Final Thoughts



Hello! Welcome to our last podcast discussion of the Story of Ming Lan or 知否知否应是绿肥红瘦。 Thank you all so much for joining us on this journey!


We’re going to chat about some key themes in the drama as well as last thoughts on certain characters and then discuss what we learned through this drama. We’ll end with a little more free form discussion on our favorite characters and aspects of this drama!


The drama had many themes throughout the drama but in my mind, the key theme that kept on popping up over and over again is the phrase 父母之爱子则为之计深远。A parent’s love is to plan far in advance for them.  We saw throughout this drama the lengths that parents went to plan for their children and also examples of where parents didn’t do this. 


Let me talk about Madame Qin. She is an interesting character because while she did many despicable deeds towards Ming Lan and Gu Ting Ye, she was also a loving mother. Her biggest tragedy was being born in the time she did. As she exclaimed in the roaring fire before she passed, the Gu family destroyed her sister and her in order to save face by marrying the Bai family woman which then destroyed her too. The main culprit in this story is the Gu family’s greed and need to save face. If we recall, the Gu family had no money left to pay debts and needed to marry the likes of the Bai family who were of the merchant class to pay off those debts with the Bai family dowry. In order to marry the Bai family daughter as a proper wife, the original Madame Qin was divorced which caused her to die of illness or a broken heart soon after. After the death of the Bai family daughter, the younger Qin sister was married into the Gu family as well, perhaps as a way to repay for the sins towards the older sister. But, as Madame Qin expressed, she never experienced her husband’s love because he only loved her older sister. Under such tragic circumstances, it is understandable why Madame Qin would hate Gu Ting Ye and want to take the Marquis title for her own son. She feels that the Gu family owes it to her and her son for everything they’ve suffered. Unfortunately, reality never went according to her plan as Gu Ting Ye grew up to be extremely capable while her son had no ambition of being marquis. 


Her last act as a mother was to push her son down the well. In doing so, this actually cuts off any doubt that her son was involved in the rebellion or any plot against Gu Ting Ye. This isn’t stated anywhere in the drama, but in doing so, she protected her son. Her son, 顾廷炜, could truthfully say that he didn’t know about the plot against Ming Lan. His older brother 顾廷烨 would still retain relations with him and take him under his wing when Madame Qin died. When she died, I could only feel sadness. She never experienced love in her own life and everything she worked for to get a sense of control went to dust. She loves her son but she couldn’t take it anymore so with her last act, she pushed him away. You could hear Ting Wei’s screams that Gu Ting Ye agreed to let him inherit the title as long as she comes out of the fire but she doesn’t care any more. Say what you will about Madame Qin, in the drama, at least, she did love her son. 




Next, let’s talk about 平宁郡主 or Prince Ping Ning. She’s the mother of 齐衡. 


She’s a very traditional and haughty woman. She only had one son and believed that honor and propriety was the only path forward for her son. Quite honestly, she raised an upstanding young man. Like we’ve said before, how many noblemen take the imperial entrance exams in their own right and pass? Not many but 齐衡 did. The Princess had every right to be proud of her son and maintain a tight grip on her son.  But that also led to the tragedy of 齐衡’s first marriage. 齐衡’s weakness and the Princess’s iron will meant that 齐衡 was never going to marry 明兰. Her son will inherit the dukedom. How can he marry for “love” and a 庶出 daughter at that! I won’t say I agree with the Princess but I get where she’s coming from. In the drama, mother and son come to terms with 齐衡’s new marriage but that took like 2 coups and 齐衡 having to be a widow before all of this growth.


Next up is 曼娘 – she’s probably the worst mother of all of the characters in the show. She didn’t truly love her children and is the opposite of the phrase  父母之爱子则为之计长远. She only viewed them as pawns that she could leverage against 顾廷烨, namely to get him back. In the drama, we don’t see her much with her son because her son dies offscreen. However, based on how she treated 蓉姐儿, we can see that she didn’t care much about her daughter, going so far as to threatening her to kill 明兰 and straight up knocking 蓉姐儿 out in closing episodes. She’s a terrible woman and mother.


Now let’s move onto the 盛 women.




Mistress Lin


First up is Mistress Lin or 林小娘. This is a woman who loved her children but didn’t teach her children how to behave as more than children of a concubine. What do we mean by this, Mistress Lin spent a lot of time teaching her daughter 墨兰 how to capture the gaze and heart of a man – a.k.a. 梁含 but Mistress Lin didn’t teach 墨兰 much about how to run a proper household.. Let’s see why. 墨兰 spends all of her time battling it out with her husband’s concubines using her mother’s usual tricks of force feeding the pregnant woman with all of the best nutrition, thereby endangering the mother, similar to what 林小娘 did to 明兰’s mother. 墨兰 never gets the respect from her mother-in-law because all 梁含 is doing is spending time with his women, let alone get a job. If 梁含 doesn’t get a job, how will he support his family? Don’t know. A proper wife should be able to guide her husband on the right path and manage a household. Unfortunately, we don’t see 墨兰 doing any of that. Let’s contrast to what 明兰 teaches 蓉姐儿 – accounting and household management! These are lessons that Mistress Lin didn’t know or didn’t view as a priority. Mistress Lin’s idea of “making it” meant marrying 墨兰 into nobility as a proper wife – that’s it. Once 墨兰 achieved that, she of course would then be treated as a proper wife too, surpassing that of Madame Wang. This was wishful thinking. The system was very hierarchical – no matter what, Mistress Lin wouldn’t have been respected as a proper Madame. On the other side, let’s look at how she raised her son 长枫. Yes, she pushed 长枫 to study and pass his exams. However, she also allowed him to go to the brothels and rub shoulders with meet other bureaucrats and officials because she believed that it’ll help him win favor. What did that do for 长枫? Almost get killed




All in all – mom who loved her children. Just not correctly


Madame Wang


Let’s talk about Madame Wang! I love this woman because she’s SO hilarious. At least in the drama. She has all the best lines. If you look on Chinese social media, this character is having somewhat of a renaissance because people are making hilarious videos of her.


Madame Wang’s heart is in the right place, especially with her children, she just is easily manipulated. However, if we contrast Madame Wang with Mistress Lin, we’ll see the difference in behavior between a 大娘子 or Wife vs a 小娘 or Concubine. Madame Wang for all of her faults, raised upstanding children.

  1. The oldest 华兰 is well liked in the capital, although you can say that’s mainly due to Grandma Sheng having a hand in raising 华兰
  2. 长柏 – focused on his studies and passed his imperial entrance exams
  3. 如兰 – although not as intelligent as her older sister, still was able to keep a firm grip of her household and married for love!


Madame Wang’s children turned out alright because she steered them in the right direction. As Ming Lan said, Grandma Sheng chose Madame Wang for a daughter-in-law because in the end, Madame Wang was a kind hearted person. Madame Wang might cause a ruckus but there was a reason why she kept losing to Mistress Lin, it’s because when it came down to it, Madame Wang always did the best she could for her family and her children, not herself. She accepted her punishment to be exiled for 10 years when she heard that her son 长柏 would give up his position at court to repent for her sins. Madame Wang’s sister, Madame Kang, totally didn’t do this. So, Madame Wang might not have been the most intelligent, but she was a loving mother.



Grandma Sheng


Finally, we have the MVP – Grandma Sheng. 


Woman chose to overcome her own hardships


Raised Ming Lan


Was always the protector for Ming Lan


I think to her credit -> she raised upstanding grandchildren.


Other people who thought about their children:

  1. Ming Lan’s mother
  2. Gu Ting Ye’s Grandfather
  3. Gu Ting Ye’s brother


This drama not only focused on history, it did also make me think about relationships. We learned what it meant to marry up or marry down for both men and women. Grandma Sheng mentioned that it’s important to marry at the same level or 门当户对。 While I don’t think that’s necessary and we see many examples in the drama where that doesn’t happen, recognizing the pitfalls of not marrying to a family of equal status both socially and economically are important factors for long term marital success. We learned how important family relationships through marriage are. [Expand]. 


For women, it’s important to recognize when to move on as was the case with Ming Lan and Qi Heng but also to recognize when a relationship is not meant to be. If your partner is not going to fight for you in the face of outside pressures, it’s important to look within yourself to see if that relationship is the one you want. 


Key Learnings -> History


Song Dynasty

  1. Like we said in the last episode, the Song Dynasty often gets sort of a bad rep due to the time period’s lack of military conquest. True, the Dynasty’s footprint might not have matched those of the Tang Dynasty before it nor the Ming and Qing Dynasties after it, the Song Dynasty’s culture and booming economy more than made up for it’s comparatively subdued military prowess. This is NOT to say that the Song Dynasty didn’t engage in military conquests, it’s just that culture and the economy eclipsed it.
  2. Let’s take a look at that economy. During the early years of the Sony Dynasty so 980 AD, its population was 37M people. By 1124 AD, that population grew to 126M. That was the first time the population surpassed 100M in China. This growth couldn’t have happened without a corresponding explosion in the economy. Even though agriculture still dominated the economy, it was during the Song Dynasty that trade and commerce truly began to flourish. In the south, tea, bamboo, lumber, and paper became top items for trade. The most coveted trading item though was silk. Robust supply chains and trade routes were established to satisfy the growing demands for silk. More and more people specialized in different trades such as porcelain and tea, which we saw much of in the drama. The Song Dynasty also boasted the use of the first paper currency in circulation


Episode 9 and 10


四大雅事 – 斗茶﹑插花﹑挂画, and 品香 


These are the ‘’Four Arts of Life’ — tea brewing, flower arranging, painting appreciation and incense burning that were viewed as favored pastimes during the Song Dynasty. 


Episode 21


炒 – Stir Fry! Well what is needed for stir fry – well a wok or 锅 and of course oil! The 锅 or woks were made of iron. 


东京梦华录 – The Eastern Capital: A Dream of Splendor, a travel book, first printed in 1187, which is roughly around 130 years after the events of this show. This book, consisting of 10 volumes, offers a fascinating first hand account of culture during the Song dynasty. It includes descriptions of urban life, restaurants, dishes, nightlife, and trade. The book clearly includes records of stir fry dishes. So we know that by this time in the Song dynasty, stir fry dishes were part of at least high society and culture. 


Imperial entrance exam




In the Song dynasty, there are 3 different examinations that a man must go through. They are respectively:


  1. 乡试 – the country exam
  2. 省试 – the provincial or metropolitan  exam
  3. 殿试 – the palace exam


Song Dynasty aristocracy


Ways of a woman


Proper etiquette -> women


Episode 23 + 24 – 淑兰

Divorce – 休妻 vs 和离


For a divorce or the more formal term is repudiation where a husband renounces the wife, the wife must have committed one of 7 acts. Chinese word is 休妻 for divorcing a wife. If the wife committed one of these 7 acts, then the husband has every right to divorce his wife. 


Separation, however, or 和离 is much milder. 和离 is where the man and woman exit the marriage contract and both sides are equal. This type of more equitable exit to the marriage first appeared in the Tang dynasty and is less ruinous to women than a divorce. 



Favorite characters



  1. Grandma Sheng
  2. Madame Wang
  3. Chang Mo Mo
  4. Kong Mo Mo
  5. Ming Lan




  1. Grandma Sheng
  2. Chang Bai
  3. MIng Lan
  4. GU TIng Ye 
  5. Madame Zhang


Favorite Actors / Actresses



Current Careers



All right! That wraps up our discussion of the story of Ming Lan. Let us know via email or social media what your thoughts were on the drama! This is a drama that I know I will continue to have on in the background as it’s simply comfort food now and maybe i’ll learn something we’ve missed in our recaps! 


Thank you all so much again for joining us on this journey! We have a fun slate ahead of us for our next podcast episodes so please do stay tuned and continue listening to us. It’s been an amazing ride and we look forward to creating additional episodes for you in the future!


The music you heard in this episode is the Chinese Zheng version of the main theme of the show. The sheet music is written by 玉面小嫣然 and played by Karen. 


If you have any questions or comments on the show or what was presented in today’s episode, please let us know.  Thank you all so much for listening!


Ep 73





Welcome back to Chasing Dramas! This is it, we are finally here at the drama finale of the Story of Ming Lan or 知否知否应是绿肥红瘦. We are your hosts, Karen and Cathy. If you’re listening to us for the first time on this episode, which, I don’t know why you would, I mean enjoy the spoilers? But definitely recommend starting from the beginning.


For today, we will talk about what happened in this final episode and dissect the twists and turns that come to a satisfying conclusion. We will also provide some historical context as to the real life counterpart of the events and finally round out the fates of our favorite characters by supplementing what happened in the book since the drama is not as explicit. 


Are you ready???


Last week, Within the span of a single episode, we saw 顾廷烨 sent off to war, then told from various sources that he perished in battle. Before we even blink at the tragedy, a bloody coup breaks out in the capital since all the capable generals have left the city unprotected. The two key points of the battle are 1) the imperial palace and 2) Ming Lan’s Cheng Gardens. Both places, as well as the rest of the capital, are under heavy attack by order of the Empress Dowager and her allies. Ming Lan is currently protecting her property and children from the onslaught of soldiers while Prince Huan is protecting his parents in the Imperial palace. 


However, at the very end of the episode, we see that Gu Ting Ye didn’t die. In fact, he’s waiting outside the capital with his friend, the State Uncle, with a number of troops. After a flare signal, they rush into the capital to fend off the rebelling soldiers. That is where we start episode 73, the last episode of this drama!



At the Cheng Gardens, the fight is extremely fierce. Ming Lan’s men are doing their best to fight off the rebel soldiers but the problem is that Ming Lan’s men are largely servants or private security whereas the opposing group are trained soldiers and there’s a larger number. No matter how well prepared Ming Lan’s side is, it’s still a tough fight. There’s fire and screams everywhere as the front gate is surrendered to the onslaught. Ming Lan grabs a dagger herself to try to protect herself but with no training, there’s not much she can do. Just as a rebel soldier was about to strike Ming Lan down, a timely arrow to the back stops him in his tracks. Gu Ting Ye and his men have arrived. 


Ming Lan is mightily relieved and cries into his arms when Gu Ting Ye approaches. She is not surprised at all that he’s alive but rather yells at him for being so late. Honestly, I would be upset too! She knew he was going to come back and she was prepared but still, this was not a funny joke! She almost did die! He tries to comfort her as his men come in and swiftly subdue the rebel soldiers. He’s all in a joking manner while she’s royally pissed off at him but he says he can’t stay. He must rush to save the Emperor. And so, he rushes into the palace.


The tides quickly turn as the State Uncle, 沈国舅 engage in fierce battle against the Empress Dowager’s men, or more accurately, Concubine Liu’s brother’s men. When support arrives in the form of Gu Ting Ye, the battle is decided. Concubine Liu, her brother and also one of the Emperor’s close eunuchs are tied and gagged while the Emperor and Empress walk out of their palace unfazed. Concubine Liu screams that it was the Empress Dowager who told her to revolt with her brother but the Emperor responds calmly that they should ask the Empress Dowager herself if she really said those things. 



We turn to the Empress Dowager. She is in her room with her head eunuch. She knows she lost and requests for her eunuch to provide her with poison. He is reluctant to do so and before they say much else, are visited by the Empress and the Emperor. In front of them, the Empress Dowager lets out her frustration at the new Emperor. Within a year of ascending the throne, he has engaged in war and wanted to call his father as well as the deceased emperor as the royal father. Both are disrespectful to the late emperor with whom the Empress dowager was married to for decades. But while she was full of hatred towards the new emperor, she never said she wanted to depose him. That comes as a shock to the bound and gagged Concubine Liu who shrieks outside as she is dragged away. 


And now, much to the Empress Dowager’s surprise, the Emperor reveals that everything they’ve done in the recent past was a counter against the Empress Dowager’s schemes. The Emperor and Empress knew from the beginning that his eunuch, 李内官, was telling everything to the Empress Dowager so they leveraged that knowledge to pass along everything they wanted her to hear. This goes back to, all the way back 30 episodes, when the Empress Dowager refused to give up the Imperial Seal to the Emperor so he could actually govern. Every outlandish and disrespectful thing Gu Ting Ye said and the Emperor’s own dislike for Gu Ting Ye was all an act to make the Empress Dowager believe there were chasms in their relationship. Additional lies include the Emperor’s own headaches and anger at his officials. The Emperor’s health is perfectly fine and he’s not actually angry at his allies. He just acted that way so that the Eunuch would pass this information along to the Empress Dowager and also Concubine Liu so they would act quickly. 


Furthermore, there was not actually any trouble at the border. This was only an excuse to pretend to need to bring Gu Ting Ye and other capable soldiers and generals out of the capital. Gu Ting Ye and Shen Guo Jiu remained hidden just outside the capital, ready to strike while the Duke of Ying actually did head out to the border to complete the ruse. After news traveled back to the Empress Dowager, her men were actually captured so they were working off false information. That is why this revolt was so easily quashed. 


The Empress Dowager is stunned and impressed at just how well the Emperor played the game. From the very beginning, she walked into his trap while thinking she was winning when in reality just got caught deeper into the bog. She willingly accepts death as punishment but to her surprise, is told that she is only being requested to move out of the palace to spend the rest of her days elsewhere. She readily agrees to leave the palace. 



Let’s chat about everything that just happened before we move onto the rest of the episode as it moves back to Ming Lan/Gu Ting Ye’s story. The conflict between the Emperor and the Empress Dowager is quite simple to understand. It’s the growing pains of a new regime. The Empress Dowager wants to preserve the old order established under her husband while the new Emperor wants to govern via his own methods. The drama takes some reference to history as the previous Emperor, 宋仁宗 was revered for his kindness. His pacifist ruling style is what I’m assuming the Empress Dowager and the captured eunuch were referring to about the late Emperor’s regime vs the new one. The Empress Dowager thought she had everything under control and could read the dynamics of court very easily because she had spies in the EMperor’s palace, but in reality, all of that was planted by the Emperor. This drama definitely requires multiple viewings to catch the swift glances between characters to showcase that there was something spoken on purpose. There were many instances where the Emperor was supposedly angry at Gu Ting Ye or other officials and the Empress would note how the Emperor’s headache flared up. Only for the Emperor to say, oh yea, my headache. That was all for the Eunuch’s benefit to then pass along the Empress Dowager. In those scenes, you will see the camera cut to this Eunuch even though he is just standing silently on the side. 


Similarly, Gu Ting Ye was “in” on many of his punishments because the results had too many glaring holes. He was sent to jail after the Wang family, Madame Qin, Bai Da Lang and Man Niang came to court except his sentence was rather hasty. Furthermore, as I noted in episode 70, his jail cell was way too comfortable for someone who was in prison for a murder crime. I’m assuming that the palace didn’t actually want him to suffer too badly. And similarly, while he was in prison, Gu Ting Ye didn’t care about his current predicament, but rather that his wife caused a scene at the Empress’s palace. If any regular person was in prison for murder, I doubt they’d have the energy to spare to think about that. But only because he was in on it that he didnt’ care what situation he was in. 



All of the schemes culminated in the last episode where the men were sent off to war. What was rather peculiar about the last episode was that the Emperor explicitly told Prince Huan to remain in the palace, rather than accompany the State Uncle and Gu Ting Ye to the border. That to me was also carefully planned because the Emperor wanted to have at least some level of protection in the palace. Indeed, during the coup, Prince Huan had the capability of rallying troops and defending his parents’ palace from immediate threat. 


Now something rather confusing was ultimately the relationship between Concubine Liu and the Empress Dowager. Concubine Liu believed that the Empress Dowager wanted to depose the current Emperor and in exchange for her and her brother’s help in doing so, would name her son as Emperor. The Empress Dowager denies this in front of the Emperor. For me, this shows that the Empress Dowager still is a master tactician. She never left any physical evidence of her inclinations and left people to act on what they thought was her will. The Empress Dowager just never made any comment otherwise if it was indeed what she wanted. This was the case with Concubine Liu, as well as Madame Qin and the Wang family. 



Speaking of these people, let’s turn back to Madame Qin. The shouts and screams have calmed down in the capital but she and her maid, Xiang Ma Ma think it’s because the Empress Dowager has succeeded. Only for her son, 顾廷炜, to run over exclaiming happily that his brother has returned! He’s alive! In an instant, Madame Qin’s jaw drops and she gasps for a few moments before figuring out that there was never any conflict on the border and that this whole thing was a ruse. At this moment, she completely snaps. She screams in despair that she plotted her entire life for her son but he is no where near as capable as 顾廷烨. She hates the fact that she, who comes from a noble family, raised a son that cannot do anything. This is a woman who’s entire life just shattered before her eyes. She finally understood that everything that’s happened with the Empress Dowager and Gu Ting Ye was fake. They lost. 


She screams at her servants to tie her son up and throw him into a dried well. They do as she screams and he is tossed in. Meanwhile, she stumbles her way over to the Gu family shrine. In some of the best acting in the drama, Madame Qin, 秦大娘子, tosses everything in the shrine and starts a fire. Gu Ting Ye was summoned by Xiang Mama to save Ting Wei and the group, plus Ming Lan rush over to the shrine to see Madame Qin amidst the roaring flames. She screams at Ting Wei for getting out of the well and also at Gu Ting Ye for being alive. After all the times he told her to join an acting troupe, he is the one who should be in that troupe. And then, at last, she screams out her pain she suffered her entire life. Her sister, a kind hearted person, was pushed aside for the Bai family by the Gu family in order to preserve themselves. The Gu family destroyed her sister, the Bai family and her. She acted her entire life in this household. At the end, she wants to finally live as herself. With those final words, she dives headfirst, I’m assuming to ram her head before the flames consume her. And with that, the formidable Madame Qin passes away. 



Well – All’s well that ends well and the key characters get a satisfying resolution. We get a scene where the Wang family head, son of Grandma Wang, and brother to the deceased Aunt Kang and Madame Wang, has been sentenced and is dragged off as a prisoner. We are assuming he has been sentenced for his crimes in conjunction with the coup amongst other things. It’s not fully clear but we’ll take it as the Wang family paid for their crimes.


After this brutal conflict, court affairs have calmed down. The Emperor’s wheat harvest is bountiful and he shares his hard grown supply with Gu Ting Ye and Ming Lan, as well as the Empress Dowager who is enjoying her days outside the palace, raising Concubine Liu’s son, Yong’er. It’s assumed that his mother, Concubine Liu is either imprisoned or killed. 


