Welcome to Chasing Dramas! This is the podcast that discusses Chinese history and culture through Chinese TV shows! I’m Cathy and I’m Karen. Today, We’re going to talk about episode 41+ 42 of 后宫甄嬛传, Empresses in the Palace.


[Karen] – We’re quite a few episodes in and I realized that as much as this podcast is about chinese history and culture, it’s also about chasing the drama, fangirling about certain actors/actresses, and doing a ton of in depth character analysis. Let’s just say – being nerds because we love it.


I’m very excited to discuss these 2 episodes. They are what I consider the resolution to probably the most exciting parts of this drama. After this the mood totally shifts because…spoiler alert… the fantastic 华妃 is no longer. We’re sad about that which is why we are doing a ton of analysis for these 2 episodes. 



The drama is currently available on Youtube if you would like to rewatch and or follow along. If you’re new to the podcast, please start with our intro to the podcast and intro to the drama episodes. If you have any comments/questions, please email us at chasingdramaspodcast@gmail.com. Share this podcast with your friends!


Today in this episode – We will say goodbye to one of our main characters and fan favorites. We knew this was going to happen. 


The three key events to discuss today:

  1. The Death of 襄嫔 – real name – 曹琴默
  2. The introduction of a new manchurian concubine, 祺贵人 – Real name, 瓜尔佳 – 文鸢
  3. The Death of 华妃 or now 年答应 – real name – 年世兰



In a change to how we normally do these episodes, we are going to discuss the events surrounding these 3 ladies, and then some analysis so it won’t be a straight recap of the episodes and analysis afterwards.


Let’s start off with 襄嫔。


In episode 41 + 42, we see her sudden rise and sudden death. 


In episode 41, the newly promoted 襄嫔 is plotting her own next move. She was previously 曹贵人, an ally of 华妃 but betrayed her and was luckily promoted by the Emperor as a reward for revealing all of 华妃’s evil deeds. Look at 襄嫔! Look how lavish she’s dressed! Especially with her hair accessories! The thing is, she’s ambitious – she wants to become a Consort or 妃 and even Noble Consort or 贵妃。Everything she does is for her daughter 温宜. As a lowly noble lady, her daughter would most likely have been sent away to marry a lowly lord or as a marriage alliance. 襄嫔 needs to rise up the ranks to protect her daughter. As for her alliance with 甄嬛, 襄嫔 knows full well that 甄嬛 cannot be trusted。 She goes so far as to say if 甄嬛 blocks her path to becoming 妃, or a Consort, she will not hesitate to attack 甄嬛. Will 襄嫔 or her maiden name 曹琴默 get to see her move up the ranks? 



Little does she know that her husband and her mother in law, the emperor and empress dowager have other thoughts.


Next we have a scene with the Emperor discussing matters of court and the Imperial Harem with his mother the Empress Dowager. The General 年羹尧 has died. The once mighty 华妃 is now a lowly 2st class female attendant or 年答应. The Emperor believes if 年答应 doesn’t cause any further ruckus in the Imperial harem, he’ll let her live with at least a Noble lady title. I mean look, that’s pretty lenient of him. This is exactly why 甄嬛 nudges 襄嫔 in the next scene。 Everyone wants this woman dead but the emperor doesn’t have the full heart to kill 年答应。Clearly, he feels bad for how he tricked this poor woman for many years. Even though he knows she is a terrible person, but she loved him and he was never true to her. 


The Empress Dowager also commends the Emperor for the way he handled 襄嫔’s promotion. He bluntly tells her and us the audience that he knew full well 襄嫔 was in cahoots with 年答应 but he needed her to serve as the witness in order to clean 年答应’s faction in the Imperial Harem. See? Nothing escapes their eyes.


Funnily though , the way mother and son talk about the Imperial Harem, it’s so, what’s the word? Business-like? Aloof? The Empress Dowager tells the Emperor it’s best not to favor 襄嫔 anymore. He should even stop giving 甄嬛 information about court! It’s dangerous. Once again, he has to calculate every move he makes in order to balance both the court and his harem. That’s why in Chinese, you have the front court and the “back palace”. In english it sounds so odd but in Chinese it makes sense. The empress dowager constantly reminds the Emperor that he cannot have true feelings – we see exactly why. If he had true feelings for 年答应, he wouldn’t have been able to use her and her brother as effectively. Though, I think the Emperor is a little annoyed at his mother’s comments because then he says, I just destroyed 年羹尧’s faction. There are other groups in court that becoming like his, I need to destroy them one by one. 


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The Empress Dowager, in a rare slip up, says – 隆科多 is old. Let him leave court and enjoy the rest of his life. Notice how the mood shifts. The music changes too. The Emperor says I didn’t mention him and takes his leave. There’s a whole backstory between the Empress Dowager and 隆科多 that we’ll get into in future episodes. We’ll just remind everyone that 隆科多 was a huge supporter of our current Emperor 雍正 and was crucial in helping the Emperor seize the throne. 



Moving on, we see that 襄嫔 is watching her daughter 温宜 play in the snow when 甄嬛 comes to say hi. They briefly discuss the gossip of a new Noble Lady 祺贵人 joining the Imperial Harem. Suddenly, the princess 温宜 slips but is saved by the sickly 端妃. 襄嫔 rushes over. This particular scene is hilarious. I love how she tries to walk over to her daughter but almost trips because of the flower bottom shoes she wears. It’s a real struggle for the actresses. I don’t know how ladies stayed upright in those shoes in winter.


甄嬛 seeing that 端妃’s clothes got slightly soiled, invites her to her palace to change. 端妃 leaves first, giving 甄嬛 a chance to finish her conversation with 襄嫔.  [UMMM i don’t think so – 甄嬛 purposefully wants to talk to 端妃 so she makes an excuse]


The two cunning ladies in the imperial harem have a nice chat. 襄嫔 shares her ambition of next becoming a consort in order to help her daughter secure a better future. 甄嬛 says she understands – I mean, it makes sense. 甄嬛 also explains why the emperor gave 襄嫔 the title of 襄。 襄 means to help. With the front court already having enough evidence or support to remove 年羹尧, the emperor needed someone to help him in the imperial harem. 曹贵人 now 襄嫔 fills that role of the helper. Now, the key here is that 甄嬛 says 年答应 is still a concubine which means not much can be done to not lose too much face. 襄嫔 gets the hint and ushers 甄嬛 to see 端妃.


Interestingly, we hear that 襄嫔 isn’t really educated, at least in books, which is why she doesn’t understand what 襄 means. 


Look here, 曹贵人, now 襄嫔 is extremely sharp. She, taking 甄嬛’s hint, thinks she needs to convince the emperor to kill 年答应。However, I believe 甄嬛 is taking this opportunity, to remove 曹贵人 as well. It’s really subtle but I feel like 甄嬛 is nudging 襄嫔 to help kill 年答应 but that results in continued displeasure by the emperor. It will not turn out well for 襄嫔。


甄嬛 returns to chat with 端妃. She makes a curious comment to her. She says Princess 温宜 is so cute but I wonder how she’ll turn out with a mother like 襄嫔. What would happen if she were to have another mother? Foreshadowing much?


In the very next scene, 襄嫔’s own maid is pouring some suspicious powder into a brew for 襄嫔. 襄嫔 doesn’t look too well…



Later on we have a scene where, In a surprising move, though mostly guided by 甄嬛’s words, 襄嫔 openly voices her recommendation to kill 年答应. She says – such an evil woman cannot be allowed to live in the Imperial Harem. The Emperor hears this and walks away muttering – you really are ruthless to 襄嫔. I don’t think this had the intended result 襄嫔 was hoping for.


The Emperor once again chats with his mother the Empress Dowager 太后. This time, they’re discussing 襄嫔. Her words have irked the Emperor. He cannot have a traitor who openly wishes for her old master’s death around. This will be dangerous for the Imperial Harem. Again, it doesn’t even feel like they’re talking about people, just chess pieces. The Emperor at least worries about his daughter not having a mother but the Empress Dowager just says – there are plenty of women in the Imperial Harem without daughters. We’ll just have to find 温宜 another mother. Well that’s settled. 


The end result? 襄嫔 dies off screen – 甄嬛 secretly tells 端妃 that this was the Emperor’s orders. This is the same as what happened to 年世兰. The doctors were told to keep everything quiet. Can you believe it though? It was 襄嫔’s own personal maid that did this.


The princess 温宜 now has no mother. 甄嬛 recommends for 端妃 to foster her. This is the last time 襄嫔 is mentioned. We no longer see 温宜 on screen anymore either – though she’s mentioned in the drama. Again – she’s super cute!


襄嫔 – 曹琴默



Let’s talk about this woman. She is a noble lady for the majority of the time we see her. She finally ends up as a 嫔 which means she can control her own palace only to be poisoned by her own husband. 


Her fate was determined well before her betrayal of 华妃. 


When we were first introduced to her, she’s the less pretty ally to 华妃 who also had 丽嫔 in her posse. 曹贵人 is unique in that she at least has a child, which we now know is very rare in the palace thanks to how the Empress runs the harem.


From the get go we learn/see that 曹贵人 is cunning. Time and again, 甄嬛 almost gets punished because of events plotted by 曹贵人。


Sure, 曹琴默 was doing 华妃’s bidding but in episode 17, 瑾汐, 甄嬛’s main maid said something very important – people who care about riches and money will never get far. This was in response to a very unique/expensive fragrance 甄嬛 gifted 曹琴默 in an effort to root out who was the spy in her group. Remember, that spy turned out to be her half sister, 浣碧.


This observation by 瑾汐 is very astute. 曹琴默 cares about her daughter which is true, but in these few episodes, she reiterates many times how much she wants to “climb” the ladder in the imperial harem. She’s not happy to just be a 嫔, she wants more. It’s evident with her hair decorations immediately becoming more extravagant once she is no longer under 华妃’s control. Her greed blinded her to observing the emperor’s feelings towards 华妃。If she had stopped talking, just kept her mouth shut about 华妃, she may not have been killed. But because she kept on saying terrible things towards her former master, it just increased the disgust by the emperor and the empress dowager. The people who stay alive in the imperial palace, or at least live peacefully and rise through the ranks – such as 敬妃 and 端妃, plus 甄嬛, are the ones who aren’t greedy. They just let everything be.


I explained that 甄嬛 nudged 曹琴默 to step on 华妃。 I don’t know if 甄嬛 knew the end result of her nudge was to get 曹琴默 killed, but 曹琴默 ‘s greed pushed her to this step. Some comments also say that 曹琴默 is generally extremely smart. Saying such negative things about her former master was out of character for her and probably only happened because the writers needed her to die. I personally don’t think so. I think this is in character for her. She doesn’t know why the emperor is so lenient on 华妃 with the whole special fragrance and causing her infertility so 曹琴默 can’t understand why the emperor would be annoyed with her. He already killed 年羹尧 and pretty much all the key clan members. Why would he keep 华妃 alive? She focused too much on her own fortune to notice anything else. Unfortunately, she fell into 甄嬛’s trap.



From a political perspective, 曹琴默 was never destined for greatness. She comes from a Han Banner (as evident by her last name). Different characters always call out her family’s lack of position at court so we can assume her family is neither powerful nor wealthy. She doesn’t have a family to give her support in the imperial harem or to help attract the emperor’s attention. While this is not always beneficial as is the case with 华妃, it would have helped a bit.


The result of all this is that her daughter will now be raised by 端妃. This was actually foreshadowed wayyy back in episode 14 I believe during 温宜’s first birthday party. 端妃 comes to the celebration where she first meets 甄嬛. At that party, 端妃 gifts 温宜 a necklace that’s very valuable. It’s at that point we are shown a strong interest or at least a stronger bond between these two. 端妃 has always liked this 温宜 princess.


Well that’s it for our analysis of 曹琴默. She started off not very interesting but dies a much more fleshed out character.


Next up! We are also introduced to 祺贵人 in episode 41!


We are at another court greeting but we see a new woman! 祺贵人 is portrayed by the lovely 唐艺昕. This I think was her first drama! She was 22 or so at the time. 祺贵人 comes from the Bordered Yellow Banner so she is manchurian. Her maiden name is 瓜尔佳·文鸳, of the 瓜尔佳 clan which is very highly regarded. She was selected to come to the palace due to her father’s contribution in bringing down 年羹尧 and his faction. In this episode alone, we learn quite a lot about her. Her attitudes, her intelligence, and her abilities. Can’t wait to discuss! To our listeners, this 祺 means good luck or good fortune. It sounds the exact same as 齐 for 齐妃, the doltish mother of the 3rd prince. These two ladies will never have the same rank so hopefully it won’t get too confusing.  


At an imperial harem greeting, The other concubines start gossiping. The older ladies don’t seem to care too much but 甄嬛 looks rather glum. I think she’s slightly jealous at what she knows will come. Outside, 甄嬛 and 沈眉庄 are heading back together but is stopped by the new 祺贵人. She just wants to say hello yadiyada. Ugh, 安陵容 is sulking in the back. I think she again is thinking, why doesn’t anyone want to talk to me???



To no ones surprise, the Emperor does indeed pick 祺贵人 for the evening. We haven’t seen a scene like this in a while but she follows the tradition of being rolled up in the bed covers and carried to the emperor’s bed. It’s hilarious.  What is surprising is that the next day, she has moved into 碎玉轩 甄嬛’s palace. In her own rooms, this 祺贵人is plotting her next move. She has it figured out – get close to 甄嬛. The Emperor likes 甄嬛 so living close to her will be very advantageous.


Ok – so far so good. She seems to know how the game works in the Imperial Harem.


Next – 祺贵人 pays a visit to the Empress. The Empress pretty much lays it out – the 2 of them are from the manchu banners. All of the other favored ladies are from the han banners. The Manchu banners must be represented in the Imperial Harem. Here is a little bit of political discrimmination happening that we haven’t talked about in a while as well. The han, manchu divide simply permeates the Qing dynasty. Then the Empress offers some pretty sage advice. To become a favored concubine, watch how others become a favored concubine. I don’t know if 祺贵人 will take that advice but she does seem like she listened. 



Outside, 祺贵人 encounters the demoted 年答应.  祺贵人 roundly scolds 年答应 for not curtseying and begins to mock her for her misfortunes. Let’s look at how 年答应 responds. How are you any different from me? You came to the Imperial Palace due to your family’s influence. Enjoy your dream. Who knows, maybe you’ll end up like me. The Empress and 甄嬛 were no match for me. I’ll see about you. 祺贵人 is very much annoyed but she doesn’t have a retort. 年答应, despite her rank, is still as proud and as haughty as ever. I love the smirk she has on her face when addressing 祺贵人.


Why is 年答应 so upset? It’s because she’s burning paper money for her family. The only person left with her is 颂芝. 年答应’s entire family has died and she knows there’s no hope for left in the Imperial Harem. She turns her bitterness and hatred towards 甄嬛. There’s one eunuch that she’s planted in 甄嬛’s palace. It’s time to use him to seek revenge.


Things move along quickly in the next few scenes. 祺贵人 tattles to the Emperor about her encounter with 年答应. The Emperor’s conviction against 年答应 seems to be falling. He keeps making comments that oh she really isn’t too bad. I just want her to stay quiet and she’ll live… He feels bad for how he treated her and completely disregards how she has treated other people in the imperial harem.



The Empress has invited the ladies of the Imperial Harem to the opera but 甄嬛 doesn’t join. She has her own plans for the evening. Well there’s always something of note at the opera and today doesn’t disappoint. When I first watched this scene, I wasn’t sure on how cunning the new 祺贵人 was. There were flashes of brilliance but this scene sealed the deal for me. She’ll just be the next dumber 华妃. Why? Let’s see.


祺贵人 voices their good fortune to have the Empress in charge of the Imperial Harem. The Empress waves off these compliments. She says – we are all sisters. We should take care of each other. There’s some back and forth between the ladies. The Empress states – With the way you all are chatting, I am reminded of my own family. It’s pleasant.


Here comes the kicker from 祺贵人. She says – Dear Empress, as long as you don’t think we’re too chatty. When I’m at home, I can never talk to my two bastard sisters or 庶出 sisters but when I see you Empress, I feel like I can tell you everything. 


Uh oh – look at everyone’s face. The word in chinese 祺贵人 uses is 庶出 – which means, not born from the main wife. 祺贵人 quickly realizes her mistake and immediately falls to her knees to beg for forgiveness. I love Ada Choi’s (The Empress’s) acting here. Her gaze stays straight, her face is still serene, but her eyes and her voice (well, her dub) turn steely. She simply responds – we are all sisters in the Imperial Harem, I will not quibble. 



Why is this comment so problematic? It’s because the Empress herself is not born from the main wife. She is only 庶出. This fact has and always will be her biggest trigger. With this phrase, 祺贵人, just lowered the Empress’s status to that of her two 庶出 sisters. How dare she? 祺贵人 is also inadvertently hinting that she looks down at people who are 庶出, which now includes the Empress. The callous way 祺贵人 said this phrase was also unbelievable. She didn’t think twice!


When 华妃 was at the height of her powers, she would constantly use this as ammunition to belittle the Empress. In Imperial China, being a bastard or 庶出 was a stain on anyone’s birth. Of course the Empress is pissed!


I read one of the comments on youtube which i think is so apt! When 祺贵人 said her comment about her own sisters, there was a zoom in on 齐妃’s face. The youtube comment was 齐妃’s finally can think, WOW someone is dumber than me in the palace! Hahahaha. So yea, at first I thought 祺贵人 would be a legitimate threat but after this, nah…


The Empress expresses her anger at 祺贵人 once she’s back in her own palace with 安陵容. She even says that we desperately need women like 祺贵人 in the palace – women who are pretty but also stupid. I love that the empress immediately was like “YUP” – she’s stupid. But, the Empress is more or less over it. Who cares if you have a low birth? I am still the Empress! 


So to recap – this new woman is in the imperial harem who has a powerful family but is not sharp. She’s arrogant but pretty. She will be joining 皇后’s posse with 安陵容.





And now!!! Lets discuss the fan favorite – 华妃 – 年世兰。


We mentioned her throughout this episode already but let’s get to the meat of her death and also analyze this truly heartbreaking woman. 


Her death plays out through the end of episode 41 and the first half of episode 42. 


沈眉庄 is playing Chinese Go at 甄嬛’s palace while all of the other ladies were watching opera. 甄嬛’s head eunuch comes into declare 年答应’s spy looks like he’s about to start a fire. This is an opportunity from heaven! 甄嬛 orders everyone to play their part – the fire must be lit but make sure to catch the culprit.  


Why does this have to happen? Technically, 甄嬛 already knows someone is trying to burn her place down. She could avoid the fire right?  A key theme throughout this drama is that you have to let something get really bad before a really impactful punishment will be made. The goal for both 甄嬛 and 沈眉庄 is to get 华妃 -or now 年答应 killed. As of right now, the emperor isn’t willing to do so because he is starting to feel sympathetic. The 2 ladies need to put the nail in the coffin. That is why 甄嬛 actively dumps oil onto her materials so that the fire will be more devastating.


沈眉庄, seeing that revenge is in sight, willingly burns herself to play her part. Parts of 甄嬛’s palace is severely burned and the Emperor rushes to see the remnants. Thankfully none of the ladies are harmed except for 沈眉庄。Her acting is so great – she’s shivering in the snow, playing up her part as the victim.


甄嬛’s eunuch brings the captured culprit. The Emperor’s head eunuch 苏培盛 immediately recognizes the man as someone from 年答应’s palace. The fire and this eunuch is the one two punch. This is concrete evidence that 年答应 will still try to murder people for her own means. Whatever sympathies the Emperor did have are now gone. The Emperor coldly declares to the group – get this culprit’s confession. If 年答应 did order this, kill her. No need to report to me.


As soon as the Emperor leaves, we see a close up of 沈眉庄. Her tears? Tears of joy.



The Empress is livid at the events of the previous night. She must be secretly SO happy, hahahaha. 年答应 will be sentenced to death. As an act of mercy, she will be allowed a full corpse. Her options will be a dagger, poison, or a white sash. 


Before 年答应’s sentence, 甄嬛 decides to visit her one last time. The once powerful 华妃 is now imprisoned in 冷宫 or the cold palace with nothing. With all pretenses dispensed, these two ladies finally confront each other face to face. 


年答应 is bitter about the turn of events. She still doesn’t accept that she did anything wrong. She admits to the murder of 淳贵人, pushing 沈眉庄 etc but she doesn’t care. That was her power – she could do whatever she wanted. 


At this point the Emperor’s head eunuch, 苏培盛, arrives with 年答应’s three options. She, however, refuses to die. She demands the Emperor’s own Imperial Edict. If the Emperor could deliver one for my brother, why can’t he do one for me? 年答应 is grasping for that last piece of not hope but acknowledgement that the Emperor did care about her. But alas, she won’t get it.


甄嬛 orders everyone to leave for one final one-on-one conversation with 年答应. I do want to go through this scene in detail because it’s just so riveting. If you haven’t seen the scene, I recommend you watch it. It is incredible. We’ll attempt to do a re-enactment of the scene.


年答应 is still sitting imperiously in her seat, regal, upright. 甄嬛 has to deal each blow one by one. Let’s go through this scene. 甄嬛 starts. 



Do you know why the Emperor detests you? 



He never detested me. He favored me. Whenever I made a mistake, he couldn’t stay away for too long.



Do you know why the Emperor favored you? Because of your beauty? The Imperial Harem is never lacking in beautiful women. 



