EPISODE 29

 

(Cathy)

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

 

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

 

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

 

(Karen)

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

 

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

 

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

 

[Cathy]

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

 

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

 

[Karen]

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

 

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

 

[Cathy]

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

[Karen]

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

 

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

 

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

 

[Cathy]

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

[Karen]

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

[Cathy]

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Ok just two things to discuss really briefly today.

 

[Karen]

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

 

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

 

Karen – you went relatively recently. Any thoughts?

 

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

 

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

 

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

EPISODE 28

 

Episode 28

 

[Karen]

Welcome to Chasing dramas! The podcast that discusses Chinese history and culture through Chinese TV shows. This is Karen and this is Cathy! Today we are going to discuss episode 28 of 后宫甄嬛传 Empresses in the Palace! 

 

This episode will be a little different. We’ll do all of analysis during the plot summary.

 

Let’s get started!

 

[Cathy]

One evening, 皇上 comes to visit 华妃 and shares that her brother and nephew have helped win battles on the front lines. He is extremely pleased and as a reward, her brother, 年羹尧 and her family will be promoted with extravagant titles. He even says that she, 华妃 has been a 妃, or Consort, for a couple of years and it’s time to promote her to the next rank. That’s generous of him. She is of course extremely pleased with this information. 

 

The next day, all of the ladies are at the empress, 皇后’s palace, for the customary greeting. The ladies curtsey to 皇后 but then also curtsey 华妃. 华妃 is surprised and people explain to her that it’s to congratulate her on her pending promotion. Of course, it wouldn’t be a fun court greeting if there wasn’t some type of verbal spat. 

 

华妃 asks 皇后 what type of promotion she thinks she’ll receive. 皇后 responds that above a 妃, is 贵妃, or Noble Consort. Above that is 皇贵妃 or Imperial Noble Consort. 华妃 explains that no, above the Imperial Noble Consort is 皇后,the Empress. The empress is of course like, oh, you’re interested in my royal throne?

 

华妃 says that well I’ve just heard that the Imperial Noble Consort, or 皇贵妃, is essentially equivalent to a Vice Empress. [Karen – Kind of like a Vice President] She then recounts how earlier in the Qing Dynasty, there was an Imperial Noble Consort who was so favored by the emperor at that time, that the Empress basically had no power or position. Basically the Imperial Noble Consort usurped the love, attention and position of the Empress. Clearly, 华妃 is trying to parallel the situation and suggest to the current Empress that maybe she should be worried. 

 

[Karen]

Let’s discuss this anecdote a little bit as it’s quite important for the rest of the episode and an interesting story overall.

 

Who is 华妃 referencing? This tragic love story is famous and there have been many TV dramas made about this story. One of my favorites is 孝庄秘史,for those who have extra time now and want to learn about the origins of the Qing dynasty. Another one is 少年天子 (The Young Emperor) that describes this story more beautifully. Both are older dramas that came out in 2003 but quite classic.  We were actually thinking that it might be good to discuss the events of 孝庄秘史 (The Epic of XiaoZhuang) as a drama for this podcast because it’s full of history and just very good.

 

(Cathy – I loved watching xiaozhuangmishi as a kid. I was obsessed with that show)

 

Let’s set the stage. The three characters are: Emperor 顺治, his favored concubine, 董鄂妃 (Consort 董) and the Empress, 博尔济吉特皇后 (Borjigin)。Emperor 顺治 is the first Qing dynasty emperor who ruled from Beijing as its capital. There was a ton of drama surrounding his upbringing, which is also the subject of many dramas, but he came to the throne at a very young age – at age 6. He was a puppet under his regent which he fought hard to rid of. He, as the emperor, has his arranged marriage with 博尔济吉特. They’re married very young – in their mid teens. This is very much a political marriage and things are probably fine between the two as arranged marriages can be. This woman gets promoted to become the Empress as she also comes from a very powerful family. But, not too long after, 董鄂妃 comes into the picture and is selected to be a concubine. At this point, these players are still in their mid to late teens. The emperor, 顺治 falls head over heels in love with 董鄂妃. It’s documented that she’s really sweet and kind. Given a lot of drama that the emperor suffered growing up and being from an imperial family, he probably appreciated that. In any case, 顺治 quickly promotes this woman through the ranks to become the Imperial Noble Consort, or 皇贵妃。 She was the Qing Dynasty’s first Imperial Noble Consort. As you can see, Emperor 顺治 really loved her. So much so that he was willing to get rid of the existing Empress and make her the Empress but that never happened.

 

The two lived in bliss for a few years and 董鄂妃 even birthed a child. The 4th prince of the emperor. The Emperor was so ecstatic, he wanted to make the newborn the heir apparent immediately. This didn’t go over too well with court but it didn’t really matter. The child, the 4th prince, only lived for a couple of months before passing away. This was a huge blow to 董鄂妃 who in her despair also passed away not too long after. She was only 21 when she died. The Emperor 顺治, could not handle the death of his beloved concubine. He fell into heavy depression and died not too long after. He was 24 when he died. There is a lot of mystery surrounding his death. In some books, they say he didn’t actually die but went to become a monk and lived the remainder of his life in a monastery. Regardless of what happened, it’s clear that he dearly loved 董鄂妃. 

 

This is definitely an oversimplification of the drama that happened. The key points to remember are that the Emperor loved this concubine and even wanted her to supplant the existing Empress. Indeed, after her death, the concubine was memorialized as an Empress tho she was never one in life.

 

Back to our current drama, you can see why bringing this story up is actually a threat to the current Empress. 华妃 is goading 皇后。皇后 retorts with a long explanation that even if the position of the imperial noble consort is that of vice empress, she will never be the formal empress. 

 

Hopefully that makes sense.

 

[Cathy]

it’s clear though that 华妃 and her family don’t know how to balance all of this power and has let their arrogance get to their head. This is clearly exhibited in this next example.

 

There’s a whole reason why the Emperor doesn’t want 隆科多 to meet the Empress!

 

One late evening, the concubines in the palace are told that the Empress is suffering from terrible migraines and the ladies must come help tend to her illness. 甄嬛 along with a few others head over to the Empress’s palace. Once there, they see the Empress in a lot of pain but there is no imperial doctor in sight. It turns out, 年羹尧, 华妃’s brother and mighty general, has asked for the doctors to come see his wife who was ill during the day and were not allowed to return back to the palace. Thus, there is a shortage of doctors in the palace. When asked if anyone told the Emperor of the Empress’s condition, the Empress’s maid says that the Emperor is currently with 华妃 and so she didn’t want to bother them. In the end, the Empress spent a restless night without doctors because 年羹尧 needed them.

 

We’ve recently been focusing on different different concubines. This episode is no different. Our focus this time is 齐妃. She constantly affirms her low IQ and EQ throughout the episode. The first example happens here. 齐妃’s fussing about and orders the servants to wake the Emperor. This is a big deal! The Empress is not feeling well! How can there be no Imperial Doctors on hand? The Empress, hearing this, immediately commands her servants to NOT go. Oh it’s not worth it, this is normal. I don’t want to worry his majesty. Everyone else knows to keep her mouth shut except for 齐妃. Can’t she tell, something is up?

 

[Karen]

The next morning, 华妃 hears this news and quickly tells her servants to tell her brother to send the doctors back as she prepares breakfast for the Emperor. The thing is, you see that even though 华妃 cares a lot about power and money, she really does love 皇上。 She notices what he eats and where to place food because it seems like he didn’t like a certain dish. She prepares his favored tea every night even though he may not visit her. She just doesn’t know how to love in a nicer way…  One that does not involve murder and corruption.

 

While she’s preparing breakfast, servants stop by with new clothes for her upcoming promotion. However, the clothes are for the Imperial Noble Consort (2 steps up), not the Noble Consort (1 step up). 华妃 is extremely pleased by this because she feels like it means that the emperor wants to promote her to Vice Empress. The emperor, who has woken up by now, sees this scene and is most definitely not pleased. 

 

I wonder who sent those clothes though. Is it indeed the emperor?  Or was it someone else.

 

At court later that morning, many court officials report the audacity of 年羹尧 for being so rude and ignoring court etiquette and rules such that the Empress does not have a doctor when she needs it. 年羹尧 is being pummeled by these reports/criticisms. Everyone is looking for punishment by the Emperor but the Emperor, doesn’t get too mad. He instead actually commends 年羹尧 for being so thoughtful of his wife’s illness. That’s perplexing isn’t it?

 

[Cathy]

Later that day, 甄嬛 is able to speak to her childhood friend, the imperial doctor, 温实初 to get a better understanding of what the protocol is in the imperial harem for seeing doctors. It turns out that even if there are not enough doctors in the palace at night, it is still possible to request doctors to come into the palace. Though that process will probably be cumbersome and alert everyone in the palace. Still, it can be done. 甄嬛’s maid says maybe the Empress didn’t want to bother everyone with her illness which is why she didn’t call for the doctors but 甄嬛 makes a good point by saying if the Empress really didn’t want to bother anyone, why did she tell all of the concubines to come tend to her. That’s begging for everyone to be talking about this and cause drama. 甄嬛 is guessing that this act was on purpose.

 

[Karen]

After watching this, i’m wondering if 皇后 even actually had migraines to begin with or if all of this was a show. She found out that the doctors were told to tend to 年羹尧’s wife and decided to fake all of this in order to incite anger at 年羹尧 and 华妃 for their arrogance. 

 

Later on, 甄嬛 is enjoying some quiet one-on-one time with the Emperor in his study. He asks what she’s reading and she says she’s reading a story from the Spring and Autumn Period. She thinks the story is very relevant to the politics of today. Let’s dive a little deeper into this tale.

 

[Cathy]

The story of 郑伯克段于鄢 which translates to Duke Zhuang of Zheng Defeats his Brother Duan at Yan comes from 左传 or the Commentary of Zuo. The book originates from the Spring and Autumn Period, published in the 4th century BC. This book is a historical chronicle of the Spring and Autumn Period from 722BC to 468BC. It is considered one of the classics in Chinese culture and a primary work for later generations to learn Chinese history. The book recounts battles, assassinations, royal intrigue, amongst many other stories. As such, it was not particularly suitable for women to read. This is again highlights 甄嬛’s uniqueness.

 

I tried reading the story. It’s surprisingly short but incredibly dense. This was apparently the style back then. Even reading the baidu notations of this, there’s over 70 annotations for this barely 700 character story. Random characters appear in the story which makes it extremely hard to follow.

 

The story goes like this.When the Duke Zhuang of Zheng was born, his mother had a difficult birth with him so the Duke was not favored. So much so that his name even means “difficult birth”. Instead his mother favored his younger brother Duan. As such, his mother continuously plotted for her younger son Duan to seize the throne over this older brother. Talk about favoritism Nevertheless the Duke ascended the dukedom after the death of his father. 

 

His mother requested a fiefdom for Duan, the younger brother, to which the Duke reluctantly agreed. All of his courtiers were skeptical of this request but the Duke waves away their concerns. The Duke continues to indulge his younger brother with his heart’s desire. After arriving at his fiefdom, Duan immediately began stockpiling weapons and fortifying his fortress. News of this reached the Duke and his courtiers. They all begged him to take precautions and actions against Duan. The Duke does not, stating that there’s no proof of a planned rebellion. He then says this famous phrase. 

 

多行不义必自毙

The wages of sin is death (Bible)

Translation: He who is unjust is doomed to destruction. This phrase is incredibly famous.

[Karen] – I did not know this phrase came from this story and has its roots back to the 4th century. That’s fascinating. 

 

子姑待之

Just wait and see

 

After a short while, the Duke is called away for business to another state. Seizing this opportunity, his mother quickly dispatches a message to Duan ordering him to invade the capital city of Zheng. She’ll open the gates for him. Duan successfully invades the city but the Duke was prepared for him. He orders his courtier 吕 to attack the city with 200 carriages. The people of the capital city also revolt against Duan. With nowhere to go, Duan retreats to the city of Yan. The Duke has a final confrontation with Duan at the city of Yan. Defeated and humiliated, Duan flees to the nearby state of Gong 共. Hence why he’s called 公叔段。

 

I’ll quickly gloss over the rest of the story. The Duke banishes his mother and declares he’ll see her in the next world. After a while, he regrets the declaration. He orders a tunnel to be dug so that he can see her and they mend their relationship. That part to me is a bit wild.

