The city is by far the largest city in the world, essentially being more of a small country than a mere city. Ba Sing Se means "Impenetrable City"; the city is so named for its two world-famous walls, the gates of which have no hinges or other hardware, and are opened by use of Earthbending. Behind the Outer Wall lies a large expanse of farmland, Lake Laogai, and several mountains. The Inner Wall encloses the city itself. The city is also notable for having a unique system of dividing the populace into different parts of the city based on social status.
Ba Sing Se was the safest place for war refugees because of the Fire Nation's failure to penetrate its walls; however, it was later captured by the Fire Nation. In one of the final battles of The War, Ba Sing Se was liberated by the Order of the White Lotus in the Liberation of Ba Sing Se.
Ba Sing Se is ancient, arguably one of the oldest settlements in the world. Early in its history, Ba Sing Se was once simply a small subterranean city carved out of rocks by Earthbenders. As the benders further excavated, they came across beautiful illuminated crystals and began to mine them. The crystals currently serve as a common light source for Earth Kingdom inhabitants. Eventually, as the metropolis' expansion reached above ground levels, the catacombs were abandoned. The city continued to grow and eventually became the capital of the newly-unified Earth Kingdom. Ba Sing Se, by far the largest city in the world, is gargantuan. While no figures are given of its population, judging on its appearance alone, one could conclude that many millions of people may live there.
Ba Sing Se has been hailed in its history as the greatest fortress in any of the Four Nations, having remained unconquered for centuries prior to the War. For example, when the infamous warlord Chin the Conqueror invaded the entire Earth Kingdom, Ba Sing Se was the only territory besides the Kyoshi Peninsula to remain free. Apparently, Chin would rather face the Avatar herself than try his luck at the Great Wall of Ba Sing Se.
After Chin's death, there was a peasant uprising. Peasants felt that the 46th Earth King's role was outdated and that he did not represent their interests; so, finally Avatar Kyoshi solved the problem with the creation of the Dai Li.
In the history of the city, the Outer Wall has only been breached on three occasions: The first was by Fire Nation military forces led by General Iroh, the legendary "Dragon of the West". This attack, a part of his 600 day long siege of the city, was quickly driven back by the city’s guardian forces after he was weakened by the death of his son, Lu Ten. Years later, the Fire Nation used a great drill to bore through the Outer Wall, but Aang and his friends stopped the machine before the army could take advantage of the hole. By the end of the Season 2 finale, Ba Sing Se had fallen to the hands of the Fire Nation through an internal coup d'etat led by Princess Azula. Finally in the series finale the walls were again breached by Iroh, this time leading the Order of the White Lotus, and using a colossal fire blast strengthened by Sozin's Comet.
Fall of Ba Sing Se Edit
In "The Earth King", Princess Azula and her allies, Mai and Ty Lee, disguised themselves as Kyoshi Warriors in order to enter Ba Sing Se as the Earth King's honored guests. During the events of "The Guru" and "The Crossroads of Destiny", Azula let herself and her allies be uncovered as Fire Nation. The Dai Li, as Azula knew they would, took her to see their leader, Long Feng. The two allied in order to stage a coup against the Earth King and the Council of Five. Azula took command of the Dai Li and coordinated the simultaneous capture of the Earth King and the Council of Five, gaining control over the city. Long Feng was in turn released from his prison cell. He attempted to double-cross Azula, but without the support of the Dai Li, he failed and submitted to Azula. The following summer, the city is firmly controlled by Fire Nation forces, who gained access to the city after the Dai Li tore down large sections of the Outer and Inner Walls. The citizens could only look on in horror as the Fire Nation Army flooded into the city.
During the four part finale, the Order of the White Lotus attacked and liberated the city from the Fire Nation. Iroh personally burned away the Fire Nation banner that was hanging over the front of the Royal Palace. After Zuko is crowned Fire Lord, the entire gang celebrates their victory there at the Jasmine Dragon Tea Shop.
