Intro to the Movie

 

[Karen]

Welcome to Chasing Dramas! We are your hosts Karen and Cathy. This is the podcast that normally discusses Chinese history through historical Chinese dramas. But today, we are actually going to be discussing a Chinese movie! Today, we are going to be talking about a movie called The Palace, or 宫锁沉香 which is a 2013 film set in the Qing dynasty.  

 

For this podcast episode, we will provide some background on the movie, an in depth explanation of the cast and characters, do a brief movie recap and then discuss the Chinese history portrayed in this film and point out inaccuracies.

 

This movie is intriguing 1) because the cast are all either extremely famous or were extremely famous Chinese stars now almost 10 years after its premiere and 2) the part of an insanely popular series that I never got around to watching so I thought, hey, why not check it out. And after watching it, I was like, I have a lot of thoughts so let’s talk about it on our podcast. To watch the movie with English subtitles, one can watch it on Jubao TV spelled J-U-B-A-O TV which is a newly launched FREE streaming service that has Chinese dramas, movies and documentaries available in the US. You can check out their content offerings on jubaotv.com but to watch the shows, it’s available on xumo, xfinity or cox contour.  I primarily use Xumo on my computer  and was pleasantly surprised to see Palace on there with English subtitles and a few other dramas of interest.

 

If you don’t have access to JubaoTV, that is a OK! There are other options available to view this film online, just do a quick google search.

 

  1. Background on the film
    1. Gong Suo Chen Xiang is a part of the Gong or Palace series of which there are 3 dramas and this is the only film and it first premiered in 2013. The first drama in the series, Gong Suo Xin Yu, was explosively popular in 2011 and launched the careers of Yang Mi and Feng Shao Feng (who stars in the Story of Ming Lan) to the A list where Yang Mi remains today. It also made the screenwriter Yu Zheng a staple in the Chinese entertainment industry. I remember obsessing over 宫锁心玉 when it was premiering. The theme song to that drama is one that is now deemed a classic. 
    2. I feel kind of old talking about it realizing this was 10 years ago BUT Palace, along with Startling with Each Step or 步步惊心, set off a craze of Qing dynasty dramas and also time traveling dramas as the the main character is a woman who traveled back in time from modern day China. This movie, though, does not include that trope of traveling back in time. This film tells the love story of two young palace maids with 2 princes during the reign of Kang Xi during the Qing dynasty couple with a plot against the throne. 

[Karen]

  1. I had no expectation going into this movie as to what I’d see out of it. There’s actually quite a bit of Chinese culture and history portrayed in this film to digest which we’ll talk about later in this podcast episode. The costumes and production quality of this film are actually above expectations and the political component of the film were probably the highlights. Though for me, honestly THE biggest selling point is seeing 赵丽颖 or Zanilia Zhao play the antagonist. For those of you following are normal podcast episodes, you know how popular Zhao Li Ying is. This film came out early in her career so she wasn’t always the main character that had to be good and I feel like she knocked it out of the park in playing an evil backstabbing person versus the nice likeable characters and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Much better than the main female lead at least. Haha. 
  2. For me, the other main draw was the level of nostalgia watching 宫锁沉香 now years after it’s been out since there are SO many well known actors and actresses today in the film. 
  3. I will say the film’s romance plot has… much to be desired and it’s also kind of hilarious to see where this movie uhh copied from it’s more famous predecessors. If you watch the movie, you’ll see a few scenes that will remind you of Empresses in the Palace or 甄嬛传 that we’ve discussed at length on our podcast. Another one is 还珠格格. This is a staple of films written or produced by Yu Zheng though. He copies from eeeeverything and this movie was no exception. If you are looking for a drinking game to play, you should see where there are similarities between this film and other Qing dynasty dramas you’ve watched. I feel like that would have been a ton of fun. 
  4. I will say this is a much darker and more explicit film than I was expecting so that’s something just to be aware of when watching this film. 

 

[Cathy]

  1. Before we go into the plot of this drama and discuss the history, let’s talk about the cast! It’s interesting now viewing this movie almost 10 years after its premier that a large portion of the leads are now A-list stars in the Chinese entertainment industry vs when the film aired, they were just getting started. Some of the cameos are of people that were my idols growing up but have perhaps since faded from the spotlight. The stars though are individuals getting their first start in the business and have reached massive levels of stardom today. Let’s go through the characters. 