As for Qi Heng, after everything that’s happened, he has seen what he should truly appreciate in front of him. On a lovely evening walk with his wife, Madame Shen, he tells her that she, is his future and that they are going to spend the rest of their days together. 


In the drama’s closing scene, there is a family gathering at the Gu family shrine. The Sheng family have arrived to help the Gu family restore the shrine that was destroyed and the harmonious scene couldn’t be more infectious. While creating new plaques, Ming Lan explains to her father that the Empress told her what they were planning after she passed out outside the palace walls in episode 71. This is why Ming Lan loudly proclaimed that all was lost and acted out in a crazy manner after leaving the palace. She needed the entire capital to hear that she had lost faith for the Empress Dowager’s people to believe that there was no chance for forgiveness for Gu TIng Ye. The look on her father’s face when she tells him about this is hilarious. He cannot believe that this scheme took place and was at such a large scale. But he continues that after all of this, everyone’s better days are ahead of them. 



Indeed, through everyone’s hard work, Ming Lan and Gu Ting Ye are able to look forward to happy and peaceful days ahead. In this wonderful closing scene, let me recount who all is around to share in this peaceful and jovial gathering. 


On the Sheng family side, Ming Lan’s siblings, Hua Lan, her husband, Chang Bai, and Chang Feng are all around to help restore the shrine. 如兰 is making tea with her husband outside. On the Gu family side, Gu Ting Ye’s brother’s widow plays with one of the children with Chang Bai’s wife, Madame Hai. Her daughter, 娴姐 and Gu Ting Ye’s daughter 蓉姐 are playing amicably nearby as well. Gu Ting Ye’s younger brother, 廷炜 is also in the shrine helping the Sheng family relatives out. The biggest surprise is actually seeing 墨兰 arrive. Last we saw was her getting put in her place in front of her husband after been exposed of the trickery she used to marry him. But, this time, there’s a really big change in her. It’s just a few quick scenes where she arrives to also see Grandma Sheng who is thankfully healthy and alive but it’s evident Mo Lan is a changed woman. She is much more respectful and deferential in front of Ming Lan and Grandma Sheng. Her clothing choice has also changed. In the past, she has generally worn bright hues but today, she chose to wear black and white or 墨色, which stands for ink colored clothing. This matches with her name very well but also reflects that she has calmed down from her attention seeking days. We can only guess how much she has suffered at home but hopefully this means she has learned the error of her ways and will now be a loving member of her own family. The only person missing is Madame Wang, who is still in You Yang. 


To round out the happy endings, Shi Tou helps his pregnant wife, Xiao Tao up as they prepare to head off to eat. With the doting family all gathered around, Ming Lan and Gu Ting Ye express how glad they are to enjoy these peaceful days together. With that, the husband and wife pair head off to eat. 


The end. 









These lines are spoken by the Emperor in front of his wheat field.


These actually come from the poem called 打麦 or Threshing Wheat, written by the Northern Song Dynasty poet 张舜shùn民. The full poem has 14 stanzas and describes the difficulties of farmers to harvest the wheat and to bring it to the table. 


The specific lines in the poem can be translated as such

When the crop ripens, the farmers quickly harvest the wheat. But they also need to plant the seeds for next year’s crops. Bountiful years are few and far between yet meager years are common. The farmer must toil endlessly but what can he do?


The last two stanzas of the poem go like this

将此打麦词, 兼作插禾歌


Take this threshing poem as your planting song


Now, let’s say the year is around the mid 1060s. It is true that the author 张舜shùn民 succeeded in his imperial exams and became a 进士 in 1065 during the reign of 宋神宗, however, it’s unknown when he wrote this poem specifically. 



Ok – now onto the history of our real life characters!


宋英宗 – the Emperor here. There’s a decent amount of difference between the historical character and the show. The drama of course also had to bring everything together from a book perspective so I’m totally cool with these changes. 


宋英宗 or 赵曙 only reigned for around 4 years, from 1063 to 1067. He died when he was only 35.  We’ve talked about him at length before so I won’t go too much into detail. His main claim to fame during his reign was the big split between naming his birth father his father instead of the Emperor. 宋英宗 was a sickly man and fell ill several times during his reign. His prime ministers supported him but at times Empress Dowager 曹 died act as regent when the Emperor was ill.



Empress Dowager 曹 – In this drama Empress Dowager Cao is portrayed as the villain in the second act. I think villain is too harsh a word because she was preserving what her husband built so I do understand where her anger and hatred for the new Emperor stems from. In the drama, she enacts this coup to try to overthrow the Emperor whereas in history, she actually had a great relationship with the adoptive son of her husband. Because 曹皇后 or Empress Dowager Cao never had children, she understood her role was to foster and help the new Emperor. We also have to commend her for the fact that she stayed in power for so long without children as we all know how important children are to a woman’s status. 


Cao Huang Hou is a woman that perfectly fits the word of 贤惠 or virtuous, supporting her husband as Empress for 28 years before becoming regent for their adoptive son. As mentioned, 宋英宗 only reigned for a few years and Empress Dowager Cao actually helped rule while he was ill. When He passed and the power went on to his son, she continued to help rule. But, unlike many other Empress Dowagers and what was portrayed in the show, she relinquished power when she was no longer needed to rule. That attitude is rather rare even in the dramas we see today which is why she fits the word for virtuous quite well. She died at the age of 64 in 1079年11月16日. 



For me growing up, the 宋 dynasty never got as much notice. Mainly because many of the shows were around the Qing Dynasty but also because the focus of the 宋 dynasty was around its failures to keep invaders at bay. The Song Dynasty was generally looked down upon due to its lack of military prowess and the fact that it was defeated soundly by the Mongols. What I love about this drama is that it really showcases what a powerhouse the 宋 dynasty was during its heyday. It was an economically and culturally advanced society! During its time, the estimated gross domestic product was 3x as much as that of the whole of Europe. This show gives us that glimpse into that world. We never really got that before this show with such life and beauty and I’m so glad it did.



Now, onto book differences!


As i mentioned last week, the drama quickly resolves several plot lines by mashing them together. It works to an extent. 顾廷烨 doesn’t return in time to save Ming Lan. She handles it by herself and figures it out that 顾廷烨 wasn’t truly in danger. 顾廷烨 stays out west to stamp out the book Empress Dowager’s strongholds. He returns to tell Ming Lan about the fate of 曼娘. She goes crazy. They finally have a heart to heart and become a blissfully married couple. Madame Qin doesn’t die in a fire but later. The book empress dowager, also doesn’t die, but is sent away to live out her years.


Book endings for each person – these all are explained in the epilogue chapters or i guess you would call side stories of the book. We focus on different characters rather than 明兰 and 顾廷烨.


Let’s start with 明兰 and 顾廷烨!


The couple essentially lived happily ever after. 顾廷烨 offered to be stationed in the 蜀地, which is now modern day 四川. Of course 明兰 went with him. They essentially stayed there for the remainder of their years, living a fun and relaxing life. They had 4 sons. 明兰 became a legendary figure amongst the women in the capital and of the younger generation of 盛 family girls. No one could quite figure out how 明兰 was so successful. Of course, in the book, she time traveled from a different time so that might have been it.


Let’s talk about their sons! They aren’t actually given names in the book so i’ll just go in order


The eldest – stately and proper, he is most similar to his father without the worst of his traits. 


The second – he was one of the most handsome men in the Empire but alas, followed in his uncle 盛长柏’s footsteps of being a taciturn yet brilliant statesman. 


Both the eldest and second eldest of the 顾 children entered court and became staples of court.


The third son decided to head off east and travel the seas


The youngest son, seeing that his brother turned eastwards, chose to travel westward. During his travels, he chronicled his experiences and wrote an encyclopedia recounting his travels. When he was around 40, he caught the eye of a foreign princess and married into the royal family.



Let’s now cover the 盛 family! The men first!


First is the master of the family 盛纮. He continues his calculated expansion of power for his family and rises to a member of court of the second rank before retiring, which is quite good for him. He stays married to Madame Wang but of course she’s banished for ten years. He has other concubines at the house but no one as crazy as Mistress Lin. 


盛长柏 – the awesome older brother.


In the book, he actually spent most of his time outside of the capital. He was stationed elsewhere. He rose steadily through the ranks to become prime minister and was a critical member of court for two reigns. His students were spread all across the empire. He had 4 sons, 3 of them did pretty well but his youngest was the black sheep of the family. When 长柏 died, the Emperor ordered two princess to carry his casket to his final burial place. 



Mr. 盛长枫 finally did pass his imperial entrance exams and became an official at court. He had several children. His wife Madame 柳 basically saved his butt multiple times. His wife and the sheng family finally made him see the light regarding Mistress Lin and he stopped trying to bring her back into the family. Remember, in the book, she doesn’t die.


盛长栋 – he only shows up in the book. He does quite well for himself too and passes the imperial entrance exams. He married a daughter of the 沈 family that is somewhat related to the state uncle.



Now, onto the ladies!


Grandma Sheng

In the book, Grandma Sheng doesn’t stay in the capital after the events of her poisoning, instead, she joins 盛长柏 and his wife while they head away for his posts. She lived a very long and healthy life. She lived so long that she was still alive when 明兰 became a grandmother herself! 明兰 constantly fought with 盛长柏 on taking care of Grandma sheng, but 明兰 always lost that battle.


Now onto 盛华兰 – the eldest sister!


We don’t really see the hardships she suffered in her marriage but let’s just say, she was one smart cookie and successfully turned it around. Her main obstacle was her pretty evil mother in law. 华兰 and her husband became a very loving couple. She was still having kids in her 40s! I think that’s 4. We know she had at least 1 daughter and 2 sons. Her eldest daughter 庄姐儿 married a very successful general and had many kids.


As for 墨兰


It’s not quite the same as in the drama. Her husband 梁晗 never finds out about the treachery so they have a relatively stable relationship. She has 5 daughters, yes 5 daughters. She did have a few miscarriages though of sons, so I guess the author just didn’t want her to be too successful. All of her daughters married low though. 


Lastly we have 如兰


She had a pretty loving relationship with her husband, though probably not as happy as 明兰 and 华兰. She had a son and a daughter. 明兰 was super jealous of 如兰 because 明兰 wanted at least one daughter, but all she got were sons. 如兰 in the book, really grew up. She learned from her mothers mistakes and was able to maintain a healthy marriage with her husband. It’s not to say that she didn’t have to accept concubines but at least no one was as terrible as Mistress Lin



Now let’s talk about the rest of the 顾 family!


顾廷炜 – he did not come out of the story well at all. He was actually one of the main culprits in leading the band of thieves to the Cheng gardens. Seeing that his men were going to lose, he fled for the forests. Unfortunately for him, 顾廷烨’s men and other captains chased after him, ultimately killing him. For his crimes, his entire side of the family was stripped of titles. His children all died of the plague. This side of the family became depleted.


Madame Qin

After hearing the death of her son and her grandchildren, she fell ill and ultimately died. There was a lot more that happened in the book, in which she ruined another woman. This woman, seeking revenge, was the one who smuggled in plague infested clothes and gave it to 顾廷炜’s children, killing them. 


As for 娴姐儿, the daughter of 顾廷烨’s older brother, she married the son of the House of Liang. So that would actually be 墨兰’s nephew by marriage. This son would inherit the title. The countess of the house of Liang herself asked for this marriage. The book doesn’t tell us how well the marriage went but let’s just say that the House of Liang had enough happening in the book. 娴姐儿 was intelligent enough but she might be in for a spell of hardship to deal with that family. For her marriage, her two cousins, so 明兰’s two oldest sons returned to represent her family.


Next up is 蓉姐儿!

This young lady married 常嬷嬷’s grandson. She was very favored by 明兰 because obviously, 蓉姐儿 saved her son. 常嬷嬷’s grandson also had a very good career ahead of him. He passed his imperial entrance exams and became a favored member of court. For 蓉姐儿’s marriage, 明兰 personally returned from 四川 to manage everything.


I won’t talk about the rest of the 顾 family – there’s a lot more that happens in the book but it’s not worth repeating here.



Now onto the Wang family!


The Wang family were turned into the evil family in the drama, it’s not quite the case in the book. The main black sheep is still Madame Kang. 


Madame Wang serves her 10 years back at the old family of 宥阳. She comes back and helps raise some of 长柏’s kids, mainly the one that didn’t turn out so well. Ah well.


Madame Kang is sent into prison for the rest of her life. She has a daughter 康允儿 that still tries to get her out. 康允儿 is married to the Sheng family and she’s basically burning up all her good will with trying to get her mother out. At this point in the book, even the Sheng family won’t help her. At least the Sheng family likes 康允儿, Madame Kang’s other daughter 康元儿, who is most similar to her mother, basically is sidelined by her mother in law and lives a rather miserable life for the remainder of her life.



And now on to some other characters


贺弘文 – he marries later in life and has a son and wife. His wife also had a previous engagement. Although they don’t love each other, they live a tranquil life together. 贺弘文’s annoying cousin is still in the picture but 贺弘文’s wife is more than capable of handling her.


小桃 – 明兰’s maid marries 石头 and they have several children. The side story is so hilarious because she just does what she’s told by her sister-in-law and is like – I’d like to return back to Madame Ming Lan later in life. 石头 gets SO pissed because he’s like, are you wishing me dead?!


Madame Zhang – she surprisingly has like 6 kids with the State Uncle or 沈从兴. She always wanted a small quiet yard but that didn’t happen with all the kids running around. 


As for the despicable mistress 邹, she was somewhat successful in trying to divide the 沈 family but she was finally thrown to pray in a temple for years until one of the 沈从兴’s youngest daughter 沈玉珠 from his first marriage decided to bring her back to her family and support her.



Finally – let’s talk about 齐衡.


The drama really gives him a happily ever after. He’s not so lucky in the book. He married 3 times. Madame 申 gives birth to twins. Shortly after though, she travels with the children to find 齐衡 while he is stationed elsewhere. Unfortunately all three of them die on the road due to plague. For his third marriage, he married a granddaughter of a princess. However, she also died after giving birth to 2 sons. After that, he never married again and raised his sons by himself. One day, he heads to 盛长柏’s house after returning from his posts away. He sees one of 盛长柏’s granddaughters. She is also ranked number 6, is 庶出 and unfavored by her father. Her father is the black sheep of 盛长柏’s sons that I mentioned before. After a few years, 齐衡 asks for this granddaughter’s hand in marriage for his second grandson. Despite 盛长柏’s initial hesitation, he finally agrees. The two get married and live a happy and bountiful life. On his deathbed, 齐衡 gifts his most treasured possession to this granddaughter. She opens it to see the clay dolls that have yellowed due to age. She finds the dolls have on it 盛小六 and 齐小二. The nicknames that 齐衡 once gave himself and 盛明兰. 盛明兰 rejected 齐衡 but he kept these dolls till his dying day. With this new generation,  盛小六 and 齐小二 are finally together happily ever after.


I really like the side chapter for 齐衡. I guess it’s just wish fulfillment that in our main story, 盛小六 and 齐小二 never made it but a different generation was able to.




When we started out this podcast journey, there were really only two dramas that I wanted to discuss in this detail. One is Empresses in the Palace and two is The Story of Ming Lan. The story of Ming Lan is a drama that is more reflective of every day life and many of the lessons learned and portrayed in the drama I have taken to heart. It is a drama that I return to often to remind myself how to be more like Ming Lan.


This drama does a wonderful job of showcasing to us what the world was like during the Song dynasty and what kinds of challenges both men and women faced during this time. In Empresses in the Palace, we were introduced to the concept of the children born of the wife and children born of concubines. That poses its challenges in the royal family but similarly poses problems for lesser families.


What I think is valuable in this drama is that each person’s character is so full of life and also understandable. We understand why Ming Lan is the way she is, as well as Mo Lan, Qi Heng, Gu Ting Ye and others. Escalating beyond the conflicts of the Gu and Sheng family, we understood why the conflicts between the Emperor and Empress Dowager happened.  



Ep 72


Welcome Back to Chasing Dramas! This is the podcast that discusses Chinese culture history, through the lens of historical chinese dramas. I am your host today, Karen. Today we are discussing episode 72 of the Story of Ming Lan or 知否知否应是绿肥红瘦。Can you believe this! This is the second to last episode of the series.


Here’s the game plan for today’s episode. I will do a drama episode recap But there are so many themes and drama analysis to dissect that we will do at least another episode after the finale to wrap things up. I do feel that today is going to be a lot of plot recap because honestly too many things are happening so I will do my best to explain it but then stay tuned for the next 2 episodes where we flesh out more of our thoughts. 


The pacing on this episode is rather challenging and the plot moves at random fast paces so it’s like blink and you miss out on what exactly just happened.


So, we start out the episode with Ming Lan back at the Cheng Gardens after a draining last couple of days. Madame Qin and her maid, Xiang Ma Ma, are mirthlessly pleased that Ming Lan is weak which signals she’s not long for the world. At least for Ming Lan, her close family have arrived to keep watch of her. It’s quite sweet. Her grandmother is there, her 2nd brother 长柏, her father and her stepdaughter, 蓉姐 are all helping watch her and her son. 明兰 advises her father and brother to stay home from court these few days to avoid any unnecessary drama which they agree to. Xiang Mama appears shortly after to request Ming Lan’s presence in front of Madame Qin. The real motive for this visit is to see exactly how weak Ming Lan is with their own eyes. Ming Lan, though, does start coughing a lot more after she arrives and speaks more weakly compared to literally moments before.  This 向妈妈 is rather rude to Ming Lan and is promptly cussed out by every other person in the room to get out. Even 蓉姐 is quite stern with her saying the they do not welcome her. 向妈妈 is ultimately chased out of the room by Ming Lan’s father 盛纮 which was absolutely hilarious but effective none the less. Might I dare say that he is now more attentive to his daughter after her direct conversation with him a few episodes back? Perhaps he is now recognizing that he should make up for not helping Ming Lan while she was growing up.


So at this point, there’s nothing much for Ming Lan to do. Ultimately, Gu Ting Ye is going to be exiled after the fall so they can just sit tight. It doesn’t seem like the palace cares for the crimes of Madame Wang or even the death of Aunt Kang, but rather that they just want to get rid of 顾廷烨。


This level of calm is promptly shattered as news travels from the western border that war is breaking out. That night, the Emperor is evaluating next steps with a cohort of trusted advisors including the Duke of Ying, Prime Minister Han and Prince Huan. They were expecting military conflict but just not so soon and they are currently figuring out who best to send to the front lines. Prince Huan suggests sending Gu Ting Ye. He knows the lay of the land and is a brilliant general. Why not send him out?


The next day at court, the support for releasing Gu Ting Ye on the condition that he can provide service to the empire rises. The Emperor pushes back on why it has to be Gu Ting Ye. Is there no one else in the capital that can rise to the occasion? But at this critical juncture of national security, even the Wang family is willing to allow Gu Ting Ye to head off for war. And so, it is decided that Gu Ting Ye would join the army out west where he is to be demoted to a lowly foot soldier, rather than have any military command. 


As the army heads out, Ming Lan and 蓉姐 tearfully send him off to who knows what challenges he’ll experience.


But why on earth did the Wang family allow Gu Ting Ye to leave the capital? Luckily we have Madame Qin and 向妈妈 explain this for us while they were at the Gu family shrine. With Gu Ting Ye locked up in prison, he is still ultimately near the Emperor and has numerous friends to help him. But the moment he is sent out to the border, who knows what his personal safety will be like? No one can ensure that he will remain safe so it’s better for him to be sent off than to remain in the capital. 


Sure enough, we hear news shortly after that the elite forces that headed out west have all perished. The Emperor is utterly shocked to hear the news and passes out. Ming Lan is also told by her friend, Madame Zhang that Gu Ting Ye’s group of troops have disappeared without a trace. Everyone is devastated to hear the news that they may have been killed in battle. 


And now, the stage is set for the final confrontation. In 15 min or so we had Gu Ting Ye sent off to war and also killed. Now, Ming Lan has to deal with the aftermath.


One night, Ming Lan is awoken by her maids that a eunuch from the palace is here with a royal decree. It is hugely important to focus on Ming Lan’s first reaction to hearing this news. SHe first asks if it’s from the Empress. For folks that watched the next episode, this reaction is very telling as she is waiting for news from the Empress. But no, she is told that the eunuch who arrived is a stranger. Ming lan heads to her main hall where the eunuch requests that she head to the palace immediately because the Empress has important matters to discuss. Ming Lan easily sees through the fact that he is not actually a eunuch from the Empress’s palace and has this group detained. She immediately orders her staff to send messages across the capital that there are imposters looking to hold family members hostage at court and to not fall for these tricks. 


In case anyone needs an explanation on what might be happening, let’s recall the last coup that happened. In the drama, it’s not really discussed post coup but it’s referred to as 申辰之乱。 Concubine Rong partnered with Prince Yan and gathered up a number of royal relatives and family members of military officials. Those women were then held hostage in the capital to prevent the military officials from sending troops for fear of hurting their family. That’s what is taking place now. But, Ming Lan is prepared. She’s seen this happen before and isn’t afraid.


Soon after, the killings start. Military officials start slaughtering other people and soldiers in the street as a bloody fight erupts in the capital. We are also treated to a scene where a woman is paying off her debt. Ok this was SUPER confusing in the drama because they gave literally no explanation as to what was happening. The woman in this scene is 魏行首。She’s the prostitute who is a close friend of Gu Ting Ye. In this scene, she is giving what is clearly the mother of the brothel all the money she’s gathered in exchange for her deed as a prostitute. Once she has it in her hand, she promptly rips it apart to show that she is a free woman. She, along with a man whom we assume is her lover, then quickly flee off into the night. Just other people are being slaughtered in the street, she had a carriage waiting for her to help take her and her lover to safety. I will touch on this later on in the podcast episode.


With chaos in the streets, the families we care about are seeking shelter or else preparing for battle. Madame ZHang in particular is a total badass as she orders her servants to step up to fight against anyone who dares cross into her property. I mentioned this earlier, but the focus for this round up is MILITARY families. The Sheng family see all the chaos on the streets but with clear guidance from 盛长柏, they are able to avoid attack. This is also because the Sheng family is primarily a scholar family. They hold no military power and are thus no threat to whoever is attacking the Capital. The primary target for all of the chaos though, is at the Cheng gardens where Ming Lan currently is. WIthin her property, she has her own set of troops ready for battle as she is being attacked both from the main entrance and from the back where Xiang Mama let in numerous assassin’s from the Gu Property to do damage to Ming Lan and company.


