Hung Kurgans! Stop tearing down my shitty warr!"
- – What the Cathayans have to say roughly 12 times every hour or so
Cathay is the uninspired name for the analogue to China in the Warhammer Fantasy universe. That said, it is at least marginally more inspired than their name for the Japan analogue (and only because Nippon is a better known name for Japan than Cathay is for China in Europe).
The country is huge (as in the case with a certain real-world country), much bigger than the Empire and the other western lands. To the north is the
Mongolian steppes Eastern Steppes and regions of chaos, which are held at bay by the huge-ass Great Wall Bastion of China Cathay which prevents the hordes from pillaging. Why the Empire never took this up themselves isn't explained.
To the west is the Mountains of Mourn, the warpstone deserts and the great maw. Incidentally you can blame the Cathayans for the Great Maw’s existence as one of the previous Dragon Emperors had his celestial wizards summon the thing to punish the Ogres for eating some of his citizens. To the south is a mysterious jungle where the lost city of the old ones is. Eastwards is the sea, with Nippon and the Lost Isles of Elithis.
Of course because such a great place can't be well explored due to GW's anal refusal to be cool, a more detailed look at Cathay is currently unavailable.
The great tragedy...
Games Workshop could probably make some moolah in a way that would not involve fucking over existing canon or jacking up prices by introducing a Cathay army. Even some Dogs of War mercenaries that were Cathayan who ended up in the Europe analogue could be nice. Plenty of cool Chinese warrior types to build on.
But they don't.
And that's terrible.
They don't do this awesome thing for three reasons: Games Workshop gives little attention to Fantasy when the Space Marines haven't had their yearly codex update; when they do do fantasy they are too busy doing Orcs/Empire/Undead/Chaos again; and they are too much the short sighted fools to invest time, money and resources in making something new when they can just increase existing prices again.
Now why would Cathay be a fabulous idea to have as an army
This would be a good idea because the Cathayans, according to the WoC entry in the BRB at any rate, have steam punk clockwork terracotta automaton warriors (again, ripped straight from real world China). Who doesn't want to have something like THAT in their army. Just as The Empire and Kislev have to deal with Chaotic Norsemen attacking, Cathay constantly has to deal with incursions from the Hung, who are nomadic, Chaos worshipping, steppe people, who are rather well endowed. Furthermore they have Warrior Monkeys, gunpowder weapons, and Repeating Crossbows which again ripped straight out of Chinese mythology and real-life, and yet for some reason have no Flamethrowers...
They also have giant stone guardian dogs and huge dragons and a distinct subspecies of intelligent one-horned ogre and mighty kung-fu warriors and, and....oh the list goes on!
Your state religion is what now? And who rules you?
The worship of Tzeentch (they call him Chi'an Chi or Lord Tsien-Tsien of the Invisible Empire in older books, which, incidentally, the Kurgan and Hung name for him) is an officially recognized religion there. In Cathay he is described as Lord of the Chorus of 15 devils, and ruler over the five elemental masters (elementals of wood, fire, air, earth and water). He is described as living in a mystical pagoda that sits atop the nether hells where the souls of those who fail him are imprisoned, and his pagoda is decorated with chrysanthemums and lotuses on the lower levels and the bones of his victims and those who failed him on the upper levels. And if that wasn’t enough they let Hung Chaos Marauders sell their shit in Weijin. Which is odd because the Hung are normally so duplicitous that even the Norse and Kurgan don't want to deal with them very often.
They also have a Dragon for an Emperor (who usually takes a human form, and may or may not actually just be a human). (The Mummy 3's Dragon Emperor? Scheming, sorcerous, transforms into a dragon... ) And are mainly based on Ming to Qing era China.
In Vampire Slayer, Felix sees a statue of a four armed monkey god, and thinks it is from Cathay.
In the novel Beasts in Velvet, and the short story Red Thirst there is a Cathayan character named Dien Ch'ing(狄恩青). He is secretly a Tzeenchian cultist whom impersonated a Cathayan ambassador (which he had murdered and took the name from). He is also a celestial wizard and is capable of using the classic five elemental magic (which are Tzeetch demons who disguised as those elements). From the same novel, it also tells the story of how when the monkey king was but a young prince he was able to trick the 5 elemental demons into fighting one another.
In the Nagash's novel, it is mentioned that Neferata had given some of her vampire potion to erase the debt Lahmia garnered with the Cathayans when her dad bought a shitload of gunpowder weapons from them. The man she gave the potion to Prince Xian Ha Feng, one of the Dragon Emperor's son sent to negotiate with Lahmia, not only drank the potion, but also bought some of it back to Cathay where the vampire corruption soon spread. With enough immortal bloodsuckers (and probably some of Ushoran's spies), Xian started a civil war against his father. This angers the Dragon Emperor so much that he ordered to close their borders with ALL foreigners. The Dragon Emperor apparently died in a freak accident some time after the civil war according to Ushoran's spies (perhaps has to to with the monkey king?) and a new Emperor was enthrone because of this. Under this "new Emperor"'s rule, the trade with the Nekeharan has opened once again because the new Emperor cares little about the Nehekharans, also shiny bibs and more Black Lotus wine YEAAAA! Although Prince Xian Ha Feng was never heard of after this, the vampire corruption remains still, to the point they have now even seized a few seats in the celestial court, where they've done nothing but bicker at their Tzeentch worshiping rivals for powers. Their bloodline is named Jade-Blooded, but is considered non-canon or loose canon due to it was introduced in Warhammer RPG before it the novel was written, or GW just doesn't care enough to Cathay.
