嫣语赋 乔欣 徐正溪

The Autumn Ballad (2022) 嫣语赋

Summary: Qiu Yan ft Qiao Xin is the unloved daughter in Qiu household who goes toe-to-toe with the cold faced duke, Liang Yi as she fights for her life and happiness using her own wit and in the face of antiquated views of society. 

 

 

Overall rating: 7/10

Overall thoughts: This is one of those rare dramas where the plot/screenplay outshines the production and acting. While I like Qiao Xin who does her best in this drama, I feel like this drama would have been even more popular with someone better suited to historical dramas.  Watch the show for the plot, not the acting…

 

Full review to come!

-Karen

EPISODE 65

Welcome back to Chasing dramas. This is the podcast that discusses Chinese history and culture through historical Chinese tv dramas. We are your hosts, Karen and Cathy. Today, we are discussing episode 65 of Empresses in the Palace, 后宫甄嬛传. As always, if you have any comments or questions, please email us at karenandcathy@chasingdramas.com or follow us on twitter + instagram. Also, give us a rating if you are enjoying the podcast!

 

Now back to business.

 

[Karen]

In the last episode we had our hearts crushed by the death of 沈眉庄. While 甄嬛 is devastated, as are we, it seems that the Emperor has moved on quite quickly from this sad news. Shortly after the events of 甄嬛’s interrogation, the birth of a new princess and the death of 沈眉庄, the Emperor is setting his sights on the next woman. He’s clearly gained an interest in 甄嬛’s youngest sister, 玉娆.   

 

I’m speechless at this point. The fact that he’s turning to other women now shows us that he isn’t actually that impacted by 沈眉庄’s death. Of course, we don’t know how much time it’s been since her death but episode 65 starts off with the Emperor sitting with 甄嬛 at her palace. He suggests that he should take some of the trusted maids from her palace and turn them into concubines. Right now he’s talking about 浣碧,甄嬛’s maid and half-sister. He says, why don’t I decree her as a first class female attendant? 

 

浣碧 who is waiting on the side at this point, actually freaks out and refuses this honor. That is quite the change from her earliest position in the palace where she was actually vying to become a concubine. This also surprises the emperor because, normally, maids who are offered to be turned into a woman of the emperor would generally be over the moon. 

 

浣碧admits that she already has someone in her heart. Notice the interesting suggestions that the Emperor provides – is it a imperial guard or an imperial doctor? That’s because those are the people he thinks would befit her station as a maid. That’s fair. I would say 浣碧 thought very highly of herself which is why she allowed herself to fall in love with the 17th prince. Fortunately, 甄嬛 dismisses this idea and 浣碧 and the Emperor doesn’t think much of it.

 

[Cathy]

Shortly after, the Emperor visits the Empress Dowager. We haven’t seen her in a while which for me is somewhat odd given how close she was to 沈眉庄 but the topic of conversation with the Emperor is not about 沈眉庄 but rather the Empress. The Emperor describes the events of the blood test and how the Empress purposefully added 白矾 or potassium alum in an effort to convict 甄嬛 of adultery. 

 

What I appreciate about this scene is that the Emperor knows full well that the Empress was behind this. He’s not stupid. Unfortunately, the Empress dowager urges the Emperor to not neglect the Empress as she is his most beloved’s sister. The empress dowager has her own agenda for not wanting to punish the empress, namely keeping the seat of the Empress within her own clan and so she has no option but to accept all the terrible things the Empress does. The Emperor doesn’t have much else to say against his mother either so decides to drop the conversation.

 

The rest of this episode continues on with the Emperor’s uh eager attempts to woo 甄嬛’s younger sister and the resulting consequences.

 

[Karen]

Out in the imperial garden, 甄嬛 and 玉娆 are enjoying the day. 玉娆 is trying to catch butterflies but remarks on how boring life in the forbidden palace is. Their conversation is interrupted by the Emperor who happens to stop by. He is smitten at the sight of 玉娆. Can we all get a collective “ew” for this? 

 

Something I want to highlight is that back in episode 27, 甄嬛 actually jokes to the emperor about how beautiful her sister 玉娆 is and that if the emperor sees her, he’d want her as a concubine. He was intrigued at the time, albeit as a joke, but because she was not even 10 at the time, he thought nothing of it. Now, because 玉娆 is a young woman, but probably not older that 15-16 and looks similar to his first wife, he is all over her.

 

In the garden, the emperor tries all manner of ways to impress 玉娆 but she doesn’t take the bait. He tries to grab her hand but she backs away. She shares how there are many rules in the palace etc. In an effort to gain her favor, the Emperor suggests meeting up with his younger brother, the 19th prince, for a competition at the summer palace. Of course we know that 玉娆 and the 19th prince have met a few times and think fondly of each other, but the Emperor doesn’t know that. 

 

The ladies acquiesce and the next scene we have is of a dinner banquet at the summer palace. In attendance we have the emperor, 甄嬛, 浣碧 serving her, 宁贵人,the former horse tamer maid turned concubine, 玉娆 and a couple of princes. The 17th prince and the 19th prince are drinking at their tables while the whole party is enjoying a dance performance. The entire time, the Emperor is staring lustfully at 玉娆.

 

Ugh, this is quite gross.

 

[Cathy]

 

For this next scene, we just want to shake the 17th prince. You’re generally such an intelligent gentleman, but today was not your day.

 

The 17th prince is rather drunk while the Emperor comes to his and the 19th prince’s table for a toast. You can already see the jealousy from the Emperor when he’s talking to the 17th prince because the 17th prince learned to ride and archery by their father. Buddy, you’re a 40+ year old man, the Emperor of China, why are you still griping over this? 

 

浣碧 comes up to help replenish the 17th prince’s empty glass. Lord only knows why she went up to do this as opposed to anyone else. In any case, the 17th prince stands up rather abruptly and 浣碧 spills some liquor on his clothes. He waves it off and says he’ll go change but as he walks away, a pouch drops to the floor.

 

Both 浣碧 and the 17th prince make a motion to try to pick it up, but the Emperor insists on picking it up himself. He parades the pouch in front of the audience in a joking manner. He opens the pouch and finds…the red cutout of ZhenHuan from all those years ago. For those of us that needs a reminder, this is the cutout that Zhen Huan’s head eunuch 小允子 made for her during her very first winter in the palace. She put the cutout on a tree branch that the 17th prince picked up and kept ever since. 

 

[Karen]

Unfortunately, people noticed that the cutout looks suspiciously like 甄嬛。 This is surprising to the Emperor and 宁贵人 is actually very worried. She knows that the 17th prince and 甄嬛 are lovers so she understands that the cutout must be of 甄嬛 but she does her best to try to divert the attention of the cutout to either 浣碧 or 玉娆 in an effort to clear 甄嬛’s name. She once again does this not for any fondness of 甄嬛 but out of love for the 17th Prince. She cannot and will not let any harm come to him.

 

At first 宁贵人 proclaims that the cutout looks like 玉娆 but the 19th prince got nervous and exclaimed that 玉娆 and the 17th prince only met for the first time that day! Lol. He’s protecting his own future wife. 

 

Things are not looking good. The cutout looks suspiciously like 甄嬛. She just had to deal with the interrogation from the Empress and her faction. She lost too much in that battle, she cannot handle another blow. The Emperor is currently in a good mood but if he delves any deeper into this question, major flags will go up for him.

 

[Cathy]

Looking at the predicament, 浣碧 makes a decision that changes the course of her life. She kneels in front of th Emperor’s table to confess the cutout is actually of her. She gives a story of how she begged for the 17th prince’s help way back when 华妃 was in power. 华妃 punished 甄嬛 to kneel out in the beating sun for hours whilst she was pregnant. Remember 浣碧 did indeed ask for the 17th Prince’s help so this story fits. When she went to thank him, she made a cut out of herself and put it in a pouch as a gift to him. 

 

To add more credibility to this story, she says the 17th prince even asked for her favorite flower, the East Asian Pollia or 杜若 and placed them into the pouch. The Emperor checks and indeed there are a few petals of East Asian Pollia in the pouch. With a little egging from 宁贵人, the Emperor happily um “gifts” 浣碧 to the 17th prince. The Emperor is pretty pleased with his decision. 

 

[Karen]

甄嬛, seeing the decision made, has more important matters to resolve. She immediately steps in to ask the Emperor as to what position 浣碧 will enter into the 17th prince’s household, a concubine 侍妾, a i guess you would call second wife or 侧福晋, or the formal wife 福晋。

 

浣碧 is currently still a maid. If she marries the 17th Prince, the best she can get is the status of a concubine or 侍妾. 甄嬛 seeks to elevate 浣碧’s rank by requesting to make 浣碧 her 义妹 or like an honorary sister. THe reason is, 浣碧 is 甄嬛’s actual sister.

 

There’s some huge implications to this. As 甄嬛’s 义妹, she will be added to the family genealogy as an official member of the family. Remember, her current status is just as a maid. Even though 甄嬛 and 浣碧 are sisters, 浣碧 is still a servant because she was never accepted into the family genealogy. As 宁贵人 rightly points out, if 浣碧 is added to the family, she will have the same status as them at court greetings. 

 

[Cathy]

Well, here, the drunk 17th prince just makes me want to hold him and shake him awake. He dares to declare to the Emperor that he doesn’t want to marry her! He then goes on to say that he lost his one true love and doesn’t want to waste 浣碧’s life. He asks for the Emperor to rescind the request. 

 

Buddy, do you not see the situation? I don’t care if you’re drunk, if 浣碧 accidentally dropped the pouch or whatever. You wore the pouch into the palace, which is already a risk, and the Emperor himself discovered the pouch and its contents. Literally every woman is trying to round the lie for you and you straight up go and say Nah, I don’t love 浣碧, it’s someone else. Are you kidding me? Are you asking to be killed or worse have 甄嬛 killed? This is not the time to die for your love.

 

甄嬛 disregards the 17th princes request and resolutely asks the Emperor to make the decision. The Emperor is still in a jovial mood so he surprisingly agrees to 甄嬛’s request to make 浣碧 her 义妹. 浣碧 will shortly wed the 17th Prince as a 侧福晋.