Are you saying he favored me because I was 年羹尧’s sister? Other women also have families in the military. You’re lying – he truly loved me.



You’re right – he might have but your family’s arrogance has whittled away any love he has for you.



年答应 finally stands up to reminisce her early days as a concubine for the Emperor. He was only a prince at the time. The 4th Prince would take her riding, hunting. He said he only liked her. She hated that there were so many women. She would wait from dusk till dawn but he wouldn’t come. Do you know how it feels to wait? Of course, you’ve never loved him like I do. Then I got pregnant. The Emperor was excited but then he wasn’t. It must be because the only living son was his 3rd son. I told him, don’t worry, it’ll be a son. But, not long after, I lost my baby. It was a son!


Ugh, 蒋欣’s acting is marvelous. The way her eyes well up in tears. Absolutely heartbreaking. This entire sequence will just be of us praising the acting. 



甄嬛 finally retorts – you lost your son, so you decided to take my child?



年答应 is beside herself – she turns 甄嬛 around, tears streaming down her face, to talk to her face to face. She spews out these words – I hate you. The Emperor has never treated any woman the same way as he treats you. I don’t ever want to wait from dusk till dawn again. I did plot to poison you but I never wanted to kill your child. 



甄嬛 coldly responds – If it wasn’t for the 欢宜香 or perfume in your palace, how would I have miscarried?



年答应 is in disbelief. She backs away. What are you talking about?



甄嬛 delivers the final blow. She tells 年答应 the truth – did you know that the perfume you treasured above all else contains large amounts of musk? You’ve used it for so many years, of course you will not get pregnant. You’re infertile. 



年答应 cannot believe her ears. She completely breaks down at this earth shattering news. How could it have been the Emperor? This cannot be – this is his gift! 年答应 is now hunched in the corner. 



甄嬛 presses on – look at the power shift. She says – If it wasn’t for the Emperor, why hasn’t any Imperial Doctor told you about your condition? Even your miscarriage was ordered by the Emperor. The bowl of medicine that you drank from 端妃? That wasn’t her idea, but your beloved Emperor. 



年答应 tries to process the news. She’s still clinging on to some hope that this isn’t true. She desperately asks – why? Why would he do this to me?



甄嬛 reveals the final secret. It’s because you are 年世兰, the brother of 年羹尧. The Emperor was never going to allow you or the 年 family to have a son. 



年答应 finally understands. Her beloved Emperor has always lied to her. All of their time together was a farce. He betrayed her, he played. Full of despair and finally hearing the truth, 年答应 can’t stop laughing. Ugh, the tears can’t stop streaming down her face. Well mine either. 


 年世兰’s famous last words are – “皇上, 你害的世兰好苦”.  One translation could be – “Emperor, you’ve caused me so much pain” or “you betrayed me”。 Without any further thought, she runs headfirst to the wall and dies, leaving 甄嬛 as the only witness. 


42 episodes later – the once powerful 华妃 has finally died!


Maybe I’ve seen way too many shows and knows what happens after this but after this rewatch, she’s terrible but not that terrible? She was a product of her upbringing. She was mischievous and deadly but she truly loved the Emperor. I cannot help but feel pity for her at the end. Everything she did, the plotting, the murders, was for the Emperor to gain his love. She never once thought that the Emperor did not love her. We’ve seen how the Emperor treated everyone in the Imperial Harem like a chess piece. She just wanted him. 


In this scene, she held out hope that the Emperor would deliver that final edict; show that he cared. The only reason she was sentenced to death was because she got caught. As 甄嬛 slowly peeled the onions to reveal the truth, 年世兰’s demeanor completely changes until finally, she realizes that everything was a sham. His so called “love”, her favor, nothing was real. With the truth revealed, she lost the will to live. So she died as she lived, straightforward and unrelenting. She also died on her terms. You realize that she decided not to take any of the 3 options offered to her by the Empress. She decided to kill herself by running headlong into the wall. 



Let’s also give a shout out to 颂芝. Despite the way 年世兰 treated her, she stuck with 年世兰 until the very end. 


甄嬛 has 端妃 over for chat and laments 年世兰’s death. The Emperor has posthumously gifted 年世兰 the title of 敦肃皇贵妃 an Imperial Noble Consort! Only one rank below the Empress! 年世兰 never reached this title in life, she only managed to get to 贵妃 or Noble Consort.


端妃 comments on the irony of the title. 敦 means gentle. When was she ever gentle? This is just for the Emperor to declare to the world that he isn’t a cold hearted man. He just killed the entire 年 family but still will honor his concubine with a high rank. Who cares about the dead? This just for the living to see. 


Phew – we close one chapter of 甄嬛’s journey with 华妃’s death. 


This character was far and away the fan favorite of the show. Everyone knew who 华妃 was. 


When the show first aired, this character was constantly quoted, memed, imitated, you name it. People loved 华妃’s attitude. She was evil but cute. She was ruthless but she at least never willingly crossed a line. The most famous quotes include 贱人就是矫情 from episode 34 and her last words here. 


In interviews, the actress 蒋欣 would constantly be asked to act out these two scenes. This was definitely her breakout role.


Even recently, there was a trending tag on Weibo called – talking to your parents with 华妃’s quotes. Some were quite hilarious. 



I want to round out this character by giving a little historical context. This drama does take a lot of liberties regarding 华妃 but this is mainly for plot purposes. In history, 年世兰’s real name is not known but she was a favored concubine and consort of the Emperor. Contrary to this drama, she did indeed have children, several in fact. 3 sons and 1 daughter. Unfortunately, none of her children lived to adulthood.  


She was also of a gentle nature, very different from 华妃. She didn’t have a special title of 华 and was just known as consort Nian or 年妃。 However, she also had poor health and her pregnancies may have contributed to her early death. She is the only woman to have been promoted to the rank of Imperial Noble Consort or 皇贵妃 during 雍正’s reign when she was alive. Unfortunately, she died shortly after her promotion. She died in the winter of 1725 as an Imperial Noble Consort not a 2nd Class Female Attendant as is in the drama. She died before her brother 年羹尧. Once again, the timeline in this drama is a little bit all over the place, but her death is within the 1725/1726 timeframe. 


The Emperor was beside himself with her death. She had an extravagant funeral. I think in history, the Emperor truly did love 年妃. The drama doesn’t explain what happens to the rest of the 年 family but in history only 年羹尧’s line was punished. The rest of the 年 family, including 年妃’s father were spared. 



Let me quickly finish the recap for the rest of the episode. 


The Imperial Doctor 温实处 checks in on 沈眉庄. Let’s just say, she’s very busy flirting with him. She wants to continue to see him so she actually dumps her medicine out without drinking it. You go girl, whatever it takes. 


At court, the Emperor reviews the writings of one 汪景祺. He was a civil servant under the deceased general 年羹尧. Some of the writings can be construed as traitorous. He wrote things like 年羹尧 was the wisest person in the universe, the Emperor will kill you in the future etc. 


The Emperor cannot let these writings come to light. What will people think of his legacy? The man will be beheaded. His head will hang for 10 years and his family will all be banished to slave labor. The words the Emperor uses are actually written in a copy of these writings. Pretty cool. 


In this episode, we see time and again that the Emperor doesn’t care about the truth, he cares about how people will view him and his legacy. This happens one more time in this episode when he learns that the now imprisoned 10th prince has been voicing his displeasure of the Emperor’s treatment towards him and his family. With a little urging from 甄嬛, the Emperor is willing to give the 10th prince’s son an honorary title just to shut everyone up. For 甄嬛, this is the last mercy she can show to thank the 10th Prince’s wife for her act of kindness when 甄嬛 was out of favor. 


The episode ends with some promotions! The Emperor promotes 甄嬛 to a 妃 or consort. 安陵容 is promoted to a 嫔 or Imperial Concubine. 欣常在 is also promoted to a Noble Lady. 安陵容 is ecstatic with the news. She is now officially higher than 沈眉庄!


One of our fan favorites is finally dead. How will the story progress now that we don’t have this villain around? Tune in to find out! Thank you very much for listening today. As always, if you have any questions or comments, please email us at chasingdramaspodcast@gmail.com. Catch you all next time!





Welcome to Chasing Dramas! This is the podcast that discusses Chinese history and culture through Chinese TV shows! I’m Cathy and I’m Karen. Today, We’re going to talk about episode 39+40 of 后宫甄嬛传, Empresses in the Palace. In the last two episodes, 华妃 is desperately trying to stay in favor, even sending her maid to become a concubine, but does it work? 


Let’s find out.


The drama is currently available on Youtube if you would like to rewatch and or follow along. If you’re new to the podcast, please start with our intro to the podcast and intro to the drama episodes. If you have any comments/questions, please email us at chasingdramaspodcast@gmail.com. Share this podcast with your friends!


We combined these 2 episodes even though there’s a lot going on because it flows pretty well together. 



Episode 39 starts off with the Emperor 雍正 meeting with his some of his court ministers, including 甄嬛’s father. The emperor is contemplating what to do about his brothers, the 8th Prince 允禗 and the 9th Prince 允糖, both of whom we talked about in the last episode. These 2 brothers schemed against the emperor for the throne and are now imprisoned. 华妃’s brother, the mighty general 年羹尧, sent a memo recommending clemency and forgiveness towards these 2 brothers, which is not what the Emperor wants to hear. In the previous episodes, we’ve learned that the general 年羹尧 has developed close ties with the Emperor’s 10th brother, 敦亲王, who in history was close to the 8th and 9th prince as well. 


The Emperor comes to the conclusion that in order to destroy 年羹尧 and his faction, he needs to also deal with his brother, the 10th prince. At the end of the meeting, the Emperor makes a curious comment. He says – It hasn’t been calm in the Imperial Harem. The ladies are constantly squabbling with one another. Once I resolve the issues in the Imperial Harem, I’ll deal with the matters in court. 


What does he have in mind?



It’s another banquet at the Imperial Harem. This time though, I feel like the roles are reversed. Let’s take a look at what happens.


The new concubine 颂芝 offers a plate of grapes to the Emperor, who eats one. Let’s recall, this concubine 颂芝 used to be 华妃’s maid, but 华妃 offered 颂芝 to the Emperor as a way to strengthen her own standing in the imperial harem. It seems to have worked


In a reversal of her usual habit, 甄嬛 begins to openly mock 颂芝 during the banquet. 甄嬛 starts by saying – oh my dear sister, the Emperor didn’t comment on the fruit. You need to be more observant. She continues to escalate her insults. This one is pretty good, 甄嬛 says – There’s the common phrase – industrious people don’t age. That must be true for you but you also are very astute. That’s why you came into favor with 华妃. She must like you so much, which is why she recommended you to the Emperor. I must commend you, even I can’t do that. 


This is 甄嬛 on the offensive! She just mocked 颂芝 on her low background and her ability to please other people, which is not a good thing. Poor 颂芝 is completely at a loss at how to respond. 华妃 steps in – “Emperor, are you not going to say anything?” It’s because she knows that 甄嬛 insulted 颂芝 which is out of line.


The Emperor interestingly throws the question to the Empress. “What do you think?” The Empress merely says, it must be due to the drinks that 甄嬛 would say such things. I will take measures after the festivities. Pretty reasonable right? Nope – this is not your ordinary banquet. The Emperor’s face turns sour and he slams the table.


Is this how you govern the Imperial Harem? No wonder why it’s always so chaotic. 


Everyone is stunned to see the Emperor so angry. They all immediately kneel, with the Empress begging for forgiveness. 


The Emperor chides the Empress for her lack of leadership and ability to quell the squabbles in the Imperial Harem. He then turns his attention towards 甄嬛. He reprimands 甄嬛 for her jealousy towards 颂芝. This is not how concubines should behave in his harem. In a surprising move, he banishes 甄嬛 to 蓬莱洲. Where’s that? A desolate island in the middle of the lake at the Summer Palace. Two concubines make a plea on behalf of 甄嬛. 安陵容 and 敬妃. 敬妃 actually does want to help, I think 安陵容 is doing it just for show. The Emperor is not moved by their pleas. He has his eunuch 苏培盛 remove 甄嬛 from the banquet. 华妃 is just smirking on the side.


That was an action packed banquet! Since we have been privy to the Emperor and 甄嬛’s conversations, we know that this was all for show. You’ll notice that 甄嬛, who hasn’t really worn bright lipstick before, is now wearing it which is an attempt to make herself stand out in the crowd. 甄嬛, who is also known for her mild temper, behaves in an incredibly rude manner towards 颂芝. Why? So that the Emperor can have the excuse to banish her! This entire evening was for 华妃 to see. The Emperor needs 华妃, and by extension, her brother, to lower their guard. With 甄嬛 banished, 华妃 will believe she has all the favor and glory again in the Imperial Harem. She will continue to accept bribes, spend money etc. With her and her brother’s guard down, the Emperor can continue to gather evidence against them.



I love the stagings and the cuts for this scene. Yes, the Emperor’s angry but there is a ton of focus on other people’s faces, especially the Empress. No one knows what is happening. Ada Choi, the actress for the Empress, does an amazing job showing us the audience how she is processing all of this information. She sees and listens but doesn’t react. When 甄嬛 is led away by the eunuch, the Empress is contemplating these turn of events with a furrowed brow.  That’s it. Compare the Empress’s reaction to that of 华妃’s. She’s over there smirking and feeling belated at this turn of events. Oh honey – you have no idea what will happen to you.


Let’s continue on that thread of the Empress. Later that evening, she summons 安陵容. She shares her suspicions about everyone’s actions earlier that evening. She can’t quite put her finger on it but she knows she cannot have 华妃 back in power again. With 甄嬛 banished, 华妃 will have no competition and she will be a legitimate threat to her own position as Empress. The Empress needs to devise another plan. The Empress orders 安陵容 to join 甄嬛 in her banishment. Why? It’s twofold – 1) 华妃 will just find ways to insult 安陵容, which doesn’t help anyone and 2) if 甄嬛 comes back to favor, 安陵容 can say play up their relationship in the future and gain a lot brownie points with the Emperor. 


安陵容 at first is not happy with the plan but acquiesces only after she gets confirmation from the Empress that if 甄嬛 truly is banished, the Empress will summon her back to the Imperial Harem. I am so impressed with the Empress’s intuition. At the end of the conversation, the Empress says – I just have a feeling that it’s better for you to be with 甄嬛. The Empress has no idea that the entire evening was just a show but she knows something is up and acts accordingly. What a woman. So smart.



It looks like 甄嬛’s banishment has achieved its purpose. 华妃 is in her palace gloating at the turn of events. 曹贵人 and 颂芝 are both there. Let’s remind everyone that 曹贵人 was originally team 华妃. Now she’s team 甄嬛. She applauds 华妃 for the turn of events but she cleverly pushes 颂芝 into some hot water by saying, I hope 颂芝 can birth a child soon. That way, she’ll be like me! A noble lady! 华妃’s eyes immediately turn into daggers. With one phrase, 曹贵人 is able to incite jealousy between 华妃 and 颂芝. Well, 颂芝 is just doing 华妃’s bidding. Nice job 曹贵人!


Here is some analysis – There is absolutely no way 颂芝 can get pregnant because she’s been in 华妃’s palace for so long, smelling the perfume fragrance that has the musk which, according to this drama, damages your reproductive capabilities. I think this is also why 皇上 is fine with favoring 颂芝 because he knows she won’t get pregnant. Let’s also point out that in the episode, it was 曹贵人 who advised 华妃 to tell her brother that the response to the Emperor’s question about his brothers should be to focus on comradery and clemency. I feel like 曹贵人 knows this is not what the emperor wants and is pushing 华妃 and 年羹尧 into making a mistake. We can’t be completely sure though because I can’t imagine 年羹尧 not having other people vet the answer as well but still, we can hypothesis that 曹贵人 is pushing them this way.


In any case – 甄嬛’s crew arrives at the island. Back in her own palace, the Empress is busy trying to maintain balance in the Imperial Harem but 华妃 is back to her old self. 华妃 goes so far as to not even go to the greetings anymore. The Empress is livid but she’s powerless to do anything right now.



It’s been about a month or two. Fall is right around the corner. 沈眉庄 finally hears about 甄嬛’s predicament. Her maid asks if they should send anything over. 沈眉庄 quickly shuts her down – 甄嬛 used to have everything, what do we have to send her? Aw, it looks like their friendship is over. Haha but in the next scene, the Emperor’s head Eunuch 苏培盛 arrives onto the island to visit 甄嬛 bringing fall clothes and food from 沈眉庄. She’s all talk. She really does care about 甄嬛. 


The Eunuch 苏培盛 doesn’t tarry for long but does give 甄嬛 some critical pieces of information. The Emperor will return to the Forbidden Palace the next day. He was worried that she’ll get caught in the firestorm which is why she was sent to the island. This confirms that both the Emperor and 甄嬛 knew this banishment was just a farce. Unfortunately, 安陵容, who is hiding behind some rocks, also overhears this information. 


Back at the Imperial Palace, the 17th Prince who we haven’t seen in awhile rushes in with a secret memo. The 10th Prince is trying to persuade 年羹尧 to join him in a coup to depose the Emperor 雍正 and install the currently imprisoned 8th Prince as the Emperor. With this information, the Emperor can now act against the 10th Prince. He orders his assassins and generals to surround the 10th Prince’s residence. The Empress Dowager, who is unwell, requests the company of the 10th Prince’s wife and son,and with his daughter who is already with the Empress Dowager, to take care of the Empress Dowager. If you couldn’t tell, this is to hold the 10th prince’s family hostage so that the 10th prince can’t do anything crazy. 





Later that evening, the 17th Prince delivers the good news to the Emperor. The 10th Prince, 敦亲王, has been captured. With him captured, it’s only a matter of time before 年羹尧 and his faction falls. 


At the island, 甄嬛 spots a small boat with Imperial guards heading towards them. She has no idea if the Emperor succeeded or not so she’s prepared with a small dagger. If the Emperor failed in stopping the coup, she’ll follow him to the next world. Luckily, it doesn’t resort to them. The eunuch delivers the good news that the Emperor has succeeded. 甄嬛 is to be welcomed back into the Imperial Harem. Yay! 甄嬛 is absolutely relieved.


Once the 甄嬛 is safely back at the Imperial Harem, the Emperor visits her to share the news of his successful capture of the 10th Prince and his punishment for the 8th and 9th Prince. We went over the fate of these two princes in the last episode. The 8th and 9th Prince are imprisoned in the Imperial Clan Court. Their names are changed to 阿其那 and 塞思黑 on an Manchu – dogs and pigs. 


The timing of these are a bit off. In history, the 10th Prince was stripped of his titles in 1724 while the 8th and 9th Prince were imprisoned in 1726. 甄嬛 says she’s been in the palace for 3 years so I think we’re at least around 1725/1726. 



安陵容 returns to the Imperial Court and pays a visit to the Empress. Let’s take a moment to applaud the Empress and her intuition. She knew there was something off with 甄嬛’s banishment. She had a hunch that it would be better to send 安陵容 off with 甄嬛 and she was right. The Emperor now remembers 安陵容 for her devotion to her sister. We as the audience learn that the Empress needs 安陵容 to be her eyes and ears. She cannot allow 甄嬛 to become the next 华妃. That’s too dangerous for the Empress. How can she continue to build her faction? Why more women of course!


The episode ends with the Empress discussing, well demanding for 甄嬛 to be ok with new ladies entering the Imperial Harem. The emperor doesn’t want to do a court selection so they’ve decided to include women from families who were helpful in resolving this coup.


Episode 40 continues with the consequences of the attempted coup by the 10th prince. The 10th prince and his family aren’t going to be killed, but will be reduced as regular citizens – no longer related to the royal family. 甄嬛 is a little sad for the wife and kids but what can you do.


As they’re having this discussion, a docket from 年羹尧 arrives. What happens here is actually based on historical fact. The dockets contain pleasantries for the emperor because astrologists saw fortunate signs in the heavens which I guess represent good things for the empire. So obviously, all of the officials and ministers are kissing the emperor’s butt and saying nice things.


BUT – 年羹尧’s greeting changed the order of meaning for a commendable phrase which severely angered the emperor. 


We generally save this analysis for the end of the episode but we can discuss now so that it makes sense for the rest of the episode. 


So there’s this phrase that originally reads: 朝乾夕惕 but 年羹尧wrote it instead 夕惕朝乾。Essentially, the first 2 words are flipped with the last 2 words. On the face of this, it’s not the biggest deal. Perhaps 年羹尧 made a simple mistake. However, the emperor doesn’t take it that way and gets incredibly angry.  Why?


The original phrase 朝乾夕惕 originates from 周易 or, the  Book of Changes which is a book on divination and the oldest of Chinese classics. The words mean that during the day you work really hard, at night, you reflect and be thoughtful of what happened during the day. The original text is to revere the Emperor. By flipping the words, the meaning changes. It means that the Emperor is not worthy of the reverence and respect or the thoughtfulness. 


That’s why this pisses off the Emperor because 年羹尧 is basically stating that the emperor is not to be respected and does not deign to give the original phrase to the emperor. This is the straw that breaks the camel’s back and truly angers the emperor. The docket is sent back without any response to 年羹尧.  



华妃 hears this news that 年羹尧 sent this wrong phrase. Initially she’s like, oh it’s not a big deal, it’s an honest mistake. But upon hearing that the docket was sent back without any response, 华妃 is shocked. 


