Lan Forest is a large, subtropical forest located in the southeastern portion of the Earth Kingdom. It is situated on the peninsula that separates the south island straights from the Eastern Sea, and is thus in close proximity to the ocean. The nearest human settlement is Lan Village, which sits at the head of the narrow inlet that bisects the peninsula. While not as old or extensive as the Foggy Swamp, Lan Forest has nevertheless stood the test of centuries, and it is rumored that at its heart lies a well of energy that is connected to the Spirit World.
Lan Forest is ancient, having first grown in the Spirit Wilds before becoming rooted in the mortal realm. Its first inhabitants were the tiger elk, a wild species distantly related to cat deer. Humans are relative newcomers to the peninsula, having first emigrated from the southern islands some five hundred years ago and establishing a small fishing village. About a hundred years later they were joined by settlers who had come from the northeast, and the villagers began to farm as well.
It is said that three hundred years ago, two brothers from Kyoshi Island, Kan and Hayato, battled in Lan Forest, resulting in their mutual death. At some unknown point the water spirit Ehuang took up residence in the heart of the forest and the land has since prospered under her benefaction and protection.
GeographyDue to the protection of the Earth Kingdom’s southern mountain range to the west and the moderating effect of the maritime conditions, Lan Forest has a temperate, rainy climate. An ocean inlet cuts deeply into the peninsula, bringing a protected coastal environment to Lan Village. While there are four seasons, fall and spring are short and barely noticeable as winter and summer are dominated by a dry season and a monsoon period, respectively. Despite the gentle appearance of its thickly vegetated slopes, the terrain is rugged and mountainous due to the small orographic chain that extends across the peninsula, yet only one peak on the north shore of the inlet rises above the tree line. The mountains are mainly granitic, and are not tectonically active. However, as the peninsula sits on an ocean shelf, Lan Forest is at risk of both earthquakes and tsunami. Typically warm and humid, there is an abundance of water throughout the land as it sits in a drainage basin and normally experiences daily precipitation. The mild climate is ideal for agriculture, and the small human population has cultivated many fields for rice farming as a result. In its recent past, Lan Forest has been beset by severe weather events that impacted its climate, such as a violent typhoon that struck the cost twenty years ago and the ten-year drought which significantly harmed the local economy.
Flora and Fauna
Lan Forest mainly consists of cedar and bamboo trees. The land is heavily forested, with the exception of the area near Lan Village which has been cleared for agriculture. There is a great variety of lush biological life in the forest, both plant and animal. Ferns, moss, orchids, and mushrooms can easily be found in the depths of the woods, while thick grass, white dragon bushes, and vines are prevalent at its sunlit fringes. While there are many species of birds, insects, small mammals, and amphibians, the only large animals indigenous to the area are monkeys, turtle boars, and the near-extinct tiger elk.
At the center of the forest lies a small, deep lake, often referred to as the forest’s heart. The very life of the forest resonates here, and the water of the lake serves as a means to gauge the health of the woods. While not a true spirit portal, the lake is strongly connected to the Spirit World as it is has been the residence of the water spirit Ehuang for countless centuries. The state of the forest’s heart is directly correlated with the state of the surrounding land, and vice versa. If the land becomes polluted or damaged the water will become clouded for a time, but it will once again become clear as the land heals. Originally the people of Lan Village understood the importance of the heart and guarded it carefully, but they have since forgotten that the lake even exists, as both the heart and Ehuang have faded into the distant mists of legend.
Lan Village is a small, agriculturally based settlement located at the head of the ocean inlet. Despite the peninsula’s ideal position as a shipping post between Emerald Bay and the southern Earth Kingdom coast, the island straights makes the coastline treacherous, and the depth of the inlet isolates the village from sea trade. As a result, the village remains isolated and largely self-sustaining, with its only export the excess rice it produces. Nevertheless, Lan Village boasts a relatively large population, and there are many fishermen, potters, and shipbuilders in addition to the farmers that provide the backbone of the settlement. The people who live in the village bear vague cultural similarities to both northwestern people groups and southern island dwellers, as they once migrated from these areas. The people who live in the village remain deeply suspicious of the forest that borders their fields, and tend to avoid ever venturing too far into it. Instead they focus on farming and fishing, living peaceably under a council of village elders. There have been few known Earthbenders in the village’s past, and as such no distinctive combat style has ever been developed with the exception of archery, which fell out of practice long ago.
- The concept of the forest’s heart was based on the home of the forest god in Princess Mononoke.
- The geography and culture of the Lan Forest peninsula were inspired by those of ancient Vietnam and Korea.
- "Lan" (岚, Lán) means “mountain mist” in Chinese.