Royal Rumors (2023) 花琉璃轶闻 

Summary:  General Hua’s daughter Hua Liu Li Ft Meng Zi Yi is invited to the capital of the Jin Kingdom and given the title of County Princess in order to quell rumors and discontent in the kingdom that the Hua family has too much power. Once in the capital, Hua Liu Li hides her capabilities and plays up the sick and feeble young woman in order to establish a foothold in her new environment. This behavior catches the attention of the Crown Prince Ji Yuan Su ft Xu Zheng Xi who is focused on ensuring stability in the Jin Kingdom from threats from neighboring countries, particularly the kingdom of Jin Po.


Total Episode Count: 24

Initial Airing Date: March 15, 2023

Platform: Tencent


*Note – most English translations are my own and may not exactly match Tencent’s official translations


Rating: 6.2/10: A serviceable romance drama that is light-hearted and beautiful on the eyes but suffers from lackluster chemistry between the main couple and a weak overall plot. The antics between the main pair are entertaining enough if you’re looking for a short drama to pass the time. 

Hua Liu Li 花琉璃

Meng Zi Yi 孟子义

Intelligent and crafty, Hua Liu Li is given the title of County Princess and arrives from the border to the capital city of Yu Jing. To hide her skills, she portrays the image of a weak and frail woman who will fall over at the push of a wind. In reality, she knows martial arts and has studied military tactics from a young age and is here to protect her family’s standing.

Crown Prince 姬元溯

xu zheng xi 徐正溪

Cold and calculating crown prince of the Jin Kingdom, he immediately sees through Hua Liu Li’s initial act of playing a damsel in distress but cannot help but be intrigued by her. He cares mostly about securing his kingdoms borders and has a loving cat called Hua Hua he dotes upon.

He Yuan Ting 贺远亭

Zhu Yuan Bing 朱元冰

The unfavored second prince of the bordering country Jin Po. He tried to trick Liu Li while the nations were fighting in order to kidnap her and blackmail her family but ultimately failed. He arrives in the Jin Kingdom for peace talks.

Tian Jia Min 田嘉敏

Su Meng Yun 苏梦云

Daughter of a princess, this adorable princess in her own right grew up with vast amounts of wealth and power but when faced with a foe like Hua Liu Li, can only learn to back off. But Liu Li doesn’t mind her harmless schemes and they develop an interesting friendship in the capital.

Plot Summary

The Jin Kingdom and Jin Po Kingdom had been at war for many years and it was General Hua and his wife General Wei that fought a victorious battle that secured the Jin Kingdom and maintained peace for many years. However, in the capital of Yu Jin, the court officials started highlighting how the military strength of the Hua family will soon threaten the stability of the Jin Kingdom. In order to quell the anger and rumors swirling around the Hua family’s loyalty, the Emperor decides to give the title of County Princess to the Hua family daughter and invite her to the capital. 

18 year old Hua Liu Li arrives in the capital of Yu Jing, and knowing she’s being watched by everyone on her way in the capital, feigns illness after being blown by the wind.  There were assassins in the crowd hoping to kill her but she is saved by the Crown Prince. She and the crown prince have been pen pals for a while in their youth and in her letters to him, she was extremely fierce and capable, the exact opposite behavior to what the Crown Prince sees now in the feeble and weak woman in front of him. This confuses while also intrigues him. 

Liu Li settles into the old Hua manor and starts to gather intel on the climate in the capital. Her primary goal is to ensure that her family is protected from the various court officials in the palace who aim to dismantle the army. She contends with Princess Jia Min and the Prince of Ying who aim to limit her influence in the palace. Elsewhere, the crown prince works with his undercover network to ensure the border is protected and threats from Jin Po Kingdom are discovered.


Overall thoughts

This drama is just…fine. It’s short but even with the shortened length, there was a lot of bloat in the story. It’s clearly a simple, cheesy romance drama that you’re just going to enjoy and not think too much about. The character traits of the main leads where they’re basically changing face on a dime is entertaining enough but there isn’t much gravitas to the story. Almost as if most of the threats to the kingdom are child’s play that the characters are able to easily manipulate.

One of the most important takeaways is Hua Liu Li’s monologues on border safety and military strength. Her fierce devotion to her country, family and those of the Hua family soldiers are touching. That was one of the key moments in the drama where her character really shines as someone who is focused on making change and doing more for her country.

My main problem is with Xu Zheng Xi, the main male lead. He’s pushing the age limit of where he should be acting in these cheesy romance dramas and it seems like he’s staying in his comfort zone. He’s just been pumping out these romance dramas over the last few years without much substance.  The warmth of romance and his smile rarely reaches his eyes when he’s acting in this drama. Instead, he shines when he’s the cold, calculating crown prince conducting official state matters. I’m more interested in his solo scenes with his subordinates and Meng Zi Yi’s solo scenes. Their scenes together? They just aren’t as cute and heart fluttering as they should be.

I do really enjoy the costumes and hairstyles in the drama though. Particularly Princess Jia Ming’s outfits and hairstyles. This reminds me a lot of the lavish Tang dynasty outfits and quite a change from the rather bland hairstyles from fantasy dramas of late.  But something that has been a problem for several of these period dramas of late is that it’s very clear these are modern day women in historical clothes. How they behave and act is rather outlandish. Meng Zi Yi’s hair accessories are whipping her in the face all the time and it’s rather distracting…





 The Story of Yanxi Palace – Ep 58


Welcome back to Chasing Dramas! This is the podcast that discusses Chinese culture and history through historical Chinese dramas. We are your host for today Cathy and Karen!


Today we are discussing episode 58 of the Story of Yanxi Palace or 延禧攻略. This podcast is in English with proper nouns and certain phrases spoken in Mandarin Chinese. 


If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to reach out to us on instagram or twitter or else email us at Today’s episode is going to be light on the plot recap and very heavy on the history so buckle up! 



In the last few episodes, the Empress Dowager was embroiled in a whole saga where it was revealed that she was not the Emperor’s birth mother. His mother was actually a madame Qian who was killed most likely by the late Emperor Yong Zheng. It was a whole thing but right now, the Empress Dowager has jetted off to Yuan Ming Yuan to provide some distance between her and the Emperor especially since she feigned sickness in order for her to tug at the Emperor’s heartstrings. Because Ying Luo tried her hardest to help the Emrpess Dowager, she brings Ying Luo along to help her get back into the Emperor’s good graces. 


So now we have it that the Empress Dowager and Ying Luo are in Yuan Ming Yuan while the Emperor and Empress remain in the Forbidden Palace. The Empress Nala is relishing in this turn of events because now, the palace is her empire. There is no one in the palace left to oppose her. But that doesn’t mean Ying Luo and the Empress Dowager aren’t also enjoying their time in Yuan Ming Yuan. In monthly letters to the Emperor, Ying Luo writes of all the fun activities she does with the Empress Dowager which we will discuss more about later on in the podcast episode. They celebrate the mid-autumn festival, enjoy chrysanthemums for the double-ninth festival and plenty others. These monthly letters are eagerly awaited by the Emperor who seems to have started to forgive Ying Luo for her past betrayal. 


I personally love all the small interactions between the Emperor and 李玉. 李玉 knows the emperor SO well, especially the tease with the letters, haha.



We are now according to the drama in the 20th year of Emperor Qian Long’s reign which makes it 1756. It’s been three full years since Ying Luo moved to Yuan Ming Yuan. Quite a bit has changed in the Palace. Well primarily that the Empress Nala gave birth to 2 young sons, the 12th and 13th princes.


袁春望, is now the lead eunuch in the palace, relishing in all of his power. One of his subordinates thought that 袁春望 desired a pretty maid and had her brought to 袁春望’s quarters. He basically physically abuses the poor girl and throws her out but not before somehow still being an absolute creep when it comes to 璎珞. He’s still talking all about love and betrayal against 魏璎珞. Buddy – you betrayed her and basically had her thrown out of the Imperial Harem. What are you still thinking about?


Back to the Emperor. It does seem that the Emperor is anxious to hear that Ying Luo is healthy given that on the 36th monthly letter, she sent only the word 安 or Doing Well which caused some worry for the Emperor. But before he could spend too much time thinking about her health, he receives news that his military campaign against the 霍兰 tribe was victorious and their troops are on their way home.



What that means is that 傅恒 whom we haven’t seen in many episodes is finally back in the palace and with him, the news of the victorious conquest means a new threat for Ying Luo in the palace. 傅恒 visits Ying Luo in Yuan Ming Yuan but instead of interrogating her about killing his wife, he urges her to return to the palace. Though I do find it absolutely hilarious that he totally just glosses over the fact that his wife is dead. He is probably over the moon happy about that. 


Side note – I thoroughly enjoy Ming Yu and Hai Lan Cha’s side conversation. He’s all pouty when Ming Yu tries to overhear Fu Heng and Wei Ying Luo’s conversation. Hai Lan Cha is such a good guy


Anyways, 傅恒 brings news that over the last 3 months, a new woman in the palace who is essentially perfect has appeared. This woman is so wonderful that she has taken all of the Emperor’s attention. She is a serious threat to Ying Luo’s position in the Emperor’s heart and could mean that all of her plans the last few years will go to waste if she doesn’t return to the palace immediately. The woman in question? 沉璧。



With Fu Heng’s words of warning, Ying Luo aka Consort Ling immediately returns to 延禧palace.  How problematic is this woman? So problematic that the moment Ying Luo returns, the Empress Nala summons her. The two left on rather poor turns but right now Empress Nala actually requests the two work together in order to combat this new formidable foe. At first Ying Luo refused but then went to take a single look at the new 沉璧 aka Concubine Shun or 顺嫔 and she immediately turned around and agreed to work with the Empress Nala. Seems like she recognized how beautiful and pure 顺嫔 looked which is indeed a threat to her position in the palace. That and also she’s a little jealous that 顺嫔 now has the full attention of the Emperor. We’re going to end the episode recap there as we have tons of history to talk about but in episode 59 we will finally get the chance to meet this mysterious 沉璧.


There’s a lot of history that is introduced in this episode and also historical events that are just thrown at us this episode so let’s spend some time to discuss them.


First and foremost – 令妃 was never banished to the 圆明园 so her 3 year long stint there with the Empress Dowager is just here for dramatic purposes. 


In one of the letters that 魏璎珞 sends to the Emperor, she mentions a book 酌中志 and specifically the volume 饮食好尚纪略. I’ll use the youtube translation – Discretionary Comrades, Diet is Good, History is Slightly. 


This was written by the eunuch 刘若愚 who was born during the Ming Dynasty in 1584. He came from a powerful military family and hence was educated. He self-castrated at the age of 16 after a weird dream and then was sent to the palace in 1601. As an educated eunuch, he had the privilege of serving at the Emperor’s study. During his time at the Palace, he saw the political rise and fall of the notorious eunuch 魏忠贤. Unfortunately for 刘若愚, because he was a eunuch and served the emperor at the same time as 魏忠贤, court officials deemed him an accomplice and sentenced him to death. While in jail, 刘若愚, unsatisfied with these false accusations, wrote 酌中志 to clear his name. In this book, he documented all that he had seen and experienced of Ming Court Life. This book, or the beginning of this book, did indeed clear his name


This book was first written in 1629 and completed in 1641. It is comprised of 24 short chapters and details palace life from the reigns of Emperor 万历 to Emperor 崇祯. This includes the daily lives of the emperor, women of the imperial harem, palace rules, palace staff, palace dining and clothes. 


The information written here will never be found in what was viewed as proper history but this is nevertheless an invaluable historical artifact. 


The volume that 魏璎珞 mentions – 饮食好尚纪略 – details how cuisine was prepared in the palace at that time. I do find it interesting on the line of how did the empress dowager get her hands on this. Despite the book being a Ming text, it was very valuable even during the Qing dynasty. Emperor Qian Long even had it revised and added to his collection. However, because this is a Ming text, revisions had to be made with regards to date names etc. 



While at 圆明园 – the two of them celebrate a ton of holidays including the Mid-Autumn Festival which is observed on the 15th day of the 8th month of the year, the day in which the moon is the fullest in the year. 


The mid-autumn festival is an important festival for the chinese as the fullest moon represents a time for family, a whole family, and to be thankful for the family. 


It has also been a long tradition to eat crab for this holiday. In China, the favored crab is the 大闸蟹 or the Chinese mitten crab or the Shanghai Hairy Crab. This species of crab is native to China and viewed as a delicacy. 


September-November, which is right around the time of the Mid-Autumn festival each year, is typically the best time to get the largest and fattest crabs. 


By the Ming dynasty, the aristocracy also enjoyed crab for the festival. Typically, the crab would be steamed and then enjoyed with some wine vinegar.


In Chinese “蟹”与“谢” crab and thank you sound the same. For a holiday that represents togetherness, crab is also the perfect dish to represent that thankfulness of those around us. 


It’s difficult to gift a thanks, but a crab that sounds like thanks? That’s a very meaningful gift. To this day in China, it is still a custom to make and gift crab during the mid-autumn festival. 



In the drama we quickly move to 九月重阳节. This is Double Ninth Festival which is observed on the ninth day of the ninth month in the Chinese calendar. This holiday has been observed since time immemorial, popularized during the Han Dynasty, and reached its pinnacle after the Tang Dynasty. 


The reason for this holiday is due to the auspicious nature of the numbers. Nine is the largest single number, so a double nine day on the calendar is a very auspicious date. According to I Ching, nine is a yang number. With two 9s, that makes it Double Nine or Double Yang – hence why it’s called 重阳. 重 also means double. For local customs, with the double 9s, these also represent longevity, so this holiday also is a time to respect elders and wish them a long and healthy life.


For the holiday, there are a ton of customs that also differ with each province. However, typically it is customary to climb a high mountain, enjoy the autumn views, pray to the elders, fly kites, eat the chongyang cake, enjoy the chrysanthemum flowers, drink chrysanthemum liquor, and wear the zhuyu (茱萸) plant Cornus officinalis. These flowers are thought to have cleansing properties, which is why these flowers specifically.


In the drama – we see the yellow chrysanthemum flowers featured quite prominently. 



Which then brings us to this peculiar dish that 明玉 is preparing –  糟瓜茄 or the youtube translation is Wasted Eggplant. This was a dish that was first recorded during the Song Dynasty and was then a Ming Dynasty Palace dish. 


The instructions include – for each 5 catties of eggplant, add 5 两 of salt. So that’s around 2.5 kilos of eggplant and 250 grams of salt. Then mix with distiller’s grain or 糟. Afterwards, add the copper money on top. After 10 days, retrieve the money, discard. Then change the distiller’s grain or 糟 into another bottle. Afterwards, retrieve, the color should be green as new.


Now – it might seem kind of unsanitary with the whole put copper coins in the eggplant and I have no idea how this dish tastes but I think it might be more of a fermenting process that keeps the eggplant edible? 