 

The main female leads are as follows:

  1. Zhong Dong Yu as the maid Chen Xiang. 
    1. Born in 1992, her claim to fame is starring in a critically acclaimed movie Under the Hawthorn Tree or 山楂树之恋 in 2010 by the legendary Chinese director Zhang Yi Mou and has been a Chinese entertainment darling for many years, though primarily focused on the movie market rather than the drama market. She is considered one of the 4 main actresses born in the 90s and attended Beijing Film Academy.
    2. Her most recent on screen appearance at least of the time of this podcast, is 千古玦尘 or Ancient Love Poetry that premiered in summer of 2021. It’s a fantasy drama that I will be honest did not watch yet. Reviews and ratings for that drama, though, were probably not as ideal as Zhou Dong Yu would have hoped. But if you have watched it, let me know what you think. 
    3. In the film, she plays 兆佳沉香. She is a 包衣. The name 沉香 means – agarwood used for incense
    4. I feel like Yu Zheng the screenwriter just made up her last name in order to be somewhat related to history as it is documented that the wife of the 13th prince is from the 兆佳 family.
  2. Zhao Li Ying as Liu Li, Chen Xiang’s best friend growing up.
    1. She doesn’t need much introduction as she is the main lead in the drama we are currently discussing on our podcast, The Story of Ming Lan. Born in 1987 in He Bei province, she is one of THE biggest stars in China now having starred in many commercial successes through the years. Her attitude towards her career is to be admired. Unlike many of her peers in the industry, she did not attend a film or drama academy which makes her success even more commendable. 
    2. To reiterate, this is the only evil character that 赵丽颖 has portrayed. I think she does a great job in this role actually and gives much needed spice to the movie. I mean each movie needs a baddy and I’m glad to see her in this role. I actually wish 明兰 was more like her character 琉璃 in the beginning of the movie, when they were more carefree.
    3. The name 琉璃 means colored glaze or a stone similar to lapis lazuli. We don’t know much of her background so I’ll assume that she is a completely fictional character created for this story.

[Karen]

  1. Before we talk more about the male characters in the show, let’s provide some historical background. 
    1. The movie revolves around the famous fight for Emperor Kang Xi’s throne. Emperor 康熙 was the longest reigning Emperor during the Qing dynasty who was born in 1654 and ruled from 1661 to 1722. He had 9 sons that vied for the throne, creating teams and causing brothers to turn against each other. By now, this conflict for folks who were watching Chinese dramas in the 2010s is something that is super familiar because this conflict was the main one that was depicted in the original Palace with Yang Mi in 2011. I think one of the reasons both Palace and Starting with Each Step were so immensely popular is because the drama calls for handsome actors to portray the princes and so each drama had plenty of eye candy for all to enjoy. 
    2. This movie simplifies the conflict so that it revolves around a smaller number of brothers rather than the full battle which is described in more dramatic detail in other dramas. This is of course only a movie so it couldn’t have included all of the plot lines. 
    3. The main brothers we see in this drama are the Crown Prince, the 4th prince, the 9th prince and the 13th prince. We hear of the death of the 18th prince but he was not involved in the conflict so let’s introduce them. 
    4. Chen Xiao as the 13th Prince and main male character of the movie. 胤祥
      1. Chen Xiao Born in 1987 as well in An Hui province, he was deemed one of the most handsome men for historical chinese dramas in the early 20120s. He starred in several well known dramas including the 2014 version of Romance of the Condor Hero or 神雕侠侣 where he met his wife, The Legend of Lu Zhen or 陆贞传奇 pairing up again with Zanilia Zhao or 赵丽颖, and Nothing Gold Can Stay or 那年花开月正圆 with 孙俪。I’m primarily excited for his upcoming drama called 梦华录 with my favorite actress 刘亦菲 who starred in Disney’s recent adaptation of Mulan. 
      2. In the film, he plays the tragic character of the 13th prince of Kang Xi. Born in 1686, he’s handsome, and accomplished in many skills. He lost his mother at a young age and is extremely close to his brother, the 4th prince and eventual Emperor as they were raised by the same mother, Consort De. During the fight for the throne, the 13th prince was imprisoned for a decade and was released when the 4th prince ascended the throne. This is not shown in the film but the 13th prince served his brother as a trusted ally for 8 years until his death in 1730.
    5. Zhu Zi Xiao朱梓骁 (xiao1)  as the 9th Prince 胤禟
      1. Of all the actors and actresses in this drama, Zhu Zi Xiao is probably the one I’m least familiar with. His claim to fame is appearing in the 2009 remake of Meteor Garden which was another explosively popular drama that launched the careers of many of its main cast. Seems like he’s been in quite a number of good dramas but in smaller roles. One of his more recent and popular dramas is 琉璃 or Love and Redemption though he doesn’t play a main role.
      2. 朱梓骁 plays the 9th prince who is seen as manipulative and power hungry. In history, he supported the 8th prince to take over the throne. Born 1683, he was stripped of his title, kicked out of the clan and renamed 塞斯黑 which means Dog in manchu in 1725. He died a year later in 1726. 