 

宁贵人 is quietly fuming on the side. Haha, look at her just drinking. She’s very conflicted here. As we said earlier, she knows that there’s history between the 17th prince and 甄嬛. She can’t let anything happen to him but she also doesn’t want 浣碧 to marry him so easily and as a 侧福晋 at that. She loves this man but she can still be jealous of others. 

 

[Karen]

After things are settled, 甄嬛 downs a couple of cups of liquor. She’s hurting inside but can’t show it. At least 浣碧 suggests they go out for air. Outside in the dark and in her drunken state, the magically no longer tipsy 17th prince rushes over for a private conversation. The two express sadness at their current reality. He now has to marry her younger sister whom he doesn’t love. But they have no other choice. Too many things have happened that would destroy their loved ones. He still says he loves her, which I think is commendable but also at this point a little ridiculous. On one hand, the romantic in me loves the fact that he still loves her after everything that’s happened, but on the other, it’s like, you will get people killed with your true feelings. 甄嬛 urges him to take good care of 浣碧 and shares that 浣碧 is her actual younger sister so the 17th prince ought to be good to her.  浣碧 and 甄嬛 head back after that.

 

With this decision confirmed, the Emperor + 17th prince discuss this marriage in his residence what I’m presuming is the next day. The Emperor decides that not only will the 17th prince marry 浣碧, but he will also marry the 孟静娴,the daughter of a duke or 国公. Both will marry the 17th prince as a secondary wife or 侧福晋。Of course the 17th prince is not happy about this but the emperor responds with a bunch of talk about duty so he doesn’t have much choice. He does make the request that, after this, he will not accept any other woman in his life. The Emperor agrees.

 

[Cathy]

The remainder of the episode showcases some interesting customs as 浣碧 prepares for her wedding to the 17th prince. For one, as she is now an honorary sister to 甄嬛, she will be given a new last name and a new name. She decides to go with 玉隐。 From now on, she will be referred to as 玉隐。 We’ll discuss this at the end of the episode but the naming convention is rather customary of chinese tradition. The most interesting word choice though is 隐 which means to conceal or to hide. It is quite fitting because she has hidden her true parentage her entire life. Even now, she is hiding the fact that she is a true sister of 甄嬛.

 

With the pending wedding, 甄嬛 and now 玉隐 are able to receive their parents back in the palace. They have endured harsh exile and are lucky to be alive. 甄嬛 is grateful to see her mother and father both healthy, albeit looking much older than before. Saving her parents was one of the main reasons she returned to the palace and therefore it is comforting to see them reunited.

 

[Karen]

玉隐 now changed into her beautiful red wedding attire. However, as we should note, she is not wearing proper red because she is not marrying the 17th prince as his wife or 福晋. She’s only a 侧福晋. Again, props to this show for remembering this distinction.  She speaks frankly to her older sister and apologies for taking her place. The place that 甄嬛 should have had. 甄嬛 is not jealous and accepts the path that each of them has chosen. She gives 玉隐 a few pieces of advice on how to behave as a concubine of the 17th prince before seeing her off to her wedding party.

 

玉隐 or should I say the actress for 玉隐 her name is 蓝盈莹 looks positively stunning. 

 

[Cathy]

As 甄嬛 and a few other concubines say goodbye to 玉隐, 宁贵人 gloomily comments how the 17th prince suddenly now has two women but none of them are the one he wants. Unfortunately there really isn’t anything else anyone can do. At his own wedding, the 17th prince becomes intoxicated and would prefer to not go anywhere that night but ultimately spends the evening with 玉隐。The other woman 孟静闲 that marries the 17th Prince is dismayed at hearing this news…will she become a problem for 玉隐? We’ll find out. 

 

And that is that for episode 65.

 

[Karen]

 

Before we talk about some of the cultural stuff, let’s discuss 浣碧 or now 玉隐。 Many fans generally don’t like her and I, myself, generally didn’t like her at first, but in the years of watching this drama, I have warmed up to her significantly. Yes, in the beginning of the drama, she wanted to become a concubine of the emperor herself and almost betrayed 甄嬛. 

 

[Cathy] – no, she actually betrayed her.

 

[Karen] Well after their frank conversation where 甄嬛 acknowledges 浣碧’s birth, she has been very loyal to her sister. Not many people would have gone to the nunnery under such poor conditions as a maid and served her sister so well for so many years. 

 

Even though she loved the 17th prince, she never openly tried to sabotage her sister and the 17th prince’s relationship which is very commendable considering how much sabotaging is done in the imperial harem. Her main flaw is that she believes her place is much higher than that of a maid. Originally the 17th prince joked that 玉隐 should be paired with his head servant but she was very upset at that suggestion. She thinks that because she is 甄嬛’s actual sister, she is destined for more which is why she allowed herself to love the 17th prince. I would like to think that she would not have created this story that triggered her to be married to him if it weren’t for the Emperor suggesting that she be his concubine. She really panicked at that point and saw this as her only out. She saw an opportunity for her future and took it. 

 

I will also note that it is impressive how 甄嬛 managed to seamlessly improve 玉隐’s standing. It has been a wish her father has desired for many years and she is now able to give an actual position to 玉隐 and her deceased mother. That shows 甄嬛’s kindness and why people are loyal to her. She actually does things for her loved ones.

 

[Cathy] – for me, after rewatching this drama a few times, I’ve also changed my opinion of 浣碧. She’s just a girl with no real prospects. Her only fault, if you can even call it that, was falling in love with the 17th prince. She saw the opportunity and took it. What’s wrong with that? Who knows what would have happened to her if she didn’t?

 

Let’s talk about names

 

Way back in episode one, we discussed the importance of names in a family and the usage of characters to represent a person’s generation. We see it once again for 浣碧’s new name for her marriage to the 17th prince.

 

In a name, there’s the last name such as Li, and then typically 2 characters for the first name. The first character represents the generation, so that’s set by family elders or even the emperor. Then the second character can be more freely chosen. Let’s give an example. the Emperor’s name is 胤禛。 All of his brothers had the character 胤 in their name. The 17th prince is 胤礼. As a refresher, once the Emperor became the Emperor no one could use the word 胤 anymore, hence why we refer to the 17th prince’s name as 允礼.

 

Now for 甄嬛’s family, for ladies in 甄嬛’s family, the custom is to have 玉 or jade as the first character and then a character that includes the character 女 or woman in it. 甄嬛’s real name is 甄玉嬛, so she follows this pattern. You can’t really see from a podcast but the character of 嬛, has the character of 女 or woman on the left of the word. Let’s take a look at 甄嬛’s younger sister  玉娆. Again, she follows the pattern, 玉 is the first character, and then 娆 has the female character on the left. As a 义妹, 浣碧 is allowed to use the character of 玉 to represent her generation but she is not allowed to use a character with 女 for the 2nd word because she’s apparently there’s a difference between an honorary daughter and an actual daughter. I mean as we’ve seen throughout the show – social status is extremely important in imperial china and slight differences in birth will dictate even the name one can use. 

 

I want to briefly discuss the significance of the name 浣碧 chooses. 玉隐 – 隐 means to conceal. There’s a ton to read into this. What is she trying to conceal? The truth of her own birth or the truth of the story between the 17th prince and 甄嬛? We don’t know but it is intriguing that she chose this character instead of the others. 

 

 

EPISODE 64

The Chrysanthemum Wilts

 

[Cathy]

 

Welcome back to Chasing Dramas. This is the podcast that discusses chinese history and culture. We are your hosts, Karen and Cathy, here today to discuss Episode 64 of Empresses in the Palace, 后宫甄嬛传。

 

Last week was an intense episode, the Empress and her faction believed that they could destroy 甄嬛 on the basis of adultery. All they needed to do was to present some convincing evidence that may or may not have been fabricated, linking 甄嬛 and the doctor 温实处. They nearly succeeded too but 甄嬛’s team was not going to go down without a fight. With some quick thinking from 甄嬛 and 叶澜依, 甄嬛’s team won a decisive victory. The despicable 祺贵人 has been banished to the cold palace and the Empress’s has lost power of the Imperial Harem. Things seem pretty good for 甄嬛.

 

The episode starts off in a much calmer manner than the last episode. By this point, it has been established that 甄嬛 has not committed adultery with the imperial doctor 温实初。

 

[Karen]

However, 祺贵人 is not satisfied. In a last ditch effort, she turns to 温实初 and exclaims that everyone can see how he feels about 甄嬛, even if there’s no inappropriate relationship. She questions if he can promise upon his family and his life that he’s never had any untowards feelings for the emperor’s women. 

 

Even though the Emperor doesn’t really acknowledge 祺贵人’s words and asks the guards to take her away, 安陵容 says that the doctor’ will inevitably kill someone. At this, the doctor says he will prove his innocence and leaves the palace.

 

Shortly after, the Emperor stands from his chair at the top of the room. He doesn’t directly punish the Empress, but it’s pretty much implied. He says that he and the Empress are both tired. The Empress’s health has not been good so moving forward, 甄嬛 will manage affairs in the palace. She will be aided by both 端妃 and 敬妃. The Emperor says that the Empress should just focus on recovering her health in her palace.

 

In case you couldn’t tell, this is where the Emperor is, in his roundabout way, stripping the Empress of all power in the Imperial Harem. The Empress cares deeply about the amount of power she holds in the palace so this is a large setback for her. 

 

With this whole debacle, the Empress was hoping to finally topple 甄嬛 but the plan backfired. She is now powerless in the palace and has lost a crucial and powerful ally in the harem. All that’s left for the Empress are 安陵容 and her servants.

 

[Cathy]

The accusation of adultery story line comes to a close. The remainder of the episode focuses on 沈眉庄, 甄嬛’s best friend, in what is admittedly one of the saddest scenes in the entire drama.  Are you ready with your tissue boxes? I can’t tell you how much I cried when I watched this the first time. 

 

She is heavily pregnant and is expected to give birth soon but as we know, the child is not the child of the EMperor’s but instead, the child of the doctor 温实初. In the last 2 episodes, she has been kept away from this interrogation by both her maid and the doctor 温实初 to prevent her from being stressed given her pregnant state.