 

[Karen]

The main lesson 甄嬛 points out here is that the Duke just let his brother and his mother continue on with their schemes and indulge them in order to lure them into a false sense of security. The Duke, however, was always aware of their plots. He indulged his brother until everything erupted and it was easy to destroy them in one fell swoop. If his brother Duan and his mother were content with their lives, nothing would have happened to them. But they weren’t and plotted the rebellion. Which is why, back to 甄嬛, both she and the Emperor write the same phrase. 

 

多行不义必自毙 子姑待之 – He who is unjust is doomed to destruction. Just wait and see. 

 

The Emperor is very much in tuned to Imperial Court and the arrogance of 年羹尧. He won’t act yet because it’s not the right time. He’s waiting for a fatal mistake to take him down. In order to do that, they need to continue to indulge this arrogance. Only until then, is it possible to remove all  remaining supporters. 

 

This story will be referenced again later in the series but for a different purpose.

 

[Karen]

Moving on, 华妃 receives her promotion edict. Contrary to the previous signals, she’s only promoted to 贵妃 or Noble Consort not 皇贵妃 or Imperial Noble Consort. She’s hugely disappointed and the eunuchs say that the previous outfit was sent in error.. She barely waits one second before she lashes out at her servants.

 

Don’t think we need this.

Upon hearing the news, 沈眉庄 storms into 甄嬛’s palace to discuss the news. I love how 沈眉庄 refuses to refer to 华妃 as 华贵妃. She’s like not on my watch. 甄嬛, after her discussion with the Emperor, is much more relaxed. She even brings up another anecdote from the previous reign. A concubines father was only the subordinate of the famous 鳌拜. He was still sentenced to death. What do you think will happen to 年羹尧? She’s giving 沈眉庄 hints of what most likely will happen to 华贵妃.

 

[Cathy] 

Another 请安 or greeting! Another example of how foolish 齐妃 is! I’ll quickly highlight 华贵妃’s coiffure and hair accessories have all been upgraded to reflect her new rank. So have 甄嬛 and 敬妃’s who were all recently promoted.

 

齐妃 literally throws herself out there to be chewed out. She’s like – oh even if someone gets pregnant, if it’s only a daughter, that doesn’t mean much. 华贵妃 immediately retorts – even if someone has a son, if the son is intelligent but dull, it doesn’t matter because if you recall, her son, the 3rd prince is not well liked.

 

甄嬛makes the mistake of responding to the Empress and says it doesn’t matter if her child is a boy or girl. If it’s a girl, I’d like for her to be as cute and charming as 曹贵人’s daughter. 华贵妃 immediately seizes this opportunity to deride 齐妃 even more. ”Even 莞嫔 wants a daughter over your dunce of a son”. 

 

齐妃 without even a pause turns to 甄嬛. She says – How is it that you become pregnant but then immediately 富察贵人 has the miscarriage? Did your child kill her child?

 

The words she use is “克死“. I don’t think there’s a direct translation but it’s extremely superstitious and has a very negative connotation. She’s saying the arrival of your child killed the other child. This must be a demon child. The Empress quickly stops her from continuing to make a fool of herself. 齐妃 is a hot headed person. She didn’t even pause to let these slights pass. She had to get the last word. She made a laughing stock of herself.

 

[Karen]

Later, the Empress and 齐妃 have tea together where the Empress chastises 齐妃 for her behavior.  Pay attention here to a masterful performance by the Empress. She’s casting her net and will claim her prize in the next episode. 齐妃 is just too dumb to realize this. The Empress first consoles her into saying don’t worry about 甄嬛’s unborn child. Your son is the eldest, there’s no way her child can usurp her. 齐妃 seems mollified by this but then the Empress throws a wrench into this. Well – 甄嬛 is very much in favor. She’s also from the Han Banners with a similar background to you. You never know, she might be able to rise to the same rank as you. 

 

Then the Empress brings up the story of Emperor 顺治 and his beloved Consort 董鄂妃 that we discussed earlier. Her punchline though is – the Emperor immediately wanted to make him the crown prince. Unfortunately the baby died in infancy. I wouldn’t want that on anyone but it would have been better if he was not born. She’s all repentant – I shouldn’t be talking about such a sad story! Forgive me! What a performer!

 

The wheels begin to turn in 齐妃’s mind. She cannot have 甄嬛 successfully have the baby. Well what is she to do? 安陵容 comes to give the solution! 安陵容 bumps into 齐妃 admiring some Nerium Oleander flowers. 安陵容 “helpfully” tells 齐妃 to not stand too close as they are poisonous. She then drops this useful bit of information – thankfully there aren’t any of these flowers near 甄嬛’s palace. This is very poisonous to her unborn baby. 安陵容 takes her leave and the wheels start turning a bit more in 齐妃’s mind. 

 

安陵容 comes to visit 甄嬛 at her palace. They exchange some pleasantries. One of 齐妃’s maids arrive with water chestnut pastries for 甄嬛. I love that the camera pans quickly to 安陵容. She knows exactly what will happen. 

 

[Cathy]

 

There are two options right now. 安陵容 can either not say anything or warn 甄嬛. For my first viewing, I honestly thought 安陵容 wouldn’t say anything, but she’s on team 皇后 or the Empress. There’s a bigger prize the Empress wants. 

 

安陵容 makes a big show of it. Don’t eat it! Something’s not right! She then miraculously deduces that the pastries contain Nerium Oleander. She then explains the poisonous properties to 甄嬛. 甄嬛 is stunned – why would 齐妃 do this? 安陵容 responds – she’s jealous! Your child could usurp her son’s position! 甄嬛 wants to immediately tell the Emperor but 安陵容 persuades her with a different option – first confirm the poison before the next step.

 

The episode ends with 齐妃 still anxiously waiting for news of 甄嬛’s “death” or “miscarriage”. She doesn’t receive this news, instead, she is summoned by the Empress for a “chat”.

 

Again – how dumb can you be? You send a poisonous plate of pastries and don’t even conceal the fact that you were the one to send those pastries. Even if 甄嬛 ate it, literally everyone can trace this back to you and you will be punished for it. Do you not think people will realize that the miscarriage happened because of you? What will happen to your son in this case? It’s been a while since we’ve had to deal with such an idiotic plot. 

EPISODE 27

 

[Cathy]

Welcome back to Chasing dramas! Here, we talk about Chinese culture and history through Chinese Dramas. I’m Cathy and Karen !  Today, we are going to discuss episode 27 of 后宫甄嬛传 or Empresses in the Palace. If you are new to the podcast and the drama, we recommend listening to the Intro To The Drama episode to get your bearings and what this drama is about. You can always watch this drama on Youtube, just search Empresses in the Palace and it’ll pop up. I don’t know if there are English subtitles moving forward so we’ll do our best to recap.

 

Let’s get started! This episode is a doozy!

 

The Emperor 皇上 visits 沈眉庄. She was previously very favored by the emperor. But she fell victim to a fake pregnancy scandal and was demoted. With some help from 甄嬛, the truth came out and she was reinstated to her rank of Noble Lady. The emperor is willing to mend their relationship but she very much is opposed to this. She backs away at his attempts to even touch her. She’s not rude, but she’s not welcoming.

 

Is it me or is her clothing even darker now? She wore purple before but this is a darker shade of purple. She seems more subdued.

 

[Karen]

You’ll recall that we talked about chrysanthemums in episode 4 of the drama. 沈眉庄 loves chrysanthemums because of the 气节 or integrity of the flower. The chrysanthemum would rather wilt on its stem that blow into the north wind. This attitude is fully being reflected by 沈眉庄。 She’s basically saying that you don’t trust me anymore, you have discarded me. I will not bend back to be your lover. She holds her ground against the emperor.

 

Which honestly – is really quite an action. In the imperial harem, without the emperor’s attention, you really can’t survive. She is totally ok with that. It seems like she’s resigned to being stuck/left in the palace without attention. I’m impressed. She’s really commendable for doing so. If there is anything to be said about 沈眉庄 is that she is like her favorite flower. She has that level of integrity, which may be seen as stubbornness. 

 

[Cathy]

Spurned by 沈眉庄, the Emperor visits his favorite concubine 甄嬛. Remember, she’s pregnant now. He has a gift for her. A pear blossom that plucked himself. He’s in a happy mood, praises her to high heaven. No one can compare to your beauty. Another flower for us! Pear blossoms represent the purity of love. 甄嬛 laments that no one has done a pear blossom makeup. There’s the famous plum blossom makeup but white isn’t very conducive for makeup. The Emperor disagrees – it’s not hard to do so. 

 

He then paints a pink pear blossom on her forehead, using rouge with white to make the pink. 甄嬛 remarks, this is beautiful but it doesn’t look real. To which, the Emperor responds, “it doesn’t have to be real, as long as it’s beautiful.“ Let’s bookmark this for later. He names the style “姣梨妆”, Beautiful Pear Makeup.

 

The topic then shifts to 沈眉庄 and the plague. There’s still remnants of the plague within the palace. Rumor has it, the two doctors 江诚 and 江慎 are taking bribes from the servants. Whoever can pay will get the antidote. This is a sticky situation for the Emperor. He doesn’t want doctors like them in his employ but they are the only ones with the cure. Finally, 甄嬛 reveals that the imperial doctor 温实处, her childhood friend, was actually the one who wrote the original cure. These two other doctors merely stole it.

 

甄嬛 wants to dispatch these two but doesn’t have a solution. They are a part of 华妃’s posse. It wouldn’t look good to have two doctors suddenly sentenced to death. The Emperor waves that worry away with his response. There’s plenty of ways to eliminate them.

 

The conversation then shifts to 甄嬛’s birthday. The Emperor wants to make a big hullabaloo about it for her and the baby. Now pay attention to this next line. 甄嬛 naively asks – you love children and you’re always at 华妃’s place. Why is she not pregnant? The Emperor, without missing a beat, kind of like nonchalantly responds – she will never have children. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? This is shocking news to 甄嬛. She presses a little bit but the Emperor doesn’t respond. You also realize that this was a brain fart on his end. He shouldn’t have said it but he let it slip.

 

That night , there’s some ominous music and The Emperor orders his corp of assasins 血滴子 to murder the two 江 doctors. He says that it has to be discrete. No one can find out about this. He tells 夏刈, the leader, to keep a close eye on the Imperial Court, especially for anyone with rebellious tendencies. The two 江 doctors are quickly dispatched. 华妃 is stunned at the news – she quickly reports this to the Emperor. He, of course, acts all somber and tells her that he’ll get to the bottom of this.

 

Let’s rewind. 华妃 and these two doctors were accused by the doctor 刘畚 for the pregnancy scandal with 沈眉庄, but the Emperor could not punish them because they found the cure for the plague. With the news that 温实处 was the original author of the cure, the Emperor was free to eliminate these two doctors, dealing a blow to 华妃. This is the first time we see the Emperor taking action against 华妃. 

 

[Karen]

Now….

 

The Emperor is making a big deal of 甄嬛’s birthday! So much so that he invited the handsome 17th Prince 果郡王 to help plan it. We haven’t seen him in a while. They are enjoying the 虢国夫人游春图 – The Lady Guo Guo Spring Outing. We’ll discuss this painting later.

 

It’s April 17th – Everyone is at the Peony Pavilion in the Summer Palace 圆明园 for 甄嬛’s birthday. 华妃 is extremely jealous that 甄嬛 got this honor. The camera pans to the wives of the princes in attendance. They all have the Beauty Pear Blossom makeup on their forehead! 曹贵人 loudly describes that this is very much in vogue throughout the capital city and it’s all thanks to 甄嬛. 

 

The rest of the concubines get very salty. 

 

甄嬛 checks in on 沈眉庄. She reminds 沈眉庄 that  even if you don’t care, you still need the Emperor’s favor. That’s how you survive. 沈眉庄 is apathetic to this remark – she’s over it. 