As the capital of the Earth Kingdom, Ba Sing Se was home to the Earth King, ruler of the Earth Kingdom. However, after the death of the 51st Earth King, true power in the city belonged to the city's Grand Secretariat, Long Feng. As Head of the Dai Li, Ba Sing Se's "cultural agents", (originally engendered by Avatar Kyoshi following a peasant revolt during the reign of the 46th Earth King) he enforced strict laws within the city, designed to keep him in power and keep knowledge of the war from the King. It was absolutely forbidden to mention the war with the Fire Nation within the city, and those that did were arrested and re-educated in secret Dai Li facilities to the belief that the war did not exist. According to Long Feng, his measures were necessary to maintain Ba Sing Se's cultural heritage and to ensure that the city remains a thriving utopia; however, in truth, they were merely tools used to uphold his totalitarian government.
Though the Earth King had Long Feng arrested during the events of "The Earth King", he allied himself with Azula to engineer a coup d'etat during the events of "The Guru" and, in "The Crossroads of Destiny", he was betrayed by his own Dai Li and ultimately surrendered the city to the Princess of the Fire Nation.
The position of the Earth King was abolished after the Fire Nation took the city, sending Earth King Kuei into exile. He was replaced by Azula with Joo Dee, as a puppet ruler with the title "Supreme Bureaucratic Administrator of Ba Sing Se". With Ba Sing Se liberated, it is likely this rule was overthrown.
The title of Earth King has likely been reestablished and Earth King Kuei is believed to have returned from his exile. He will likely restore the authority of the Earth King with what he has learned from the conspiracy and his exile.
Royal Earthbender Guards Edit
- Main Article: Royal Earthbender Guards
The Royal Earthbender Guards of Ba Sing Se are affiliated with neither the Dai Li nor the military, instead they serve as personal protectors of the Earth King, as seen in "The Earth King". There seems to be hundreds of them guarding the Royal Palace. They have also been seen as the gate keepers of the outer and inner walls of Ba Sing Se. The guards use specialized surface-to-surface rocks against invaders approaching on foot, but as displayed in "The Earth King", the projectiles can also serve as surface-to-air rocks against airborne intruders, such as Appa. They wear dark green armor with a green plume on the top. The Earthbender guards first appeared in "The Drill" and were portrayed in "City of Walls and Secrets" as the Earth King's guards and in "The Tales of Ba Sing Se" as gatekeepers of the inner wall.
Terra Team Edit
- Main Article: Terra Team
A platoon of elite Earthbenders that guard the walls of Ba Sing Se commanded by General Sung. The Terra Team was ordered to destroy the Fire Nation drill attacking the wall, but were easily disabled by Mai and Ty Lee. Their name is clearly influenced by the Latin word "Terra", literally meaning "earth".
Dai Li Edit
- Main Article: Dai Li
The Dai Li are the secret police of Ba Sing Se who work to capture, interrogate and imprison political dissidents. They were created by Kyoshi hundreds of years ago with the aim of "protecting the cultural heritage of Ba Sing Se". Instead, through careful political manipulation, they became the illegitimate governing force of Ba Sing Se.
The Dai Li later abandoned their loyalty to the Earth Kingdom and after Princess Azula of the Fire Nation captured Ba Sing Se, they pledged loyalty to her. They are the only known force of Earthbenders to declare loyalty to the Fire Nation. It is believed that after the Fire Nation lost the War, the Dai Li were stripped of their authority in the city.
The people of Ba Sing Se value order and stability over freedom. Law and order are maintained under the strictest of police forces to ensure that society does not break down into chaos. The people of Ba Sing Se have a variety of recreational activities available to them including spas, poetry houses, shops, restaurants, and the Ba Sing Se Zoo. Tea-drinking is one of the most common ways citizens relax after work, while strolls around the parks and shops of the Middle Ring are also enjoyed. The University ensures that many upper and middle class families get a higher education (though considering the segregation, it is unlikely that anyone from the Lower Ring could attend it). Earthbenders are highly valued, and operate many civic projects, from the monorail system to the city's gates.
The architecture of Ba Sing Se is slightly different from many other towns seen throughout the series. The majority of the buildings are made of stone, with wood supports and plaster covering the outside. The color of roofing tiles on buildings indicate their prestige and vary by ring - Lower Ring buildings have black or dark green tiles, Middle Ring buildings have vibrant green, and the Upper Ring nobility uses yellow tiles as a sign of class. Earth Kingdom symbols are often placed on gates, government buildings, and military sites. Roads in the Middle and Upper rings are made of flagstones, while the Lower Ring has muddy dirt paths for most of its streets and alleys. The citizens of Ba Sing Se sport considerably more color variation in their clothing than the other locations seen throughout the series - blues, turquoises, browns, and golds can all be seen among the aristocracy, while the lower class usually wears browns and off-whites.
