Friday, February 25, 2022

The Eternal Effigy of Alu Zai

by Zhu Bajie
Among the most recognizable pieces of sculpture on sha-Arthan is the Eternal Effigy (or da-Rikan) of Alu Zai. A seven foot tall statue of marble, the Eternal Effigy is the work of a nameless pre-Luminous artist whom history has dubbed simply the Sculptor of Alu Zai. As its name suggests, the da-Rikan was found in the ruined coastal city of Alu Zai before being transported to the Repository of the Archons in Omoritash. The Great Effigy is believed to have been destroyed in that city’s sack in 6:12, but rumors persist that it survived and now lies in one of several hidden treasure troves across the True World (depending on the story), waiting to be found again. 

The original subject of the da-Rikan is unknown. A common opinion is that it depicts Dro Vanta, the tutelary goddess of Alu Zai, whose blessings and protection ensured the city’s prosperity. However, the sages of the Ruketsa school taught that the statue in fact was a product of the False Dawn – a foretoken of the Light of Kulvu from pre-Luminous times. According to this interpretation, the Eternal Effigy is an icon of Asha (harmony), a foundational concept of The Mirror of Virtue. For that reason, the image of the da-Rikan is used to illustrate many of that exalted tome’s principles.

The Mirror of Virtue teaches that the three faces of Asha represent past (the leftmost face), present (forward), and future (right), as the Light of Kulvu illuminates all times and places. Likewise, Kulvuans are enjoined to learn from the past, be mindful of the present, and prepare for the future; doing so is the path to harmony. Asha wears a threefold crown of subaktu-fish, themselves ancient symbols of rectitude, virtue, and wisdom. 

Coiled at Asha’s feet is Chuleksakash, a serpentine monster who symbolizes fear, ignorance, and lawlessness. The beast wears the mask of a Man to hide its true nature, which serves as a reminder to Kulvuans that great evil is not always immediately apparent. Fortunately, the Nen Cha or “blade of light” stands ready to fight Chuleksakash, should Asha require it (and despite the brute’s attempt to seize it for itself – another warning to be wary of disharmony). Similarly, two jaran-serpents coil around Asha’s right arm, one placid and the other coiled to strike. The Mirror of Virtue connects this to Urkuten’s Allegory of the Blind Craftsman and the difficulty of distinguishing between two choices that outwardly seem identical.

Asha’s left hand rests atop three star polyhedrons, each of which represents one of the Four Worlds. At the bottom is the Old World, which, though now barred to Man, is nevertheless the place of his origin. Atop it is the False World, whose inherent instability reveals itself by the way it teeters beneath the True World, as represented by the topmost polyhedron. The Mirror of Virtue is silent on the matter of why the World Between is not included in the Eternal Effigy. Needless to say, this has led to much debate among the schools (and, regrettably, the Exegetical War of 1:282–284).

As the Empire of the Light of Kulvu spread, so too did the Great Effigy of Alu Zai, copies of which appeared throughout its territories. In the present cycle, it is strongly associated with both the glories of that fallen dominion and the philosophical faith that animated it for so long. 


  1. Very interesting. I like iconography for its own sake, but I also think it's a great way to develop the cultural details of a setting. I am curious as to whether the da-Rikan is believed to have any particular virtues apart from being the original of a now widely copied piece of art.

  2. Very well written.
    I love how you detailed the symbolism