Fortunately, Ming Lan is prepared. She even has a chair set up so she can command the action. The soldiers outside her house shout that they’ve been told by the Emperor to escort Ming Lan into the palace for safety but as I explained earlier, that is a plot to hold her hostage or kill her. When those soldiers try to rush into the property, they are met with a shower of arrows and are forced to retreat. Meanwhile, the assassin’s that snuck in from the back were also ambushed by Ming Lan’s men who were expecting them. Another bloody fight breaks out in the Cheng gardens. 


The main perpetrators of this revolt reveal themselves shortly after. It is concubine liu along with her brother who commands the safety of the imperial palace. They, along with the Empress Dowager, it seems, want to change who is in power. Before the brother and sister pair can rush into the Imperial quarters to force the Emperor to step down, they must receive a decree from the Empress Dowager. Concubine Liu hurriedly heads off to meet the Empress Dowager to get it so they can finally take power.


The fight rages on across the capital and in the Cheng gardens. The soldiers couldn’t break through the doors but are now working to scale over the walls. Unfortunately, another menacing figure has made her way into the property. She is none other than 朱曼娘。She was let into the property by 向妈妈 and she has made her way to where 蓉姐 and 团哥 are currently hiding with 常嬷嬷。Zhu Man Niang who is still full of vengeance is here to kill 团哥, Ming Lan and Gu Ting Ye’s son. She first pushes 常嬷嬷 away and even screams at 蓉姐 for protecting 团哥. Honestly, this mother is one of the worst I’ve seen on screen. She goes so far as throwing  蓉姐 down to the ground where she hits her head. That could have been a really bad fall for  蓉姐 but her mother doesn’t care. All she cares about is killing 团哥. In the last moment before she strikes with her dagger, she is knocked down by the MVP 常嬷嬷 who hit 朱曼娘 over the head a few times. She falls to the ground, dead. This was quite difficult to watch because of how crazy 朱曼娘 acted in the scene. She almost killed her own daughter to kill 团哥. In many other tv shows, a fall like the one 蓉姐儿 experienced would instantly kill someone. I held my breath for the entire thing.


Immediately afterwards, Ming Lan and her servants rush over to help the crying 蓉姐 off the ground. Understandably she is upset at seeing her mother killed in front of her but there’s no time to lose. 明兰 must protect these two children. Instead of running, she tells her group to lock them in a hidden chamber. That way, they will be safe. 


They make their way over to the hidden chamber and situate the children plus Chang Mo Mo and Shi Tou who remain to make sure they are safe. And in a scene where I tear up literally every time I see it, 蓉姐 cries out for Ming Lan to stay with her. Not only does she try to grab Ming Lan to stay with her, 蓉姐 calls Ming Lan 母亲, the word for mother. 明兰 is shocked to hear this because 蓉姐 has always just called 明兰 大娘子 or Madame. This reflects that 蓉姐 finally sees Ming Lan as her mother. Rong Jie continues to cry out that it’s not safe outside and they should be together as a family. Ming Lan is so touched but says that don’t worry, Mother is here to protect you. Omg…. who wouldn’t cry at this scene. Especially since 蓉姐 just lost her actual mother but that mother did nothing for Rong jie. I feel like 蓉姐 finally recognizes who in her life actually cares about her. And it was certainly not her birth mother. Unfortunately, I do feel that 蓉姐 probably needs some therapy after seeing her mother brutally try to murder her brother and then was ultimately murdered herself.


The episode ends with an absolutely, at least to me, hilarious scene. More fighting across the capital continues to break out with numerous individuals slaughtered. Even the Empress and Emperor are surrounded in the palace. But what’s this? 顾廷烨 and 沈国舅 along with a number of troops are waiting outside the capital! Clearly he didn’t die and is not a foot soldier any more. They see the city burning but are ready to come in as, with a flare that lights up the night sky, 顾廷烨 and company storm into the capital. This is perfect timing as rebel soldiers had rounded up Prime Minister Han and his family outside on the streets. They are being told to head to the palace but Prime Minister Han is resisting. Not allowing this to continue further, the rebel soldiers order the Prime Minister be executed. Just before the soldier strikes, he is shot by Gu Ting Ye and his men who rush by.  The entire crowd is in shock that Gu Ting Ye is alive. Isn’t he supposed to be dead? Rebel soldiers were surprised to see his return and also lay down their arms. My reading of this is that maybe those soldiers were lied to about Gu Ting Ye’s death and thus joined the revolt but didn’t actually want to. In any case, Gu Ting Ye and company rush into the capital with the Prime Minister yelling after him of WHAT IS HAPPENING!!!! Importantly though, even the prime minister refers to Gu Ting Ye as Marqui Gu or 顾侯。


Ok – That was the episode recap but let’s go through what happened in the second half of the episode. Ultimately, it’s the Empress Dowager’s attempt to seize power away from the current Emperor. With the military engagement out west, there’s no one left in the capital to protect the Emperor. Thus, the Empress Dowager leveraged Concubine Liu and her brother who has military command of the palace to seize control by force. It is also evident that the Empress Dowager has conspired with Madame Qin in this plot because, and this is important, Madame Qin knew when to let assassins into the residence who didn’t attack her at all and you will have noticed scenes where Madame Qin’s servants were filling large pots with water along the walls of their property. Clearly, she knew that there was going to be fire breaking out in the capital and she was preparing herself for it. 


Now let’s chat briefly about Wei Hang Shou, the prostitute. Her connection was never fully explained in the drama which is problematic since it leaves loose ends, but our reading is that she was paid a handsome sum of money for intel. And the intel for whom? The Empress Dowager – are we sure? I thought that wei hang shou was with gu ting ye? – check this research out. It makes more sense that she’s a spy for 顾廷烨


We will explain more of this in the next episode as we dissect why Gu Ting Ye was alive but that is the only way it made sense fo r Wei Hang Shou to know exactly when to prepare to escape the brothel. She must have been tipped off or at least was in the know of the revolt that was going to happen. Otherwise, the timing was too perfect. 


Lastly, let me discuss again why it was so important to round up the important military families and royal family to the Imperial Palace once again. The book also goes into more details about this. The current plan of course is to install Concubine Liu’s son as Emperor. This means deposing the current Emperor AND killing his son Prince Huan. However, to do so, the Empress Dowager needs to make sure that she controls the military. The news of 顾廷烨’s death was a trigger. The Emperor has lost his strongest military supporters. Believing that the Emperor is severely weakened, the Empress Dowager decided to seize this opportunity to storm the capital. Then she moved to lock up all of the military families. With their wives and children taken hostage, the military generals left alive, who just so happen to wield power the military, will think twice about attacking the capital. Lastly, with all the military generals held at bay, the armies that the Empress Dowager do control will be a great enough threat for the scholar officials to “validate” the legitimacy of the new Emperor (concubine Liu’s son). The scholar officials won’t be happy about it but they’ll do it because well, look at Prime Minister Han. He was about to be killed out on the streets if he didn’t comply. This was a very well thought out plot and it moved VERY swiftly this episode. We’ll discuss more about the aftermath in the next episode but I wanted to discuss the overall plot here to clarify some questions that viewers might have.


Ok – let’s move onto culture. There’s not much today because it was very plot heavy. So let’s talk about the one item we have.


Early in the episode, when the Emperor and his advisors discuss the threats along the border, they never actually specify who or which group they were going to fight. The Emperor mentioned a new ruler that was only 17. I did a check and comparison of the main rival kingdoms during the time of around 1065 to check who it could be. We have the Emperor 耶律洪基 of the Liao Empire to the north. However, he ascended the throne in 1055 and was in his mid 30s during the time of this show. So he’s most likely not the right person.. We also have Emperor 李谅liang4祚qi3 of 西夏国. He was most likely who the Emperor in our show was referencing because he was indeed only around 17-18 in 1065. He became Emperor at the age of 1 in 1048 but the Empress Dowager acted as regent. In 1056, the Empress Dowager was killed and the boy’s uncle served as regent. This uncle plotted to kill him but was exposed and executed in 1061. There were some skirmishes with the Song Dynasty but this Emperor, 李谅liang4祚qi3 focused a lot on expanding diplomatic relations with the powerful neighbors to his east and north. Namely, the Song and Liao Dynasties.


Finally, let’s move onto book similarities and differences. There’s a lot!! The drama makes its way back to and weaves itself again to coincide with much of the book. Which means I can also spend a decent amount to discuss book similarities, differences, and my thoughts on these decisions!


First off, 顾廷烨 was never sent to prison in the books so he never lost his title or status. The Emperor did send him away to the western front to fight against neighboring invaders. In the book, he was also paired with the Duke of Ying but he was sent as part of the vanguard or advanced guard, not as a foot soldier. 


Because 顾廷烨 was still a Marquis when he left, the implications for 明兰 were also different. When news traveled that he might have died, the worry for Ming Lan was that there might be additional punishment passed down to the family. As long as 顾廷烨 didn’t commit treason, then, Ming Lan and their children would be relatively safe. At this point in the book, Ming Lan is actually heavily pregnant with their second child. Ming Lan’s son 团哥 would still inherit the title of Marquis. This also meant that Madame Qin wasn’t openly gloating about 顾廷烨’s death because the Marquis title wouldn’t pass to her son. For that to happen, Ming Lan and her son also needed to be killed, which brings us back to the drama in which Madame Qin plotted to kill Ming Lan when 顾廷烨 was supposedly dead. 


This brings us to the coup. At the beginning, the events in the book and drama are pretty similar with the fact that a eunuch from the palace was sent to summon 明兰 and she discovered the ruse. In the book, she did send word to other families as a warning against entering the palace and prepared for the attack of her home. 


Now here’s where the differences come in. In the book, Ming Lan already hid her son in a very safe location. 蓉姐 wasn’t with her brother. She was instead placed safely with Madame Shao, 顾廷烨’s older brother’s widow and mother to 娴姐儿. This wasn’t because she didn’t care for 蓉姐, but because Ming Lan wanted to split the potential targets. Unfortunately, someone did tattle on 团哥’s location and almost had disastrous consequences. The culprit specifically is one of 明兰’s maids. She spilled the hiding place to one of Ming Lan’s sister-in-law’s maid’s / concubines. This concubine in the book was in league with Madame Qin. The concubine then “persuaded” Madame Shao to take the young girls to the hiding location of 团哥, which then allowed her to lead bandits into the room with the aim of killing 团哥. In the book, the fight was very bloody. 蓉姐儿 came to the rescue but at a pretty big cost to herself. She killed one of the bandits but her hand was slashed. She held off the attackers just enough for Ming Lan’s guards to come to the rescue. Unlike the book,  朱曼娘 doesn’t come to try and kill 团哥. 


I think it was fine with how the drama handled this change. 朱曼娘 doesn’t die in the book, she becomes crazy when her son dies at the very end, based on her own actions. The drama allows for a final confrontation between 朱曼娘 and her daughter. 蓉姐 chose her step brother and step mother over her crazy birth mother. In the book, she also makes this choice, but not in as dramatic of a fashion. 


There’s a lot more characters in the book, so it makes sense that Ming Lan had to deal with more characters with this coup. The drama refocuses it to the characters we know.


Lastly, in the book, 顾廷烨 doesn’t rush back the same night. Ming Lan deals with everything all on her own AND while heavily pregnant. So i’ll pause here to say 明兰 was a certified badass. Not that she wasn’t in the drama, but she was moreso in the book.


Ep 71



Welcome Back to Chasing Dramas! This is the podcast that discusses Chinese culture history, through the lens of historical chinese dramas. We are your hosts, Karen and Cathy. Today we are discussing episode 71 of the Story of Ming Lan or 知否知否应是绿肥红瘦。 


This podcast is in English with proper nouns and certain Chinese phrases spoken in mandarin chinese. If you have any questions, please reach out to us via email at or else reach out to us on instagram and twitter! Also please do leave us a review on whatever platform you listen to us to!


As we normally do, we will do a drama episode recap, then go on to chat about culture and history portrayed in the episode which today is quite a lot, and then wrap up with some book differences.  Today is going to be a pretty long episode as there’s a ton of history to discuss



In the last episode, Ming Lan was visited by Qi Heng and his wife, Madame Shen to see what they could do to help her. Well, that was initially Qi Heng’s thought but during the conversation, Madame Shen has shown that she is quite capable herself. This is quite the turning point for their relationship because Qi Heng is clearly impressed. After the couple leave Ming Lan’s Cheng Gardens, Qi Heng actually takes Madame Shen out for dinner and is suddenly very attentive towards her. I don’t think he recognizes the shift himself but Madame Shen is over the moon with joy. 


Meanwhile, taking Qi Heng and Madame Shen’s words to heart, Ming Lan decides that they should still host a birthday celebration for her son. Now this celebration is the 满月酒 which is the celebration for children after their first month of life. 


As Ming Lan works to prepare for the celebration, Qi Heng continues to help Ming Lan uncover what kind of plots are in store for her. As he still has a title in court, he can more easily help investigate on behalf of Ming Lan and the Sheng family. Sure enough, Qi Heng is called to a courtyard where he and several detectives and guards find the body of Bai Da Lang hanging from a rope. Bai Da Lang is Gu Ting Ye’s relative who spent his life trying to take the Bai family fortune from Gu Ting Ye and was also gathered by Madame Qin to make false testimony against Gu Ting Ye in front of the Emperor. While at first glance, the body’s position suggests he hung himself, but eye witnesses recount that he was actually forcibly hung there by men in black that took off over the walls. Qi Heng can only comment that this is a very intricate web that has been spun.


Why is this important? Clearly, Bai Da Lang has been used to make a point in front of the Emperor but then he was disposed of in order to prevent him from blabbing out who all was involved in bringing him into the capital. All signs point to the fact that it was the Empress Dowager’s men that killed Bai Da Lang as loose lips sink ships. She did not want him around to let slip any important detail about their schemes, even though Bai Da Lang had no idea of the full extent with which he was involved in.




And now it’s time for MIng Lan’s son’s celebration! This scene I thought was way too short and should have been much longer. There are a ton of people that return for literally 30 seconds in this scene to show their support for Ming Lan and it’s quite touching. Before we head over to the Cheng Garden’s, there is a brief scene with Qi Heng and his family again. Qi Heng and his wife are visited by his parents who also present Qi Heng with a gift to give to Ming Lan’s son. This is a short but heartwarming scene where Princess Ping Ning seems to finally let her judgement of Ming Lan go as she gifts Ming Lan’s son with jade from her own dowry. That’s an extravagant gift even if the jade itself is small and represents that she places Ming Lan in high enough regard to receive such a gift. Qi Heng is relieved to see this from his mother as it means they have all moved on with that past relationship. 


At Cheng Garden’s the tables are set for a festive party but for some reason, it’s currently empty. Mo Lan, Ming Lan’s 4th sister, is the first to arrive and seeing that no guests have arrived yet decides to start mocking Ming Lan. She thinks that no one would deign to come to Ming Lan’s banquet because of what’s happened to her and her husband which is a humiliation that Mo Lan cannot let go. 



But, only after a few pointed barbs from Mo Lan, two powerful and connected women arrive to support Ming Lan. They are Madame Zhang and the younger Shen sister. Just by the presence of these two women alone are enough to shut Mo Lan’s mouth because Madame Zhang, as we are familiar with, is the wife of the State Uncle and daughter of a duke herself, and the younger Shen sister is the younger sister of the current Empress. Needless to say, both of these women outrank Mo Lan and Ming Lan for that matter so for them to show up raises the status of this banquet. 


Mo Lan still tries to insult Ming Lan in front of Madame Zhang who has none of it and actually orders her staff to drag Mo Lan off. Madame ZHang is a certified badass. Wooo. Mo Lan has no option but to calm down and it’s so funny. The trio of women, Madame Zhang, Mo Lan and the younger Shen sister sit at a table where Madame Zhang pointedly sits next to Mo Lan in order to prevent her from saying or doing anything that would harm Ming Lan. What a good friend. Everyone wants a friend like Madame Zhang. Haha.


Soon after, plenty of people start pouring in for the banquet. We see Yan Ran, Ming Lan’s childhood friend who Gu Ting Ye originally wanted to marry many years ago. Yan Ran married off elsewhere and traveled to the Capital to see Ming Lan. She’s not the only one to visit again. The cohort of relatives from You Yang, the Sheng family home town also arrive, including 淑兰 and 品烂。Remember them? We met them in the mid twenties episodes when Ming Lan went over to visit with Grandma Sheng.  


Other guests we see include Qi Heng and Madame Shen, Ru Lan and Hua Lan, Ming Lan’s 5th and oldest sister respectively, as well as Ming Lan’s aunt, Madame Wei. Dan Ju, Ming Lan’s former maid, also returned to wish her former master well. 




I’m personally really sad that this scene was so short because it showcased that all of the kind deeds Ming Lan did for her friends and family was recognized in the fact that they traveled all this way to celebrate her son’s first month. It would not have been a secret that her husband is in jail and that she is no longer a marchioness but you will notice that many of the people in attendance are there because they were helped in some way shape or form by Ming Lan which then developed into a strong friendship. That is the case with Madame Zhang and the younger Shen sister, 嫣然,品兰 and 淑兰,and 丹菊. It is a wonderful feeling seeing so many of her friends turn out to support her in the face of possible social retribution for being associated with her. That is what Mo Lan was hinting to earlier.


But the festivities don’t last long as shortly after, we are caught in a big fray. Chang Mo Mo sets Ming Lan’s son down in his crib to sleep and not long afterwards, a figure dressed in all black sneaks into the room, holding a dagger. This figure is intent on killing Ming Lan’s son. But, Shi Tou appears to stop this figure and a fight ensues. After a heated battle where the assassin successfully stabs the bundle in the crib, she is captured and revealed to be 凤仙,Gu Ting Ye’s concubine that was planted by Madame Qin. Who knew she was actually an assassin. Luckily, her plot was foiled as it is revealed the bundle in the crib was just a fake wooden doll. 



As Ming Lan explains to Grandma Sheng later that night, the whole purpose of the banquet was to create some chaos on the property to lure out the forces that want to harm Ming Lan and her son. It was expected that because of the banquet, security would be low and there would be some action against Ming Lan. And sure enough, they were able to capture 凤仙 in the act. Now they have new evidence to present to court. Ming Lan informs her grandmother she is going to beat the drum tomorrow in her 诰命 outfit to ask the Emperor to reinvestigate GU Ting Ye’s supposed crimes. Grandma Sheng understands Ming Lan’s view and even brings forth her own witness to help Ming Lan – 康兆儿. She’s the cousin that Ming Lan helped escape from being a concubine for Gu Ting Ye at the  bidding of the now deceased Aunt Kang.  She came back to help Ming Lan.


What exactly is Ming Lan going to do? Thus far, Gu Ting Ye has not revealed the truth about why Gu Ting Ye killed Aunt Kang or at least the intricacies of Grandma Sheng’s poisoning. Ming Lan is now going to reveal all of this in order to save Gu Ting Ye. That is why she apologizes to Grandma Sheng because Ming Lan is going to ruin the Sheng family’s future with her act but she has to do so in order to save Gu Ting Ye.



And so, the next day, Ming Lan in her conferred title or 诰命 outfit and her select group start banging on the 登闻鼓 outside the imperial palace. By wearing this outfit is already against the rules because she has had her title stripped from her but it is a symbolic gesture that she is fighting against the unjust she and her husband have experienced, With her are 小桃,石头,the captured 凤仙 and 兆儿。


In the main hall of the palace, all of court can hear the drums and a number of officials request the Emperor to do a retrial including Qi Heng. The Emperor, however, is short tempered and erupts at the officials because he does not want to deal with the Gu Family drama any further. He even kicks Qi Heng out of the main hall. 


The group is not perturbed whatsoever as Ming Lan continues to beat the drum. If she’s not the one beating the drum, she is kneeling on the ground with her written testimony and evidence in front of the palace gate, loudly shouting the deeds that Aunt Kang did against her family. Problem is, the Emperor does not want to hear her. She kneels outside of the palace for an entire day and night without being called into the palace. All of court walks by to see her kneeling and her group beating the drum and at night, the entire palace hears her as well, from the Emperor to the Empress, to the Empress Dowager and also Concubine Liu. 


Ming Lan’s brother, Chang Bai, is also scene beating on the door of the judiciary, yelling that he’s a witness to the crimes Ming Lan is recounting and wants to give his testimony. It’s really sweet because, despite his father’s urging, he remains resolute that he must help his sister overthrow the wrongful conviction of Gu Ting Ye. Once again, he does not care what this might mean for the Sheng family but instead is doing this because he knows it is what’s right.  His father, on the other hand, is doggedly running around trying to drag his children back from their outward display of disrespect to the Emperor but to no avail. 


After a full day, MIng Lan is still there beating the drums but her body cannot take it anymore and she passes out. Next thing we know, she wakes up in the Empress’s rooms where she has a private audience with her. But it doesn’t seem like her chat with the Empress went well because we soon see her leave the palace on foot with her servants, her father and Madame Zhang escorting her. She is walking with heavy steps and at a slow pace. In the middle of the busy street, she breaks down in tears. She takes off her elaborate headdress while uttering  the words 飞鸟尽,良弓藏,狡兔死,走狗烹. Shortly after, she passes out in the streets once again in her despair. Her family rushes her home. 




This entire scene is seen by Mo Lan who watches from the balcony of 樊楼。She gloats at Ming Lan’s current predicament but is also shocked to hear Ming Lan utter those words which we will explain later on. Mo Lan’s moment of glee doesn’t last long, however, because shortly after she heads home, Mo Lan discovers that her head maid has been cavorting with her husband behind her back. She catches the two in the act and is absolutely livid. She cannot understand how this maid can betray her like that. But it’s evident that Mo Lan never treated her maids kindly and so she didn’t have much choice but to go with Liang Han.


Mo Lan then directs her ire towards 梁含。She does not understand why he would do this to her. And now, the curtains are lifted between the two as Liang Han stands his ground. He knows exactly how she tricked her way into marrying him and all the unspeakable things she did in order to make it happen. He even knows that she caused his mistress to miscarry by using the same tactics her mother used – sending his mistress heavy and oily foods that caused the unborn child to grow too big and could not be born. It’s exactly what Mistress Lin did to Ming Lan’s mother and led to her death.