Ok! That was a ton on Chinese holidays and food. Let’s now turn our attention towards the Emperor’s family affairs, namely his children because a ton were briefly mentioned.


There’s been a lot of time jumping in this drama but we now definitively know that it’s 1756 or the 20th year of Emperor 乾隆’s reign, which makes him 45 right now. 


Between 1750 – 1756, he had several children and I’ll list them out here.


The 10th prince 永玥 was born to 舒嫔 in 1751 but he died very young in 1753

The 11th prince was born to 嘉嫔 and subsequently 嘉妃

Yongxing, Prince Chengzhe of the First Rank (成哲親王 永瑆; 22 March 1752 – 10 May 1823), 11th son

The 12th prince Yongji, Prince of the Third Rank (貝勒 永璂; 7 June 1752 – 17 March 1776), 12th son was born to Empress Nala at the age of 34. She had a slew of kids all in short order

The 5th daughter (23 July 1753 – 1 June 1755)

Yongjing (永璟; 22 January 1756 – 7 September 1757), 13th son


Noble Consort Xin (忻貴妃) of the Daigiya clan (戴佳氏) (26 June 1737 – 28 May 1764)

6th daughter (24 August 1755 – 27 September 1758)


I’m going to turn my attention briefly to some historical matters because we get snippets of the events of 霍顿 and 傅恒 return. 


In episode 48 / 49, we discussed at length about the revolt of the Altishahr Khojas or 大小和卓之亂. This occurred in 1757. As a reminder two Altishahr nobles, the Khoja brothers Burhān al-Dīn and Khwāja-i Jahān or Hojijan, led a revolt against the Qing dynasty in the southern part of modern day Xinjiang. The events of 霍顿 which is this revolt are finally tying to the events in the imperial harem. So we’re right around 1756 – 1757. I feel like timeline wise, we’ve been in this vague 1750s timeline forever. 


Fuheng was also not really involved in the front lines of this particular campaign. One more thing. Fuheng’s dad dies all the way back in 1723 so this whole line of 傅恒 missing his dad’s funeral isn’t remotely correct. 




The name for 沉璧 as we see in the drama comes from Song Dynasty 范仲淹’s 岳阳楼记 or a prose which we have actually talked in this podcast during our discussion of the STory of Ming Lan. 1046年10月17日



The lines that are recited in the drama are as such:




Here is my translation:

There are times when the fog disappears and the bright moonlight can be seen for a thousand miles. The shimmerlight flashed with golden hues. The calming reflection of the moon looked like a jade that sunk in the water. The fisherman’s song that can be heard answering each other, this happiness cannot be limited. 


Her name is to praise her for her similarity to the jade in the water, pure and unblemished.

 The Story of Yanxi Palace – Ep 56p 2 + 57


Welcome back to Chasing Dramas! This is the podcast that discusses Chinese culture and history through historical Chinese dramas. We are your host for today Cathy and Karen!


Today we are discussing episode 56 pt2 + 57 of the Story of Yanxi Palace or 延禧攻略. This podcast is in English with proper nouns and certain phrases spoken in Mandarin Chinese. 


If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to reach out to us on instagram or twitter or else email us at


This podcast episode consists of a drama episode recap and we’ll move on to discuss the history portrayed in this episode. There’s a LOT to digest in this episode so what we’ll do is primarily focus on plot recap and discussion. Then we’ll save further historical discussion for the next episode. 




The big secret.


In the last few episodes, Ying Luo and the Emperor had a massive falling out after the Emperor deduced that the whole reason Ying Luo came back to the palace and became his concubine, did all those things to win his favor, was to enact revenge for the late Empress FuCha. This turned the Emperor’s heart cold and basically left YIng Luo in the Cold Palace. Ying Luo doesn’t fight back because in the end, the two main culprits that led to the Empress’s death – 纯贵妃 and 尔晴 both met their demise. But, despite Ying Luo not caring about her current standing in the palace, she decides she must retain some sort of power in order to protect her staff, particularly Ming Yu from being bullied. So, she turns to the Empress Dowager.


At this point, the Empress Nala is the most powerful woman in the palace. 袁春望 has also betrayed Ying Luo and is now the Head of 内务府 or the Imperial Household Department, reporting directly to Empress Nala. In Episode 56, 袁春望 brutally interrogates the old head of the department 吴书来 for information. I gotta say, I feel pretty bad for 吴书来 because he worked many years to climb his way up the latter only to be halfway cut off from his path. We also don’t know what happens to this guy after this brutal interrogation. I think the worst happens. In any case, 吴书来 did scream out that he had a life saving secret which 袁春望 then investigates.



Seems like the details of this secret have\ been confirmed and pieces of the puzzle are now set in motion. This secret has to do with the Empress Dowager whom the Empress Nala now is greatly displeased with and wants to remove from power. But the crafty Empress is not going to let this come back to her at all. INstead, she leverages the Prince of He, 和亲王, the Emperor’s brother. One day, he comes into the palace to pay his respects to his late mother, 裕太妃。 In her belongings, he happens to find a letter that he recognizes was his mother’s protection against the Empress Dowager.


The Prince immediately presents the letter to his brother, the Emperor. The note says that the 4th prince aka the Emperor’s mother, is a woman from the 钱 family. 钮祜禄氏 aka the Empress Dowager, killed the mother in order to take the son for her own. This note was apparently written by the Emperor’s nanny 温淑夫人 which speaks to its validity.


The Emperor hastily storms over to the Empress Dowager’s residence and point blank questions whether or not he is her son or the son of Madame Qian. Under his questioning, the empress dowager actually admits that he is not her son but the son of Madame Qian, a han woman. The moment the Emperor was born, he was brought over to the current Empress Dowager to raise because of his birth mother’s lowly status. She doesn’t know that the note said mentioned her killing madame Qianbut after the Emperor confirmed that he was indeed not his mother’s child, he apologized and walked away without saying much further. The Empress Dowager at that point recognizes that the note must have contained additional information. After all, why after so many years after the death of the nanny, did this letter just pop up.



The Emperor then heads over to the Empress’s residence hoping to have someone to talk to about this, not knowing that she’s the one who planted the information. She skillfully points out the holes in the Empress Dowager’s story about how or why Madame Qian would ask the Empress Dowager to raise her son when there were plenty of women in the Emperor’s father’s harem that did not have children who were more powerful and favored than the Emrpess Dowager. This causes the Emperor to further believe that yes, it wasn’t Madame 钱 who requested the Empress Dowager raise him but the Empress Dowager killed Madame Qian in order to claim him as her own. 


It just so happened that earlier in episode 56, the Emperor was given a painting by a Mr. 钱 where he requested the Emperor write a few lines on the painting as a gift for Mr. 钱‘s aging mother. Turns out, this Mr. 钱 is Madame Qian’s brother. The Emperor is running around everyone clutching the painting thinking there’s some hidden or deeper meaning in the painting and summons this Mr. Qian to see him. The Emperor wants to question him as to the truth about his birth. But, just as he’s hoping to see this Mr. Qian, news travels to the Emperor that he fell off a horse and died. 


This infuriates the Emperor and makes it seem like the Empress Dowager killed him to hide the truth. It was all way too convenient. Meanwhile, the Empress Dowager in all the stress of what’s going on, has passed out and fallen ill. 



With all the chaos that’s happening, the person who is most pleased with the developments is the Empress. While the Empress Dowager is bedridden, the Empress takes this opportunity to gloat in front of her. The Empress tells the Empress Dowager that her nephew will be killed for being involved in a corruption case and then threatens her with not needing to help the EMperor ever again in the future. The Empress wants the Emperor to hate the Empress Dowager forever for this betrayal. Oh and the death of Mr. Qian? One of the Empress’s works. The Empress Dowager is so upset and infuriated by the Empress’s words that she falls out of bed and cannot even speak due to her anger. Ying Luo rushes to help the Empress Dowager while the Empress smirks and walks out. 


Things don’t look good for the Empress Dowager who apparently is suffering from a stroke. Ying Luo requests for her friend 叶天士 to come diagnose the Empress Dowager just in case there was something amiss with the main doctor. Which was a good call because this doctor was controlled by the Empress. 叶天士 gives the Empress Dowager another prescription that would be a better treatment. Meanwhile, in a surprising twist, Ying Luo, who has taken over caring for the Empress Dowager, receives a visit from 庆贵人. She shocks everyone as she brings medicine and prescriptions that could help the Empress Dowager. Having entered the palace all the way back in episode 1, she has always been meek and shy, always under the shadow of 舒嫔. But, as 庆贵人 states herself, she recognizes the limits of her capability but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t know right from wrong. She’s hoping that her contributions this time will be remembered in the future. 



Wooo – a surprise ally for 璎珞! And Ying Luo takes this kindness in stride and offers to help 庆贵人 become more powerful in the palace. 


There is a brief scene that definitely caused me some worry the first time I saw it in this distressing time. A maid gives the Empress Dowager’s head maid medical prescriptions for the Empress Dowager only for the head maid to rip it up. Oh no! What could that mean!


We next turn to the Emperor who absolutely cannot sit still with so many questions and he storms into 寿康宫 again. There, he is greeted by a trembling 庆贵人 who takes this opportunity to tell him of a story. A young farmer’s wife was left to care for her aging in laws after her husband fled due to famine. The wife wanted make a living off of embroidery but the earnings were too meager and the neighbors couldn’t help either so she turned to selling her smile. Using the profits, she was able to care for her in-laws and even bought another young woman. When her husband finally came home, she told him that she is returning his parents unscathed and the other young woman is the new wife she bought for him. With that she kills herself. 



The Emperor is confused as to what this story means for him at this moment to which 庆贵人 continued, after the death of this young woman, the local magistrate pronounced her as unchaste and not allowed to be buried with her husband. Her in-laws were furious at this outcome because it was she who aided them while her husband, their son left them. What’s more important? Chastity or Righteousness or Doing the right thing, which one is correct?


She then goes on to recount what happened with the Empress Dowager. During an excursion with the late Emperor 雍正, he and Madame 钱 were targeted by bandits in the mountains. Their group was surrounded and so Madame 钱 switched into Emperor Yong Zheng’s clothing and took off, hoping to buy the Emperor time and safety. After this act, it was rumored that Madame Qian was captured by the bandits and was subject to their humiliation. OTher rumors stated that she threw herself off a cliff in order to protect her chastity. But whatever the truth, neither story would look good for the current Emperor even though Madame 钱 did indeed do the right thing. But too many people would cling on to the fact that she is unchaste and ignore her heroic deeds. That is why the Empress Dowager was so adamant in keeping the Emperor’s true birth a secret. 


庆贵人 then follows up saying that the Empress Dowager had requested an old guard come to the capital. He can answer any questions the Emperor may have about what happened.



And so, the next day, the Emperor indeed questions the old man who confirms that Madame Qian was with the Emperor on this excursion. But the bombshell pieces of information include that Madame Qian was alive and returned to the palace and then was ultimately sentenced to die for her humiliation towards the then Emperor Yong Zheng.


The Emperor 乾隆 is furious at these words because it once again shows him the Empress Dowager lied to him. He storms over to 寿康宫 one more time, and this time walking so fast he doesn’t even have the patience to be carried by his servants. Problem is, the Empress Dowager has already left the palace with 璎珞.


The Emperor races after them only to find 庆贵人 waiting for him once again out in the woods. She finishes her story by telling the Emperor that the late Emperor knew just how important it was to ascend the throne as rightfully as possible. When the then Empress Dowager brought the poison to Madame Qian, Madame Qian bowed to her three times and accepted her fate without a word. With this, the Empress Dowager decided to use her life to protect the then 4th prince, aka the Emperor.



After this revelation, the Emperor jumps back on his horse and chases after the Empress Dowager. At her carriage, he begs for forgiveness only to be dismissed by 刘姑姑 without a single word. All the Emperor can do is watch his adoptive mother, the Empress Dowager, head off without forgiving him. In the beginning of episode 58, Ying Luo, in the carriage with the Empress Dowager and Liu Gu Gu has a curious look on her face. She’s a little surprised at when the Empress Dowager recovered enough to take this trip. The Empress Dowager lets out a sly smile and says the right question to ask is when did the Empress Dowager become ill.


Turns out, the Empress Dowager was never sick to begin with. It was Liu Gu Gu who used her own medical expertise to make it seem like the Empress Dowager was sick. This way, the Empress felt comfortable enough to expose her true motives to the supposedly dying Empress Dowager. Additionally, the Emperor will now feel awful for having questioned the Empress Dowager’s motives thereby amplifying his guilt. And why bring Ying Luo? Of course it’s to help her regain favor with the Emperor. The emperor probably guessed it was Ying luo who instructed Qing guiren to tell him those stories but if Ying Luo remained in the palace, the Emperor would be irritated with her. By accompanying the Empress Dowager, the Emperor will have another reason to miss her and calm his anger towards her.



OK – there is a LOT to digest from the episode. At first, the Emperor is furious that his mother lied to him about being his birth mother. And then even more angry at her because it seems like she killed his birth mother in order to gain power. But after the stories 庆贵人 tells him it’s revealed that it probably wasn’t the Empress Dowager who killed Madame Qian on her own volition but because she had to die in order to protect Emperor Qian Long and Emperor Yong Zheng’s reputation. By the end of the episode, the Emperor realized that he had wrongfully accused his adoptive mother, thinking that she was the one to kill his birth mother when in reality, the late Emperor Yong Zheng gave the order. The Empress Dowager was just doing her best to raise him as a son. 




In these couple of episodes, we had a brilliant battle of the Empresses! There’s Empress Nala on one side and Empress Dowager Niu Hu Lu on another. Empress Nala got cocky! She believed that she had subdued all of her threats in harem and turned her attention towards the Empress Dowager. What do I mean – Chun Gui Fei died and Wei Ying Luo is out of favor. Empress Nala now wants to seek revenge on the Empress Dowager for her position against her father, which ultimately led to his death. 


I 100% believe it was the Empress who planted the letter for 和亲王 to find and she of course was the one to kill 钱正源. She was very confident in believing that she had all the cards and knew how to manipulate the Emperor into despising the Empress Dowager to such a point that the two will be permanently estranged. Little did she know, gloating in front of enemies is never good because she let her guard down when she saw the Empress Dowager ill in bed and let the events slip from her control. 


What do I mean? She didn’t know about Qing Gui Ren’s allegiance. She also dismissed Wei Ying Luo as a non entity. She also believed the Empress Dowager was on her deathbed but little did she know that all of these women played a part in telling the story that the Empress Dowager wanted the Emperor to hear. 


The old guard that came back to tell the “truth”? The Empress Dowager probably paid him off to tell that story which caused the Emperor to chase after the Empress Dowager. There’s no way Qing Gui Ren would have let slip such an important witness without the Empress Dowager’s approval. Once the Emperor raced to catch the Empress Dowager, who was there again to complete the story? Qing Gui Ren. This was all secretly approved by the Empress Dowager. The Emperor heard a story that he fully believes.