This is also another prime example of the difference between 华妃 and 甄嬛’s intelligence or at least education. 甄嬛 was the one to first see the language in the docket. She immediately recognized that there was something wrong and said she didn’t want the Emperor to see the language because she knows it’s disrespectful and will make the emperor angry. 华妃, on the other hand, doesn’t see anything wrong with it. She only recognizes that something is wrong when the docket is returned. 


In court – many ministers and court officials are discussing all of 年羹尧’s faults. The emperor decrees that anyone part of 年羹尧’s group who continues to work with him in corrupt manners will be severely punished.


年羹尧 sends over documents to justify himself but it just makes the emperor even more angry because 年羹尧 essentially writes all of his accomplishments. These accomplishments are to suggest that without him, the emperor can’t survive with him.  As a result, the emperor demotes 年羹尧 to a lowly position.


华妃 is very upset at hearing this news and tries to see the emperor but the emperor ignores her in favor of, surprisingly 安陵容. 


How the tides have turned. 华妃’s family is now in deep trouble.



With the court moving against 年羹尧, the next stop is to get rid of 华妃 in the imperial harem. The news has spread of 年羹尧’s demotion which is being discussed during a court greeting at the Empress’s palace. 曹贵人 takes this opportunity to betray 华妃. She confesses all of the horrible things 华妃 has done, that she, 曹贵人, is aware of which includes killing the concubine,noble lady 淳 who discovered 华妃 taking money from people trying to buy ministerial positions in court. All of the ladies are shocked at hearing all of this being exposed. The empress summons 华妃 to her palace. When she arrives, 华妃 kicks and hits 曹贵人 for betraying her. The empress is really smart and exclaims – look! 华妃 and 曹贵人 are incredibly close so everything 曹贵人 has said must be true! 


At this point it’s pretty sad for 华妃。 Everything is getting exposed and no one is doing anything to protect or stand up for 华妃。 It just shows how many people she’s pissed off, neglected, and hurt over the years.  The empress orders all of the servants in 华妃’s palace be interrogated (which probably means tortured). Her brother has now also been demoted to a guard at Hang Zhou city’s gate. His and his children’s titles stripped as well. 



After days of interrogation, the emperor is in the imperial harem with the empress and the rest of the ladies of the imperial harem to discuss the results of the interrogation. The servants have described everything from pushing 沈眉庄 into the water to try to kill her, 沈眉庄’s fake pregnancy scandal, giving her plague infested dishware to try to kill her, buying ministerial positions at court, hurting Princess 温宜 to try to hurt 甄嬛, poisoning 甄嬛 and many others. Honestly, it’s been so many episodes I can’t even remember all the terrible things 华妃 has done. 


The emperor doesn’t seem too surprised. He’s upset but is rather calm in the face of everything he’s hearing. He orders that everyone who was close to 华妃 is to be beaten to death. 华妃 is to be demoted to a 2nd class female attendant, and her title removed. She is now to be known as 年答应。 


The emperor agrees on some other matters as well. They are to have another manchu lady come into the palace to serve the emperor as a noble lady. She comes from a family that helped bring down 年羹尧。 颂芝, 年答应’s former maid turned concubine is now to be a maid again. Surprised she’s not beaten to death but there you have it.



I love this next part. The dumb 齐妃 chimes in that 曹贵人 was also very close to 年答应。Obviously, trying to get 曹贵人 to be punished as well. But, 曹贵人 tearfully responds that she had to keep her mouth shut and do 年答应’s bidding because 年答应 at the time was incredibly powerful. If 曹贵人 didn’t help 年答应, her daughter would not be protected.


It’s hilarious because 齐妃 is looking all smug trying to bring 曹贵人 down but the Emperor is staring at 齐妃 like she’s an idiot. 齐妃 knows she somehow annoyed the emperor so she looks down. I mean, 曹贵人 has a clear defense. It just makes everyone look bad if they punish her, a mother trying to protect her child since everyone knows how difficult 华妃, now 年答应 can be. 甄嬛 comes to the rescue which results in 曹贵人 not only avoiding punishment, but actually getting promoted to 嫔, or Imperial Concubine and is given the title of 襄, which means “helpful”. 齐妃 looks very disheartened and abashed now and shrinks in her chair. What an idiot.


With that, the once powerful 华妃 is now no more than just a lowly 答应。



Her brother, cannot give up his fame or power. He continues to disrespect the emperor even as a gate guard. The Emperor is livid that 年羹尧 wore his 黄马褂 or Yellow Imperial Jacket while on duty. Traditionally, only precious few are allowed to wear a Yellow Imperial Jacket. The Emperor mostly gifts them to people for their civil or military merit. By wearing the jacket, 年羹尧 is trying to remind the people of 杭州 of his past military glory and how he helped stabilize the empire. He’s trying to make the Emperor seem ungrateful in the eyes of people of 杭州. 年羹尧’s actions angered the entire court as well as the emperor. 


This event doesn’t happen in history and the whole 黄马褂 or Yellow Imperial Jacket may be an anachronism. There were no records of Emperors gifting these 黄马褂 or the Yellow Imperial Jacket as rewards or for recognitions until the 19th century. Before that in the Qing Dynasty, the only people who could wear the jacket were Imperial guards, and only guards on active duty. The Emperor might gift these jackets at a hunting party but that was about it.



Back to 年羹尧 and court. The emperor says that ministers have detailed 92 different instances where 年羹尧 and his faction were disrespectful, overstepped, or lied etc to the emperor. This is actually true and noted in the history books. As a result, 年羹尧 is allowed to commit suicide. His eldest son is to be beheaded. All male family members over the age of 15 are to be exiled. The year in history is 1726. The once powerful 年羹尧, his family, and faction have been dismantled.


A couple of things we didn’t discuss in the episode: 

  1. 沈眉庄 and 甄嬛 have made up and are close friends now. Both of them are still pretty upset that 年答应 wasn’t killed, just demoted. 
  2. 甄嬛’s father was promoted for helping with getting rid of 年羹尧. Her mother was also allowed to come back into the palace again to see 甄嬛.


After 40 some episodes – the powerful 年羹尧 is no longer.



Look back to episode 1. In the first couple of scenes we saw 年羹尧 and another gentleman, 隆科多 walking out of the palace after court. Episode 1 showed us who are the key players in court and in the drama. 年羹尧 has been defeated. Next up, we will see what happens to 隆科多。 


Again, that’s why this drama is great. The seeds are sown way back in the beginning of the drama but you have to go back to watch it multiple times to catch everything. 


年羹尧 is gone but her sister is still in the Imperial Harem. What will happen to her? Who’s the new noble lady that will enter into the Imperial Harem? We’ll find out in the next episodes!


Thank you so much for joining us this episode. Again, if you have any questions or comments, please email us at Chasingdramaspodcast@gmail.com . We’ll catch you next time.




Welcome to Chasing Dramas! This is the podcast that discusses Chinese history and culture through Chinese TV shows! I’m Cathy and I’m Karen. Today, We’re going to talk about episode 37+38 of 后宫甄嬛传, Empresses in the Palace . These 2 episodes are setting up the stage for hua fei’s last ditch effort to maintain power.


The drama is currently available on Youtube if you would like to rewatch and or follow along. If you’re new to the podcast, please start with our intro to the podcast and intro to the drama episodes. If you have any comments/questions, please email us at chasingdramaspodcast@gmail.com. Share this podcast with your friends!



Episode 37 starts off with 甄嬛 meeting 曹贵人 and her daughter Princess 温宜 in the gardens. 温宜 is such a cutie pie! Definitely the cutest of the kids in the show, at least that’s my personal opinion.


曹贵人 is very astute in seeing that 华妃 will only be in favor for a short while. The two ladies discuss their plan going forward. 曹贵人 will continue to pretend to be an ally of 华妃 while in reality, she’s now team 甄嬛. Essentially she’ll be a spy. In order to strengthen this relationship, 甄嬛 says that she’ll be Princess 温宜’s what you would call godmother so that their incentives are aligned. 


甄嬛’s next stop is to see her friend 沈眉庄 who is annoyed at her, as we discussed in the last episode, for being the one to ask the Emperor to promote 年妃 back to 华妃。 It’s understandable that 沈眉庄 is upset. 华妃 was the one who caused her to catch the plague and the fake pregnancy scandal was because of 华妃.  甄嬛 tries to explain her point of view in that 华妃 returning to favor was inevitable. She’d rather be the one to make this ask so that the Emperor will feel guilty. In this conversation we find out that their friendship growing up shaped what 沈眉庄does or likes in order to not be second to 甄嬛. I guess that shows her competitive nature. 沈眉庄 is also sad that 甄嬛 seems to have everything – Doctor 温实初 ‘s love, the Emperor’s affection, and her family’s growing position, while she has nothing. 沈眉庄 is showing a bit of jealousy towards 甄嬛. 


Pay attention to what she says first – Doctor 温实初 ‘s love! Not the Emperor’s affection. This is a hint of who is more important to her!


Both sides have their own perspective and unfortunately neither will back down. 甄嬛 says her goodbyes and says she won’t bother 沈眉庄 until she has succeeded. 



The people that reap the biggest reward from the divide between 沈眉庄 and 甄嬛 are none other than the Empress and 安陵容。Both of them discuss that the 沈眉庄 and 甄嬛  cannot be allowed to grow their power within imperial harem and especially cannot be as powerful as 华妃. That’s perhaps why 安陵容 was trying to sow discord between the two. 安陵容 is sooooo fake.  


安陵容’s inferiority complex is on full display in this episode. She can’t wait to “gift” 甄嬛’s mother items from the palace. She fully admits this! She even says, it’s my time to gift people things. Sure honey. This again, is her worldview. She didn’t give any thanks about spending time with 甄嬛’s family – she just said, I felt beneath them, now look at me.



At least in this episode, 沈眉庄 completely calls 安陵容 out on it. We have a scene later in the episode where 安陵容 and 沈眉庄 are talking again. This is such an awesome scene. You just want to say “Yas girl”. 沈眉庄 totally saw through the fact that 安陵容 used her maid to tell her, 沈眉庄 about 甄嬛 asking to reinstate 华妃 in an effort to make 沈眉庄 mad at 甄嬛. 沈眉庄 knows that 安陵容may not be as straightforward or good either. 沈眉庄 tells 安陵容 to stop scheming as well. The entire time 安陵容 is clenching her fists because she is being told off. She holds her tongue and again plays up the whole I’m innocent act. I’m really happy 沈眉庄 sees through her act. FINALLY, someone does. 


安陵容 doubles down on her act to be good friends, or what you would call “sisters” with 甄嬛. She makes some medicine for 甄嬛 with some very expensive ingredients and even goes so far as to cut her own wrist to use blood as an ingredient in the medicine. She brings the medicine over to 甄嬛 who notices the injury.  安陵容 goes on to say a whole speech about how she feels that her and 甄嬛 have lost touch as friends. 安陵容 starts crying and hoping that the two of them can remain really close friends. She cuts herself in an effort to gain 甄嬛’s trust or at least to show that she is trustworthy.


BUT YAY, 甄嬛 doesn’t even drink the medicine. She has gotten much smarter. She knows to not drink anything not given to her by the imperial doctor 温实初 so she asks her maid to dump out the medicine. 甄嬛 says that it doesn’t really matter if 安陵容 did cut herself, her trustworthiness is not reflected in these types of acts. Clearly, 甄嬛 is also skeptical of how earnest 安陵容 is. 


But hello, what else are you using from her??



I’m condensing the episode a bit but there are 2 other items to talk about.


  1. 甄嬛’s younger sister, 玉娆, and her mother, are able to come into the palace and visit 甄嬛. This is the first time that they are able to visit 甄嬛 in the palace since she became a concubine. They have a lovely chat and 甄嬛 is presented with the opportunity to share at least briefly that she’s having a difficult time in the palace. Her mother though, says that 甄嬛 should be careful what she says in the palace as one never knows who might be watching or hearing. It’s a heartwarming scene to see the family together. 甄嬛’s mother does notice that 浣碧, one of 甄嬛’s maids is wearing really nice clothes. 甄嬛 says she treats her maids like her sisters to which zhenhuan’s mother says that they may be treated like sisters, but they’re not actual sisters. Welp I guess at this point, she doesn’t know that 浣碧 is indeed 甄嬛’s half sister. I guess 甄嬛 and zhenhuan’s father are keeping the mother in the dark about that. 甄嬛 also seems to be treating 浣碧 pretty well with the nice clothes at least. There’s not much else to say for this scene other than a lot of foreshadowing of what’s to come in the future. We’ll see 玉娆, 甄嬛’s sister in future episodes. They sit for just a  short while before leaving. They don’t want to give the optics that the family is using the emperor’s favor to stay in the palace too long. This contrasts heavily with 华妃’s family who often visits her in the palace apparently. See – with just one small detail, you see the difference between 甄嬛 and 华妃 and who will last longer in the imperial harem.


Side note: the dub for 玉娆, her sister is the same as the bubbly 淳贵人 who died. I was very confused the first time i heard this.


  1. The second item to talk about is the newfound interest the emperor starts to have in 华妃’s main maid, 颂职。One day the emperor stops by for a meal and takes note of the maid after she is able to answer a question very well. The emperor compliments her a couple of times which…immediately causes 华妃 to be jealous but there’s not a whole lot 华妃 can do. That evening, 华妃 gets very mad at 颂芝。She wants to kick her out of the palace. But after being calmed down by her main eunuch, 颂芝 is left alone.



This interest is continued into the next episode, episode 38. 


This episode focuses on the Emperor’s last straw with 年羹尧 and 华妃’s effort to maintain her family’s power plus her own position in the imperial harem.


From the start of this episode, the emperor receives many reports of the corrupt and overreaching actions by 年羹尧 and his underlings. This puts the Emperor in a dour mood but is still thinking about what to do. Who’s delivering the reports? 甄嬛’s father.


华妃 hears the news that her brother is being negatively discussed in front of the emperor. She’s worried that no one can help put in a good word for 华妃 and her family because she herself has been neglected by the emperor.  I think it’s funny because you see in her dialogue how naive she still is and that she is generally still a terrible person.


For 1, she says her brother’s underlings were being reported for embezzlement and bribery. She doesn’t say this is wrong, she just says “how can these people be so careless”. Clearly, she doesn’t care about the fact that corruption is bad, she is just mad they got caught.


Second, she doesn’t realize the gravity of the situation her brother is in. She’s still wondering if the Emperor is going to be truly mad at her brother or if this will be like previous times where the emperor sided with her brother because this is just his underlings acting poorly. She has absolutely no idea that the emperor is already really done with her entire family. 



But to try to protect her family and have someone be able to speak to the Emperor on her behalf, 华妃 begrudgingly decides to send 颂芝 over to emperor for tea…


颂芝 stays the night…and becomes a concubine.


‘Pause’ – can we just say – WOW emperor. WOW.   


Massive eye roll. I believe he did this on purpose! Why else would he pay attention to 颂芝 in episode 37? She’s been around forever! 


华妃 is understandably very saddened by this all evening. The next day 颂芝 returns to 华妃’s place to continue to serve her. She tells 华妃 that she’s been given the position of Second Class Female attendant, which is a step up from “Chosen Maid”, or 管女子 which is what generally maids are promoted to after becoming a concubine. 华妃 has to suppress her discontent. I mean, she is the one who allowed 颂芝 to stay the night.


At least this step indeed pushes the emperor to come see 华妃 where before he was avoiding her. That at least means her move was a success. The emperor stops by for a meal to see this new concubine which allows 华妃 to discuss her brother. However, the emperor tells her that she shouldn’t be discussing such matters.



 This promotion, of sorts, gets discussed by 曹贵人 and 甄嬛. 曹贵人 explains that 华妃 has been meaning to develop additional allies in the imperial harem to help her strengthen her position but doesn’t want to use someone who has a strong family background. Thus, she picked her trusted maid. 甄嬛 asks 曹贵人 if she thinks 颂芝 is going to be a threat.


曹贵人 though, is rather direct and says that 华妃 was too hasty in this decision. 颂芝 is too afraid of 华妃 which means she will not be too much of a threat. 甄嬛 is pretty funny at this point because she says that she doesn’t even deign to take action against 颂芝. I guess 甄嬛 sees 颂芝 as a level 1 opponent. Not someone she has to actually worry about to endanger her current position and status. 


The next scene is pretty funny. The ladies have all moved to the summer palace 圆明园 earlier in the episode and now they are out on a walk. 甄嬛 is walking her her maid and bumps into 华妃, 颂芝, and 曹贵人 (who is pretending to be part of 华妃’s group). 华妃 saunters over to 甄嬛 and gloatingly asks whether 甄嬛 would see the day that she has favor again. 甄嬛 is nothing but respectful towards 华妃 with of course a slight tinge of sarcasm which annoys 华妃. Little does 华妃 know that 甄嬛 is the whole reason why she has returned to favor. It’s moments like these that showcase the difference in intelligence levels between the two women. I do appreciate that now 甄嬛 is no longer meek or scared of 华妃 but rather, she stands her ground. 颂芝 tries to stick up for 华妃 and humiliate 甄嬛 by insulting her but 甄嬛 is able to return the jabs. 曹贵人 steps in to calm the situation and diverts the ladies away from each other. Still, an interesting and fun scene.


Little does 华妃 know that in court, there are many, many dissenters against her brother 年羹尧. At this point, 皇上, the emperor is discussing at court with a select group of ministers the negative things being said about 年羹尧。 



The Emperor brings up an important topic that he’s discussed with the 年羹尧 and wants to here from the ministers in front of him. The topic at hand is the emperor’s 8th brother and 9th brother. This is a touchy subject. These 2 brothers are part of the infamous coup where 9 brothers all vyed for the throne or the Nine Lords War. The 8th brother and 9th brother were on the losing side. They are currently imprisoned in 宗人府 or Imperial Clan Court. Apparently, these 2 have not been remorseful while in isolation. The emperor asks a bunch of his ministers what to do about these 2 brothers. Some say to be lenient. Others say to be harsh and punish them. Faction lines have been drawn based on their answers. 


华妃 discusses this with 曹贵人 because her brother, 年羹尧 has been asked what his suggestion is by the Emperor. They are all worried about this answer because it could imply something bigger to the Emperor given all of the negative information coming out about 年羹尧。 华妃 asks 曹贵人 what should be the response to the emperor on this topic so it doesn’t hurt 年羹尧 。



曹贵人, the shrewd one, recommends that 年羹尧 focus on brotherly love and past merits. She tells 华妃 that mentioning these things will appease the emperor and also remind him of the valuable things 年羹尧 has done for the emperor. 华妃 is convinced by 曹贵人 that this is the correct move.


[side musings] – now that 华妃 is back in favor, 曹贵人’s hairstyle and clothes are much simpler again. She knows she can’t wear anything too attractive in front of 华妃.]


Everyone knows 华妃 is on her last legs except for her. 甄嬛 even makes a big show of jealousy about 颂芝 at an evening gathering with 曹贵人 and 欣常在。I find the next scene hilarious – 颂芝 is with the Emperor trying to discuss politics or more specifically 年羹尧. I love the eye roll the Emperor gives when she leans on him. In this situation, even the Emperor has to um … pretend?



Is it me or does the Emperor’s wig also seem off in these two episodes? It seems a bit higher on his scalp?



The episode ends with 华妃 gloating to 曹贵人 that her brother seems to have gotten a reprieve from the Emperor. With some goading by 曹贵人, 华妃 is back to relishing 甄嬛’s seeming lack of favor. Poor girl – you have no idea what’s coming for you.



Phew – Let’s get into our analysis – we did most of it in our recap. These two episodes focus a bit more on the Imperial Court so let’s talk about politics.


In Episode 38, the Emperor voices his displeasure of his younger brothers, the 8th Prince 胤禩 and the 9th prince 胤禟. That’s their given names. Remember way back in episode 2, we discussed how everyone throughout the Empire had to change their names if any part of their name sounded like the Emperor’s name? That’s why here, they are referred to as 允禩 for the 8th Prince and 允禟 for the 9th Prince.


These two princes are imprisoned for their involvement in the Nine Lords War. There were several factions including the Crown Prince’s Party, the 8th Lord Party, the 14th Lord Party, and finally the 4th Lord Party. The 4th Lord won and is now our Emperor 雍正。


Let’s talk about the 8th Prince. Born in 1681, he was a strapping young lad who was promoted to 贝勒 or a Prince of the 3rd Rank or Noble Lord at only 17. The youngest of all of Emperor 康熙’s children at the time. This prince, 允禩, was always ambitious. There was a Crown Prince at the time but his position wasn’t stable. In 1712, the Crown Prince or the 2nd Prince was finally stripped of his titles and demoted, no longer posing a threat for the throne. The 8th Prince tried to seize his opportunity. I mean, throughout the years, he was constantly building his own faction, which I think was his undoing. He was too obvious. The Emperor was still alive and healthy. He could very much see what his sons were up to. The 4th Prince or our current Emperor was much more subdued in building his own faction


One specific incident in 1714 dashed all hopes for the 8th Prince’s bid for the throne. On a tour of Jehol Province (热河) or modern day 东北 Province, the 8th Prince was supposed to travel with his father as a member of the Imperial retinue. However, he requested leave so that he could visit his mother’s grave. For his absence, he sent two eagles as gifts to the Emperor. Unfortunately when the Emperor received them, the eagles were feeble and ailing. This enraged the Emperor. To the Emperor, the dying eagles symbolized the 8th prince’s desire for himself to die. The 8th prince was admonished in front of court – the emperor even went on to say we are no longer father and son. The Emperor also cut off all of the 8th Prince’s salary. 