At this point, 梁晗 has had enough and grabs the maid’s hand and runs off.  Mo Lan screams after him that her feelings are genuine which is why she married him but that trust is gone forever. Mo Lan still doesn’t believe what she’s done is wrong but is utterly shattered at what happened to her. After all, she did everything her mother. Why did it not work? 


That’s where we close the episode. It really is reaping what is sown. Mo Lan finally sees the consequences of both her trickery to get into the Liang family and her treatment of her maids. If she had been kind to her maids, she would not have felt this level of betrayal by them. But after all, it’s par for the course for her character. 


That was a lot of action for the episode but we also have a LOT of culture and history to discuss today too. So let’s get started!




满月酒 – first up is the one-month banquet!


In Chinese culture, it is customary to host a one month banquet for a newborn baby. Historically, mortality rates were quite high for newborn babies especially in the first 30 days so this one-month banquet was a celebration of life, indicating that the baby survived to now.


The 满月酒 banquet is celebrated with family and friends and presents are exchanged. The banquet here was purposefully kind of hectic. If we recall Madame Zhang’s son’s 满月酒, it was a very grand affair. They typically are. It’s the first time the baby is really presented to the world outside of very close friends. 


This one month banquet is still very much a part of Chinese culture today. 


金项圈 – golden necklace but it’s more like a collar / choker because it is solid. Take a look a the one they give 团哥 in the episode. It’s a good representation. At the bottom of the collar, there can be additions, like a golden lock or a 如意. These are all represent good luck and longevity. Very apt for gifts for a newborn.


Historically, these 项圈 were bestowed to children in hopes that they would ward off evil spirits. I read an article and the current theory is that this practice first came from minorities within China and then became popularized. They were first worn as statements of status by the nobility. Over the years, they primarily became used as gifts for newborn babies. In the present day, minorities within China still wear these. 


These 项圈 are usually made with gold, silver, or copper. Sometimes they are made with jade. Historically, for some local customs, parents would request some coins from neighbors and they would melt the coins with the other ores to create the 项圈. The significance of this would be that the 项圈 is blessed with protection of 100 families so the wearer or baby will also have that protection. 





This is the framed embroidery that 余嫣然 gifts to 明兰’s son for the one-month banquet. The translation of the saying is all birds paying homage to the phoenix. I took that from 百科 as it’s quite good. This phrase also has the meaning of peace under a wise ruler. 凤 or phoenix has always represented royalty. Over the years 凤凰 became more of a female representation. 


There are references to 百鸟朝凤 in the Song dynasty and the legends trace back all the way to the earliest of Chinese gods and legends. 




The emperor says this line when comparing how arrogant Gu TIng Ye is. The line literally just means arrogant or domineering like Huo Guang.


霍光 was a politician during the Western Han dynasty and died around 68 BC. He is an interesting character in that he basically deposed of an emperor who he deemed was not fit to be emperor and searched for a long lost descendant of the formidable Han Wu Di and pushed this descendant, the great grandson of Han Wu Di to the throne. This descendant’s name was 刘病已。霍光 was quintessential in managing the affairs of state for the Han dynasty but ultimately it was not enough to save it from its demise. The key takeaway here though is that this Huo Guang was so powerful that he got rid of an emperor he thought was not fit to rule. That takes some audacity but because Huo Guang was well connected, no one opposed him. That kind of power is what the current Emperor in our drama is trying to avoid in Gu TIng Ye. 




礼冠 – yay after several weeks of us putting of discussions about headdresses and female court attire, let’s dive into it! It’s a lot so let’s get comfy!


We’ve seen women at court over the course of the drama wearing their formal headdress. This includes Grandma Wang and Madame Qin. We’ve also seen the Empress wear her formal phoenix headdress too. However, we’ve held off formally discussing them because of course we get to see Ming Lan finally wear her formal court attire too, with headdress and everything so we’ll discuss now. I’ll also be mentioning previous episodes to reference differences between the court attire for the various ladies. 


What’s great about these headdresses, is that there are paintings of prominent women, especially Empresses, that historians, costume designers, and myself can reference today to compare between the drama and history. Actually, archeologists have yet to uncover an Empress headdress from the Song Dynasty, but there are contemporary paintings and Empress headdresses from the Ming Dynasty that serve as a great reference.


Right off the bat, we see 明兰’s headdress has 2 wings, one on each side. Those are called 博鬓. The not so great purpose of these wings, with all of the beautiful pearls and jewels dangling off of them, was really to limit the movement of women. The goal was to make sure that the women had the right poise and posture while at court. What do I mean? Women wearing the headdress had to work to make sure no sound was emitted from walking with their headdress. How do you do that? By walking very slow and upright of course. That’s NOT great. I think we’ve talked about this before, the wings on the hats for the men at court? The purpose of those was to deter whispering or having conversations at court to conspire against the Emperor. If you have like a 3 foot hat span, it’s kind of hard for people to hear you.


Back to the ladies. The number of wings represented power and prestige of the woman. This ranged from 1 to 3. Before 明兰 was stripped of her title, she was the wife of a Marquis so wife of the second rank. So she had one. Grandma Wang – the wife of a famous scholar also only had one. However, if we recall in episode 69, Madame Qin had the full 3! So is Madame Qin the most highly ranked? I think so but I’ll discuss a little bit more about this after my next topic. 


The next topic here is that we have the very striking image for 明兰’s attire and headdress. Everything is blue, headdress included. Grandma Wang and Madame Qin’s headdresses were gold. Now – 明兰’s headdress is very similar to Empress’s headdresses that are currently viewable in museums, specifically with the striking blue color. What is it made of?


Historically, the technique is called 点翠. It’s a style of Chinese art that features Kingfisher feathers. The 翠 is for 翠鸟 or the Kingfisher bird. The technique first appeared during the Han dynasty, so dating back around 2,000 years. The chinese loved blue and this technique of 点翠 was favored among the female nobility for their hair accessories. It was very expensive to make and honestly, the display of 点翠 in art and what has been preserved till today really show the wealth of China throughout the centuries. 点翠 reached the height of its popularity during the 清 dynasty, especially during the reigns of 雍正 and 乾隆 – so the 18th century. During this time, even wealthy women would wear these to show off status and wealth.  For those of you who have watched the RuYi’s love in the palace, you’ll see Ru Yi wearing headdresses with this blue color. The last 点翠 factory closed in 1933 because well, kingfishers were on the brink of extinction. Nowadays, people still make accessories using the technique, but it’s illegal to use actual kingfisher feathers. People use dyed goose feathers or fabrics as replacements. The electric blue was highly favored and the color never faded, so some of these have been preserved for centuries.


Well, how does one make a headdress or hair accessories with feathers? I watched a couple of videos so hopefully I can describe it accurately. One plucks the striking blue feathers from the Kingfisher bird, again, this doesn’t happen today. Then, there’s a base typically made of gold or silver, in which the feather is layered on top of it. Gold or silver is then welded onto the feather with the desired design of the accessory as the edge. Then cut the feather so that one is just left with the gold edges and the blue in the middle. Add some glue and paste on the desired jewels to the middle of it or to the back to create the long hair pin. Definitely take a look at some youtube videos or just marvel at 明兰’s headdress to see the detail and skill that goes into this! 


Of note, 明兰’s headdress has birds on it. As she is not the Empress, she could not wear a phoenix headdress or 凤冠. Most likely, the bird is a 翚hui(1)鸟, a legendary colorful pheasant that appears in the book of song. 


What was kind of confusing to me with this scene though is I’m not entirely sure how the show prioritized these women. What do I mean by that, Ming Lan is wearing a headdress using the 点翠 technique which is more lavish than using pure gold. However, Grandma Wang’s headdress in episode 68 is even more lavish than 明兰’s but that one’s is made of gold and only has one wing. Madame Qin’s headdress in episode 69 has 3 layers of wings but the centerpiece isn’t as grand as Grandma Wang’s. Eh – I”ll just chalk it up to show choices. However, 明兰’s is definitely the most striking and I think the drama wanted to showcase her outfit and differentiate hers from the others we’ve seen previously.


That was a lot! Ready for more? Credit for this comes from an excellent post from Kiko, who did much of the research. I did a lot of the translation and validated elsewhere but she provided much of the information in one location.




Next, the discussion will be about 霞帔. It’s kind of like a scarf or shawl that women wore for court and it complemented their headdress. It didn’t wrap around but it hung off of the collar bone. We DONT see ming lan wear this in episode 71. Grandma Wang wears it in the beginning of episode 68 when she wears her full court attire to meet the Empress Dowager. Madame Qin also wears hears when she appears at court in episode 69. Although, I can’t really tell if it’s a 霞帔 or just part of the robe itself. I’ll just assume it’s the 霞帔. 


The first records of 霞帔 also appear in the han dynasty. Usage again was fomalized during the Song Dynasty. In a portrait of 昭宪(xian4) 太后  , the mother of the first Emperor of the Song Dynasty, one can clearly see both the blue headdress and the 霞帔. The 霞帔 though is sewn together at the bottom and completed with a medallion at the end. The purpose of the medallion was actually to keep the 霞帔 weighted so that it didn’t fly around. Both Grandma Wang and Madame Qin don’t have the medallion so maybe they aren’t wearing a 霞帔 but it could have also been a costume choice so that the two women could actually move around in their scenes. During the Song dynasty, one could only wear the 霞帔 if it was formally gifted by the Emperor. It was only during the Ming Dynasty though that it became custom for women to always wear the headdress with the scarf of 霞帔. Regular women were allowed to wear th headdress and scarf or 凤冠霞帔 only on their wedding day. So you’ll see women in Song Dynasty, Ming Dynasty, and Qing Dynasty dramas wear the headdress and scarf for that special occasion. Ming Lan does for her wedding. We talked about the 凤冠 for episode 40.





We actually talked about this phrase in Empresses in the Palace but we’ll reiterate here as it is important


My translation goes like this – the birds have been shot, so the bow is no longer needed. The wiley hare is dead, so let’s feast on the dog as well.


This is a metaphor for a person who will exploit someone or something until it has lost all value, then he’ll discard that person. This is a rather extreme way of dealing with people. Usually people don’t go to such extremes of discarding or ridding people who are of no value. This phrase certainly has more ominous connotations than simply being something that one does. It’s often used to describe an Emperor’s actions towards his advisors, which is what happens here.


This phrase first appears in 史记 or the Records of the Grand Historian written by the Han Dynasty historian 司马迁 in 90s BC. It appears in genealogy of 越王勾践世家 or House of King Goujian of Yue. The political advisor 范蠡 makes this remark after helping the King Goujian reclaim his throne, only to be ousted from court and forced to resign. 


For Ming Lan to utter these words is hugely disrespectful of the imperial family and means that she is ready to cut ties with them at all costs. That is why her father was so upset she said this line and also why Mo Lan was shocked she would make such remarks for all to hear. Let’s also think about WHY she said this. She wanted people to hear. Even 墨兰 of all people, when she overheard this and was utterly stunned that 明兰 would voice this out publicly because this is essentially treason to say such words out loud. 



Book differences!


After all the history! I’ll keep book differences very short and sweet. The drama forges it’s completely own path here in episode 71. 明兰 doesn’t host a one month banquet for her son with the purpose of catching an assassin. Fengxian is definitely not an assassin. She is given the choice of marriage to a lower class man or become a concubine for a wealthy man. She chooses the concubine route. Ming Lan doesn’t beat the 登闻鼓, and doesn’t confront the Empress. 墨兰 and her husband in the book actually never have a falling out. He never finds out about her “treachery”. Ming lan in the book just doesnt really care about her and keeps her distance. the show really dials up the drama to get us to hurtle towards the end of the drama. It’s calmer in the drama in the sense that 明兰 has to deal with tough issues but she’s very capable herself and doesn’t rely too much on the aid of others as she does in the drama.



However, one thing that the drama makes clear in this episode and the book does in the last couple of chapters is the power of relations and what it means to attend social events or voice opinions at court. In this episode, there are two scenes that really make it clear now just how embedded frankly 明兰, by extension the Sheng family, and the Gu family are now at court, and where they AREN’T.


The first is of course ming lan’s son’s one-month banquet. We already discussed the attendees but let me reiterate again the status of the attendees. 


Madame Zhang – wife of the Empress’s brother-in-law and sole daughter of a Duke in her own right.

Madame Shen – sister of the Empress

Qi Heng – son of a duke

Qi Heng’s wife, Madame Shen – who also comes from a prominent family


These are basically the “outsiders”


Let’s actually then look at Ming Lan’s direct family

华兰 – wife to the son of a count

墨兰 – despite our dislike for her, she is the proper wife to the son of a count

如兰 – unfortunately the weakest link of the sisters, is still married to an official


That in it of itself is already a formidable party. It shows that even though 顾廷烨 is stripped of his titles, 明兰 is not to be trifled with. She is still a force to be reckoned with. I mean, you have the empress’s sister and sons of dukes at her party! That means a lot. News of this banquet will certainly travel throughout the capital so minglan is relatively safe for now. Unfortunately this is also a prime example of why families always wanted an advantageous marriage, exactly for scenes like this. Families built wealth and status off of these marriages. Look at the sheng family. Sheng hong was just a shuchu son. All he had was grandma sheng, quite a formidable woman in her own right, but in only one generation, look at how well his daughters married! They are the ones creating this protective wall for ming lan. Moral of this story? Marriages matter.


In the book, the advantages of marriage actually serve 墨兰 to her benefit. Her father in law died and the eldest son who happened to be shu chu wanted to split the family. No one else wanted that, least of all mo lan because well her husband doesnt have real means of making money and had no role at court. Molans mother in law hosted a banquet in which the female relatives were all invited to deliberate on this topic. Long story short, the wife of the eldest son lost the battle to split the family because she and her husband were no match for the extended relations the rest of women in the liang family had. 明兰, a marchioness in her own right, was only one of several extended relatives at the banquet. Ming Lan and Hua Lan showed up not for any real sisterly affection for 墨兰 but because they couldn’t leave 墨兰 out to dry. No matter what, they needed to represent a united front. Family, marriages, and relations did and do matter.


Ep 70


Welcome Back to Chasing Dramas! This is the podcast that discusses Chinese history, through the lens of historical chinese dramas. This is your host, Cathy. Today we are discussing episode 70 of the Story of Ming Lan or 知否知否应是绿肥红瘦。 


This podcast is in English with proper nouns and certain Chinese phrases spoken in mandarin chinese. If you have any questions, please reach out to us via email at or else reach out to us on instagram and twitter! Also please do leave us a review on whatever platform you listen to us to!


If you are new to the podcast, please check out our intro the podcast and intro to the drama episodes. As we normally do for our podcast episodes, we will do a drama episode recap and then talk about culture and or history referenced in the drama and finally end with some book differences.




These episodes are very plot heavy as we are now in the end game. But it’s also an opportunity to see how many friends and allies Ming Lan has amassed over the years with her strong will and good heart. 


Episode 70 begins with the terrible news that Gu Ting Ye has been locked up by the Emperor. On Ming Lan’s side, she falls into a shock at the news and hurriedly reaches out to her and Gu Ting Ye’s friends, Shen Guo Jiu and his wife, Madame Zhang for help. As Shen Guo Jiu is a trusted military general and brother to the current Empress, they have some clout with the royal family. They themselves have been trying to help Gu Ting Ye but have also been turned away. But, Madame Zhang points out that even if Ming Lan, who has been rebuffed many times from entering the palace, cannot go, she at least can.


The other person intent on helping Gu Ting Ye is Sheng Chang Bai, Ming Lan’s brother. This upstanding gentleman was thrown into one of the Sheng family warehouses by his father in order to prevent him from going to court and blurt out the truth about Aunt Kang’s poisoning of Grandma Sheng, thereby helping Gu Ting Ye. It’s a rather hilarious scene when Chang Bai tries to escape his confinement and we see what happens when someone who has no martial arts training whatsoever tries to fight. He gets tossed back in. Hahahahahaha. Chang Bai steals the keys to his rooms from a servant that brought him food while also tying said poor guy up. The camera doesn’t even follow Chang Bai out, only on the struggling servant before the doors open up again and Chang Bai is carried back into the room by 4 servants, one grabbing each limb. Hahahahaha. He is ultimately a sweetheart because he only tied up the servant despite thinking it might be better to knock him out with a bench. After a hot second, Chang bai thought better of it because that would be quite painful. Such a subtle scene again shows Chang Bai’s forgiving and kind character.


He is beaten rather harshly by Sheng Hong in Sheng family shrine. On one side, Chang Bai wants to report the truth in order to do what’s right but Sheng Hong wants to protect the Sheng family. As we’ve said in previous episodes, if Chang Bai reveals the truth about Grandma Sheng’s poisoning, the careers and prospects of every member of the Sheng family will be ruined. It is something that Sheng Hong and Chang Bai have to balance.



At night, Madame Zhang successfully makes it into the palace to meet with the Empress. Madame Zhang subtly tries to ask about Gu Ting Ye’s condition which the Empress refuses to elaborate but Ming Lan bursts forward. She entered the palace disguised as one of Madame Zhang’s maids in order to have an audience with the Empress. The Empress is rather understanding of Ming Lan’s feelings and tries to console her before walking away but Ming Lan grabs hold of the Empress’s robes and continues to plead her case. Now, to me, the behavior of the Empress upon multiple viewings is quite suspect. When Ming Lan first bursts into the hall to speak to the Empress, the Empress doesn’t look at her with a straight face. And then, as Ming Lan shouts that there are spies from the Empress Dowager, the Empress looks even more flustered. She reiterates that there’s been a death in the Wang family which is difficult to explain as if those lines were rehearsed. And lastly, she doesn’t allow any maids to treat Ming Lan poorly or drag her off. She even relents and allows Ming Lan to see Gu Ting Ye in prison. Ming Lan’s actions could have resulted in a much worse punishment but for all intents and purposes, the Empress was quite reasonable and forgiving to her. This is one of the hints as to how this entire trial is playing out. 


News of Ming Lan’s actions travels to Gu Ting Ye’s ears. He, who is now sitting in a dark but large prison cell, is paid a visit by none other than Prince Huan who tells him that Ming Lan created a huge scene with his mother in order to be allowed to come see Gu Ting Ye. After hearing this, Gu Ting Ye is not actually excited about the fact that she’s coming to see him, but rather that she caused a scene! He is over the moon to hear that she behaved this way for him and even rushes the Prince out of his cell to find someone who was a witness to Ming Lan’s behavior in order to report this back to him in detail. Hahahaha. What a weirdo. It’s because to him, this is another display that Ming Lan might actually have true feelings for him now. He wants to confirm it!



Back at the Sheng manor, Ming Lan is preparing for her visit to see Gu Ting Ye but is paid an unexpected visit by Madame Wang. She traveled all the way from You Yang after hearing of Ming Lan’s plight and even received permission from Chang Bai and SHeng Hong to speak to Ming Lan. I really like this scene as it is the crucial scene where we see Madame Wang truly be a mother to Ming Lan. She appears in the night to speak to Ming Lan and help her, as well as us, understand why it is important for Ming Lan to separate from Gu Ting Ye immediately. If Gu Ting Ye is charged and his title removed, Ming Lan’s son would also be labeled as the son of a criminal. If Ming Lan separates from Gu Ting Ye now, Ming Lan would preserve herself as well as her son by returning to the Sheng family. The Sheng family can at least still protect her. If Gu Ting Ye ever gets his name cleared, they can always re-marry. This is the best course of action for Ming Lan. 


Ming Lan understands what Madame Wang is saying to her because it’s for Ming Lan’s good. I think that if this was at the beginning of her marriage, Ming Lan would have listened to Madame Wang and separated. But now, after all they’ve been through, Ming Lan is not going to separate from her husband and instead, will face the troubles together as a married couple.  This reflects her changed sentiment in this marriage.


Now the other important takeaway from this conversation is that Ming Lan finally feels a mother’s love from Madame Wang. The analysis that Madame Wang shares is a painful truth for Ming Lan but she does so to help Ming Lan. At the beginning of the conversation, Ming Lan is still rather guarded with Madame Wang and calls her as such. After hearing how Madame Wang is thinking about how to protect Ming Lan and her son, Ming Lan actually calls Madame Wang 母亲, the term for mother. It is as though Madame Wang’s departure has done her some good in repenting for her past crimes. On Madame Wang’s side, she also started the conversation by calling Ming Lan 明丫头 and then moved to calling her 明儿 after Ming Lan changed her reference to Madame Wang. It’s evident that at this moment, the Sheng family is closer than ever in an effort to help Ming Lan.



The next day, Ming Lan is escorted to Gu Ting Ye’s prison cell and brings out the various items she’s brought for him, particularly the blankets that could help him keep warm. She also brought the knee guards that Ming Lan gave Gu Ting Ye all those years ago as a thank you for helping her find a doctor for her dying mother. It’s funny that those knee guards seem to be the item that tied the pair together. As Ming Lan reiterates, no matter what happened after that, Ming Lan was always grateful for his help that day.


After the pleasantries, Gu Ting Ye comes out with the heavy hitter and says that they should separate. Ming Lan’s eyes immediately well up with tears. She’s upset that he wants to divorce her. She’s taking it as a divorce but he says it’s an amicable separation. The document has been created and his assets have all been given to her as well. He wants to protect her which is why he wants them to separate first. Just as Madame Wang explained the previous night. 



But Ming Lan does not acquiesce. She even mentions that she named their son, the word 团 which literally means togetherness. They will wait for Gu Ting Ye to be released so they can be together again as a family. This causes Gu Ting Ye to well up with tears now. He still wants to separate with Ming Lan because he thinks it is what’s best for her. Ming Lan pushes back that if they do separate, they will no longer have any connection whatsoever. That is her threat to him from following through and he knows she will not look back. 


As Ming Lan leaves the cell, a procession of guards and eunuchs head to Gu Ting Ye’s cell with an imperial decree. The decree states that Gu Ting Ye, his wife and child will be stripped of their titles. After the fall, Gu Ting Ye will be exiled 2000 miles.