 

However, at the end of the last episode, and towards the end of the interrogation, a maid, ordered by 安陵容, rushed over to 沈眉庄’s palace and tipped her off that 温实初 and 甄嬛 are being accused of adultery. Shocked, 沈眉庄 orders her maid to accompany her to the Empress’s palace to help out.

 

This…we shall see turns to be her undoing. 沈眉庄 is slowly walking up towards the Empress’s palace but we see a eunuch rushing passed her. The eunuch hurriedly announces to the Emperor that the Imperial Doctor castrated himself and is critically injured.

 

When 沈眉庄 hears this, she falls unconscious to the floor. 

 

[Karen]

She is rushed back to her palace where she is now in labor. However, the circumstances are very dire. Since she suffered a shock, she loses a lot of blood and does not have energy to push. Both she and 温实初 are suffering in their respective residences. 

 

Outside of 沈眉庄‘s room, 安陵容 and 甄嬛 are waiting to hear news. 甄嬛 is fully aware that 安陵容’s maid was the one to inform 沈眉庄 of what was happening in the Empress’s palace. If it wasn’t clear, 安陵容is the absolute worst. She puts on a show that she didn’t know why her maid told 沈眉庄 and that they are all sisters. She does not want anything to befall her dear sister. Finally though, 甄嬛 with her bright red lips and amazing smoky eye makeup, doesn’t fall for these empty words and actually slaps 安陵容 across the face. That was certainly satisfying but that doesn’t take away from the damage 安陵容 has done.

 

The Emperor arrives shortly after and demands that the maid who notified 沈眉庄 be killed. 甄嬛 doesn’t say much but you know she is seething inside. That doesn’t root out the main culprit which is 安陵容. 安陵容 is a master of looking weak in order to stave off any suspicion on her actions. 

 

沈眉庄 is not doing well at all in labor and continues to lose blood. Even though 温实初 himself is in a lot of pain having just castrated himself, he is carried over on a stretcher to help 沈眉庄 through labor. With his direction to his mentee, 卫临,the two are able to help 沈眉庄 stop the bleeding. 

 

After some more tense moments, 沈眉庄 gives birth to a princess. The Emperor and 甄嬛 breathe a huge sigh of relief that the princess has been born. Given 沈眉庄”s weakened state, he is urged to head back to his palace and return later to see her and the daughter. The Emperor agrees and leaves with 安陵容.

 

[Cathy]

甄嬛is so happy to hear that her sister is safe and healthy. After such a stressful day, it’s good to finally hear some positive news. Unfortunately, right after the Emperor leaves, a maid comes rushing out and states that 沈眉庄 lost too much blood. 甄嬛 is distraught and comes to see her best friend. She demands that her friend is provided with the best medicine to save her but even 温实初 who is tending to 沈眉庄’s bedside, says, there’s no need. She has lost too much blood. 

 

沈眉庄 in her weakened state requests to speak with her friend and 温实初 alone for some last words. Here, 沈眉庄 drops all pretense and exposes the truth to 甄嬛. That this daughter is the daughter of her and 温实初. 甄嬛 is shocked to find out this truth but 沈眉庄 doesn’t care. She is on her deathbed, she has nothing to fear. 

 

In this tear inducing last conversation, 沈眉庄 explains that in the palace, there are only 2 people who truly cared about her, 甄嬛 and 温实初. She even calls the doctor by his name which is a very intimate and direct thing to do. She says she knows that 温实初 has feelings for 甄嬛 and so she understands that he is mad at her for what she did – tricking him into drinking that aphrodisiac and thus spending the night together.

 

And she finally asks the question that she’s always wanted to know the answer to – whether or not he ever had true feelings for her. And at long last, he is brave enough to share that the alcohol that night, was not enough to force him to develop feelings. He cares for her, not simply because she is 甄嬛“s friend. It’s not the best confession in the world, but it’s enough for 沈眉庄. She is comforted by these words and the 2 new parents share a heartfelt moment with their newborn daughter. 

 

In the safety of the two most important people in her life, she names her daughter, 静和.

 

Shortly after, the beautiful, resolute and kind 沈眉庄 dies in 温实初’s arms. 

 

As 甄嬛 walks out of the palace, she reminisces of her time with her best friend. 孙俪’s acting is absolutely amazing at this moment. 甄嬛 is full of despair and is heartbroken at the death of this wonderful person. 

 

[Karen]

沈眉庄, as we’ve said from the very beginning, is one of our favorite characters in this entire show. She fully embodies the beauty, strength, integrity and resoluteness of the chrysanthemum flower as described in that important poem: 宁可枝头包香死,不曾吹落北风中。Essentially, the chrysanthemum flower would rather wilt on its stem than blow into the north wind. She gave her initial attraction and love to the Emperor when she first entered the palace. Unfortunately, at the time, the formidable 华妃 tricked 沈眉庄 into thinking that she was pregnant. When this turned out to be untrue, 沈眉庄 saw just how cold-hearted the emperor could be. From that moment on, she decided that she will never turn back to the emperor. She would rather spend the rest of her life in the imperial harem without his favor than bow her head to him again. 

 

That is why she turned to the Empress Dowager for support instead. Every day, 沈眉庄 would tend to the Empress Dowager. The Empress Dowager, from their very first meeting during the court selection process all the way back in episode 1, favored 沈眉庄。 It was the Empress Dowager who wanted 沈眉庄 to be selected as a concubine and look at how that played out for her. 沈眉庄 has been wonderful daughter-in-law so to speak and one of the few people in the haren that actually tended to the Empress Dowager. In turn, the Empress Dowager was the one who raised 沈眉庄 to become a 嫔 which gave her a lot more power than before.

 

沈眉庄 held her love for 温实初 close to her heart and was never jealous of the fact that he loved her friend. She was disheartened, yes, but never interfered. On the contrary, she always tried to look out for 甄嬛 her entire life. In terms of true friendship in the palace, there was only 甄嬛 and 沈眉庄 that always kept their bond. In the palace here so many people turned against each other, this was very rare. 沈眉庄 only reverted back into the Emperor’s arms in order to cover up the fact that she was pregnant with 温实初’s child. She cared neither for power nor affection in the harem. This was evident in her dying conversation when she heard that she had been promoted to the title of consort or 妃。 She did not care one iota of that title and that is what distinguishes her from so many other women in the palace. She had the intelligence, disposition, grace and personality to be a powerful consort if not more, but she chose not to. She, unlike 甄嬛, never had true affection for the Emperor. 甄嬛 herself even had to forgive the Emperor in the palace early on to survive whereas 沈眉庄 never did. 

 

沈眉庄 was that rare flower in the palace that did not deign to dirty herself in imperial harem tactics. She was pure and true to heart, caring deeply for her friends and although died so prematurely, was with the 2 people she cared most in the world. Fortunately for her, she birthed a daughter and therefore, there will be no questions as to her daughter’s lineage. Her daughter will be raised as a princess of the Qing dynasty, loved by many. In my mind, 沈眉庄 can rest easy knowing this.

 

—-

[Cathy]

沈眉庄’s funeral is held the next day. Her palace has already transformed into a sea of white, the color of mourning in Chinese culture. Interestingly enough, the Empress is not there while the rest of the harem and even the 19th and 17th prince arrive to pay their respects. 甄嬛 is besides herself with grief, quietly crying in front of 沈眉庄’s plaque. She’s wearing a white gown with purple embroidery – perhaps as a nod to 眉庄’s favorite color? Notice her makeup is still quite heavy – this is a reminder to us that even at this funeral, 甄嬛 is not the naive young girl who just entered the palace. She still has things to do.

 

The doctor is hiding in the background also covered in tears. He dare not approach because well, he can’t. Poor guy.

 

甄嬛’s two sisters turn to leave the funeral. How funny – they are greeted by the 19th prince and the 17th prince. As they leave though, 浣碧 comments, did you see how handsome the 17th prince is? 玉娆 to her credit, did not pay any attention. Finally some girl who doesn’t like the 17th prince.

 

玉娆 dismisses 浣碧 and ventures out herself. She’s quickly followed by the 19th prince. There’s a cute scene between the two of them. There’s clearly some chemistry between 玉娆 and the 19th prince. It seems that even though their first interaction was not as pleasant, they are slowly warming to each other’s presence.

 

[Karen]

甄嬛 is struggling with the care of 沈眉庄’s daughter. The child isn’t sleeping well nor is she eating. Doctor 温实初’s pupil is in charge of her care but it’s difficult. 甄嬛 learns that 温实处 has been drinking heavily to cope with the loss. She makes a comment which I think is very apt – he’s only cherishing what is lost. What was he doing for all those years? Like seriously! You were still pining over 甄嬛, what the heck!I get you’re a great guy and all but um…沈眉庄 was right there. [Karen – also, why does 甄嬛 say things so bluntly in front of 卫临?Isn’t she worried he’ll expose something?]

 

The Emperor’s head eunuch 苏培盛 arrives shortly after bearing gifts from the Emperor not for 甄嬛 but for her younger sister 玉娆. She’s gifted a pair of begonia styled hair ornaments called 步摇。步摇 have are hair accessories with dangling ornaments. They sway with every step, hence why they are called 步摇. The literally translation is step movement. Cool huh? Anyways… This is curious – why send anything to the young girl? 甄嬛 and 浣碧 exchange knowing looks – this is not good…

 

[Cathy]

安陵容 is at her own palace drinking away her own sorrows. What sorrows does she have? Seriously. What a snake. She feels slight remorse for the death of her servant 宝鹊 but absolutely nothing for her involvement in 沈眉庄’s death. We know full well that 安陵容 was the instigator of 沈眉庄”s death. If it wasn’t for her servant’s notification, 沈眉庄 would still be alive. 

 

She didn’t care if 沈眉庄 died, she just needed to strike a blow to 甄嬛. Ugh this entire conversation is disgusting. She feels much better now knowing that 甄嬛 is very much hurting, not from a political or favor perspective, simply because she lost a friend. At the end, 安陵容 blames 沈眉庄’s death on 甄嬛. 

