Tangorin Ethnographical Questionnaire

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Dr. Zahir’s Ethnographical Questionnaire was compiled by David Zahir to help in the description of concultures, and can be found in the files section of the Conculture group at Yahoo.


Questions of Place

Describe the geography of where your society calls home.

The Tangorin Empire centers around the Vale of Tangor, which centers around the river valley of the Tanan River. South of the Vale, the land is wet and marshy, while the north is dry and mountainous. The west is typically flatter and less forested than the east.

Describe the climate your society deals with. How severe are their seasons?

The Vale has a temperate Mediterranean climate. Winters (panrigal) are cold but dry, and there is rarely ever snow. Early spring is the wet season (midrigal), but still cold. From late spring until fall, in the dry season (vathrigal), there is some rain but it is relatively hot and humid.

What kinds of natural disasters has this society gotten used to?

The southern end of the river floods during the wet season, while the eastern ports face typhoons and stormy weather. The north has strong winds, but they rarely cause damage.

What are the most commonly-grown foods?

Wheat and barley are major crops. Oats, buckwheat and rye are less common but are still a part of the diet. Corn and rice are rare. In the northern part of the Vale, grapes, blueberries, and other berries are commonly-grown fruits, while the south's warmer climate is more suited for pomegranates, tomatoes, and citrus fruits. Gourds and pumpkins are also popular crops.

What are the most commonly-eaten meats?

Beef and poultry are the most common meats.

What foods are considered exotic or expensive?

Venison and mutton are uncommon meats, as well as pork and boar. Apples and pears are expensive due to the insects and blights caused by the humid summers. Honey is also a delicacy.

What forms of alcohol are common? Rare?

Mead is a common and popular drink. Grape and berry wines are common among the rich. Spiced wines are a delicacy among the poor. Pomegranate wine, honeyed wines, and other fruit wines are considered exotic. One favorite drink among the wealthy is bog orange wine, which is made from a citrus fruit growing on the trees lining much of the bogs along the southern part of the Tanan.

Is there usually enough food and water for the population?

There is usually enough food for the people, except during a rare drought in the early spring, when water is most needed for agriculture, and in more severe dry seasons.

What is this place's most abundant resource?

Grain and fruit and vegetable crops are abundant. Stone is quarried and iron is mined in the north.

What is its most valuable resource?

Gold, precious metals, and precious gems are mined in the Vale of Tangor and exported to other areas. Peoples sometimes also pan for gold in the Tanan.

What resource is it most lacking?

Lumber is lacking in the Vale of Tangor, because the forests are mostly made up of thick, hardwood trees that are not able to be carved or shaped easily, so wood is usually imported from the east. Spices are also brought in from the eastern ports.

How do people travel from one place to another?

People travel along the various roads and bridges that have been built, or sail on the Tanan.

Are the borders secure? In what way?

Borders usually follow natural boundaries, but trade with other groups is encouraged, and borders are often expanding.

How many people live here?

About 10 milion people inhabit the Tangorin Empire.

Where in this place to they congregate?

When they gather, they gather around major trade centers and cities in the Vale of Tangor along the Tanan.

What part of this place do they avoid? Why?

They avoid the deep wilderness, some of the southern marshes, and much of the northern cliffs, as they are dangerous and can be home to bandits.

What are the most common domesticated animals here? And what are they domesticated for?

Ducks, turkeys, and pheasants are domesticated for food, and cows are domesticated for meat and milk. Horses and donkeys are domesticated for riding.

What are the most common wild animals?

Wild geese, pheasants, foxes, and wolves are common in the wild.

Which animals are likely to be pets? Which ones won't be?

Cats are popular pets to control pests, while dogs are kept mainly by the wealthy for protection. Falconry is also popular among the rich.

Questions of Time

How far back does this society's written history go?

2,000 years.

How far back do its people believe it goes?

Because religious texts are considered historical records, the people believe that their history goes back to shortly after the beginning of time.

What is the worst disaster they believe they've faced?

The invasion and conquest of the Balagar from the northern regions, which lasted for 150 years, is considered the worst disaster in their history.

What was the best thing that every happened to them?

Kanar liberating the Vale from the Balagar and establishing the Tangorin Empire is the most important event in their history and is a popular theme of ballads and performances.

What in their past makes them feel ashamed?

Their submission to the Balagar Empire is a source of great shame, especially for the upper class families that mixed with the Balagar.

What in their past makes them proud?

The revolution that overthrew the Balagar.

What are they afraid of happening again?

Their greatest fear is that they will be conquered again, but this is considered to be practically impossible.

What are they hoping will happen? Do they think it likely?

They hope that they will expand the Tangorin Empire throughout the world. They believe that this will definitely happen eventually.

