Shin Huyei, court poet and administrator in the Shuyin Dynasty, became withdrawn and reclusive in the last months of his life. Out of respect for his decades of loyal service, the Panglong Emperor allowed Shin to retire to his quarters and had servants provide whatever he required. The result was a manuscript entitled “Age of Iron, Age of Rust.”

In it, Shin Huyei argues that regardless of what may happen in the heavens or in nature, intelligent beings like mankind operate on a never-ending cycle of two parts. The first part, which Shin called the “Age of Iron,” resulted in the intelligence building itself up through technology and toil. The second, which he termed the “Age of Rust,” involved the gradual decay of natural and artificial systems from the Age of Iron until all has literally rusted away and the people are extinguished.

As an example, Shin used the people of Suremu Island, a location otherwise attested only in a few records from the Nu period. He details their Age of Iron, in which they grew wealthy and powerful by building weapons and boats from the fine timber on their island. He also details their Age of Rust, in which they clear-cut their island and destroyed themselves in war over their few remaining resources, with the final few survivors living out their days as curiosities in the imperial menagerie.

Shin Huyei ends by asserting that the world is in its own Age of Iron, but that the Age or Rust is inevitable and imminent. Most translations include a note that the manuscript was discovered by servants near Shin’s body, with the scholar having written himself to death, but this is not confirmed (or denied) by surviving Shuyin Dynasty records.

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