Not to be confused with the Emperor Dragons.
The Dragon Emperor, also known as the Celestial Dragon Emperor[1a][1b] and Xen Yang is the co-ruler of Grand Cathay along with his wife the Moon Empress. He and his wife are immortal dragons and spellcasters who are able to magically take human form.
The Dragon Emperor and his wife are immensely old, having existed on the Warhammer World prior to the arrival of the Old Ones. They are not pleased about the Old Ones moving the planet closer to the sun, warming the climate and making it less comfortable for Dragons such as themselves, most of whom are now in hibernation as a result. They are also not pleased with the Coming of Chaos, which they blame on the meddling of the Old Ones.
The Dragon Emperor is said to have unified Cathay in the distant past, sometime prior to -1800 IC. In the past, he and the Moon Empress took a much more active role in leading Grand Cathay, and this was the time during which the Great Bastion was constructed and the Terracotta Sentinels were created.
In modern times, the Dragon Emperor and Moon Empress spend most of their time in the Celestial City above Wei-Jin, contemplating the future of the empire. They leave most of the running of their empire to five dragon children and various human nobles, leaders and bureaucrats.
From 1999 IC to 2387 IC, the Dragon Emperor and Moon Empress disappeared from Cathay. During this time, their dragon children quarreled with each other, and Cathay effectively became divided into a collection of bickering, warring states. At the height of the crisis, the Monkey King claimed the throne of Cathay in the Celestial City. This finally caused the dragon children to quit their warring and face the threat, and the crisis ended when the Dragon Emperor and Moon Empress returned and reclaimed their throne.
The Dragon Emperor and Moon Empress are revered throughout Cathay as great leaders worthy of obedience and adoration, and speaking ill of them is a quick way to get oneself killed. Additionally, as enormously powerful spellcasters, their power is comparable to most of the gods of the mortal races such as the Elven and Old World pantheons (although certainly their power is dwarfed by that of the Chaos Gods). However, they are very much not gods (in the sense of being created in the Realm of Chaos through the belief of mortals) and they do not wish to be worshipped in a religious sense. In fact they are older than most of the gods of the mortal races (eg: Sigmar) and view them with a degree of contempt. As a result, religious worship of gods is unpopular in Cathay and although the common people of Cathay do worship their ancestors and many small shrines can be found in the people's homes, this is not at all an organised religion.
The Dragon Emperor and Moon Empress "have a plan" and are "working towards something." This may or may not be in the best long-term interests of the humans of Cathay.
He Unified the land of Cathay into a single empire in -1800 IC[4a]. He ordered the construction of the Great Bastion, a gigantic fortified wall, to protect his new empire against the marauding tribes of the Hung and Kurgan.
He seems to be magically linked somehow with the massive structure.
The Dragon Emperor and Moon Empress have 9 children, who are also immortal shapeshifting dragons. 5 are known to rule various regions of Grand Cathay:
- Miao Ying the black Storm Dragon, who rules the Northern Provinces.
- Zhao Ming the white Iron Dragon, who rules the Western Provinces.
- Yin-Yin the Sea Dragon, lord of the Eastern Provinces and Admiral of the Grand Dragon Fleet.
- Li Dao the Fire Dragon, lord of the Southern Provinces and the Mountains of Heaven.
- Yuan Bo the Jade Dragon, lord of the Central Provinces and Administrator of the Realm.
Aside from these 5 siblings who are active in ruling Cathay, there are 4 more siblings who have been "lost to time." It's not clear what has happened to these, however:
- Archaon is said to have battled an eastern dragon, Yien-Ya-Long/Flamefang, at some point during his travels.
- One of them , the Spirit Dragon is said to be asleep, trapped, dead or otherwise "under" the Great Dragon River.
They also have a larger number of more distant, part-human descendants called the Dragon-blooded Shugengan, who often serve as leaders and spellcasters in Cathay.
In modern lore, this has been explained as western scholars being confused about various different titles for the Dragon Emperor, and not understanding the concept of one immortal shapeshifting dragon ruling Cathay. As of Grand Cathay faction lore revelations for Total War: Warhammer III. The Celestial Dragon is confirmed as an Immortal Dragon in human form, who has ruled Grand Cathay since it's founding.
- Xen Huong - Ruled around -2748 IC. Under his reign, the neighbouring Ogre tribes who had maintained peaceful relationships with Cathay started to devour Human children along the border. His coven of astromancers may have had a hand in the arrival of the Great Maw comet that crashed in the Ogre homelands and drove them westwards.[2a][3a]
- Wu - (in modern lore, this was a mistranslation on the part of Old World scholars, "wu" means "great dragon leader" and in fact it was the eastern Sea Dragon Yin Yin who sent the fleet) - Of the Wu dynasty, was crowned in 1676 IC. In 1690 (the fourteenth year of his reign[5a]) he sent a large fleet to invade and conquer the Southlands[5a][5b] in order to compete with Araby in the spice trade. The invasion ended in utter failure due to two great typhoons that dispersed and sunk the fleet. It was probably this same Emperor Wu who met Ricco and Robbio's large Tilean expedition in 1699[6a]. In the end he hired its members to protect the western borders of his empire against the Hobgoblin hordes.
- Zhang-Jimou - Whose wives were saved from the Executioner Cult of the Jade Pearl by the Questing Knight Leofric Carrard.
- Pu-Yi - led Cathayan forces against Hablo Khan at the Battle of Xen-Tu, but was defeated when the Great Horde of Hobgobla Khan arrived.[10a] It is unclear whether Pu-Yi died in the battle or managed to escape back to Cathay.
- 1: Warhammer Rulebook (7th Edition)
- 2: Warhammer Armies: Ogre Kingdoms (8th Edition)
- 2a: pg. 22
- 3: Warhammer Armies: Ogre Kingdoms (6th Edition)
- 3a: pg. 8
- 4: Warhammer Armies: Warriors of Chaos (7th Edition)
- 4a: pg. 38
- 5: Warhammer Armies: Lizardmen (5th Edition)
- 6: Warhammer Armies: Dogs of War (5th Edition)
- 6a: pg. 85, 92-93
- 7: Warhammer RPG 2nd Ed.: Children of the Horned Rat
- 7a: pg. 36
- 8: Warhammer: Rulebook (6th Edition)
- 8a: pg. 176
- 9: Guardians of the Forest (Novel), by Graham McNeill.
- 9a: Epilogue - Season of the Knight
- 10: White Dwarf #231 (UK Edition)
- 10a: pg. 10-11
- 11: An Introduction to Grand Cathay (Total War Warhammer III), by Ben Barrett.
- 12: Full Interview With Warhammer 3's Lead Writer Andy Hall - Total War Warhammer 3 - Lorebeards Podcast October 12, 2021