According to the lore in Genshin Impact, the nation of Khaenri’ah was the most advanced civilization in the world. It was destroyed five hundred years before the beginning of the game in an event known as the Cataclysm. It was a terrible disaster and had far-reaching consequences. Though Khaenri’ah was in a land separate from the seven nations of Teyvat, it still had major influences on the world of Genshin Impact.
WARNING: This article contains spoilers for Genshin Impact’s main story.
As terrifying as the Cataclysm was, it was only that latest of a series of destructive events stretching back ages. One example is Genshin Impact‘s Archon Wars which happened around two thousand years before the present day, and saw god fight god in a struggle for control of Teyvat. The victorious gods became the seven Archons, and many of these Archons have been in power ever since. This means some of them were around during the events which lead to Khaenri’ahs downfall. The role the Archons of the seven nations played during the destruction of Khaenri’ah is unknown. However, the cataclysm extended far beyond the borders of Khaenri’ah, seemingly affecting all of Teyvat. At least two of the previous Archons died during the Cataclysm: Greater Lord Rukkhadevata and the first Raiden Shogun Makoto, or Baal.
The story for Khaenri’ah seems to have been inspired by the tale of Atlantis, though its citizens have Nordic or Germanic-sounding names. Like Atlantis, Khaenri’ah was a powerful technologically advanced society located far from other civilizations but ultimately was destroyed by the gods for its hubris. Understanding the lore of Genshin Impact can be a daunting task. Much of its background is deliberately vague, comes from a variety of sources, and is not unveiled in chronological order. The lore is also not complete, with much of it either being left to interpretation or even having contradictions between different sources. Furthermore, some important Genshin Impact lore is easy to miss. Information about Khaenri’ah comes from exploring the world. Some comes from the games many books or notes, or sometimes information comes from quests. Players trying to puzzle out aspects of the lore relating to Khaenri’ah have a challenge ahead of them.
The Downfall of Khaenri’ah in Genshin Impact
While the seven nations of Teyvat are led by their respective archons, the Kingdom of Khaenri’ah was unique in that it had no gods holding dominion over it. The Eclipse Dynasty were the rulers in Khaenri’ah during its final days. The last king was named Irmin, who had only one eye. His subjects seem to use this trait as a fashion accessory, covering an eye with an eyepatch or part of a mask. Khaenri’ah was established outside Teyvat deep underground as the “pride of humanity.” Its people created incredibly advanced technological automatons, many of which can be fought and defeated like Genshin Impact‘s Ruin Grader and various other ruin machines. The Ruin Guards were known as Field Tillers, but they were war machines, not farming equipment.
Khaenri’ah’s people were also skilled in alchemy, in particular the alchemical technique known Art of Khemia. Its most prominent alchemist was named Rhinedottir, sometimes referred to as Gold. Using the Art of Khemia, she managed to create synthetic lifeforms. Many of Rhinedottir’s experiments ended in failure, becoming little more than monsters which went on to plague Teyvat. However, Rhinedottir did have two successes. One was a dragon named Durin, who went on to devastate Mondstadt during the cataclysm, before ultimately being stopped by Dvalin. Durin died on the mountain which became known as Genshin Impact‘s Dragonspine region. Durin’s remains can be found in Wyrmrest Valley.
The second successful creation of Rhinedottir was Albedo, a synthetic human and one of Genshin Impact’s playable characters. He is Chief Alchemist of the Knights of Favonius in the present day but tends to hide his knowledge of the Art of Khemia from them because of the disaster it caused before. The creation of life is supposedly the domain of the divine, and Rhinedottir’s living beings are what drew the ire of the gods. For this reason, the gods of Celestia destroyed Khaenri’ah. Luckily, Albedo survived, and though he keeps his history private from most people, Albedo does explain his backstory to the Traveler. He trusts the Traveler, claiming they are both unusual.
Few of Khaenri’ah’s citizens managed to survive the Cataclysm, and most of those who did were changed irrevocably. However, some did manage to survive the disaster because after the collapse of the Eclipse Dynasty, the Alberich Clan took control of the ruined nation. The Alberich Clan had no royal blood, but there weren’t many people left who could oppose them, and even fewer that wanted to. Despite the clan’s best efforts, they never managed to restore Khaenri’ah to its former glory. There is at least one living member of the Alberich Clan, and it is none other than Genshin Impact’s playable character Kaeya. Originally Kaeya was sent as a young boy to spy on Mondstadt, though he seems to have abandoned his allegiance to Khaenri’ah as he grew up. At the very least, Kaeya is no longer trying to cause Mondstadt’s downfall as was his father’s original plan for him.
One former resident of Khaenri’ah did not fare so well. Dainsleif is an important person when it comes to the cataclysm because he was there when it happened. Dainsleif was known as the Twilight Sword, a knight captain of the Royal Guard of Khaenri’ah. He served the ruling Eclipse Dynasty until its fall. During the Cataclysm, Dainsleif commanded one of the Royal Guards named Halfdan to protect the people of Khaenri’ah. Unfortunately, he ultimately failed. Halfdan and their other royal guards become the Shadowy Husks encountered in Genshin Impact’s Chasm area. The people of Khaenri’ah were transformed into various monsters, including hilichurls, but also monsters from the abyss like the Abyss Mages. Dainsleif was cursed with immortality, forever to live with the burden of his failure. It is physically painful for him, though he has managed to resist its effect by some unknown means so far.
It’s also possible that Pierro, first of the Fatui Harbingers, has Khaenri’ah ancestry. Nothing has been confirmed yet, but he does have the look of someone from Khaenri’ah. Namely, he has irises shaped like Genshin Impact’s Primogems that both Dainsleif and Kaeya share, and he covers part of his face with a mask that’s possibly in honor of King Irmin. He is reclusive, and very little is known about him so far.
There was another witness to Khaenri’ah’s destruction, although they were not a citizen, and that is the Traveler’s sibling in Genshin Impact. The player character becomes known as the Traveler, but their sibling has a very different journey. While the Traveler is unconscious, the sibling witnesses the downfall of Khaenri’ah. The sibling journeyed with Dainsleif briefly, and currently leads the Abyss Order. Since Dainsleif vowed to oppose the Abyss Order whenever possible, it seems that he and the Traveler’s sibling had a falling out prior to the start of Genshin Impact. They both harbor resentment against Celestia and the gods, but have very different methods of enacting their vengeance. How it will play out remains to be seen.