 

甄嬛 then talks to the wife of a prince sitting nearby. The Beauty Pear Blossom Makeup is all the rage in Beijing. 甄嬛 is the trendsetter. The socialites also want to show that they have happy marriages. If your husband has time to draw this for you, then it’s a sign of a tranquil and harmonious marriage.

 

The conversation is interrupted by the 17th Prince 果郡王 because… it’s time for her present! They head out to the lake to watch what surprise he has. And what a sight to behold! A sky full of kites greet them. The Emperor then brings 甄嬛 closer to the lake and they see that the  lotus flowers are in full bloom. It’s capped off with 果郡王 walking up to them, performing a piece called 凤凰于飞 Phoenices in the Sky on his bamboo flute. 

 

This truly is a special birthday gift. It’s April on the lunar calendar, most likely May in the Gregorian calendar. In Beijing it’s still relatively chilly and not the season for lotus flowers to bloom. The 17th Prince 果郡王 planted the lotus roots and diverted warm water from the nearby hot springs into this lake to make the flowers bloom during this season! Now that’s dedication.

 

We’ll analyze this a bit more later. 

 

[Cathy]

The celebration ends with 甄嬛’s mother also receiving an honorary title of the 3rd rank – 诰命夫人. Back at her palace, 华妃 looks as though she can murder someone because this is quite a high honor for a woman. 华妃 doesn’t like that 甄嬛‘s family is getting so much attention. This is very much a threat to her own position. Unfortunately 曹贵人 bears the brunt of 华妃’s anger, receiving vicious insults. 华妃 openly declares her desire to eliminate 甄嬛. It’s not easy being 曹贵人。 

 

Unfortunately, the rest of the episode isn’t as um rosy. Remember the cute and bubbly 淳常在? She’s the adorable foodie that’s really young but loves hanging out with 甄嬛. She’s no threat and is genuinely a cute person. She has no nefarious thoughts and just likes spending time with 甄嬛 and eating food. She’s hanging out with 甄嬛 and they decide to go out to fly kite. Or at least, 淳常在 flies the kite while 甄嬛 watches. 

 

Problem is, 淳常在’s kite breaks and she goes to grab it by herself but in the process overhears 华妃 discussing some shady business. 

 

(side note – there’s a quicky costume continuity error. When 淳儿 is flying the kite, she’s still wearing her flower-pot bottom shoes. When she climbs up the rocks to grab her kite, she’s wearing flat shoes)

 

[Karen]

Basically, 华妃 is enacting her corrupt plans which of course she wants to keep quiet. 淳常在 hears this but isn’t sneaky. 华妃 discovers 淳常在 overhearing the conversation. And….the result is that 淳常在…the adorable girl is eliminated by a eunuch. 

 

Nooooooo. It really doesn’t pay to be a foodie! She was only around for a few episodes! She was so cute! Why did she have to die!

 

During this whole scene, 曹贵人, who is the concubine on team 华妃 sees everything that happens. She actually goes to intercept 甄嬛 as she’s waiting out in the garden and prevent 甄嬛 from discovering anything was amiss. They have a conversation which we’ll discuss in more detail but ultimately, 曹贵人 tips off 甄嬛 that something is wrong.

 

甄嬛 frantically asks her servants to find 淳常在。 Later that evening, the servants report that 淳常在 was discovered… She drowned…

 

甄嬛 is heartbroken as are we. I’m sooo sad!!!

 

The episode ends with 甄嬛 hearing from a servant that there’s no way 淳常在 could have drowned because she is actually a good swimmer. So 甄嬛 can only surmise that 淳常在 was murdered but as they have no evidence, there’s nothing they can do….

 

Ugh. So far, the death of 淳常在 has been the saddest. She didn’t do anything except for be friends with 甄嬛 and be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

[Cathy]

It’s now time for our analysis! There’s a lot to discuss here!

 

The first will be the specific painting `12122国夫人游春图 – The Lady Guo Guo Spring Outing on display for the Emperor and the 17th Prince. This specific painting has a very storied history!

 

The original painting was commissioned and completed during the Tang Dynasty in 752 by the artist 张萱。The main subject of the painting is Lady Guo. She is the third sister of the famous 杨贵妃. We talked about 杨贵妃 before in previous episodes. It is one of the prime examples of court life during the reign of 唐玄宗. Lady Guo was known for her opulence. She is the lady in the center behind the male guard in white. She’s traveling with her other sister and has a cadre of guards and servants in the painting. It is peculiar that the focus of this painting is a woman. Before this time, females were rarely the focus of art. The painter 张萱 led some of that change with this piece. 

 

The original painting is lost. Unfortunately, none of the original pieces by 张萱 survive. Only replicas of his paintings from the Song Dynasty survive. This replica was in private collections during the Ming and early Qing dynasties. Emperor 乾隆 acquired it for his collection during his reign, so this here is another bug. We are currently in the reign of 雍正. With the fall of the Qing Dynasty, the last Qing Emperor 溥仪 smuggled this piece along with other treasures out of the Forbidden Palace. In 1945, 溥仪 wanted to smuggle these to Japan but was caught. The Lady Guo Guo Spring Outing has been in the collection of the 辽宁省博物馆 museum since 1948.

 

[Karen]

The next topic to discuss is the birthday presents from the 17th Prince 果郡王!We haven’t seen him in a while and he definitely knocked this one out of the park.

 

The kites were cool but the big wow factor were the lotus flowers. He explained how he was able to get the lotus flowers to bloom. I also think there’s another hidden meaning as to why he picked lotus flowers. Back in episode 19, 甄嬛 snuck onto 果郡王’s boat after visiting 沈眉庄 who was under house arrest. They had this whole conversation about Lotus Flower and the purity of the flower. Maybe he’s trying to evoke some of those memories?

 

He also performs a piece 凤凰于飞 Phoenices in the Sky on his flute.  This story originally comes from the Book of Songs which was compiled during the Zhou Dynasty back in the 11th to the 7th centuries BC. Phoenices in the sky represent a harmonious marriage and is commonly used as a phrase of good fortune for newlyweds. I don’t know if this specifically is very apt for the occasion though…甄嬛 is not the Empress. The Phoenix is the symbol of the Empress and this could very much be misconstrued in a negative manner. 

 

Phoenices in the Sky is the end credit song of this drama. Sung by 刘欢. It describes a very moving love story but not between 甄嬛 and the Emperor. The lyrics at the end 凤凰于飞,梧桐是依。噰噰喈喈 (yong1 yong1 jie1 jie) ,福禄攸归 actually comes from a work written in the Tang dynasty describing the Phoenices in the sky, leaning together in the Parasol tree, harmonious and content. Pretty cool right?

曹贵人

[Cathy]

We’ve discussed her at length before. In this episode we get some more examples of how calculating she is. We have a quick scene that reveals 曹贵人’s own shaky predicament. She can only do 华妃’s bidding. On the surface, she’s firmly on team 华妃, but there are several times where she tries to play the game to protect herself even from 华妃.  华妃 is overbearing and abusive in many ways. She used the daughter of 曹贵人 as a tool to gain favoritism and destroy others which 曹贵人 cannot forgive. So she’s trying to figure out the best way to protect her daughter. 曹贵人 is constantly analyzing each situation in the imperial harem to see what’s the best move.

 

The first example – during 甄嬛’s birthday celebration, she snarkily informs the rest of the concubines about the 姣梨妆 – the Beauty Pear Makeup. I can’t tell if 华妃 knows about the origins but 华妃 becomes extremely upset at this news. I think 曹贵人 is purposefully stirring the pot to make the other concubines jealous but why doesn’t she insult 甄嬛? She wants to draw more attention to 甄嬛? Her words just make 华妃 more pissed off. I guess this is to also make the other concubines jealous as well.

 

Here’s the second example – 曹贵人 and her maid are actually the ones who first spot 淳常在 overhearing 华妃’s bribery scheme. 曹贵人’s maid wants to verbally warn 华妃 but 曹贵人 quickly prevents her from doing so because she says it’ll draw too much attention, instead she throws a rock into the pond to draw 华妃’s attention. 

 

Throwing the rock is a very shrewd choice – by throwing the rock, she doesn’t draw attention to herself. It’s not clear if 曹贵人 knows about 华妃’s bribery scheme. She could put herself in danger if it’s known she’s also privy to this information. 曹贵人 knows exactly what fate might befall 淳贵人 but warns 华妃 anyways but she doesn’t make it known she was the one who warned her. You could also construe it as yelling would draw attention away from 淳儿 so it’s open for interpretation.

 

Finally – let’s break down this conversation between 曹贵人 and 甄嬛。曹贵人 accosts 甄嬛 in an attempt to divert her attention away from discovering 淳常在. 甄嬛, none the wiser of what’s going on, has a pretty frank conversation with 曹贵人. And basically says she suggests that 曹贵人defect to help someone, such as herself, instead of being on 华妃’s team. 曹贵人 in this conversation is considering her options. She hear’s 甄嬛 and certainly feels that she may be right. That’s why at the end of the conversation, 曹贵人 tells 甄嬛 to look “over there” which is basically a hint that something is wrong. Otherwise, 甄嬛 may still be in the dark about what happened to 淳常在。

 

[Karen]

In summary – for 曹贵人, we have to pity her and also admire her. Everything she’s done has been for her daughter. We know that having children in the imperial harem is very difficult with so many miscarriages so the fact that she was able to come to term was impressive. We learn in this episode that she had a difficult birth so she was not completely free from the nefarious deeds but ultimately, she was smart enough to birth a child. Fortunately it’s a princess. Who knows what other people would have done if it was a prince.

 

[Karen]

That’s it for this episode – episode 27. Thank you all so much for joining us and we look forward to having you with us in the next one. If you have comments or questions, please let us know and reach out to us at chasingdramaspodcast@gmail.com!

 

On a completely different tangent that’s been bothering me a while. The actress for 浣碧 is dubbed.  Everything seems fine but I can’t for the life of me figure out what she’s actually saying when she says “小主”。 The mouth shape doesn’t look the same – I don’t know. Just wanted to point that out, haha

EPISODE 26

 

 

[Karen]

Welcome back to Chasing dramas! Here, we talk about Chinese dramas and also the history behind the drama. I’m Karen and Cathy!  We are currently discussing episode 26 of 后宫甄嬛传 or Empresses in the Palace. If you are new to the podcast and the drama, we recommend listening to the Intro To The Drama episode to get your bearings and what this drama is about. You can always watch this drama on Youtube, just search Empresses in the Palace and it’ll pop up. There are english subtitles available

 

This episode to me was REALLY confusing the first few times I watched it. It’s funny to a degree and heartbreaking as well.

 

Last episode, we had a lot of chaos where there was a miscarriage but surprisingly discovered that our main character 甄嬛 is two months pregnant. This pregnancy is quite the surprise and is causing a lot of anxiety and stress in the imperial harem. People who were happy about the miscarriage are now upset to hear there is another pregnancy. 

 

Continuing on the conversation from the last episode, the empress dowager and the empress are still discussing the miscarriage. 太后, the empress dowager, basically says, nothing more can be done about the miscarriage but nothing can happen to this pregnancy because it’s 菀贵人。It’s clear that 太后 cares more about 菀贵人,甄嬛 than the other concubine 富察贵人。I guess that’s generally a lesson on being a good person because 富察贵人 was really quite the snooty and pretentious person. Now this tragedy has befallen her, and no one really cares.

 

[cathy to interject] – I don’t think so…I think it’s more like there can’t be two miscarriages. That would be too obvious, no?

 

[Karen]

 

I am highlighting here that 太后 is essentially threatening 皇后 and saying that nothing better happen to 甄嬛’s kid. But of course, this is the Imperial Harem, they can’t say such direct things but the message was abundantly clear.

 

皇后 agrees but we shall see what happens. The acting here is great because 皇后 is not being aggressive or defensive. Instead, she’s being really passive and agreeing to everything the dowager says. 

 

She closes the conversation by pointing out that our lovely 华妃 has requested to see a doctor from outside the imperial palace. Clearly this is a reputation issue for the imperial family. The empress dowager ultimately says it’s fine but at the end, requests that if this external doctor is a good one, she would like her own head maid to get a chance to see the doctor as well. Pretty innocent and simple right? She’s being a good master and wants her maid to get a check up. No big deal.