Seeing that his chances for the throne were gone, the 8th prince steered his faction towards the 14th Prince 胤提. Who is he? Why, he’s our current emperor’s blood brother! This faction now included the 14th Prince, the 8th Prince, the 9th Prince, the 10th Prince, and many other court officials and generals. It came down to the wire – people were waiting with bated breath at Emperor 康熙’s bedside – the successor the 4th Prince.


In history, the 8th Prince wasn’t immediately thrown into prison but his faction, along with all of the other factions were slowly destroyed. The 8th Prince was imprisoned in the Imperial Clan Court in 1726 – 4 years into the reign of Emperor YongZheng. He died there shortly after. The 9th Prince was also imprisoned and died in 1726.


In the drama, I can’t tell if the timing is exactly right. 甄嬛 has been in the palace for at least 2 years because we’ve seen two winters. This is a 3rd summer so I think it adds up.


This is just a tiny snippet of what actually happened during the Nine Lords War or 九龙夺嫡, but this provides some context for the Emperor, 雍正’s actions in this episode. He cannot show mercy even to his brothers – they plotted against him. This is alway why he is so wary of 年羹尧 and his faction.


That’s it for today! The chess pieces are in motion! The traps are laid! We’ll have to see who survives!





Welcome to Chasing Dramas! This is the podcast that discusses Chinese history and culture through Chinese TV shows! I’m Cathy and I’m Karen. Today we will discuss episode 36  of 后宫甄嬛传, Empresses in the Palace. 


The drama is currently available on Youtube if you would like to rewatch and or follow along. If you’re new to the podcast, please start with our intro to the podcast and intro to the drama episodes. If you have any comments/questions, please email us at chasingdramaspodcast@gmail.com. Share this podcast with your friends!



In the last episode, the Emperor had to deal with some pressing court matters involving his brother the 10th Prince that were resolved with some unconventional methods suggested by the main character 甄嬛. 甄嬛 acquired a new ally and is starting to scheme against everyone. Let’s start off from here.


甄嬛 gets word that the Emperor is furious again at the 10th Prince 敦亲王 so she goes to see him. More like she’s been called by the eunuchs because they have no idea what to do. This time the 10th Prince requested for his long deceased mother Noble Consort 温僖 to be granted the title of Noble Dowager Consort which is a promotion and to be re-interred in the Royal Mausoleum with the other consorts. Unfortunately, this 温僖贵妃 died young and had a falling out with the previous Emperor 康熙. That emperor even decreed that she would not be interred into the Royal Mausoleum. 


This puts our current Emperor in a bind. By agreeing to the 10th Prince’s demands, he can appease the military generals but this also represents a direct action against his father. An act against filial piety. As the Emperor, who should be the model of filial piety, this puts him in a vulnerable state. 


The more frustrating part is that as soon as the 10th prince sent his request, 年妃’s brother, the general 年羹尧 also delivered a request for the same thing. The Emperor is livid – here is proof that his court ministers and generals are forming factions right in front of him. This request is also an affront to his own mother the Empress Dowager. How dare the 10th Prince request for a dead woman to be promoted when the living dowagers in the Imperial Harem haven’t?


Once again, 甄嬛 analyzes this predicament. She asks if now is the time to “take down” 年羹尧. The Emperor cannot guarantee anything. He admits he only has 40% confidence that he can take down 年羹尧 and his faction. In a rare confession, he openly admits that even the Emperor is subject to different factions in court and the imperial harem.


甄嬛 consoles the Emperor, using the stories of the Han Emperors 汉景帝 and 汉光武帝 to tell the Emperor that these Emperors had to make tough choices but they were rewarded with prosperous empires. Our Emperor needs to make these sacrifices for long term stability.



So, 甄嬛 shares her plan. The Emperor will indeed gift the 10th prince’s mother with the title of Noble Dowager Consort and reinterr her to the royal mausoleum BUT not only will she be promoted, the other dowagers currently living in the Imperial Harem will also be granted additional titles. The Emperor will use the excuse of praying for his mother the Empress Dowager to justify these promotions. Thus, the 10th prince will get what he wants, but it won’t be AS disrespectful as the 10th prince originally wanted. With this plan, the Emperor seems mollified. 


Man – his facial expressions…he doesn’t seem that angry?


The story about the 10th Prince’s mother is also a bug. In history, 温僖贵妃 came from an extremely prominent Manchu family, was sister to the 2nd Empress and was favored by the Emperor Kang Xi. I mean, she had the title of Noble Consort. Unfortunately she died young at the age of 34. I couldn’t find records of a fall from disgrace so this part isn’t accurate to history. Although, this might be because in the novel, the equivalent of this character did fall out of favor with the Emperor’s father.


Outside, the Empress has gotten wind of the Emperor’s fury and comes to check. But, upon hearing that 甄嬛 has already arrived, she decides to visit the Empress Dowager instead…I don’t understand why…We’ll see about that in a bit


Back at the Emperor’s study, 甄嬛 makes a really surprising move. She requests for the Emperor to restore 年妃’s title to 华妃. Now we all know that 甄嬛 hates 年妃 because she’s arrogant, a terrible person in general and also contributed to her miscarriage.  The Emperor is surprised by this request. He acknowledges that this move must have been tough for her but agrees to make this move. He finally promises that he will get his revenge for their child.


Next up, the Emperor goes to his mother, the Empress Dowager’s palace, to discuss his thoughts about the various promotions. The Empress Dowager is pretty understanding and doesn’t care about these titles. Do whatever you need to get done at court. In this scene, all of the layers are peeled away. This mother and son pair have a frank discussion about their worries about 年羹尧 and why they cannot allow 年妃 to have a child. We’ve explained this before but the Empress Dowager says this here. Once she does, the child’s uncle, 年羹尧 will attempt to seize power. At that point, none of them, talking about the emperor and the empress dowager, will survive. The Empress Dowager now pushes the Emperor to see 年妃, saying that this will be better for the empire. 



Another incredibly important point that the Empress Dowager brings up here is that her and the Emperor forced 年妃 to have the miscarriage all those years ago. But 10 episodes ago, 年妃 said that it was 端妃, another concubine in the palace, who gave her some medicine that ultimately caused her miscarriage. 年妃 then forced 端妃 to drink something that caused her infertility. What we discover here is that the Empress Dowager and the Emperor probably slipped miscarriage inducing medicine into the bowl of medicine that 端妃 gave to 年妃。 端妃 was made into a scapegoat so no one would suspect the Emperor or anyone else. Only 端妃 knows she was framed. I mentioned back in episode 26 that 端妃 was somehow protected by the Emperor and the Empress Dowager. It’s because both of them know 端妃 is getting framed that she is ultimately safe, even though she is sick and lives in a rather destitute situation. I think that’s also why they treat 端妃 kindly enough because they know she’s being abused by 年妃。



At her own palace of 翊坤宫, the out of favor 年妃 is ecstatic to see the Emperor finally arrive at her palace. She’s beside herself with joy. I do feel for her right here. She truly loves him. Pay attention though to what she is spending her time with before the Emperor arrives. She is sitting in front of a fragrance burner, breathing in what I am assuming is the fragrance gifted by the Emperor but is the cause of her infertility. She has absolutely no idea that her most prized possession is the item that causes her so much pain. Anyways, the Emperor spends the night with 华妃. She’s now…back on top.


The next day, at the Empress’s palace for the customary court greeting, 年妃 finally arrives to greet the Empress. It’s interesting that we only see 甄嬛 here. True to form, 年妃 immediately starts – how should I say this – taunting 甄嬛?Poor girl, 年妃 is  still in her own bubble. She doesn’t think about why this sudden change of heart from the Emperor and only focuses on basking in her attention.


Little does she know that the Emperor summoned 甄嬛’s father who was recently promoted and has been working with other officials to gather evidence against 年羹尧. The Emperor offers him the chance to see his daughter but he politely declines. Smart man – I think this was a test for 甄嬛’s father. The Emperor does not want the Imperial Court to get too close to the Imperial Harem, even if it’s your own daughter, see 年羹尧 and 年妃。


I think the next scene is a great juxtaposition of that. 年妃 has just been restored to favor and her maid comes in to announce the myriad of people who would like to offer “gifts”.  年妃 has at least some caution this time to tell her maids to be more discrete but she only sees her brothers fortunes.



Not long after, an official edict is declared throughout the Imperial Harem. 年妃 is to be restored to her previous title of 华妃。No one is surprised, least of all the Empress. Note that she’s only restored to 妃 or Consort, not 贵妃 or Noble Consort. We will now refer to her as 华妃 again. There is a very interesting conversation happening between the Empress and 甄嬛 when this edict comes through. 甄嬛 starts the scene by noting that the Empress never uses any type of fragrance but never knows why she doesn’t use fragrances or scents. The Empress kindly responds that every woman likes to use fragrance but the emperor wants to cut these expenditures. However, seeing that 年妃 has her lavish 欢宜香, it’s difficult to enforce this rule so she herself doesn’t use fragrance to cut some of that cost. 甄嬛 is like that’s really thoughtful and kind of you.


This is a pretty innocuous and simple conversation. On the face of it, it sounds like the Empress is indeed trying to be kind. BUT, I think the Empress MUST know what’s in that fragrance. In previous episodes we heard her say that she does not like using any type of fragrance that’s not natural from fruits or flowers because you never know what’s been included in man-made fragrances. I think it’s really interesting this scene is in this drama. It showcases to us how easily the Empress is able to make herself look good in front of others even though her real motives are quite different.



Ugh, we now have a scene with 安陵容 and 沈眉庄. We haven’t seen the two of them alone in a while. Once again, 安陵容 tries to play up her victim persona. They discuss the reinstatement of 华妃. 沈眉庄 is extremely disappointed but she acknowledges that she doesn’t spend much time with the Emperor anymore so has little say in the matter. She turns to 安陵容 and says – but you aren’t the same. 


Listen to what 安陵容 says – “Are you blaming me for 华妃’s re-instatement?” Once again, faulting herself. In a one-two punch, 安陵容’s maid chimes in to say, don’t blame her, blame 莞嫔, or 甄嬛. She was the one who suggested this to the Emperor. Ugh – look at 安陵容, she glances at 沈眉庄 to get her reaction and then doubles down to “question” her maid about the validity of the news. 安陵容 tries to sow some doubt in 沈眉庄’s mind but I am so proud of 沈眉庄. She’s mad at the news but she says, I won’t believe anything until I hear it directly from 甄嬛. That’s true friendship! 沈眉庄 knows that 安陵容 is purposefully telling her this information to get her mad so she doesn’t try to fall for it.


Ok but then immediately she says, if 甄嬛 really was the one who helped reinstate 华妃, then we are no longer friends. No! C’mon! Look at the bigger picture!



Next up –

甄嬛 goes to the Empress Dowager’s palace for a visit. Unsurprisingly, 沈眉庄 is also there. She’s been spending a lot of time with the Empress Dowager as she has decided that the Empress Dowager will be where she puts her time and effort in an attempt to stabilize her position in the imperial palace, especially since she does not want to go back to the Emperor. At first, the conversation is pretty tame.  After eating some hawthorn, the mood in the room immediately shifts. The Empress Dowager turns to 甄嬛 and reprimands her for interfering in court. She is of course referring to the 10th Prince’s request of promoting his mother at the beginning of the episode. The Empress Dowager notes that concubines are not to discuss or have any input in court matters.


We rarely see the Empress Dowager this angry. 甄嬛 immediately gets on her knees. She explains that the promotions of dowagers is a matter of the Imperial Harem. She dare not discuss anything about court. Her only selfish act was to ensure the health and longevity of the Emperor.  We discussed this before – women were not allowed to discuss matters of court. If someone really wanted to make a big deal out of this, 甄嬛 would be in big trouble. The Empress Dowager seems appeased by this answer.



Here though, let’s talk about what the Empress Dowager says. I’m curious to hear what you think. The Empress Dowager continues – here in the Imperial Harem, the Emperor is everything. When he’s alive, you all have something to live for. If he isn’t, the Empress will be fine. She will be the Empress Dowager. 曹贵人 at least has a daughter but for those concubines like you two, without children, you will just meet sad, lonely ends.


Then – the Empress Dowager drops a bombshell for 沈眉庄. She nonchalantly says – “I heard the idea to reinstate 华妃 was your idea?” 沈眉庄 is stunned. Obviously 甄嬛 did not tell her. 甄嬛 confesses i guess? She says – someone needed to do it. The circumstances meant that someone had to be “wronged?”


The Empress Dowager praises her for unselfishness but 沈眉庄 doesn’t see it this way. She storms out of the palace. The Empress Dowager gives 甄嬛 some advice now that they are alone. Being smart is a curse and a blessing, you need to figure how to balance your actions. Everything women do in the imperial harem will have an affect on court. Be cautious of what you do. 


The episode ends with 安陵容 hearing the news that 沈眉庄 stormed out of the Empress Dowager’s palace. She starts gloating because she achieved her goal. Let’s see if 沈眉庄 and 甄嬛’s friendship can survive this.


Phew – ok that was a lot.



Before we get to the analysis, I want to say that while yes, the Empress Dowager probably has eyes and ears everywhere, BUT I think that probably the Empress was the one to tell the Empress Dowager that 甄嬛 has been discussing court matters. Remember how earlier in the episode the Empress, 皇后, stopped by the Emperor’s study to see if there’s anything she can do to appease his anger but was told that 甄嬛 was already there? Her next stop was the Empress Dowager’s palace. I think that 皇后 probably went to say how 甄嬛 was in the study, thus tipping off the Empress Dowager that 甄嬛 may have been meddling in court affairs.


Ok. That’s that. On to the analysis.


There’s two stories for today both from the han dynasty. 甄嬛 briefly mentions them when trying to calm the Emperor at the beginning of the episode when dealing with the request from the 10th prince. Once again, 1 or 2 lines of dialogue from 甄嬛 equates to tons of research and discussion on our end. Let’s get to it!


The first is the story of 汉景帝 晁错 – what happened here?


汉景帝 was the 6th emperor of the Han dynasty. We have lots of stories from the Han dynasty. We have to thank the really great historians that were I guess promoted at that time for all these wonderful stories. 


During this time period of the Han Dynasty, brothers of the emperor or at least legacy royalty all had separate smaller kingdoms within the empire that they would rule. This meant that the central government where the emperor rules, has limited power to rule these kings and their smaller kingdoms. It got to a point where these smaller territories indeed became very powerful. This dude 晁错 was an imperial minister/politician who advised the Emperor. He recommended reducing the powers of these kings and removing some of their territories in order to increase and centralize power of the Emperor. The emperor accepted this recommendation and began removing territories from various lords/kings. This angered many of these kings which resulted unsurprisingly in 7 of them revolting against the Emperor. In order to try to appease these folks revolting against him, the Emperor decided to kill 晁错, the guy who made this recommendation. This sentence didn’t fully result in the emperor quelling the rebellion but one could say laid the groundwork for it. Indeed, the revolt only lasted 3 months and the Emperor claimed victory. He was able to reduce a lot of powers of the territorial lords and punished them for their revolt. 



The second is the story of 汉光武帝 or 刘秀. This piece of history is fascinating to me. He was the founder of the later Han dynasty and he is a 9th generation descendent of the 1st Han Emperor 刘邦. He was born in 5BC and lived until 57CE. By the time it got to his own generation, even though he was related to the renowned 1st Han emperor, he didn’t have any royal privileges. He was basically the same as a peasant. At this time, there was civil unrest due to the failure of the short lived 新 dynasty. After some back and forth, 刘秀 emerged as a claimant to the Han throne after his brother died. He married his childhood sweetheart 阴丽华. There’s a famous saying that 刘秀 said about her – 仕宦当作执金吾,娶妻当得阴丽华. 


If I had any job, I’d want to be a city lieutenant. If I want to marry any woman, it would be 阴丽华. That seems all lovey dovey right? It’s to say how much a husband loves his wife.


But unfortunately, real life was much more cruel. On the path towards the throne, 刘秀 was forced to marry another woman 郭圣通 for her family’s political sway. Like in so many stories, the original wife 阴丽华 was demoted to a concubine while 郭圣通 claimed the title of the official wife and eventually Empress when 刘秀 seized the throne. I won’t spoil the rest of the story if anyone wants to do a little research. There’s a great TV show starring 袁弘 and 林心如 about this Emperor called 秀丽江山. I thought it was decent.


Both stories again reinforce the point 甄嬛 was trying to make. The Emperor needs to make sacrifices for the sake of the Empire



Finally, let’s talk about the Empress Dowager


Here are a few questions to think about

Why reprimand 甄嬛 in front of 沈眉庄?

Do we really think she was going to punish 甄嬛? 



That’s that for today’s episode of Chasing Dramas! Let’s see how long 华妃’s favor can last. Honestly, after doing such in depth analysis on her at this point I find her attitude somewhat annoying? Like you need to calm down. No one is taking your shit anyone. You have no idea how many people are working to kill you and bring you down.


Anyways – if you have any questions or comments, please reach out to us at chasingdramaspodcast@gmail.com. We need to be better about our social media presence to get more people to listen but that’s something we’ll have to figure out. Thanks!




Welcome to Chasing Dramas! This is the podcast that discusses Chinese history and culture through Chinese TV shows! I’m Cathy and I’m Karen. Today we will discuss episode 35  of 后宫甄嬛传, Empresses in the Palace. 


The drama is currently available on Youtube for those of you who want to follow along. If you’re new to the podcast, please start with our intro to the podcast and intro to the drama episode.  If you have any comments/questions, please email us at chasingdramaspodcast@gmail.com.



Right off the bat, a lot of stuff is happening. In the last episode 甄嬛 is able to recapture the attention of the Emperor and is now back on top with his favor. All of the other ladies have to be more respectful of her now.


It’s the winter time. After a court greeting, our main character 甄嬛 sees two other concubines. 富察贵人 and 曹贵人。Two noble ladies. 曹贵人 has a young daughter and worked for the now demoted 年妃。 富察贵人 was one of the pair that humiliated 甄嬛 in episode 33 where she was slapped repeatedly and told to kneel outside.  Well, it’s time for 甄嬛 to get some revenge and develop a retaliation strategy against 年妃.


甄嬛 starts out with some small talk about the winter time. She then transitions to a story she remembered that happened in winter. After 甄嬛 tells this story, 富察贵人develops so much anxiety that she goes crazy. So what is this story?


I must apologize because I jumped the gun. We already described this story in Episode 26 since 华妃 now 年妃 mentioned it briefly but I will re-explain it here.


甄嬛 describes in detail that in winter, she’s reminded of the famous story of 人彘 between 吕后 and 戚夫人. Who are these characters and what story is powerful enough to cause 富察贵人 to go crazy? Empress 吕 is the famous wife and Empress of Han Dynasty’s first Emperor, 刘邦. This Empress 吕 was very powerful and well connected. Unfortunately, her husband, did not like her a whole lot after they reached middle age. He instead became infatuated with this other woman, Lady 戚, who was young and beautiful compared to the older Empress 吕。 This young Lady 戚, as 甄嬛 goes on to describe, offended Empress 吕。But, when their husband died, and Empress 吕 became Empress Dowager 吕,official mother of the new emperor and regent. This means she gets much more power. Remember how she was disrespected by Lady 戚,Empress Dowager 吕 orders a very severe punishment. Empress Dowager 吕 orders that Lady 戚 have her hands and legs chopped off. Her eyes are to be gouged out, her ears to be pricked to deafness, and she is to drink medicine to cause her to become mute. Once that’s done, she is to be left in the bathroom. 


At this point, 富察贵人 is still Ok. But then 甄嬛 says, while Empress Dowager 吕 was a little extreme, Lady 戚 shouldn’t have taken her favoritism in that instant to humiliate Empress Dowager 吕。富察贵人 actually falls out of her chair in fright at this point. She questions why 甄嬛 is telling this story.



甄嬛 responds that even though 年妃 is arrogant, but there is something she, herself, recognizes in 年妃. She strikes quickly, without second thought. 甄嬛 says that one year, someone insulted 年妃 with a sentence. 年妃 immediately made this person move to another palace. 甄嬛 wonders, if 年妃 were to be humiliated on the main street, what do you think she’d do to the person who humiliated her in revenge?


曹贵人 answers that if 年妃 was treated as such, even if she doesn’t enact the punishment we just described, she’d make the perpetrator wish she were dead. You’ll notice 曹贵人’s body language. She’s not saying this and responding to 甄嬛,she’s saying this directly to 富察贵人 who is shaking with fright at this point. 


I don’t want to insult anyone if this seems obvious, but 甄嬛 telling this story to 富察贵人 is a warning to her about how 富察贵人 humiliated 甄嬛 previously. Now that 甄嬛 is back on top, 富察贵人 should be very worried about what might befall her. Indeed, 甄嬛 says that if I had 年妃’s personality to begin with, I probably would not have been humiliated. I feel like 曹贵人 at this point is looking to impact 富察贵人 as well because 曹贵人 says to 甄嬛 that she currently has all the favor. There isn’t anything she cannot do.