In the end, the most cunning person in the palace truly is the Empress Dowager. Plenty of ppl still call her 嬛嬛 ala 甄嬛传 for being the big boss in the palace. And that extremely sly smile to Ying Luo’s question of just how Madam Qian died reveals all you need to know about this woman in the palace. She has everything under her control.


This story of Lady Qian will come back at the end but let’s leave it for now.



There’s a ton of history in these 2 episodes with a lot of rumors flying around and murky history, so without further ado, let’s begin!


The first topic is going to be on the man 钱正源. He is the court official who sent a painting to Emperor 乾隆 as a request to write a couple of words for his elderly mother. We then find out he’s the brother of Emperor Qian Long’s mother and that he suddenly dies on his way to Beijing. Who killed him? It is heavily implied that it’s the Empress. 


We’ll focus on the story of 钱正源 first. He is based off another historical figure called 钱陈群. He was born in 1686 in the city of Jiaxing. His father died when he was young so it was left to his mother to raise two young boys to adulthood. 


He passed his imperial entrance exams in 1721 and served the courts of three Emperors, 康熙, 雍正, and 乾隆, serving posts as 顺天学政, basically the overseer to the Imperial entrance for Beijing and in the Ministry of Justice. 


In 1736, 钱陈群 requested to be relieved of his post due to the death of his mother but he still held the post of 顺天学政. He returned to court and was appointed to the ministry of justice in 1742.


He requested retirement in 1752 due to his poor health, which was granted. 


He was a very gifted poet and quickly became favored by Emperor 乾隆 and acted as a close advisor. So close that for 4 of the 6 trips that Emperor 乾隆 had to go south, 钱陈群 was summoned along for the trip AND the Emperor stayed at the 钱 residence while in 嘉兴. 


钱陈群 died in 1774 at the ripe old age of 88, so not randomly in an attack as we saw in episode 57. 


Let’s turn our attention to his mother. His mother was called 陈书 and was a female painter. She was left widowed with 2 young boys and in-laws to care for, so she spent her days selling paintings and embroidery to get buy. Her hard work paid off as both of her sons passed their imperial entrance exams and became well respected officials. Towards the end of her life, she gifted one of her paintings 夜纺授经图 – or night embroidery to teach to Emperor 乾隆. He was very touched by the painting and wrote a poem on it and highlighted this as a reminder for the other ministers at court. There are a few of her paintings that can be seen today in the Jiaxing Museum. I think that’s pretty cool and definitely deserves some accolades for her accomplishments.


So listeners -> there’s no 钱正源, only 钱陈群


Next – let’s dive into the whole mystery that is 乾隆’s birth and who this mysterious Lady Qian is. For this drama, the screenwriter decided to tie Lady Qian to the 嘉兴 钱 clan but in reality there’s no relation between the two. 


However, out of all the Qing Dynasty Emperors, for some reason 乾隆 has had the MOST number of rumors surrounding his true mother. I’ll first start with rumors, then what’s written in history, and then some VERY interesting contrasting documents. 


Here’s 3 rumors that have floated around with no real historical basis but live on in folklore. 


  1. 乾隆是雍亲王府侍妾的儿子。- Qian Long is the son of a lowly maid.


In the 承德 district of Hebei province, there was a poor family with a young daughter who sold wine and food for a living. When the young girl was 13 / 14, she snuck herself into the caravan of carriages for the Imperial Selection. She was then subsequently sent to the then Prince of Yong’s residence as a lowly maid. Lucky or unlucky for her, the Prince of Yong fell ill and this young girl took care of him. After he got better, he slept with her and then that’s how she got pregnant with Qian Long. 


This rumor doesn’t hold much water because the selection process was extremely strict. There’s little chance that a random girl who wasn’t trained to be a maid was able to join the caravan


  1. 乾隆是热河行宫宫女的儿子。QIan Long was the son of a palace maid at the 热河 summer palace. 


In my mind, this one is really random. The Prince of Yong was out hunting with his father the EMperor 康熙 at Re He, an area to the northeast of beijing. They shot a sika deer and drank the deer blood. Apparently deer blood is um a strong aphrodisiac, so the Prince of Yong quickly bedded an ugly han maid who subsequently had 乾隆. This rumor also doesn’t make much sense because Emperor QIan Long was born on the 13th day of the 8th month but hunting occured around the 5th month so the timing doesn’t really work. 


Honestly – I don’t even know how these rumors take hold. 


  1. 乾隆是浙江海宁陈世倌guān的儿子。One more rumor – Qian Long is actually the son of 陈世倌. 


This 陈世倌 became a Jin Shi during Kang Xi’s reign, by the time of Emperor Qian Long, he already rose to the post of the Minister of Works. Rumor is, the two families had a child on the same day but the Prince of Yong had a daughter while the Chen family had a son. So the then Prince of Yong swapped the children. 


This is also a rumor because well, the Prince of Yong wasn’t really wanting for sons. He could always have more. There’s also little reason to swap children. This was also debunked by historians. However, this rumor, out of all the 3 above, this last one, qian long being the son of 陈世倌 is one that likes to be picked up by authors to write their own stories. For example – the Wu xia author Jin Yong went with this rumor and set the story that 乾隆 was the twin brother of the main character 陈家洛. 


Once again, these are all rumors but rumors on qian long’s mom. 


As we saw from 甄嬛传 or Empresses in the Palace – 熹妃 was Emperor Qian Long’s mother. 


According to historical records –  Lady 钮钴禄, 熹妃 started as a 格格 with the Prince of Yong. After he ascended the throne, she rose to 熹妃 or Consort Xi and then Noble Consort Xi and then finally Empress Dowager. Xi Fei was the one who gave birth to the future Emperor 乾隆. 


This is recorded in 清世宗宪皇帝实录, a historical document that was written and compiled during Emperor Qian Long’s reign of his father’s reign. 


In 清史稿·后妃传 Draft History of Qing – the history of the concubines, it basically states the same. Note the last name is 钮钴禄. This draft history was compiled shortly after the fall of the Qing Dynasty. 


These all seem pretty airtight right? On the surface, yes. This is also what is widely accepted as fact and the official records. 


But what’s interesting, is that the question right now isn’t whether 熹妃 was Emperor Qian Long’s mother. That, we can all agree on. Just toss away all you know from Empresses in the Palace and even what we saw in this drama because you know storytelling. 


The actual question right now is whether 熹妃 was from the 钮钴禄 clan OR from the 钱 clan.


Why? Because there’s interesting records before Emperor Qian Long’s time that tell a slightly different story. 


The first compilation is called 永宪录 Yǒng xiàn lù which was written by 萧奭 xiāo shì during the Qing Dynasty and chronicles history of the Kang Xi and early Yong Zheng reigns. This compilation though isn’t regarded as actual history. The one piece that catches our eye is that in here – he wrote that 钱氏 or Lady Qian became Xi Fei. Interesting – where does this Lady Qian come from? I also don’t know exactly when this 永宪录 Yǒng xiàn lù so this doesn’t quite help our case. However, let’s look at the next piece of evidence.


In another compilation 雍正朝汉文谕旨汇编 – which translates to the A Compilation of Chinese Edicts of Yongzheng’s Reign – it has on the 14th day of the second month of Emperor Yong Zheng’s first year, as per the Empress’s Dowager’s edict, promote 格格钱氏封为熹妃 or in english promote Lady Qian to Consort Xi. 


This compilation seems to have a bit more weight because this was just direct translations. However, since this is the Chinese translation, there are also the corresponding Manchu words. People have compared the two and the Chinese character is 钱 but the corresponding Manchu words mean 钮钴禄, so this adds more to the mystery and why there’s no consensus.


In the article I’m reading, the author says that possibly, Emperor Qian Long could have removed all records of this lady qian and swapped her to the more well known 钮钴禄 clan so that he had more standing in history books. It definitely sounds better to have a mother from a Manchu clan than from an unknown Han family. The problem is, subsequent historical records only have 钮钴禄 as Qian Long’s mother. We know basically nothing about this Lady Qian if she did exist. 


So this is very different from our current drama situation where Qian Long’s mother is Lady Qian and the current empress dowager from the 钮钴禄 clan. From a historical conundrum perspective, the question once again is whether the Empress Dowager is either Lady Qian or Lady 钮钴禄. 


This is a tough one – the official record is that Qian Long’s mother is from the 钮钴禄 clan. I’m inclined to go with the former that Qian Long’s mother was from the 钮钴禄 clan because it would be difficult for a Han woman with no relations to survive the Imperial harem. However, many online think that it was Lady Qian due to the earlier historical records. 


So what do you think? Do you believe the Empress Dowager is Lady Qian or Lady 钮钴禄


There’s more to this story, drama wise that we’ll discuss towards the end of the drama. 


 The Story of Yanxi Palace – Ep 55 + 56 part 1


Welcome back to Chasing Dramas! This is the podcast that discusses Chinese culture and history through historical Chinese dramas. We are your host for today Cathy and Karen!


Today we are discussing episode 55 + 56 pt 1 of the Story of Yanxi Palace or 延禧攻略. This podcast is in English with proper nouns and certain phrases spoken in Mandarin Chinese. 


If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to reach out to us on instagram or twitter or else email us at


This podcast episode consists of a drama episode recap and we’ll move on to discuss the history portrayed in this episode.




In the last episode, Ying Luo found out about the truth of the late Empress Fu Cha’s death in that it was all instigated by the despicable Er Qing. Without much second thought, she straight up just organizes 尔晴‘s death. No one is upset by it, at least not us viewers. Except the Emperor is quite displeased at Ying Luo’s rash actions. Reason being that 尔晴’s death reminded the Emperor of his shameful act in actually sleeping with 尔晴 and fathering a son with her. He hid this fact from the late Empress and he didn’t have much mental capacity to think about this further but now it’s eating him up inside. At least somewhat. He takes a break with a horseback ride out in the forest somewhere with a huge entourage to boot. In front of the imperial guard Hai Lan Cha, he recognizes that 容音 was not capable of being the Empress he needed by her side. Death might have been the best escape for her. 


To me this episode really reflects the difficult position the Emperor is in but with the power that he holds, we are reminded of his inherent selfishness. In this introspection, he holds his position as Emperor above all else. Despite his love for 容音 he is still disappointed that she couldn’t live up to the expectations that came with the role of Empress.


[Cathy] I really like how you said – inherent selfishness. I spent this entire episode getting annoyed at the Emperor because his whole excuse was – I am the Emperor, I am SUPPOSED to be heartless. I expect my wife, the Empress to be heartless as well. She was too emotional and unfit to be Empress. I’m like, buddy, you can’t have your cake and eat it too. This is exactly why you preferred Empress 富察 in the first place! But at least finally, we have a male character be introspective of the harm he has caused to his wife. We never got that in Empresses in the Palace. The Emperor in that drama was just – I am the center of the sun and screw all of these women, literally.


Ying Luo’s position continued to look precarious as the Emperor neglected to visit her for several days. But it takes a turn for the worse when her trusted friend, the imperial doctor 叶天士, is embroiled in a scandal. Recall a few episodes ago, 叶天士 had noted that various medicine was being wasted in the palace. 袁春望 had volunteered to help sell the leftover ingredients outside the palace and the funds could be used to help procure more medicine in the palace. But, the transactions turned into a black market as extremely valuable medicinal ingredients were being smuggled out of the palace as well. 叶天士 became the fall guy and he was apprehended for participating in this racket. 



What is worse though, is that through investigating 叶天士 and his prescriptions for Ying Luo, the Empress discovered an important secret. She requested the Emperor’s presence in hearing what this secret was. Turns out, Ying Luo has been taking a contraceptic tonic ever since she came to the palace. The Emperor storms out of the Empress’s palaces and makes his way over to Ying Luo’s 延禧宫.


In front of Ying Luo, he unleashes his anger at her. He point blank recounts her entire reason for being in the palace. She wanted to take revenge against 纯贵妃 to avenge the late Empress all the way back at the Summer Palace 圆明园. And to do so, she had to become his concubine. She worked her way up the latter and garnered his favor in order to have the power to match and take down 纯贵妃. 璎珞 does not deny any of this and even reiterates herself that now she has enacted her revenge, the Emperor has no value to her anymore. SHe does not need to fawn over him anymore.



The Emperor is furious at hearing this. And finding out she’s using a contraceptive tonic. Because to him, it means that she does not care about him at all. Every woman in the palace wants to have his child and she, the person that he has put so much favor and effort in, is the only person to not want his child. He was being used as a pawn for Ying Luo’s own goals and this is something he cannot take.


Ying Luo pushes back by raising the example of how he continued to use the late Empress Fu Cha even after her death to which he responds that he is the Emperor. The late Empress needed to be useful to him in her full capacity even in death. With that, he calmly but angrily tells Ying Luo, she won’t be needing the medicine anymore and walks out.


The cats out of the bag and at least these two are able to be very clear about each other’s motives. For me, I’m just glad Ying Luo was able to avenge the late Empress before this fall out. The person best able to profit off of this fallout? The Empress Nala. She comes to speak to the Emperor in his anguished state as a calming and loving figure. Just what he needs in this moment of rejection from Ying Luo. Sure enough, the Emperor eats it up and the Empress immediately garners favor. 


Ying Luo isn’t fooled with what her position is now in the palace. She recognized that her palace is most likely a cold palace now since she will no longer have the favor of the Emperor. Not only that though she will not fight for favor from the Emperor. She dismisses her servants but a few loyal ones remain which include 珍珠, 小全子, 明玉 and 袁春望。

But before we close out episode 55, Ying Luo drags 袁春望 to greet the Empress. There, the masks come off. 璎珞 respects the Empress for being the person behind the scenes that orchestrated everything without ever getting blood on her own hands. The news about 尔晴’s betrayal? Planted by the Empress. The discovery about Ying Luo’s birth control medicine? Revealed by the Empress. She is indeed a formidable foe. But the other revelation is that 袁春望 had betrayed Ying Luo. Ying Luo recognized this because 袁春望 was the only one to know about her medicine. He must have told the Empress in order to bring about Ying Luo’s downfall. 



In episode 56, 袁春望 doesn’t deny this. Instead, he claims that Ying Luo deserves this because she betrayed him first. She left him in 圆明园 when they vowed they will be together there forever. In any case, a new status quo is set. The Empress Na La has eliminated literally every threat to her in the palace and she has the sole favor of the Emperor. 袁春望 for his contribution to the Empress, will be the new head of the Imperial Household Department, a pretty big promotion. Ying Luo in turn, is now out of favor and currently has no prospects of ever reclaiming the Emperor’s attention. 


As we can guess and have seen in prior episodes and dramas, a woman in the palace with no favor is at the bottom of the totem pole. Ming Yu is openly bullied by 舒嫔 and humiliated by her. At least 海兰察 was able to step in to protect her but the situation in 延禧宫 don’t look great. Though, Ying Luo, 珍珠 小全子 and Ming Yu basically make up a small family unit that stick together even in their current state.