The other friend who is worried about Ming Lan is Qi Heng. Episode 70 ends with Qi Heng heading over to visit Ming Lan to see how he can help. At first he is dressed all in black, hoping to go alone under the cover of darkness but is caught before heading out by his mother. Princess Ping Ning, of course, doesn’t want him to go for a myriad of reasons. Qi Heng’s wife also appears. To his surprise though, Madame Shen, creates lies to help Qi Heng leave the house with her and then changes course so that the husband and wife pair head over to see Ming Lan together. Once there, they ask what Ming Lan’s next steps are. Right now, Ming Lan is acting too rashly because she is being emotional over Gu Ting Ye. But, now that Madame Shen sees her husband is over Ming Lan, she is able to exhibit her intelligence as she tells Ming Lan that without new evidence, she should not try to present herself in front of court. But with new evidence, a new opportunity would be presented. Therefore, the next step should be for Ming Lan to create an opening for those operating in the background to strike. Once that happens, they can go to court with the new evidence of someone trying to harm both her and Gu Ting Ye. The episode ends with the trio planning their next steps. It is touching to me that Ming Lan now has allies again in Qi Heng and Madame Shen. You can tell that at first, Ming Lan is still being guarded with Madame Shen particularly when Qi Heng mentioned the Empress Dowager but Madame Shen implied her allegiance towards helping Ming Lan, or rather help Qi Heng help Ming Lan. Through this conversation, Qi Heng and Madame Shen’s relationship changes dramatically for the better. 




Before talking about some idioms in the drama, let me turn to something peculiar in the prison cell. I mentioned earlier that the Empress’s actions were a little suspect but Gu Ting Ye’s treatment in prison is even more of a green flag if you will. First, in his scene with Prince Huan where Prince Huan tells Gu Ting Ye about Ming Lan’s belligerence in front of the Empress, are two things. Why is Prince Huan able to have a conversation with Gu TIng Ye so easily and why are they able to play Chinese Go so easily. Gu Ting Ye is in prison! That’s a pretty nice way for him to pass the time. And then, whe Ming Lan comes to visit, she notes that she’s surprised there’s so much coal for him to be warm. The implication is that he’s not going to freeze in his cell. I guess you could argue that regardless, Gu Ting Ye is still a marquis at this point so his treatment in prison shouldn’t be THAT bad but it’s still surprising to me. It tells me that he’s living comfortably for being in prison without having Ming Lan bring him gifts and such. 



Let’s dive into culture now!


When 长柏 gets beaten by his father, he has a powerful declaration on how a man should behave. 


He says the following – 为君纠错是为忠,为家擎天是为孝,为子作则是为礼,为法辩白是为节. I did a bit of research and have come to the conclusion that this isn’t from any book and historical reference. However, this is still a very powerful statement. So i’ll try my best to translate!


为君纠错是为忠 – to correct your master, that is loyalty,为家擎天qíng tiān 是为孝,to protect your family from the sky, that is filial piety. 擎天 means to hold the sky – basically to withhold a large force. 为子作则是为礼,to behave as the model son is for propriety, 为法辩白是为节, arguing for the law is for integrity.


If we take the last word of each group, we get 忠孝礼节. Loyalty, filial piety, propriety and integrity. The first 2 are amongst the 8 virtues in Confucian teachings. 礼 is in the 4 cardinal principals. 节 or integrity is usually paired with 礼 but it’s nevertheless powerful. I really enjoyed the fact that the drama gave this time to spotlight 长柏 because he really is an upstanding guy. A little stern, yes, but he isn’t like his father who focuses solely on his career. 长柏 is willing to sacrifice his own career for what he believes is right.




一丘之貉 – 


This idiom is used when 明兰 tries to appeal to the Empress. The literal translation is Racoon dogs from the same mountain. The meaning is – they are all the same, they’re all evil. 

In english, it’s kind of like to birds of a feather but with a much more negative connotation


The first use of this idiom comes from the Book of Han written by 班固 and finished in 111AD. The idiom appears specifically in the volume on 杨恽 yun4.


The story goes as such – there was a man called 杨恽 who was of noble stock. His father rose to the rank of prime minister. He himself was awarded for his loyalty with the title of Marquis. During his time, he implemented several reforms. However, as time passed, he became more and more arrogant. One day – 杨恽 heard that the leader or 单于 of the Xiong Nu which were a nomadic confederation of tribes was killed. He then responds with 若秦时但任小臣,诛杀忠良,竟以灭亡,令亲任大臣,即至今耳,古与今如一丘之貉。


This translates to – During the Qin dynasty, the emperor favored deceitful courtiers and killed his loyal subjects, causing the downfall of the Qin Emperor. It’s the same, from ancient times till now, emperors will all favor these deceitful men. They’re all like racoon dogs from the same mountain. 


Now – nothing really wrong with 杨恽 stating 一丘之貉. But then he also said 古与今 or from ancient times till now. This means he’s also critiquing the current Emperor! The emperor heard this and immediately stripped him of his title and punished him. Ya know, can’t really blame the Emperor on this. If you have a subject stating that you’re the same as despots from the past, you probably wouldn’t be too happy about it either!


And Raccoon dogs! They’re native to east asia and look a lot like raccoons in North America but they’re not the same!




子丑寅卯 – mentioned as a time. 


子时:23:00–1:00 corresponding zodiac is rat


丑时:1:00–3:00 corresponding zodiac is ox


寅时:3:00–5:00 corresponding zodiac is tiger


卯时:5:00–7:00 corresponding zodiac is rabbit


These are used for your horoscope



Book differences!


Ok – let’s discuss book differences. Well, not much to say again as the book completely diverges from the drama. 顾廷烨 is not thrown into prison so there isn’t much for Ming Lan to actually do. What does happen though is that 顾廷烨 is ordered to the western border on a mission with several troops. This is kind of similar to a few episodes later in the drama so I don’t dive into much here. Madame Wang does not return back to the capital to support 明兰. Their relationship never fully thaws out like it does in the drama so I’m glad that Madame Wang and 明兰 finally had that scene in the drama. 齐衡 and his wife Madame 申 also aren’t involved in any of the action so the scenes in the drama are purely to tie everyone back together. 齐衡 in the book doesn’t really have a great ending so I’m glad to see that he’s building a healthy relationship with his wife.


Lastly – this is the last time we see Madame Wang on screen! Very sad about this because she is one of the standout characters for me. The actress 刘琳 just does an amazing job portraying her.  刘琳 has been in several dramas from Daylight Entertainment or 正午阳光. They seem to really like using her. Let’s say one last farewell to the awesome Madame Wang. You were rightly punished for your plot to poison your mother-in-law but i’m glad that in the end, you finally decided to do something for your whole family and not just your own children.


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Ep 69


Welcome Back to Chasing Dramas! This is the podcast that discusses Chinese history, through the lens of historical chinese dramas. This is your host, Cathy. Today we are discussing episode 69 of the Story of Ming Lan or 知否知否应是绿肥红瘦。 


This podcast is in English with proper nouns and certain Chinese phrases spoken in mandarin chinese. If you have any questions, please reach out to us via email at or else reach out to us on instagram and twitter! Also please do leave us a review on whatever platform you listen to us to!


If you are new to the podcast, please check out our intro the podcast and intro to the drama episodes. As we normally do for our podcast episodes, we will do a drama episode recap and then talk about culture and or history referenced in the drama and finally end with some book differences.




We are nearing the finish line with our drama with just 5 episodes left! I thought rather hard about how best to recap this episode because ultimately, the short of it is that the Empress Dowager gathered all of the enemies in Gu Ting Ye’s life to lie about what he’s done in order to bring him down. Issue is that there’s not a great stopping point for this episode and the next so we will discuss this episode on its own. 


In episode 68, the Empress Dowager had gathered a rather impressive retinue of people intent on bringing down Gu Ting Ye and in this episode, we see the plans come to fruition. This episode is rather straightforward but I will point out a few things you may not have been paying attention to. And then move on to history and book differences. 


Who’s currently in the Empress’s camp? We have Madame Qin, Gu Ting Ye’s step-mother, Grandma Wang, Madame Wang and Aunt Kang’s mother, Concubine Liu, a concubine of the Emperor whose son is now under the care of the Empress Dowager, and Bai Da Lang, Gu Ting Ye’s cousin on his mom’s side who is solely focused on inheriting the Bai family wealth.


The episode begins with Gu Ting Ye meeting with his good friend Prince Huan at a brothel to tell him about what issues might come up in the future. Gu Ting Ye bluntly tells Prince Huan he was the one to kill Aunt Kang but it was warranted. The Prince tells him off for his rash actions and storms off. As soon as he leaves, we see a woman entering the rooms. This is not fully explained but that is 卫行首,the prostitute that is good friends with Gu Ting Ye. Take a close look at his reaction to hearing her come into the room. He glances back towards her and then forward again to follow the gaze of where the Prince left with a knowing look in his eyes. It is important to keep this in mind because why on earth would Gu TIng Ye specifically pick this brothel to meet the Prince for this chat? It is most definitely a choice.


Elsewhere, the Gu family 4th uncle and aunt have decided to recontinue their alliance with Madame Qin while the 5th uncle and aunt leaned the other way and is supporting Ming Lan and Gu Ting Ye. Originally the 4th uncle and aunt didn’t want to side with Madame Qin but it turns out, their son who was exiled committed yet another crime while out there. Face palm. The 4th uncle and aunt think that if they work with Madame Qin, they are able to bring back their son. I highly doubt that will happen because he clearly committed multiple crimes but that’s what their parents think can be done. Madame Qin is very happy to leverage that level of hope for their own purposes. In the conversation with the 4th uncle and aunt though, Madame Qin was quite blatantly cleaning ceramics gifted by the empress dowager as a way to flaunt her connection to this powerful woman. The 4th uncle and aunt did not miss this connection.


And now, with the pieces all gathered, it’s time for the show to start. One morning at court, we hear a drum being beaten by none other than Grandma Wang. She has removed expensive outwear and is in rather simple garb. The drum she beats is called 登闻鼓 which we will talk about later. With the sound of those beats, she and her son are summoned to the main hall. In front of the entire court, she accuses Gu Ti ng Ye of killing her daughter and asks that the Emperor help her seek justice.


Evidently she is prepared because she also requests to summon her witnesses which include Madame Qin, the 4th uncle and Aunt Kang’s son. Gu Ting Ye, though, actually smirks when he sees them. He knows there’s going to be great theater on display at this point and is willing to play along with them. 


Grandma Wang is upset that Gu Ting Ye killed her daughter and I do not believe she thinks her daughter is entirely not at fault. But, because the person who died is her daughter, she is going to seek justice any w ay she can. And that includes lying in front of the entire court about what truly happened the night she died. The story she paints is that Aunt Kang was there to help Ming Lan in the flames but was ruthlessly killed by Gu Ting Ye for no reason other than being a bloodthirsty killer. Madame Qin also pipes in that the flames were set by Gu Ting Ye into her son’s rooms that then migrated over to his residence. Honestly, there are plenty of holes in their story. Like why would a random relative run over to help put the flames out? Who was the one to bring her into the property etc etc. But the key point that Grandma Wang is banking on holding this story together is the fact that Gu Ting Ye will not publicly share why Aunt Kang wants to kill Ming Lan. 


Why not? It’s because if he shares the truth about Aunt Kang’s actions in the Sheng family, the Sheng family would be ruined. Chang Bai, Ming Lan’s brother, actually wanted to step in to share the truth but both his father, Sheng Hong, and Gu TIng Ye cut him off before he could share any more. Without this crucial piece of the story, people are led to believe that Aunt Kang had no reason to harm Ming Lan. 


After this back and forth, the Emperor demands that the Judiciary take on this case and investigate the truth. 


Outside, Chang Bai demands to know why GU Ting Ye prevented him from speaking earlier and all Gu Ting Ye could do is to knock him unconscious and tells Sheng Hong to lock him up. That way, he won’t jeopardize the Sheng family any further. At night, Gu Ting Ye has a heartfelt conversation with Ming Lan about the current environment. The husband and wife pair both apologize for causing the other such trouble with their ill-intended relatives. Each believes they are the ones at fault for creating such a negative environment with threats coming all the way down from the imperial family themselves. But now, Gu Ting Ye and Ming Lan are finally a team. 


Aunt Kang’s case continues to drag on with the investigation reaching a standstill. Both sides cannot conclusively confirm or deny the motivations of both Aunt Kang and Gu Ting Ye. The Emperor has many meetings with various people who recount the details of the case or else try to persuade him from forgiving Gu Ting Ye. What is important is that in every single meeting, his head eunuch is standing watch next to the emperor. We don’t see the eunuch’s facial expressions closely, but it is important that he is there, listening to every conversation the Emperor has. And the Emperor is becoming increasingly impatient as more details of Gu Ting Ye’s actions are exposed. 


The case further escalates now with the entire court watching intently for what will happen to Gu Ting Ye. Qi Heng, who is now over his affections for Ming Lan, steps over to Gu Ting Ye and basically states he’s going to be on his side. It’s a brief scene but I appreciate that Qi Heng has come to his senses to now help Gu Ting Ye. Unfortunately, the Empress Dowager has gathered the individuals that would create a hard hitting blow to GU Ting Ye. On this new day at court, Grandma Wang’s side including Madame Qin bring forth new accusations to slander Gu Ting Ye’s character.  They bring up Bai Da Lang and none other than Zhu Man Niang, Gu Ting Ye’s former fling. *Sigh. It was painful listening to her screeches again to do this episode recap haha. I normally just skip past this. All these people lie through their teeth as to what Gu Ting Ye has done to them. Bai Da Lang accuses Gu Ting Ye of stealing the Bai family inheritance while Zhu Man Niang screeches that it was Gu Ting Ye that killed his son and paints Gu Ting Ye as a monster. It does not look good for Gu Ting Ye.


On Ming Lan’s side, Chang Mo Mo, Gu TIng Ye’s wet nurse and current caretaker of Ming Lan’s son discovered that someone has been poisoning Ming Lan’s medicine. It’s a slow poison but will cause her to slowly start losing her mind and eventually die. Hmmmm where have we seen this tactic before? Haha not in this drama but most certainly in others like Empresses in the Palace. This comes as a shock to Ming Lan for sure but she remains rather calm. She understands that she shouldn’t cause a fuss for now in case that scares the perpetrator off. Instead, they should investigate in secret who exactly is trying to kill her because it would provide some leads to who is trying to harm Gu Ting Ye. 


We leave the episode with Ming Lan also returning to the Sheng family to stay for a while. Grandma Sheng is of course happy to have her back and Ming Lan is under the impression that Gu TIng Ye will be joining her shortly. Little does she know that he is in a world of trouble now.





Ok – first up, we’re going to discuss a bit on post birth customs in China. The literal translation means sitting for a month. The first records of this date back over 2000 years ago and is mentioned in the Book of Rites. Basically there’s a lot of local customs and practices that are supposed to support and aid a woman after childbirth. This includes, as mentioned in the last episode, not washing ones hair, avoid eating cold things, reducing physical labor etc. Many of these customs extend to today so the term is still quite common.


诰命服 – we will briefly touch up on the 诰命服 today which is the formal dress that both Grandma Wang and Madame Qin wear when they appear at court. Both of them have a 诰命 which is an official title. Both were gifted this title because of the status their late husband’s have. You’ll notice that both Grandma Wang and Madame Qin’s outfits are darker in color but nevertheless extravagant. They fit the status of their rank. By wearing these clothes at court, they are displaying their status and informing the rest of court that they are not to be trifled with. We won’t discuss too much on the outfits today because Ming Lan will wear one in the next few episodes. We will discuss the outfits at length then.


登闻鼓 – 


We have the 登闻鼓 or the emergency drum. The purpose of the drum is to allow common people to raise any emergency cases or raise to the local magistrate’s attention if there were any wrongful convictions. Drums were set up all the way back in the Zhou Dynasty over 2500 years ago and was referenced in 周礼 or the Rites of Zhou which first appeared in the middle of the 2nd century BC. There are references of drums being used even earlier than that. The drum with the name 登闻鼓 was first referenced in the Book of Jin or 晋书 – which was published in the Tang Dynasty of 648AD. The book recounted the history of the the Jin Dynasty which ruled from 266 – 420AD. 


Throughout the course of the dynasties, the importance of the drums also varied. Before the Song dynasty, regular folk could beat the drums and the case or suggestions would be presented to court. Of course, where the drums were beat also dictated its importance but nonetheless, people took notice when someone beat the drums.


During the Song dynasty, stricter rules were set. 3 departments were created to handle these cases. There were 3 major cases that warranted someone to beat the drums. The first was if an imperial entrance test taker accused bribery or favoritism of the examiners. There were specific cases in 973 in which a test taker accused the examiner of taking bribes. The case was reopened by the emperor. The next type of case is if someone presents evidence of bribery or corruption. The last is of course if someone presents evidence of a wrongful conviction.


The drums were used throughout history and it’s cool to see that it is used here in the drama. By the Qing dynasty, so 17th-20th century, the drums were rarely used. There was also a rule that was implemented in which if someone dared or decided to beat the drums, they would first be caned or beated with 30 strokes. The goal of that was to make it so that whatever issue was raised was worth those beatings. 


观火台 or 望火楼 – fire watchtower


During the Song Dynasty, there was already a pretty robust firefighting system. In the famous portrait 清明上河图 or Along the River During the Qing Ming Festival, you’ll clearly see a fire watchtower in the painting. The painting, by 张择端 , and completed in the late 11th century is one of the most famous chinese paintings ever painted. It depicted the qing ming festival and is praised for its depictions of the city during that time period. As mentioned during the episode, not only was there a fire watchtower, there were also dedicated firefighters to combat fires in case of emergency. According to Song Dynasty records, for the major city streets, a fire station was set up every 300 meters. Firefighters were prepped and ready to fight the fires on seconds notice, very similar to what we have now.


Pretty cool right!


Book differences


Ok – let’s discuss book differences. Nice and easy – almost everything in this episode deviates from the book. The Wang family do not go to court, nor does Madame Qin. 曼娘 is also not in the picture in the book. 


Personally – i don’t particularly like the direction the drama went in the last couple of episodes but I understand why they did it. They had to close several loose strands or else if they followed the book, we could have easily gotten like 30 more episodes. Not that I’m complaining!




Thank you all so much for listening!  If you are looking for a platform to watch Chinese dramas and you are in the US, take a look at our sponsor, Jubao TV where you can stream chinese dramas and movies online through their streaming platform, xumo or else on tv via xfinity and cox contour. The shows and movies are all free and they have english subtitles as well. 


Ep 68



Gathering the Troops


Welcome Back to Chasing Dramas! This is the podcast that discusses Chinese history, through the lens of historical chinese dramas. We are your hosts, Cathy and Karen. Today we are discussing episode 68 of the Story of Ming Lan or 知否知否应是绿肥红瘦。 


This podcast is in English with proper nouns and certain Chinese phrases spoken in mandarin chinese. If you have any questions, please reach out to us via email at or else reach out to us on instagram and twitter! Also please do leave us a review on whatever platform you listen to us to!


If you are new to the podcast, please check out our intro the podcast and intro to the drama episodes. As we normally do for our podcast episodes, we will do a drama episode recap and then talk about culture and or history referenced in the drama and finally end with some book differences.




Now, it’s time for the formidable foes of Madame Qin, Grandma Wang and the Empress Dowager to fight back. The episode is constantly being cut across a few different story lines so I prefer to aggregate exactly what these two ladies have in mind and then discuss some of the other plot points in the episode. These ladies all have different motivations for what they’re doing but the end goal is the same – eliminate Gu Ting Ye. 


Last episode, Grandma Wang was not pleased to see Madame Qin bring the body of her beloved daughter, Aunt Kang. Not only did Grandma Wang immediately see through the fact that Madame Qin’s tears were fake, she surmised that Madame Qin probably had a hand in contributing to Aunt Kang’s death. Madame Qin originally thought that Grandma Wang would not help her bring down Gu Ting Ye but we begin this episode with Grandma Wang, wearing a grand outfit, bringing her son to the palace to see none other than the Empress Dowager.


Grandma Wang kneels in front of Empress Dowager and cries about how upset she is that her daughter has died by the cruel hands of Gu Ting Ye. Hilariously, the Empress Dowager isn’t moved by her tears whatsoever. She talks down to Grandma Wang here because she, the Empress Dowager never had children that lived to adulthood so she cannot empathize with Grandma Wang. In fact, the implication is that because Grandma Wang is crying about her deceased daughter, she is being disrespectful to the Empress Dowager who does not have children. You can see Grandma Wang’s face change when the Empress Dowager reminds her she has no children of her own.



The Empress Dowager is rather quick to dismiss Grandma Wang and her son but not before a rather interesting act. She’s playing with a candle in front of her and goes in to trim the wick. The first cut with scissors is fine but with the second cut, she cuts too far which causes the candle to go out. She exclaims that look, the flames have gone out to which her head eunuch responds that this was inevitable. Only if you trim the wick can the flames last longer. With that, the Wang guests are escorted out.


After they leave the palace and Grandma Wang and her son have a bowl of noodles while discussing what just happened. Grandma Wang is still seething that the likes of Gu Ting Ye could kill her daughter. If they were back in their hey day, no one would dare cross the Wang family because they were so important. They continue with the metaphor of the wick. Let me take a moment to explain it. For the Empress Dowager, I feel there are two ways of interpreting the candle wick and the need to trim it. 



The first interpretation is that Aunt Kang’s death was needed to ensure the longevity of the Wang family. It’s known that Aunt Kang was not an ethical person by any means and caused many issues for the Wang family. Now that she’s gone, the wick has been trimmed which means that the Wang family can enjoy longer prosperity. 


The second interpretation is to highlight that Gu Ting Ye is the one that needs to be culled. The Empress Dowager wants to ensure the longevity of the Song dynasty and the rule of the current emperor. She doesn’t necessarily think it’s the Emperor who’s at fault but rather is too influenced by the likes of officials like Gu Ting Ye. Therefore, to ensure that the Song dynasty continues on,Gu Ting Ye must be trimmed. The Empress dowager does not out right say this but only uses the metaphor of the candle wick for the Wang family to decide what they want to do next. Also, that way, she has plausible deniability if they don’t understand her meaning.


Outside when the Wang mother and son duo are discussing next steps, they also refer to the candle. For Grandma Wang, the flames of prosperity of their family are flickering towards its demise. She is focused on how they can keep those embers alight. The Wang family ultimately decides to align with the Empress Dowager in bringing down Gu Ting Ye. 