The main characters do not reach Ba Sing Se until "City of Walls and Secrets", where the culture is first revealed. The city is divided into various levels based on social class, with the ghettos of the poor and refugees being walled off from the rest of the town. It is also revealed that society is heavily controlled, and that the war is not allowed to be mentioned inside the walls. This was meant to maintain order and the cultural heritage of the city, making it the only remaining "Utopian" society in the world. The Dai Li maintain strict control of the people and the culture, and prefer to pretend the war does not exist. This is most likely the result of Ba Sing Se's safety - the people of the city consider it impenetrable, and thus feel they can delude themselves into pretending all is fine in the rest of the Kingdom. Those who attempt to disrupt this fantasy are promptly brainwashed by the Dai Li into believing that the war doesn't even exist.
Ba Sing Se is a divided city, with inhabitants sorted in various walled "rings" based on economic and social class. These range from the Lower Ring, a place of ghettos inhabited by refugees and the poor, to the Upper Ring, home of the Kingdom's ruling classes and the rich. Travel throughout the city (in addition to entering and exiting it) is provided by large, Earthbending powered monorails, constructed during the reign of Earth King Yi Ming. The monorails meet in large transit stations, are free to the general public, and are able to greatly shorten the two full days it would take to travel on foot from one end of the city to the other.
Outer Walls Edit
Ba Sing Se's outer wall is the city's thickest layer of protection. The Wall is huge. Easily a hundred meters tall and perhaps thirty meters thick, it is the largest man-made structure in the World of Avatar. The Wall encircles all of Ba Sing Se, along with the vast agrarian zone and a medium-sized lake. It is considered indestructible and is commonly drawn on maps as a terrain feature. In fact, it has only been breached twice: once by General Iroh, once by the drill. Since then, the Fire Nation has mounted a continuous assault on the city to little avail. The Dai Li mandates that soldiers and sentries be placed on the wall at all times, with many of them even living in built-in homes inside the wall. After the Coup of Ba Sing Se, Dai Li agents tore a hole in the wall to allow Fire Nation soldiers through. The tear had not been repaired by the time the Order of the White Lotus attacked, and apparently the wall was not being monitored at the time.
Agrarian Zone Edit
Just outside the lower ring, between the outer wall and the inner wall of the city is the agrarian zone, a large underdeveloped area that holds wide open plains of land, used mainly for agricultural purposes. Despite its vital wildlife and crops resources, the agrarian zone's primary function is serving as a massive land buffer between the outer wall and the inner wall, where all of the Ba Sing Se residents dwell, widening the gap between invaders and citizens if perchance the outer wall was ever breached. With a self-sustaining supply of food and added protection from siege, the citizens of Ba Sing Se are capable of maintaining daily routine, if not thriving, in the midst of even the most critical of wars. This area in the city houses many farms belonging to citizens, mostly of the Lower Ring, who live behind the Inner Wall and travel outside to tend to the land every day.
The Agrarian Zone served as a station for Earthbender rebellions following Ba Sing Se's capture. The Order of the White Lotus had a camp here prior to the arrival of Sozin's Comet. The Agrarian Zone is also the location of the new Ba Sing Se Zoo.
Lower Ring Edit
The Lower Ring plays home to the poor classes of Ba Sing Se's society and the majority of its population. These consist of newcomers to the city, including its multitude of refugees, and 'people who work with their hands' such as artisans, laborers, and craftsman. Due to the impoverished state of the citizens of the Lower Ring, as well as the influx of poor refugees, it is implied in "City of Walls and Secrets" that the crime rate is significantly high. The Lower Ring is also the most densly populated area of Ba Sing Se. Buildings in the Lower Ring are generally small, because the Lower Ring has the most populace and as many people need to be crammed into here as possible. Also, the roofs of the buildings here are brown tiled, indicating the poor status of the owners. Citizens are free to go into the Agrarian Zone, the Lower Ring, naturally, and the Middle Ring, but not the Upper Ring without the personal invitation of a citizen of the Upper Ring, the Earth King or the government.
"Lower Ring" is written in Chinese as 下環.
