The professor greets the students at the door, a basket of chocolate frogs in her hands, and instructs everyone to take one as they enter and take their seats. Once everyone has arrived, she closes the door and moves to the front of the room. “Go ahead and open your goodies. Yes, you can eat the chocolate first before it hops away from you, but then take a look at the card inside. We’ll talk about these a little later, so keep them handy!”
Welcome back, students! In our penultimate lesson this year we will be examining some of the famous -- and infamous -- persons of Asia. As you may have noticed, Chocolate Frog Cards really only focus on those from Europe as they are a European creation, so your knowledge of notable figures of Asia, both historically and socially, is probably quite limited. This class is not just about knowing dates and wars, it’s about people and the effect they have had on history. Now, we obviously can’t cover every magical contributor to Eastern history, as it’s a large continent whose history has been almost constantly in motion. However, I will try to cover a brief and varied spread across various regions of Asia and an assortment of reasons for fame.
The Good, the Bad, and the Unlucky
Afanasiy Alexi Veles (Russia, 1511 CE - 1630 CE)
In 1570, Afanasiy Veles, a middle-aged wizard, fled the Massacre of Novgorod, a vicious attack ordered by Ivan IV meant to root out scheming political opponents. Prior to his hermitage in the republic bordering Russia, Veles had served assorted Russian Grand Princes as a general, but he had left the royal court and the rest of the Russian nobility behind due to Ivan VI’s increased instability and suspicion of everyone around him. In the middle of the slaughter at Novgorod, Veles disappeared through unknown means and the next mention of him in any written document refers to his flight to the Ural mountains. It was there, in the unforgiving territory of Siberia, that he finally stopped running. Likely, he felt that even if Ivan IV -- the tsar history knows as "Ivan the Terrible" -- did discover that he lived, he would never send a force out so far into such a harsh climate simply for one man he wrongly believed to be conspiring against him.
History, or, perhaps more appropriately, myth, does not tell us what exactly happened next, or how much time passed, but some time between 1580 and 1590, Veles was joined by another in his hermitage. The former Princess of Russia, Elena Mikhailovna Repnina, embroiled in a plot to kill her, was fleeing for her life as well. Her husband, hoping for a better position with Tsar Ivan IV, had begun a plot to incriminate her for “strange behaviors against the Tsar of All Russia” and have her killed. However, the only crime she was guilty of, that we know of, was being in possession of magical powers.
Somehow encountering Veles during her flight, the pair worked together to survive in the harsh climes of Siberia, and slowly (and worryingly, in the opinion of Veles and Repnina) began to attract attention in certain circles. Out of fear, the pair enchanted their makeshift dwelling to disappear and reappear every night, shifting its location to keep them safe. Still, some intrepid witches and wizards managed to force their way through the enchantments and thus, slowly Koldovstoretz was born from small additions of powerful and incredibly resourceful magical practitioners.
As the small wizarding hot-spot grew, the original pair enchanted their dwelling to accommodate the masses on top of all their safeguards, and modeled it after the palaces in Russia that they had known so well. Finally, at Veles’ assent, the middling congregation of witches and wizards that had essentially become a mecca for magical learning formally became a school in 1619 where he taught until his peaceful death roughly a decade later.
Pirate Queen Zheng Shi (China, 1775 CE -1844 CE)
In an age where women frequently, if not constantly, were dealt a pretty bad hand, Zeng Shi was a force to be reckoned with. While her fame is not from humanitarian advancements, there is no denying her infamy on the seas. Strangely enough, for the most infamous pirate of all time, much information on Zheng’s beginnings can no longer be found. What we do know about her is that she was a prostitute in Canton (Guangzhou) a port town along the Silk Road. There, she was “claimed” by the admiral of a substantial pirate fleet named Zheng Yi. Yi attempted to proclaim her his wife. The woman agreed, but only on the conditions that she was to be his partner in everything -- treasure, control of the fleet, and general respect. Not only did the pirate Zheng Yi agree, but through some means -- likely large amounts of cunning, and a Confundus Charm -- Zheng Shi managed to get the pirate admiral to make good on his promise, right up until his death in 1807.
Before his death, the pair had worked together to create a veritable navy of allies and workers. Using what is suspected to be divination and potentially various spells of compulsion that would be frowned on today, by the time her husband died, the Zhengs had a fleet somewhere between 400 and 1,200 ships.
Upon his death, Zheng Shi continued working her magic and quickly brought her husband’s ship captains to heel. Using an organized system, Zheng controlled the waters of China and Vietnam. She and her fleet became so powerful and influential that the ruling empire of the time -- the Qing Dynasty -- attempted to destroy her. However, her magically reinforced ships took far more to be sunk than their Muggle counterparts, and coupled with Zheng’s extraordinary military strategy she routed the Chinese navy without difficulty.