 

Complete side note, I really like the framing of this scene in the wider shots. 安陵容 is sitting in the middle and you see the background. I think it’s quite balanced.

 

[Karen]

Later on, the Emperor has come to visit 甄嬛. He sees a painting on the wall that looks like a painting from the artist 崔白. 甄嬛 responds that it’s actually a replica painted by her sister 玉娆. At this point, the young girl walks in. The Emperor jokingly reprimands her for not thanking him for his earlier gift. 玉娆 actually states that she doesn’t want the gift, her sister likes begonias. She won’t take anything that her sister enjoys. The Emperor, seeing his gift denied, tries something else. This part is hilarious – he tries to make small talk but is rebuked in every way. He then just says…i’ll gift you the 崔白 original. Hahaha – your usually attempts at wooing a woman won’t work here.

 

甄嬛 makes a curious comment now – she says, she doesn’t want her sister to marry too far away. The Emperor nods in agreement. He keeps staring at 玉娆…what’s happening here?

 

玉娆 goes to pick up the 崔白’s 秋蒲蓉宾图 and bumps into the 19th Prince. He’s shocked that the Emperor gifted this to her – he’s been asking for it for ages. 玉娆 dismisses this action as simply a way for the Emperor to win points with her sister. The 19th prince doesn’t think much of this either. Girl…you are too naive. This old man is VERY interested in you. Well 玉娆 and the 19th Prince discuss the painting and their admiration for geese. Geese are known for their faithfulness as they mate for life.

 

玉娆 thanks the 19th Prince again for his aid to her sister during the interrogation. As thanks, he just wants a view of the painting, which she agrees. Ok, I don’t know about you but I think he’s absolutely manhandling a 700 year old painting! He just casually picks up the painting and unfurls it right in the garden. What if something happened to it! But i guess that’s what happens when you’re royalty?

 

玉娆 is impressed at the 19th prince’s insights. It looks like we have a budding romance?

 

[Cathy]

After this exchange, 甄嬛 summons the doctor 温实处 over to her palace. The man’s in a pitiful state. He’s still mourning 沈眉庄’s death but 甄嬛 gives him his daughter to hold. This is the first time he’s seen her since her birth. Man, this guy just can’t catch a break. To atone for his sins, he will take care of her tombstone for 3 years which is a chinese tradition. The Emperor has agreed – obviously the excuse the doctor gives is to atone for his medical negligence. 

 

At the end of the episode, the Emperor arrives to chat with 甄嬛 about some mundane accounts for the Imperial Palace. He’s impressed with the reductions in palace expenditure. 甄嬛 says this won’t be the case once new ladies arrive in the Imperial Harem. The Emperor jokes – if you’re worried about money, I’ll just take pick some ladies from your palace to be members of the harem. What about 浣碧? 

 

What? Ew – you first were eyeing 玉娆 and now 浣碧? Gross…

 

[Karen]

 

Clocks

 

I’ve wanted to point this out before but so far in the drama we’ve seen several palaces with pendulum clocks. There’s one very prominently displayed behind 安陵容. Well – I wasn’t very well informed of this history of clocks so I went and did some research. The first records of clocks in China actually date back to the Ming Dynasty in 1602. Clocks grew in popularity during the Qing dynasty. It’s around 1730 right now in the drama so it’s quite plausible for concubines to have western clocks. The most famous collector was actually Emperor 乾隆, the son of our current Emperor. He loved collecting Western paintings, trinkets, and gadgets. One of the clocks in his collection sold at auction for roughly $7M in 2010. 

 

[Cathy]

 

崔白 

 

崔白 is a painter that is prominently featured in this episode. Born in 1050, he was a northern Song Dynasty painter who was best known for his paintings of birds and plants. He pioneered nature sketching during his lifetime. He became a court artist during the reign of Emperor Shenzong of the Song Dynasty. The Emperor delivered a mandate stating that unless there was an imperial edict, no one could commission works from the artist. 

 

His famous paintings include 双喜图 the Magpies and Hare, the Wintery Sparrow, and of course what is mentioned in the drama 秋蒲蓉宾图。This painting prominently features a pair of swan geese in flight amongst wilting lilies and blooming 芙蓉 or confederate roses. 

 

There are only a few of his paintings that exist today. The Magpies and Hare, 秋蒲蓉宾图, and a few others currently reside in the National Palace Museum in Taipei. 

 

元好问 摸鱼儿·雁丘词

 

Lastly lets discuss the lines mentioned by 玉娆 and the 19th prince written by 元好问 摸鱼儿·雁丘词.

 

The author 元好问 was a late jin and yuan dynasty scholar and historian. He was born in 1190 and died in 1257. It is rumored that he wrote this poem in 1205 when he was only 16. He learned about the story of swan geese on his way to a civil entrance exam but there’s no definitive historical record. 

 

The whole poem or song describes the love and faithfulness of a pair of geese. Specifically in this show, the two characters only discuss this line. 渺万里层云,千山暮雪,只影向谁去

 

This roughly translates to, one in the pair has already passed away. In the long road ahead, during the summer and winter travels, across clouds and snow covered mountains, what’s the point of going alone?

 

玉娆 is still a young girl. She can dream of one true love. Her sister, of course, wanted that for herself but she resigned herself to the life in the palace. Let’s see what fate awaits the young girl.

 

Before we end, the beginning of the poem includes a very famous line.

 

问世间,情为何物,直教生死相许 – my translation is this – Ask the world, what is love? What is feeling that compels people through life and death?

 

It is featured prominently in the Kungfu story by 金庸’s 神雕侠侣. Or The Return of the Condor Heroes.

EPISODE 62 pt 2 + 63

[Cathy]

Welcome back to Chasing Dramas. We are your hosts, Karen and Cathy, here today to discuss Episode 62 + 63 of Empresses in the Palace, 后宫甄嬛传。

 

There is a lot going on in the world right now but I hope that you all can enjoy listening in this exciting explanation of the most intense episodes of the entire drama in Empresses in the Palace. What are we talking about? Why it is the accusation of adultery of Zhen Huan.

 

This begins in the latter half of episode 62 through the beginning of 64. We will start our discussion right around the 29th minute of episode 62 as we see on Youtube. There are many, many characters who appear in this episode so hang on tight as we go through this!

 

[Karen]

I think overall, this epic episode is a culmination of sorts of the two leading factions in the palace. On one side, it’s the Empress, 皇后, and the other, it’s our main character, 甄嬛。What are the 2 biggest secrets in 甄嬛’s life right now? #1 is that her twin children are not the children of the Emperors, but instead, of her lover’s, the 17th prince. The 2nd, and something that 甄嬛 doesn’t know is that her best friend 沈眉庄’s unborn child is actually the Imperial Doctor 温实初 ‘s child. Neither are the children of the emperor’s. Of course, he doesn’t know that. The only one who does know about both? The Imperial Doctor 温实初.

 

[Cathy]

Alrighty, where are we? 安陵容 has regained favor with the emperor after her beautiful figure skating display. 甄嬛’s is at her palace getting her nails done in the presence of her younger sister 玉娆 and 甄嬛’s trusted maid, 槿汐. 浣碧 is currently not in the palace but instead, caring for the 17th prince at his residence since he is sick. There’s a ton to unpack here in this short conversation. We’ll discuss 甄嬛’s nails in the analysis. 甄嬛 casually wonders why 祺贵人 has nuns from other temples in the palace. Who are these nuns? 槿汐 makes a curious comment – she agrees that she should have paid more attention but the Empresses ordered her to teach palace etiquette to the new maids this morning so she was unavailable. Isn’t that odd? Well before we can dwell on this, The empress’s head eunuch stops by and requests 甄嬛’s presence. 

 

Once at 景仁宫,or the Empress’s residence, we have the entire imperial harem there. What is happening? Immediately, the Empress asks 祺贵人 why she has gathered the entire harem together. 祺贵人 doesn’t skip a beat and says “I am accusing 熹贵妃 of adultery”.

 

甄嬛 is shocked and clenches the table. She’s worried her secret has been revealed. 

 

The Empress, putting on a show, knowingly asks 祺贵人 “This is a very serious accusation, you cannot lie about these things”. 祺贵人 then goes on, with the nudging of 宁贵人, to say that she pledges the truth on her entire family clan. If there’s any deceit in what she’s about to say, then her entire clan will cease to exist. This is a very powerful oath, so to speak, and shows the gravity of her words. In Chinese culture, having no descendents is one of the biggest sins you could have for your family. One also doesn’t make oaths lightly…

 

[Karen]

The Empress asks, you claim 熹贵妃 of adultery, who is the man? You look at the camera cuts to 甄嬛 and 宁贵人 who are both incredibly tense at this point.

 

祺贵人 then haughtily exclaims “The Imperial Doctor 温实初!”

 

HAHAHAHAHA

 

Immediately, both 甄嬛 and 宁贵人 relax. This is so funny! They both let out a sigh of relief. They both know that 祺贵人 isn’t that intelligent and now she found the wrong target. 甄嬛 doesn’t know what 祺贵人 has up her sleeve but nothing happened between her and 温实处 – she’s hoping that she’ll figure something out. 

 

Why does 宁贵人 or 叶澜依 seem so invested about this too? Didn’t we just see her in the last episode (episode 61) threatening 甄嬛 with a dagger? She obviously has no love for 甄嬛 but she still deeply loves the 17th Prince. Who does the 17th Prince love? 甄嬛. 叶澜依 will protect anyone that the 17th Prince cherishes, regardless if she has broken his heart. This is truly touching.  

 

Before we go further into this episode, let’s take a step back and identify who are all the players in the harem. 