 

 

[Cathy]

With the news of 2 pregnancies so close together, the person that is most upset in the imperial harem is none other than 华妃。 She is sitting in her palace and utterly heartbroken that it seems like everyone in the palace can become pregnant except for her. She stuffs her face with as many pickles as possible and when she starts throwing up, she exclaims! Look, I’m pregnant. It’s really quite sad because you know she really wants to have a child. 蒋欣 – the actress does such a good job here.

 

In her fit of rage, 华妃 storms into the palace of none other than the sickly 端妃。 It’s 26 episodes in and we finally understand what happened to 端妃 and why she is so sick. 端妃 is one of the oldest serving concubines in the harem. Since we were first introduced to her, she has been very frail – even if you look back in episode 2 when the new ladies were being introduced to the palace.

 

The reason she is so frail is because 4 years ago, it would seem that 华妃’s miscarriage was caused by 端妃. 华妃 drank a bowl of medicine that 端妃 gave her. Her pregnancy was 6 months along and it was clear she was going to have a baby boy but right after drinking this medicine from 端妃, she had a miscarriage and lost her child. 华妃 was devastated and in her hatred, turned around and forced 端妃 to drink saffron (藏红花). In TV magic, the amount of saffron she drank meant that she would never be able to have children.

 

[Karen] – we talked about 麝香 or musk pods as one of the most commonly used ways to induce a miscarriage. Saffron or 藏红花 is another. Saffron does have some harmful properties for pregnant women but there’s little evidence that it’ll make a female infertile.

 

[Cathy]

From that point on, 端妃 has been frail and bedridden. Because of this action, 端妃 absolutely hates 华妃. In her mind, she never actually did anything to hurt 华妃. She didn’t know how or why 华妃 had the miscarriage, it wasn’t by her hand but 华妃 won’t believe it. 华妃 firmly believes that 端妃 caused her miscarriage because she was the one who brought her the bowl of medicine whihc was actualy supposed to help her pregnancy. 华妃’s revenge was that 端妃 unfortunately will never be able to have children, which in 端妃”s eyes, is worse than death. She will never have any type of support in the palace and basically her value as a woman is gone. The whole point of being a woman in the palace is to produce children and 华妃 took that ability from her.

 

[Karen] 

The two women hate each other. The reason why 端妃 has been helping 甄嬛, our main character, is clear now after so many episodes. 端妃 hopes 甄嬛 will help defeat 华妃 because she cannot do it herself.

 

Because 华妃 is so powerful, she has been able to restrict pretty much everything for 端妃。 端妃 can’t have fresh food, can’t have lots of servants, can’t get laundry done externally, has limited access to medicine – pretty much everything that should be given to her as a consort of her rank, has been stripped because 华妃 hates her. That’s honestly terrible. And as we found out in the conversation, every time there’s a pregnancy announcement, or whenever 华妃 is upset, she’ll come over and verbally and physically abuse 端妃。

 

The interesting piece here is that 皇上 believes that 端妃 didn’t do anything wrong. The ultimate reason why 端妃 is still alive is because 华妃 cannot outright kill 端妃 or else 皇上 will be mad. The emperor and empress dowager seem to have made it clear that 端妃 is not to be touched. Otherwise, 华妃 most definitely would have killed 端妃 long ago. Why is this? That’s odd. But I also can’t imagine that 皇上 doesn’t know that 端妃 is suffering but he seems to be fine with it. There’s just a lot of oddities going on here. The acting of the two ladies in the scene here is phenomenal. Especially 蒋欣,the actress for 华妃, you see how much she hates 端妃 but is also so sad that she lost a child. You end up kind of pitying her because yes, she does scary stuff, but a lot of it originates from her sadness of having lost a child she desperately wants.

 

[Cathy]

To try to fix this situation, 华妃 has asked her brother to invite a doctor he knows (so outside of the imperial harem) to see if there’s any way to help her become pregnant. 

 

Well the old doctor comes to the imperial palace and is being escorted by the Empress’s main eunuch. NOW HERE it is quite confusing. On the face of it, nothing seems to really be happening so let’s take a look at how things are progressing.

 

Before they go to see 华妃, the doctor makes a stop at the Department of Imperial Doctors. The director of the doctors meets with this new dude and is really nice and even gives this doctor all of 华妃’s medical notes. That’s pretty nice of him no? The director says that 华妃 is of course adored by the Emperor so their department always pays careful attention to her and has had at least 20 top tier doctors take a look at 华妃 so she’s in good hands. Well the new guy is like “great!” and goes off to see 华妃。

 

[karen]

华妃, being 华妃, of course gives the doctor money and then threatens him with his life if he does a bad job of looking after her. But the doctor says that she is fine. There are so many doctors who have attended to her and they all say she’s fine. She’s not terribly impacted by her previous miscarriage and therefore, as long as she tries not to be over eager, should still be able to bear children. 华妃 is ecstatic to hear this and offers the doctor more money. 

 

As the doctor is being escorted out by a eunuch, he is sweating profusely. That’s odd right? The eunuch then asks whether or not the doctor can take a look at the Empress Dowager’s maid since he’s in town. He, of course acquiesces and goes to see this woman. 

 

This interaction is EXTREMELY important. The doctor checks the maid’s pulse and says there is nothing wrong with her. She is completely healthy. But the maid insists that other doctors in the imperial palace said she is very sick and needs to spend quite a bit of time to recover. She then goes on to say that if someone is not sick but everyone else says she is sick and only you, say she’s healthy, what will ppl think of you? On the flip side, what if someone IS sick and everyone keeps on saying she’s healthy but you are the only one to truthfully say she’s sick, what will people think of you? He jokes and says that people will think I’m crazy! The maid then responds, exactly. Your entire reputation will be ruined if you tell the truth. He then asks, what happens if another doctor tells the truth. The maid says that that will never happen. The imperial doctors will all have the same response. This doctor thinks for a bit and says, ok, I will also have the same response.

 

Ummmm ok so what just happened? This scene and a scene from the previous episode require spoilers to discuss. We’ll talk about it at the end of the episode if it’s confusing. Again on the face of it, it’s like ok fine, but as with all things in the palace, the true motives are much more nefarious.

 

[cathy]

The rest of the episode is rather simple. The emperor who has been absent for all of this drama, finally returns to the imperial palace and immediately checks in on 甄嬛。 He’s super worried about her and excited about their first child together. He wants to spend all his time with 甄嬛 and is even willing to neglect 皇后 on the day that is dedicated to her. I think we’ve mentioned before but every 1st and 15th of the month is when the emperor is supposed to see the empress. This day is the 15th but he decides to blow 皇后 off for 甄嬛。 皇后 is really saddened by this and cries alone at night. 甄嬛 at least urges 皇上, the emperor, to go see the empress for food the next day if he won’t go spend the night.

 

The next big event on the docket is the 册封 and 晋封 ceremonies. These are the promotion ceremonies for both 甄嬛 and 敬嫔. 甄嬛 is currently a 贵人 or Noble Lady. 敬嫔 with the rank of 嫔 is a Concubine. They each are promoted up one level. 甄嬛 to 莞嫔 and 敬嫔 to 敬妃. Concubine and Consort respectively. 

 

In preparation for the ceremony, 太后, the Empress Dowager, gifts a familiar hairpin to 甄嬛. It’s the same one she gifted 沈眉庄 all the way back. It’s the same one that got damaged when the Emperor learned of 沈眉庄’s fake pregnancy. 

 

[discuss]

 

 [Karen] 

甄嬛 is back at her palace marveling at all of the medicinal ointments and creams that have been gifted to help with her recovery. 安陵容 arrives with another gift. She has her own family cream made with very valuable ingredients to help with the scar from the cat. There’s powdered pearl, peach flowers, honey, fish bone collagen and even white otter marrow? Dang – that’s extremely valuable. We’ll discuss more about this in the spoiler section.

 

It also doesn’t look as though 淳儿, the young bubbly girl, will last too long. 华妃 is extremely annoyed at her.

 

The episode ends with 甄嬛 and 敬嫔 at the ceremony. I think it’s quite a simple ceremony – they left a lot of things out. There are documents, seals, and rituals that need to be adhered to. We’ll dive deeper into the 册封 ceremonies in later episodes.

[Cathy]

Let’s start with our analysis!

 

The first is the promotion of our ladies 甄嬛 and 敬嫔。 This is actually quite an honor for both of these ladies. There are only 4妃 or Consorts designations and 6 嫔 or Concubine designations. There’s a reason why 华妃 was so pissed off in the last episode. We now have 4 Consorts – 华妃, the sickly 端妃, 齐妃 who is the 3rd prince’s mother, and now 敬妃。I don’t think we have any other 嫔’s or Concubines now. As a Concubine, you now run your own palace. You can refer to yourself as 本宫 – in third person. It basically means – owner of a palace. Servants will no longer call you a 小主 or little master. They will refer to you with the proper name of 娘娘, basically the equivalent of your ladyship/your highness depending on your rank.

 

Next I want to talk about our bedridden 端妃. She is this mysterious character that keeps popping up at random times. Let’s add some things together. Yes, it was a very sad scene between her and 华妃. She is a tragic character BUT we see subtle glimpses of her intelligence in this episode and the previous episode. In this episode – 端妃 is able to even threaten 华妃 with 富察贵人’s miscarriage and 甄嬛’s injuries. She points out – you’re scared. You need the emperor’s favor. If he suspects you, you’re done. That’s true. 端妃 knows though, that 华妃 didn’t do it! She went to 甄嬛’s quarters just now to relay her suspicions of foul play but NOT from 华妃. I don’t 甄嬛 thought to this point just as yet but it looks like 端妃 knows. 华妃 straight up denies she did anything and we as the audience knows she didn’t do it. The fact that 端妃 knows this though, makes a very compelling case for how she’s able to survive in the Imperial Harem despite her illnesses.

人彘就是把四肢剁掉,挖出眼睛,用注入耳朵,使其失聪(熏聋),用喑药灌进喉咙,割去舌头,破坏声带,使其不能言语,然后扔到厕所里,有的还要割去鼻子,剃光头发,剃尽眉发(不只是把眉毛和头发剃光,还包括眼睫毛),然后抹一种药,破坏毛囊,使毛囊脱落后不再生长,永不再长毛发,然后一根根拔掉,有的嫌累,就一起拔掉。如果有皮掉下来,或者在行刑中就死了,刽子手就会被人嗤之以鼻,甚至丢掉饭碗。也有在行刑过程中就死了的,没死的就被放在厕所里做成了人彘。最出名的是汉朝的吕太后戚夫人做成了人彘,还安排了专人“照顾”,然后丢弃在茅厕中任其痛苦死去,割掉耳朵,甚至把脸划花。这是吕后发明用来对付戚夫人的一种非常残忍酷刑之一。

 

皇后

 

That’s it for this episode – episode 26. Thank you all so much for joining us and we look forward to having you with us in the next one. If you have comments or questions, please let us know and reach out to us at chasingdramaspodcast@gmail.com!

 

Spoiler Section

 

EPISODE 25

 

 

[Cathy]

Welcome back to Chasing Dramas! This is the podcast that explores Chinese history and culture through historical chinese dramas. This is Karen and Cathy here discussing Episode 25 of 后宫甄嬛传! 

 

[Karen]

This episode is quite action packed, especially in the second episode. We have a flower viewing party that ends with a miscarriage but also another pregnancy announcement. We see 皇后’s true face. This podcast episode is going to be a little different. We’ll of course discuss the plot and analysis on some of the texts/themes but we’ll also freely discuss the characters and the drama thus far. That section will be full of spoilers so if you haven’t watched the drama and don’t want things spoiled for you, we’ll let you know when to duck out.

 

[Cathy]

The first half of the episode is pretty simple. 华妃 is getting a check up from one of her imperial doctors and she is asking when she’ll become pregnant. He says that she has nothing to worry about. 

 

富察贵人 is pregnant, as we found out two episodes ago.  She is lauding this fact over everyone, even during the daily court greetings with 皇后, the empress and the other ladies. She is gifted intricately made make up by the emperor and the make up was specifically made to not include certain scents like musk scent which is not very good for pregnant women and instead, uses other scents that are safe. 富察贵人 is of course very pleased.

