In The Heart of the World
The Empire of Xin is dotted with monasteries, usually found in inaccessible mountains, valleys, cliff-sides and deserts. The monks and nuns who live in these monasteries do not belong to any one religion or sect. There are many different spiritualities and philosophies in the empire.
However, many of these monasteries were persecuted by various emperors, by rival monasteries, or by a suspicious public. So the monks had to learn to defend themselves. Thus, many of these places of quiet contemplation and meditation developed fearsome martial arts disciplines.
In the modern era, monks are widely respected as tutors, scholars, and martial artists. For some monks, their body is a literal temple, an extension of their beliefs. Some seek martial perfection for its own sake, some as a tool to enlightenment, and some as a tool to help others, all according to their beliefs.
Monasteries often retain bitter rivalries, though these are often now centered among the viability of their different martial arts schools, rather than their philosophical differences. Monasteries commonly make money by tutoring willing disciples in their esoteric and secretive arts.
Many famous monks feature in folk legends, where they use their fearsome physical powers to defend the weak and unwary. Monks are especially idolized by the common folk, and many monks come from humble roots to topple evil tyrants.