 

Since 甄嬛’s return to the palace, she has been very diligent in building a network. Let’s take a look at who is now on her side:

  1. 端妃 – The more experienced and oldest consort in the palace who helped 甄嬛 defeat 华妃 when she was in power. In return, 甄嬛 helped 端妃 adopt princess 温宜  to care for, thus giving her support for her time in the palace
  2. 敬妃 – a good friend of 甄嬛’s and the adoptive mother of 甄嬛“s first daughter, 胧月。They’ve resolved their differences.
  3. 沈眉庄 – 甄嬛 ‘s childhood best friend
  4. 欣常在 – 甄嬛 helped her gain ownership of her own palace by removing the arrogant 祺贵人。
  5. 宁贵人 – 宁贵人 is the horse tamer maid that turned into a concubine. As we said, she loves the 17th prince and because she knows the 17th prince loves 甄嬛, 宁贵人 is willing to help her.
  6. 槿汐 – Her trusty maid
  7. 苏培盛 – Her trusty maid’s husband and head eunuch of the emperor
  8. 浣碧 – Her maid/half sister
  9. 玉娆 – Her youngest sister
  10. 19th prince

 

Now who is on the empress’s side?

  1. 安嫔 – 安陵容, former friend of 甄嬛’s but now working for the empress
  2. 瓜尔佳文鸢 – 祺贵人 – Family caused the downfall of 甄嬛’s family

 

Neutral – 

  1. 康常在
  2. 贞嫔

 

[Cathy]

Now the accusation is out, let’s see what happens.

 

Quite a few of the concubines step in to try to defend their side. 祺贵人 and her the neutral ladies hypothesize why this relationship is plausible while 甄嬛“s faction say it’s unwarranted speculation. 安陵容 is such the two faced b**** that she is – everything she says makes it seem like it’s in favor of 甄嬛 but really, her words just direct more speculation to 甄嬛。

 

祺贵人, however, comes rather prepared. She brings up that the Imperial Doctor 温实初 had previously proposed marriage to 甄嬛. There’s proof too.  祺贵人 brought one of 甄嬛’s old maids from when she was growing up, 玢儿, to confirm this fact. However, this fact doesn’t hold much water. 玢儿 even acknowledges that 甄嬛 didn’t accept the marriage proposal. Ladies’ on 甄嬛’s side even say that is 甄嬛 really did want to accept the marriage proposal, she wouldn’t be in the palace today.

 

Next up, 祺贵人 brings up 斐雯。 Remember her? She’s the maid that was punished to be slapped in the face after opening windows right after 甄嬛 gave birth and causing her to cough. She was punished by the emperor and was not happy about that. It looks like she was turned by the Empress and is now here to provide evidence against her old master. 甄嬛is livid to see 斐雯 who claims that she saw the doctor and 甄嬛 have a very private conversation where his hands were on hers and his sleeve exposed bamboo leaf embroidery. 

 

This…didn’t really happen. Earlier in episode 62, the doctor came to check on 甄嬛”s health condition so of course, his hand rested on her hand to check her pulse. There was still the sleeve separating the two of them so there was no point did the doctor touch 甄嬛’s skin. His sleeve did expose the willow embroidery which may have been a little “private” but that is not a problem. 斐雯 only ran into this scene when she accompanied 甄嬛’s younger sister into see 甄嬛, not this embellished version.

 

[Karen]

As all of this drama is happening, we have to remember the very pregnant 沈眉庄。 She wasn’t invited to this accusation trial but she’s worried about 甄嬛。Luckily, her maid is able to persuade her to stay away from the drama and remain inside.

 

The Empress’s head eunuch requests the presence of 温实初 to this trial. But as they pass by 沈眉庄’s residence, he requests to step inside to check on her health. Once inside, he warns her to not go outside for any reason. The excuse he uses is very innocuous. It’s windy outside. She is near her delivery date and it’s not good for her to be out. 温实初 prevents her from suspecting anything wrong is happening which showcases his care and love for her. He doesn’t want anything to happen to her especially at this crucial juncture of her pregnancy. He has a feeling that whatever is about to happen next is not going to be good, especially because he is going to see the Empress.

 

The doctor arrives at the Empress’s palace and sees almost the entire imperial harem there. Immediately, the Empress’s head eunuch flips open the Doctor’s sleeve and reveals the embroidery there. 

 

[Cathy]

Everyone sees the embroidery and at first it doesn’t look good for 甄嬛. But, the doctor explains that the embroidery is of green bamboo leaves that his mother loves. His mother personally embroidered these leaves for him as a way to remember her. This most certainly clears some of the air because it’s from his mother, not from any type of lover. The Empress doesn’t say much but 敬妃 chimes in that the embroidery looks dated as well, not something that is recent. Therefore, anyone who is paying attention would probably have been able to see it. This cannot mean anything significant between the doctor and 甄嬛.

 

Poor doctor. He didn’t do anything and just walked into a massive trap that could potentially cost him his life. Thank god he and 甄嬛 didn’t actually cheat with each other. They are both uh adulterers, but just with different people. Isn’t that hilarious? 

 

That’s the end of episode 62 – let’s dive right into episode 63.

 

[Karen]

 

甄嬛 has been silent the entire time. She has heard the accusations from 玢儿 and 斐雯. Her mind must be racing but at least, she is innocent in this accusation. No one suspects a thing of her true uh… crime.  Her faction, specifically 敬妃 has countered most of the attacks on her behalf. Now it’s time for 甄嬛 to show what she’s all about. Her tone is so much deeper than the beginning of the drama and her glare emanates power. 甄嬛 coldly asks 斐雯 whether she’s’ done her chores, did she varnish the Lapis lazuli vase? That’s odd, why ask this question?  斐雯 in her haste immediately says yes. 槿汐 then coldly responds, that’s rubbish, the one on the counter is made of Jade. 斐雯 quickly agrees and says yes, I forgot, it’s made of jade.  With just one question, 甄嬛 undermines 斐雯”s credibility and memory. If she can’t remember something like what she cleaned, how can she be trusted for remembering what she saw between 甄嬛 and the doctor?

 

Here, 敬妃 chuckles and says – wow, with such a memory, I’m surprised you can remember the willow on a sleeve. 甄嬛 does a fabulous eye roll and responds – there has never been a vase on the counter. You claim that you serve me, but you don’t know your usual chores and spend all of your time scrutinizing what’s on a doctor’s sleeve. What’s your motive?

 

[Cathy]

I love the shot of 叶澜依 trying to stifle a laugh. 甄嬛 turns towards the Empress – this is very suspicious. Why would a lowly maid pay attention to this? 甄嬛’s squad continue to chip away at 斐雯’s credibility. If we judge this right now as a game of tug of war, I think 甄嬛’s team is winning right now. 

 

All of a sudden though, 安陵容 brings up 甘露寺, the temple 甄嬛 was exiled to for all those years. She questions how anyone at such a holy temple could conduct such blasphemous acts such as adultery. Uh-oh, where’s the conversation headed?

 

At this point, the Emperor, 皇上, arrives. 祺贵人 doesn’t hesitate to share her accusations with the Emperor. He actually slaps her for making such an accusation but the Empress helps give some credibility to 祺贵人’s claim by referencing her oath. 

 

At the same time though, events are happening outside of Empress’s palace. 浣碧 has returned to 甄嬛’s palace and is getting slightly anxious that 甄嬛 hasn’t returned. She’s waiting with 甄嬛’s younger sister in the palace. Suddenly a maid rushes in to inform them to take action. She’s 宁贵人’s maid. The maid quickly tells them that a nun from 甘露寺 has accused 甄嬛 of adultery. It’s best to find someone else from the temple to act as another witness. 浣碧, who fully knows the gravity of this situation immediately thinks of the nun 莫言. She’ll stay in the palace for now but 玉娆, 甄嬛’s younger sister, immediately rushes out to find the nun, with a eunuch in tow. On their way out, they bump into the 19th prince who quickly learns of this story. 

 

[Karen]

Back at the Empress’s palace, the Emperor, with his suspicious nature, agrees to listen to 祺贵人’s witness. Who is this witness? It is the despicable 静白. This 静白 was the nun that abused 甄嬛 the entire time she was at the temple as a nun. Ugh, this is not good.

 

祺贵人 commands 静白 to tell her story. My blood just boils here – 静白 begins her soliloquy by painting 甄嬛 as an aloof woman who didn’t mesh with the other nuns. The only two people who visited were an elderly maid and of course this doctor. The elderly maid was of course 芳若, sent by the Empress Dowager. There’s no lie here. Then 静白 makes her accusations – she witnessed 甄嬛 and the doctor in a room together by themselves. She couldn’t go in because 甄嬛’s maids were standing guard outside – but when she questioned 甄嬛, she was rudely dismissed. 甄嬛 then left to 灵云峰 amidst rumors of infidelity and she 静白 did not know what happened after that. 

 

Silence – this looks pretty damning for 甄嬛. 宁贵人 suddenly stands up and asks to take her leave. This whole situation is giving her a headache. The Emperor consents. She turns away but before she leaves, she asks a few questions to 静白. After hearing the responses, 叶澜依 doesn’t say anything else as walks out. 

 

[Cathy]

With that interlude over, it’s time for the Empress to strike. She has been silent the entire time. She needs to play her part well as the neutral judge. She can’t say anything too early in this whole scene otherwise it’ll be too obvious what she’s trying to do. She truly is a master manipulator. She “serenely” asks the Emperor if he ordered the doctor to do this.  This puts the Emperor in an awkward spot – did he know of this relationship? If the doctor and 甄嬛 did indeed commit adultery – where does that put him?

 

The doctor 温实处 immediately denounces these allegations but 祺贵人 immediately shuts him down. Her arguments are quite convincing. They’ve known each other since their youth, 甄嬛’s maids of course won’t admit to anything, there was even a proposal of marriage. 甄嬛 has committed treasonous crimes! At this point, 槿汐 steps in and swears that nothing happened between 甄嬛 and the doctor. Which is all 100% true. 

 

The Emperor though turns his gaze towards 甄嬛 and pointedly asks – did you do it? 甄嬛 immediately kneels to proclaim her fidelity. He believes her and allows her to sit again. 

 

The Empress though will not give up this opportunity. She closes in and says – your highness, if you truly want to clear up any doubt on this matter, we should do a thorough investigation. 安陵容 as her usual self also chimes in – we should investigate to clear my sister’s good name. I don’t want her to be the subject of gossip in the palace. 