With this chess piece in place, the Empress Dowager takes her next step. She’s been working with Concubine Liu or 刘贵妃 to undermine the Empress. The Empress Dowager requests that Liu Gui Fei gives her son to the Empress Dowager to raise. The reasons she uses are that this will allow Liu Gui Fei to focus on helping the Emperor and it will also allow the Empress Dowager to experience what it’s like to raise children. This shocks Concubine Liu. As we all know from watching other dramas, taking one’s child is essentially taking them hostage. You are bound now to do the bidding of the person taking care of your child. Concubine Liu is understandably upset and spends the day drinking and crying over what she should do but ultimately she bites the bullet and brings her son over to the Empress Dowager. In her mind, she is doing what’s best for her son’s future. She hopes that by aligning herself with the Empress Dowager, her son will become the next emperor. The Empress Dowager also agrees to give Concubine Liu’s brother in law additional military duties. This is a way to repay the Concubine for her actions. It’s all about transactions right now and the Empress Dowager is making all the right moves.



On Madame Qin’s side, she’s turned to someone we haven’t seen in a while. Bai Da Lang. He is Gu Ting Ye’s relative who is upset that Gu Ting Ye has all the wealth from the Bai family when he is left with nothing. Recall that they are related because Gu Ting Ye’s mother is from the Bai family and her father left Gu TIng Ye with all the Bai family wealth accumulated from their salt business which is highly lucrative. Bai Da Lang has tried for years to take over that wealth but has had difficulty displacing Gu Ting Ye. Madame Qin knows this and now reaches out to him to see if he can be an ally in their mission of killing Gu Ting Ye. He gladly accepts the invite to the Capital. 


We get a brief scene of the Emperor with his son. The Prince shares his grand ambitions to retake lost lands. The Emperor however coldly asks if this is a suggestion from the Prince or from gutingye. The Prince quickly bows and tries to give an explanation. The Emperor simply continues to warn him to not be so agreeable to gutingye’s suggestions. Out of the corner – let’s look at who’s standing watch. A eunuch.


Back with Madame Qin – she has entered the palace to visit Concubine Liu. The two have a conversation on making good tea. One must not be too hasty and must always be attentive. It’s quite genius as it’s clear what the two women are up to. Concubine Liu turns the conversation towards the generosity from the Empress Dowager. It’s evident that Madame Qin will align herself to Concubine liu. While the women meet, the Empress Dowager’s eunuch goes to talk to Bai Da Lang. They have a discussion about tribute salt. This is salt that is specifically sent to the palace and a very lucrative business. 


On the way outside of the palace, Madame Qin and bai da long have a debrief in which bai da lang is completely clueless. The wheels are turning in Madame Qin’s head as she figures it out that Concubine Liu’s son will be the pawn that the Empress Dowager will use to usurp the Emperor.




Now that the troops are gathered for the Empress Dowager, let’s turn to what happened on Gu Ting Ye and Ming Lan’s side. I feel like there’s an inconsistency in the drama from a timeline perspective because Gu Ting Ye heads over to Qi Heng’s residence to thank him for his actions the previous day. But all of this that’s happened doesn’t seem like it was over 24 hours. Whatever, just something that i noticed and irked me. 


In the last episode, we saw that Qi Heng finally grew a backbone and rushed to help Ming Lan when the fire was raging at the Cheng Gardens. He ignored his wife and parents who urged him not to go and followed his heart to do what’s right. It was a bit random but it was his epiphany moment that everything he did in the past was also a choice and now he had the choice to save Ming Lan and he finally did it. Gu Ting Ye saw this and came to thank Qi Heng for his actions. Qi Heng at first was a little guarded because he thought Gu Ting Ye was here to reprimand him for helping but Gu Ting Ye’s gratitude reaffirmed that Qi Heng did the right thing. For Qi Heng, it was also his opportunity to finally let his feelings for Ming Lan go. The two men, after months if not years of animosity over Ming Lan, are finally able to speak as friends again because in the end, they’re all doing what’s best for their friend or loved ones.  Last episode and this episode were key turning points in Qi Heng’s growth and he is now once again on Ming Lan and Gu Ting Ye’s side.


He has also started to take notice of the fact that his wife, Madame Shen, does actually care for him. She thought Gu Ting Ye was going to harm Qi Heng so she hid out of sight with a dagger hoping to protect Qi Heng. When Qi Heng saw this, it warmed his heart and decides to start opening up to her more.  Yay, marriage improvements!



The funny thing is that while Qi Heng and his wife are starting a relationship, Ming Lan is also turning into the woman that Gu Ting Ye has pined for forever. After giving birth to her son, Ming Lan is primarily focused on caring for him. Understandably, given the stress of his birth, she is incredibly protective of him. Not only that, but she has also become much more emotionally attached to Gu Ting Ye so much so that she has now learned how to be jealous!!! Because of the fire, many parts of the Cheng Gardens were ruined. One area that suffered heavy damages was the residence of the forgotten concubine Feng Xian. She was planted there by Gu Ting Ye’s paternal aunt and Madame Qin. Gu Ting Ye has never touched her or thought of her in any way but given she is now homeless, he went over to check up on the damage to her rooms. It’s not like he says a whole lot to her but the fact that he’s there traveled to Ming Lan. So, when Gu Ting Ye shows up to check in on Ming Lan after seeing Feng Xian, Ming Lan gets all annoyed. She’s like, get away from my son, you’re going to get him cold, I’m going to sleep (even though she just woke up). It finally clicks for him that Ming Lan is actually jealous of the fact that he went to spend time with Feng Xian which she hurriedly denies but her temper gave it away. She yells at him to stop telling her maids to help him out and instead use his own servants. I guess many other partners would have been annoyed at such a telling off but GU Ting Ye is chuckling with glee. She finally is jealous over him! Yay!!!!!!


What a weirdo. Hahahaha


And the episode ends with Gu Ting Ye – headed back to the brothel. We’ll see what happens next!




Empress Cao

She mentions having 3 kids. That’s false – she never had kids


Grandma Wang Clothes – Grandma Wang wears specific clothes when she meets the Empress Dowager. We’ll let this go for now because we’ll group that into the discussion when Ming Lan wears something similar.


Now – let’s move on to the quick meal that Grandma Wang and Uncle Wang have. It has many nuggets from a cultural perspective.


索饼 – just called 面条. These aren’t your thin noodles that you think of for chinese noodles nowadays. These are a little bit wider. This is shown actually in the drama when Grandma Wang and Uncle Wang get a late night meal. The noodles themselves are much wider. Typically, at least for me, noodles are called 面. But when the servant asked for two bowls of noodles, she asked for two bowls of 索饼. Which is rarely used so I thought – let’s do some research! 


One record of the name comes from 释名 or Explanation of Names, which is a Chinese dictionary written in the late Eastern Han dynasty so around 200CE 东汉末年刘熙. I couldn’t find a very good reason for the name. However, it is one of the earliest instances of boiled noodles recorded.





During the same meal, Grandma Wang is lamenting how far the Wang family has fallen, to which Uncle Wang responds, yes I never rose to the level of father but 宦海沉浮 I still have some respect. 


宦海沉浮 – means the unpredictability of the political arena. So for Uncle Wang, he has navigated through the complex political arena over the years.


This idiom is actually an anachronism! I did a little bit of digging and the first use of this idiom actually come from the book Midnight 子夜 by the author 茅盾. That’s his pen name – his real name was 沈德鸿. The novel was written between 1931 and 1932 and depicts contemporary life of Shanghai during that time. It’s one of his most influential novels. I think I’ve read snippets of his work previously. I think this is the second time that we have a more recent idiom referenced in the drama.




Ok the next one is 火中取栗 or the direct translation is pulling the chestnut from the fire. This is our next anachronism! This is actually a translation from the fable, The Monkey and the Cat or le Singe et le Chat from a collection of Fables from Jean de La Fontaine, which was published in the 17th century. The english idiom is actually “a cat’s paw” – which means according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as ‘one used by another as a tool’. 


The story goes as follows – the Monkey Bertand persuades Raton the call to pull chestnuts from the fire, promising him a share. The cat burns his paw in the process. The Monkey eats all the chestnuts and the cat is left with nothing.


How cool is that! A french fable is in turn used as a Chinese idiom!


Uncle Wang uses this idiom when asking his mother – why entangle themselves in the political fight and be a pawn for the Empress Dowager? Why should they be the ones pulling the chestnuts from the fire?



To which madame wang responds 父母之爱子,则为之计深远. This saying is mentioned twice in the episode. The translation again is to the love of a parent, means that they will plan long and far for their children. We discussed this at length for ep 22-23 pt 1.


Madame Wang then quotes Mencius – with 君子之泽,五世而斩 . The youtube translation is pretty good – the achievements of a lord will be exhausted after several generations. 5 to be exact. Mencius is of course a confucian philosopher who lived from 372-289BC. Madame Wang wants to ensure the fame and glory of the Wang family. 


Lastly, let’s discuss the lines 春风又绿江南岸 from 泊船瓜洲. 


The eunuch quotes this line – 春风又绿江南岸 when he meets with 白大郎 to discuss the salt business. 


The poem was written by the poet 王安石 who lived from 1021-1086. So this is right around the time the drama takes place. The time the poem was written is up for dispute, some say 1068, some say 1074 or 1075. These times actually all take place AFTER this drama because 宋英宗 dies in 1067 which is the current emperor in the drama.





My translation goes like this – I’m standing at the ferry place at 瓜洲 looking south, there’s only a river separating 京口 and 瓜洲. My home in the Zhong mountain is hidden by some mountains. The warm winds of spring have made these fields of jiang nan green. When will the moon shine the way back home?



Finally, book differences – this is short and sweet! The drama has charted its own path and diverges from the book. So not much of this episode is actually in the book. The fire from the previous episode did happen in the book but not much else is similar. Let me know if you guys want me to nitpick and point out my thoughts on the adaptation for the next couple of episodes.


Thank you all so much for listening!  If you are looking for a platform to watch Chinese dramas and you are in the US, take a look at our sponsor, Jubao TV where you can stream chinese dramas and movies online through their streaming platform, xumo or else on tv via xfinity and cox contour. The shows and movies are all free and they have english subtitles as well. 


Ep 66pt2+67


Welcome Back to Chasing Dramas! This is the podcast that discusses Chinese history, through the lens of historical chinese dramas. Today it’s just Karen. Today we are discussing episodes pt 2 of episode 66 and all of episode 67 of the Story of Ming Lan or 知否知否应是绿肥红瘦。 


This podcast is in English with proper nouns and certain Chinese phrases spoken in mandarin chinese. If you have any questions, please reach out to us via email at or else reach out to us on instagram and twitter! Also please do leave us a review on whatever platform you listen to us to!


If you are new to the podcast, please check out our intro the podcast and intro to the drama episodes. As we normally do for our podcast episodes, we will do a drama episode recap and then talk about culture and or history referenced in the drama and finally end with some book differences.



In the last episode, things calmed down as Ming Lan’s brother and husband raced back to the capital to help her seek justice against Aunt Kang who tried to poison her grandmother. Luckily, Grandam Sheng is now awake and recovering while Ming Lan’s brother Chang Bai Aunt Kang’s punishment. Chang Bai and Gu Ting Ye, who had effectively abandoned their post to return, hurriedly left the capital after matters were settled. Unfortunately, everything that’s happening piques Mo Lan’s interest. She’s been left in the dark on the drama that was Grandma Sheng’s poisoning by the entire family but upon returning to the Sheng Household, she discovers that Aunt Kang is being detained there. Recognizing the opportunity to further hurt Ming Lan, Mo Lan and company set fire to the kitchens which allows Aunt Kang to escape. 


We start our podcast discussion with the second half of episode 66. Sheng Hong is inspecting his burned kitchens when Uncle Wang shows up to ask what happened. Uncle Wang is Aunt Kang and Madame Wang’s brother. Sheng Hong is annoyed that Uncle Wang would show up because he thinks Uncle Wang was the one to set fire to his household in order to help Aunt Kang escape. But when they both don’t know where she is, each has a big question mark over their heads as to where she’s gone. 


It turns out, she escaped to the Gu Manor, to conspire with Madame Qin, Ming Lan’s step-mother-in-law. Madame Qing received news that Gu Ting Ye has suffered another assassination attempt while out on duty for the Emperor. This is valuable information for her to leverage in the future. And shortly after, Aunt Kang shows up. Interestingly, Madame Qin doesn’t call her Madame Kang anymore but instead Madame Wang. I think it’s the first time she’s been referenced this way and so I’m wondering if there’s a reason. Like if the Kang side of the family has already sparated with her which is why she’s now referred to as Madame Wang. I’m still going to call her Aunt Kang so it’s easier for us to follow. 


The news that Gu Ting Ye and company were attacked also reaches the palace. Whispers reached Ming Lan as well who, in her worried state, meets her brother, Chang Bai, who has now returned from his salt tax excursion to ask about Gu Ting Ye’s wherabouts. It is suspect that he is not with Chang Bai which increases Ming Lan’s level of worry. Chang Bai, though, reassures her that nothing is wrong. Gu Ting Ye is simply taking a longer route home due to his military related duties.


Ming Lan, who is now heavily pregnant, is skeptical that everything is as he says because she keeps on having nightmares that something happened to Gu Ting Ye but her brother urges her to return home to relax. While at home, she overhears a couple of maids muttering under their breath that their master, aka Gu Ting Ye, may have died while protecting Prince Huan while on assignment. Their muttering was loud enough for Ming Lan to hear. By now, she is clearly much mroe attached and emotionally invested in Gu Ting Ye given all he’s done for her such that she freaks out over hearing he might be dead. In an effort to hear more, she trips while rushing over to the maids. This impact plus the emotional despair causes Ming Lan to go into early labor. 


News of Ming Lan’s current predicament travels quickly over to Madame Qin who is overjoyed with glee. This is her opportunity to finally eliminate Ming Lan once and for all. She was definitely the one to spread rumors about Gu Ting Ye’s death hoping it would cause Ming Lan to miscarry. Clearly, it’s working right now. Madame Qin has two further steps to help ensure MIng Lan is killed. One, she lights a fire. Taking a leaf out of Mo Lan’s book, she has her servants start a blaze in MIng Lan’s Cheng Gardens. I believe it was signaled by lanterns that Madame Qin lights in the sky. The second is of course, instigating Aunt Kang into action. Aunt Kang overhears that Ming Lan has birthed a healthy child which at this point is not true. Madame Qin puts on the act that she is very pleased Ming Lan and child are alive because it’ll mean peace and prosperity for the GU family. Aunt Kang cannot accept this and angrily storms out thinking she must kill Ming Lan or else she herself is doomed. Little does she know, this is exactly what Madame Qin wants. Madame Qin doesn’t want to be the one to bloody her own hands so she has allowed Aunt Kang to do her dirty work. Episode 66 ends with Ming Lan in the throws of labor while a roaring fire has started in the Cheng Gardens, The Cheng Gardens are a mess as a group of servants try to quell the flames while another group tries to help Ming Lan give birth.


In Episode 67, the flames that are plaguing the Cheng Gardens can be seen for miles around. In this instance, Qi Heng, who is currently brewing tea with his wife, sees the flames and immediately jumps up. He recognizes that the flames are coming from the direction of the Cheng Gardens and orders his servants to gather up so they can help put the fire out. His wife, Madame Shen, tries to stop him from going but he just ignores her. In the main yard, Qi Heng is stopped by his parents who also urge him not to go. They all believe it’s not his business. And this is the one instance in the entire drama where Qi Heng finally grows up. He knows that Gu Ting Ye has not returned and perhaps may never return. He knows that Ming Lan is pregnant and therefore is home by herself in the midst of a raging fire. In front of his parents, he pushes back against their words stating that in all those instances when he should have stood up for both himself and her, he never did. Now, when he has an opportunity to save her, why should he not go?


Yayyyy Qi Heng. The one time you grew a back bone! His parents and wife are still all thinking about how this would look if the world saw that Qi Heng who is already married went off to rescue Ming Lan who is also already married. They’re thinking about the gossip that would ensue should people find out. They did not think about Ming Lan’s safety at all. Without a doubt, this is THE hottest Qi Heng is in the entire drama. He is finally doing what he knows is right and not thinking about the consequences to his reputation.


Back at the Cheng Gardens, a mess of servants are all still trying to put the flames out. In the chaos, Aunt Kang snuck onto the property. By now, after intense pain, Ming Lan has finally birthed a healthy son. He is placed in blankets and onto the nearby bed but Ming Lan doesn’t even have an opportunity to take a breath before Aunt Kang bursts into the room with a knife screaming to kill her. Many maids try to stop Aunt Kang but given that Aunt Kang is brandishing a knife, they are all pushed back. I never noticed this before but Xiao Tao is injured as she is clutching a bloodied arm in the background. Aunt Kang has the craziest look in her eyes as she turns to Ming Lan who has now hunched over her son in an effort to protect him. She has no weapons or energy to fight back so all she can do is protect her son with her own body. Aunt Kang raises the knife in her hands, ready to land the final blow onto Ming Lan. 


We see a sword protruding from a body but instead of Ming Lan, it’s Aunt Kang who is killed. Gu Ting Ye has returned in the knick of time to protect his wife and child. Gu Ting Ye pulls out the sword he used to stab Aunt Kang who is left to bleed out on the floor. 


Ming Lan turns around still waiting for death but instead sees her husband. In my mind, it is at this moment, she realizes how much she loves him. She cries into his arms that when she thought he was dead, her heart was shattered. This is also some of Zhao Li Ying’s best acting in the entire drama. Her tears of despair and pain as she’s giving birth but then also relief and shock when she sees Gu Ting Ye alive in front of him are extremely touching.  You are brought into her world and are also ecstatic to see that he is alive. 


Outside, Qi Heng has also rushed over to see how Ming Lan is doing. Upon seeing Gu Ting Ye with Ming Lan though, he walks away quietly. We will talk more about Qi Heng at the end of the episode. 


Now that Gu Ting Ye has returned, all is well again in the Cheng Gardens. The flames have been put out and their son is healthy. In a throwaway line which I think is really heartwarming is that Gu Ting Ye tells Ming Lan Xian Jie, so his older brother’s daughter, helped rescue Rong Jie, his daughter, from the fire once it started. I find it heartwarming that these cousins actually take care of each other and have a good relationship when the easy trope would have been for Rong Jie to die in the flames because of Xian Jie or something. It also speaks to the fact that Mign Lan’s kind treatment of Xian Jie paid off in the end. 


While Ming Lan’s side has calmed down, the drama only continues. Flames at the Cheng Gardens have subsided but another fire broke out in the Gu Manor. This time, Gu Ting Wei, Gu Ting Ye’s younger brother’s rooms have been destroyed. His mother, Madame Qin, rushes over to see if he’s ok and he blows up at her. Gu Ting Wei’s wife reveals to Madame Qin that the flames were lit by ShI Tou, Gu Ting Ye’s head servant. Madame Qin is furious but is rebuffed by both Gu Ting Wei and his wife. They both know that the fire was set by Gu Ting Ye because Madame Qin must have done something against Gu Ting Ye and therefore Gu Ting Wei is the collateral damage of their feud. Madame Qin cannot apprehend why Gu Ting Wei does not understand her but he is adamant to move out. He can no longer stand his mother. 


Word of Gu Ting Ye’s return has traveled fast within the capital and the person outside of Ming Lan most anxious to see him is the Emperor. The Emperor sent his eunuchs to requests Gu Ting Ye’s presence but Shi Tou rebuffs the requests on behalf of Gu Ting Ye. Shi Tou simply says that Gu Ting Ye’s wife just gave birth and therefore must stay at home and spend time with her. 


When the Emperor hears of this, he is furious. How can he be second to Gu Ting Ye’s wife and child? He, the emperor is waiting to hear from Gu Ting Ye about his salt tax assignment but has been left to wait? That is unacceptable. He expressing his anger in the company of the Empress with a bunch of servants in the background and this conversation is quite technical. What do I mean by technical? I mean, it is rather planned in its contents. First, the Emperor describes why he’s furious which I just touched on. He feels he’s in second place. Then the Empress responds with why Gu Ting Ye is valuable. Then the Emperor explains some of the issues happening on the border which requires Gu Ting Ye’s expertise. The Emperor says he’ll let it slide for now because Gu Ting Ye is useful. 


And then, the Empress monologues that the Emperor has been suffering from a lot of headaches lately which can’t be diagnosed properly and was not an issue in the past.  He should rest. This causes the Emperor to flare up again in anger. He states that because he doesn’t have that much time, he needs to get rid of the Empress Dowager who is his main obstacle. Shortly after, the Concubine Liu Gui Fei shows up and the Empress is dismissed as she has angered the Emperor. The technical components of this conversation is that for someone who is overhearing the key points are this: The Emperor is furious with Gu Ting Ye for his rude and arrogant behavior but is not going to touch him just yet because he’s still useful. And, the Emperor is currently suffering from headaches and therefore must act quickly to defeat the Empress dowager.


Looks like Gu Ting Ye better watch his back. The Emperor is already placing a target on his back.


Back at the Cheng Gardens, Madame Qin has come to have a standoff with Gu Ting Ye. She shows up screaming that he, as a court official, has started fires. She is going to the Emperor to report him, blah blah blah. At a certain point, he had enough and slammed the table. He point blank tells her that he killed Aunt Kang who tried to kill Ming Lan and their son. To this, Madame Qin is utterly shocked. Aunt Kang is of the noble class! How could he do it? He simply tells her to think about how she is going to explain this to the Wang family and leaves. She on the other hand collapses.


Why is this a problem for Madame Qin? Why was she so shocked? It’s quite simple and something that Grandma Wang figures out pretty easily. The fact that Aunt Kang died on Gu Property means that Madame Qin must have known of her existence and presence. Madame Qin cannot escape the connection with Aunt Kang no matter what is said. She has to come up with a plan now that Aunt Kang is dead.


So, she has Aunt Kang placed in a coffin and she, Madame Qin, cries crocodile tears all the way to the Wang family residence with the coffin in tow. There, she informs the shocked Grandma Wangof the death of Aunt Kang. Madame Qin paints Gu Ting Ye as the villain in this act, calling him a murderer and that the Wang family must enact their revenge. Grandma Wang though doesn’t immediately spring into any action when Madame Qin is there and shuffles off in her grief.


