen started to control her memories by practicing mental exercises. However, she still found it difficult to separate the past from the present. She could still become overwhelmed by her past lives when she was in a situation that could trigger a traumatic response from one of the past Avatars, from phobias to specific experiences.[2][25]

Relationships

Main article: Yangchen's relationships

Relatives

  • Jetsun (possibly a distant cousin, considered to be an older sister)[18]

Appearances

Avatar: The Last Airbender

Book Two: Earth (土)

Escape from the Spirit World

Book Three: Fire (火)

Graphic novels

The Legend of Korra

Book One: Air (气)

Book Two: Spirits (神靈)

Book Four: Balance (平衡)

Chronicles of the Avatar

The Shadow of Kyoshi

  • 227. "The Meeting" (vision)

The Dawn of Yangchen

  • 100. "Voices of the Past"
  • 101. "The First Step"
  • 102. "Voices of the Present"
  • 103. "Flight"
  • 104. "Forgiveness"
  • 105. "Unwinding"
  • 106. "The Visitor"
  • 107. "The Proposition"
  • 108. "The Parade"
  • 109. "Theater"
  • 110. "Keeping Score"
  • 111. "Fallback Plans"
  • 112. "Outside Options"
  • 114. "Reading Leaves"
  • 115. "The Northern Air Temple"
  • 116. "Making Ready"
  • 117. "Breaking In"
  • 119. "A Meeting of Minds"
  • 121. "Legitimate Business"
  • 122. "The Dispute"
  • 123. "Loose Ends"
  • 124. "Rememberance"
  • 125. "The Numbers Game"
  • 128. "Following Through"
  • 129. "Dreams Within Dreams"
  • 130. "Basic Tradecraft"
  • 131. "Conversations"
  • 132. "Traces"
  • 135. "The Display"
  • 136. "Exposure"
  • 137. "Reconciling"
  • 138. "The Earth King"
  • 139. "Honored Guests"

Trivia

  • When abruptly asked for the name of the female airbender Avatar at the Pacific Media Expo, Bryan Konietzko jokingly dubbed her "Avatar Susan", indicating that they initially did not plan on developing the previous Avatars aside from the two already introduced.
  • In Escape from the Spirit World, she was the only Avatar to not tell Aang of a mistake she made when she was alive.
  • Yangchen liked to use the Avatar State to power her airbending in a meadow near Yaoping Town.[47]
  • Although Yangchen did not appear in The Last Airbender, the accompanying prequel manga, Zuko's Story, featured additional information about Yangchen, such as her building a hermitage near the Eastern Air Temple where she retired to in her later years.
  • F. C. Yee has commented on the fan interpretation of Yangchen as an aromantic and asexual character, saying that it is an extremely valid and fitting interpretation, but that he did not intend this from the beginning.[51]
Preceded by
Szeto
Avatar
Unknown - 345 BG
Succeeded by
Kuruk

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Ehasz, Aaron (writer) & Volpe, Giancarlo (director). (July 19, 2008). "Sozin's Comet, Part 2: The Old Masters". Avatar: The Last Airbender. Season 3. Episode 19. Nickelodeon.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 2.9 Yee, F. C. (author). (July 19, 2022). Chapter Eight, "The Parade". The Dawn of Yangchen. Amulet Books.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 From older Welcome to Republic City online game, originally on Nick.com. Game now broken, archived at The Lost Lore of Avatar Korra - Avatar Yangchen.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 Yee, F. C. (author), DiMartino, Michael Dante (author). (July 16, 2019). Chapter One, "The Test". The Rise of Kyoshi. Amulet Books.
  5. Yee, F. C. (author), DiMartino, Michael Dante (author). (July 21, 2020). Chapter Two, "The Invitation". The Shadow of Kyoshi. Amulet Books.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Yee, F. C. (author). (July 19, 2022). Chapter Four, "Forgiveness". The Dawn of Yangchen. Amulet Books.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Yee, F. C. (author). (July 19, 2022). Chapter Nine, "Theater". The Dawn of Yangchen. Amulet Books.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 DiMartino, Michael Dante; Konietzko, Bryan; Yang, Gene Luen (writer), Sasaki of Gurihiru (penciling, inking), Kawano of Gurihiru (colorist), Heisler, Michael; Comicraft (letterer). The Rift Part Two (July 2, 2014), Dark Horse Comics.
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