Middle Ring Edit
The Middle Ring of Ba Sing Se contains the city's middle-class populace. Inside this ring are a vast assortment of shops and restaurants as well as the financial district and Town Hall (one of the oldest buildings in the Middle Ring). Ba Sing Se University, a massive warehouse of knowledge and a key landmark of the city, is also located in this area. The buildings of this Ring are much larger than those of the Lower Ring and the roofs are tiled green. But they are smaller than those located in the Upper Ring. They are also more spaced out then the houses in the lower ring. It has a generally richer and more peaceful atmosphere than the Lower Ring, as there are lots of flowers and trees. Citizens of the Middle Ring are free to enter the Agrarian Zone, Lower Ring, Middle Ring and the Upper Ring without needing permission.
"Middle Ring" is written in Chinese as 中環.
Upper Ring Edit
As the richest of the three rings, the Upper Ring contains the city's upper class population, as well as military and government officials. The most important citizens of the city reside here, protected against criminal activity by the presence of the Dai Li. The Royal Palace is located in the center of the Upper Ring, within its own walls. Aang, Katara, Sokka, and Toph received a home positioned in the Upper Class as a reward for their successful efforts against the Fire Nation's powerful drill and against the Fire Nation itself. The buildings of the Upper Ring are huge walled compounds, much like small versions of the Earth Kingdom Royal Palace itself, and the roofs are done with yellow tiles to symbolize the richness of the building and its owners. Obviously, Upper Ring Citizens are free to go wherever they please within Ba Sing Se, although it is best that they be careful when traveling to the Lower Ring as they may be the target of a crime.
"Upper Ring" is written in Chinese as 上環.
Royal Palace Edit
- Main article: Earth Kingdom Royal Palace
Fighting Cliffs Edit
South of Ba Sing Se, the cliffs, one white the other red, stand facing each other with a wide ravine between them. Early Earth Kingdom natives noticed that the ground of the ravine was charred and black and legend holds that the cliffs were created in an ancient battle between Earthbenders and Firebenders, the conflict being awesome that the very ground they fought on soaked up their power and animosity. The cliffs currently are mined for "spark rocks", small, craggy stones used by Earth Kingdom citizens to start fires as displayed by Iroh in "City of Walls and Secrets".
Ba Sing Se University Edit
- Main article: Ba Sing Se University
Council's War Room Edit
A large room located in the Upper Ring of Ba Sing Se where the Council of Five meets to discuss war plans. The Council's war room is where the Generals draft their war plans before sending them to the Earth King for final approval. Prior to the Earth King's revelation regarding the war, the Generals would commonly send their plans to Grand Secretariat Long Feng for approval. On the floor of the room is a large map of the Avatar world with colored stone tokens spread out across it representing military units. The Generals move these tokens around via Earthbending to deduce the most effective battle strategies. It is here where General How and the others made the decision to use General Fong's base as the launching point for the Fire Nation invasion.
Crystal Catacombs of Old Ba Sing Se Edit
Main article: Crystal Catacombs
Underneath the palace, and possibly much of the city, lies Old Ba Sing Se, an ancient underground city deep within the earth. These catacombs are the remnants of the first settlement in the area, carved underground by Earthbenders. When the city outgrew the original city and spread to the surface, the caverns were abandoned and eventually buried beneath the new city. Inside the interior of Old Ba Sing Se still lie the ancient stone structures, a waterfall and pool, and the luminescent green crystals that gave Ba Sing Se its fame.
Firelight Fountain Edit
Located in the Lower Ring, this is the most romantic spot in town by night, and hugely popular with moms and toddlers who come to feed the turtle ducks by day. Jin's mom and dad snuck out to meet here as teenagers. Jin took Zuko there at the end of their date in "The Tales of Ba Sing Se".
The fountain is encircled by street lanterns that brighten the entire area. There is a stone structure in the middle with a top center lamp and a lower level of lamps, and then lanterns floating in the water.
Fancy Lady Day Spa Edit
- Main article: Fancy Lady Day Spa
Ba Sing Se Zoo Edit
- Main article: Ba Sing Se Zoo
When Aang was flying over Ba Sing Se, he saw a variety of animals who were miserable in their cages. When Aang saw Kenji, the zookeeper, Kenji said the zoo was no longer receiving funds from the Dai Li because it was no longer popular to children. Aang had an idea to move the zoo outside the city, and after some degree of chaos, the animals were relocated to the zoo's new location.
