"You are the sum of your actions. The harmony or discord you sow will weigh on your shoulders as surely as any physical yoke. But... there can be advantages. Certain forms of attack inherently lean toward one extreme or the other. They have a rhythm that resonates within you.".
Way of the Open Palm Edit
The Way of the Open Palm is a path of harmony and guardianship. Followers of this philosophy act with compassion and consideration towards the less powerful or oppressed.
- Lending the farmer money in An Unfortunate Debt.
- Giving Kia Min a poultice made of red silk grass in Kia Min.
- Giving back Old Mother Kwan her teahouse in Old Mother Kwan.
Way of the Closed Fist Edit
The Way of the Closed Fist values strength above any other virtue. Whilst acts that are considered "evil" give Closed Fist points, the school of thought prizes independence and ambition over cruelty or greed. Many characters associated with the "low path" are perceived as tyrannical, but a true follower improves the individual to benefit their surroundings.
- Telling the farmer to handle his own problems in An Unfortunate Debt.
- Giving Kia Min a poultice made of bearded tongue grass in Kia Min.
- Keeping Three Sheets Dutong's secret about his Imperial Writ in Old Mother Kwan.
On the surface, both philosophies seem to form a standard, dualistic morality system. However, The Way of the Closed Fist and The Way of the Open Palm both present the player with questions about the application of their fundamentals.
As Smiling Mountain concludes (if asked), The Way of the Open Palm is susceptible to "tyranny from within". This isn't fully explored in the game, yet the tenants of "the high path" can favour an iron grip over a guiding hand. Some of the in-game choices involve enforcing the player's will via the virtue of strength. For example, the choice to kill The Mother instead of The Forest Shadow in the questline The Sickened Forest. Whilst the demon's destruction restores harmony to The Great Southern Forest, it requires causing discord through violence. When also accounting for the fact that all of the Cannibals were once people who were "twisted by hunger" it serves to challenge the concepts put forward by The Way of the Open Palm.
A less nuanced but still questionable scenario is that of Emperor Sun Hai and the Long Drought. Obviously his actions caused extreme discord and are viewed as the epitome of selfish human ambition, but was it truly an unjust course of action? Harmony was disrupted, but that same harmony had ravaged the Jade Empire, killing thousands (most of whom can be presumed to be peasants or farmers) and wiping out towns. The Way of the Closed Fist is often dogmatized but it also prides those who challenge complacency, so much more so when abiding by order results in a high death toll.
The Way of the Open Palm does indeed have its hidden dangers as Smiling Mountain suggests, the primary of which is its similarities to The Way of the Closed Fist. Both can encourage violence, whether or not it was in the interests of keeping order is often trivial. The low path is not without its virtues, however. By instilling its followers with the strength to act, it can drive much needed change in otherwise steadfast hierarchies.