At this point 富察贵人 starts begging for forgiveness for how she treated 甄嬛 previously. 甄嬛 jokingly says there’s nothing to forgive as she’s just telling stories. She does not know, even though the historian 司马迁 described this gruesome punishment quite well, she wonders what this actually looks like. Her main maid interjects and says that this isn’t even the worst punishment. In the Tang dynasty, there’s an added step that once someone has had this done to them, they are then put into a pot of alcohol. 


Now, 富察贵人 completely crumbles in her chair. She is terrified that this will be her fate since she bullied 甄嬛. She’s a stuttering mess and can’t even stand up anymore. She has to be carried away by her servants.  Another one bites the dust. She is seen later on screaming in her palace that she doesn’t want this same punishment to befall her. She has gone completely crazy. The Emperor tells doctors to try to cure her but in the meantime, she is to be locked up in her palace. That is the last time we see 富察贵人。


With this opponent gone in the imperial harem, the only people that remain from when 甄嬛 first entered the palace all the way back in episode 2 are her, 沈眉庄 and 安陵容。 Everyone else has been killed or gone crazy. 



I think she’s like a level 2 opponent, not difficult to defeat, but just rather annoying.



If we go back to where 甄嬛 and 曹贵人 are sitting now that 富察贵人 has been carried away, they get to the main discussion. 


曹贵人 understands that the whole point of this conversation, including scaring the bejeezus out of 富察贵人 was to intimidate herself. With all pretense stripped from both ladies, 曹贵人·urges 甄嬛 to be blunt about what she wants.


What’s interesting is we find out that 甄嬛 has been pushing the emperor to see 曹贵人 for a while since 甄嬛 was supposedly sick  I’m not sure if she was actually sick, or if this was part of her master plan to bring 曹贵人 to her team.  In any case, this is probably the first time the two of them have an actual conversation.


甄嬛 is pretty direct and focuses the conversation on 曹贵人’s daughter’s future. She notes that it must have been difficult to be a part of 年妃’s group given how aggressive 年妃 can be and that the reason 曹贵人 was part of 年妃’s group was to protect herself. But, 曹贵人 knows full well that 年妃 hurt her daughter in order to gain the affection of the emperor which must have been difficult to bear.


The interesting piece of dialogue here is that 曹贵人 says that if 年妃 didn’t help her when she was giving birth to her daughter, she may not have been able to survive.  We never hear what happened or what the story behind this is. The dialogue is very simple, just one sentence. However, I wonder if the empress, who we know by now has been killing children of the emperor repeatedly, had a hand in causing the difficult birth. Somehow 年妃 was able to protect 曹贵人 in successfully birthing the princess. That’s why 曹贵人thanks 年妃 and helps 年妃 strategize in the imperial harem.


The conversation shifts then to how 曹贵人 was powerless to not be under 年妃 at the height of her powers. Just like how 曹贵人 wanted to warn 甄嬛 of 淳贵人 but wasn’t able to save 淳贵人。If you remember, 淳贵人 is the cute foodie that loved spending time with 甄嬛 but accidentally overheard 年妃’s corruption scheme and was subsequently eliminated to prevent 淳贵人 from talking.



曹贵人 tells 甄嬛 the details about how courtiers would pay 年妃 money in order to earn favors from her brother which in turn earns them positions at court. This absolutely shocks 甄嬛。I think this knowledge further spurs 甄嬛 into trying to get 曹贵人 onto her team. 甄嬛 says that the emperor told her the fate of his sister that was sent off to be married to the Dzungar Khanate we discussed in the last episode. This poor girl’s husband suddenly died soon after she arrived but she won’t be able to return home. The princess will instead become the new Khan’s concubine. 曹贵人 recognizes that this is humiliating for the princess but there’s nothing to be done. In order to protect her own young daughter from such a fate, 曹贵人 has really no other option at this point than to completely sever ties with 年妃 and work with someone else that can protect her daughter. That person, is 甄嬛。With this conversation, this new alliance is sealed.


Elsewhere, 安陵容, former best friends with 甄嬛 is in her own palace secretly fuming about the turn of events. She wonders if everyone is laughing at her that she’s now lost favor once 甄嬛 returned. All I can say is, the more she thinks like this, the more she turns to the dark side. The emperor likes you because your singing sounds like his dead first wife. But he can’t talk to you about all of these other things…



The second half of the episode revolves more around politics.


甄嬛 and 沈眉庄 are doing some sewing for the new year. I must say the servants in 甄嬛’s palace are getting sharper and sharper. Here’s what I mean.  甄嬛’s head Eunuch has some news from the Imperial Court. He doesn’t declare it to 甄嬛 first but murmurs it to the nearby 瑾溪. It’s only when 甄嬛 asks him to share does he tell her. 


It’s a bit of a doozy. The Emperor’s 10th brother, 敦亲王 or Prince Dun, returned to court three days ago. However, not only does he show up late to court, but he appeared in full military regalia. 敦亲王 didn’t return from war. This act was extremely disrespectful to the Emperor. Before the Emperor could say anything, an Imperial Minister or his actual official of Imperial Censor (御史) 张霖 accused the Prince of contempt for the sovereign. Well I wouldn’t say accused – outright said the truth. 


Apparently, the Prince didn’t retaliate during court but on the way out of the Imperial Palace, he immediately beat the poor Imperial Censor to a pulp. All of the civil servants immediately submitted critiques of the Prince to the Emperor demanding the Prince be punished. But the Prince doesn’t care and just hasn’t attended court the past two days, stating that he’s ill.


This is a tough situation for the Emperor. The 10th Prince clearly did something wrong, but he also has military merit so he needs to find a solution that will appease all parties.



It’s night – 甄嬛 visits the Emperor at his study. We see some court ministers and officials leaving the study. The Emperor is a bit frazzled about the whole situation. 甄嬛 is exactly who he needs right now. She’s brought him some 东阿阿胶 – or Donkey Hide Gelatin – a pretty rare delicacy.


The Emperor asks 甄嬛 for her opinion on the whole situation with the 10th Prince 敦亲王。Let’s remind everyone that women were not supposed to voice their ideas on matters of politics. He’s making an exception for her.


This part’s great! 甄嬛 analyzes the situation and concludes that punishing the Prince is not the best route to take. The court ministers want an apology. Why don’t we give them the apology? The best option is to have the Prince himself apologize to the Imperial Censor. 


The Emperor is skeptical. Easier said than done. How do we make him do that? 甄嬛 has a sparkle in her eye. She uses the idiom 英雄难过美人关 – Even the strongest hero can be seduced by a beautiful woman. The Emperor immediately understands her meaning. The 10th Prince dearly loves his wife. If she is willing to persuade him, then he probably will apologize.


The Emperor is very pleased with this idea. He praises her ingenuity. He even shares his desire to “ahem” remove the 10th Prince in the future. She acknowledges that that is probably the best for the Emperor but it’s not the right moment. She further discusses the situation. The 10th Prince is already a 亲王 or Prince of the First Rank. They can’t give him a higher rank. Why don’t we focus on their children?


The 10th Prince and his wife have one son and one daughter. The daughter is already a 郡主 or Princess of the 3rd Rank or Princess of a Commandery. The Emperor will bestow her the title of 和硕公主 or Princess of the 2nd Rank. As we mentioned in the previous episode, this is only designated to daughters borne to the Emperor not by the Empress. Her status is that of a daughter to the Emperor.  The son will be given the title of 贝子 or Prince of the 4th Rank or a Banner Lord. For a daughter who’s 12 and a son who’s 6 without any military experience, these titles are very exceptional. 


甄嬛 doesn’t think this is enough. The princess should have an official title of 恭定, to reminder her father to be respectful. She will also be brought up by the Empress Dowager. The Emperor is actually grinning! WHAT! He agrees and then teases her a bit for the idiom she used earlier. Are you saying I’m the hero? Just then, the Emperor’s head eunuch comes in to ask whether 安陵容 should come. 


The Emperor wants 甄嬛 to stay but surprisingly she doesn’t. The two ladies cross paths in each in their own respective carriages. 安陵容 has a smirk of victory but little does she know 甄嬛 gave her that opportunity. 



In the next scene, the wife of the 10th Prince 十福晋, arrives in full court attire to greet the Empress and 甄嬛. They exchange some pleasantries. In this situation, it is the Empress who delivers the news of 十福晋’s children’s promotions. Both the Empress and 甄嬛 congratulate her and her children on the high honor. She is shocked at these declarations but before she can protest, the Empress dismisses her. 十福晋 is left grasping at straws – she tries to keep an audience with 甄嬛 to figure out what’s going on.


This 十福晋 is the same one that visited 甄嬛 on her sickbed when 甄嬛 was out of favor. 甄嬛 remembers this, which is why she’s willing to help her, or so she says. 甄嬛 successfully persuades 十福晋 to coax her own husband the 10th Prince into apologizing for his actions.


The Emperor arrives at 甄嬛’s palace to announce that everything has been resolved. 甄嬛’s plan worked. The 10th Prince did go to the Imperial Censor’s home and apologize. This is a huge relief for the Emperor. 



The episode ends with a spectacular scene. The is Emperor reading, 甄嬛 is writing, and 安陵容 is serving tea. 安陵容 presents a hand made perfume sachet to the Emperor. He barely glances at it and states that 甄嬛 had gifted him one a few days ago which he’s wearing. I can’t wear too many things on my person. 


Then 安陵容 starts her self-pitying act. She says, my sewing skills just aren’t as good as my dear sister 甄嬛. Well, 甄嬛 is not falling for this charade anymore. 甄嬛 responds – oh your skills are so much better! Look at everything else the Emperor’s wearing, they’re all made by you. 


安陵容 tries to double down on her act. She says – oh mine just isn’t as appropriate as my sister’s. I apologize for any offense I may have caused. The Emperor waves it off. She then continues, sister, why don’t you sew a sachet with mandarin ducks? That will show your love for the Emperor! 


甄嬛, not missing a beat, responds – Mandarin ducks are great but the Emperor will wear the sachet to the Imperial Court. That might not be appropriate. A dragon however represents the Emperor and his status. She then speaks to the Emperor, if you want a sachet with mandarin ducks, I can sew one for you and put it underneath your pillow!


The Emperor nods and then turns his attention to what 甄嬛 is writing. She’s writing a verse from the Song Dynasty poet 柳永。The Emperor dismisses this piece stating it does fit the current atmosphere. He picks up the brush and writes the following famous love phrase.


花好月圆人长久 – In the garden, under a full moon, I pray for the fortune and health my beloved and our love


Then tells her to frame in her palace. There’s a bug – you can clearly see the calligraphy style is not the same between shots.


安陵容 gets jealous of this because the emperor only wrote this for 甄嬛 and completely disregarded her. 甄嬛 jokes that 安陵容 is getting jealous but the Emperor doesn’t think this jealousy is an issue. HAHAHA. 



That was the recap, the main analysis and discussion that we’ll have today is about 甄嬛’s transformation.


Let’s analyze 甄嬛’s actions this entire episode. What a change! She’s going on the offensive! To everyone – from 富察贵人, to 曹贵人, to 安陵容, to the wife of 敦亲王, and even to the Emperor!


She becomes more ruthless and calculating. Everything she does has a purpose. 


-Karen – expand on this for 富察贵人 and 曹贵人.


I will expand on the other three



  • tea



  • Carriage
  • Last scene



  • Praise for the emperor

That’s that for today’s episode of Chasing Dramas! Let’s see how long 甄嬛’s favor can last. Again if you have any questions or comments, please reach out to us at chasingdramaspodcast@gmail.com. Thanks!



Episode 34



Welcome to Chasing Dramas! This is the podcast that discusses Chinese history and culture through Chinese TV shows! I’m Cathy and I’m Karen. Today we will discuss episode 34 of 后宫甄嬛传, Empresses in the Palace. 


The drama is currently available on Youtube for those of you who want to follow along. If you’re new to the podcast and have no idea what’s going on, please start with our intro to the podcast and intro to the drama episode.  If you have any comments/questions, please email us at chasingdramaspodcast@gmail.com.



You know, it’s funny because we watch through the drama and think that eh, maybe we can combine episodes, or that there’s not a whole lot to discuss. But then as we start the analysis and think through things more thoroughly, we end up having a lot to talk about. 


And HURRAY! We are past the halfway point of the drama! Took a while but we made it! 



Let’s get started:



At the end of the previous episode, 甄嬛 was thoroughly humiliated at the hands of 富察贵人 and 齐妃. Before this, she was still in a general funk due to her miscarriage. Will this incident finally pull her out of it? Let’s find out.  甄嬛 orders her servants to find some butterflies for her. 浣碧, 甄嬛’s half sister/maid, asks the handsome and charming 17th Prince for help since they both think these butterflies will cheer her up, and because butterflies are hard to come by at this time of year.


We start the episode with 甄嬛 admiring the butterflies that have been collected. She tells her servants to exchange any clothing for more firewood or coal. She also has them make a special silk cloak and provide fresh flowers for the butterflies. What is she planning? 


Elsewhere we see the formerly very powerful 年妃 is now resigned to writing a confession to the Emperor recounting her misdemeanors. It’s been months since she’s fallen out of favor and hasn’t seen the emperor. She’s desperate. The Emperor reads the letter but still pushes off seeing her. He says that he hasn’t even seen 甄嬛, why would he see 年妃 who contributed to 甄嬛’s miscarriage? 安陵容, who is next to him, smiles smugly.



By now, 甄嬛 is prepared for battle – she just needs an opportunity but even she acknowledges that she must regain favor before 年妃. I really like her makeup and hair today! It’s more regal and lavish than we normally see her.


A while passes and it’s time for another new year’s palace celebration. There are few ladies missing in attendance, notably 甄嬛, 曹贵人, and 沈眉庄。The news that 沈眉庄 is late is surprising since she’s rarely late. But just then, 沈眉庄 arrives. She appeals for pardon by the emperor stating that she was admiring the plum blossoms out in the garden, specifically 倚梅园. This is the plum blossom garden where the emperor first came upon 甄嬛 it must be years ago.  This piques the Emperor’s interest and who says that he also wants to go admire them. Obviously, the Empress needs to see what’s going on as well! She requests to have the entire party join too.


甄嬛’s grand plan begins to unfold. 



甄嬛 is the garden waiting for them. She’s kneeling on the ground. That’s quite a commitment since it’s winter time and there’s snow everywhere. Her maid 瑾溪 hurriedly opens the jar of butterflies (that are still alive) and hides them in 甄嬛’s cloak. Once secured, 甄嬛 begins to pray – for the Emperor’s health, forgiveness for not keeping the baby etc. I’m sure she can hear the Emperor approaching. Well, everyone is approaching. 


The Emperor calls out to her, for her to turn around but she doesn’t. She said – don’t come near me. My socks are wet. The Emperor is stunned at her words. This is exactly what she said the first time they met! He immediately reaches out to her but she doesn’t want to go with him just yet. She stands up and turns around.


Dun dun dun! In a flurry, the butterflies start fluttering around! Everyone is amazed. How can there be butterflies, especially this time of year? 甄嬛 replies “I don’t know”. It is a wonderful sight to behold. The Emperor is, again, stunned. Even the butterflies have heard your prayers. He immediately takes off his cloak and puts in out her – he’s smitten once again.


Ugh – the Empress seeing this development, immediately butts in. I’m so happy for 莞嫔!She’s been sick these past few months. 安陵容, not wanting to be left behind, also chimes in – I’ve been hoping and praying that my dear sister and the Emperor will resolve your issues. 


What lies. The Emperor immediately waves it away and says – we’ve never had any issues. To which, 甄嬛 agress. The Emperor immediately walks away with 甄嬛, not even glancing at anyone else. 


YAYYYY! Finally! 甄嬛 is back in action!



Let’s take a second to discuss this very quickly. I don’t think anyone in the imperial harem believed for a second that the butterflies were a coincidence. At least, not the smart ones in the palace. Even the Emperor’s head Eunuch says to 甄嬛’s main maid that they’re probably now happy to be back on top now.  It’s also funny that the 17th prince is part of the group that come to look at what’s going on. I never paid much attention before but I can’t help but wonder how he feels knowing that this is what those butterflies are used for.



Well this development does not sit well with many ladies in the Imperial Harem. First and foremost? 齐妃 and 富察贵人。They just humiliated her – what do they do?? Sucks to be you


It’s night – 甄嬛 reflects on her changes these past few months. She laughs at her own naivety – how could she have believed that the Emperor was THE one? True love doesn’t exist in the Imperial Palace. It seems like she’s waiting for someone. The Emperor? Right on cue, the Emperor arrives at her palace. He wants to see her!


However, she gives him all of these excuses, like she’s still recovering from her illness, it’s late, you still have court matters. She just won’t let him in! Dejected, the Emperor doesn’t summon any other concubine but instead decides to go hang out with his brother the 17th Prince.


The two brothers have a heart-to-heart about the situation. It must be pretty tough on the 17th prince – he caught those flowers for 甄嬛. But he does what any good brother is supposed to do and tries to nudge them back together. The Emperor is still not sure where the butterflies came from and the next line he says is key. He doesn’t care where or how those butterflies showed up, but as long as 甄嬛 is willing to put effort into him, that’s all that matters. I don’t believe he doesn’t think the butterflies were a coincidence either. But the fact that 甄嬛 “schemed” for this scene to happen means that she cares. It’s all he cares about. That’s why he’s smitten again.  The next scene is hilarious. The Emperor’s all by himself on his bed but he just can’t sleep. Haha – it’s so cute. 



It’s another day with another greeting but today it’s a little different! The Emperor arrives in full court regalia. This is very rare. There must be something important.


I love the little detail here. 年妃 is still not allowed at these greeting so her seat is still empty. When the Emperor comes, the servants just take her seat for the Empress to sit.


The Emperor is extremely solemn. An ambassador from the Dzungar Khanate (准噶尔) came to court requesting a political marriage between the Empires. We did some research on this Khanate. It’s a very distant nomadic mongolian empire that resided to the far north west of modern day China. There’s a section of Xin Jiang that is where this Khanate used to be. It has its origins from descendents of Ghengis Khan and at this time was ruled by a Khan. In the 17th century, this group was established after much infighting amongst various individuals seeking to rule, and for much of the Qing dynasty, was a nuisance.  Spoiler alert, this Khanate collapsed in the 18th century under the rule of the current emperor, 雍正’s son, Emperor 乾隆。


At this point in the drama, the Dzungar Khanate is still pretty powerful and wants (basically demands) the hand of a princess for their Khan in order to establish good will between the two. There has been a history of dynasties throughout China agreeing to marrying princesses off to far away places in order to secure ties so this isn’t new at all. The Empress suggests selecting a girl from one of the noble families, gifting her a princess title (or 和硕公主)and be done with it. There’s one snag though- the Dzungars only want a direct daughter of the Emperor or a (固伦公主).


This is the equivalent of an earthquake to 曹贵人. She’s the only concubine with a daughter but her daughter is still young! She can’t be sent away for marriage. The Emperor acknowledges this – if she was of age, I wouldn’t have any hesitation. Ouch. 


As of right now, waging a war with the Dzungars is not politically advantageous. 年妃’s brother just won significant battles in the Northwest. There’s not enough silver in the treasury to fund another war. A political marriage is the most advantageous route. 



As of whom should be selected – the Empress has an idea. What about 朝瑰公主. She’s the youngest daughter of Emperor 康熙 and your sister. She recently just reached marriageable age. She notes that the Dzungars only wanted a daughter of the Emperor. They didn’t specify which Emperor. [Honestly I think this is quite ingenious on the Empress’s part] The Emperor does some basic push back – saying she’s my sister, and so young blah blah. The Empress goes along – you’ve already put your heart and soul into the Empire, the princess is doing her duty. She’s only your sister and her mother was only a Noble Lady. Being married to a Khan is much higher than whoever she would have married. The Emperor “reluctantly” agrees. 


With the marriage candidate settled, it’s up to the Empress to manage the wedding preparations. Suddenly though, 甄嬛 volunteers 曹贵人 to help with additional wedding preparations. The Emperor agrees but what does 曹贵人 think about this?



We find out later that this marriage is not going to be a happy one. The princess who is going to be sent off and married is in her prime. However, the Khan is in his 60s, old enough to be her grandfather. There’s really no way this marriage will be a good one. The reality is that this is just a political marriage done to avoid war.  The drama doesn’t explicitly mention why 甄嬛 volunteers 曹贵人 to work on the wedding preparations, but it’s abundantly clear that 甄嬛 wants 曹贵人 to see what could befall her own daughter in the future. Her daughter, 温宜 公主 was  able to escape this fate this time since she’s so young. But next time? It might be her who is sent away. 甄嬛 is probably thinking, or at least nudging 曹贵人into considering who she should ally herself with in the future in order to protect her daughter from such a fate. That’s my opinion at least.

After this scene, the Empress summons 安陵容 to reprimand her for her recent inability to win favor from the Emperor. The empress says that when 甄嬛 isn’t around, it’s easy for 安陵容 to get favor. But the moment 甄嬛 is back, 安陵容 is completely forgotten. This has to change.  The Empress doles out some frankly good advice. Make friends with 甄嬛。 That way, everyone wins.

It’s another evening. The Emperor and 甄嬛 are pla ying Chinese Go. However, 甄嬛 does not have the Emperor stay again. He’s disappointed of course but surprisingly agrees and leaves for the night. 甄嬛’s maid 流珠 asks why? They worked so hard to get his attention again, why not have him stay over?