And what a great guy that 海兰察 is. He reports to the Emperor in his office one day about 傅恒’s current military campaigns. They’re off fighting the Huo Lan tribe who have actually sent an envoy to discuss peace talks. 海兰察 then just raised the words 延禧宫 but was roundly criticized by the Emperor for his impertinence and punished quite harshly. Keep in mind the Huo Lan tribe because they will come into play later on


For Ying Luo’s part, she recognizes that while she doesn’t care for favor right now, the people around her are getting hurt because of her lack of favor. Especially with 舒嫔 humiliating Ming Yu. So, Ying Luo takes a leaf out of 沈眉庄”s book from Empresses in the Palace and turns to the Empress Dowager. Gaining favor and protection from the Empress Dowager is pretty much the only way Ying Luo can survive in the palace. We’ve seen in the past that the Empress Dowager likes Ying Luo greatly and right now, Ying Luo has even decided to write buddhist texts for the Empress Dowager using her own blood as a way to show her devotion and dedication to Buddha. This shocks both 舒嫔 and 庆贵人 who visit the Empress Dowager and find out that Ying Luo has been spending significant time with the Empress Dowager. We’ll wrap up the episode recap here after we see Ying Luo confront 舒嫔 and even slap her across the face as revenge against her actions towards Ming Yu. After all, Ying Luo is still Consort Ling. A higher title than 舒嫔. And, Ying Luo will not allow 舒嫔 to treat Ming Yu with disrespect. I mean, you can take the revenge out of Ying Luo but you cannot take the eye for an eye mentality from her.




Today’s episode was heavy on the plot with all the backstabbing from all sides. We got 魏璎珞 being betrayed by 袁春望. Ugh – he’s such a creep. There’s the Emperor feeling betrayed by 魏璎珞 but then 魏璎珞 rightly pointed out that he was the one who betrayed the Empress. That one I MIGHT give a pass simply because it was 尔晴 who instigated that whole thing. 


We only have 2 topics to discuss today on history.

The first is of course 述悲赋. I briefly mentioned this piece when we talked about the Empress’s death in episode 40.


述悲赋 – or my translation as Rhapsody of Grief is a piece that Emperor 乾隆 wrote in remembrance of his wife during the first 100 days of mourning. This means that he wrote the roughly 550 word rhapsody in 1748.


Out of the tens of thousands of poems that Emperor 乾隆 wrote, this one ranks very highly amongst his works for how emotional and raw it is. This was also included in 清史稿 – Draft History of Qing。


In the drama, 魏璎珞 only says 4 lines. 痛一旦之永诀,隔阴阳而莫知。悲莫悲兮生别离,失内位兮孰予随


The first two lines come from the beginning of the Rhapsody while the last to come from the end. 


I’ll provide the full lines for both and then translate.




Why is it that the first chapter of Yi Jing, usually translated Book of Changes or Classic of Changes, an ancient Chinese divination text begin with 乾坤 or Heaven and Earth? Why is it that the first chapter of the Book of Songs or 诗经 being with 咏关睢 which is about the meeting between man and woman? That’s because man and wife are the start of everything human. Only the heaven and earth of 乾坤 is comparable. I was married to my wife, the late empress for 22 years. I am in so much pain – one evening, I have forever said goodbye to her. From now on, we are separated by two realms, never to hear from each other. 




My heart feels empty, life and death seems but a fleeting moment. I have lost this most virtuous empress. Who will walk with me on this road of life. The years will be the same. Everyday I think of you. I have come back to Chang Chun Palace. The palace is quiet. The phoenix bed is empty. The spring wind has passed but the beauty is no longer here. The Spring flowers and Fall moon have passed. When will the summer sun and winter nights come again?


I quite like all of these lines! We really get a glimpse of the Emperor’s grief at the death of his wife. He essentially compares his marriage to heaven and earth and that no one comes even close to the late Empress. 


We’ve talked about this before but the Emperor wrote many poems later in his life reminiscing the virtues of his late wife. In those instances, I kind of feel bad for Empress nala because she literally cannot compete. 



However, in this drama, I don’t think she really cares right now. She knows how to play the long game with the Emperor, which leads me to the next poem.






鹦鹉前头不敢言。 [1] 


The flowers bloom but the palace doors are tightly shut

There’s two beautiful palace maids sitting together at the veranda enjoying the sight

They have much to talk about and want to share their woes in the palace

But in front of the parrot, no one dares share anything. 


In this poem – we have two women in the palace who want to share their woes and thoughts in the palace. Unfortunately they don’t dare say anything because they worry that the parrot will learn something and repeat it. 


This poem was written by the tang dynasty poet 朱庆馀yú – now, it isn’t clear when he was born or when died but we do know that he passed his imperial entrance exams as a 进士 in 826 and became a court official. 2 of his poems are recorded in 全唐诗, the largest collection of Tang poetry, containing some 49,000 lyric poems by more than twenty-two hundred poets


The Empress here is VERY clever to have written this poem. I don’t know how she planned it or it was just pure luck that the Emperor found the exact poem, but this particular poem, along with the real parrot immediately had the Emperor thinking, hm – what does the Empress want to say but she can’t? This poem immediately – at least in the mind of the Emperor, changes his picture of Empress nala. Now, Empress nala is a woman who loves her husband but is too shy to really share her feelings with him. The Emperor even states – I thought you were only a woman of responsibility. The Emperor, who was very dejected from hearing that 魏璎珞’s sole purpose in returning to the Palace was for revenge and also his guilt towards the late Empress, turns his attentions towards Empress Nala as a woman. 


The two lines 含情欲说宫中事,鹦鹉前头不敢言 give the hint to the emperor that Empress has perhaps woes of love towards him that she has never shared. After this whole scene, he, of course, turns his attentions towards her. 


He is such a 大猪蹄子. Gosh – we haven’t used that phrase in a while. 大猪蹄子 means pig feet or a philanderer. Ya, he was just rejected by 魏璎珞 and immediately turns to the embrace of the other ladies in the harem. 


Ok! That’s it for today!


 The Story of Yanxi Palace – Ep 54


Welcome back to Chasing Dramas! This is the podcast that discusses Chinese culture and history through historical Chinese dramas. We are your host for today Cathy and Karen!


Today we are discussing episode 54 of the Story of Yanxi Palace or 延禧攻略. This podcast is in English with proper nouns and certain phrases spoken in Mandarin Chinese. 


If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to reach out to us on instagram or twitter or else email us at


This podcast episode consists of a drama episode recap and we’ll move on to discuss the history portrayed in this episode.




We are finally at one of THE most satisfying episodes in the entire drama. Wooo. So excited. 


In the last episode, the Empress Nala successfully got her way in having the silkworm ceremony take place which will allow her to preside over it. This was crucial for her to retain her power and status as Empress, or so she thinks. This, however, pisses off the Empress Dowager who was not so eager for this ceremony to take place.


As we described last episode, the silkworm ceremony is rather extravagant and ladies of the aristocracy and of court officials are all included in the ceremony. But before we get to the actual event, let’s turn back to what’s happening in palace. 


Ying Luo’s maids 明玉 and 珍珠 happen upon their old colleague 琥珀 who had been sentenced to kneel for several hours after upsetting 舒嫔 in the earlier episode. 琥珀 used to all work with 明玉 and 珍珠 under the late Empress Fu Ca but has since been demoted to Xin Zhe Ku.  琥珀 passes out in front of these two ladies and they bring her back to 延禧宫 to recover. 璎珞 is not pleased to see 琥珀 who had disrespected her in the past which is why she was banished but 琥珀 pleads for forgiveness and trades valuable information to ensure it.


That is when, 琥珀 reveals that on the night the late Empress fuca died, 琥珀 overheard 尔晴 having a conversation with the late Empress. It was that day that 尔晴, with fake tears, reveals that the Emperor kept her over the night of the 2nd princes memorial.  What’s worse is that at this critical juncture, Er Qing also reveals that she is pregnant with the Emperor’s child. Honestly I’m just pissed watching this scene because we all know Er Qing orchestrated all of this, even ate medicine to make it easier to get pregnant. And for her to tell the Empress right now in her weakened state? It’s utterly despicable. The despair on the Empress’s face when she saw this as two people closest to her betrayed her. It’s telling that the Empress’s last words to Er Qing was that she is to never step foot in the palace again. Does she listen? No. Not at all.



Thank god we have Ying Luo. She is shaking with anger at hearing 琥珀 recount this story. She now recognizes that it was ultimately 尔晴 who pushed the late Empress to utter despair and take that final step to end her life. There is no way Ying Luo is going to let this go easily. Her anger though is not only towards Er Qing, but the Emperor as well. She smashes all of the food that 李玉 brought for Ying Luo from the Emperor because she cannot stand the hurt that he inflicted upon her beloved late Empress.


The day of the silkworm ceremony arrives. 尔晴 takes this as her opportunity to plead to the Emperor of her treatment in the 富察household by 傅恒. She thinks her tears will at least put some pressure on the Emperor to help her given that they share a child. He hears her comments, a little frustrated, and allows her to leave.  She is then immediately led, well technically abducted, to meet Ying Luo who is patiently waiting for her in the late Empress’s palace.


Er Qing recognizes this is not in her best interest to stay and tries to leave but her exit is blocked.  In front of a memorial for the late Empress Fu Ca, Ming Yu exchanges barbs with her and questioning how she could do this to her old master. Finally, Er Qing lets out her frustration. She could not stand suddenly losing her favor after Ying Luo arrived. She could not stand that the Empress did not help her secure a marriage with Fu Heng. And so she has to retaliate. She has to take her revenge. What better blow would it be to tell the Empress she is pregnant with the Emperor’s child immediately after the death of her son? Man, this woman is absolutely despicable and essentially maniacal. I do appreciate Ying Luo’s words of don’t try to find excuses for your despicable deeds. 尔晴 is trying to play the victim after “suffering’ in the palace when in reality, it was she who made all of these choices time and again. 



Without further ado, Ying Luo like a total boss, presents Er Qing with a few options of how she wants to die. Er Qing is shocked that Ying Luo would dare to kill her given her status as Fu Heng’s wife but Ying Luo does not care one iota. Next thing we know, the Emperor who had heard that Ying Luo and Er Qing had not been present for the silkworm ceremony hurriedly arrives on the scene only to see Er Qing’s body slumped on the ground. 


He is absolutely furious to see Ying Luo act so rashly without thought of consequence. She calmly tells him that it was Er Qing who told the late Empress of her liaison with the Emperor the night the late Empress died. That’s why Er Qing must die. In that moment, the Emperor’s expression shifts immediately and understands in an instant why Ying Luo did what she did. 


He isn’t given much time to explain what happened before the Empress Nala bursts in. She is “shocked“ to see Er Qing’s body and gives a quizzacle look to the room. The Emperor steps in and just says that Er Qing was overcome with grief and decided to follow her late master, evidently trying to protect Ying Luo. The Empress isn’t fully convinced but instantly helps put together a plan to make Er Qing’s death more plausible. The Emperor also claims that Ying Luo is sick before storming off.



With just the two main ladies left, the Empress praises Ying Luo for her swift and decisive action against Er Qing. But, Ying Luo is recognizing what a formidable foe the Empress is because she was not at all surprised to hear that Er Qing was another woman of the Emperor’s. Given that, it would seem that Hu Po’s presence in front of Ying Luo was all orchestrated by the Empress so that Ying luo would act the way she does. The ultimate goal? Removing Ying Luo from the Emperor’s favor. 


And it seems to have worked for now. But does Ying Luo care? No. She finally enacted revenge against everyone who caused the late Empress Fu Cha’s death. That was her whole purpose in coming to the palace. Now that she has completed her goal, she is not worried about the consequences.



Behind the scenes


Cut – ming yu was the one who actually killed 尔晴.


One important scene here that was cut was Er Qing’s actual death. Ming Yu was the one who forced Er Qing to drink the poison which is why the dialogue in the espide is all about Ming Yu killing Er Qing. The drama cut that out and all we see is Er Qing already dead on the ground. 


Next up, there’s also some rumors that scenes were cut between Er Qing and Fu Heng’s brother who seemingly had a crush on Er Qingk. There’s a couple of rumors that the two of them had an affair based on preliminary cuts of the drama but that storyline was ultimately cut out. This is why in some scenes Fu Heng’s brother was quick to come to Er Qing’s aid but nothing came of it. 

Fu heng wife


We finally say goodbye to the despicable, selfish, and crazy 尔晴. I remember when I first watched the show, I was like – was that how bad she really was in history? So down the rabbit hole I went and let’s just say the show dramatizes everything about 傅恒’s wife. 


First up, born in 1722年-1793, fu heng’s wife did not come from the 喜塔拉 or Hitara clan but from the Yehenara or 叶赫那拉 clan. So, I’ll call her Lady Yehenara. Unfortunately, we do not have a full name found in the records. Quite frankly, there’s little in the official records about Lady Yehanara. Her family was not from the baoyi class, but rather the exact opposite. Lady Yehenara’s father was the grandson of a very famous minister 纳兰明珠, who served three reigns. Her mother came from the 瓜尔佳 clan.These two clans both comprise of the big 8 manchu families so we can see Lady Yuhenara’s lineage and pedigree was top notch. 



The Yehenara clan was able to boast having several women in the imperial harem throughout the dynasty including Empresses, so Lady Yehenara grew up trained as a proper lady, learning the arts of zither, go, calligraphy, and drawing. She also was a beauty. There were rumors or folk sayings that she was the most beautiful manchu woman for a time. Think probably of 沈眉庄 from Empresses in the Palace. It probably wasn’t a stretch to say that the Yehenara clan probably wanted her to also enter into the palace. 


However, Emperor Qian Long showed no interest in growing the power of the Yehenara clan and honestly the power of other notable manchu families so he stopped the selection for a time. Even though there was one yehanara woman who entered the palace during qian long’s reign, namely 舒fei, who we don’t really see much in the drama. The Yehenara clan then turned their attention towards making a good match with other prominent families in the capital and that’s how they selected 富察傅恒. 



Lady Yehenara was a lucky woman, much luckier than 尔晴 in this drama. 富察傅恒 only married her and there’s no record of him taking any other concubine after their marriage. That was extremely rare for men in Imperial china. So there must be something going right in the marriage. 


The two had 6, yes 6 children! 4 sons and 2 daughters. 

福灵安(?-1767) 多罗额驸,正白旗满洲副都统,署云南永北镇总兵





Ok – I’m also reading that 傅恒 did have one concubine, who was the birth mother of 福长安 but that also doesn’t see corroborated. Anyways – let’s just say he didn’t have many women in his life. 


We don’t know the names of his daughters but we do know that one married the 10th prince of Qian Long 永瑆 and the other, married 睿恭亲王淳颖 a descendent of 多铎.