 

[Cathy]

The Empress and her posse continue to chip away at the Emperor’s confidence in 甄嬛. It really is a marvel to watch. Why did the cats suddenly attack 甄嬛 in the middle of the evening? Why didn’t she investigate? 祺贵人 now turns her vitriol towards 槿汐 and 浣碧. She claims that the maids are loyal to 甄嬛, we won’t get the truth out of them unless we use torture. 槿汐 steps in to any punishment to prove 甄嬛’s loyalty. Before 甄嬛 can do anything, 安陵容 stops her to say, if they don’t suffer punishment, it would be difficult to prove 甄嬛’s innocence. What a b**** – 甄嬛 turns and stares daggers at her. I mean, I would too. This is great acting here. It’s almost as though 安陵容 can feel the daggers from 甄嬛 because 安陵容 turns her gaze away from 甄嬛 as if she’s cowering under this gaze. You should – wow. 

 

In this tug of war – it looks like the Empress’s team is now winning. Suddenly though, an unexpected guest appears. It’s the 19th prince – he enters to claim his support for 甄嬛 which is rather surprising because men in general, let alone royal family members don’t usually meddle in affairs of the imperial harem. This angers 祺贵人. I honestly don’t know how this woman is so confident in her stance. Like do your homework, you’ve got the wrong person, haha. 

 

The Emperor has had enough – just as he’s about to conclude this whole thing, the Empress proposes an idea. Let’s conduct a 滴血认亲 or a blood test. According to this drama, blood between relatives will mix together but will not with non-relations. Not very scientific but let’s go with it. 

 

[Karen]

This is serious. There’s a few factors. A, you need blood from the Emperor and as the son of heaven, you can’t have the Emperor spilling blood. B, even if the 6th prince is the Emperor’s son, if the stories of these events spread throughout the Imperial palace, this would be a serious stain to the Emperor’s reputation. For, 甄嬛, she is worried that if they do a test, they’ll find out that the 6th prince is not the Emperor’s son. Again, not sure how accurate that would be but…in this drama let’s just go with it. 

 

甄嬛 quickly plays the role as the tearful concubine. She tries to appeal to the Emperor by recounting their reunion. This could be her last hope.

 

Unfortunately, the Emperor thinks it’s a good idea to do this test. Why though? Because 祺贵人 says something actually quite astute. If the 6th Prince isn’t the Emperor’s son, are we going to just let the throne fall into the hands of outsiders? The Emperor, no matter how much he says that he believes 甄嬛, will once again always put the Empire and the throne first. He doesn’t have many sons and at this point views the 6th prince as a potential heir. If the 6th prince isn’t of his blood, this isn’t just a personal matter but a matter of state. He of course now has to get to the bottom of this.

 

甄嬛 is devastated to hear this but she comes up with a lightning fast plan. She says that if the emperor suspects her and the doctor, they only need to test the blood between the doctor and the 6th prince. That way, no harm comes to the Emperor. 

 

[Cathy]

Throughout this episode, the Emperor will oscillate between calling 甄嬛, 嬛嬛, his nickname for her, or other names such as 熹贵妃, her official title and simply “你” or You. His level of trust in her at any point in time is reflected in the name he uses for her. 嬛嬛 shows the highest level of trust.  At this point, he still believes her, or at least is trying to manipulate her into thinking he believes her by calling her 嬛嬛。 Throughout this whole episode, we also get many close up shots of the Emperor’s hands and how he fondles with his beads. This action also gives us the audience a hint as to where the Emperor is leaning towards at any moment. He won’t display much in terms of facial expression but his reactions are all there. Once again though, we see the Emperor’s suspicious nature. Even though he says he believes 甄嬛, he will still agree with this test. 

 

We also have to marvel at 甄嬛’s quick thinking. This is a fail safe way to trick the emperor because the doctor is most certainly NOT the father of her child.

 

By now, it’s dark outside which shows how long the day has gone.  The head eunuch, 苏培盛 brings over a bowl of water and pricks the 6th prince and the doctor for a drop of blood. 甄嬛 is sitting there, playing the part of a betrayed woman who is not being trusted by the emperor because she knows the truth.

 

But what do we see? The blood of the two actually mix! 

 

[Karen]

Everyone is shocked. The Emperor is livid and the Empress immediately wants to kill the doctor. 甄嬛 is at a loss. This looks really, really bad for her. Everyone is able to see that the blood of these two mixed! There is clear evidence of her adultery! 祺贵人 smirks her success while 甄嬛’s faction tries to think of what else they can do to protect her.

 

The Emperor is emmenating anger. He is positively scary at this point. It looks like there is nothing but punishment for 甄嬛 in store. He is so angry at her. But before he can do anything more, 甄嬛, who is confused as to what happened, exclaims that there must be something wrong with the water! There are 3 components in this experiment – her son, the doctor, and the water. She knows with 100% fact that her son and the doctor aren’t the issue. Then it must be the water. 

 

Thanks to her quick thinking, she immediately grabs the hand of 苏培盛 and pricks his hand for a drop of blood. She drops the blood into the bowl and what happens? The blood mixes together! How could that be?

 

甄嬛 exclaims again that there is something wrong with the water! The ever faithful 槿汐 also comes up and pricks her hand. Her blood also mixes with the blood of the 6th prince, the doctor and 苏培盛. How is that possible?

 

[Cathy]

The emperor is a little confused but comes to see the results. 苏培盛 even says this is absolutely not possible. I mean, he is a eunuch which means he has no ability to give birth. How can the doctor and 槿汐 be his children?

 

At this point, the emperor actually lets out a laugh and says, he knows. 

 

The doctor immediately comes up and investigates the water. He smells it and says, “the water has a sour taste. It’s because there’s 白矾 added to this water.” What’s 白矾? It’s a type of mineral, or more specifically potassium alum. The doctor explains that historical medical records have stated that if this potassium alum or 白矾 is added to water, the blood of non-kin will be able to mix. If you add oil to water, the blood of kin will not mix.

 

Well there you have it. The water has been contaminated with the likes of 白矾 in order to make the appearance that 甄嬛 cheated.

 

[Karen]

The emperor sits back down on his chair and turns to the Empress. He says that in an effort to be fair, it was the Empress who prepared the water. The Empress hurriedly denies doing anything to the water stating that this would have been a very risky move, she’s not that stupid. 

 

But, 敬妃 chimes in to say that yes, this move could have been risky, but the reward is very great. Once it appears that the 6th prince isn’t the Emperor’s, who else will investigate the truth? The Empress is now in a precarious position because it looks like she tried to frame 甄嬛。 甄嬛 even comes up to say that she’s always been respectful of the Empress, why would the Empress want to frame her in such a way that could kill her?

 

Before anything else can happen, 苏培盛 arrives with another bowl of water and says this bowl of water is clean. The emperor demands another test. The 6th prince and the doctor provide another drop of blood to the bowl. 苏培盛 presents this bowl to the Emperor who sees that…the 2 drops of blood do not mix. 

 

The Empress slumps at this sight.

 

[Cathy]

Now, the tides have turned. The truth that the 6th prince and the doctor 温实初 have no relation has been confirmed in front of everyone. There is no denying this fact now. The emperor even turns to give the Empress a glare after seeing the results.

 

But 祺贵人 isn’t satisfied. She cries that even if the 6th prince isn’t the doctor’s, you have 3 witnesses that say that the 2 have a relationship. You cannot deny this fact. Just as the maid 斐雯 and the nun 静白 step up to proclaim their truths, 宁贵人 barges in. 

 

She swiftly walks straight up to the head of the room. I find this scene hilarious. She walks up, stares straight at 苏培盛 and he gets the hint to move aside. That confidence and aura. Girl, can you share some with the rest of us?

 

Anyways, she’s back. And another person arrives as well. It’s 玉娆,甄嬛“s youngest sister. Both she and 宁贵人 went to look for witnesses to help 甄嬛”s case. 玉娆 even talks directly to the emperor saying that there is more than one nun at the nunnery where 甄嬛 stayed. He should listen to other people as well.

 

[Karen]

At this point, who arrives to provide her witness account? It’s the stern but kind 莫言, the nun who helped 甄嬛 many times while at the nunnery.  莫言 immediately shares that 甄嬛 had to do many laborious tasks while at the nunnery such as chopping firewood and washing clothes. The implication here is that she was doing things much below her station as a concubine. 莫言 also shares that if 甄嬛 didn’t do things satisfactorily, she’d be beaten by 静白。 She shared this and a few other stories depicting 甄嬛’s precarious and destitute living conditions, and the fact that if it wasn’t for the doctor who came to visit occasionally, 甄嬛 would have already died. The main key piece of information 莫言 shares is that if 甄嬛 and the doctor truly did have an intimate relationship, she could have just left. Why stay and endure such harsh conditions? With this account, 静白’s testimony is ineffective. 

 

Many of the 甄嬛“s team share their disgust at 静白 and their support of 甄嬛 again. The emperor at this point, is leaning towards believing 甄嬛’s innocence and agrees to cut off 静白’s tongue as a punishment. 

 

[Cathy]

To help confirm that this nun is malicious, 宁贵人 nonchalantly adds that 静白 said she hasn’t stepped into the palace for 2 years, but earlier when 宁贵人 spoke to her, 静白 knew immediately who she was and her title. This means that someone coached her and shared intimate details of the palace with her. This is now looking bad for 祺贵人 and the Empress. Most people, the Emperor included, should be able to see that this seems to be a set up by 祺贵人 at the very least.

 

Sure enough, 玢儿 now crawls up to 甄嬛 and explains that she didn’t have any choice but to come to the palace to give her witness account. If she didn’t come, she’d be beaten to death and shares the numerous injuries she’s suffered while working at 祺贵人’s family home. 玢儿 tearfully explains to the emperor that 甄嬛 and the doctor do not have any inappropriate relationship even though they met in childhood.

 

By now, all doubts have been cleared up. Zhen Huan’s innocence has been confirmed with all of these truths coming out. But 甄嬛 knows that she must counterattack. It’s not simply 祺贵人 who has the power, intelligence and ability to gather all of these people together. Someone must have ordered her to do it. She shares this with the Emperor and is supported by 宁贵人 who says that if this mastermind isn’t exposed, then the Imperial Harem will never be peaceful. 