What do they assume the future will hold?

They believe that the empire will continue to expand to rule the world and become more and more prosperous.

How has this society changed? Do its current members realize this?

The society has become less religious and less centralized, and the power of the monarchy has also somewhat decreased. This is not widely recognized, and most consider this to be the way that things have always been.

What are the most popular stories about the past?

Tales of Kanar and stories of the rise of the empire.

Who in the past is the greatest hero? The worst villain?

Kanar is the greatest hero, while the greatest villain is probably Adal, the Balagar emperor famed for his cruelty in the conquest of Tangor, although this has likely been exaggerated by Tangorin scholars.

Do people think the present better or worse than the past?

They believe that the present has improved greatly from the past.

Do people believe the future will be better or worse than the present or past?

They believe that the future will continue to improve.

Questions of Sex and Family

How many spouses may a man or woman have?

Monogamy is considered to be normal, but some of the men of the old upper class families adopted the Balagar practice of having several wives during the Balagar rule and have continued it to this day.

Who decides on a marriage?

Among the wealthy, the parents arrange the marriages with no input from their children, but among the poor marriages are usually completely consensual.

Can a marriage end in divorce? How?

Unlike other cultures, marriage is not viewed as a religious issue, nor as a legal issue, but rather as a societal issue. Thus, divorce is not just allowed, but easy. Whenever a spouse leaves the other, or they voluntary separate, this is considered to be a complete divorce.

Who usually takes custody of children if a marriage ends for some reason?

Paternal custody is unheard of, as childrearing is considered to be the duty of women, but single motherhood is also frowned upon, and women cannot hold property, so divorcee mothers usually remarry.

How is adultery defined? What (if any) is the punishment? Who decides?

Adultery is sex outside of marriage. As marriage is not governed by law, there is no punishment, but the spouse will usually leave the adulterer, as not doing so is considered shameful.

How are families named?(g) What happens to orphans?

A person's first name is given by their parents, and a middle name is chosen on adulthood. Most people have two surnames. The first is a patronymic for boys and a matronymic for girls, and the second is a family name that is passed on. Orphans are usually brought in by the a married aunt, usually on their mother's side. Children of unknown parentage are often taken in as servants by the wealthy or apprentices or menial laborers for skilled workers, and given a surname based on the town or location where they were found or where they live.

How are boy and girl children treated differently?

Boys are trained for manual labor, while girls learn to maintain a home from their mothers. Both, however, sometimes learn crafts from their parents, and, among the wealthy, both receive equal education, as mothers are expected to impart some knowledge to their children.

Are premarital relations allowed?

There is no taboo against premarital relations except among some of the nobility, where it is considered to be impure.

How does your society define incest? Rape? How do people react to these?

Incest is defined broadly as sexual relations with any person more closely related than one's fourth cousin. Rape is sexually forcing oneself on another. Incest is extremely taboo , thus the broad definition. Rape, whether marital or otherwise, is considered to be an extremely shameful and cowardly act, partly because of the prevalent misconception of women being weak and unable to protect themselves, and rapists will often be killed or driven out of the village by the other men, especially the relatives of the victim.

What, if anything, is considered a good marriage gift?

Among most people, weddings are not large celebrations, but, if gifts are given, practical gifts are most welcome. This is less true among the rich, but marriage gifts are still usually part functional and part decorative.

What secret vice is believed to be widely practiced?

Incest is believed by many commoners to be frequent among the nobility.

What secret vice actually is practiced?

Incest is more acceptable among the upper class, partly due to Balagar influence, but not as frequent as believed by some.

What sexual habits are widely believed common among foriegners?

Most Tangorin believe that foreigners are wildly sexual and frequently engage in mass orgies. This is largely based on their experiences with the polygamous practices of the Balagar.

How do people react to homosexuality?

Homosexuality is not as feared or despised as other supposedly abnormal sexual practices, but homosexual marriage is still unheard of. Most homosexuals join monastic societies instead of marrying someone of the opposite sex.

How do the genders dress?

Lower class males wear tunics and trousers, while women wear a simple dress. In the upper class, both genders wear long robes or dresses.

Is prostitution legal? How are prostitutes viewed? Is this accurate?

What professions or activities are considered masculine?

What professions or activities are viewed as feminine?

What inanimate or sexless things are considered male or female?

What is the biggest sexual taboo?

Does this society connect the ideas of marriage with love?

What does this society mean by the word "virgin" and how important it it?

Questions of Manners

Who speaks first at a formal gathering?

What kinds of gifts are considered in extremely bad taste?

How do younger adults address their elders?

What colors are associated with power? With virtue? With death?

If two men get into a fight, how is this supposed to be resolved?

If two women get into a fight, how should that be resolved?

