Avatar Yangchen was the Air Nomad Avatar  that succeeded Avatar Szeto and came before Avatar Kuruk. After she mastered all the four elements in her youth, she was quite eager to make a difference in the world, despite  the fact that she was inexperienced.

She would eventually become a respected figure and was hailed for her wisdom, determination, and power. Air Nomad culture placed a lot of emphasis on pacifism and the sanctity of life, but Yangchen was feared for being fierce and willing to do whatever it would take to keep the world peaceful and balanced in her duty as the bridge between two worlds.

Due to this, Avatar Yangchen’s time as Avatar ensured that the world was free of wars for an entire generation even after her death. After dying, she was seen as a holy individual and even the people in the Earth Kingdom would pray to her for protection. However, her actions had a side effect; contributing to a rise in dark spirit attacks during the time of her successor Avatar Kuruk. 

The graphic novel Shadow Of Kyoshi reveals some unknown facts about Avatar Yangchen, which we will now discuss.

Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Rift Part 3
Learn More
We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.

The History of Avatar Yangchen

Avatar Yangchen was born and raised by Air Nuns in the Western Air Temple. She performed her first act of waterbending on a small island in the Mo Ce Sea and, like all Avatars, mastered the elements and the Avatar State in order to maintain world peace.

Over time, she also became well learned and studied many different philosophies, including the writings of Gurus Laghima and Shoken. Avatar Yangchen was also well known for making pacts between humans and spirits, such as in the case of the Heartwalker of Yaoping Mountain, and the phoenix-eel spirits living under Ma’inka Island.

Avatar Yangchen died in 345 BG and was reincarnated as Kuruk of the Northern Water Tribe in accordance with the Avatar Cycle.

Aftermath of Avatar Yangchen’s Death

After her death, Avatar Yangchen became considered as a figure of holy reverence, particularly amongst the Air Nomads and the Earth Kingdom. People from these kingdoms, especially the Earth Kingdom, would pray to her to give them luck and protection. They constructed wayside shrines dedicated to her all through the Earth Kingdom. Avatar Yangchen received such devotion that even when people faced Avatar Kyoshi, they would be praying to Yangchen. 

Her legacy as a compassionate person became legendary. In remembrance of how she handled the issue with General Old Iron, the Air Nomads made yearly pilgrimages to the statue of Lady Tienhai. They renamed the ritual as Yangchen’s Festival. Even the island where Avatar Yangchen had first practised waterbending became a holy site, that is until it was accidentally destroyed by Avatar Kuruk. As time went by, the Air Nomads eventually constructed two statues of Yangchen. One was located in the Eastern Air Temple and the other in the Western Air Temple. 

Yangchen’s decisions when it came to politics also had long-lasting impacts. Her time as the Avatar brought a prolonged period of peace, as no threats of war occurred for an entire generation after her death. Scholars also analyzed her decisions, and they wrote treatises on this subject. All of these were studied by the earthbender Yun, who was thought to be the next in line after Kuruk.

Avatar Yangchen and Aang

When Aang needed advice from his past lives on how to handle Firelord Ozai,  each avatar he met encouraged him to choose the path of violence. He surmised that Avatars Roku, Kyoshi, and Kuruk could not understand his pacifist stance, as they believed it would affect his restoring of balance in the world. Hence, Aang sought out Avatar Yangchen, believing that as a fellow air nomad, She would understand. 

Avatar Yangchen did understand Aang’s hesitation, but her advice was not exactly what Aang wanted to hear. She said “Selfless duty calls you to sacrifice your own spiritual needs and do whatever it takes to protect the world”. To Aang’s understanding that meant that Avatar Yangchen’s role as the Avatar took precedence over her Air Nomad ways.  Here, we can see what Avatar Yangchen’s character is truly like. It is clear she is far more violent than anyone thinks her to be.

Avatar: The Last Airbender, The Search
Learn More
We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.

Avatar Yangchen In ‘The Rift’

Yangchen had a firm hand on the world’s politics, and in the tie-in comic “The Rift”, we can see how it affected her successor, Kuruk. There was an era of peace and much of this can be attributed to her direct and powerful intervention as well as her diplomacy. In her confrontation with the dark spirit General Old Iron, who believed that humans did not consider the spirits and their land with reverence or sanctity, Avatar Yangchen entered the Avatar State, and leveled the surrounding city. After tensions had cooled off,  Avatar Yangchen struck a deal with the spirit, agreeing to start a ritual in honor of Old Iron and that would serve as a testament to humanity’s goodwill.

Those same qualities of brokering deals and diplomacy with spirits were the background for Yangchen’s character in the novel, Shadow of Kyoshi.

Avatar Yangchen In ‘Shadow of Kyoshi’

In the previous novel ‘Rise of Kyoshi’, we do not see very many details about Avatar Yangchen. She is established as a revered figure, and her era of prosperity made her an idol to Kyoshi herself. Kyoshi sought to speak to her, but it wasn’t until she could hone the spiritual connection to her past lives that she could speak with Yangchen personally.

Kyoshi had such a hard time making this connection, owing to the fact that she was still very cross with Kuruk and how he left the world. It blocked her from connecting with him and the rest of the past Avatars. Eventually, she came to terms with Kuruk, after she learnt of his secret missions hunting bad spirits.  However, she learnt of the real reason but it was not until Kyoshi spoke with Yangchen that she learned the reason evil spirits were invading in the first place; Avatar Yangchen.

While Avatar Yangchen was a powerful Avatar and an even greater diplomat, it turns out that she had regrets.In her admonition to Kyoshi, she reveals that she spoiled the Four Nations of humanity,  providing them with everything that they wanted, at the expense of the spirits. Even her broker with General Old Iron may have come a little too late, because her indulging humanity  caused them to mine the world for its resources greedily while paying little homage to the spirits themselves.


The Avatar series and comics have always been crafty with how it weaves its complex characterizations, giving us in depth looks on various characters. This exposure on  Avatar Yangchen reveals a side to one of the most revered Avatars of all time. It is further proof that the Avatar really is just human, and that each Avatar has as many flaws as they do strengths. The novel, ‘The Shadow of Kyoshi’ continues a great trend of fleshing out Avatar’s many characters, and we love to see where exactly the next story takes us.

Related Posts