 

[Karen]

甄嬛 turns to 祺贵人 and says she’ll be lenient if 祺贵人 shares who directed her to do this. Literally everyone in attendance knows that it is the Empress that is behind all of this. Who doesn’t know that 祺贵人 allied herself with the Empress? And especially given the mistake of accidentally adding the potassium alum into the water, the first thought to the main culprit turns towards the Empress.

 

But, 祺贵人 does some quick thinking and decides to take sole ownership of framing 甄嬛。She yells that no one directed her, it was all her own thinking. She hates 甄嬛 because her family background, beauty and position are equal to or above that of 甄嬛’s, why does 甄嬛 receive all the favor?  祺贵人 even looks at the Empress before continuing to take more ownership of this act.

 

And before anyone else can say anything, the Empress steps in to say how lovely it is to have your own sister in the palace. When I see 甄嬛 and her sister, I’m reminded of my own sister. IF she were still alive, she’d believe I’m innocent. 

 

  1. Let’s pause here to explain what just happened. Again, we all know that the Empress is in on it. Why does 祺贵人 not expose the Empress in return for clemency? It’s because 祺贵人 knows that if she gives herself up, at least the Empress will still be in power to enact revenge on her behalf. She is willing to sacrifice herself in order to ensure that the main goal of defeating 甄嬛 still happens. Additionally, she wants to protect her family from being blamed in this scandal.

 

The empress brings up her sister in order to use her sister as a shield. Every time her sister is brought up, the Emperor will hesitate before enacting any type of harsh punishment.

 

Indeed, as the Emperor asks about the potassium alum, one of the Empress’s maids claims that she helped hold the bowl of water earlier but forgot that she had handled the potassium alum, thereby contaminating the water. What a faithful maid. Taking the fall for her master. We have no idea if this is true or not, most likely not true, but this gives plausible deniability to the Empress.

 

The Emperor punishes this maid by sending her to do hard labor but then actually tells the Empress, who had been kneeling this entire time, to sit up. This shows that he is willing to trust her at this point.

 

The episode ends with the Emperor giving out his decision on this accusation – 祺贵人, banished to the Cold Palace. 康常在, 贞嫔, no allowance for 6 months for spreading rumors. The rest, 甄嬛 decides. And she does. 甄嬛 asks that 槿汐 return the nun 莫言 and her old maid 玢儿 back to their homes. As for her traitor maid 斐雯 and the nun 静白, they are to be beaten to death.

 

There’s a bit left to episode 63 but we will start that with the next episode. It’s once again, a doozy. 

 

—–

[Cathy] 

There’s a lot of plot here but some snippets to analyze. Let’s start with our analysis!

 

Nails

 

In the beginning of our episode, we see 甄嬛 getting her nails done. Her fingers are wrapped in a leaf. This was the first time that I saw the process of getting nails painted or coated in a Chinese drama. I believe the process is quite accurate and our grandparent’s generation still got their nails done this way. 

 

The flower that is used here is called 凤仙花 or balsam. There are medicinal properties to this flower, including treating snakebites, warts etc. There are several different colors. To dye the nails, you would simply take the flower petals and mash them to a fine mush. Add some potassium alum or 白矾 or salt when muddling. Then leave it out until the mush dries. Spread the residual onto your nails and wrap them in a leaf, as shown in the drama. One would typically use 苘麻 or velvetleaf but you just want to use something sturdy. It takes several hours for the color to seep into the nails but it’s the organic way to paint your nails! As a note, people get some bad reactions to potassium alum so be wary of that. Where have we heard of this 白矾? That’s right! In the water for the blood test! Funny right?

 

滴血认亲

 

Next, let’s actually talk about 滴血认亲. As we stated earlier, in theory, this could work but in reality this doesn’t. The earliest records of some type of blood test goes all the way back to the Three Kingdoms era, in so 300AD. What happened then was to drop some blood on bones and see if the blood will sink into the bone. The theory was that if you are blood related, then yes the blood will be absorbed by the bone. This was actually taken as the standard for a while.

 

There’s one story from the History of the Southern Dynasties about this. The story goes like this, 萧综 was the son of the King of Liang. However, his mother was concubine to the King of Northern Qi. The King of Liang killed the King of Northern Qi and took the concubine as his own. 萧综 was born 7 months later.  萧综 always suspected his parentage and after reaching adulthood exhumed the King of Northern Qi’s body. He conducted this experiment, dropping some blood to the bones to see if the bones would absorb the blood and it did. To further test his hypothesis, he killed his own son and did the same test. Ok, WHAT? The blood again absorbed into the bone of his son. 萧综 now fully believed that he was the son of the King of Northern Qi. 

 

Well, none of this is scientifically accurate. We’d just do a DNA test now but of course – that wasn’t an option. So for this show, this is the best that they’ve got. Most of the time the blood would probably have mixed but for plot purposes, they didn’t.

 

[Karen]

Finally, let’s talk about the teams! I feel like the best way for myself to understand what happened in the episode is to compare the players to chess pieces, at least for 甄嬛’s team. I’m not a chess master so some of my comparisons might be off but bear with me.

 

槿汐 – pawn. She is the ever loyal servant who will sacrifice anything for her master. 

 

苏培盛 – pawn. I think he’s a pawn that turns into an all mighty queen. I mean his blood really is what does it for the Emperor. I mean how can a eunuch have kids? 

 

欣嫔 – pawn. She doesn’t say much but when she does, leans in favor of 甄嬛.

 

敬妃

-I feel like she’s a knight. She’s out there protecting 甄嬛 but she’s constantly the 1st one to defend 甄嬛. Due to her close connection with 甄嬛, her words might not hold as much sway. She’s somewhat limited in the moves she can make.

 

Ok for me 端妃 – is either a bishop or a rook. She doesn’t say much but when she does, it’s important. It’s to either point 甄嬛 in one direction or to alleviate 甄嬛’s situation. Let’s look at the examples, when 玢儿 confirms the fact that 温实处 proposed marriage, it was 端妃 who calmly asks was the marriage agreed to? 玢儿 could only say no and that kind of made this whole thing a moot point. Another example, when the Empress first proposed the blood test, it was 端妃 who pointed out the importance of not spilling the Emperor’s blood. I think this is what gave 甄嬛 the idea to test 温实处’s blood instead. I doubt, in that moment, that 甄嬛 would have thought of this so quickly.  Again though, as powerful as her words are, she has to use them sparingly or else they will lose power. 

 

宁贵人 叶澜依 – I’ll say is the Queen of this team. She’s the MVP. Right off the bat, she knew something was fishy with the nun and ordered her maid to tip 浣碧 off to find reinforcements. She left the battle midway but came back with a vengeance, bringing the nun 莫言 in tow and belittling the nun 静白 with her apparent knowledge of the imperial harem. No one suspected her position in 甄嬛’s team. I don’t think 甄嬛 knew of this too but without her, 甄嬛 would have had a much more difficult time to figure her way out of this situation, if not completely destroyed.

 

Finally – 甄嬛 is the king of this team. She can move to any space but she’s limited by what she can do. However, it’s her quick thinking with the water that saves the day.

 

Look how far she’s come! From nothing in the very beginning of the drama, to a whole team, this is what it takes to narrowly beat the Empress.

 

[Cathy]

The Empress’s team by comparison is much weaker. She just has 祺贵人 and 安陵容 but I think her role as Empress accounts for a significant amount. She had 3 witnesses, 2 that were somewhat weak but the nun was a heavy hitter. For the Empress, everything led up to the blood test. Quite possibly, she didn’t even need the 3 witnesses as long as the Emperor agreed to the test.

 

She most certainly must have been the one to put the 白矾 or potassium alum into the water. She wasn’t 100% sure if 温实处 was the father of 甄嬛’s children but she sure wasn’t going to give up the chance to frame her. Adding 白矾 was just insurance. However, I personally will doubt the Empress’s intellect here. Did she really think no one was going to question the water? Or was it just such a slim chance that she decided to risk it? With the blood mixed together, who cares what 甄嬛 says, she is a confirmed adulterer. 甄嬛 would be killed, her son probably also killed and that’s that for this particular nuisance. The 6th prince will no longer endanger the 3rd prince’s, who is now under her guardianship, claim to the throne .  For the Empress, the rewards greatly outweighed the risks. 

 

Let’s look at the results – 祺贵人 is banished to the cold palace but what happened to the Empress? Basically nothing, she’s still the Empress. It took literally everything for 甄嬛’s team to retaliate and win this round. The price for this victory however will be very heavy. We’ll find out what happens in the next episode. 

 

 

EPISODE 62

[Karen]

Welcome to Chasing dramas

 

This is the podcast that discusses Chinese history and Culture through historical chinese dramas. We are your hosts, Karen and Cathy. Today we are discussing episode 62 of 后宫甄嬛传, Empresses in the Palace. This episode is a little shorter today as we’re only going to be discussing the first ¾ of the episode as the rest of it will be discussed in the next episode. 

 

In the last episode, the former friend of 甄嬛, 安陵容 was poisoned by her teammate so that she no longer has a voice. This was a huge blow to her because her singing voice was the key to her success in the imperial harem. It captured the attention of the emperor. With it gone, he is going to have no interest in her.

 

She needs to find an alternative way to win the emperor’s attention.

 

[Cathy]

We start off episode 62 seeing that her maid is helping put some type of ointment on her person to lose weight but soon after she passes out. News travels fast to 甄嬛’s palace where she learns that 安陵容 fainted because she’s starving herself trying to lose weight. This surprises her. Why would 安陵容 need to lose weight? 槿汐,甄嬛’s head maid, tells 甄嬛 that 安陵容 has secretly been learning how to figure skate. This is how 安陵容 plans to gain her attention and position back with the Emperor.

 

甄嬛explains that yes, this is a good idea for 安陵容 as ice skating is a prized Manchu tradition. Manchu emperors look very favorably on those who excel at figure skating and every year there are figure skating performances. However, 甄嬛 doesn’t have to prepare for anything at all. 槿汐 is a little surprised to hear this. Why not?

