This question is about an information encoding method/system. The text below describes the types of information that need to be encoded and lists limitations existing in the world I am building. A little bit of story is provided only to explain the context and provide some ideas about the desired end-state. The use of the information encoding method/system meeting stated requirements is not limited to the included example or even to this particular setting.
The setting is a xianxia world — eastern high fantasy with gods, magic, and mythical creatures (you can read more here for general concepts). The technological level is 'generic Ancient China' with the addition of magic.
Write (v.) refers only to the way to code the information within a cultivation method manual (this does not have to be a natural language). The writing medium is out of the scope of this question. Please assume that this problem is solved.
Cultivation method manual is a record containing a set of techniques that those aspiring to become immortals (cultivators) practise. There are several types of methods:
- Qi cultivation (methods of refining and storing Qi, akin to mana in western fantasy);
- body cultivation (methods of refining, improving, and/or transforming one's body);
- soul cultivation (methods of refining one's soul and increasing its power; souls exist);
- mystical arts (magic arts, akin to spells in western fantasy);
- martial arts (fighting styles and techniques);
- alchemy (chiefly pill and elixir refining);
- forging (creation of magical artefacts, this is not limited to traditional forging);
- seals (creation of consumable talismans at the lower level and intangible seals at the highest levels)
- formations (also known as arrays or array formations):
- tactical battle formations that combine the power of several cultivators;
- spell formations that produce effects similar to mystical arts but on a greater scale (e.g., big defensive formations used to protect various locations) or without explicit activation (formations added to weapons, clothing, etc.)
Cultivation methods may require their practitioners to:
- circulate Qi according to specific instructions (the human body has a network of meridians Qi flows through; different methods require different patterns of flow);
- use specific gestures, postures, or movements (crucial for martial and mystical arts, alchemy, and forging);
- use specific meditation techniques;
- use specific breathing techniques;
- focus on specific thoughts or emotions;
- use specified ingredients (a cultivation method may also include possible substitutes and describe effects of substitution);
- use specific patterns (necessary for formations);
- repeat something a specified number of times (action, set of actions, or method/technique);
- do something at a specified time or location;
- use different methods or variations of a method depending on conditions (conditions can be anything from time and location to the state of one's body and cultivation level).
The Elders divined that in some indefinite future the world will face a calamity. The great hero will appear and will have a chance to save the world. Since the time cannot be determined the Elders want to make sure that the great hero can cultivate the best and most powerful techniques. Therefore, they decide to create several secret libraries.
Cultivation manuals do not deteriorate physically: Unless they are intentionally destroyed or divided all the contained information is still fully accessible. However, as time passes, with changes in languages, naming conventions, common practices, and so on manuals written in plain language become incomprehensible.
The Elders need to find a way to write manuals in such a way that a person who does not speak the language and has no teacher to guide them can still practise cultivation methods and techniques in a safe and productive manner. In other words, how to encode information related to a wide variety of subjects (including abstract concepts) so it can be comprehended by future generations even if they do not have (or have very limited) linguistic and/or cultural connections with the information encoders?
A perfect method of writing manuals:
- allows writing down all requirements for the technique and ensure that these requirements are easy to comprehend (not following requirements is often deadly, the Elders do not want the great hero to die early);
- works for all types of cultivation methods (the Elders do not want the hero to waste time on figuring out different systems of data encoding);
- ensures that a manual can be deciphered and fully comprehended even if there is no one in the world who has mastery of the language/encoding system used to write down the information;
- has a cross-reference system (or something similar).
A manual can include:
- words, pictures (very realistic, close to photographs, full colour), symbols;
- 3D hologram-like images (this feature becomes available after mastering low-level Qi-cultivation techniques; 3D presentation and magnification require readers to use their Qi to 'power' the feature);
- prohibitions (a special type of seals or a formation) that restrict access to the contents of a manual if specific requirements are not met (e.g. cultivation level is too low); if prohibition requires the use of a specific technique to lift it this information should be accessible and comprehensible.
Prohibitions and hologram-like images are magic.
A manual cannot include:
- audio, video;
- soul fragments to guide cultivation and explain details.
There is no magic art, pill, or artefact that can work as a universal translator. One needs to learn the language to be able to understand it. Cultivators can learn languages faster since their memory function improves with the cultivation level. But they are unable of comprehending dead languages just by looking at a couple of writings.
Is it possible to include language learning manuals? Yes, it is. However, if you choose this approach you need to specify how language fluency is achieved. Fluency is necessary since many cultivation methods require an understanding of underlying philosophical concepts.
Your answer can be as specific as you want. Details of the setting are included to provide examples of practical utilisation of the desired encoding method/system. If you are not familiar with the xianxia genre or Daoism, feel free to use your own examples. (This is not to invite speculation, but to give people an opportunity to illustrate their solutions using terminology and conventions that they are familiar with.)
If you are not familiar with xianxia, a soul fragment is a fragment of soul that a high-level cultivator can leave behind. These fragments are somewhat similar to advanced AI with holographic bodies: They can talk, think, answer questions, etc. Specific abilities depend on the cultivator's level, skills, and goals. Soul fragments require Qi to exist and tend to dissipate at the most critical moment (very unreliable things).
If you need additional information, details, or clarifications, please, ask in the comments.