They also worship the same lazily named Orange Simca deity (basically Warhammer’s version of Buddha) as Nippon as according to GW many Asians follow that religion, not just Nippon.
According to the eight ed BRB, the Kurgans once mounted a massive raid on Cathay's Great Bastion. Which is funny, because Kurgans are basically Chaos-Turko Slavs to the Norscan's Chaos Vikings. In the end times, they are invaded by Chaos and skaven. Remarkably, the dragon emperor drives out the skaven and stalemates the forces of chaos, but ultimately loses to Grimgor's massive WAAAGH! The ruins of cathay become the stage for an endless battle between the orcs and the remaining forces of chaos. Grimgor himself gets teleported away as he had become Incarnate of Beasts, and when the last effort to save the world fails, Cathay is destroyed along with the rest of the planet, revealed in Age of Sigmar to have been called Mallus.
Dammit, Forge World
Tamurkhan: Throne of Chaos, a book from Forge World's fantasy line, quite surprisingly contains a battle scene where the forces of Cathay are involved. A chaos sorcerer dupes a Beastman army into attacking the Tower of Ashshair, a Cathayan watchtower outpost at the edge of the Ogre Kingdoms which it uses to scry on the Old World. Its defenders included fancy bronze cannon that shoot harpoons, "crow-men", stone "temple dogs", elite warriors with back-banners and "thousand-folded" swords, and "Dragon-blooded Shugengan" who wield elemental magics (fire, water, earth, air and wood). In other words, your usual collection of oriental cliches, mostly Japanese. And sadly, it's likely the closest thing we'll get to an official Cathay army list along with the mention of them having elementals under their control in the Vampire Genevieve books.
But then, things get interesting when the Tower's garrison started to get overwhelmed by the Beastmen's numbers. The Tower turns the tide by dropping a frikking' Comet of Casandora into the horde, then starts sending "strange creatures of living stone" that can swim through the ground and minotaur-suplexing "living statues of onyx" to beat the shit out of the survivors. So at least we know that Cathay isn't to be messed with in the Warhammer world.
As of Febuary 3rd 2021 CA has confirmed that Cathay will be one of the 6 playable factions in Total War: Warhammer 3. They've been working with GW in bringing the faction to life and making them one of the core races in the game. This is also great news for anyone hoping for Cathay in Warhammer: The Old World. More info will come soon, but this minor faction is finally getting the fleshing out it deserves. Between them and Kislev, this is a lore grognard's wet dream.
With the Reveal trailer, the first CA FAQ and GW discussion on Cathay's design + background we finally get our first proper looks at Cathay. Front and centre is Miao Ying, daughter of the Celestial Dragon and his wife, and commander of the Northern Bastion (meaning that when Sayl attacked the wall it was her forces that drove him off). She's a dragon that can take a human form like her parents and its been shown that the Celestial Dragon spends his time in the Celestial city and overseeing Cathay while his take direct control of different provinces (like a certain golden giant and his kids) as her brother Shang-Yang commands the western province and will be the other playable lord. In the trailer we see rocket batteries, war balloons and those suplexing statues from the Tamurkhan book, in addition to regular human infantry and some lady earth bending. To help establish Cathay's play style GW themselves made rules for each unit and for the army (using 8th edition) to aid CA understand how Cathay should act in game. Yes there are currently rules for 8th edition Cathay and GW are just sitting on them and not releasing them.
As of yet, the only images we've had of Cathay were of a White Dwarf article where they showed off somebody's converted army. Suffice to say the converter did a great job, and the pictures are included below. Only time will tell if the upcoming Total War: Warhammer III and the Old World will keep this aesthetic, or if they and GW will branch off into something different.
|Regions and Areas of the Warhammer World|
|Areas of The Old World:||The Empire of Man - Bretonnia - Albion - Estalia - Tilea - Kislev - Norsca - Border Princes - Worlds Edge Mountains - Karak Eight-Peaks|
|Areas of The New World:||Naggaroth - Lustria|
|Areas of The Eastern Lands:||Cathay - Nippon - Ogre Kingdoms - Dark Lands - Kingdoms of Ind - Khuresh - Eastern Steppes|
|Areas of The Southlands:||Nehekhara - Araby - Badlands - Marshes of Madness|
|Other Areas of the world:||Ulthuan - Athel Loren - Chaos Wastes - Skavenblight - Lost Isles of Elithis|
|Main bodies of Water:||The Great Ocean - The Far Sea - The Sea of Dread - Inner Sea of Ulthuan|