Middle Ring Restaurant Edit
Located in the Middle Ring, this "hidden jewel" may never rise above its "B" rating to attract the oval-ring set -- but who cares! A "charming," "reasonably priced," place with "real bistro atmosphere," it's a "rare find" popular with the Ba Sing Se and Spa University sets. Forgo the "Tourist Menu" for the "unbelievably complex" fried appetizer sampler platter. It is here where Jin took Zuko to dinner on their date. It was an extremely awkward meal, mostly due to Zuko's unsureness.
Pao Family Tea House Edit
- Main article: Pao Family Tea House
The Jasmine Dragon Edit
- Main article: Jasmine Dragon
Iroh and Zuko's Apartment Edit
- Main article: Iroh and Zuko's Apartment
Food Resource Edit
Ba Sing Se's greatest secret to its staying power in the war is the farmland behind its outer wall. Seen in the episode "The Drill", these fields supply the entire city with food to enable them to survive a siege of any duration, so long as the outer wall remains intact, and, due to Earthbending, can be quickly repaired. (It was apparently breached during Iroh's siege, as seen in "Zuko Alone"; however, the city survived, as the siege broke shortly thereafter.)
Real Life References Edit
Ba Sing Se's design is probably based off of Beijing, China, in that there are several inner districts which host each separate social class, with the Royal Palace area being based upon the Forbidden City, and each outer district being reserved for each respective class in an organized class system. There may also be some basis on Jerusalem, as such divisions were and still are present, mostly that consisting of religion, which continues on under the Israeli-Palestinian system. The Outer Wall may also be a reference to the Statue of Liberty, as it lets refugees know that they are safe just as the Statue of Liberty did when immigrants came to the United States. The Great Wall of China's size and scale may have been an inspiration to the design of the Outer Wall.
Apart from this, the fact that Ba Sing Se was ruled by Long Feng and his Dai Li secret police could be a reference to various countries, such as North Korea and parts of China.
- The Earth King's palace in Ba Sing Se resembles the Forbidden City of China.
- The walls of Ba Sing Se have only been penetrated once, by the Dragon of the West (Iroh) during his 600 day siege. According to General Sung, "they were quickly expunged". (Expunged usually means, all references removed from the "record" of an event, as opposed to "expelled", physically removed from a place)
- In "The Drill", at the arrival station where Zuko and Iroh got their passports stamped is a large sign above that says 歡迎光臨永固城 which translates as "Welcome to Ba Sing Se". Ba Sing Se (永固城) means 'perpetually strong city,' not impenetrable city as General Sung stated. The words also appear in front of word University (永固城大學) at the entrance of the school seen in City of Walls and Secrets.
- Members of the audience who are Chinese may understand the meaning of the Chinese words that appear in various places in the animation. However, few viewers could figure out what "Ba Sing Se" actually implies. According to the pronunciation of Cantonese (a provincial speech in China), "Ba Sing Se" should be translated into "不碎城". But people who know the Chinese language would recognize that "不碎" has the same meaning as "永固". That is to say, "不會碎裂" is a synonym of "永遠穩固". Therefore, it is also an alternative that "Ba Sing Se" can be translated into "永固城".
- Ba Sing Se's walls are so massive that they are considered a geological feature and show up on all world maps.
- Ba Sing Se is so large that it takes up most of the north-eastern Earth Kingdom.
- Ba Sing Se's division of social level by the inner and outer rings could be a reference to the inner and outer courts (inner being more exclusive) in the Forbidden City, or the same inner and outer rings used to divide many ancient Chinese cities.
- The physical appearance of the wall is based on the Great Wall of China. It also serves a similar purpose, as the Great Wall of China was used to keep the Mongols out, and the Outer Wall is used to keep intruders out.
- In "The Southern Air Temple", Commander Zhao planned to take over Ba Sing Se by summer's end but it never happened because of the Zhao perishing during the Northern Water Tribe invasion.
- Besides Kyoshi Island, Ba Sing Se is the only place in the Earth Kingdom that wasn't conquered by Chin the Great.
Notable Figures Edit
- The Earth King
- Long Feng
- The Dai Li
- General How
- General Sung
- Joo Dee
- Madame Macmu-Ling
- Cabbage Merchant