Privately though, that’s another matter. Grandma Wang definitely wants to take matters in her own hands and get her revenge. Uncle Wang’s wife, tries to persuade her mother-in-law that Aunt Kang was an evil woman, a bad apple that would destroy the whole basket. Grandma Wang however, dismisses all these words and instead accuses Aunt Wang of being a traitor to the family. Grandma Wang vows to make gu ting ye suffer for what he’s done.


– tries to place all the blame onto Gu Ting Ye. And she tries to egg the Wang family into action 


rushing to Ming Lan’s aid when he saw the fire.


This is a story pulled from the poem 陌上桑


It was written during the Han Dynasty but the author is unknown. The story of the poem mainly goes like this. There once was a beautiful woman from the Qin family known as luo fu. She skilled in raising and harvesting silkworms. The young men in the village all stop to admire her beauty. One day, an official from the south arrived. His carriage wouldn’t move forward. The official asked his assistant who was the beautiful woman. The assistant replied why its Luo Fu. The official then asks luo fu directly, do you want to ride with me in my carriage? Luo Fu immediately refused, saying sir, you have a wife and I also have a husband. He himself is an official in the south. 


Basically, the point of this anecdote and poem is to warn Qi heng to watch himself. He is married, so is Ming Lan. It’s improper for two married people to get entangled in matters. 

Qi Heng – 




We see in the drama that during childbirth, ming lan is actually standing up to give birth. That’s something that we don’t see very often. I think it was one of the only times that I saw this shown. During that time, it wasn’t uncommon for pregnant women to choose standing as a way to give birth. 


There was a 10 Important Points of childbirth or 十产论 published by 杨子建 during the Northern Song dynasty, so right around the time period of this drama that recounts the various methods of childbirth. It does include the method for women to perform childbirth standing up so this is factually correct. A woman would stand behind the pregnant woman to help stabilize her and another to basically catch the child.


明兰带在脑袋上的东西 – 抹额


We see 明兰 wear headband called a 抹额。 The main purpose of this headband is to protect the new mother from suffering head colds and avoid sweating too much. It’s according to chinese medicine and the goal is to protect the new mother from illness and / or being left with some permanent health issues.  A lot of these cultural habits are passed down to this day. THat includes not drinking cold water and during Imperial China, women didn’t bathe for a whole month! It’s basically the same concept of not wanting to endanger the woman in catching a cold. You could wash with a hot towel but not take a bath. Can you imagine?



Book differences


Phew ok – from this episode onwards to the end of the drama, the drama and book differ vastly. The drama tries to wrap up loose ends with the existing cast of characters so i’ll focus on the major differences instead of pointing out every small detail. 


First, 墨兰 plays no part in Aunt Kang’s escape. That’s because in the drama, Aunt Kang is successfully sent to the Palace prison and remains there for the rest of her life. There’s not much more mentioned about this woman. She definitely doesn’t sneak back into the Gu Manor nor does she try and attempt to kill Ming Lan. She is not killed by 顾廷烨. Someone does attempt to kill 明兰 during her first pregnancy and that’s 曼娘 but 顾廷烨 successfully staves her off. 


Ep 65+66pt1



Welcome Back to Chasing Dramas! This is the podcast that discusses Chinese history, through the lens of historical chinese dramas. We are your hosts, Karen and Cathy. Today we are discussing episodes 65 and pt 1 of episode 66 of the Story of Ming Lan or 知否知否应是绿肥红瘦。 


This podcast is in English with proper nouns and certain Chinese phrases spoken in mandarin chinese. If you have any questions, please reach out to us via email at or else reach out to us on instagram and twitter! Also please do leave us a review on whatever platform you listen to us to!


If you are new to the podcast, please check out our intro the podcast and intro to the drama episodes. 


In episode 65 we get a bit of a breather after all the craziness of Grandma Sheng’s poisoning. She is ultimately ok and with the timely return of Gu Ting Ye and Chang Bai, Ming Lan’s brother in particular, Ming Lan and the Sheng family were able to get justice, somewhat at least, for Grandma Sheng. For those that need a brief recap, Grandma Sheng was poisoned ultimately by the dual hands of Madame Wang and Aunt Kang, the latter being the bigger culprit. The Wang side of the family tried to save Aunt Kang from retribution by the Sheng Family but Ming Lan used everything she was capable of to prevent them from doing so by laying out all the evidence possible to show that it was indeed Aunt Kang who poisoned Grandma Sheng. However, in that time period, because of Ming Lan’s gender, she still was not able to fully prevent Grandma Wang, the Wang Family matriarch from getting her way. Fortunately, her brother and husband returned. And as a shock to everyone, Chang Bai is on Ming Lan’s side. He decisively decreed that Aunt Kang would receive punishment for what happened and even subjected his own mother to heavy punishment. He used his current position at court as leverage to prevent the Wang family from pushing back.  Aunt Kang is to be beaten and sent to prison.




For this podcast episode, we largely tie up loose ends and then turn to the next conflict on the horizon.


We start episode 65 with Ming Lan finally taking a breather in her husband, Gu Ting Ye’s, arms. After all the stress of the last few days, she is able to cry safely that everything that’s happened to Grandma Sheng is ultimately down to the fact that Grandma Sheng loves Ming Lan too much. If it weren’t for Ming Lan, she would not have punished Madame Wang for how Aunt Kang was treating Ming Lan which then snowballed into the retaliation in the form of a poisoning that we see today. 


Elsewhere, Madame Wang is crying in despair as her own son punished her to essentially house arrest in the Sheng family hometown of You Yang for a full ten years. She’s to pray for Grandma Sheng and repent for her crimes there. I’m sorry, the moment the scene turns over to her wailing I can’t help but laugh. Haha. Fortunately, she has a thoughtful head maid in Liu Mama who helps her see that this trip isn’t all bad and even agrees to head to You Yang with Madame Wang. It’s with this that Madame Wang finally accepts that what she has done is wrong and will head to You Yang.


We now turn to one of the most important scenes between Ming Lan and her father as Ming Lan finally calls him out for the absent father he is. Ming Lan has to ask her father’s help in securing Aunt Kang’s testimony of what happened from her husband, we’ll call Uncle Kang. Sheng Hong is in his study analyzing a round of Chinese Go while concurrently boiling tea. Ming Lan joins him across his table and explains what she needs from him. At first he does not want to help Ming Lan talk to Uncle Kang because he thinks Uncle Kang wants nothing more than to divorce his wife. Not send him to prison. But, Ming Lan describes in depth the inner workings of Uncle Kang’s household and the forces at play. As Sheng Hong follows her logic, he finally makes the realization that his daughter is not to be trifled with. He tells her that he couldn’t figure out how his once obedient daughter suddenly turned into a woman who doesn’t blink an eye in the face of violence. But it now makes sense. She didn’t suddenly turn into this woman, she always was this person. She just hid it very well. 




As he’s pouring her tea from the pot that just boiled, Ming Lan lays it out rather calmly. She never held a grudge against him for his unfair and cold treatment of her. He should be very happy that she is a daughter who does that much for him. As she calmly drinks the bowl of tea in her hands, she states that it’s because of him her birth mother was killed by Mistress Lin and that she always deeply remembers those that showed her kindness. The ones the helped her, she will  repay with her life if needed.


And almost as a threat, she asks her father if he remembers her mother at all – her birthday, her favorite color? He ashamedly turns away from her to fumble through some books and just says he was too busy at that time. She continues that she knows more about him than even he knows about himself. She knows that he cares most about the family’s prosperity and does not care about the squabbles in the household. She knows that he is a capable scholar but is also hypocritical and cold hearted. He will only take a stance when he has something to gain. Otherwise, he is happy to play both sides. 


She puts down her bowl of tea and turns to leave but not before loudly saying that the family should just continue living as they have been. Why ask too much? 


After she leaves, her father turns from his position and crawls under his desk to pick up a go piece that was stuck under one of the legs. When his attempt to pick it up failed, he burst out in tears. I would like to assume that he is ashamed for how he treated Ming Lan and how clearly she saw through all of his faults. 



This conversation between Ming Lan and Sheng Hong really stuck in my mind. It’s clear she always held some level of hatred or at least anger towards her father for ultimately causing the death of her mother and the fact that he never really cared about her growing up. I am proud of her because she is now strong enough to stand up for herself in front of her father. He has seen just how capable she is and can I say is a little threatened by what she can do? He always thought she was this meek, obedient woman who can easily be pushed around but now, she is mature, clear headed and ruthless. I almost get a sense that from this conversation, Ming Lan is stating that since you know what I’m capable of, don’t try to play dumb with me any more. I know exactly what type of person you are, father, and will not be willing to put up with any of your falseness. 


This is also one of the rare instances where a man in this patriarchal society has to look in the mirror to see himself for who he truly is. I don’t think Sheng Hong doesn’t know that he’s the person Ming Lan described but has never had it spelled out so clearly of what his faults are. I’m glad Ming Lan was able to say this to his father and moving forward, hopefully he will treat her more fairly. 


Everything is now more or less settled and the men, Gu Ting Ye, and Chang Bai, have to leave the Capital because they effectively abandoned their post. With Gu TIng Ye’s return, he’s still focused on the fact that his wife didn’t write to him even though she was faced with the pressure at home. He pointed out to her look why did your sister in law write to your brother but you didn’t write to me? Ming Lan is still confused as to what exactly he wants from her and she brings up whether Wei Hang Shou was more understanding. She’s the prostitute that is a close friend of GU TIng Ye’s. In any case, now Ming Lan is wondering everywhere what Wei Hang Shou has that she should learn from, even going so far as to ask her grandmother. In a little bit of lightheartedness, Gu Ting Ye questions Chang Bai as to whether he was the one to mention Wei Hang SHou to his sister and threatens that if Ming Lan starts arguing with him over Wei Hang Shou, he’ll come after Chang Bai. Lol. Quite fun after all the mess in the last few episodes.




Continuing on with the festivities is that now it’s time for Dan Ju’s wedding. Dan Ju is one of Ming Lan’s closest maids who is marrying her cousin.  Ming Lan, as her master, was kind enough to host Dan Ju’s wedding and even helped remove her from her class as slave and is now instead a regular citizen. This is a great honor  and this scene in my mind is very important because it shows how 1) loyalty is rewarded but 2) what it means to be a good master. Ming Lan treated Dan Ju very well and wanted her to marry the one she loved rather than stay with her in the Gu Family. This is what good managers and masters should be. They should not aim to keep you tethered to them but should want what’s best for their growth. Contrast that to how Mo Lan treated her maid which was to prevent her from marrying and even Ru Lan who is in attendance at the wedding saying that Ming Lan should have kept her and had Dan Ju marry a dependable steward in the capital instead so she can still rely on Dan Ju. These two women see the maids still as staff whereas Ming Lan sees them as sisters. You’d want your sisters to marry well and be treated right. Right? In this wedding you also see that Dan Ju’s wedding outfit and headdress is much simpler than Ming Lan’s which makes sense as she’s just a maid but I find it hilarious that it’s more elaborate than Mo Lan’s outfit when she married. Evidently, Ming Lan was very generous to Dan Ju in her dowry as well. 


Speaking of Mo Lan, she shows up again after being MIA for quite some time. I’m not going to lie, I’m rather annoyed to see her still hanging around. You know? It’s like, we just got rid of or think we got rid of the awful Aunt Kang but now we are reminded that Mo Lan is still in the picture. Mo Lan returns to the Sheng family and is muttering to her maid, the one she prevented from marrying, that clearly the Sheng family doesn’t treat her like a daughter of the Sheng family anymore because she’s being kept in the dark about the comings and goings. Like uhh duh? Given what she’s done to marry Liang Han, why would anyone think of including her in any of the conversations moving forward?


She heads to the Sheng Family where she’s rebuffed not only by her sister-in-law, Madame Hai, but also her brother Chang Feng. We haven’t seen Chang Feng in like 30-40 episodes it feels like and he’s clearly benefited from the removal of his mother and sister’s influence. He’s married a woman we never see on screen but now has a daughter. He’s been more focused on raising his daughter and actually studying than the drama his sister is focused on. Mo Lan is annoyed she can’t get more yummy details about Grandma Sheng’s illness from Chang Feng but he doesn’t care. He’s quite happy with where he’s at now and that’s a good spot to be. 



In episode 66, Mo Lan tries her tactics on Sheng Hong to gain some more gossip. I think Ming Lan’s telling off worked to some degree but also evidently Chang Bai had prepared his father because Mo Lan started off with her initial act of playing the victim. Sheng Hong was JUST about to tell his daughter what happened but then we see Chang Bai’s face pop up as Sheng Hong remembers his son told him that anyone outside of Ming Lan, Ru Lan and Hua Lan should not know what happened to Grandma SHeng because it would mean that their positions at court could be in jeopardy. And Sheng Hong couldn’t have that, can he? I will say this is i think like the ONLY time in the entire drama we have flashback type scene? So it’s rather jarring to see Chang Bai’s face just pop up randomly and it go into a flashback scene lol.


Sheng Hong finally calls Mo Lan out for trying to learn the gossip of the family. He even tells her off that she shouldn’t come home to learn about the Sheng family’s comings and goings when her own household is a wreck of concubines fighting each other. He tells her off in a way that she literally has no response because everything he said was true. MWAHAHAHA. Hehehehe. Ming Lan would have loved to see this hahaha.


But Mo Lan can’t just leave it at that right? As she leaves her father’s quarters all upset, she bumps into Xue Yi. She was actually Mistress Lin’s head maid. Earlier in episode 65 and in this episode, we saw her in a rather poor state. She’s crippled now with a bum leg and is left to do the dirtiest of chores. When she brought food to Aunt Kang in episode 65 and Aunt Kang threw the food on the ground, this Xue Yi even ate the rice off the ground. Clearly she hasn’t eaten rice in a long time. Cathy will talk about this more later on but rice was a luxury that she now is no longer afforded. 


Xue Yi begs Mo Lan to try to help her get out of this state. And to contrast just how cold hearted Mo Lan is to Ming Lan, Mo Lan completely ignores Xue Yi’s begs for help even though Xue Yi practically helped Mistress Lin raise Mo Lan. It turns out that Xue Yi was beaten pretty badly after Mistress Lin and Mo Lan’s actions came to light and has no savings. Mo Lan was about to walk away when Xue Yi offers a trade. Money for information. 




That’s how Mo Lan discovers the whereabouts of Aunt Kang. Mo Lan wants more information about exactly what happened to Grandma Sheng and here is again where Mo Lan is just waiting for her com    euppance because she refers to Grandma Sheng in one of the most derogatory terms. She again makes a deal with Aunt Kang that if she is abel to help Aunt Kang get out and give her money, Aunt Kang will tell her exactly what happened in the Sheng family. 


And so, we see Xue Yi causing a fire in the Sheng family kitchens. In the commotion, she helps Aunt Kang slip away but only after Aunt Kang spills secrets to Mo Lan’s maids.  We will chat in the next podcast episode what the consequence of this is for Ming Lan and Gu Ting Ye.


Before we end the recap and head on with some Chinese history, I just want to briefly raise the fact that the illegal departure of Gu Ting Ye and Chang Bai did not go unnoticed. Word traveled to the Emperor and Empress. The Emperor is uhh furious. However, notice that the Empress doesn’t say much but reminds the Emperor to not be too angry or else he’ll get a migraine. It is only THEN that the emperor says, oh yes, my head hurts. Hmmmm that’s odd right, to have to be reminded that your head hurts? The Emperor is also watching carefully when the eunuch who brought the news of Gu Ting Ye’s actions to the Emperor leave without a trace of a headache in his facial features. 


Chinese history – there’s a couple of items to discuss





The first is the idiom 首鼠两端, which means a rat who, when faced with two choices, is indecisive and keeps backing in and out. As you can probably tell, it’s a pretty derogatory idiom used to describe a person who is very indecisive and always checking behind themselves to make sure they made the right choice. 明兰 uses this idiom straight to her father’s face when she frankly rips him to shreds on the type of man he is. This is very disrespectful to say to someone to their face, let alone someone’s father. 


The idiom itself first appeared in 史记 or Records of the Grand Historian, completed around 91BC by the historian 司马迁. The idiom appears in the Chronicles of the Marquis of Wei Qi and the Marquis of 武安. The chronicle recounts the political battles and stories between Marquis of Wei Qi 窦婴, the Marquis of 武安 田蚡 and another official 灌夫. The Marquis of 武安 田蚡, plotted to kill both 窦婴 and 灌夫. One day, the Marquis of 武安 田蚡 wanted to have another official 韩安国 ride with him. This 韩安国 was mad that the Marquis still hadn’t made a decision on when to act and called him 首鼠两端. Which is where the idiom came from. Ultimately, this marquis was successful and disposed of his enemies. But he died after constant nightmares believing that 窦婴 and 灌夫’s ghosts would come back to haunt him.





In the drama, Mistress Lin’s former maid 雪姨 is in a rather destitute state. When Aunt Kang shuns the food she brings and tosses it on the floor, 雪姨 scoops up the food and eats it. She warns Aunt Kang that when she’s in the palace prison, she won’t even be able to eat rice, she’ll only be able to 吃糠. The Youtube translation says is candies but that’s not quite right. 吃糠 means to eat bran or basically the outer layers of cereal grain. According to baike, kang was really only eaten during times of famine. People don’t really eat it any more because of its coarseness. Now there’s an idiom called 吃糠咽菜, which translates to eat bran, swallow wild vegetables. This is usually used to describe someone who is in a destitute or very poor state and cannot buy anything better to eat. Interestingly, the idiom is used pretty often but doing a quick spot check shows that the idiom was only created in the 20th century. I’m highly skeptical of this but that’s what it says on baike, the chinese equivalent of wikipedia.


武陵春 一曲 – 魏行首


There is the poem or song 武陵春 that was mentioned by 小桃. The prostitute 卫 composed this piece in the drama and created quite a stir with her talent.


武陵春 is a 词牌名 which is the name of the poetry form. It was first created by the Northern Song poet 毛滂. The main structure includes 48 words in 4 verses. Many different poets then wrote poems using the structure. One famous is example is 武陵春·风住尘香春已尽. This was written none other than 李清照, the female author of the name of this drama or 知否知否应是绿肥红瘦。She wrote this in 1135 after fleeing from the Jurchens. She was already 52 at this time and wrote this during a time of despair. 




The wind has stopped and the flowers fell from the tree branches. Only the the ground still has the faint aroma of the flowers. I raise my head to see the sun ahead but I have no desire to get dressed. Time has passed and everything changed. Tears fall down my cheek when i reminisce of past events. Rumor has it the spring leaves near the double creek is good. I’ll row my boat to clear my head. I worry that this small boat will not be able to carry my heavy heart



内狱 / 慎戒司


Ok – let’s talk about the palace prison or 内狱. There really isn’t a historical equivalent during the Song Dynasty. We mentioned 慎刑司 that was rather prevalent in the 清 dynasty. The term 内狱 is just a replacement for the fictional 慎戒司 that is mentioned in the book. Now 慎戒司 in the book is described as a prison to punish women of officials and the aristocracy to hard labor for crimes they have committed. The place is pretty hush hush but is a known secret. Essentially if the family wants to punish a woman but not shame the entire clan, they would send the woman here. Family is only allowed to visit once or twice a year. The women sentenced there are essentially left to work there for the rest of their sentence or essentially, the rest of their lives. Cruel? Yes – but for a woman like Aunt Kang. She deserves it.




Book differences


The past couple of episodes were basically directly pulled from the book. This is not the case here.


The first piece that I want to discuss is really the relationship between 顾廷烨 and 明兰 and how it differs from the book. In the drama, 顾廷烨 comes back to “rescue” 明兰 and once again gets kind of bitter that 明兰 didn’t think of summoning him for help. To be honest, I’m over 顾廷烨’s hang up on this. I really don’t like how long 顾廷烨 has been having an issue about his wife’s love for him.  As a warning, I will spoil quite a bit of the book where it diverges from the drama so please skip to the next book difference section. 


顾廷烨 and 明兰 have the same discussion about why Grandma Sheng acted the way she did towards Madame Wang, which led to these events. It’s because Grandma Sheng loves Ming Lan dearly and acted without thought of her own well-being to protect Ming Lan. 


顾廷烨 saw how 明兰 reacted to Grandma Sheng’s poisoning. 明兰 cast away her disguise as the meek and rather calculating woman. She turned into the fierce woman who quite frankly acted rashly, albeit she ultimately got the job done. 明兰 constantly rebutted elders and captured the culprit and orders servants to be tortured. This is not like the 明兰 that 盛纮 has ever seen and 顾廷烨 has only seen glimpses of this. In the book, 明兰 tells him, that truly loving someone is when you throw away all pretenses and only think of that person. 明兰 never saw this from 顾廷烨. At this point in the book, 明兰 already gave birth to a son. During her birth, 曼娘 came and tried to kill 明兰. 顾廷烨 returns and swiftly banishes 曼娘. 明兰 though asks him – when this happened, did you lose control, did you feel a need for revenge? 顾廷烨 couldn’t answer because he truthfully didn’t 明兰 and 顾廷烨 come to an agreement that at that point they didn’t “love” each other and vow to move forward with their lives. In the drama, all I see is 顾廷烨 constantly asking whether 明兰 loves him but what has he done to truly merit her love? Did he do anything rash like what Grandma Sheng did for 明兰? I don’t think so. Hence why, I’ve already said many times already, I’ve tired of this storyline because I’m pretty irked with 顾廷烨 on this. You say you love 明兰 but what have you really done to deserve that love? Once 明兰 sees that, she’ll maybe l

ove you.



Ok – now just on to regular book differences.


The book covers a lot more of the aftermath of 长柏’s decision to banish his mother for 10 years. He has a frank conversation with his maternal Grandmother and uncle. Aunt Kang is the rotten apple that will spoil the rest of the Wang family. Once 长柏 analyzes the benefits and costs of keeping Aunt Kang around, Grandma Wang finally agrees to send her daughter to the Palace Prison. They cut this out from the drama and you’ll see that the Wang family in the drama does not let this punishment of Aunt Kang go lightly. 