Lady Yehenara was granted the title of Duchess of the First Rank or 一品夫人 due to the accomplishments of her husband. 



All seems fine and square right?


So then what about the story of sleeping with the Emperor and having a son by the Emperor, who we have as 福康安 in this drama?


Well – over the centuries, there has been plenty and I mean plenty of rumors of 福康安 parentage. 


A lot of these rumors, stories, folk tales began flourishing after the fall of the Qing Dynasty in 1912. Books were printed during this time that include rather pointed stories in their accusations or suspicions that 福康安 might be the illegitimate child of the Emperor and Fu Heng’s wife. 


In a novel compiled by 吴士鉴 Wu Shijiàn所撰的《清宫词》。书中有诗云[参3]:




This basically means – when Fu HEng’s wife went to visit Empress Fu Cha, she slept with the Emperor and gave birth to Fu Kang An. Multiple stories published in 1916, 1919 and beyond all printed various versions of this story. Some wrote that the date happened during the Empress’s birthday. Another said, the Empress got into an argument with the Emperor on this matter, hence why she died in 1748. That one I can’t get behind because well, 福康安 was born in 1754. THe Empress died in 1748 so don’t know how to square that timeline away. 



What’s also hilarious is that in a lot of these stories, Fu Heng’s wife’s last name also changes. It goes from Nara to 孙佳 to 佟佳 or 董额 which are pretty random. This storyline was picked up as plot points for various writers well into the later part of the 20th century. Including the famed Wuxia writer, 金庸 who made 福康安 a major character several of his books set in the Qing Dynasty and went with the rumor that he was the Emperor’s illegitimate son. I remember reading those books when I was younger so I was well versed with this rumor. 


Most historians view this as simply speculation. Why the speculation, well because, in life, the favor that 福康安 received from Emperor 乾隆 was well beyond that of any normal official. From a relations perspective, Emperor 乾隆 is 福康安’s uncle. So let’s remind everyone of this. 


福康安 in history was a well respected general and court official. He is one of the few men during the Qing Dynasty to be granted the title of 王 or Prince who was not a royal. In life, he was gifted the title of 贝子 or Prince of the Fourth Rank and after he died, was given the title of 嘉勇郡王 or Prince of the Second Rank



What’s also curious is that Fu heng’s other sons were able to marry 乾隆’s daughters or marry royal princesses so why not 福康安? These two points above led storytellers to go wild with speculation.  


Honestly though, these can be easily explained. 福康安 basically grew up in the Imperial Palace with 乾隆’s own sons. Emperor qian long, still remember is late wife, favored Fu heng and his sons. Thankfully, they all lived up to his expectations. 福康安 also looked shocking like the Emperor’s second son 永琏. The boy of course died young and was the first son of the Empress. So, the Emperor, naturally favored 福康安. Another point, Emperor qianlong wanted to confer the prince title to 傅恒 but he adamantly refused, so the Emperor decided to confer it to 福康安. 福康安, by himself rightly earned his prince title because he contributed greatly on the battlefield and for the Empire.


As to him not marrying a princess, there wasn’t any princess available of eligible age when he came of age so who was he to marry? 


In dramas, the most famous is perhaps 福尔康 from 还珠格格 or Pearl Princess


The portrait of the Empress is a well known piece that was painted by court painters when the Empress turned 24 and became Empress. She is in her formal court attire. I believe it was painted by Giuseppe Castiglione, one of his many works of the ladies of imperial harem. The painting is currently housed in the palace museum in beijing.


 The Story of Yanxi Palace – Ep 53


Welcome back to Chasing Dramas! This is the podcast that discusses Chinese culture and history through historical Chinese dramas. We are your host for today Cathy and Karen!


Today we are discussing episode 53 of the Story of Yanxi Palace or 延禧攻略. This podcast is in English with proper nouns and certain phrases spoken in Mandarin Chinese. 


If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to reach out to us on instagram or twitter or else email us at


This podcast episode consists of a drama episode recap and we’ll move on to discuss the history portrayed in this episode.



In the last episode, well and also the beginning of episode 53, we said goodbye to two women, the evil 纯贵妃 and the maternal 愉妃。 璎珞 now has the 5th prince 永琪 under her care but also was able to see the late Empress Fu Cha receive some justice for the death of her son with 纯贵妃’s death. The thing is, 纯贵妃 was killed using a string from a kite by the Empress Na La. No one knows the truth but because Ying Luo has created kites in the past, the evident connection is that she was the one to kill Chun Gui Fei.


The Emperor visits Ying Luo at Yan Xi gong and what is she doing? Making a kite. They get into a little argument because he wants her to stop making the kite because it just looks bad for her. Instead, he wants to teach her how to play the gu qin and even gifts her a beautiful new qin.  Does she listen? Nope? She doesn’t think anything of his suggestion and is adamant in continuing her kite making. This annoys the Emperor who storms off. He’s more annoyed that Ying Luo doesn’t even try to explain because it shows she doesn’t care what he thinks of her. 



This little tiff between the two is immediately spread throughout the palace and 舒嫔 whom we haven’t seen in a while takes her opportunity. One night, she stops the Emperor in the garden with an excuse to observe a beautiful flower. This hella fake 昙花 or Queen of the night flow blooms in front of them and 舒嫔 uses everything she’s got to try to capture the Emperor’s attention, showering him with many praises. The Emperor plays along and says that on such a night, the should be music! What does he do? Order that the qin he gave to ying luo be extracted. 


Ying Luo doesn’t give a second thought and just gives it back which causes the Emperor to be annoyed again because he wanted her to make a fuss. When by the twilight hours she doesn’t show up, he ditched 舒嫔 and shows up at YanXi Gong. That’s where they have a frank discussion about why he’s so frustrated. He knows she didn’t kill 纯贵妃 but she doesn’t care for how he thinks of her. The two make up or more like the Emperor lets go of his annoyance and that’s that! Poor 舒嫔。



The more interesting matter at hand is the silkworm ceremony. The Empress Nala is presenting this event to the Empress Dowager. However, the Empress Dowager states that given there’s been drought in the Empire and that the cost of the ceremony is high, it’s not a good look to do this ceremony this year. They can look to do it next year instead. But, the Empress Nala pushes back saying that all of the women at court have already been informed of the ceremony and the operations are already in place. If they cancel the ceremony now, it would cause gossip.


This angers the Empress Dowager and rightly so. The Empress came to ask her for her thoughts but she doesn’t actually care because she is adamant for this ceremony to take place. In front of all the servants in the palace, the Empress Dowager tells the Empress off for usurping too much power. The Empress Dowager then promptly leaves, leaving the Empress rather humiliated. She rushes out of the palace with tears in her eyes and gives only a half hearted acknowledgement of Prince He who happened to be outside.



Prince He who has had a soft spot for the Empress Nala, decides that he will step in to help her ensure that the silkworm ceremony continues as planned. After all, why was it possible for the late Empress Fu Cha to hold the ceremony and not the new Emrpess Nala? Clearly, there’s favoritism here. 


Sure enough, next we see, the Empress and 舒嫔 are overlooking the materials required for the silk ceremony. While the Empress is secretly gloating that she got her way, she is immediately met with a blow as they find that Ying Luo will be using materials befitting a higher station than her current title of consort. Apparently, this was okayed by both the Emperor and Empress Dowager. Clearly, this is the Empress Dowager’s way of expressing her displeasure by purposefully elevating Ying Luo’s position to combat the Empress’s. Right now, this silkworm ceremony is the Empress and Empress Dowager’s battleground. The Empress needs this ceremony to happen in order to maintain her position of power given what happened to her father while the Empress Dowager does not want it to happen BECAUSE of what happened to the Empress’s father. The Empress Dowager wants to send out a warning of her displeasure with the nala clan. 


There is someone else who is very eager for this ceremony to occur and that is none other than 尔晴. She’s been in confinement for quite some time with Fu Heng out at war but she has not exercised any restraint at all in her hateful tendencies. She wants to use this ceremony as a way to speak to the Emperor about her poor condition because if anyone will help, it’s going to be him. We will see what happens with her presence in the next episode.


But before we close out the episode, there is a quick scene we want to highlight with two implications. Xiao Quan Zi secretly follows Yuan Chun Wang to the Imperial Doctor 叶天士‘s place and picks up some medicine from 叶天士. There, 袁春望 says he’ll help 叶天士 dispose of some of the medicine that isn’t fresh anymore in the market so that the funds can be used for other medical purposes. Additionally, 叶天士 gives 袁春望 a secret pouch of medicine for Ying Luo. 小全子 observes 袁春望 secretly putting this powder in a pot of medicine for ying luo and when presenting her with this medicine, 小全子 tries to stop her from drinking it, thinking 袁春望 is trying to poison Ying Luo. But instead, Ying Luo drinks the medicine without another thought. She punishes 小全子 for insubordination yet still insists she will keep drinking this medicine. This little scene is quite interesting and will be important in the next few episodes.


And with that! We will see what happens with Er Qing in the next episode!



月露知音琴 – Sound of Moon Dew Zither


This zither comes into play as the gift that the Emperor intends to give Ying Luo but she doesn’t want learn how to play. Later, Consort Shu wishes to play it. Ladies and gentleman, Ying Luo REALLY doesn’t understand the favor she has from the Emperor does she. I started researching this zither and even I was shocked at it’s history.


This 月露知音 is in the 仲尼 style with a paulownia body and painted with black laquer. There are 7 strings on the zither so it’s more of the 古琴 style instead of the 古筝 style that you hear in our intro music. This zither was created during the Ming Dynasty. 


Emperor Qian Long, along with his many other hobbies, loved collecting zithers. Once he collected a bunch, he had his officials such as 梁诗正、唐侃 go through all the zithers in the royal collection and rank them. This 月露知音 was in the top 16, which reflects its quality. The 头等十六号 is engraved on the zither box to show its rank. This zither is one of only 4 that are still in its original palace lacquer box from Qian Long’s era. 2 are held in private collections and one is held in a museum in Liao Ning. 


For this 月露知音, on the box, we can see the words 明制月露知音 大清乾隆辛酉年(1741)装 or Ming Dynasty Sound of Moon Dew Zither, boxed in 1741. There’s another poem that Emperor Qian Long had carved on the box. 


On the back of the zither itself are some beautiful carvings. At the top, there’s a gorgeous carving of the name of the zither 月露知音. There’s also at least 2 other imperial seals from Qian Long that denote its ownership.


On the baseboard, there’s a carving of a poem that Qian Long wrote for this zither. 









Here’s my translation

The moon dew and zither are one and not thre

Destroy the separation to form a bottomless basket

The ritual wine is light, the silk is pure

Who is my soulmate? Only ask the moon dew

It is one of the rarest zithers of the same quality. At auction in 2014, this Zither sold for 33M Yuan, which, depending on conversion rate, is between $4.7M to $5.5M. So Ying Luo – value what you have!


It was stored at the National Palace Museum in Beijing but I’m not sure where it is after the auction. 


In this episode, 和亲王 recites a poem as he’s trying to figure a way to aid the current Empress. He recites two lines 



This comes from a poem that was written by Emperor Qian Long himself. He wrote it on the 3rd anniversary of Empress Fu Cha’s death in 1751 and is pondering why he doesn’t love the current Empress or Empress nala as much. 


Here’s the full poem






My translation is as such

The songs have come for your three year memorial, the time has flown by.

Is it that the new zither isn’t as good, no it’s because the relationship is not the same as with the old sword. 


Hidden in the poem, there’s another idiom 故剑情深. This is very much a tragic love story and the subject of a few Chinese dramas. The Han Emperor 刘  ascended the throne after a rough childhood. He already had a wife 许平君 and logically she would become Empress. The Grand General 霍光 though, wanted to have his young daughter 霍成君 become Empress.  


The newly installed Emperor wrote an edict basically stating – when I was poor, I really liked a sword. I miss this sword dearly, can you, my subjects, help me find it? This sword represents 许平君. With this edict,  许平君 became Empress for a time. This story then became the idiom 故剑情深. Or the Long Love of the Sword. 


Fun fact – 苏青, our actress for 尔晴, in this drama portrays 许平君 in the drama Yunge from the Desert that also portrays this relationship. 许平君 was the beautiful and loving wife in that drama. Many viewers really liked her in that drama. Hence why it was SUCH a shock to see 苏青 in this drama be such an evil woman as 尔晴. 


Anyways, back to this poem.


In the poem written by Emperor QIan Long, 究输旧剑久相投 – the sword here represents his first wife, Empress fucha.


The poem essentially means – It isn’t that the new zither or the new Empress is bad, but she’s just not the same as the original sword or the original Empress. 


One – this is a touching poem from the Emperor missing his wife. Two – how would the new Empress feel if she saw this? That’s somewhat not nice? 



亲蚕礼 – Silkworm ceremony


In this episode, there was tension between the Empress Dowager and the Empress regarding who will preside over the Silkworm festival or 亲蚕礼. 


The history of the 亲蚕礼 is very long, dating all the way back to the Zhou Dynasty, some 2500 years ago. To learn more about the Silkworm festival, we of course have to talk about the history of sericulture.


Agriculture and sericulture or silk farming were the pillars of Chinese society dating back to the thousands of years. There were various gods and goddesses that the ancient Chinese prayed to for good harvests for the year. Legend has it, Leizu (Chinese: 嫘祖; pinyin: Léi Zǔ) discovered sericulture, and invented the silk loom. She also known as Xi Ling-shi (Chinese: 西陵氏), who was a legendary Chinese empress and wife of the Yellow Emperor. 


Historically, the silkworm festival was always led by the empress. She would lead the women in the imperial harem to pray to Leizu and feed the silkworms to promote the custom of sericulture. The Emperor, on the other hand, would pray to 先农, the god of farming. In Chinese, there’s the phrase 男耕女织, which means Men Farm Women Weave. With the silkworm festival, it makes a clear delineation of roles between a man and woman. Women will weave and silk is what they used to weave, hence why the silkworm festival is led by women. 


The silkworm ceremony is clearly mentioned in the Rites of Zhou or 周礼. This ceremony was held every year. In the spring, the Empress would lead the women to the north to perform the rituals. 


In the Ming Dynasty, there were alters built in the north parts of Beijing. During the Qing Dynasty, the 先蚕坛 The Xiancantan (Altar to the Goddess of Silkworms) began construction in 1742 and completed in 1744. It is located at the northeast part of the Beihai Park in Beijing so it isn’t located inside the Forbidden City. The first ceremony was held in 1744. It was subsequently renovated in 1748 and 1837. When the Emperor would go pray to the agriculture gods at Tian Tan, which is a much more famous tourist site, the Empress would come here instead. 先蚕坛 is still standing and one can go visit it. There, you’ll see a plaque with Emperor Qian Long’s handwriting.