Unspeakably wealthy and still damaging the Qing Dynasty’s coffers and pride, the Empire finally offered the “Terror of the South China Seas” a deal. She was allowed to keep her wealth and her men with the bonus of a pardon, as long as she retired from formal pirating. Zheng decided to quit while she was ahead, but couldn’t quite give up her rough lifestyle. With her alleged talents in divination, she became interested in gambling (though, since record of her before her marriage to Zheng Yi is very scarce, perhaps she simply went back to her old ways) and lived out the rest of her days fabulously wealthy and comfortable until her assassination by one of the Qing Dynasty’s court’s wizards at the rumor of her involvement in an uprising.
Vahan Movsesyan (Armenia, 1869 CE -1991 CE)
Described by the defamed Gilderoy Lockhart as “some ugly old Armenian warlock”, Vahan Movsesyan was, in fact, far more than that. The man’s history was recently partially uncovered by Asian magihistorians searching for more information about the mysterious man. They found it in multiple places, mostly in tiny little Muggle towns dotting Sevan Lake. From their interviews, this team of Armenian historians was able to piece together a bit more about this man.
Documented as a graduate of Koldovstoretz in 1888, Movsesyan was a devoted Yagov -- completely enthralled by the mysteries of magic in the world and determined to explore them. After his graduation, the young man set out into the world with the intent to study anything and everything he could related to magic and dropped off the map. Until recently, no one knew anything of his life after 18.
He appeared to the Muggles on the shores of Lake Sevan in 1912. The tales the Muggles gave were all a bit muddled as to where exactly Movsesyan came from or what he wanted. Most Muggle townsfolk the historians talked to described him as mysterious, strange, or secretive, characterizing him as a lone wanderer. According to sources, Movsesyan never mentioned any family apart from the mention of “House Yagov”. However, as no one knew of Koldovstoretz, the villagers simply assumed he was a member of yet another minor, deposed Russian or Serbian royal family.
If all the reports are to be believed, Movsesyan had been appearing and protecting small villages along the coast for nearly 80 years -- though of course, not staying long enough in any one particular village to draw suspicion. Allegedly, the man saved no fewer than seven different towns from werewolf attacks over a period of a decade. He is also rumored to have ended a drought, caused an earthquake, and discovered the truth of a string of murders. Additionally, Movsesyan was documented to have helped the local koldun and koldunya (what we might think of as a “wise woman” of older times). Various koldun have confirmed this and, in addition, spoken of a number of books he carried around that contained new knowledge, with diagrams and drawings and extensive notes on plants, parts of animals, and “strange, cramped diagrams and words”, thought to be wand movements and incantations.
Knowing what we know now, many historians assume that the unaccounted for 24 year gap between his graduation and his first appearance was part of some sort of exploration, potentially in complete isolation. However, for some reason -- whether it was loneliness, fate or human kindness -- he reappeared to the public eye and began to assist the nearby Muggle villages. For whatever the reason, we are fortunate he did, as these villagers are now the only persons with any knowledge of the secrets Movsesyan discovered and the mysteries surrounding him. Based only upon the few explanations the Muggle medicine men and women could give, the researchers documented 13 new uses for Chinese Chomping Cabbage and uses for plants that have been commonly held as purely mundane, like the Siberian peashrub, wild jasmine, and elderberries. The Muggles noted there were quite a few volumes that also included sketches of animals and complex diagrams of the stars, but he was less willing to share those-- likely because doing so would not benefit the non-magical villagers and would constitute coming too close to breaking the Statute of Secrecy.
In 1986, Movsesyan was found wandering around partially unclothed on the west shore of Sevan Lake, unaware of who he was. Concerned, the villagers took him in and attempted to nurse him back to health, but to no avail. With our knowledge of magical events, we know Movsesyan’s state was due to an excessively strong Memory Charm. Fortunately for Movsesyan, the villagers whom he had helped for years were more than happy to care for him. However, unfortunately for us, his aforementioned reference books and notes have disappeared since his bout of memory loss. The same team of researchers is still attempting to track down where they might have gone in the hopes of finding Movsesyan’s life’s work of magical discoveries.
Other Notable Persons
The people listed here are not necessarily less important than those we have previously discussed. The issue is that we simply don’t have time to cover all the famous and infamous of Asia with a detailed look as we did above. Truly, even the short list that follows only scratches the surface. However, it is certainly a good starting place. Should you know of a particular witch or wizard who you feel was unjustly overlooked, you will have the chance to amend that for an assignment… but more on that later!
Agatai (China, 1693 CE - 1798 CE)
An extremely skilled potioneer and practitioner of healing magic, Agatai rose quickly in the ranks of imperial healers and magical practitioners during the Qing (or Manchu) Dynasty. Despite her propensity for using her charmed hand fan for blowing away tiresome officials and attendants with firm but gentle tornados, Agatai became chief potioneer of the women’s Palace of Earthly Tranquility, and then finally the personal healer and companion of several top-ranking concubines and empresses throughout her lifetime.
