Zaofu is an autonomous city-state, located in the southwestern part of the Earth Kingdom, and the home of the Metal Clan. Founded by Suyin Beifong, the Clan's matriarch, Zaofu is constructed entirely out of metal and is regarded by some as the safest city in the world. Team Avatar traveled to the city in 171 AG in their search to recruit new airbenders to rebuild the Air Nation. In 174 AG, Zaofu was annexed by Kuvira's Earth Empire, resulting in the city's protective platinum domes being re-purposed and all citizens who refused to acknowledge Kuvira's rule arrested and imprisoned. After the failed invasion of the United Republic of Nations, Kuvira surrendered and relinquished control over the Earth Kingdom, which restored Suyin as the city's leader.
Sometime between 142 and 153 AG, Suyin Beifong purchased a parcel of land to develop into the city of Zaofu.[nb 1] To advance her project, Suyin worked with Baatar, an architect whom she eventually married and had five children with. Suyin's eldest son, Baatar Jr. eventually became an engineer and assisted his father in numerous projects around the city.
Following Zaofu's creation, Toph Beifong occasionally visited the city and statues of her were erected to commemorate her discovery of metalbending. Suyin's philosophy in governing Zaofu was to encourage citizens to reach their fullest potential in whatever they pursued, and the city thrived as one of the Earth Kingdom's most technologically innovative settlements.
Shortly after Harmonic Convergence in 171 AG, Varrick and Zhu Li traveled to Zaofu, where the former sought refuge in exchange for heading the city's technology division. Two weeks later, Avatar Korra and her friends arrived in the city in hopes of recruiting Suyin's daughter, Opal, to hone her newfound airbending abilities at the Northern Air Temple.
After the airbender's departure, the city was infiltrated by Zaheer and the Red Lotus in an attempt to kidnap Korra. Despite their attempts to remain covert, the group was discovered and pursued by Team Avatar and members of the Metal Clan, inevitably forcing them to flee the city without the Avatar. Aiwei told Suyin that Korra's abduction appeared to be the result of an inside job; as such, Suyin ordered the interrogation of all the guards in search of Zaheer's accomplice. Although Hong Li was initially suspected, Aiwei's involvement eventually came to light and the truth seer was forced to leave the city as a fugitive, having a few hours' head start on Team Avatar, who left the city to find him.
Team Avatar later returned to Zaofu, accompanied by Lin, Tonraq, Lord Zuko, and Mako and Bolin's family, in order to use the city's radio transmission to send a warning to the Northern Air Temple about the Red Lotus' approach. Unable to sit idly by at the prospect of her daughter getting harmed, Suyin rallied the Metal Clan security forces to leave for the temple to aid the Air Nation.
After the death of Earth Queen Hou-Ting and Suyin's refusal to take action, Kuvira started working with Baatar Jr. to find ways to stabilize the chaotic Earth Kingdom. They left the city with a large part of its security force and a few of Zaofu's wealthiest citizens.
After the Earth Kingdom's transformation into the Earth Empire in 174 AG, Zaofu remained as the last city unconquered by Kuvira and her forces. However, the former captain of the guard marched her entire army toward her former home and gave its matriarch twenty-four hours to surrender, lest they take the city by force.
In order to save the city, Suyin, Wing, and Wei set out during the night in an attempt to take Kuvira out, though they were unsuccessful and were arrested. Kuvira used the city's communication system to alert the citizens of Suyin's actions and fate and ordered the remaining leaders to surrender by dawn. Still attempting to find a peaceful resolution, Korra approached Kuvira at dawn and attempted to persuade the army leader one last time to leave. However, Kuvira believed Korra was interfering with her plans of uniting the Earth Empire and thus challenged her to a duel to decide the fate of Zaofu. After Korra lost the duel, the military commander annexed the city to her empire and decorated its buildings with her banner. She demanded everyone bow down and pledge their loyalty to her in order to be treated fairly as citizens of the Earth Empire, lest they be imprisoned as traitors. Kuvira ordered her army to dismantle the platinum domes and cover Toph Beifong's statue in the downtown core.
After Bolin and Varrick warned the world leaders about Kuvira's spirit energy cannon, Bolin, Lin, and Opal left for Zaofu with aspirations to reconquer the city and find the family of the latter two. When they arrived, they realized that the domes had been removed, though before they were able to sneak into the city, Toph stopped them, informing them that all the prisoners had been moved out of the city.
A few days later, Kuvira and her entourage returned to the city, where she addressed her troops in a motivational speech. She announced that they were going to annex the United Republic of Nations, reasoning that its territory belonged to the Earth Empire and had been stolen by Avatar Aang and Fire Lord Zuko after the conclusion of the Hundred Year War. After the failed invasion, Kuvira surrendered and relinquished control over the Earth Kingdom, with Suyin becoming the recognized leader of Zaofu once more. Due to his role in Kuvira's invasion of the United Republic, Baatar Jr. was sentenced to house arrest at Suyin's estate in Zaofu.