According to rituals set during the Qian Long’s reign, the ceremony was held during the 3rd month of the year. The Empress and her retinue would fast 2 days in advance. Then, they would head to the 先蚕坛 or Altar to the Goddess of Silkworms wearing official court dress to offer sacrifices to 嫘祖.


If silkworms had already hatched, then the mulberry ceremony would be held the next day. If not, then the mulberry ceremony would be delayed a few days. For the mulberry ceremony, it was necessary to select the candidates to perform the rituals, prepare the fields, and prepare the hook and baskets. 


The Empress used gold hooks, and concubines used yellow baskets with silver hooks; others used red baskets with iron hooks. On the day of bowing to mulberry, the queen holds a hook in her right hand and a basket in her left hand, and picks mulberry leaves first, singing a song about picking mulberry leaves. The other women followed her lead. Then, the silkweavers chopped up the mulberry leaves and fed them to the silkworms. After the silkworms formed cocoons, the silkweavers selected the best ones and presented them to the Empress, who then presented them to the emperor and empress dowager. Then on another auspicious day, the empress and the silkweavers went to the weaving room to reel some silk and dye it into colors such as vermilion, black, yellow that would be used for embroidering sacrificial clothes.


There’s a beautiful series of paintings that were probably painted by Giuseppe Castiglione and others that portray these rites. In the paintings,we can clearly see the Empress, who resembled Empress Xiao Xian or Empress Chu Cha, performing her duties. The paintings were presented in 1749 but the Empress had already died so they probably were commissioned by the Emperor more as remembrance of his beloved late wife. These paintings are currently housed in the National Palace Museum in Taipei.


In the drama, the previous Empress did talk about the 亲蚕礼 in past episodes but it really wasn’t a highlight so we didn’t talk about it. 



Lastly – Er qing says these two stanzas as she’s basically torturing a maid. Ugh, what else is new.


The poem was written by the Tang Dynasty poet 白居易 and comes from the Poem 后宫词. Or the Imperial Harem Ci.





This basically translates to – The favor comes in drops, can it spread across a thousand doors? The three thousand women in the palace have rouged faces, how many will not have tears come spring?


So this poem is really a critique on the promiscuous nature of the Emperor and the sad and desolate lives of women in the palace. These women in the palace constantly show their most beautiful self in hopes of gaining favor with the Emperor and becoming a favored concubine. But this is mostly futile.


This is an apt critique but um, I don’t think it works here for 尔晴 because you never had favor and also 傅恒 is not a promiscuous guy! He’s not sleeping around with many women. He has no eyes for anyone at this point, so like who is dressing up for him and who’s he discarding? I think this is a miss from the screenwriter as this poem doesn’t really fit this scene.


The Starry Love (2023) 星落凝成糖

Summary:  Twin girls are born to the emperor of the human clan. The graceful older sister Qing Kui is betrothed to be the Empyrean consort while the feisty younger sister Ye Tan, who was ignored and abused her entire life, is betrothed to be the Void clan crown prince’s consort. Despite their different upbringing, the two sisters deeply care for one another. 

On their wedding day, the devious Void clan 3rd prince Chao Feng swaps the two women resulting in Ye Tan going to the sky while Qing Kui ends up in the Void.  

The drama follows as these two women try to adjust in their new environments while protecting each other and securing romance along the way. 


Total Episode Count: 40

Initial Airing Date: Feb 16

Platform: Youku


*Note – most English translations are my own and may not exactly match Youku’s official translations


Initial Rating (12 ep in): 7.5/10 – An absolutely hilarious fantasy romance drama that is full of laugh out loud but also tender moments. The drama follows some familiar tropes while turning others on its head as the love and care between the two main sisters drive the story along. The relationship of their romantic counterparts are also extremely entertaining. Despite not being as tightly written as it could be with some less appealing side stories, it is ultimately a worthy drama to chase for those seeking a fun rom com!  Oh and the main theme by Sa Ding Ding is an absolute banger of a song!

Final Rating: 7.2/10 – A solid show with strong, healthy relationships throughout the drama in romantic, friendship and sibling terms that beat out relationships from similar themed fantasy dramas. Decent acting from the main cast also help keep viewers engaged. However, the drama, particularly the last 8 episodes suffered from an inconsistent tone and rushed storylines that detract from an otherwise chase worthy drama. 

Main Characters


离光夜昙 Li Guang Ye Tan – 李兰迪 Li Lan Di

A young feisty woman with a tragic past. Her birth was wrought with bad omens leading her father to ignore and punish her for her entire life. She knew she was going to marry into the Void and coupled with her unpleasant upbringing, caused her to become a fierce and feisty woman. She accidentally marries Shao Dian You Qin



少典有琴 Shao Dian You Qin – 陈星旭 Chen Xing Xu

2700 years old, the most powerful being in all the realms.  He underwent intense solitary study for 1,500 years resulting in low social acumen when he returned to his family. He is betrothed to Qing Kui but ends up marrying Ye Tan.  At first, he is utterly annoyed by Ye Tan’s antics but slowly warms up to this outlandish young woman. 

离光青葵 Li Guang Qing Kui – 何宣林 He Xuan Lin

The kind, serene and graceful older sister to Ye Tan, Qing Kui is a skilled healer but relatively naive. She is brought to the Void clan where she awaits marrying the next crown prince. Qing Kui’s kind hearted nature helped save her sister’s life many times when they were young and helped ease her transition in the Void.

嘲风 Chao Feng – 陈牧弛 Chen Mu Chi

The unloved 3rd prince of the Void Chen Yuan 沉渊 clan, he schemes against his 2 older brothers for the throne.  One of the pawns in his schemes is Qing Kui whom he swapped to marry to the Void rather to the Empyrean clan. However, his plans go slightly awry as he falls in love with Qing Kui. 

Initial Thoughts

No one thought this drama was going to be any good. The actors use their own voices and Chen Xing Xu (main male leads’) voice in particular was ridiculed because it was so deep and muddled. He also does not look as handsome as he did in Goodbye My Princess or 东宫. But, as more episodes came out, interest grew because after all, it is a fun drama.

Is it the best drama out there? No. Is it funny? Without a doubt.  Will it make you smile? Absolutely. Some of the antics of this show are so ridiculous that you can’t help but be drawn into the story because it will make you feel happy. What’s better than a drama where the sisterhood is more important than romance? You’re not going to get extremely deep history or introspective narratives in this drama and that’s fine! The drama, at least for the first 12 episodes, knows what type of drama it is and doesn’t try to be more complicated than that. Though I will say, the characters are surprisingly multidimensional.

The overuse of average CGI and emptiness of the set do detract from making this as beautiful as other fantasy dramas. Some of the side stories/relationships are also not as interesting. If those lines were cut out, this might have been a shorter but more tightly written drama. 

Overall though, I think it’s a fun romantic drama to chase. 

Final Thoughts

I enjoyed this drama WAY more than I expected and am now deep in the rabbit hole of watching fan videos of the cute relationship between the main couple. While not a perfect drama, I thoroughly had a blast chasing the show and feeling engaged with the characters. It helps that most of the main cast actually all went to school together so chemistry was through the roof. The behind the scenes clips are all very fun to watch as well because everyone is extremely comfortable with each other. 

This drama was the dark horse for February/March and performed much better than expected compared to next door’s The Journey of Chong Zi with solid douban ratings of 7.4.





What I liked:

  • Healthy bond between sisters: Ye Tan and Qing Kui were born on the same day but Ye Tan was seen as a bad omen and therefore mistreated her entire life. Rather than mistreat Ye Tan as well, Qing Kui instead tried to help and protect her sister in whatever capacity she could. When the two married to the wrong place, each sister’s focus was the other’s safety. Their bond never waivered even in the face of their romantic relationships which is much healthier. Gotta help your sisters first!
  • Chen Xing Xu’s (main male lead’s) acting: Chen Xing Xu had the daunting task of playing 5, yes FIVE, different versions of himself for this drama and I was quite impressed with the end result since I had no idea what to expect for this drama. In behind the scenes clips, he spent a lot of time with the director in coming up with different postures and speaking cadences for the different versions of the character in order to differentiate himself to great effect. It shows just how thoughtful of an actor he is which fans have said makes sense because he was top of his class at the Central Academy of Drama.
  • Shao Dian You Qin’s rightful protection of his love: I absolutely swooned at Shao Dian You Qin’s change and subsequent protection of Ye Tan. He has a very clear understanding of who saved him and who the love of his life is. Unlike other dramas, looking at you Eternal Love/三生三世十里桃花, Shao Dian You Qin is not afraid to go against his father and all of the rules placed on him as the protector of the realm. He does not make Ye Tan sacrifice anything for him in order to be together with him which Ye Hua totally did to Su Su in Eternal Love. (So  many fan videos show ppl panning Ye Hua and commending Shao Dian You Qin). Shao Dian You Qin has no interest in becoming Emperor and only wants to spend time with his wife because she was the one to save his life after his father was like, no, you can let You Qin die. 




What Suffered:

  • Convoluted side plots/characters: There were several character stories that just didn’t feel interesting. For example, Hu Sui, a little plant fairy that was saved by Qing Heng, Shao Dian You Qin’s brother. They dragged on that storyline of their romance that just didn’t appeal to me.  To be honest, most of the romances outside of the main two I didn’t think were too appealing and was watching on fast forward for the show. 
  • Inconsistent tone towards the end of the drama: Starting from the second half of ep 33, the show needed to create a climatic conflict to bring us to the end. For me, I felt this was not necessary because the beginning of the drama was extremely light hearted and the show wanted to keep elements of that, but then bring in the big conflict that resulted in heartbreak and death. So what ended up happening is moments of laughs and other moments of deep sorrow causing severe inconsistencies in the show. That brings me to other point. Why do so many of these fantasy dramas need to have a conflict that would destroy the world and our main characters need to solve it? If the drama removed these elements and literally ended in episode 32, I would be a much happier camper. Who cares about some of the loose ends? That’s just my romantic take of this. 




 The Story of Yanxi Palace – Ep 52


Welcome back to Chasing Dramas! This is the podcast that discusses Chinese culture and history through historical Chinese dramas. We are your host for today Cathy and Karen!


Today we are discussing the last few minutes of episode 51, all of episode 52 and the first couple minutes of episode 53 of the Story of Yanxi Palace or 延禧攻略. This podcast is in English with proper nouns and certain phrases spoken in Mandarin Chinese. 


If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to reach out to us on instagram or twitter or else email us at


This podcast episode consists of a drama episode recap and we’ll move on to discuss the history portrayed in this episode.


At the end of episode 51, Ying Luo has been summoned to Yong Shou Gong because the 5th prince, Yong Qi is sick. The Emperor, Empress, Chun Gui Fei and Yu Fei are all gathered around Yong Qi. And the group accuses Ying Luo of having poisoned 永琪 which is why he is currently so ill.


Ying Luo is at a little bit of a loss because on one hand, Yu Fei says all manner of nasty things about how she can’t believe that Ying Luo would harm her son while on the other hand, 纯贵妃 urges the Emperor to severely punish Ying Luo.


Can I say – the background music here is on point! It’s very suspenseful and added a lot to the atmosphere.


Fortunately, the Emperor and Empress are both rather hesitant to immediately punish Ying Luo. At that moment, Yuan Chun Wang was also able to run over with the Imperial Doctor Ye Tian Shi. With some pointed questioning by Ying Luo, Ye Tian Shi suggests having the 5th prince throw up everything he ate today in order to better ease his symptoms and investigate what caused his illness. 


Despite pushback from 纯贵妃 and 愉妃, the Emperor agrees. 叶天士 comes forth and states that he found several pieces of undigested ginseng. This perplexes him because a child as young as the 5th prince does not need so much ginseng even if it were to cure a cough. By ingesting it, it would actually cause him further illness. The fact that the 5th prince is currently unconscious is most likely due to over consumption of this ginseng rather than bein  g poisoned by anything Ying Luo may or may not have given him.


At this point, the imperial doctor tending to the 5th prince before Ye Tian Shi arrived spilled the beans that it was Yu Fei who insisted on giving her son ginseng to consume. This made Yu Fei’s accusation unravel because now it’s been revealed that she was the one to harm her own son in order to wrongly accuse Ying Luo. 


Yu Fei pleads for forgiveness that it was her fault for not knowing ginseng was wrong but under questioning and actually it wasn’t much of a questioning, she tells everyone that she was pressured by 纯贵妃 to put on this little show. The ginseng was given by her as well. Which is true. We saw her give Yu Fei the ginseng in episode 49. Yu Fei reiterates multiple times that the mastermind behind today’s events is none other than 纯贵妃。纯贵妃 is utterly distraught at having been exposed and vehemently denies these claims but it’s no use. The Emperor orders that she be detained in her palace and the truth investigated. The same goes for 愉妃.


The investigation duties falls on the Empress who quickly discovers uncovers disturbing revelations as she threatens 纯贵妃‘s head maid 玉壶. This maid is brought in front of Ying Luo and the Emperor who reveals all of the terrible deeds 纯贵妃 has been involved in. It was she who orchestrated the fire and subsequent events that caused the 7th prince’s death. It was she who planned Ying Luo’s fall from the horse. ANd when that didn’t work, it was she who devised the plan to use the 5th prince’s sickness to bring Ying Luo down once and for all. I think it’s impressive how easily this maid spilled the beans TBH.


Upon hearing these words and the corroboration by Ming Yu, the Emperor was rightly furious. He immediately decrees that 纯贵妃 will be demoted to 答应 or second class attendant and will be banished to the cold palace.


Ying Luo breaks a small smile as she hears that the late Empress finally can receive justice against the person who harmed her.


That night, two women have a fantastic conversation. 纯贵妃 now 苏答应 is confined to a lonely room in the cold palace. She is still thinking about 傅恒. But instead of seeing Ying Luo visit her, it’s the Empress that pays her a late night visit. In front of the Empress’s sneers, 苏答应 finally realizes that it was the Empress who manipulated her for so many years to both her and the late Empress’s demise. It was the current Empress that saw through her feelings for Fu Heng, that suggested she have a child to secure her foothold in the palace and then it was the Empress who told her that the late Empress’s child the 7th prince would be the next crown prince thus creating more jealousy on 苏答应’s part. It was the new Empress all along who pushed her, 苏答应 to act and did the Empress’s bidding but then brought her down to her demise. She recognized that the Empress’s hands are entirely clean of everything but it was in fact she who was behind all of these horrific events in the palace.


I absolutely love the Empress’s acting at this point. She has a soft smile on her face that does not reach her eyes as her deeds were exposed. But the smile is most definitely a sneer as she finally breaks loose her anger. She doesn’t hold back in telling 苏答应 that she did this because she thought the late Empress was too fake and hypocritical while she, 苏答应 kept pushing her between the Empress and the late Consort Gao. It was they who pushed her to be who she is today. She is just enacting revenge. 