Ali Wabishini (Bahrain, 958 CE - 1057 CE)
A former pujari, Wabishini is most famous for his adaptations made to the magic carpet. He was the creator of the famous Takeoff Charm that revolutionized the magic carpet and is still used today. Afterwards, he dabbled in an assortment of aesthetic charms like the Self-Braiding Charm and the Concealing Charm.
Amytis (Chaldean Empire, 630 BCE - 565 BCE)
Queen of the Chaldean or Neo-Babylonian Empire (now spanning modern-day Cyprus, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Turkey) and wife of King Nebuchadnezzar II. Her most important accomplishment to date is the creation of the initial levels of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the Ancient Wonders of the World.
Avicenna (Uzbekistan, 980 CE - 1037 CE)
A prime example of how foolish a wise man can be, Avicenna, also known as Ibn Sina, was a notable arithmancer, alchemist, and healer. He wrote over 450 works in his lifetime, 240 of which are in Muggle hands -- as they deal with nothing too obviously magical -- and a further 100 that are strictly magical. Sadly, his life was cut short by an unknown, but curable disease, which he refused to treat.
Gilgamesh (Sumeria, ~2,600 BCE)
A powerful wizard, warrior, and king, this man ruled Sumeria (modern-day Iraq) for roughly 126 years. His notable achievements include defeating a Nundu along with various other creatures of magical and mundane origin. Additionally, he is noted to have sought after immortality, consulting and employing many alchemists which advanced the field.
Harta Rajasa (Indonesia, 1257 CE - 1301 CE)
Brother of the man who would become the first king of the Majapahit Empire, Raden1 Harta Rajasa2 took his status as second son personally. Determined to prove himself better than his brother, the Indonesian noble delved into experimental breeding, creating what we know today as the Acromantula. This creature served as an excellent guard for the considerable wealth he had amassed and wanted to protect. However, Hara attempted to breed an army of the creatures in the hopes of overthrowing his brother and met his end when he was devoured by one of his creations after attempting to issue too many commands. To this day, the rainforests of Borneo (Indonesia, Malay and Brunei) are infested with the giant, sentient spiders.
Jabir ibn Hayyan (Iran, 721 CE - 815 CE)
As a master of many trades including astronomy, philosophy, and alchemy, to name only a few, he wrote 3,000 works of varying lengths. One of his most famous being The Book of Stones, which was rumored to include incantations and recipes able to create artificial life. In addition to his various alchemical contributions, he also was critical in the translation of many important texts that would otherwise have been lost from the Ancient Library of Alexandria.
Keiko Yoichii Mahoutokoro (Japan, 1665 CE - 1751)
Founder and father of Mahoutokoro School of Magic, the Japanese pure-blood used his family’s wealth and power to set up many thoughtful but ultimately only partially successful businesses in Korea, Japan, and China, the most notable of these being the Keiko Carpet Service Stations.
Lahsun (Pakistan, ~1,300 BCE)
Extremely powerful wizard and leader of a group of predominantly magic wielding priests, also known as the B'ha-Rahi Brotherhood. He served as the protector of many villages against a particularly unruly clan of vampires.
Saladin (Iraq, 1138 CE - 1193 CE)
A skilled battle-tactician, who used various magical battle techniques including arithmancy, reinforced weapons, and enchanted projectiles. He was a large reason the Muslim forces were able to fend off their invaders during the Crusades.
Septimia Zenobia (Syria, 240 CE- 274? CE)
She became the first queen and eventual empress of the Palmyrene Empire. After her husband’s death, she ruled with extreme intellect and encouraged magical development in her kingdom. Taught to hunt, fight, and use magic in battle, Zenobia attempted to expand her empire and was largely successful until her capture by Roman hands, and her eventual, though contested (some claim she never died at all and instead found a new place in the Roman Empire), death.
Temujin (Mongolia, 1115 CE - 1226 CE)
An infamous Legilimens, warlord, and strategist. Temujin, later crowned Genghis Khan, created the Mongol Empire, captured five hundred thousand square miles of land and killed roughly 40 million people over his lifetime.
Tupi Itazipcho (India, 401 CE - 511 CE)
An eccentric and experimenter, Itazipcho was initially known for his water-based charms, having invented a number of clever spells for irrigation in the hot desert. However, he is now best known for introducing the idea of travel via magical carpets and the spell to make it possible.
Phew! That was quite the laundry list. We will have to end here for today, though this list of famous persons is not able to give us a deep or broad enough view into the achievements and storied individuals of this area. But that is where you come in. For your assignment today , you need to fill in one of the gaps this lesson has left. You must find a magical being that we have overlooked -- an unlikely hero, a villain, a scholar, an interesting person -- to write about. However, you must be sure to choose only magical beings that have been confirmed as so (or are, at least, widely accepted as such), as this class is History of Magic. More on that in the essay prompt, though! For now, this is farewell. I will see you in your next, and final, lesson of magical history in Asia.