 

Elsewhere in the palace, 甄嬛’s friend 沈眉庄 is recovering from her bout with the plague. She is being treated by 甄嬛’s other friend, the imperial doctor 温实初。 He is very attentive and 沈眉庄is looking much better. He questions, though, how it’s possible for 沈眉庄 to have contracted the disease when it first originated in the city and then directly after it popped up at 华妃’s palace. It’s odd for the disease to then end up at 沈眉庄’s place when she is already isolated from most people. They deduce, accurately,  that 华妃 purposefully infected 沈眉庄 in order to get rid of her. 沈眉庄is livid but of course, there isn’t a whole lot they can do at this point.

 

[Karen]

Here is where the fun starts.

 

The last couple of episodes, we have been discussing how 安陵容 has been drifting farther and farther away from 甄嬛。 It’s looking like she’s beginning to side with 皇后. Well 皇后 continues to show who is the master manipulator in 后宫, the imperial harem. 安陵容 is at 皇后’s palace. She’s been spending more and more time there. 安陵容 gifts a perfume sachet to 皇后 but 皇后 says that she does not use perfume so doesn’t accept the gift. 安陵容 apologizes for not being perceptive of this fact but 皇后 isn’t angry. She instead says that it isn’t that she doesn’t like perfume, but if some of the fragrances are not used adequately, they can hurt one’s health. She then says that since you understand perfume and fragrances, then you know what terrible things can happen when not used properly. 

 

Cue 皇后’s cat 松子 who makes an appearance. You’ll recall that this cat was introduced quite a few episodes ago and 甄嬛 does not like cats. 皇后 casually says that it’s spring time and other cats during spring time meow because it’s courting/mating season. Her cat, however, likes to jump on things.

 

安陵容 doesn’t skip a beat and says that cats are not easy to tame during this period in the spring but they like smelling certain smells and CAN be tamed after smelling something for a while. She says she’ll go back to her palace and develop a fragrance that will help tame 松子, the cat.

 

皇后is very pleased and says that the flowers of her palace have all blossomed. She wishes to invite the ladies of the imperial harem to enjoy the spring view.

 

[Cathy]

OKAY… What just happened here. This seemed innocent enough right? The first couple of times I watched this I did not fully understand the implications. Because, what happens next? 

 

Essentially, 皇后 invites all of the ladies of the harem to view the flowers that have bloomed in her palace. Inevitably, whenever you have all the ladies together, drama ensues. 华妃 says some pretty rude things to 皇后 but 皇后 is ultimately saved by 甄嬛. However, as the ladies are viewing the blossoms, 安陵容 baits the cat with some fragrance that had she developed. This causes the cat to leap onto the pregnant 富察贵人, specifically her stomach. Everything gets thrown into chaos. Someone pushes 甄嬛 forward into 富察贵人 but 甄嬛 is also scratched pretty badly in the neck by the cat.

 

[karen]

富察贵人 takes a very hard fall and is in a lot of pain. Everyone is scrambling because she has lost a lot of color and doesn’t look well. They call for doctors and the result…unfortunately is that she has a miscarriage. This craziness even causes the empress dowager, someone as we’ve said previously who doesn’t bother much with affairs of the imperial harem, to come rushing into see what happened and whether or not the baby can be saved. She’s sad that it seems she has lost another grandchild. 

 

甄嬛 who was pushed into the crowd by someone (probably the devious 曹贵人) is also being looked at by the doctor due to the scratches on her neck and other injuries. Surprisingly though, the doctor congratulates her because… SHE”S 2 MONTHS PREGNANT! What???? Everyone is extremely shocked. 甄嬛 can’t believe her ears but is very pleased nonetheless. The empress and the empress dowager tell her that she has to take care of herself now that she is with child.

 

So right now, we have one child gone, but another one gained.

 

[Cathy]

甄嬛 returns to her palace and her friend 沈眉庄 comes to visit. 沈眉庄 is very happy to hear the news but tells 甄嬛 to be careful because there have been too many accidental miscarriages in the palace. What if these aren’t all accidents?

 

Let’s pause here for a second to discuss this. As of now, we know of 4 miscarriages that have happened in the palace:

 

  1. 芳贵人 – She was the previous inhabitant of the palace where 甄嬛 lives currently. she had a miscarriage – remember that pot full of ___? After this miscarriage, she went crazy and is now living in the Cold Palace
  2. 欣常在 – she’s a 1st class female attendant in the palace. When 甄嬛 first came to the palace, now 2 or so years ago, this lady JUST had a miscarriage. It was because she slipped and fell. If you go back to our earlier episodes, we discuss her situation. She’s still around and has managed to keep her head down though she is still just a 1st class female attendant, a step below 甄嬛。
  3. 华妃 – we learned that 华妃 had a miscarriage a few years back, before 皇上 ascended the throne
  4. 富察贵人 – and now, we have the most recent miscarriage which was caused accidentally, but we know that it was on purpose, by the cat

 

[Karen]

It is clear that whoever is pregnant, becomes a target in the imperial harem and it is not good. We’re not the only ones to have caught on to the fact that there have been lots of women who have had miscarriages. The sickly 端妃 who hasn’t appeared much in the drama except for a few scenes here and there, meets 甄嬛 late at night to tell her that she discovered a fragrance box. This may be the key to what happened today because it’s odd that the cat would only attack the pregnant 富察贵人 and no one else. 

 

端妃 isn’t the only one to have noticed an issue. 太后, the empress dowager has seen right through the devious plan and calmly confronts 皇后. 太后 knows full well that 皇后 was the mastermind behind the miscarriage today. She warns 皇后 that there are some things she is ok with letting go, others, she cannot.

 

 

—-

 

Analysis – 

[Cathy]

In the midst of all the miscarriage drama and the true natue of the evil 皇后, I want to take a break to discuss a poem that 甄嬛 recites while the ladies are enjoying the flowers at 皇后’s palace.

 

华妃 starts discussing two flowers – 牡丹 and the 芍药。 牡丹 is a Chinese Peony. 芍药 is another type of peony. 

 

Let’s bring a lot of what we’ve discussed to this scene right here! Back in episode __, 甄嬛 was gifted with 椒房之礼 which is usually reserved for the wife. The color used is red. The Empress 皇后 picked a pink peony, to which 华妃 immediately responds by picking a red garden peony. She boldly claims – “I’m picking red, only concubines enjoy pink”. This brashness is extremely obvious to all the attendees. 

 

皇后 doesn’t have a good response. 

 

庭前芍药妖无格2,池上芙蕖净少情3

唯有牡丹真国色4,花开时节动京城5 

 

The garden peony in the courtyard is bewitching but lacks substance, the lotus in the pond is clean but lacks emotion

Only the peony is the true national beauty. When it blooms, the entire capital notices

 

This poem was written by 刘禹锡 during the Tang Dynasty in the late 820s. We talked about the Chinese Peony before. Way back in episode 2. The Chinese Peony is considered the national flower then and now. As the national flower, it represents the Imperial Family and in turn the Empress. 

 

甄嬛 here says, no matter what color you pick, you’ll always be subservient to the Empress. The use of this poem is extremely ingenious because the phrase 庭前芍药妖无格 directly insults 华妃. 甄嬛 accuses 华妃 of bewitchery and a lack of substance.

—–

 

EPISODE 23+24

 

[Karen]

Welcome back to Chasing Dramas! This is the podcast that explores Chinese history and culture through historical chinese dramas. It’s Karen and Cathy here to continue discussing chinese history and dramas. In this episode, we’re going to be discussing Episode 23 and 24 of 后宫甄嬛传! 

 

We’re a third of the way through this drama and it’s quite fascinating to see what each of us focuses on actually. I find certain things interesting while Cathy hones in on other things.

 

[Cathy]

Regardless, let’s get started! Episode 23 + 24 is very plot heavy so our discussion will be more revolved around what happens in the drama rather than historical text. 

 

Starting off in episode 23,  the ladies of the Imperial Harem are at the Empress Dowager, 太后’s, Palace for the customary rituals for the LaBa Festival. 太后 takes a liking to 甄嬛 and requests that she copy Buddihst sutras. Pretty harmless right? 

 

[Karen] Is it though? I don’t think so. When I saw this scene, I took it to mean that 太后 was testing 甄嬛 and also taking the opportunity to see 甄嬛 for the first time. Copying buddhist sutras can some times be seen as a passive aggressive way to punish someone because you are literally telling them to copy pages of text. On the other hand, copying buddhist texts are seen as a way to show your devotion to Buddha and will help you get karma. So it’s two fold. I feel like 太后 was seeing whether or not 甄嬛 would complain for having to do such a tedious task and when 甄嬛 did not, 太后was pleased. You’ll also remember that WAY back in the beginning of the drama, 太后 didn’t care to meet 甄嬛。 She said she’ll meet 甄嬛 when she becomes a 嫔, so a level above what 甄嬛 currently is. 甄嬛 has made quite the impact on 后宫 such that even 太后 wants to meet this woman.

 

[Cathy]

太后 knows full well of 甄嬛’s favor. She’s using this excuse to remove 甄嬛 from the harem and frees the Emperor to “spend time with other ladies”. Doesn’t matter who, but someone else. She even says as much in this coded message – the heavy snow has broken all of the tree branches. 甄嬛 is the snow and she’s covering up all of the other concubines. She needs to find some more peace and calm while here in 后宫. 甄嬛 takes this advice? Warning? To heart which is why she suggests that the Emperor check in on the rest of the Imperial harem. Hey – at least she listens. This puts her in good favor with the Empress Dowager too. Let’s see here – we now know that despite what it seems, the Empress Dowager very much pays attention to what his son is up to in the 后宫.

 

After this scene…the ladies are at the Empress 皇后’s palace for their daily greetings. We haven’t focused on these for a while. For once, it’s relatively cordial. 淳儿, the cute bubbly girl, is joking around, saying that she needs to stop eating. 安陵容 gets all jealous of 淳儿 because 甄嬛 remembers all the food that 淳儿 is eating and doesn’t do the same for her。

 

We don’t spend too much time on this because…富察贵人 drops a big bombshell. She’s pregnant! Everybody’s face falls. Her? How? Does anyone even remember who the heck 富察贵人is???  I don’t think I remembered her the first time I watched this drama. She entered the palace with 甄嬛 and company but has had very little presence in the drama thus far. She’s in the background here and there so it’s just as surprising to hear that she is pregnant!

 

欣常在 – another attendant makes some snarky comments. This is hilarious because 富察贵人 doesn’t get it. 欣常在 says “I know the Emperor is very busy. He only visits you once every few months and you got pregnant!” She then says “Not everyone has the fortune of being blessed with a son”.  富察贵人 is all pleased with her pregnancy and doesn’t get the insult. She just thinks that 欣常在 is jealous. I love the close up on 华妃. She is furious. She’s thinking,
How can this woman get pregnant before her??”

 

[Karen] 

A KEY piece of information here is that we here from 富察贵人 that she is only a few months pregnant and so her pregnancy is not stable. This is important!

 

[Cathy]

Unsurprisngly, 甄嬛 is also little bit disappointed at the news because, like 华妃,she’s surprised that 富察贵人 is pregnant. Outside of the Empress 皇后’s palace, she’s called back by 曹贵人 who tries to rub some salt to the wound. How is it that the Emperor visits you the most and there’s still no news? Rude!

 

However 甄嬛 clever deflects it and turns this against 曹贵人 by asking forgiveness from 华妃. She says 华妃’s the one who’s seen the Emperor the most. I’m sorry if 曹贵人 offended you. After hearing this, 华妃 immediately pushes 曹贵人 away and snidely says if I get pregnant, it’ll be a boy. A daughter’s useless. Ouch. But nice job 甄嬛! You’re learning to play the game.

 

华妃 and 曹贵人 are still fuming about news of the pregnancy when 华妃’s Eunuch 周宁海 hastily rushes in to break the news. There’s a plague in Beijing! This is a huge deal. Everyone in the Imperial Palace is scrambling. Interestingly, the first place with the plague is actually in 翊坤宫. 华妃’s palace. That’s odd don;t you think? My theory is that 华妃 has too many ppl coming in and out of her palace with all the bribes she’s getting and that’s why ppl in her palace contracted the disease.