甄嬛 goes into describe a story about 汉武帝,a very famous emperor during the Han Dynasty and his concubine, 李夫人. We’ll discuss this more in the analysis of this episode later on. At a high lever, 李夫人 was a favored concubine who, on her deathbed, refused to let the Han emperor see her no matter how much he wanted. This was to make sure she left an impression on him. This is I guess an old tactic. The more you resist, the more you want. 甄嬛 wants to make sure the Emperor builds that lust/want for her.  



There’s not much else that’s of note for the remainder of the episode. 年妃 comes to pay respects to the Emperor and the rest of the imperial harem one day at a court greeting. Initially she was refused at the door, but the Emperor decides to let her in. She says her piece and the Emperor shows some kindness towards her. After this scene, both 甄嬛 and 沈眉庄 discuss how it seems like 年妃 will soon regain favor. There’s not much that can be done especially since 年妃’s brother is still very powerful. The episode ends with 甄嬛 wanting to chat with 曹贵人. The next episode is quite fun.


The other important item to discuss briefly is that 甄嬛 is not clearly not a close friend of 安陵容’s anymore. She is very cold towards 安陵容. They’re no longer the friends they once were when they entered the palace. 甄嬛 is annoyed at 安陵容 during this period of sickness which is fair.




All right – That was a fun episode. In no time, 甄嬛 is back on top after several episodes of moping and being sad. She has bottled up her grief and learned that favor from the emperor is what is needed in order to survive in the palace, and to seek revenge.


On to the analysis.


What do we have to discuss?



Let’s get back to the discussion about princesses being selected as a political sacrifice to this Khanate. This discussion is interesting because it brings up a very interesting distinction between the different “princess” titles.


At first, the Empress says why not just have a woman from the royal family, she doesn’t have to be a direct daughter of the Emperor, be selected to wed.  Give her the title of 和硕公主 and that’s it.


The discussion ends up with the emperor’s young sister being selected to be married off and they give this sister, who is a 和硕公主 the title of 固伦公主。 What is the difference?


First of all, I want to say, that I completely blame 还珠格格, or Pearl Princess, one of the OGs of Chinese dramas and an absolute classic that Cathy and I binged watched throughout our childhood, for giving us the wrong impression that the title of “princess” was called “格格“ That is absolutely false for the daughter of the Emperor to be called that. They are still just called “公主” or princess.


It turns out, as with everything else in the royal family, there are specific titles for different levels of princess.


和硕公主 – This is the title for a daughter of the emperor that is NOT by the empress. 庶出。

固伦公主 – This is the title for a daughter of the emperor that is BY the empress.


Did not know that before doing this research. It’s funny because I’m reading up on the different princesses and let’s just say – DANG. Because of this “harem system” where there are lots of wives, and in turn, lots of children, there are SO many princes and princesses. I honestly have no idea how people kept up with all the relations. This is different from western society. But the act of sending princesses off for marriage is not new. Many beautiful and sad stories depict this harsh reality. 


In this drama, the princess that is sent off to marriage is made up. So is the princess that 敬妃 mentions as precedent (蓝齐). However, it is true that throughout the Qing Dynasty, daughters from the royal family were commonly married off to different princes throughout the Empire.




When 甄嬛 and 沈眉庄 leave the Empress’s palace, 甄嬛 states two lines from a poem, lamenting the sad truth.




The poem is called 代崇徽公主意. The full poem goes like this.






It was written by the Tang Dynasty poet 李山甫. My translation of the poem is as such – Golden accessories adorn her hair, she departs her homeland but does the emperor even ask about it? If sending one woman can guarantee peace and manage the stability of a nation, it’s unknown when it’s time to use generals


A pretty grim but accurate take on the status of women. Heqin has usually been used as an appeasement strategy. In this patriarchal society, this was the norm. 


Princess 崇徽 was not actually from the Imperial Family. Her father was a general. Her name and birth are not known. She had an older sister who already married the Uyghur Khagan but when she died, the Khan demanded her hand in marriage. I’ll say his name in Mandarin – 牟羽可汗. I don’t quite know how to pronounce it in English (Bögü Qaghan). She was granted the title of Princess upon her marriage to the Khagan in 769AD. The Khan was killed in 780AD and there are no more records of the princess after that, although her daughter plotted and succeeded in killing a Khan.




汉武帝 李夫人


Earlier on the episode when 甄嬛 pushes the Emperor out of her palace and prevents him from staying over, she recounts the story of a Han Emperor and his concubine. What is this about?


This Han emperor is the famous 汉武帝。 He’s the 7th emperor of the Han Dynasty and was alive around 156BC to 87BC. He’s very famous because he expanded China’s borders at that time by fighting the Huns, he established the silk road and changed many policies in China. His stories are well known in history and there are plenty of Chinese dramas that depict his life. One of our first introductions to this emperor is the drama 大汉天子, the Prince of the Han Dynasty that came out, wow 20 years ago. That was one of the dramas Cathy and I were obsessed over. 


汉武帝, this Han emperor is famous not only for his miltary and political exploits, but for his imperial harem as well. There are lots of stories about his empresses that are subject to many plays, stories, books, and of course TV dramas we enjoy today. The concubine that 甄嬛 refers to, is the beautiful and famous 李夫人,or Concubine 李。 I personally, from a history perspective, do not like her because she supplants the wonderful Empress in favor. You can blame TV dramas that portray the wife really well. Plus, the more I read about 汉武帝, this Han Dynasty emperor, the more I realize that while he was a great emperor, he was probably not too great to women. Discarding them for new/younger versions.  


The whole reason this Concubine Li came to power is because she’s young and beautiful. At this point, the Emperor, this 汉武帝 is middle-age and became smitten with her beauty. In history, this Concubine Li was well known for her beauty and is depicted this way in the history books. Unfortunately she fell ill. She, on her deathbed, refused to let the Emperor see her not matter how much he wished. The reason is that she didn’t want him to see her faded beauty now that she is sick and weak. She wanted the emperor to always remember her at her prime. She passed away not long after. True to her prediction, the Emperor would remember fondly. Through this, it’s clear that this Concubine 李 is acutely aware of what she brings to the table in the relationship and what her ultimate value is. For me, this level of self awareness is quite rare in anyone so I must commend her. Even though, again, I don’t like her a whole lot. 


甄嬛 recounts this story in order to explain why she pushes HER emperor away. It’s to establish this “want”. As the english idiom goes, distance makes the heart grow fonder. 


EPISODE 32 + 33


Episode 32 + 33


Welcome to Chasing Dramas! This is the podcast that discusses Chinese history and culture through Chinese TV shows! I’m Cathy and I’m Karen. Today we will discuss episodes 32 and 33 of 后宫甄嬛传, Empresses in the Palace. The drama is currently available on Youtube for those of you who want to follow along. If you’re new to the podcast and have no idea what’s going on, please start with our intro to the podcast and intro to the drama episode. Episode 32 is primarily plot driven so we’ll quickly give a recap. There’s a lot more meat in episode 33. 


In the previous episode, episode 31, 安陵容 , with the help from the Empress, successfully re-captured the attention of the Emperor. She surprised everyone with her newly trained vocal abilities. There was a power vacuum since both 甄嬛 and now demoted 年妃 don’t have any favor by the emperor in the Imperial Harem and it looks like 安陵容 has seized the opportunity. 


Let’s start our recap from here.


It’s time for another greeting or 请安 at the Empress’s palace. The Empress is flipping over the records to see who the Emperor has been spending time with. Why it’s 安陵容! What a change in fortune.


富察贵人 , she’s the one who also had a miscarriage, and 欣常在 are extremely salty about this development. They, not very quietly, disparage 安陵容’s lowly birth status. The Empress, upon hearing this, immediately scolds these two ladies. She says, “安陵容 is able to make the Emperor happy. I’ve given you all opportunities but to no avail. What only matters right now is who the Emperor likes”



Let’s look at 安陵容!She is now a Noble Lady or 贵人. She’s upgraded her wardrobe and hairdo. I honestly don’t really like it… On cue, she starts tearing up. Wow – I wish I had those abilities. The Empress then tries to console 甄嬛 and suggests that she visit the Empress Dowager, to which she acquiesces. I love this detail – 年妃 is not allowed to leave her palace. She’s still technically under house arrest so she’s not at the greeting but they did leave an empty seat for her!


[Karen] – I also want to note that you see 皇后, the empress actually is willing to step up and protect 安陵容 from the barbs of the other ladies. That’s part of the reason why 安陵容 is willing to change allegiances to 皇后。



Right outside of the Empress’s palace, 甄嬛 is held up by 富察贵人。She’s gonna get a lot of screen time in these two episodes. 富察贵人 tries to incite a division between 甄嬛 and 安陵容. She says – “Aren’t you two sisters? You don’t have to worry about anything since even if 安陵容 becomes pregnant, you’ll still share in the glory” 甄嬛 is rightly pissed but before these two ladies have an all out spat, 安陵容 swoops in to save the day?


安陵容 mocks 富察贵人 about her walking style. -Can elaborate but whatever. She’s pretty unforgiving! I love the random eunuch that walks behind 甄嬛. I don’t know what he’s doing there.


On a dime, 安陵容 turns to 甄嬛 and immediately starts tearing up! She pleads for forgiveness about her newfound status. She’s like – it’s not my fault, the Empress ordered me. I had no choice. 甄嬛 is annoyed that 安陵容 hid the situation of her coughing illness and didn’t tell 甄嬛 of any updates. 甄嬛 barely even looks at 安陵容. You can tell that the cracks in their friendship have become more apparent.



甄嬛 next pays a visit to Empress Dowager 太后. In a surprising move, at least I think so, the Empress Dowager issues some very pointed advice to 甄嬛. She says that 1.You’re young – beauty doesn’t last for long, use it. 2. You have been wallowing in your sorrow – What about the Emperor? This time you lost your child, next time it could be your life. She’s basically saying – snap out of it!


But…that doesn’t happen. 甄嬛 resolutely refuses. One of the biggest criticisms lodged against 甄嬛 in general is that she is very stubborn. She’s focused, perhaps rightly, on her sorrow but the Emperor doesn’t see it that way. When the Emperor DOES drop by to see her, he immediately leaves once he sees her napping, still holding some baby clothes that she previously made, crying in her sleep. He’s heartbroken too and doesn’t know how to handle it. Now it’s the Emperor’s turn to visit his mother, the Empress Dowager. He’s irritated at her and also at himself. In a quick 180 from the earlier conversation, the Empress Dowager quickly dismisses 甄嬛. She tells the Emperor not to see her anymore.



Side note – WHY IS HE SLOUCHING! He looks so freaking tired.



After the Emperor leaves, the Empress Dowager’s maid asks why she did that. The Empress Dowager replies, it’s better for both of them to have some time apart. Then she gets to the real reason. As the Emperor, he can have favorites but he cannot love anyone. That is too dangerous. 年妃 lost favor, if 甄嬛 becomes the next 年妃, the balance in the Imperial Harem will be broken. 甄嬛 also needs to learn to quote on quote “soften up”. It’s a life to be a concubine in the imperial harem. 甄嬛 needs to learn what it means to be in the Imperial Harem.


Let me take a second to discuss the Empress Dowager. She is an absolute MVP. In the Chinese fandom, she, and the emperor are considered the ultimate bosses of the imperial harem. I’d say the Empress Dowager is actually THE big boss. She does not seem engaged in the affairs of court of the harem but she knows all. She also has to balance her own relationship with the Emperor. It is not shown in this drama but historically, this Empress Dowager very much favored her other son, the now banished 14th Prince over the Emperor. This is something our Emperor, 雍正, is acutely aware of.


A cabinet minister, 隆科多, requests an audience with the Empress Dowager but is denied. Pocket this information. We’ve heard his name come up a few times already trying to seek an audience with the Empress Dowager or sending her gifts. We’ll learn more about this relationship later.



Back with our main character, 甄嬛 and her maid 瑾溪 unexpectedly wander upon the sickly 端妃’s palace. She is the sickly consort who is at odds with 年妃. We found out that she’s always bed-ridden thanks to 年妃. The ladies pay her a visit. Just what I, personally as an audience needed. An objective 3rd party to analyze the situation for 甄嬛. 端妃 does just that. She says – 年妃 only just gained control of the Imperial Harem, she wanted to set an example. Why would 年妃 want anyone, especially you, to have a miscarriage? All the responsibility will directly be traced back to her.


甄嬛 still wants revenge but then here’s what 端妃 says. I’m not rushing, why are you rushing? Evil will always get her comeuppance. I think 甄嬛 at least absorbed some of this information because she questions her Imperial doctor friend 温实处 whether there could have been something else that caused her miscarriage other than the fragrance from 年妃’s palace.They brainstorm everything from food, medicine, her earlier ailments but come on! Think wider! What are you putting ON your body. Again, this is just because we have the power of hindsight.


As the 甄嬛 heads back, the Emperor and 安陵容 catch a glimpse of 甄嬛 leaving but he doesn’t call her. He’s still not ready to see her. 安陵容 performs her role as the meek, obedient concubine perfectly. The Emperor even comments on it. He wishes 甄嬛 was more like her. But one comment from 安陵容 reveals her ambition. She playfully asks – who do you like better, me or 甄嬛? The Emperor airily replies – at this point you! He doesn’t think much of it but I think this shows us the audience that 安陵容 has been, is, and always will compete with 甄嬛.


Now, at this point, 甄嬛 has fallen ill. It’s more over a fortnight but the Emperor still hasn’t come. Without favor from the Emperor, 甄嬛’s entire palace has also fallen from its previous grandeur. 安陵容 has a maid send over a few peach blossom pastries, but as 流珠, the maid, rightfully points out, she hasn’t come once since 甄嬛 has fallen ill. What kind of “sister” is she?


The two maids 流珠 and 浣碧 come up with a plan. 浣碧 will try to deliver word to the Emperor’s eunuch’s of 甄嬛’s illness. The next day the eunuch 苏培盛 does indeed deliver the message but the Emperor won’t budge. He’s waiting for her to step out of her slump or as he sees it, her stubborn phase (need another word).


The episode ends with 浣碧 encountering 安陵容 who is on her way to see the Emperor. Look at how much the times have changed! 安陵容 is being carried on a litter! Not as elegant as the one 年妃 used to have but way better than most every other woman in the harem! 安陵容 hears 浣碧’s request to talk to the Emperor about 甄嬛 but she obviously won’t do it. She even tells her own maid, she will only speak up when it’s advantageous to do so.



We start off episode 33 with 甄嬛 still bed-ridden. 甄嬛 has a surprise visitor, the wife of 敦亲王 or the Emperor’s 10th brother. We’ve seen her before in previous episodes. Her husband has the reputation of being very aggressive but she is rather kind. She doesn’t stay long but does bring a valuable ginseng as a gift which is quite nice of her. We won’t see much of her in the future but this is an important gift.


We turn next to the Emperor. The Emperor doesn’t go see 甄嬛 but instead spends some time with 安陵容。He reads from Mencius while she gently massages his legs. He sighs as he’es reading and asks for her opinion. Judging by her face, 安陵容 has no idea what he’s talking about. She immediately grabs the tea instead. Well now, the Emperor then reminisces of happier times with 甄嬛. If she were here, we’d have a lovely discussion about Mencius. He asks 安陵容 – I heard she’s fallen ill. Have you seen her?


安陵容 hears this and immediately thinks “Oh no! He’s missing her.” Of course she doesn’t want the Emperor to see 甄嬛! Part of it is because she also hasn’t seen 甄嬛 so she needs to steer the conversation a different direction. She immediately says, as you know my sister’s illness is really due to some unresolved issues. Well the Emperor doesn’t want to hear that – he even says the phrase 近乡情更怯!That we’ve discussed in the last episode about how one gets nervous being too close to home.  He is still afraid to see 甄嬛. 


  Um, can we also give some props to the Empress? She said the exact same thing in the last episode. She knows her husband so well.


安陵容 then makes an interesting request. On behalf of 甄嬛, she asks if the Emperor would allow 甄嬛 to see her family members. Pretty innocent right? At first it looks like the Emperor will agree but then he gets annoyed. I don’t want 甄嬛 talking to her family, this will only make her feel worse. He rebukes this request. 


Then 安陵容 performs the obedient mistress perfectly. She says, please let me know if I make any mistakes. I’ll change. I only know that you, the Emperor, are always right. For the Emperor, oh boy! What lovely words! He’s very pleased with her attitude and forgets all about 甄嬛。He even gifts her all of the 蜀锦 from this year’s batch! If you recall, this is the silk brocade we discussed episode 19 + 20. The fabric is really expensive and difficult to make. Previous batches were given to 甄嬛, now they’re given to 安陵容。 Poor 甄嬛. How the tides have turned. Her plan to have the Emperor see 甄嬛 was botched by 安陵容。


Do you see how in this conversation – 安陵容, at the first hint of the Emperor losing his resolve against seeing 甄嬛, immediately subtly pushes the conversation in such a way that the Emperor then decides not to? Where did she learn all of this! This is not the 安陵容 we knew! Or is it?


This entire time, everyone, including the Emperor believes that 安陵容 and 甄嬛 are best friends. They all assume that they are on the same team. The two people on said team at this point, definitely do not think that.



甄嬛’s maids 流珠 and 浣碧 are once again bored and upset about their current situation. No one comes to visit anymore since 甄嬛 is out of favor. It’s in these times though, that it becomes clear who are your true friends – 沈眉庄 and 敬妃. 安陵容, psh, she hasn’t bothered to visit at all. The two ladies agree they need to find someone who could help put in a favorable word with the Emperor for 甄嬛 but who? 浣碧, 甄嬛’s half sister/maid has an idea…what about the 17th Prince!


At this point, 沈眉庄 comes to visit 甄嬛 who is STILL in a funk. 沈眉庄 bluntly points out – you care too much. You still love him very much. I wonder what you’ll be like when you’ve completely stopped loving him. 沈眉庄 then rightfully lays out 安陵容’s two faced nature. When 沈眉庄 and 甄嬛 had favor, they helped 安陵容. They shared their gifts and pushed her to favor. Now 安陵容 has the favor – what has she done? 沈眉庄 has completely lost hope and faith in the Emperor but she desperately tries to pull 甄嬛 out of her funk.


[Karen] – This is why I love沈眉庄. She’s a modern woman. She was burned and resolutely decided to let her affections go. She is not going to pretend affection for the emperor because she’s been hurt before. From that one experience, she knows to back off and she clearly understands her position in the imperial harem. She is nothing more than a tool. Her integrity again is what fans love about her. She is that chrysanthemum flower she loves so much.


For 沈眉庄, she knows she has to find support since she’s pretty much not willing to turn back to the emperor. Her best option is not with the Emperor or the Empress, but with the Empress Dowager. The Emperor’s mother. 沈眉庄s smart in understanding that in all of this, the person who could keep her safe, or at least, help her keep her current position is 太后。As we find out, 沈眉庄 has been spending much more time with the Empress Dowager, helping feed her medicine and taking care of her. The Empress Dowager likes 沈眉庄 a lot. She wants 沈眉庄 to focus more time on the Emperor but, 沈眉庄 does not care whatsoever. 



It’s night, 甄嬛 is still moping around. Her two maids ask if she wants to play the gu qin – the traditional chinese instrument we’ve discussed (hint – she doesn’t). Suddenly, they hear a faint flute melody. It’s the famous 长相思 (did we discuss this?). 流珠 and 浣碧 goad 甄嬛 to investigate, so she takes 浣碧 with her. More like 浣碧 leads her to a secret meeting place, haha. Who is playing the flute?  Why it’s the handsome the 17th Prince 果郡王.


When she finally approaches him, he immediately dispenses with all formality. The first thing he says? You look thinner. That’s very direct. [Karen] – Um it’s so obvious that he likes her isn’t it? He cares so much about her! When you see them together, they are a much more fitting pair than 甄嬛 vs the Emperor don’t you think?



甄嬛 remembers her own position and responds 帘卷西风,自然是人比黄花瘦. A line from a famous FEMALE Song Dynasty poet 李清照. The first female poet we’ve talked about on this show! The poem is called 醉花阴. The line 甄嬛 recites 帘卷西风,人比黄花瘦 describes a young widow who misses her husband and her feeling of loneliness without him. At this point, she, the widow, is even thinner than young unmarried women. I’m not entirely sure why the comparison between a widow and an unmarried woman is important? I guess maybe unmarried women are seen as very thin? But essentially, 甄嬛 is describing that yes, in her heart, she’s sad and lonely. Thus, it makes sense she is so thin. 



甄嬛 thanks the 17th prince for saving her the day of her miscarriage. She’ll repay his generosity when she’s able. Notice how she slightly backs away from him? He’s disappointed at her slightly cold response. He then even more boldly claims – I wish you well because you are…a kindred spirit to me. Phew thank goodness that he stopped there.


[Karen]  – Um the term he uses is 知己。 It’s really hard to have a good english translation. The direct translation is knowing yourself. In general, a 知己 is someone that knows you really well and is a true friend. 



She chides him for secretly meeting her maid but then asks him why he’s in the Palace and why he’s playing this piece. He doesn’t care much about 安陵容. He tells her – I played this piece hoping to alleviate some of your sorrows. The piece represents my feelings. 长相思 – which directly translates to “longing”. He says that you are longing for someone. I am too.


IS THAT THE EQUIVALENT OF A confession of love?


