From the introduction:
In Europe, the bubonic plague never ended.
Arabia was swept and blasted by drought.
The industrial revolution came instead to Asia.
China holds together its empire with railroads, land fortresses, and cannons.
Korea’s navy has established colonies in a mysterious continent to the east.
The cities of Japan are ringed with flying machines and patrolled by steam-driven automata.
The last sorcerers, demons, and wizards struggle to survive, their power crushed by the new machines.
In a world of tradition, ritual, and honor, a new age has come
The Charcoal Lotus is a system-neutral setting that could be adapted to a wide variety of core systems. The setting consists on relatively high-level descriptions of large areas and would require substantive detailing for use during play. The setting is described as Japanese Steampunk--"musketeer samurai and bamboo mecha".