 

The Empress 皇后 takes this very seriously and even requests 华妃’s help in the matter. 

 

[karen] However, I want to point out that we’ve seen in previous episodes the glimpses of how devious and manipulative 皇后is. While giving orders to 华妃, 皇后 specifically tells her to not forget 沈眉庄。I personally think that 皇后 did this on purpose. There was absolutely no need to do so but she knows that 华妃 hates 沈眉庄 and wanted to use 华妃 as a way to kill 沈眉庄 thereby removing another competitor in 后宫。

 

华妃 is easily manipulated and while she is picking up the slack by making sure every place is sanitized with boiling liquor and burning herbs, she is reminded that 沈眉庄 is still alive. The doctor involved in this whole fiasco, 刘畚, is too. What a perfect opportunity! Let’s, uh give her a used tea set from someone who just died from the plague. She’ll catch the plague, die, and no one will be the wiser. How convenient. 

 

甄嬛 is visiting 安陵容, again bringing her these medical sachets and checking up on her. They overhear an altercation outside between the pregnant 富察贵人 and some eunuchs. 富察贵人 orders all of the dried mugwort and atractylodes rhizome to be brought into her palace leaving none for 安陵容. 甄嬛 hurries outside to argue with 富察贵人 about these medicinal plants.  富察贵人 gets all haughty – she’s the pregnant one, of course I deserve everything. 安陵容 can just get her own. There’s a few back and forths but 富察贵人 doesn’t back down and demands everything be delivered into her quarters. Once again, 甄嬛 does this for 安陵容 but will she value this? No…

 

[Cathy]

More and more people are dying due to the plague. One day, 甄嬛’s head Eunuch rushes to deliver the news that 沈眉庄 has also contracted the plague. 甄嬛 rushes over to 敬嫔’s to get the details. They confirm the news. Unfortunately none of the Imperial doctors are free to look after this lowly Second Class Female Attendant. It looks like 沈眉庄 is left for dead. But wait! There’s an Imperial Doctor waiting in the wings. It’s a been a little while since we’ve seen 温实出。 He’s 甄嬛’s childhood friend that is in love with 甄嬛 and wanted to marry in episode 1. 甄嬛 requests for his help to attend 沈眉庄. Since he’ll do anything for 甄嬛,he accepts and starts looking for a cure to the disease.

 

At the Imperial Infirmary, 华妃 is storming about trying to find a cure. It is quite funny seeing her try. But it looks like her fortunes may just now be up. 甄嬛’s people have found 刘畚!He’s the slimy fake doctor that made 沈眉庄 believe that she was pregnant and ran away when his job was done.  甄嬛 immediately brings this doctor to see the Emperor where he confesses his crime. He finally admits that it was 华妃 who bribed him to fake 沈眉庄’s pregnancy! The Emperor orders 刘畚 to be imprisoned. With the culprit in custody, 甄嬛 spends some time going over the case with 皇上. There was no reason for 沈眉庄 to fake the pregnancy. She couldn’t have known.

 

The Emperor 皇上 agrees and actually admits he wronged 沈眉庄. What! He immediately starts using a term of endearments – 眉儿 instead of her title 沈答应. He restores her title to Noble Lady with the name 惠 again Virtuous. 甄嬛 tells him the truth about 沈眉庄’s condition. He grants her order to have the Imperial doctors immediately look after 沈眉庄。I’m impressed, the Emperor takes it a few steps even further. The Imperial Doctors who aided 华妃 in this plot are granted suicide and 华妃 is to be demoted to 嫔 or Concubine and stripped of her honorary title. This is HUGE! He’s ordering this despite the fact that her brother just came back from the front lines! Even the Emperor’s head eunuch 苏培盛 is shocked at this. 

 

Yay!!! Finally – some good news for 沈眉庄. However, the Emperor is a suspicious man. He makes his suspicions known to 甄嬛 and asks her if this is her plot to accuse 华妃. 甄嬛 is thoroughly hurt by this accusation and defiantly tells him no. 

 

This entire time –  the Emperor’s facial expression is still the same. He says these things, demoting 华妃, promote 沈眉庄, kill the doctors. No change in voice or tone. He just does a lot of blinking. Truly an emperor to be afraid of.

 

News of 沈眉庄’s reinstatement travels to her quarters. Everyone is all teary eyed but of course, 沈眉庄 is not conscious to hear the news. Somehow 安陵容 gets wind of the news too and heads over to the 沈眉庄’s palace to congratulate her. Of course, she’s making this calculated move that she won’t actually be allowed in. Just the gesture is enough. The episode ends with 安陵容 finding out 刘畚 was caught from the eunuch outside. 

 

—–

 

[Karen]

Really quickly before I recap episode 24. 刘畚’s caught, 沈眉庄 is restored to a Noble Lady, and 华妃 is about to be demoted to a Concubine. Pretty simple – 华妃 will finally get some comeuppance right? Let’s see what happens.

 

安陵容 is turned away from 沈眉庄’s palace. She’s heard the news of 刘畚’s capture. She comes up with the brilliant plan to rub it into 华妃’s face. According to her logic, once 华妃 hears the news, she will run to the Emperor and beg for forgiveness, annoying him even more, resulting in further punishment. Yes, that’s what I should do. She has her maid run along to tell the guards of 华妃’s palace. 

 

Ugh, I am SO mad at her! We have here on display 安陵容’s blatant selfishness and idiocy. She doesn’t think that there’s other alternatives for 华妃! Her idiotic gesture just so happened to give 华妃 an easy out! Let’s see this play out.

 

华妃 hears about 刘畚’s capture and is indeed frightened. However, she immediately starts thinking of next steps, informing her brother, pretending to be ill, and ordering the two Imperial doctors to stay quiet. 曹贵人 however provides the best strategy. Give the Emperor what he most needs right and all will be forgiven. What does he need right now? A cure for the plague!

 

华妃 rushes to see the Emperor the next morning with the two Imperial Doctors implicated in the case. 甄嬛 just so happens to be there. The edict for 华妃’s demotion hasn’t been given yet so no one says anything as of yet. 华妃 presents a cure for the plague and has the two doctors confirm that they’ve experimented with some eunuchs in the palace. 

 

What wonderful news! The Emperor immediately tells the doctors to make more doses for the rest of the place an 惠贵人 (沈眉庄’s restored title). 华妃 reacts to the restored title by congratulating 甄嬛 too. Then, in a stroke of genius, she begs for forgiveness for any of her past discretions, she wants to make sure the Emperor is ok. Well the Emperor can’t say anything now. She just found a cure! He can’t punish her now. He even uses the two words 爱妃 – my loving consort. Definitely not demoted. 

 

Upon seeing this, 甄嬛 quietly slips away. The head eunuch 苏培盛 asks if the edict still needs to be delivered. 甄嬛, crestfallen, says no. It won’t be demotion, more like a promotion.

 

[Cathy]

Some time later, the Emperor comes to 甄嬛’s place to console her. He must look at the bigger picture. 华妃 and the Imperial doctors have done a great service for the Empire. He cannot ignore this. He leaves, leaving 甄嬛 utterly disappointed. This is not how she envisioned the end of this case. Yes, 沈眉庄 has her title restored but nothing happened to 华妃. The Emperor killed the doctor 刘畚 so there are no more witnesses. All was for naught. 甄嬛 is disenchanted with the results and more so to the fact that the Emperor suspected 甄嬛 of doing this to win favor.  

 

[Karen] And this drama, no matter how popular it is and how glamorous the clothes and food are, shows us how terrible it was to be a woman in this system. You are constantly fighting over the favor of one man and it only matters if this man believes you. If he doesn’t believe you, you have no future. It’s quite a sad existence.

 

[Cathy]

Let’s return to 安陵容. Everything would have been in the bag, so to say, but she just had to blab her mouth. Her timely news gave 华妃 the time to think of a plan and avoid punishment! Here’s the difference between 安陵容 and 甄嬛. Upon hearing that 华妃 delivered a cure, 甄嬛 does not bring up the case. There’s no point to draw any ire onto herself in this situation. 甄嬛 is constantly leveraging the costs and benefits. 安陵容 makes no such calculation. She was so dumb to think that 华妃 would just let everything happen. She’s only thinking about self gratification, to see someone else suffer. She doesn’t think about the grand scheme of things, timing, just who 华妃 is. 安陵容 thought that 华妃 would suffer even more humiliation but what happened NOTHING. Just UGHH.  

 

[Karen] I don’t know though. I wonder if 安陵容 knew that this is going to hurt 甄嬛 instead.

 

It is pretty suspicious that 华妃 was able to find a cure in such a short time. We do get a quick scene with the Imperial Doctor 温实处. There’s something funny with that cure. We’ll get back to it later.

 

By now things seemed to have calmed down with the plague. The Emperor 皇上 receives a report that 年羹尧’s second son 年富 vanquished a revolt. He heads over to 华妃’s place for lunch and she casually brings up the revolt. She starts asking the Emperor about 年富’s reward, even requesting a knighthood for him and she is relentless in her request. The Emperor doesn’t show it but he’s pissed. He finally agrees but when he’s back in his study, he lashes out to 苏培盛. Someone is sending messages between the Imperial Harem and the Imperial Court which is not acceptable. Otherwise, how would this news travel so fast? Remember that the harem should not be involved in court affairs. 

 

Well obviously we know that this is the case. 华妃’s entire bribery scam is propped up by her messages to her brother.

 

安陵容 is summoned to the Emperors study. 甄嬛 is too but 甄嬛’s matters are more serious. 赵之垣 has accused 甄嬛’s father of disobeying the Emperor’s orders and bad manners in regards to 年羹尧. 赵之垣 is the guy from the last episode that literally paid his way back into favor. He and 年羹尧 are on the same team. The Emperor needs to thoroughly think this through and dismisses 安陵容 who has been waiting outside in the cold for a while. 甄嬛 tries to excuse herself but to no avail. Unfortunately, once again, 安陵容 thinks 甄嬛 purposefully made her wait outside. 

 

The Emperor decides to demote 甄嬛’s father due to this indiscretion. 华妃 and 曹贵人 are extremely pleased with the news. We find out that 华妃 told her brother about this meddlesome 甄嬛. She’s pleased with 赵之垣’s rapidity in this matter, though we as the viewers know that this is simply a trap.

 

[Cathy]

安陵容 is preparing to spend the night with the Emperor. She has the gall to say, in a way, I’m happy that 甄嬛’s father got demoted. I feel closer to her now. We aren’t as distant! ARGH I can’t even. The Empress and Emperor have a conversation and after a suggestion from the Empress, the Emperor decides to summon 甄嬛 instead of 安陵容. Once again, 安陵容 thinks 甄嬛 purposefully did this. It doesn’t help that the pregnant 富察贵人 is right there laughing at her. 安陵容 has this internal monologue – why do you have to steal what’s mine? I feel bad, I’ve been doubling down on 安陵容 this entire time. She is in a bad situation but girl, you have to fight for yourself.

 

[Karen] – BUT ALSO! AGAIN! 皇后, the empress is the one who caused this drama. She is SO slick. She’s not outright nasty like 富察贵人 or also 华妃. She likes to manipulate things into her favor. She purposefully brings up 甄嬛 and her father. She then coaxes him to spend more time with 甄嬛 instead of 安陵容. She even says, they’re sisters. I’m sure 安陵容 won’t mind. The Emperor of course doesn’t think any more of this and agrees. I however think this is all a clever ploy by the Empress! She’s intentionally creating these misunderstandings between the two ladies. 甄嬛 of course doesn’t know what’s happening and 安陵容 just thinks that 甄嬛 is trying to steal all of her time with the Emperor. No one suspects 皇后. Genius if I must say so. 

 

[Cathy]

There’s a quick scene in which the Emperor restores 华妃’s power in the Imperial Harem to manage the internal affairs. 敬嫔 is also promoted to 妃, from concubine to consort! Yay! This definitely is a reward for taking care of 沈眉庄. I’m genuinely happy for her! 华妃’s facial expressions are hilarious. She’s super resentful. 