She immediately stops there. Of course she knows what he means. Remember that he’s single still. He hasn’t married anyone yet which is quite rare for someone his age and status. This is dangerous. She quickly takes her leave after this. On her way back with 浣碧, she chides 浣碧 for having secretly met the 17th Prince. She’s reproaching her as a sister, not a master. She guessed they’ve met based on the way 浣碧 greeted the 17th prince. It was a general greeting, not a formal greeting. 甄嬛 reminds 浣碧 that both of their situations are precarious, it would not do well to meet.


[Cathy】 – What do we have for the rest of the episode.


[Karen] – A couple of things.

  1. We find out that the Empress, 皇后, has been requesting that 安陵容, who is her ally now, drink some type of medicine. If you couldn’t tell, this is actually a birth control type medicine that is being used to prevent 安陵容 from having children. This honestly is quite ridiculous. One of the primary reasons women in the imperial harem exist, is to have children. The empress is actively trying to prevent that. There’s nothing 安陵容 can do because 安陵容 needs the Empress to survive in the palace so she has to drink it. The maid who brings the medicine also watches 安陵容 drink it so she can report back to 皇后。
  2. 沈眉庄 is fed up with 甄嬛 moping around and drags her to visit the Cold Palace, 冷宫。 A refresher for everyone that 冷宫 is where concubines in the imperial harem are banished if they are out of favor or if they have been punished. It’s a dark and destitute place. 甄嬛 sees some of the women there. One of the ladies is 丽嫔。 We haven’t thought about her in a long, long time. She was an ally of now 年妃 and was involved in working with another concubine to poison 甄嬛。 She became scared due to a “ghost”, became insane and was banished to the cold palace in episode 11. Feel free to go back to listen to that episode if you need a refresher. There’s just a glimpse of her in the Cold Palace but it’s clear she’s in a terrible state. There’s another woman in the group that 沈眉庄 points out to 甄嬛。The woman is the woman who used to live where 甄嬛 lives now. That lady also had a miscarriage. This is the woman who suffered due to the musk hidden in the palace that 甄嬛 discovered back in episode 4. She never made an appearance but is shown now, completely insane too. 甄嬛 is utterly grossed out by the situation but 沈眉庄 explains that this woman was banished because she was so distraught after her miscarriage that she confronted the emperor. He got mad and banished her as a result. It’s a warning to 甄嬛 that she might share the same fate.
  3. The last push that finally gets 甄嬛 out of her funk is actually done by the idiotic 齐妃 and 富察贵人。 齐妃 is the mother of the 3rd prince who previously tried to poison 甄嬛. 甄嬛 accidentally bmped into 齐妃 while out on a walk with 富察贵人。 富察贵人 goes off on 甄嬛, which technically isn’t allowed because she’s of a lower rank than 甄嬛 but the 2 ladies gang up on 甄嬛。 齐妃 is angry she can’t see her son anymore. 富察贵人 thinks it’s 甄嬛that caused her miscarriage. The end result is that 甄嬛 is punished quite heavily. 齐妃 orders a maid to slap 甄嬛’s face repeatedly, to the point that she’s bleeding. She’s also ordered to kneel for 2 hours. 甄嬛 takes the punishment without much of a fight. Instead, she’s in a daze for most of it. When she returns to her palace, however, she asks her maids to find butterflies and make up. The episode ends with 浣碧, 甄嬛’s maid asking the 17th prince for help retrieving butterflies.


Phew – a lot of plot happ ens in these two episodes. We see a whole myriad of concubines! From 端妃, to 齐妃, to 丽嫔! 富察贵人 had a lot of screentime, mostly belittling 甄嬛.



Time for our analysis: 


Let’s start off with the book that the Emperor reads when he’s with 安陵容. He quotes from 孟子 or Mencius. Mencius is one of the most famous Chinese philosophers who lived during the Warring States period from 372BC – 289BC. The dates aren’t totally clear of his birth. He is a 4th generation disciple of Confucius. In China – his status as a philosopher is only second to Confucius. People will refer to their teachings as 孔孟。During the Yuan Dynasty, he became known as the Second Sage. His writings focused more on the humanity and benevolence of people. 


The quote mentioned in the drama is this – 



It comes from the writings of Mencius, specifically the piece 生于忧患,死于安乐. It’s quite  famous. While I didn’t know it’s entirety, I’ve heard bits and pieces from the entire piece. Here’s my translation of the quote – if a nation does not have ministers or courtiers who follow the rule of law, if there aren’t foreign issues or equally powerful foreign powers, the nation will often lead to self destruction.


Mencius’s overall message is 生于忧患,死于安乐. Those who suffer through hardships will live, those that are content with peace will die. Our Emperor 雍正 takes this to heart. A ruler cannot be content, he always needs to be on his guard. 安陵容 of course doesn’t get this – I doubt she’s read Mencius.



In the last episode, the Emperor listed out the qualities he wanted in a woman. The one I remember the most is, she can’t be too smart but also not too dumb. We’ve seen quite a few women in these two episodes. Shall we kind of rank them?


On the not too smart side – we have 丽嫔, she’s already banished. 齐妃, the mother to the 3rd prince and I’ll put 富察贵人 here too. Making enemies in such a blatant way is not the smart way to destroy someone. I’ll also put 年妃 here.


On the smart side, there are quite a few ladies – we have 沈眉庄, 甄嬛, 安陵容, 曹贵人, 敬妃, 端妃. The MVPs? The Empress and Empress Dowager! These two ladies know all


How can anyone be in the middle? You’ve got to be smart enough stay alive! Well, i guess the only ones are perhaps 欣常在 or 敬妃 but then they don’t get much favor. I don’t know what you’re thinking but no one who can survive is unintelligent.



Lastly, I want to analyze the differences of our three ladies 甄嬛, 安陵容, and 沈眉庄 right now, especially their attitudes towards the Emperor and to one another.


沈眉庄 has completely shut herself away from the Emperor. She’s not even broken hearted, she just doesn’t care. She scoffs at trying to gain favor from the Emperor and instead has resigned her fate to spend time with the Empress Dowager.  Let’s not forget though, the only reason why 沈眉庄 has the backbone to do this is because her father still holds a powerful enough position at court. She does treat 甄嬛 still as a sister though. This is a true friendship.


安陵容 has successfully captured the attention. She has molded herself to be the meek, subservient woman that the Emperor wants. How is it that she can do this so easily? Well, there’s the Empress’s influence but also I think it’s because there’s no true emotion between her and the Emperor. She simply views her actions as a way to gain favor. She’s ambitious. She doesn’t care who or what she has to turn into, as long as she receives wealth and riches. She’s willing to align herself to the Empress, even drink the birth control to secure her fortune. Who cares about 甄嬛? I can say she’s my friend but i will NOT let the Emperor see her.


Lastly, let’s talk about 甄嬛. She’s a mixed bag right now. She’s in a tough situation but I also think most of it is her own fault. Yes, she lost her child. It’s devastating, but as 沈眉庄 rightly points out. 甄嬛’s attributing her feelings for the Emperor as love. She loves the Emperor and is expecting the Emperor to treat her with “love”. Honey, that will not happen in the palace. Look at what the Empress Dowager said! The Emperor, especially in such a patriarchal society, will not wait for you. He will move on. On the other hand, she’s also pretty arrogant. I think deep in her heart, she looks down at 安陵容. She’s never treated her as a full equal, but also why would she? She hasn’t known her for that long. Compare this to her relationship with 沈眉庄. Throughout all of this, 甄嬛 does not reach out to 安陵容. I don’t think she deigns to do so. She can’t believe 安陵容 has risen so high and she has fallen so low. I hope her encounter with 齐妃 and 富察贵人 finally snaps her out of it.

EPISODE 31 pt 2


Episode 31B



Welcome back to Chasing Dramas! We discuss chinese history and culture through Chinese tv shows. This is Cathy and this is Karen. The current drama we are discussing is 后宫甄嬛传, Empresses in the Palace. Today, we are finishing episode 31! There was just too much in the last episode to discuss together so today, we are finishing up episode 31.  As always, if you have any comments or questions, want to discuss Chinese history and TV dramas at this time, please email us at chasingdramaspodcast@gmail.com. We are always very happy to hear from you. Given the global situation, we are working hard to publish more episodes for everyone to enjoy. If you are looking for Chinese dramas to watch with all this free time but don’t know what to watch, please reach out to us and we can definitely recommend a few depending on which dynasty you want to learn more about, the subject matter, or the actors/actresses. 



In the last episode, 甄嬛 had a miscarriage and we learned about the secret to the newly demoted 年妃’s fragrance 欢宜香. This fragrance contains 麝香 or Musk. In Chinese TV land, this substance causes women to become sterile and is very harmful to pregnant women if exposed to it for a long time.


We left off our last discussion with 甄嬛 and 安陵容 discovering the musk in the fragrance. Let’s start off from there.


This episode primarily revolves around what happens when there’s a vacuum in favoritism in the imperial palace. We’ll finish up episode 31 with a recap and there’s also quite a bit of history/culture to discuss.



The Emperor pays a visit to the Empress. The Empress is spending time looking over the booklet that records where the Emperor has been staying every night. He hasn’t been spending the night with any woman in the imperial harem. He shows up and you can see he is a little annoyed at seeing her look through these documents.  There’s a very revealing conversation between the two. The two somehow get onto the topic of bringing more women into the Imperial Harem for the Emperor. The Empress can tell he’s not happy and the Emperor hasn’t gone to the Imperial Harem in over a month, perhaps he needs new women? He waves off that idea. The Emperor 皇上 then brings up what he wants in a woman. She needs to be obedient and understanding. She needs to appreciate him and comprehend him, but she can’t be too sharp. Just enough quote on quote “intelligence” to be able to hold a conversation. But he doesn’t want someone too cunning or too dim-witted.


[BAHAHA – the problem is, the ladies in 后宫 are too intelligent. Well, some of them are, he just doesn’t know it]



The main development in the rest of the episode actually revolves around making the emperor happy. There’s a summer gathering where the emperor and the rest of the concubines are enjoying a nice meal and performance at the summer palace. Things are fine? I guess. The emperor is still not in the best mood given the whole miscarriage thing and the empress brings up again about getting new people to “serve” the emperor. 


Remember that conversation about how the Emperor doesn’t like dim-witted people? 齐妃 is very much in that camp. 富察贵人 gives a toast praising the Empress for the beautiful day and the Emperor for the prosperity of the empire. The Emperor seems to be in a better mood after this toast. Not to miss out on this opportunity, 齐妃 immediately stands up. She just says – “I would also like to give a toast” and that’s it. I love how the Emperor just blinks at her with his tiny eyes for two seconds, drinks and ignores her. HAHAHAHAHA



The emperor originally really doesn’t want to see anymore people but upon the Empress’s insistence, agrees to see another performance. On cue, a mysterious woman appears singing a beautiful song. She has her face covered which adds to her mysteriousness. Everyone is listening to her singing and remark that the voice is even better than 安陵容, who is known for her singing abilities. Enraptured by the beautiful voice, the emperor is interested in seeing who this woman is. As the woman slowly comes to the pavillion, it is revealed that she is none other than 安陵容。 Everyone is shocked. Wasn’t she sick? It turns out, she’s been healthy for quite some time and has been studying voice lessons to improve her singing skills by the grace of the Empress. 


The emperor is beyond pleased, partly because 安陵容’s voice has been coached to sound 60-70% like his deceased first wife, 纯元, whom he loves very much. He is smitten by how lovely her voice is and immediately promotes 安陵容 up one notch to a “Noble Lady”. 安陵容 sings another song. It’s very familiar! It’s called 金缕衣! Where have we heard this before? All the way back in episode 16! 沈眉庄 was just banished due to her fake pregnancy scandal. 甄嬛 needed someone to take her place so she trained 安陵容 to have a meet cute with the Emperor. We discussed in length the meaning of this song and poem so go back to episode 16 for more details.


安陵容 now sings this song again to capture the attention of the Emperor.  There’s a quick camera cut to 甄嬛. She is very familiar with this piece because she taught it to 安陵容! In her current mental state, I don’t think she cares too much but I think she feels slightly betrayed. 沈眉庄 literally does not care, haha.


The Emperor immediately showers 安陵容 with lavish gifts, including a rare 金缕衣 or Gold Threaded Gown. There were only 2 made. One of them is currently with the 17th Prince’s mother. The other, well, is now gifted to 安陵容. Quite an honor!



It’s actually kind of hilarious that you have all of your concubines watching you be infatuated with another woman. How odd is that. 


The other story here is that 年妃 was for some reason invited to come but was not allowed to go to the island where the performance was happening. She was humiliated by the emperor since he’s now too busy to see anyone except for 安陵容 and tells 年妃 to return. She is livid but there really isn’t a whole lot more she can do. Thankfully she didn’t make more of a scene.


The episode ends with 曹贵人 bringing her daughter 温宜 to visit 年妃. After much crying and lamenting of past happiness, 年妃 turns spiteful at the turn of events. 曹贵人 ponders aloud that there must have been a sinister plot. The eunuch that came to deliver the original invitation wasn’t the usual eunuch from the Emperor’s retinue. It must have been someone else who wanted 年妃 to be humiliated. 


Which is most likely true! Well that’s that for episode 31. Let’s dive into our analysis! 


Analysis – 




Right after the Emperor visited the Empress at the beginning of our discussion, the Empress says this line when asked by her maid why she’s pushing the emperor to not see 甄嬛。The Empress notes this line 进乡情更怯. This line originates from a Tang Dynasty poem by a gentleman named 宋之问. The full poem describes the feeling when one is away from home for a long period of time. The person misses home and is always wondering how things are back there. But as the person comes closer to home, the feeling is very overwhelming. So much so that the person is too afraid to ask nearby individuals how things are at home. 


How does this relate to the emperor and 甄嬛? It’s not that the emperor doesn’t want to see 甄嬛 or that he doesn’t care for her. It’s quite the opposite. He cares for her deeply. But the closer he is to her, the more scared/emotional he is to be around her because he feels bad about her miscarriage. He ultimately thinks it’s his fault. As such, he would rather stay away from her to not think about it. The more he stays away, the more it means he cares.




We have to talk about the first song that 安陵容 sings。 Every song in this drama has some type of interesting origin and this song is no different. This piece directly translates to Lotus Flower Picking Song. That’s why, in the drama, she has a lotus flower in her hand. Though I think there’s a bug in the drama – on the boat she has a white flower. The emperor even comments on the white flower. But when she gets on shore, the flower turns to a pink flower. This piece from the drama is beautiful. I thoroughly enjoy the calm bubbling arpeggios that introduce this piece which adds to the mysteriousness of her entrance.


The lyrics to this song originated from the Han dynasty and is part of the collection of local folk songs gathered from that time. The lyrics say that in southern China, it is time to pick the lotus flowers. The green leaves are flourishing. The fish in the pond where the lotus flowers are are playfully swimming around. One moment the fish swim to the east, the other to the west. 


The lyrics aren’t AS deep as some of the other pieces we’ve discussed. It is meant to reflect happiness and joy. Something light hearted about the pleasant scenery and environment. Overall, though very interesting to learn that this piece comes from a collection of folk songs.




越女新妆出境心, 自知明艳更沉 , 齐纨未足时人贵, 一曲菱歌敌万金

As the ladies are watching 安陵容 being showered with attention by the emperor after her beautiful singing, one of the ladies says that 安陵容 is 越女新妆出镜心 and that 一曲菱歌敌万金。What is exactly does she mean? I’ll be honest, this isn’t a poem I paid a whole lot of attention to in the past. Partly because I find it awkward to have all the wives watching their husband being smitten with another wife. I find that really awkward. 


This poem is by a Tang Dynasty poet named 张籍 who lived around 800 AD。The Tang Dynasty is known for their poems and this is no different. 


The entire poem tells a story of a young woman who gathers water chestnuts. She’s recently did her make-up and clothes and looks very beautiful. She knows she’s beautiful but is not super confident in her beauty. But, the poem continues that even if other women wear the most popular and fashionable clothes, these other women do not compare to the singing of water chestnut woman. The direct translation of the last line is that one song from this woman is worth ten thousand gold.


This poem is very apt to describe 安陵容. 安陵容 has re-established herself with improved singing, new clothes and new hairstyle. Her song indeed is worth ten thousand gold as it has now helped her become a noble lady.



Let’s finish up with some random thoughts.

Random thoughts

-Let’s take a look at 曹贵人 during the celebration. This is the first time I’ve seen her with such a lavish hairdo! It must be because 年妃 isn’t there anymore so she’s like FINALLY, I can flaunt a little bit. Otherwise, she’s pretty meek and understated.


-I was recently watching a newly posted video comparing the ladies of this drama. The focus was on 齐妃. The nickname for her is 齐二哈 or husky 齐. She’s cute but also derpy. That’s how Chinese people like to describe huskies. 


That’s a wrap for today’s episode! 安陵容, with the help of the Empress, has successfully capture the attention of the Emperor. 甄嬛 is still out of it and 年妃 is still out of favor. What does this mean for the rest of the Imperial Harem? We’ll find out in the next episodes!


Thank you very much for listening today. If you have any questions or feedback, please email us at chasingdramaspodcats@gmail.com.

EPISODE 30 + 31A



Welcome back to Chasing Dramas! We discuss chinese history and culture through Chinese tv shows. This is Cathy and this is Karen. The current drama we are discussing is 后宫甄嬛传, Empresses in the Palace. It’s on youtube for those of you want to follow along.  In today’s podcast episode, we’ll combine discussing episode 30 and the first 10 minutes of episode 31 of the drama. Episode 30 and the first part of episode 31 revolve around the consequences of 华妃’s reign of terror. The rest of episode 31 has a different focus, which is why we are splitting up episode 31. 


To recap what happened in episode 29, the Emperor and Empress left the palace in order to pray at the temple of heaven. With no real oversight, 华妃 decides to punish 甄嬛 even though she’s pregnant. The end result is that 甄嬛。。。faints after being told to kneel outside for about an hour. As she is carried away by the heroic 17th prince, everyone sees that there’s a pool of blood where 甄嬛 was kneeling.


Episode 30 starts with 华妃 at her palace freaking out about what happened. She knows she’s in a whole lot of trouble for causing a miscarriage. She really doesn’t know what to do. She is screaming at her crew to see what are some solutions. The recommendation from her ally 曹贵人 is to be proactive about apologizing. She needs to be submissive. There’s not a whole lot else that can be done. The frustrating part is that 华妃 insists she did nothing wrong. Which, obviously is ridiculous. No matter what, punishing a pregnant woman was not a good idea



We now turn to 甄嬛’s place. The empress and emperor have returned to the palace to check on 甄嬛. All the imperial doctors are around to care for her as well. 甄嬛 slowly wakes up to the news that unfortunately, her child is gone. She, understandably, is heartbroken. It is so gut wrenching to see how sad 甄嬛 is. Many of the concubines have arrived as well, particularly her friends. 



The actress for 甄嬛, 孙俪,  really shows her acting chops right here. The tears just burst forth! I was impressed 



The emperor, seeing how upset 甄嬛 is, calls for 华妃 to come. 华妃 appears in a simple white gown, and, per the advice of her posse, has removed all hair accessories to allow her hair to fall down. This attire is the idiom 脱簪待罪, which essentially translates to removing hair accessories to await punishment. This is a custom that women of the imperial harem must follow when they make a big mistake. It’s a really big deal because hair decorations are very important in chinese culture. You don’t just put your hair down for any reason. By doing so, she is showing everyone that she knows she committed a crime and is here to at least ask for forgiveness. This is a brilliant play to appease at least a bit of anger from the emperor.


华妃 comes forward and kneels to the ground in front of the emperor and at 甄嬛’s bedside. She begs for forgiveness but the emperor does not bend. He is really angry. She keeps emphasizing that while she hates 甄嬛, she never wanted to harm her child. She herself knows the pain of losing a child and would not wish that on anyone. This line I think saved her. After she says this line, the emperor softens a bit in his anger. But still, 皇上, the emperor, demotes 华妃. He strips her of her “Noble Consort” position that she literally just received, so she is now just a Consort. She also has her title removed which is a huge slap in the face. She can no longer use the title “华“. Instead, she will just be called by her surname, which is 年。 She will now go on to be called 年妃。 All powers to help in the imperial harem are removed. Lastly, unless told, she is not to see him.



年妃 as we must call her now again says that this was an accident and why the emperor has to be so heartless. That sets him off and he’s actually very angry for once. He confronts her. Where was your heart when you delivered those punishments? He coldly states one more edict to her. She must kneel outside at her palace every day for 4 hours starting at noon. Just like how she punished 甄嬛。Then he dismisses her.


The acting in this episode is phenomenal. 


Once 年妃 leaves, the grief stricken 甄嬛 demands the Emperor for revenge. 年妃 killed your child! You’re just going to let that slide? The Emperor quote on quote promises that he will have his revenge but doesn’t know when. He wants her to wait for him. Matters of state are more important. 甄嬛 is noticeably disappointed. This is going to be the first of many times that the Emperor will disappoint her. 


There are visible scene cuts during this scene. It’s obvious mainly due to the amount of tears on 甄嬛’s face, haha. The whole scene at 甄嬛’s bedside is very hear-trenching but after a few viewings, this is quite funny to me. 



We turn to 温实初, the imperial doctor who was childhood friends with 甄嬛。 He is extremely worried about her and is waiting at the palace of 沈眉庄 to hear the update. 沈眉庄 returned to say that the child couldn’t be saved and he is very upset.