 

甄嬛 tells us that skating requires extensive training and a strong foundation developed during childhood. How can 安陵容 have the physical ability to skate after being in the palace for so long? THat’s why she’s starving herself to improve her skating. But, starvation will impact her beauty so she’s probably very stressed at the moment. 甄嬛 then shares a medicine that could provide instant results for 安陵容. It’s called 肌息丸。And instead of preventing 安陵容 from learning about this medicine, 甄嬛 says it’s imperative to tell her. 

 

That’s odd isn’t it? It’s because this 肌息丸 or this medicine contains large quantities of that all important item, 麝香 or musk. Sure, it’ll get you to be beautiful and thin, but it’ll harm your reproductive capabilities. After taking this medicine, you are most likely never going to become pregnant. Our favorite medicine is now back in action. What would this drama be without the all important 麝香 or musk?

 

[Karen]

Interestingly, 甄嬛 is not the only one to know about this medicine. At the Empress’s palace, we see that she has already sent this medicine over to 安陵容. 安陵容 doesn’t give a second thought and eats them. She hates that she’s being controlled in this way, that she doesn’t have power over her body but she has no choice. This is her best way out of her current predicament.

 

And sure enough, the day comes for a wonderful ice skating performance. It’s quite a grand scene with manchu soldiers and maids creating a beautiful show. After doing some basic research, the formations that the skaters go into actually seem to mimic some of the paintings that depict qing dynasty performances of that time. Of course, we don’t know what 冰嬉 or Qing dynasty figure skating really looked like but this is quite a unique scene that we really haven’t seen in many other Qing dynasty or indeed most historical Chinese dramas. I guess a key notable distinction from the historical paintings i’ve seen are the skates that the actors use which totally makes sense because our modern day skates are probably safer to use than the ones developed in the 1700s.

 

As the show progresses, maids appear holding beautiful red plum blossoms. This scene is reminiscent of 甄嬛“s initial excursion to the plum blossom garden way back when she entered the palace. We see flashbacks of this scene and it hits the Emperor right in the heartstrings. He even asks 甄嬛 if she remembers that they first met on a snowy night with these plum blossoms.

 

Now here is a very interesting scene. As the Emperor reminisces, the Empress recites a poem with the lines: 逆风如解意,容易莫催残. Does this sound familiar? These are the exact lines that 甄嬛 recited when she was in the plum blossom garden during that fateful night she met the Emperor and the 17th prince. We find out from the Empress that those lines were her sister’s, the deceased Empress 纯元’s favored lines when she was alive. She would recite that poem frequently.

 

Wow – what a surprise and probably another punch in the gut for 甄嬛。This reinforces that from the very beginning, the Emperor only cared for 甄嬛 because she recited lines that reminded him of his beloved 纯元. You can see the smug look on the Empress’s face where she believes she has hit a landing blow to 甄嬛. 甄嬛 is now at least wiser and less impacted by such revelations as she is even openly able to state the similarities between her and 纯元, thus not causing too much drama before the main scene arrives. 

 

[Cathy]

安陵容 skates out onto the stage and performs a beautiful show. I’m impressed by how the actress is able to skate and twirl around particularly with that heavy thing on her head! Some fun behind the scenes info for this scene – the actress for 安陵容 doesn’t actually know how to skate that well. They used a body double for the wider shots of her twirling around and then filmed 安陵容 separately for the closer shots where she generally used her arms to act out some of the dancing moves. You’ll see that most of the shots are filmed either of her upper body or of her feet and then wider shots. 

 

Anyways, after this beautiful performance, the Emperor is enamored once again with her. He rushes out to see 安陵容 on the ice and gives her plenty of praise. With that, she is now back in his good graces and is a favored concubine once again. All it took was some ice skating and giving up the ability to have children. Pretty easy right? And if you couldn’t tell, I’m being sarcastic. 

 

After this successful comeback, 甄嬛 is discussing this turn of events with her trusted maids, 槿汐 and 浣碧。 甄嬛 has taken out a prized jade bracelet with the intention on gifting this to 安陵容 to congratulate her for her newfound success.  浣碧 is not very happy to say the least about this turn of events and unfortunately, her disparaging comments are heard by the emperor who shows up unannounced. Luckily, 甄嬛 was able to turn the situation around by saying that they were worried about how the jade bracelet wouldn’t be a valuable enough gift to give to her dear friend and sister. 

 

What I love in these conversations between 甄嬛 and the Emperor is just how guarded 甄嬛 has to be for everything he notices. For example, the Emperor says while yes, the jade bracelet looks nice, I recently noticed a new coral bracelet that you’re wearing. CUE warning bells in 甄嬛’s head. She knows he’s hoping she would gift that coral bracelet over to 安陵容. But we know that this bracelet was gifted by the 17th prince so no way 甄嬛 was going to give this up. So she skillfully changes the focus away from this coral bracelet to the fact the 安陵容 generally likes jade. 

 

And the hilarious part here is that the Emperor says he is comforted by the strength of the sisterly bond between 甄嬛 and 安陵容, that 甄嬛 would give such an expensive gift to 安陵容。Little does he know the truth of their relationship.

 

The other main important piece of information from this conversation is that 甄嬛 requested for the emperor to re-examine her father’s case that resulted in him being exiled. However, the Emperor says that there isn’t any reason to re-examine the case just yet so 甄嬛 will just have to sit tight. 

 

[Karen]

Alright –  what else is going on in the rest of the episode?

 

Well, 甄嬛’s younger sister, 玉娆 runs into the 19th prince, one of the youngest brothers of the current Emperor. You will have seen him throughout the series but he never made much of an impact. He was more of a background character. This is true for the earlier episodes when he was supposed to be just a child. Now he’s a strapping young man.  玉娆 is also all grown up. She is a beautiful young woman but has a rather hardened attitude towards nobility and wealth. It’s probably due to her living in exile with her family these last few years but when she meets the 19th prince while out in the gardens with her sister, she is rather offended that the 19th prince would mistake her for another concubine. She says that she would prefer to marry a commoner than marry into nobility. 

 

This greatly intrigues the 19th prince, who, out on a ride with his brother, the 17th prince, exclaims as such. The 17th prince sees things pretty clearly and actually agrees with 玉娆, saying that it’s not always that great being a prince. Look at all of the people who have lost their titles and their lives. We are nothing to be admired. I appreciate that he understands his current situation and that it’s not all that great. Sure you have wealth and power for now, but that comes with it’s own set of challenges.

 

[Cathy]

Unfortunately, during this ride out, it turns out that the 17th prince accidentally fell off his horse which caused him to become very feverish. 苏培盛 came over to visit 甄嬛 to tell her this news, almost as a side note after discussing some other matters but 甄嬛 is very worried. Fortunately, 苏培盛 only can tell that 浣碧 really likes the 17th prince and said she would be worried if she found out, but he doesn’t know that 甄嬛 is equally worried. After hearing this news, she tells her friend, the imperial doctor 温实初 who was providing her a check up at that time, to take a look at the 17th prince’s health condition. After all, his frail health was due to him helping her back when she was sick.  He agrees to go visit him.

 

When 浣碧 hears of this news, she is very worried for the 17th prince. 甄嬛 actually tells her that she should go and take care of him. 浣碧 should do the things that she, 甄嬛, cannot. And so, with the help of 苏培盛,浣碧 goes to care for the 17th prince.

 

She does a diligent job in helping him, but even after the 17th prince wakes up, he is rather cold towards her. I feel really bad for 浣碧. She clearly loves the 17th prince and understands that her sister and the 17th prince are the match made in heaven, but she still can’t help her emotions. The 17th prince, to his credit, doesn’t give 浣碧 any false hope that he could one day love her instead so there’s that. But this is a tragedy waiting to happen.

 

We’ll leave off this episode here. As I’m sure everyone knows, the remainder of this episode and the next episode are probably the most explosive and exciting episodes of the entire drama. We will discuss them in a longer episode for next time. 

 

[Karen]

赵合德

 

鼓上起舞 – Episode 8 – discussed these two concubines, some of the most famous in Chinese history for their beauty but also their diabolical nature that caused the downfall of a dynasty. 

 

[Cathy]

冰嬉

 

Let’s talk about 冰嬉 or as we see it, a version of figure skating that we see here. There are records of 冰嬉 all the way back in the Song dynasty so some 1000 years ago. By the Ming Dynasty, 冰嬉 was listed as an official palace sport. But ice skating or 冰嬉 reached the zenith of its popularity during the Qing Dynasty. It was actually known as a national pastime. During the winter, there would be skating and archery competitions between members of the eight banners. As shown in the tv show, the Emperor would enjoy the spectacle and members of the imperial family would also participate. Ice skating wasn’t just reserved for the elite but was popular amongst the common people. 

 

According to records, there were two types of skates, one that’s somewhat similar to the current figure skates we see today, a single blade and another that actually had 2 blades on the bottom of the boot. 

 

Some popular events included an early version of speed skating, a modification of hockey where there was a leather ball that was used for the game, figure skating, and ice soccer. It’s no wonder that 安陵容 used this opportunity to gain favor. This would have been a sure way to stand out amongst the crowd. 

 

Obviously in the show, you see that they’re using modern ice skates and ice boots but they’re cleverly hidden. 

 

I saw the behind the scenes of this scene. They really did film this in the winter and this was one of the last scenes filmed before the end of the shoot. The lake was already frozen so I dn’t think they needed to build an ice rink. Take a look at all of the cloaks and furs everyone’s wearing for this scene. They really needed every last bit of warmth because it was freezing. Everyone was joking that the actor for the Emperor was a trained figure skater. When asked, the director was like, nah no way, more like trained wrestler.  The director then directly asks 陈建斌, the actor for the Emperor who then jokingly said, I’ll wear a pair of ice skates as soon as all the reporters leave. 陈建斌 portrays a character that’s really serious for the drama so it’s pretty jarring seeing him joking about with everyone but it looks like everyone had fun.