 

The episode ends with 甄嬛 checking up on 沈眉庄. She’s recovering but it looks like she doesn’t care about her restored title and all of that pomp and circumstance. 

 

There’s also this thread throughout the episode where 甄嬛 constantly feels tired, is a bit lethargic, and overall doesn’t have a big appetite. What do you think is happening there? We’ll find out soon enough.

 

[Karen] 

 

Now the interesting item in these two episodes is of course the disease that rocks Beijing.  Throughout Chinese history, there have been records of various epidemics. Of course Chinese traditional medicine was used to treat patients as western medicine did really exist. 艾叶 or Chinese mugwort, which is a type of plant, is frequently discussed as something to burn to help ward off the disease. This plant is also supposed to help with menstruation and issues with infertility. Mugwort. Such a funny name. We’re not Chinese medicine experts so we can’t comment too much on the medicine that was used. At least, 沈眉庄 is still alive and a cure was found.

 

Let me say sonethimg

 

That’s it for this episode – episode 23 and 24. Thank you all so much for joining us and we look forward to having you with us in the next one. If you have comments or questions, please let us know and reach out to us at chasingdramaspodcast@gmail.com!

EPISODE 22

 

[Karen]

Welcome back to Chasing Dramas! This is the podcast that explores Chinese history and culture through historical chinese dramas. This is Karen, and this is Cathy. In this episode, we’re going to be discussing Episode 22 of 后宫甄嬛传! This episode on the surface is pretty straightforward but there are a TON of interesting snippets to discuss especially when the ladies of the imperial harem go to the opera! So let’s get started. 

 

[Cathy]

Episode 22 is more centered around 华妃’s corruption and the continued arrogance of 年羹尧, her brother who is a decorated general。It’s nearing the New Year and 华妃 needs money, lots of it, to buy more clothes, jewelry and gifts. 华妃’s scheme of accepting bribes has been pretty successful but she needs even more money! One gentleman by the name of 赵之垣 is willing to send 50,000 taels just for a meeting. 

 

50,000 taels! Taels is a form of measurement for money used in ancient China. It’s usually with silver. Silver is definitely way more valuable than bronze coins and truly only the rich could use it. I went down the rabbit hole of trying to figure out how much that is in today’s money but it’s very difficult. You can convert it to dollars but that doesn’t really measure the purchasing power of what you could buy. The base measure is based on how much grain or rice you could purchase. There was a huge range but let’s just simplify and say that this 50,000 taels is over $1M USD. That’s a LOT for just a conversation. 

 

年羹尧 does indeed meet this 赵之垣 and requests an audience with the Emperor who just so happens to be playing Chinese Go with the 17th Prince so 年羹尧 has to wait outside for his turn. The Emperor wins the game of Go to which he says “I need to painstakingly place all the pieces in the right place in order to win the game”. Foreshadowing much?

 

The 17th Prince 果郡王 leaves the Palace and sees that 年羹尧 was waiting outside in a chair (which, is a big no-no). 年羹尧 sees the 17th Prince but doesn’t even get up to kneel – another huge sign of disrespect. The 17th Prince brushes it off though, he reminds his own servant that living under the radar is the only way to survive with this Emperor. Look at what happened to his own brothers.

 

[Karen]

During the audience with the Emperor, 年羹尧 requests for 赵之垣’s position at court to be restored. It’s obvious that the Emperor doesn’t want to but he relents after several back and forths. This really frustrates 皇上 since 年羹尧 is about to have more power than him! But what can he do? It’s not the time, he needs to put all of the pieces in place. He asks for 甄嬛 opinion when she comes in. Once again, she quotes a Song Dynasty poet to answer the question. I’ll discuss this part later too.

 

华妃’s extremely pleased with all of the “donations” from 赵之垣. The man apparently said one sentence and convinced her brother to change his mind. What was that sentence? 300K taels will be sent to the General and 100K taels will be sent to 翊坤宫. Now who can refuse that? Bribery and corruption at its finest. 

 

[Karen]

Elsewhere in the palace, 安陵容 and 甄嬛 have been working on separate projects. Unfortunately, they are both working on the same thing, a night shirt/or pajamas more or less for the Emperor. These two ladies making the same thing at the same time separately for the emperor? What could possibly go wrong? The Empress 皇后 arrives in 养心殿 to clear the accounts with the Emperor. She bluntly points out that 华妃 is overspending her allowance. Something must be fishy with where she got all the money because it’s way over what was ever given to her. The Emperor acknowledges that he has an inkling of where she’s getting the money from but he’ll let it pass and pointedly tells the Empress to let it go as well. At this point the two night shirts are presented to the Emperor. 

 

A few days later, 淳儿, the cute, bubbly and young concubine is showing off her makeup to 甄嬛 and 安陵容. The ladies are joking around and somehow get to a conversation about what the Emperor looks like in bed. Rather a personal discussion don’t you think? He noticed 淳儿 staring at his nightshirt and graciously says he’ll cut out the Golden Dragon Emerging from the Clouds pattern and gift it to her. He puts on a nightshirt that has a Two Dragons fighting over a Pearl pattern on it. The Emperor proceeds to say he likes this one, it’s more comfy. Shall we guess who made which one? Yup, the one that was cut was from 安陵容and the other one is from 甄嬛. 淳儿 just unknowingly insulted 安陵容. Ouch. 安陵容’s face is not very pleasant and takes her leave.

 

甄嬛 realizes that something 淳儿 said must have offended 安陵容. She brings out a very precious pair of Hetian Jade [earrings?] to gift 安陵容 to appease her. 瑾溪 delivers the gift and all seems fine. 瑾溪notices 菊青, a maid outside crying and tries to comfort her. This is overseen by 宝娟 which confirms her suspicious that 菊青 is a spy for 甄嬛. You’ll recall that in the last episode, 宝娟 pushes 安陵容 into thinking that 菊青, who was gifted to 安陵容 as a maid by 甄嬛 was done so purposefully and is spying on 安陵容. I really don’t think this is true but it doesn’t matter because it’s how 安陵容 perceives the relationship/

 

[Cathy]

Back inside, 安陵容 is being all petty about the gift that 甄嬛 gives her. She even says 甄嬛 and I are both concubines of the Emperor. Why is it that I have never received such a rare gift from him? She’s so jealous of 甄嬛. Here’s where I think she really gets it wrong. She uses the idiom 平起平坐 which means equal footing. Ok yes, they are both concubines of the Emperor but they are definitely not equal. 安陵容 has no background, no real education, and she doesn’t have the favor of the Emperor. How is she equal? She looks down on 淳儿 because she’s young and has no real talent other than being a foodie and is angry at how flippant 淳儿 was just now, openly insulting her needlework. 

 

[Karen] – Discussion

 

[Cathy]

Let’s remind everyone that 安陵容 is only a 1st Class Female Attendant, the same as 淳儿. What is 安陵容 angry about? That she received favor first? She sneers at the gifts that 甄嬛 sends her.  甄嬛 doesn’t care about her, she just cares about 淳儿 and 沈眉庄, and is only sending her gifts to make her feel better. On one hand, yes that’s true but honey, did you not forget that 甄嬛 also just got humiliated by 华妃 because of you? She volunteered to go with you in the last episode when she did not have to! Ugh, 安陵容’s only looking at what she wants to believe. There is some truth to what she says about 甄嬛. I don’t think 甄嬛 even realizes the biases she has but 安陵容 shouldn’t be making enemies with her friends.

 

I guess all this crying over the night shirt was for naught because we find out that the Emperor is not even wearing 甄嬛’s shirt, instead favoring an old one from his deceased first wife 纯元皇后. Some more foreshadowing?

 

[Karen]

The ladies of 后宫 are invited to go to the Theater! They are watching Opera. This opera right here is Peking Opera. There’s a lot of sniping back and forth between 华妃 and 皇后. The usual stuff. 甄嬛 comes to the rescue 皇后 after seeing her begin to lose the battle. 安陵容 then pipes up to say something and is roundly humiliated by 华妃. Once again 甄嬛 has to come to the rescue but I’m not sure 安陵容 appreciated that. We will go in depth about Peking Opera

 

The episode ends with all of the women in 后宫 paying their respects to the Empress Dowager 太后 for the LaBa Festival.

 

That was a lot of information – let’s start off with our analysis

 

[Cathy]

Let’s talk about the conversation between 甄嬛 and 皇上 after he has the unpleasant audience with 年羹尧。In giving her opinion, 甄嬛 paraphrases from 朋党论 or Discourse on Factions written by 欧阳修. 欧阳修 was a Song Dynasty historian, poet, calligrapher, politician, and writer. He is one of the Eight Masters of the Tang and Song [karen – which I didn’t know was a thing but here you have it]. We’ve already talked briefly about 苏东坡 in previous episodes. This was written in 1044AD as a proposal to the Song Emperor. 欧阳修discusses elite politics and the importance of factions. Gentlemen have a responsibility to uphold moral principles while 小人 or despicable men merely aim for profit. He argues that throughout history, dynasties thrived when the Emperor listened to these gentlemen.

 

甄嬛 says 小人同利之时,暂相党引成为朋党。等到见利而争先,则极力相争,which basically means that when these 小人 or despicable men have the shared profits, they will have temporary alliances or 朋党. But once they have to compete for profit, they will turn to fight each other. Basically, 甄嬛 is saying that the Emperor shouldn’t have to worry about such people because they will be their own demise. The Emperor is very pleased with this answer – he shouldn’t be too worried about 年羹尧. 

 

What’s important here is that this is the 2nd time 甄嬛 uses other historical writings to discuss current politics. Unlike the previous time, she is now directly quoting political texts. She is getting bolder and bolder with her ideas, however, is that good for her? We’ll see. Remember that women in the imperial harem, or women in general, are not supposed to talk about politics, but here she is making rather bold suggestions. We also get to learn about this Discourse on Factions!

 

[Karen]

Next we want to discuss is Chinese Opera! The ladies of the imperial harem are watching some Peking Opera/Beijing Opera. Bear with us as there’s a lot to take in. First let’s do a little introduction on Chinese Opera. Chinese opera or 戏曲 is a form of musical theater dating back thousands of years. It’s an amalgamation of various different art forms including dance, singing, acrobatics and comedy. The stories used for Chinese Opera range from legends, to local folklore, to history.

 

[Cathy]

Today we’ll talk about Peking Opera or Beijing Opera. Peking Opera got its start in the late 18th century during the reign of 乾隆, who is our current emperor’s SON, around 1790. So this scene right here is an anachronism – we are currently in the 1720s. I will give them credit, they don’t state that it’s Beijing Opera.

 

Beijing Opera is the most famous of Chinese Opera, also known as the national opera, but there are a variety of different types of Chinese opera from the different regions of China. They include SiChuan Opera, Cantonese Opera, Yue Opera etc. 

 

Peking Opera began when the Four Great Anhui Troupes (south central China) came to perform for Emperor Qianlong’s 80th birthday party. That type of opera is called 徽剧 and became extremely popular. The opera form incorporated aspects from other opera including styles of singing, stories, martial arts and melodies. 

 

There are 4 types of characters in Peking Opera, Sheng (male character), Dan (female character), Jing (painted face male role), and Chou (male clown role). On stage in the drama, we have the Dan (female character) and Sheng (male character). During this time period, only men could perform in Opera. I can’t quite tell here but that would be another anachronism if the person playing the Dan is a female.

 

[Karen]

In this scene, the audience can request pieces and stories for the troupe to perform. This scene is great because concubines are using the opera pieces they select to again start sending veiled, or not so veiled messages. 

 

Let’s take a look. When they enter, 华妃 snags the first pick. 刘金定救驾 – it’s the story of a Song Dynasty female general who protected her country from invaders. 华妃 uses this to signal – oh, my brother just came back from the front lines, our family is important to the stability of the Empire. She then goes and orders two more operas 鼎峙春秋 and 薛丁山征西 – two more war stories. Obviously she wants to rub it in everyone’s face and remind them just who she is.

 

[Cathy]

The Empress 皇后 doesn’t even blink and asks see 劝善金科 and 瑶台. The first piece, 劝善金科, is a story with roots about Buddha’s disciple Maudgalyāyana (apologies for the pronunciation). The story is about his filial piety and devotion to his mother, saving her from the preta world. The second piece 瑶台 then refers to the celestial palace of 瑶台. Both of these stories are about kindness and doing good which obviously is a jab at 华妃. I also think 皇后 selects these two operas to mock 华妃’s lack of children.