And at long last, in front of the Empress, 苏答应 also shares her true feelings. She hates Fu Heng, and the late Empress. She did so much for them but in the end, she got nothing back in return. She wanted them to pay for this. That’s why she killed the 7th prince. Which I personally think is really sad. She had nothing in the palace but her anger. If she took a step back and wasn’t so easily manipulated by the Empress, she would have had a much better life. 


With that, knowing that the Empress is here to kill her, 苏答应 accepts her fate. 


Behind the scenes


So in this episode, 纯贵妃 dies. In the drama, we only see the Empress give the order. However, a few seconds were cut of the eunuchs actually going up to strangle 纯贵妃. There’s blooper videos of them filming this scene so we know there was a script for it. Anyways – while 纯贵妃 is getting strangled, she also curses the Empress that she will also meet an ugly end. 


The Emperor is notified the next morning that 纯贵妃 or 苏答应 is dead. The weapon? String from a kite was used to strangle her. This immediately forces the Emperor to think that it was Ying Luo who killed 苏答应. News travels to 璎珞 and Ming Yu is worried how this will look against her but she doesn’t mind. There has been something that has been tickling her brain over the last day given the events that happened. Why would Yu Fei’s parting words to her son be to instruct him to turn to Ying Luo? Ying Luo suddenly rushes out.


She and Ming Yu chase after 愉妃 who is currently being escorted out of the palace. She has been ordered by the Empress Dowager to leave the palace to study buddhism. Which essentially means she has been banished from returning to the palace but will remain alive. 


Ying Luo requests a quiet moment to speak with Yu Fei. She raises her suspicion that Yu Fei fell too quickly. It was all too simple. That is when Yu Fei reveals that she was only pretending to ally herself with 纯贵妃 in order to bring her down. All of her actions against Ying Luo were entirely an act. This was her way of repaying the kindness the late Empress and Ying Luo shown her in helping save her son’s life. She then sacrificed her life in the palace to ensure that her son, the 5th prince, will be safe in the future. She recognizes that she is not strong enough to raise her son in the palace and therefore will give this important task to Ying Luo. 


With one last bow from Yu Fei, she leaves, not to return to the palace. Ying Luo and Ming Yu tear up at seeing the bravery of this woman. 




In these few episodes, we say goodbye to two concubines – Noble Consort Chun and Consort Yu. These two diverged on their paths quite spectacularly in these two episodes with being murdered by the Empress and one being essentially exiled. So what really happened?


Noble Consort Chun was known as Lady Su. In the drama, Lady Su’s name is 苏静好, but that’s only for drama purposes. We’ll simply call her Lady Su. She was born on June 13 1713 in Su Zhou to a Han family. She is, I would say, one of the rare women in Qian Long’s harem who came directly from the commoner class. She  is the daughter of a Mr. 苏召南. Funnily enough, we don’t have much data on him. Historians speculate that he was either a wealthy merchant or a small-time scholar. 


Lady Su most likely entered into the 4th Prince, Hong Li’s harem some time in the late 1720s. She gave birth to the 3rd Prince 永璋 in 1735. We don’t see this prince at all in this drama. 1735 is the same year that Emperor Qian Long ascended the throne after the death of his father. 


Lady Su was promoted to the rank of Imperial Concubine or 嫔 at this time. She was gifted the title of 纯 during this promotion. Lady Su was pretty heavily favored by the Emperor during the early years of his reign. Compared to the other women in Qian Long’s harem, she didn’t have strong connections at court nor a powerful banner family, but she was able to nonetheless reach the status of Consort in 1737. Let’s compare – Empress Fu Cha came from a powerful manchu family. Noble Consort Gao had a father and brother at court. Consort Xian or our future Empress also came from the Hoifa-Nara clan. For Lady Su to reach her status was indeed a feat. In 1739, her family was gifted the status of the Standard White Banner and received the treatment of a Han consort rather than a common woman.


She gave birth to the 6th prince 永瑢 in 1743 and in 1745, she was officially promoted to Noble Consort Chun or 纯贵妃. This promotion was actually due to a mass promotion prompted by the death of Imperial Noble Consort Gao or 高贵妃. We saw this in the drama. 高贵妃 was promoted to 皇贵妃 and here, Lady Su was promoted from 纯妃 to 纯贵妃. 


In 1745, Lady Su gave birth to a daughter, the Emperor’s 4th daughter. She now had 3 children and was very well established in the Imperial Harem. 


In 1748, the Empress Fu Cha died. At that point, there were only 2 women that could feasibly become Empress. It was either Lady Su or else Lady Nala. Lady Su seemed to have the upper hand. She had 2 sons and a daughter while Lady Nala didn’t have any children. Unfortunately, one event turned the tides against her.


During the funeral procession, her son, the 3rd prince 永璋 was roundly criticized by the Emperor for not showing the apt amount of mourning. The Emperor was devastated by the loss of his wife and lashed out at basically everyone who didn’t show a great amount of sorrow during the funeral proceedings. The Emperor went so far as to publicly declare that 永璋 would never have the opportunity to ascend the throne, thus killing all of his future hopes. The Emperor was also very angry at Lady Su for this development and she subsequently lost her claim to the title of Empress. As we see in the drama, that title is given to Lady Nala. I feel like that was kind of an over reaction from the Emperor. The boy was only 13 when the Empress died so if he didn’t show THAT much emotion, I guess I understand. 


This whole incident also dealt a pretty big blow to Lady Su and her children. She gradually lost favor in the subsequent years. Even though Lady Su held the title of Noble Consort, she was always going to play second fiddle to the Empress. Even if she didn’t receive the same treatment from the Emperor, the Emperor still respected her in her later years. She was gifted lavish presents for her 40th birthday and accompanied the Emperor when he traveled south in 1757. 


For their children, to his credit, the Emperor arranged marriages between the 3rd prince and 4th princess to members of the Fu Cha clan, thus giving them powerful relations. The princess married one of Fu Cha Fu Heng’s sons. However, both of Lady Su’s sons lost the right or ability to lay claim to the throne. In 1759, Emperor Qian Long pushed the 6th prince 永瑢 to inherit the line of 允禧, the 21st son of Emperor Kang Xi. This meant that he was no longer of Qian Long’s line. 


It was after this announcement that Lady Su’s health began to decline. Perhaps Qian Long also felt a little guilty for what he did. This is also just my speculation, but he then decided to promote Lady Su to Imperial Noble Consort or 皇贵妃 in 1760. She was the second woman to rise to this title, after of course, Lady Gao. Lady Su was promoted to Imperial Noble Consort on the 24th day of the 3rd month but she wasn’t able to enjoy this privilege for long. Less than a month later, Lady Su died on the 19th day of the 4th month at the age of 48. Her 3rd son, 永璋, also died a few months later at the young age of 26. Now, according to health records, she had been on the decline for months so it wasn’t a sudden death for her. 


Lady Su was buried not in the same mausoleum as her husband but a different mausoleum. I believe it was because there was basically no more space left. The Imperial one already had Empress Fu Cha and 2 other Imperial Noble Consorts. The Emperor however did order for this other mausoleum to be renovated for Lady Su’s burial. 


There is one known painting of her that was sold at auction in 2015 for a whopping 137M HKD or around 170M USD. It was probably painted after her death by the Italian Missionary Giuseppe Castiglione.


All in all – for a woman with no background and of han descent to rise to the rank of Imperial Noble Consort before her death was extremely rare during the Qing Dynasty. She might have been the only one. 


The drama of course fictionalized a lot. She was not killed at the hands of Empress Nala and she didn’t secretly love Fu Heng. But hey, that’s what dramas are all about right?


Next – let’s talk about the other woman that we say goodbye to in this drama. This is of course Consort Yu. 


We know very little of Consort Yu in the drama. She came from the Mongolian 珂里叶特 clan which is shortened to Hai, so we’ll call her Lady Hai. Her clan comes from the Mongolian Bordered Blue banner and also part of the Baoyi class. So she came from a much lower station than Empress Fu Cha. 


She was born June 15 1714 and probably entered into then Prince Hong Li’s harem in the late 1720s. When Qian Long ascended the throne, she was only promoted to the title of 常在 or 1st class female attendant. Compare her to Lady Su who was immediately promoted to Imperial Concubine, two levels above Lady Hai. 


She was only promoted to Noble Lady in 1737. In 1741, she gave birth to the 5th Prince 永琪, which is what we saw in the drama. It was only then that she was promoted to Imperial Concubine Yu or 愉嫔. The manchu phrase is nemgiyen, meaning gentle. 


In 1745, she was promoted to Consort Yu along with all the other women in the Imperial Harem and that’s honestly where she stayed for the rest of her life. In 1748, Consort 嘉, who we talked about previously was promoted to Noble Consort, so then Lady Hai as Consort Yu became the head of the remaining Consorts, of which there were 2 others. Consort Ling and Consort Shu. But by 1755, she was listed behind the other 2 ladies, with Consort Ling at the top of the list. Consort Yu basically lived out her life in the Imperial Harem and lived to the ripe old age of 79, far outliving her only son 永琪. 


永琪 as a character has been made famous by the drama Pearl Princess. Everyone knows who he is. He was an intelligent young man, bright and studious. He could speak Manchurian fluently, mastered all of the gentlemanly arts, and was an upright guy. He was heavily favored by Emperor Qian Long and was a serious contender for the throne. Unfortunately, he contracted what seems like a bone infection and died at the young age of 25. 


Lady Hai essentially lived out her days in the palace after the death of her son for another 26 years. We can see that the Emperor didn’t really favor her because her position didn’t change at all during those years. It was only after her death did he grant her a posthumus title of Noble Consort Yu.



 The Story of Yanxi Palace – Ep 50+51


Welcome back to Chasing Dramas! This is the podcast that discusses Chinese culture and history through historical Chinese dramas. We are your host for today Cathy and Karen!


Today we are discussing episode 50 + 51 of the Story of Yanxi Palace or 延禧攻略. This podcast is in English with proper nouns and certain phrases spoken in Mandarin Chinese. 


If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to reach out to us on instagram or twitter or else email us at


This podcast episode consists of a drama episode recap and we’ll move on to discuss the history portrayed in this episode.


In the last episode, we saw Ying Luo falling off her horse after a riding lesson with the Emperor. This resulted in both of them becoming seriously injured and the Emperor wondering who caused this to happen. We start episode 50 with Wei Ying Luo recovering in bed after her riding incident and it is sweet to see the Emperor look after her an entire night. Hai Lan Cha gives the Emperor a report of his investigations – there’s nothing he can find. But, the Emperor sets a trap and Hai Lan Cha is able to chase a eunuch to 钟粹宫, the residence of 纯贵妃. 


Shortly after, the Emperor visits 纯贵妃 and gives her a bone chilling sermon. He essentially states out his suspicions in front of her that he thinks it was she who ultimately caused the horse to panic and cause YIng Luo’s injury. 纯贵妃 to her credit – quickly swears on her life that she had nothing to do with it. If she didn’t, I don’t know how the Emperor would have reacted. I mean he basically didn’t even believe her just then and there. He gives her a stern warning to not act out any further before leaving.  Now, do we believe that she’s innocent?


Well of course not! She might not have done the deed, but her it was her loyal ally 愉妃 who ordered the hit. 愉妃 pays 魏璎珞 a visit and at last they have an open discussion. 愉妃 became a pawn for 纯贵妃 in order to survive in the palace and protect her son. In front of Ying Luo she says that she has no choice but to do what she’s doing. She has no status or power in the palace so she has to rely on 纯贵妃。 This angers 璎珞 as she reveals to 愉妃 that 纯贵妃 was the one to cause the late Empress to die and the death of the 7th prince. This conversation was an important one for 愉妃 to clarify her position but also let us know that she’s struggling herself. She returns to her palace where we meet her son the 5th prince. He’s a cute young child who is shown to be quite talented. 愉妃 instructs her son to get the favor of 令妃 aka Ying Luo in order to survive in the palace.


Next we turn to the Empress. We haven’t seen her in a while and unfortunately, it’s not good news. Her father has been apprehended for stealing relief funds for disaster victims. The Emperor is furious. The Empress pleads with the Emperor that it is not possible her father would do such a thing and begs him to retry her fathers case. The Emperor ultimately relents but tries to manage her expectations that the result might not change. 


To get some advice, the Emperor goes to speak to his mother, the Empress Dowager. She makes the situation rather plain. Even though, the Empress’s father may be inno cent in corruption and stealing disaster relief funds, it is unfortunately clearly evident that he is incompetent. An official may be loyal but if he is incompetent, then that is almost just as bad as a corrupt official. 


But then the reality as to why the Empress Dowager insists that the Empress’s father be killed is that he has to be the scapegoat for the corruption that happened this time. If he doesn’t die, then the Emperor must investigate all higher levels of government to see where the funds ultimately went. This could mean upsetting his royal relatives and the aristocracy who both of them know are probably not clean in this. But if the Emperor upsets these uncles or princes, this could destabilize his Empire.


And finally, the Empress Dowager coldly informs the Emperor that it is precisely because the man in question is the Empress’s close kin that he must be killed. This way, the world will believe that the Emperor is not forgiving in the eyes of the law. At this, however, the Emperor rejects this notion. He leaves stating that he has much to think about, much to the anguish of his mother.


The next string of events happen rather rapidly. The Empress kneels in front of the Emperor’s residence for an entire evening as she begs him to reconsider killing her father. When he comes out after hiding from her for an entire day, he finally agrees to not kill him. She is overjoyed and requests the help of the Emperor’s brother 和亲王 to bring her father some clothes for his journey to exile. He agrees but once in the prison, we see that the Empress’s father has committed suicide.


When the Empress hears the news, she breaks. In front of the  Emperor, she asks point blank whether it was he or the EMpress Dowager that killed her father. She knows full well that her father didn’t die so someone must have done it. SHe is extremely upset that her father was the scapegoat and accused the Empress Dowager of protecting her own family who were also implicated in the corruption scandal which is why she was so eager to sentence the Empress’s father. All of these words ultimately broached the Emperor’s bottom line and he storms out. 


The Empress is distraught and her maid Zhen Er is left searching for her as she disappears. At night, she is found by Prince He,who had worked tirelessly to help her and her father these last few days, on a palace roof. The same spot where the late Empress jumped off. The Empress gives a crazed speech about how she must amass more power. All of this happened to her because she does not have enough power. 


I love these scenes acted by Charmaine Sheh because she can be so nuanced. Here she acts as a heartbroken woman and in the next we see that her crazed behavior were just shows that she put on in order to garner the sympathy of the Emperor and Prince He. She knows that being upset about her father’s death won’t help her. Instead, she had to play up the roles that would cause the Emperor to remember that he owes her and for Prince He to continue helping her. Once again, she is a master of psychology and mental manipulation. It is a pity that her father was incompetent. At least now, we see that the Empress has been pushed further to wanting to seek power.