The conversation between Ming Lan and Sheng discussing the Kang family and Ming Lan’s final analysis of her father is quite different in the book. In the book, 盛长柏 is the one who analyzes Uncle Kang’s motives for sending his wife to the palace prison instead of divorcing her. Because it was Chang bai discussing this with 盛纮, Ming Lan doesn’t have that rather cutting conversation with her father. If we recall, in the book, 明兰 is from the present. She has little to no recollection of her mother and didn’t have any expectations of her father. For book Ming Lan, she’s quite happy with her father. Sure – he has all the faults that Ming Lan mentioned in the drama, but she wasn’t expecting anything. 盛纮 actually exceeded her expectations as a father because he quite frankly provided a relatively steady home for his children and treated them well enough. 



Now from here on out – the drama will diverge dramatically from the book 


In the book, 明兰 doesn’t really care about 卫行首. 丹橘 was married off much earlier in the book. 墨兰 plays little to no part in the rest of the book so she definitely isn’t stirring up trouble with Aunt Kang. All of the conversations with her father and her brother are basically expanded in the drama. Aunt Kang is sentenced to the palace prison and that’s basically the last we hear of her. That’s definitely not the case in the drama. I’ll be quite honest, I don’t particularly like 墨兰’s involvement with Aunt Kang but I guess 墨 兰 needed to be added back into the story somehow.



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Ep 64



Welcome Back to Chasing Dramas!


This is the podcast that discusses Chinese Culture and history through historical chinese dramas. We are your hosts, Karen and Cathy.


Today! We are discussing ep 64 of The Story of Ming Lan or 知否知否应是绿肥红瘦。This podcast is in english with proper nouns and certain Chinese phrases spoken in Mandarin Chinese. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to us at our email or else on instagram and twitter at chasing dramas. Also do please leave us a rating on whatever platform you listen to us to!


In this episode, we finally see an ending to the saga of Grandma Sheng’s poisoning. We start where we left off the last episode. Grandma Sheng is still in critical condition while the Wang family matriarch, her son, his wife, and Aunt Kang’s son have arrived to try and quell matters. In the last episode, Ming Lan plainly laid out the evidence of how Aunt Kang paid a daoist priest to create poison that was then used on Grandma Sheng via pastries that Madame Wang provided. The back and forth was quite intense but it ultimately fell onto Grandam Wang, so Madame Wang and Aunt Kang’s mother, to choose who to blame for Grandma Sheng’s poisoning.



That’s where we start this episode. Grandma Wang is up to her tricks as Aunt Kang who is absolutely distraught tries screaming and kicking her way out of the main hall. However, she is blocked by Madame Wang’s head maid. AUnt Kang should not be allowed to leave so easily. And indeed, you can see the cogs turning in Grandma Wang’s head. She turns to Sheng Hong, Ming Lan’s father, to try to allow Aunt Kang to head home. She implores that Aunt Kang is currently not in a right state and wouldn’t it be better to let her leave, get better and then accept punishment? 


Sheng Hong is almost going to agree to Grandma Wang’s words. She uses the words 贤婿 which is a term of endearment to her son in law. It’s to try to make him feel better and elevate his status. He is soooo easily swayed. But then Ming Lan angrily shouts NO WAY. What if Aunt Kang runs off?


Grandma Wang then tries to appease her by saying, who do you think we are? We’re from a wealthy and established family. If she runs, that would be quite humiliating for us. But Ming Lan retorts that Aunt Kang already poisoned her grandma. What couldn’t they do? You see that Grandma Wang is annoyed but silenced. We know full well that trying to hide Aunt Kang away is exactly what she was going to do. The moment Aunt Kang is able to leave the Sheng family, Grandma Wang was going to whisk her away from the Capital to escape punishment for her actions.


This Grandma Wang tries to put Ming Lan in her place by repeatedly lording over the fact that Ming Lan is being disrespectful to her elders to Sheng Hong but seeing that Ming Lan wasn’t going to back down, Sheng Hong actually agrees that Aunt Kang should remain in the Sheng family. There are plenty of rooms for Aunt Kang to stay. And so, she is dragged off.



Now, it’s time for Grandma Wang to use all of her wiles and abilities to sway Sheng Hong. She knows full well that in the family, Sheng Hong is the one she needs to convince to let things go. And so, she goes on this long story about how she always thought very highly of Sheng Hong. He has great character and had a great future ahead of him which is why she was willing to allow her daughter to marry him when they were younger yadda yadda yadda. You can see Ming Lan almost rolling her eyes at how easily her father is swayed. 


After Grandma Wang finishes her sob story to try to get Sheng Hong on her side, Ming Lan interjects with a passive aggressive comment. She says, ok well maybe not as aggressively, that wow, she didn’t know Grandma Wang was their familie’s savior. She didn’t know that Grandma Wang was the one to raise her father, to hire teachers for him, to help him pass the imperial entrance exams, to help him marry a wife and raise children. Once Sheng Hong here’s this, he’s like what are you talking about. Grandma Sheng was the one to do this for me. Then it dawns on him that wait a minute, no matter what Grandma Wang has done for him, the person who has done more is Grandma Sheng. 


Sigh. I just want to shake him away. Like dude, Grandma Sheng did so much for you and you are soooo easily swayed by the words of another woman. What a waste from Grandma Sheng. 


But it is funny to see Grandma Wang’s reaction. She’s clearly pissed that Ming Lan was able to drag Sheng Hong back onto her side when she was almost able to convince him otherwise. 



This Grandma Wang keeps getting shut down by Ming Lan in every instance so she asks what the Sheng family wants as punishment for what happened. Everyone pauses for a while before Ming Lan steps in and says that Aunt Kang should pay with her life. It’s only fair. The whole Wang family side of the room is shocked. And Uncle Wang says something absolutely despicable which is look Grandma Sheng is already poisoned and probably won’t be in the same state afterwards so why cant you just be forgiving and let this go? Like what? How can you even say that? 


But at long last, Sheng Hong is able to parse out across the three families – the Sheng, the Kang and the Wang families, who has the most to lose right now. If this plot is outed to the public, the Sheng family would be seen as the victim. Obviously, it was Grandma Sheng that was poisoned and Madame Wang was tricked by her sister. SHe’d be ridiculed for a bit but that’s pretty much it. The Kang family would immediately rid themselves of Aunt Kang. Aunt Kang’s husband, Uncle Kang would just divorce her because they don’t have a great relationship so the Kang family would be free of the drama. The Wang family, though, has the most to lose. Both women involved in this saga are from the wang family. If word gets out, then the Wang family’s future would be at jeopardy. The daughters who are married off or waiting to be married would have their prospects ruined. Uncle Wang’s position at court may be revoked and even their father, the deceased Wang head who is 配享太庙 may also be removed. So, as Sheng Hong analyzes, why should it be the Sheng family that has to just accept what happened? Sheng Hong then says that in his mind, they should punish Aunt Kang and then not let the truth out so that everyone still retains their reputation. 



At this point, Grandma Wang is not able to play any more games. She just straight up says, what if I simply say no. She then turns it around to threaten the Sheng family. When the truth gets revealed, how will that look for the Sheng family children? Chang Bai? Chang Feng? What about Hua Lan and Ru Lan? Sheng Hong is of course rather paralyzed at the thought. He cares about the Sheng family reputation more than anything in the world and to have to jeopardize that for Grandma Sheng is not worth it. Madame Wang is really upset to see how her mother is treating her. She clearly cares more for Aunt Kang than her and it is breaking her heart. 


It’s an interesting directorial choice but as you see Grandma Wang gaining the upper hand, she also moves to the head of the room to sit next to Sheng Hong. It’s to show that she’s taking control of the situation. At first it was to test the waters but seeing that Sheng hong doesn’t protest, she knows she has it in the bag. Ming Lan sees all of this and is furious. She doesn’t hold her fury any longer and shouts that if she wasn’t thinking about her siblings, she would have already killed Aunt Kang. Grandma Wang thinks nothing of it and is relishing in knowing that she’s going to win.



Just as Ming Lan is tearing up in fury, none other than Gu TIng Ye and Sheng Chang Bai show up. YAYYYYY Ming Lan has back up now!!!! Ming Lan is dumbfounded to see that Gu Ting Ye is here because they’re supposed to be on assignment but you can tell is relieved that he’s here. Gu Ting Ye immediately takes it upon himself to stand up for Ming Lan. He questions what happened here to cause his wife who is as innocent and scared as a little lamb to start talking about violence. Everyone in the room is scoffing at his words because they’ve seen how ruthless Ming Lan really is but can’t refute Gu TIng Ye because of his title. YAYYY Gu Ting Ye. Not taking crap from anybody, especially the likes of this old crow. He throws her words right back at her and all I can do is applaud. HAHAHAHAHA.


Chang Bai also steps forward. Madame Wang immediately throws herself into his arms and the Wang family thinks they have won. After all, he’s the leader in the family and will surely take care of his mother. He, however, is quite frank. The punishment for a daughter-in-law who tries to harm her mother in law ranges from beheading which is light, to death by a thousand cuts which is the most severe. Once these words fall from his mouth, the room is shocked. 


It is clear that Gu Ting Ye and Chang Bai are fully aware of what happened at the Sheng family the last couple of days. Chang Bai knows that it was Aunt Kang who poisoned Grandma Sheng. Grandma Wang is extremely upset to hear Chang Bai describe these punishments. It’s his mother he’s punishing to death! And Chang Bai here officially has taken the mantle of the best brother in any drama! In the face of the pressure from the Wang family and his mother, he upholds the law and adamantly decries the vile actions of Aunt Kang. 



Grandma wang tries to corner Chang Bai by asking that since his mother committed this crime, does he think he can escape punishment as well? And this is where Chang Bai once again shocks the room. He bows to his father respectfully and explains that on the way here, he already drafted a resignation document. After his current salt tax examination is completed, he will submit his resignation. Again, the room is utterly shocked. Everyone knows that Chang Bai is the best child of the Sheng and Wang family line. He’s favored at court and his political career is on an upward trajectory. Madame Wang, Sheng Hong, and the Wang side of the family are all trying to dissuade him but he is adamant. And with this, the entire Wang family defense falls apart. Grandma Wang resorts to wailing and trying to kill herself which does not work on Chang Bai whatsoever. 


Ming Lan, who is now calmly watching on the side looks on with dead eyes. Only know that when the pain has turned back onto them, does it actually matter. Now they have to deal with the fallout for what happened because the Chang Bai’s sacrifice exposed just how treacherous and vile the Wang family is. 


Sheng Hong also finally sees things more clearly. He points out to the room that the reason why Aunt Kang has done so many terrible things is due to her mom, Grandma Wang, stepping in at every instance to help clear up her messes. Aunt Kang has probably killed multiple people but everything has no consequence because this GRandma Wang is extremely capable of managing these messes. It’s honestly so despicable.



Just as the Wang side of the family is wailing on the side, news travels to the main hall that Grandma Sheng has woken up and the entire crowd rushes over to her bedside. Phew! Another huge sigh of relief. But ugh, the person that takes center stage is the despicable Grandma Wang. Like who are you and who do you think you are to be the one to be next to Grandma Sheng when she wakes up. It’s clearly all an act so that the Sheng family will consider forgiving Aunt Kang because we all know Grandma Wang doesn’t actually care about Grandma Sheng. Things calm down as Grandma Sheng seems to be ok now and the crowd disperses. 


It’s night now, Sheng Hong sends off the imperial doctor tending to Grandma Sheng and Grandma Sheng calls Ming Lan in for a private chat. Ming Lan is crying silent tears of happiness at seeing her beloved grandmother at least awake. And even in her frail state, Grandma Sheng’s primary concern is Ming Lan’s safety. Ming Lan is still furious at how Aunt Kang and the Wang family treated Grandma SHeng but Grandma Sheng patiently helps Ming Lan dissect the current delicate political climate. She urges Ming Lan to not act too rashly at this point and to be forgiving. That way the all three families will still be able to survive peacefully moving forward. Ming Lan does not want to simply let it go because they hurt her beloved grandmother but fortunately for her, she has others to stick up for both her and Grandma Sheng.



In the next scene, we’re back at the main hall. However at this point, it’s only Grandma Wang, Madame Wang, Aunt Kang’s son, Chang Bai, Ming Lan and Gu TIng Ye. Clearly, Sheng Hong doesn’t want to deal with this drama anymore and therefore told his son to manage the affairs. Grandma Wang is again sitting at the head of the room and is adamantly trying to prevent Aunt Kang from suffering too much punishment. But, our favorite brother is having none of it. He point blank states that Aunt Kang will be both caned and sent to prison. It’s not one or the other. 


Grandma Wang protests that this is too harsh. After all, Grandma Sheng is still alive! To which Gu TIng Ye interjects that sure she’s alive, but who knows how this impacted her health? Before this, she may have lived to 118 but now can only live to 108. Who’s to pay for that loss in longevity? What a great way to say it? Hahaha He’s still saying Grandma Sheng will live long but just not as long. 


Aunt Kang’s son retorts that sure everyone is so quick to punish his mother but what about Madame Wang? She also had a hand in poisoning Grandma Sheng. And here, I’m honestly so impressed. Chang Bai announces his punishment to his mother. She is to pray to the deities for Grandma Sheng all the way in the Sheng Family hometown of You Yang for a full 10 years. This stuns his mother. Ten full years and in You Yang? Chang Bai explains that only with this type of punishment will Madame Wang understand the extent of her misdeeds. As he notes, if she stays in the Capital, she’ll always rely on him which will not force her to repent for her crimes. Only if she’s placed in a highly uncomfortable position will she actually repent for what she’s done. Madame Wang is so upset that she pushes Chang Bai down but then storms off.


The episode ends with Chang Bai overseeing Aunt Kang’s canings while Gu Ting Ye takes Ming Lan back to her rooms to rest.  Overall, the immense trial that was Grandma Sheng’s poisoning comes to a close. 



Let’s talk history. Grandma Sheng recounted the story of Xiang Yu, Liu Bei and Han Xin when trying to urge Ming Lan not to push for justice and retaliation further and used a couple of idioms and anecdotes to get her point across. Let me explain what’s going on. We’ve talked about these key characters before. The setting is that after the fall of the Qin dynasty 2000 years ago, there were two opposing sides vying for power over the mainland. On one side you have Xiang Yu, the other Liu Bang. In 202 AD, Liu Bang along with his allies trapped the formidable Xiang Yu in an elaborate trap. Xiang Yu was surrounded by Liu Bang’s troops on 10 sides. It should have been a decisive victory but Han Xin decided to leave an escape opportunity for Xiang Yu. As Grandma Sheng describes, it’s to prevent him from risking his life in a suicidal retaliation because in that circumstance, the outcome would be difficult to predict and contain. 


That’s where Ming lan comes in and says that Han Xin did not want Xiang Yu to 背水一战。 This is another idiom which references a fight that happened in 205. Same conflict and same dude Han Xin. He was trapped in a corner by an incoming army but he chose to tell his army to turn their backs against the river behind them thereby cutting off all means of escape. Through this tactic, his army because they had no other option, overcame the attacking army. The story is that if you push someone to the brink, if they have nothing to lose, they will unleash everything to fight back. Grandma Sheng did not want Ming Lan to experience the wrath of the Wang family yet in her current state which is why she tells Ming Lan to back down. 



I have a lot of thoughts about this episode. It is one of those episodes that I go back to often because there are so many facets of human nature on display, both the good and bad.


This episode also highlights a lot of what I dislike about society at the time. Primarily the patriarchal society and the focus on reputation . Grandma Wang and the Wang side of the family leverage their status and seniority to bully Sheng Hong and Ming Lan into silence. Grandma Wang threatens or simply reminds Sheng Hong that if this scandal comes to light, his children’s future are all in danger. He has to think about them and must sacrifice his mother, Grandma Sheng, in order to ensure that they have a future ahead of them. From how swiftly Grandma Wang thought of this, it’s not hard to believe that she’s probably used this line to protect her devil of a daughter from other similar deeds. All of this comes back to the what Ming Lan mentioned in episode 62. Only if you are willing to go all out and sacrifice everything is one able to gain justice. She and Sheng Hong have too much to worry about because in that society, reputation and face were everything. You may have all the right in the world but even as the victim, you have to decide how the world will view you after the scandal is exposed. That’s not too different from today though it has gotten better. It still makes my blood boil though. 


The saving grace really is that Ming Lan married Gu Ting Ye and that she has a rockstar brother in Chang Bai. Chang Bai is the one who is willing to sacrifice everything to carry out justice for Grandma Sheng. The patriarchal society only works when the man in charge actually has a conscience. Grandma Wang shot herself in the foot by continually highlighting that it’s the man of the house who would make the final decision. When Chang Bai announced that Aunt Kang should be punished, she was shocked but couldn’t refute it. They are in a patriarchal society after all and she has to listen to him even though she’s the elder. He is the leader of the house after Sheng Hong but has actually more sway because he is blood related to both Madame Wang and Aunt Kang. Grandma Wang has no option but to accept her daughters’ punishments.  Same thing for Madame Wang. Madame Wang was furious to hear her son announce her punishment but apart from calling him an ungrateful and unfilial son, she didn’t shut him down or ignore him like she would have if Ming Lan tried to give the same punishment. It’s unfair but that’s the truth. 


Chang Bai is also one of the rare scholars who actually follows what he has learned. Books and law are supposed to teach you right from wrong but evidently, when faced with the real human attractions of fame and fortune, people generally forgo what’s right and wrong for their own gains. In this instance, Chang Bai has not allowed even his closest family to sway him from doing what he knows is right, which is punishing Aunt Kang and also his dearest mother. Any lesser person would have backed off from the pressures that they’re his closest relatives so I really must commend Chang Bai for his sense of righteousness. We really need more people like him in the world. 


For the next couple of people, I’ll add in the book analysis with the character analysis to provide more context.



盛纮 – I’ve refrained from discussing 盛纮 too much in the previous episodes but since we’ve reached a resolution in this episode, I’d like to spend a bit more time on this character. We have seen time and time again that his reputation and face is the most important thing to him. He will act as the loving husband and filial son only if it benefits his social standing.


There are several times where this is displayed in this episode alone. The first instance of this is when Aunt Kang gets dragged off and Grandma Wang tries to stop 明兰. Grandma Wang wants to bring Aunt Kang home. Ming Lan stops this action and puts her foot down. She says – If I have to, I’ll post wanted posters all over the streets. In the book, she even says, I’ll go to the local magistrate and go to court! Sheng Hong originally was about to agree to basically letting Aunt kang go. He changed his decision because he knew that Ming Lan would make good on this threat and actually go to the local magistrate! This cannot do! The Sheng family cannot stomach this kind of shame! Sheng Hong then quickly decides that he cannot risk Ming Lan’s rash actions, which is why he agrees to keep Aunt Kang in his custody. This decision was not due to some altruistic reason, it was due to him wanting to save face. Sheng Hong then says – If I don’t do something, I won’t be a worthy son! Again, this is to round out his persona that he’s a filial son. 


The next example is when of course Grandma Wang tries to remind Sheng Hong of the gratitude that he should feel for the Wang family. She’s all sad and reminiscing about how the 3 families shouldn’t quarrel with each other. The Wang family did so much for Sheng Hong, all that jazz. Sheng Hong was about to agree and it’s only when Ming Lan pointedly says – hm, if i recall, it’s grandma sheng did everything for you. 


Once again – Sheng Hong has to be reminded of the fact that he has to be filial. There’s no world where a son prefers his mother-in-law over his mother. So of course, he again changes face to be a good son and turns down Grandma Wang’s appeals.


Then, when Sheng Hong voices out the analysis of the 3 families and who would be the most implicated, in the book, it finally comes to him that the Wang family’s whole goal is to have the Sheng family take the blame. He’s furious! He did absolutely nothing and look how the world turned out! He again gets super pissed thinking about this when Chang Bai comes back. Chang bai is willing to relinquish his position in court for his mother. Sheng hong though? No, He’s not thinking at all about this mother. He’s again thinking about his standing in the world. 


Next, i’d like to move on to Grandma Wang. She is a formidable woman. She is cunning and she’s daring. We’ve mentioned all of her tactics earlier in our discussion so I won’t dwell on it now. In the previous episode, it looks like she chose Madame Wang over Aunt Kang but I said that wasn’t really the case. Grandma Wang essentially threatens Sheng Hong with ratting out his wife’s, her own daughter’s deeds, betting that he won’t agree. Now in the book, it is true that Grandma Wang prefers her eldest daughter, AUnt Kang, but what she’s really doing here is making a bet. She’s betting on who is willing to go the distance on each of their threats. Her threat is that she’ll drag Madame Wang into the mud if Sheng Hong punishes Aunt Kang. It seems very heartless but she’s doing this because she has no other option. It’s either this threat or else Ming Lan will truly make good on her threat and kill Aunt Kang. In another show, Grandma Wang would have won. The problem is for Grandma Wang, Ming Lan is more than willing to make good on her threats too. So before Ming Lan can act, she’s cut short by Chang Bai and Gu Ting Ye. These events in the drama really follow the book to a T. I truly wish the author didn’t have the men intervene cause I wanted to see what Ming Lan would have done.



For Madame Wang, while throughout the last three episodes we’ve seen that she never intended to truly harm Grandma Sheng, she still thought very highly of herself that she would escape punishment especially when Chang Bai returned. It was only when Chang Bai said he would resign did she finally realize the gravity of her mistake. She repeatedly ignored Grandma Sheng’s warnings and punishments when she told Madame Wang to stay away from Aunt Kang but Madame Wang never listened. She was sorry that Grandma Sheng was poisoned by her hand albeit unknowingly but still, it was Grandma Sheng. Not someone she cared THAT much about. But finally when Chang Bai said he’d resign, Madame Wang’s world shattered. Her entire identity is revolved around her status as a great mother and a good wife. Without Chang Bai’s position at court, she’d literally have nothing. 



Well – it’s a bit different for Madame Wang. She truly loves her children. Once she understands the gravity of her mistake, she finally accepts her fate. Compare this to her sister who still refuses to do anything.



And similarly for her punishment. Chang Bai was right in shouting that she didn’t actually want to repent. She relies so much on her husband and Chang Bai to clean up her messes that she thought she could get away from punishment. Thankfully, Chang Bai recognized that only when one is stripped from her comforts will they actually take time to think about why they were wrong and make changes. For this, I am still rather disappointed in Madame Wang.