But 沈眉庄 notes that there’s not much he can do because he wasn’t in charge of 甄嬛’s pregnancy. What’s important now is to investigate 甄嬛’s medicine to see if anything was amiss. 沈眉庄 feels that something is wrong because no matter how rude and arrogant 年妃 is, she isn’t stupid enough to attack the emperor’s child directly.



The rest of the episode revolves around the aftermath. 

  1. 年妃 is seen kneeling outside as instructed and faints
  2. The 17th prince also comes to speak to the emperor to apologize for rushing into the imperial harem. We discussed this last week that this act technically is punishable by death. But 皇上waves it away as it was done out of necessity. 
  3. 皇上 has to deal with repeated notices from 年妃’s brother, 年羹尧 who is essentially pressuring 皇上 into treating 年妃 better or else he, 年羹尧 doesn’t know what he will do. Quite the threat that 皇上 does not appreciate.
  4. 甄嬛 is, understandably, grief stricken  
  5. The Emperor speaks to his mother, the empress dowager, about the events that happened. She consoles him that he shouldn’t blame himself for what happened.



During this conversation – the Emperor voices his suspicions. How is it possible that 甄嬛 lost the child only after an hour? We discussed this in the last episode, a lot happened. Such as the summer sun, receiving some whippings, being smoked etc. The Empress Dowager, 太后, remarks 年妃 had the ladies go to her palace for hours on end to idly chat, sometimes 6-8 hours a day! The Emperor does not let his mother utter anything more – it is his fault. The Empress Dowager consoles him, matters of state trumps personal affairs. The Empress Dowager then continues but this shouldn’t have had such an impact on 甄嬛. She was only recently at 年妃’s palace for these greetings. Could there be something else that contributed to this miscarriage? 


Hm…what does this mean? We’ll learn a little bit more in the next episode.


The episode ends with the emperor leaving the his mother’s palace and is stopped by the imperial doctor who tended 甄嬛。 He’s an old dude and asks the emperor to allow him to retire. He made such a mistake and couldn’t take care of the child. He feels that he should give room to other people to take his place. The Emperor agrees and the doctor is allowed to leave. This is very odd. But we will discuss this at the end of the episode.



Let’s move on to Episode 31 


This episode starts with 甄嬛 finally getting out of bed. She is being tended to by her friend, the imperial doctor, 温实初。 He asks her whether she has used 麝香 or Musk pods。 Do you remember that we’ve talked about this before? The most important item in the drama. 


Anyways – she is very surprised to hear him ask this because she said the doctors told her to avoid using this since it’s not good for pregnant women. However, 温实初 tells her that there are indeed signs of having been exposed to 麝香, Musk, in her body. 


甄嬛 recalls that the only place she’s been to that has any type of fragrance or perfume is in 华妃’s palace. They’ll investigate to see if there’s anything wrong.


As the two are talking, 温实初 again reiterates his feelings towards 甄嬛. He wanted to marry her and take care of her. She once again rejects him and says she only views him as an older brother. Unfortunately, at this moment, 沈眉庄 has come to visit 甄嬛 and overheard the bit that 温实初 likes 甄嬛。 沈眉庄rushes out clearly upset. Oh well.



 I don’t get why 沈眉庄 rushed out in a huff. Why is she upset about this? 温实处 and 甄嬛 have known each other for years! 


安陵容 has come to check in on 甄嬛. At this moment, 甄嬛’s maid 流珠 comes in with a box. The box contains the special fragrance 宜欢香 that is specifically made for 年妃. There was some leftover so 流珠 was able get to a little for 甄嬛.  甄嬛 asks her friend, 安陵容, to examine the powder since she knows the most about fragrances and creams. 


安陵容 takes a whiff. She notes the different ingredients including patchouli 青藿, sandalwood 白檀, and Nardostachys chinensis 甘松. She pauses, there’s one other ingredient. It’s musk, not your ordinary musk, but musk from a male horse. It’s extremely rare but also potent. It’s effects are 10x your normal musk scent.  


The ladies are stunned. Is this the reason why 年妃 hasn’t gotten pregnant all these years? Is this why 甄嬛 so easily had a miscarriage?


甄嬛 quickly wonders why hasn’t anyone found out about this musk? 安陵容 gives a pretty satisfactory answer. The musk fragrance is well hidden amongst the other ingredients. It’s extremely hard to discern. Your miscarriage must have been caused by this fragrance. Then 安陵容 says this. It doesn’t matter who or why this fragrance is there. Just remember, the only reason for your misfortunes are because of 年妃。


We will end our recap here. This is at 12:50 of episode 31. 



Let’s discuss this and tie to the previous episode.


We now know why for so many years 年妃 hasn’t gotten pregnant. This is certainly a long con. After 31 episodes, we know the real secret, but why this show is brilliant is that there have been hints of the importance of this fragrance, this 欢宜香 since the very beginning. I honestly think it was in episode 1 or 2 of the drama where we are first introduced to 华妃 that the emperor says, it smells nice, it must be the 欢宜香。This fragrance is specifically made for 年妃 and we are told that it is extremely cumbersome and difficult to make. Therefore, it is an extravagant gift to give to 华妃. 华妃 highly treasures this gift and shows it off whenever she can.


But, this is a silent poison. According to this tv magic, your reproductive organs will essentially be too impacted and therefore, women who are exposed to this fragrance for long periods will no longer be able to bear children. This is why the emperor can spend so many nights with 年妃 without worry of a pregnancy. In Episode 27 – you’ll recall we noted that the emperor, in speaking to 甄嬛,let slip that “年妃 will not have children”. It’s because he knows that the damage is done. Earlier this episode, we discussed how the empress dowager and the emperor were wondering if 甄嬛’s miscarriage was a result of being exposed to musk in 年妃‘s palace. They are purposefully hurting 年妃 and she, after all this time, is still in the dark.


Let’s take a second to understand why this was necessary. In the imperial harem, as we’ve mentioned, having a child is probably the most important role for a woman. To rob her of this ability renders her mostly meaningless. It’s why 端妃,the woman that 年妃 forced to become sterile, hates 年妃 so much. 甄嬛 was able to pick up on this reason very quickly. She said “even though you were being cautious of 年妃,you, the emperor, hurt our child in the process”. What does that mean? The emperor and the empress dowager have for a long time, been wary of how powerful 年羹尧, 年妃’s brother, is. If, 年妃 had a son, it is not out of the realm of possibility, with how arrogant and powerful 年羹尧 is since he has military strength and decorum, that 年羹尧 would actually incite a coup and try to overthrow the emperor and mandate himself as the emperor. If that weren’t the case, having a son of the 年 family would at least make 年羹尧 a very powerful uncle. He might declare himself regent. Early in the Qing Dynasty, there were regents that tried to seize power. Given the situation as it is now, the emperor and empress dowager need to protect the throne from the likes of 年羹尧。 In order to do that, they have to sacrifice 年妃’s ability to have children. The entire time 皇上 is basically faking affection in order to secure 年羹尧’s loyalty.



The last piece we’ll discuss now is the importance of doctors. In episode 26, we discussed how an external doctor was brought into check in on 年妃 and see when she’ll get pregnant. There is absolutely NO WAY the doctor didn’t see through the fact that she cannot have children. The damage to her reproductive system is probably irreparable at this point. That is why he was very confused upon hearing that so many doctors said she’s fine. That is also why the Empress Dowager had her maid tell this doctor to essentially keep his mouth shut. The fragrance that was gifted to 年妃 were all under the command of the emperor and the empress dowager. The highest powers that the imperial doctors listen to are the emperor and the empress dowager. Even the doctors who were technically under the employ of 年妃, if we recall the 江 doctors who are now dead but were helping 年妃 with a number of schemes such as the plague and framing 沈眉庄 with the fake pregnancy scandal, never told her that her body was damaged. There must have been some type of decree from on high that this secret cannot get out. 


For 甄嬛 herself, if it weren’t for the fact that she has a loyal friend in 温实初 who told her about the fact that there’s traces of using musk in her body, I highly doubt she would know. That is why it is always super important to have a doctor as your ally in the imperial harem.



Let’s now get into the spoiler section. If you don’t want to be spoiled, thank you very much for listening! 


Let’s continue.


In episode 30, when 华妃 is kneeling in front of the emperor to try to atone for her mistake, she yells at the imperial doctor who tends to 甄嬛. She demands to know why 甄嬛 would suffer a miscarriage from such a small punishment. You’ll see at this exact moment in the drama, the camera cuts to the empress. For those of you who have watched the drama, you’ll know that the reason is because 甄嬛 has been sabotaged. The cut to the empress’s face is to show her tentative reaction of what the doctor will say and may blow her cover. But this doctor keeps his mouth shut and doesn’t mention the fact that 甄嬛’s health was already compromised. This is like the 3 or 4th time we’ve seen that Imperial Doctors cannot be trusted? Well that doesn’t seem healthy or safe for anyone! As of right now, the only person 甄嬛 can truly trust is her friend 温实处.



In episode 31, 安陵容 detects the musk in the fragrance found in 年妃’s palace. She asks how 甄嬛 could have thought of the fragrance. 甄嬛 reveals that the Imperial Doctors detected that she was using musk. 甄嬛 only thought about fragrances as a way of inhaling or ingesting musk. 甄嬛 doesn’t know about other uses so she doesn’t think about other products she’s been using, namely the cream to heal her scar.


There’s a quick camera cut to 安陵容’s face! I think she’s breathing a small sigh of relief. She wasn’t caught. She’s been putting musk in the cream that she’s been gifting 甄嬛! That’s why she was so adamant on putting all the blame on 年妃. This directs all suspicion away from any other substance 甄嬛 has been using. At the end of the scene, 安陵容 looks all worried. My first viewing was, oh she also hates 年妃, but nope, it’s really to hide from her own guilt.


Let’s wrap today’s episode here. The mystery of 年妃’s infertility is revealed. 甄嬛 has lost her child. There’s a vacuum in the Imperial Harem without a favored concubine. Will someone be able to take advantage of this opportunity? We’ll see in the next episode!


Thank you very much for listening today. If you have any questions or feedback, please email us at chasingdramaspodcats@gmail.com.




Welcome back to chasing dramas! The podcast that discusses Chinese history and Culture through chinese tv dramas. This is Karen and this is Cathy. Today we are discussing episode 29 of 后宫甄嬛传 Empresses in the Palace! 


If you’re new to the drama and this podcast, welcome. We recommend starting out with the “Intro to the Drama” and “Intro to the Podcast” episodes to get your bearings on what this podcast is about. Basically we watch historical Chinese dramas and discuss the context and stories behind the drama. This drama is set in the reign of Emperor 雍正 of the Qing Dynasty in the mid 1700s.


We’re at episode 29 now and this is on youtube for those of you who are interested in watching along.



This episode is extremely intense. Very plot heavy but nothing really significant of note from a culture perspective. Somewhat different from the last episode that had lots of history. So let’s dive right into it.


We left off the last episode with 安陵容, one of the concubines who is now on the empress’s team, exposing 齐妃’s idiotic plot to poison 甄嬛, the main character and cause her to have a miscarriage. 齐妃 is a high ranking consort in the imperial harem who has a son, the 3rd prince. She is anxiously awaiting news of this tragedy  but is instead summoned by the Empress 皇后. Let’s pick up from there.


齐妃 greets the Empress 皇后, who promptly shows 齐妃 the incriminating plate of water chestnuts pastries. If you recall, 齐妃 sent a plate a pastries to 甄嬛 in order to poison her.  齐妃’s like “oh crap!” but she still acts dumb. Yes, I did send these! But this was out of goodwill! The Empress 皇后 raises her eyebrows – “Goodwill? I asked the Imperial doctors. There’s a large amount of nerium oleander powder in here! Nerium oleander is poisonous!” 齐妃 immediately tries to rebuke this claim but the Empress swipes the plate onto the floor. She is quote on quote “livid”



The Empress puts on such a good show – “How dare you! You’re the only one who requested for甄嬛’s pregnancy prescription! Nerium oleander added with cinnamon is a deadly combination for a miscarriage! You’re plotting murder! You knew exactly what you were doing!”


齐妃 has finally grasped the gravity of the situation. She’s begging for forgiveness – this was all for my son, the third prince. If he isn’t declared the crown prince, there’s no future left for him. The Empress 皇后 bluntly points out – even if you were successful, the Emperor will only think about you as a murderous woman. How is that any better for your son? He still won’t be made crown prince. 



In the last episode we discussed at length about 齐妃’s stupidity.  Maybe she’s realizing some of that for herself now? But let me clarify why 齐妃 is a low level opponent here. She provided a plate of pastries with poison in them. For 1, the poison is easy to deduce as 安陵容 was able to smell it no problem. 2, she doesn’t hide the fact that she sent those pastries. If anything happens to 甄嬛 everyone knows who did it. She isn’t able to hide her actions and she will be punished. Compare that to the empress who manipulated this woman into this action.


Unfortunately, the Empress has to serve out a punishment because 甄嬛 already knows about this, and you, 齐妃 can’t be expected to get away with this. The empress says that I’ll help you cover up as much as possible. BUT, the Empress banishes 齐妃 from visiting the 3rd prince. The 3rd prince is also no longer allowed to visit his mother 齐妃. Instead, the Empress will take care of the 3rd prince from now on. If 齐妃 wants to see the 3rd Prince, she will have to come to 景仁宫, The Empress’s palace. This is a devastating blow to 齐妃 but there’s nothing else she can do. This is an appropriate punishment.



I also mentioned in the last episode that the Empress always had a grander plan. Otherwise, why didn’t 安陵容 just let 甄嬛 eat the poisonous pastries? Well we find out now what she was really planning. I will also say – in the first viewing of this drama, none of this is obvious. The Empress is still the charming head of the Imperial Harem. I honestly thought that she was trying to help 齐妃 out of this situation, but after a few rewatches. Wow – what a plan! 


So what does the Empress actually want? She wants the 3rd Prince! She doesn’t have children of her own. She knows 甄嬛’s child will be favored as soon as he or she is born. The Empress needs to make her own plans. The best way to do so is to have a child, well she can’t get pregnant. She needs to take someone else’s child. The 3rd Prince, the only adult prince, has a dolt of a mother. He’s also not too bright but nonetheless, he’s the eldest, he comes from a good family, but most importantly, he’s easily moldable. Once the Empress gets guardianship of the 3rd Prince, her position within the Imperial Harem will be strengthened. 齐妃 is a non-entity, the Empress doesn’t need to worry about her. All the Empress needed was a valid excuse for her to rightfully gain guardianship of the 3rd prince. A failed poison attempt is the perfect excuse. This was her plan all along! She needed 齐妃 to send the poisonous water chestnuts so that she could get caught red handed.


Notice how in this exchange with 齐妃, the Empress does not mention 安陵容 once? 齐妃 is left to believe that 甄嬛 figured this out all by herself! 齐妃 would have blabbed that it was 安陵容 who gave her the idea. 齐妃 doesn’t know that 安陵容 is on the Empress’s team. The Empress doesn’t need to play all of her cards just yet. 华贵妃 has always been the main antagonist. But the Empress has always been in the background, concocting her own plans. 


Well the Empress has taken care of 齐妃 and snatched guardianship of the 3rd Prince. Exactly according to plan, 甄嬛 is mollified with this punishment. It is a pretty severe sentence so she just lets this incident slide. The Empress summons 甄嬛 to discuss the incident. The Empress praises 安陵容 for her quick thinking and subtly hints for 甄嬛 to have 安陵容 around more.



Moving on from this event, there’s been a severe drought in several areas of the Empire. The Emperor and Empress will head to the 天坛 or the Temple of Heaven to pray to the gods and ancestors for rain and prosperity. Uh oh, this means the most powerful person left in the Imperial Harem is 华贵妃. Both the Empress and the Emperor tell 甄嬛 to avoid her as much as possible. She’s pregnant, it’s a peculiar time, better not draw the ire of 华贵妃.


甄嬛 is also still recovering from her cat scratch. The scar is healing nicely thanks to 安陵容’s special cream. The Emperor checks in on 甄嬛. There’s one line that I find absolutely hilarious. The Emperor says – if I wasn’t the emperor and I was just a normal prince, I’d be happy with one wife, the Empress, and two concubines, you and 华贵妃。Oh boy – you just picked the worst people, haha!


Well the rest of the episode is an absolute disaster for everyone. No sooner do the Emperor and Empress leave, does 华贵妃 start bullying 敬妃. Definitely not a good sign. It’s the summer, it’s hot out. It’s dangerous to be outside for too long. 华贵妃 has grand plans for her “reign”. It’s time to take care of some people. 



甄嬛 isn’t feeling all too well so she has some servants go and summon an Imperial Doctor. Unfortunately, 华贵妃’s head eunuch 周宁海 comes with orders for 甄嬛 to greet 华贵妃. At first 甄嬛 doesn’t want to go but finally relents after some thinly veiled threats. This is going to be an all around terrible day.  


On the way to 华贵妃’s palace. They walk past the 17th Prince 果郡王. He entered the palace to check in on the Empress Dowager. He sees her but 甄嬛 isn’t feeling well so she doesn’t even see him. At 华贵妃’s palace, everyone is settled in. There’s a quick conversation about the specific fragrance from her palace, 欢宜香. We’ve discussed this before – it’s very special, gifted by the Emperor himself. There’s also an extremely rare ingredient – Ambergris which is made from sperm whale bile. I didn’t know sperm whales historically contributed to the perfume industry but here we are.


华贵妃 finally gets to the main topic for today. It’s time to clean up the Imperial Harem. People need to learn their lesson. 甄嬛, you’re late to today’s greeting. You show no respect for your superiors as such, you are punished to kneel outside.


Shoot – this is a pretty terrible punishment. 敬妃, 安陵容, and 沈眉庄 all try to appeal this decision but to no avail. Outside, 华贵妃 orders her Eunuch to force 甄嬛 to kneel. “You’re already out of your first trimester, you can handle kneeling for 2 hours”. With that she throws a copy of 女诫 or the Admonitions for Women at 甄嬛. “Read – everyone needs to hear you”.



In a mark of true friendship, 沈眉庄 also kneels to try to appeal on behalf of 甄嬛. This only angers 华贵妃 even more. “You’re like sisters. Fine – you can also kneel outside. Bring the book next to your dear sister as she reads”. 沈眉庄 only says – I’ll join you. 


To add more insult to injury, 华贵妃 orders that all of the concubines have to sit outside to watch them. “This is your result when you do not respect orders”. 华贵妃 has ice brought out for herself. She’s lounging luxuriously inside but all of the other concubines are sitting outside in the heat!


敬妃 can’t handle it anymore. She again tries to appeal to 华贵妃 but 华贵妃 says. It’s only been an hour. She won’t die. 


Side note – it is clearly not the middle of the day anymore. Just look at their shadows – haha. 


甄嬛’s half sister and servant 浣碧 is anxiously waiting outside. 浣碧 rushes to find the only person that could possibly salvage the situation, the Empress Dowager. However, she’s barred from entering. She’s about to be turned away but she catches a glimpse of the 17th Prince’s servant.


Back at 华贵妃’s palace, 甄嬛 is weakening pretty fast. 华贵妃 sees this and orders 沈眉庄 to be whipped. 安陵容 finally can’t take it anymore and also tries to appeal. She begs – “She’ll get a heat stroke” 华贵妃 actually responds – “I dare her! Bring some mint and mugwort – let’s see if she’ll faint now. I can’t punish you but don’t worry, your sisters 安陵容 and 沈眉庄 will definitely receive their fair share”.  华贵妃 continues on and on – she’s just faking this to earn everyone’s sympathy. I can see right through her charade.



甄嬛 cannot take it anymore and faints in 沈眉庄’s arm. In swoops a knight in shining armor! The 17th Prince, 果郡王, barges in to see the ladies trying to revive the unconscious 甄嬛. He immediately picks her up to rush her back to her own palace. This is a capital offense but he doesn’t care. 华贵妃’s servant screams in surprise. Why is there so much blood on the ground!


华贵妃 finally realizes the severity of the situation. How can there be blood? This cannot happen! It doesn’t look good for 甄嬛. There’s blood everywhere. The 17th Prince rushes to send word over to the Emperor and Empress who are at the Temple of Heaven. 


The episode ends with the Emperor’s main eunuch 苏培盛 rushing into the temple to tell the Emperor the news.


Phew what an episode! 华贵妃 really outdid herself this time. This was not an easy episode. It’s pretty easy to hate her. Her arrogance will be her downfall and this is a pretty severe incident. 


Ok just two things to discuss really briefly today.



The first is the Temple of Heaven or 天坛. It is situated right in the main city of Beijing, to the Southeastern part of the city. 


It was constructed during the Ming Dynasty between 1406-1420 under Emperor 永乐。The Temple mainly served a religious purpose, with the Emperor performing rituals twice a year to pray for good harvest for the coming year. The last scene of the episode, the Empress and Emperor are technically praying within the Temple of Heaven but it’s obvious that it’s not the real temple.


Karen – you went relatively recently. Any thoughts?


The next piece is of course time! In Chinese culture, there are technically only 12 units of time per day. One 时辰 is 2 hours. There was records of horology or 12 时辰 system since the Zhou Dynasty in 1000BC.


There’s a really cool drama that came out in 2019 called The Longest Day in ChangAn that really goes into time. We might actually discuss that drama next.


So when 华贵妃 punished 甄嬛 to kneel outside, she was ordered to do so for 2 hours. That’s tough for anyone to do, especially in the heat. I don’t know where she got the idea that a pregnant woman would be fine with that.