 

Later on, 华妃 brings up 薛丁山征西 again and says we can’t talk about 薛丁山 without discussing 樊梨花。What’s the significance here. 薛丁山 is a fictionalized character based off of a Tang dynasty general. 樊梨花 is his wife and also a very popular historical figure. She’s a general, a brilliant strategist, heroic, basically every awesome adjective. However, she is a little hot headed. 薛丁山 divorces her three times due to misunderstandings and jealousy. He also has two other wives so that complicates things.  And you have to remember that “divorce” in China was a huge no-no back in the day and meant a lot of terrible things for the woman to be “divorced” so the fact that she was divorced multiple times is fascinating.

 

华妃 uses this story as a jab at 皇后 to say this woman couldn’t keep her husband. I don’t want someone who’s heart isn’t with me. 皇后 icily responds – the wife is the wife, no matter how many times she was divorced, 薛丁山 still came back to her because there would be no three divorces, if the husband 薛丁山 didn’t marry 樊梨花 three times. No concubine can take that position of being the wife away from her. 

 

[Karen] If you couldn’t tell, 皇后 is trying to hint that no matter how powerful 华妃 is, she is still just a concubine while she, 皇后 is the main wife. Nice. 华妃 – immediately fires back. Well that only worked since 樊梨花 was the daughter of a head or first wife. If she was the daughter of a concubine, she wouldn’t have been able to do anything. This time, it’s a jab at 皇后 since she also wasn’t born from the main wife and was instead, the daughter of a concubine. This really hurts 皇后 and she doesn’t have anything to say.

 

[Cathy]

 

Fortunately, 甄嬛 comes to the rescue, she requests to watch 南柯记. It’s a story about a ranger/man who meets 3 beautiful ladies outside of a temple. They are here to find a husband for their princess and they select the ranger. He weds the princess and spends 20 happy years with her, living in luxury. Ok – I’m skipping a lot.  There’s a lot of drama within these 20 years. He gains power and money and fame, depending on how the story is told. But All good things can’t last and he loses everything due to some enemies at court. He’s awoken from his dream, realizing that none of the last 20 years happened.  Everything was in his mind which is devastating. There’s a heavy buddihst theme to this story and he eventually gives up everything and becomes a buddha. 甄嬛’s point here is that, the higher you go, the harder you fall. No one will care about your parentage or your previous wealth, it will all just be a dream…I’d say that’s a pretty apt description and warning for 华妃.

 

[Cathy]

The Empress smiles to acknowledge 甄嬛 as she is thankful for the clever idea and support. 安陵容 then piques up to make a comment about love between two people which is quickly shut down by 华妃. Once again, 甄嬛 comes to the rescue but I don’t think 安陵容 really appreciates this. 

 

[Karen]

 

PHEW – are you exhausted by all of these stories? This exchange at the opera was quite tiring for us to research too actually. We knew a few of the stories but not everything so it’s interesting and fun to piece together the deeper meaning behind each of these opera titles and I appreciate that once again, the insults are hurled in a very concealed way.

 

That’s it for this episode – episode 22. Thank you all so much for joining us and we look forward to having you with us in the next one. If you have comments or questions, please let us know and reach out to us at chasingdramaspodcast@gmail.com!

 

 

 

《长歌行》中的永宁公主李长歌 历史上真有这个人吗?

李长歌剧照女装_万图壁纸网

The Long Ballad (2021) 长歌行

Summary: Li Chang Ge 李长歌 (Dilireba 迪丽热巴) is the daughter of the Crown Prince 李建成。Following the famous Xuan Wu Gate Coup, her father was killed by her beloved uncle, Li Shi Min or Emperor TaiZong. Vowing for revenge, she crosses paths with a young prince from the AshiLe clan, A-Shi-Le Sun 阿诗勒隼 (Wu Lei 吴磊).

On her path to revenge, Li Chang Ge recognizes the suffering the people face in this period of war and uncertainty. Recognizing that her uncle strives for peace, she, along with AShiLeSun turn their attention towards bigger threats to their respective peoples. 

 

Overall rating: 8/10 

Initial thoughts: Solid performance by Dilireba where we witness her growth as a young woman seeking personal revenge to a true princess focused on the stability and peace for her people. 

長歌行》新路透:迪麗熱巴終於出女裝,失去美顏的臉引熱議- 人人焦點

 

Full review to come!

-Cathy

 

 

 

 

御赐小仵作反派薛汝成什么时候下线反派最大boss是景家吗- 多问

御赐小仵作》楚楚的身份是什么楚楚的爹是谁- 历史剧- 史文斋

The Imperial Coroner (2021) 御赐小仵作

Summary: In the late Tang Dynasty, the aspiring coroner Chu Chu 楚楚 (Su Xiao Tong 苏晓彤)heads to Chang’An to take the Imperial Coroner’s exam. In the city, she meets the young but powerful Xiao Jing Yu 萧景瑜 (Wang Zi Wen 王子文),Prince of An Jun who currently oversees the Judiciary Branch. Intrigued by Chu Chu’s attention to detail, the two work together to solve crimes and uncover threats to the Tang empire. 

 

Overall rating: 9/10 

Initial thoughts: Binge-worthy drama that does not insult the audience’s intelligence. Mysteries are thoughtful and challenges understandable. A small production that has been met with rave reviews. You’ll be surprised by this show.

Reminds me of the US show Bones quite a bit. Had absolutely no expectation going into this show and ended up loving it. 

Full review to come!

-Karen

 

 

 

 

My Dear Guardian (2021) 爱上特种兵 Review

Summary: Liang Mu Ze 梁牧泽 (Huang Jing Yu 黄景瑜) is a special forces captain who meets the young military doctor Xia Chu 夏初 (Li Qin 李沁) while both were abroad. Their initial meeting was unpleasant but fate places them together. Sparks fly as each does not back down but soon learn to respect each other’s passion for their chosen career. 

 

Overall rating: 7.5/10 

View this drama primarily for the cute romance between Li Qin and Johnny Huang and their dedication to their career.  Take this as a light-hearted drama only, not to be taken too seriously.

Premiering in June of 2021, I’ve been chasing this drama the last month and have been struck by how sweet Li Qin and Johnny Huang are both in the drama and outside of it. The show released soooo many behind the scenes/blooper clips many of which are on Youtube and it’s just too cute to watch the two interact.

DouBan, the popular Chinese drama ratings system, rates this drama rather poorly at only 4.4. I can see why people rate it this way but one cannot deny that this drama was incredibly popular this summer. It trended multiple times on Weibo (Chinese Twitter) and the stars, Li Qin and Johnny Huang also enjoyed a surge in popularity. The primary reason is because of the chemistry between Li Qin and Johnny Huang.

I’m a huge fan of Li Qin as I think she is gorgeous but Johnny Huang does a great job portraying a military captain. He is one of the few actors who is actually quite strong and does many of his own stunts. That adds to the believability of his role even though many of the conflicts that happen seem rather contrived. That does not detract from the fact that Li Qin and Johnny are great casting for these roles. 

 

Story: This is a rather classic story of two incredibly attractive people starting off hating each other, and then somehow ending up roommates, then pretending to be dating, and then actually falling in love. 

Episode 1 shows the resident military doctor Xia Chu getting experience abroad at a fictional place called Isaia. There, she runs into Liang Mu Ze and they get into a fight over something rather trivial. Once she returns to her hospital though, she is caught up in a terrorist attack and has to try to remain calm in this hostage situation. None other than Liang Mu Ze’s team comes into save the hostages but his good friend Tian Yong is injured. After this experience, the two develop disgust for each other as Liang Mu Ze does not think Xia Chu is a good soldier or a good doctor.

Once back in China, it just so happens that Xia Chu is stationed at a hospital and looking for a place to stay. Her mother says she has a friend who has an apartment she can stay at. Xia Chu happily agrees but once she walks into the apartment, bumps into none other than a shirtless Liang Mu Ze. They of course bicker but given Xia Chu has to head to the hospital, they let it go for the time being. Oh and Xia Chu randomly picked up a cute cat on the street so she’s moved in with her cat.

On Xia Chu’s side, she is focused on becoming an accomplished cardiothoracic surgeon but the sudden reappearance of a childhood friend, Zhuo Ran, starts creating tension in the drama.

On Liang Mu Ze’s side, he is a highly trained special ops soldier and spends most of his time at base but suffers from guilt over the death of his good friend 8 years ago. He and his team participate in uncovering the cause of the terrorist attack in Isaia as well as stopping a drug crime lord.

 

Thoughts:

Pros: This drama shines when it’s focused on the interactions between Xia Chu and Liang Mu Ze. Xia Chu is a hard working and intelligent doctor doing residency. She does not back down from a challenge particularly when it comes to her patients. She also is not afraid to tease Liang Mu Ze. Probably one of the funniest scenes in the show is when Liang Mu Ze bullies Xia Chu into helping him change his bedsheets and Xia Chu provides him with a full Sailor Moon set! HAHAHAHAHA.

As a Sailor Moon fan, I absolutely loved this and am quietly wondering where I can get this set for myself. Hehehe.

As the two spend more time together, they slowly develop more respect towards each other. Each is passionate about their careers as a doctor and a soldier in the Chinese military. Liang Mu Ze, in particular, trusts Xia Chu unconditionally and is always there to support her. This is probably every young woman’s dream boyfriend/husband material. Of course, though, they don’t shy away from the realities of what it means to date a soldier -lots of moving, uncertainty and even death. The first 12 episodes of this drama in particular are so sweet watching these two change their attitudes towards each other.

It is impressive to see the actors physically fit and doing real stunts in the show. It’s a different type of action compared to kungfu dramas I’ve watched and this military subject is not one I’m usually keen on viewing so it was a nice change of pace.

 

Cons: The show falls short in executing the conflict beyond the romance storylines between Xia Chu and Liang Mu Ze. Xia Chu’s childhood friend Zhuo Ran’s return to her life causes all sorts of issues as he is not simply a childhood friend anymore, but is involved in the criminal ring of a violent drug and crime lord. The show threads this story line into the show to try to create challenges that Liang Mu Ze’s team must face. Certainly, it gives a lot of rather cool scenes where Liang Mu Ze is a badass fighter but to me, that whole story line was annoying and a drag. There are incredibly heavy topics in this show which were quite odd to balance out with the super cute and bubbly interactions between Xia Chu and Liang Mu Ze.

I could not care less about Zhuo Ran’s relationship with Mi Gu, Xia Chu’s best friend. The entire time I was thinking to Mi Gu, girl, get some self respect. Same thing with the story line of Xiao Xue, Liang Mu Ze’s cousin. The drama tried to take itself too seriously which I understand. It’s a great way to showcase the sacrifices people make as doctors and military soldiers which is admirable no doubt, but because these storylines moved beyond what was available in the book, the drama fell short in landing the impact on viewers.

 

Book differences and thoughts:

So when the drama first aired the first 8 or so episodes, I was like, OK, this drama seems super cute, let me read the book the drama was based on so I binged that. The book is actually much simpler than the story lines in the drama and it’s primarily focused on the romance between Liang Mu Ze and Xia Chu. The book I felt was a romanticized view of what a military doctor and a special force’s romance would be like.

While I just commented on how I think the added conflict in the drama could have been done better, I do think it was needed to round out the characters. In the book, I couldn’t tell why Xia Chu was a particularly good doctor which the drama actually emphasizes through her actions. I’m actually glad they gave Xia Chu more independence and the ability to hold her own, rather than being primarily focused on her relationship with Liang Mu Ze. The book also I don’t think did enough to highlight some of the true conflicts involved in being a military doctor and solider which the drama helped supplement. 

Some last thoughts – watch this drama if you want something super cute between two very attractive people where the man is actually fit enough to pick up his girlfriend. Sometimes you know it’s cliche but you just like it and that’s how I feel about this drama. There are WAY too many coincidences for this drama to work in real life but Xia Chu and Liang Mu Ze are adorable together. 

 

 

-Karen