When is it rude to laugh at something funny?

What kinds of questions cannot be asked in public? In private? At all?

How do people demonstrate grief?

What does this society do with their corpses?

What kinds of jewelry do people where? And when?

Who inheirits property? Titles? Position?

What happens to those suffering from extreme mental illness?

What are the most popular games? How important are they?

What parts of the body are routinely covered?

How private are bodily functions like bathing or defecating?

How do people react to physical deformity?

When and how does someone go from child to adult?

Questions of Faith

Is there a formal clergy? How are they organized?

What do people believe happens to them after death? How, if at all, can they influence this?

They belive that if they are good in life, they will got to

What happens to those who disagree with the majority on questions of religion?

Are there any particular places considered special or holy? What are they like?

What are the most popular rituals or festivals?

What do people want from the god or gods? How do they try and get it?

How do their religious practices differ from their neighbours?

What is the most commonly broken religious rule?(i) What is the least-violated religious rule?

What factions exist within the dominant religious institutions? How do they compete?

Are there monastic groups? What do they do and how are they organized? How do you join one?

How are those who follow different faiths treated?

What relationship do religious and political leaders have?

What superstitions are common? What kinds of supernatural events/beings do people fear?

Questions of Government

Who decides whether someone has broken a law? How?

What kinds of punishments are meted out? By whom? Why?

How are new laws created or old ones changed?

Is there some form of clemency or pardon? What is involved?

Who has the right to give orders, and why?

What titles do various officials have?

How are the rules different for officials as opposed to the common person?

How do government officials dress?

Is the law written down? Who interprets it?

Once accused, what recourse does someone have?

Is torture allowed? What kinds?

How are people executed?

Who cannot rise to positions of leadership?

Is bribery allowed? Under what circumstances?

What makes someone a bad ruler in this society? What can be done about it?

What are the most common or dangerous forms of criminal?

Questions of War

Who declares war?

Who has the power to declare conditions of peace?

What happens to prisoners taken in battle?

What form of warfare does this society use?

Who are the Elite warriors? What distinguishes them?

How does someone get command of troops?

Where do the loyalties of military units lie?

Are there professional soldiers? Do they make up the bulk of the military?

Has this society ever attacked another? Do they want to? What would make them do so?

Who are their enemies? Who's winning?

What do soldiers do when there's no war?

Questions of Education

Does this society have its own language? Its own writing?

How common is literacy? How is literacy viewed?

What form and value are books?

Who teaches others? How do they teach?

Who decides who learns to read or write?(f) Who teaches professions, like carpenter or scribe?

Are foreigners ever brought in to teach new skills? Who does that?

How do this society's doctors try to treat wounds and sickness?

Which medical assumtions of this society are wrong?

Questions of Art

What are the favorite artforms?

What are the least-favorite?

How respected are artists?

Do artists require official or unofficial protection?

What kinds of trouble are artists in particular likely to find themselves in?

How might a very successful artist live?

What forms of theatre does your society have?

How naturalistic or stylized is your society's art?

What shapes are most common in your society's arts, like embroidery or architecture?

Which artforms get the most and least respect?

What form does censorship take?

Who may not be an artist?

What qualities equal "beauty" in this society?

What makes a man or woman especially beautiful?

How do people react to tattoos? Piercings? Facial hair? Make-up?

Questions of sex and marriage

Is sex confined to marriage?

Or, is it supposed to be? What constitutes aberrant behavior?

Is there anything about this culture or religion in that culture that specifically addresses sexual conduct?

Are there laws about it? What about prostitution?

How old should someone be in your culture to be having sex?

What is considered too great a difference in age for a couple?

Do relationships allow multiple partners?

Should sex be a one-to-one experience? Or are groups allowed?

And, of course, what about homosexuality? Is it frowned on? Encouraged?

Questions of death and burial

What is their understanding of death and dying?

Do they cremate their dead? Or, how are dead bodies disposed of?

Is the family responsible for the body?

What part do the priests play?

Are there cemeteries at all?

Or, does everyone have a crypt in back with all the relatives in it?

Do people visit the dead? If so, how often and why?

Questions of suicide

What do people in this culture think about suicide?

Is it the greatest sin one can commit? Or is it a sin at all?

Is it the great and last comfort of a tormented soul?

Is it worse than murder?

Questions of Law, Justice and Police

Is there a civilian police force, or is law enforcement the province of the military?

Is the police force a nationalised one, or are there multiple regional forces?

How "military" are they? Are they usually/ever armed?

What is the extent of their authority? Can they shoot you? Can they use magic? Can they torture or otherwise force a confession? Can they use telepathy?

Are there individuals or groups who are above the law?

Is there a secret police?

What is the role of police informants, if any?