We round out this storyline by highlighting that the Emperor reveals to YIng Luo later on, or more like she guesses in front of him that the Emperor had actually no intention of allowing the Empress’s father to live. He was going to be sent to exile but most likely killed along the way. Only this time, the Empress Dowager was one step ahead. 



We round out episode 51 with two key takeaways. One is  愉妃 brings her son the 5th prince to see Ying Luo in order to build a relationship between the two. And then second is that 袁春望 has decided to come serve Ying Luo at YanXi Gong. He will be the head eunuch in her palace. 


At the end of Episode 51, Ying Luo is summoned to 愉妃‘s palace. There, the entire palace is present as it looks like the 5th prince is sick and the main culprit causing his illness, is Ying Luo. We’ll find out more about this in the next episode!

In episode 50, we are introduced to a very cute young boy. This is of course our 5th prince – 永琪 – born 1741 and we’re currently in a murky timeline in 1750s. He should be between like 12-14. 愉妃 


In the drama, he shows his mother 愉妃 some of his writings. After taking a look, we see that they all come from the Analects of Confucius or (论语) 


The two lines from the Analects all come from the second book 论语·为政 or The practice of government. I like the summary from wikipedia so here’s what it’s about – “political order is best gained through the non-coercive influence of moral self-cultivation rather than through force or excessive government regulation”.




Confucious says: Governing the country with moral principles is similar to the position the North Star holds. All of the other  stars will revolve around it. 


This line lays out Confucious belief in moral governance. If the leader practices moral governance, then the subjects or citizens will automatically follow you. Morality in political life plays a crucial role and moral education is needed for governing the country. Right off the bat, we see Confucious stating the rule of virtue, not harsh punishment or strict law.


The next line is the following



Confucious says: all of the words and meaning in the three hundred chapters of “The Book of Songs” can be summed up in one phrase – which is “pure thought”.


“思无邪”是《诗经·鲁颂·駉》中的一句话。The phrase 思无邪 which translates to pure thought or innocence comes from the Book of Songs 诗经·鲁颂·駉 jiōng


During the time of Confucious – most of the students didn’t have access to that many books or texts. The book of Songs or 诗经 is one that was more readily available and widely known. So, Confucius himself, a student of the book of song, summarized his knowledge of 诗经 and added it to his sayings. 思无邪 is his conclusion. Pure thought or free from corruption. 


I’m not surprised that 永琪 is learning this. 论语 of course is one of the standard texts that men learn and, as a prince, needs to learn how to govern in the future.









Next – we jump to episode 51 where we see a lovely music box that 魏璎珞 has somehow managed to get her hands on and dances the waltz with Ming Yu and the Emperor! I’ll just go ahead and say it that this whole scene is a massive bug and here simply for our enjoyment. 


According to my research, the first music box was invented by Swiss watchmaker Antoine Favre-Salomon (30 November 1734 – 17 August 1820) in 1796. He invented a pocket watch with an embedded musical mechanism and it was recognized as the first music box. In chinese, we call it the 八音盒. 


We’re currently in the 1750s so it’s still a good 40 years before anything resembling a music box is invented. What we see in the show is definitely a more advanced version and those didn’t come along until well into the 19th century. 


As for the waltz! At first I was also going to say that waltzing is an anachronism, in that it wasn’t invented, but a quick search proved me wrong! The waltz was invented in germany and austria way back in the 13th century. By the end of the 18th century, it was accepted by the high class even in the Habsburg court! The reading is quite funny because the religious leaders thought the dance was vulgar and sinful because people had to touch each other and also be in close contact. If that’s what the religious folk thought, I wonder if the french ministers who went to China actually knew this dance. It seems like the French did love the waltz but not sure about those who traveled to the far east. 


I am alo 99% sure that Qian Long’s court didn’t dance the waltz but I also find it funny that Emperor Qian Long in this scene was quite jealous and asked Ying Luo if that’s how the French ministers taught her. 


This scene was just a fun little interlude and lets not think too much of it.



Lastly – let’s talk about the man that caused all the strife for these two episodes. 讷尔布 – the father of our current empress.


We know very little about the man – not when he was born, not when he died. His family was originally from the Manchu Bordered Blue Banner, but after the promotion of his daughter to Empress, Emperor 乾隆 promoted the hoifa-nala clan to the Manchu Standard Yellow Banner. He inherited a post of a 4th rank 佐领 or officer. 


According to 清实录 or the Factual Record of Qing, it states that the father of the Empress, 讷尔布, was posthumously granted the title of Duke of the First Rank. Officials were sent to pray. Tombstones were also built. His wife was also given a 诰命 title of the first rank. His grandson 纳苏肯 inherits the title of Marquis of the first rank


This essentially means that when Consort Xian was promoted to the title of Empress, her father and her brother had already passed, otherwise the title of marquis would not have passed down to the Empress’s nephew. 


When the Empress first married the Emperor all the way back in the early 1730s, the information regarding 讷尔布 already stated as Former 佐领. That means he had already retired from this role and was probably of a more senior age, like 60. When Emperor Qian Long ascended the throne and presented gifts to the hoifa-nara clan, 讷尔布 was still alive. However, by the 13th year of Emperor Qian Long’s reign, and a time when the new Empress was about to be promoted, all gifts and titles were bestowed upon the Empress’s nephew, so we can infer that her father had already passed. 讷尔布 did have another daughter who was significantly older than our current Empress. 


So – as we can see with the history above, the drama takes many liberties with the story of the hoifa-nara clan. I think this works for the drama overall though, because here it highlights tensions, loyalty, hatred amongst several groups. The Emperor and the Empress. The Empress and the Empress Dowager. The Empress and Prince He, and finally we’ll see in the next episode, The Empress and 纯贵妃


Under the Microscope (2023) 显微镜下的大明之丝绢案

Summary:  A Ming Dynasty era mystery, the brilliant but singularly focused mathematician Shuai Jia Mo ft Zhang Ruo Yun discovers an inaccuracy while out calculating the area of a plot of land. That leads to further discoveries of inaccuracies in the county’s accounting and tax numbers that may also be related to the death of Shuai Jia Mo’s parents 20 plus years ago. 


Total Episode Count: 14

Initial Airing Date: Feb 9

Platform: iQiyi


*Note – most English translations are my own and may not exactly match iQiyi’s official translations


Rating: 7.7/10 – A fantastically fun show that is nail biting and sprinkled with humor, this short drama manages to make a potentially dense topic of taxes into an intriguing introspection of human nature.  The acting across the board is superb, particularly by the older actors and makes this a thrilling watch though it is held back by some pacing issues and some moments of dryness due to the subject matter at hand.

Main Characters


帅家默 Shuai Jia Mo – 张若昀 Zhang Ruo Yun

A prodigal mathematician, he is only focused on making sure his numbers are right. He has high IQ but low EQ as he only knows what’s right and wrong from the numbers but does not know how to balance the benefits and consequences behind human nature. He experienced a traumatic childhood and is best friends with Feng Bao Yu. He measures land area for a living, as his late father did.

丰宝玉 Feng Bao Yu – 费启鸣 Fei Qi Ming

Technically a studying scholar, he loves gambling instead and relies on his best friend Shuai Jia Mo’s math skills to help rake in the money. But when push comes to shove, he is willing to help his friend fight for what is right and is a great balance for his friend who does not know much on how to speak to people. 

程仁清 Cheng Ren Qing – 王阳 Wang Yang

The equivalent of a lawyer, this individual can twist words to meet his desired result. HIs catch phrase is however much money you give me, I’ll give you that amount in fairness. At first, this guy can seem extremely slimey and greedy but as the series progresses, there is more than meets the eye.

丰碧玉 Feng Bi Yu – 戚薇 Qi Wei

Feng Bao Yu’s older sister and manager of a local meat curing business, she has money and brains to run a successful business. Unfortunately, her status as a woman prevents her from achieving more in life. She absolutely adores and dotes on her brother and looks out for his friend, Shuai Jia Mo.

范渊 Fan Yuan – 吴刚 Wu Gang

A ruthless and calculating man. He was formerly a highly respected court official who retired to Jian An Prefecture where he maintained a highly connected web of individuals that he relied on to maintain his power and status. He primarily focused on maintaining his power and monetary gain by asserting his influence on various spheres of society.

Plot Overview

This drama’s screenwriter is the author Ma Bo Yong who wrote the book for this drama. He is also a well known author behind books that turned into several dramas such as Luo Yang and The Longest Day in Chang’An. This 14 episode drama is based off of one case in his full book Under the Microscope or 显微镜下的大明。

At the beginning of the show, Shuai Jia Mo, who the director says has Asperger’s, calculates the square area for a plot of land as part of his job. But he discovers that the calculation is off compared to what official documents states. This causes him to be singularly focused on this wrong number even as a fight breaks out behind him. He next goes to help his friend, Feng Bao Yu, make some money at the gambling house. They get into a tiff with the gambling house owner who accuses them of cheating, when in reality, it’s just that Shuai Jia Mo can do math really well and can calculate the odds of his cards. A huge fight breaks out where the duo are saved by Bao Yu’s sister, Feng Bi Yu. 

The group is brought forth to court and are met with a formidable lawyer, Cheng Ren Qing who easily twists words to fit his goals, or the person who pays him the most. Fortunately, Shuai Jia Mo is able to be released with the help of the Feng family. However, after he is free, he decides to investigate further his inaccurate calculation. After intense calculation, he finds that there is an extra tax amount that his county is paying. A total 3530 taels of silver each year. He brings this up to the county magistrate and beyond. While Shuai Jia Mo is only interested in correcting a wrong answer, this incorrect tax amount soon uncovers the various connections between not only different counties but also between the landed gentry.




What I liked:

  • Setting, production and costumes!
    • The production and setting of this drama is top notch in that for once, we actually see what the poor citizens in town are like. The main character, Shuai Jia Mo, has broken shoes, his clothes are made of coarse material and his face is dirtied. You look at him and you can tell he’s not wealthy. The townspeople and farmers in this story also do not have the nicest clothes. Their faces are tanned and lips dry. Even one of the officials is shown to have patched clothing. That brings a level of immersion we have not seen in recent dramas particularly palace dramas which love showing off the glitz and glamour. I really appreciated this change because it also shows that the cast is not afraid to get down and dirty for a role which many young stars are unwilling to do these days.
    • The scenery of this drama is also stunning. While some parts were filmed in Heng Dian, many scenes were filmed on location in An Hui province and that brought about another layer of beauty to the drama.
    • Ming Dynasty Setting
      • We haven’t had too many dramas set in the Ming dynasty lately. I know some people liked Royal Feast which is set then but again I feel like the setting here is more grounded since we’re away from the palace. It’s a nice change of scenery and is leading me down another rabbit hole of Ming dynasty costumes and etiquette. 

  • A deep introspection of how rare it is to keep a pure heart; how society tramples even those with the best of intentions:
    • Often times, corrupt officials are painted as just officials looking to make a quick buck. They don’t care about the citizens and are easy bad guys. In this drama, there are very few purely “bad guys” and also few purely “good guys”.
      • Bad guys – The most intriguing are officials who all took the imperial entrance exams and originally wanted to do good for the world but then reality came crashing down and beat them down. How reflective is this of current society? County Magistrate Deng privately deeply admires Shuai Jia Mo’s mathematical acumen and in another world would want to be friends but is forced to turn Shuai Jia Mo in due to pressures he faces as a relatively new official. County Magistrate Mao knows his defense of Fan Yuan is unethical but he has no connections or money apart from his aging old mother. He has no choice but to sell his soul in order to do some type of good for his county and to live up to all the suffering his family went through to place him where he is. Lawyer Cheng Ren Qing was once headed for the top in his class and even got the girl of his dreams. But then his classmate snuck cheating materials in his bag which caused Cheng Ren Qing to be banished from ever taking the imperial examinations. That and the death of his wife meant he could only make a living as a lawyer to the highest bidder, thereby turning his back on his bigger aspirations at court and being a good person. Official Ren recognizes that there may be inaccuracies in the tax numbers but he has to fight against it because he does not want to burden his county any further with even a tael more of taxes which could equal the death of one of his citizens. County Magistrate Fang at first is called a statue because he doesn’t do anything, partly because he’s lazy. But when push comes to shove, he does care about his citizens and steps in to help Shuai Jia Mo and Feng Bao Yu many times.
      • Good Guys – Shuai Jia Mo and Feng Bao Yu meet Huang Zhi Fu and Li Xun Fu, two magistrates who help them along in their quest to correct the incorrect silk tax number. But guess what, they are not doing this purely to help these two men. While both these officials are benevolent, they are more interested in seeing how they can use the case to bring them back on top. Huang Zhi Fu (prefecture magistrate) in particular was just demoted from the Capital and desperately wants to use this case to return. 
    • I really enjoyed this aspect of each character we met that it often times wasn’t as simple as black and white. Shua Jia Mo put it best. Why did a simple math question turn into such as mess?  
  • Strong acting by a diverse cast:
    • For marketing purposes, Zhang Ruo Yun, Wang Yang and Fei Qi Ming have their faces plastered everywhere but honestly, Wang Yang’s Cheng Ren Qing was the most interesting individual to watch. Though, the rest of the cast, primarily all of the officials we meet in this drama were just as captivating. No matter how few scenes or lines these individuals were in, they captured their moments to help draw you in to their world and motivation. As described above, almost each person in this case had many layers and you can’t help but be glued to the subtleties on screen. Also, everyone used their own real voices for the drama so each person had to showcase their real enunciation abilities without the aid of a voice dub. 

Some hesitations:

  • Pacing Issues: These are small nitpicks to an overall strong drama.  I did think the pace of the show was a little all over the place particularly near the end of the drama as the stakes grew higher and climactic events were met with screeching halts or else long monologues.  The flashback scenes in particular detract from the story and I kept wanting to skip those flashback scenes and return to the present. Overall, this does not detract from a highly enjoyable watch
  • Jargon: Surprisingly, the more complicated math talk in this drama was limited. What scratched my head a little more was the tax and administerial talk.  This is probably just a me thing that even I was slightly confused at the different levels of court ministers and the administrative requirements of land ownership in the Ming Dynasty. I feel like the drama did the best they could though with the subject matter so this is just a small warning that some people might be lost even with English translations on some of the more involved monologues.


Stray Observations:

  • SO MANY FACES FROM JOY OF LIFE – I felt like I was watching Joy of Life 2 because you have so many people from Joy Of Life or 庆余年 in this drama. I will admit it took me out of the story for the first few episodes because you have an affinity for each person thinking oh, they must be a good or bad guy, but then the drama drew me in. 
  • Kitty! Cat lovers rejoice as there is an ADORABLE stray kitty prominently portrayed in this drama. In all the behind the scene clips, everyone adores this little stray cat that they found on set and had great acting timing. The original cat was not cooperative on set so this kitty took its place. They all named named her Nv Ming Xing or Female Celebrity, only to find out at the end of filming that she’s actually male. Haha. 


Let me know what you think of this drama!