Three months after Kuvira's surrender, Korra, Kuvira, Toph, and a brainwashed Asami Sato were brought to Zaofu after escaping from Commander Guan's forces in Gaoling. Baatar Jr. reluctantly agreed to work with Kuvira to help find a cure to the advanced brainwashing technique, which was successfully accomplished. However, at that moment, news broke that Guan had won the election in Gaoling, threatening the democratic movement in the Earth Kingdom. President Zhu Li Moon ordered Kuvira be brought back to Republic City at once, but the former Earth Empire leader escaped, with Korra, Asami, Suyin, Opal, and Toph leaving on Juicy to stop her.
Layout and description
Zaofu is situated directly on a valley flanked by two rivers and surrounded by mountains. Consisting of five different sectors, the city is connected by a series of metal rails on which a state-of-the-art monorail system operates, allowing citizens to reach opposing ends of the city limits in very little time.
The architecture used in developing the city landmarks involves innovative design elements, particularly in that each portion of the settlement is surrounded by petal-like metal panels with exteriors made of platinum, which remain open during the day and closed to provide protection during the night. Following the city's brief annexation into the Earth Empire, the platinum domes were torn down and used by Kuvira's army to build an enormous mecha suit. Buildings range from small edifices to large skyscrapers and a large metal statue of Toph Beifong stands in the middle of the downtown core. At the city's edge is Suyin Beifong's estate, a large metal compound consisting of numerous halls and courtyards to accommodate her large family. Near the estate are several guesthouses for individuals whom Suyin chooses to receive.
In addition to the platinum panels, Zaofu maintains its security by stationing metalbending guards at every part of the city, especially at nighttime. In addition, Suyin's former assistant, Aiwei, was capable of using seismic sense to detect whenever an individual lied, effectively ensuring that there were no secrets in the city. As a result, citizens of Zaofu live relatively free of trouble and doubt. In addition, individuals are encouraged to live to their fullest potential in order to achieve success.
The Metal Clan's emblem is a stylized gray octagon with the Earth Kingdom national emblem, a square inscribed within a circle, in the middle. Around the circle are straps which form a cross. This emblem was also the emblem of the Earth Empire.
Politics and law
Government and politics
Government system: Autocracy
Head of state: Autocrat
Zaofu is an autonomous city state in the Earth Kingdom inhabited by the Metal Clan with Suyin Beifong as its matriarch. The Metal Clan is a multicultural people of Earth Kingdom, Fire Nation, and United Republic descent, for whom the loyalty to the clan is far more important than to the Earth Kingdom. In contrast to the reactionary regime in Ba Sing Se, Suyin's rule is marked by restraint, progress, and the validity of the law for every citizen. Because of this, Suyin herself is subject to Zaofu's law, even though she is the matriarch and has full control over the city's political affairs. As a result of these ideological differences, Zaofu is effectively independent from the central government, as the city does not obey orders from the capital or enforce laws passed by the monarchy. Zaofu even offered protection to members of Team Avatar when they were deemed enemies of state by the government of Ba Sing Se as well as Varrick, who was wanted in the United Republic.
Law, order, and security
Due to Zaofu's autonomy, the city has its own judicial system that is centered around truth seeing and the law enforcement of the security team. Truth seers such as Aiwei made it possible for there to be almost no lies in Zaofu. Suspects are generally questioned by a truth seer until they are proven to be lying, whereupon they are arrested. One of the heaviest crimes in the city is to betray the Metal Clan and the matriarch will go through great lengths to see the offender brought to justice.
Zaofu's security team acts as a police force as well as first line of defense to the city. The guards are among the best fighters in the Earth Kingdom and consist of earthbenders, metalbenders, and firebenders, all of whom generally wear metal chest armor with shoulder pads, forearm guards, and helmets. Metalbending guards also employ metal cables extending through their forearm guards, which can be lengthened or retracted through metalbending.
In 171 AG, Kuvira convinced a large part of the security force to leave the city in order to restore balance in the rest of the Earth Kingdom, as the guards were tired of being locked away in the metal city as opposed to making a difference in the world.
Culture and customs
Zaofu is a city that embodies progress, innovation, and advancement in a plethora of fields, from bending to architecture, dance to science, and even combining the features of these to create new fields altogether. Zaofu's society prizes creativity and insight. Given that its creation is owed to Toph Beifong for the discovery and development of metalbending, Toph remains a revered figure and symbol of the city.
The colors of the citizens' clothing come in various shades of green and most wear large metal jewelry and plating around their necks and forearms. There is little differentiation between the higher and lower class citizens, as even the city's reigning matriarch wears clothing that bears great resemblance to common citizens. Areas for training, art, and engineering projects are common place, giving way to a multitude of projects, as "everyone is encouraged to reach his, or her, highest potential."
- Zaofu is the first known settlement made entirely out of metal.
- There are no Satomobiles in Zaofu, as the elaborate monorail system designed by Baatar Sr. and Baatar Jr. makes them unnecessary.
- The eating utensils seen in the home of Suyin and her family strongly resemble modern cutlery, rather than the chopsticks that are used throughout much of the Avatar world.
- The overall aesthetic of Zaofu was inspired by the Art Deco movement, though individual elements drew inspiration from other sources:
- The first two characters of Zaofu's name " " mean "black" and "mound" respectively. The third, " " means "city".
- Suyin left home when she was sixteen in 142 AG, and Hong Li, who was 18 in 171 AG, was born and raised in Zaofu.