[Cathy]

  1. Lu Yi as the 4th Prince, eventual Emperor Yong Zheng
    1. We’ve followed Lu Yi for years. I remember that he starred in a drama with Ruby Lin and Feng SHao Feng back in 2003 and was already a fan so it’s been interesting to see his career progression through the years. He’s not an idol but has a handsome face and has starred in several high quality dramas. Though there have also been a few missteps along the way. His foray into the Palace series or at least dramas with Yu Zheng, the producer of this series, some would say mmmm could have been better. 
    2. Anyways, he plays the calculating 4th prince that we know as Emperor Yong Zheng. He and the 13th prince are the closest brothers. I would say we talked at length about this historical character in our Empresses to the Palace podcast series so listen to that if you want to hear more about Yong Zheng. Haha. 
  2. 林子聪 Lam Chi-chung  as the Crown Prince 胤礽 réng
    1. This chubby hong kong actor I feel like was everywhere in the late 90s and 2000s. Popular for his physique that added comedic effect to a lot of shows he’s in, he provides me with a comforting feeling everytime I see him on screen. He has quite a filmography so do check him out!
    2. He plays the discarded Crown Prince. This character was rather interesting in history as he was twice named Crown prince and twice discarded by Emperor Kang Xi. Born to Kang Xi’s first Empress, he was named Crown prince partly because his mother died shortly after giving birth and his father greatly missed her. But after a series of missteps, his father ultimately decided that he was not fit to be Emperor and deposed him thus leading to a bitter battle between the remaining brothers.
  3. 邬君梅 as 德妃
    1. I’m not too familiar with her work. I think i’ve seen her in dramas here and there She actually acted in Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1987 epic The Last Emperor about the life of the last emperor of china pu yi and portrayed one of his consorts.
    2. In this movie, she portrays 德妃 who in history is the mother of 雍正 or the 4th prince and the Empress Dowager in Empresses in the Palace. She of course did not birth the 13th prince. I haven’t found much research on whether or not they were close in real life.

 

  1. Cameos 
    1. Bao Bei Er – The Eunuch Chun Shou
      1. This guy is a relatively well known actor now with many movie and drama acting credits under his name as well as directing credits. I was introduced to him when he participated on the reality tv show Running man a few years back. Again, surprised to see him in this movie so many years ago.
    2. Zhang Wei Jian or Dicky Cheung – Head Eunuch
      1. Can I say I almost cried of surprise when I saw Dicky Cheung show up on screen? He was legitimately one of my favorite actors growing up because his dramas were generally light and funny though when there were serious moments I cried like a baby. It’s a little bittersweet to see him in such a small role here and also that he’s aged but what can you do. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve watched 机灵小不懂 or in English it’s called Smart Kid? As a child. He was one of those actors that whenever there was a new drama out, I’d want to see it because he is so fun.
    3. Zhang Zi Feng – as Young Chen Xiang – Though just a tiny role, the young actress who played the Young Chen Xiang is currently studying at Beijing Film Academy but has a ton of acting credits to her name. I would say she’s one of the new movie stars to watch for in the CHinese entertainment industry as she has in my view adorable facial features but has already showcased her acting abilities at a young age. I’m sure we’ll see her career blossom in the coming years.
    4. 黄圣依 portrays the mother to the 13th prince 敏妃. 
      1. She’s  pretty famous actress who got her big break from Stephen Chow’s movie Kung Fu Hustle. But her filmography since then hasn’t been too great.
      2.  In history, 敏妃 died in 1699 when her son was only 13. I didn’t find too many details surrounding her death.  
    5. The above are what I would say are key cameos I want to mention. There are quite a few others such that I was very surprised to see. The actress for 齐妃 from Empresses in the Palace is there as another consort. Dicky Cheung’s wife 张茜, who we’ve seen in other dramas is also another consort. 

 

[Karen]

Let’s talk at a high level about the plot of the movie. At its core, this is a romance film that is set during a tumultuous time in history. My personal view is that the history and culture part of the film are more fun to watch than the romance portion but anyways. That’s neither here nor there. The film starts with the main character Chen Xiang entering the palace during Kang Xi’s rule as a young maid. She inadvertently trespasses into the old residence of the 13th prince’s deceased mother. Phew that was a mouthful. There, she is scared after seeing the young 13th prince’s figure but is dragged off. Later that night, she also meets another young maid, Liu Li, whom they pair to become the best of friends. 

 

As the years pass, Chen Xiang, Liu Li and their good friend, the eunuch 春寿 enjoy some blissful years. They learn the lesson of what women do in order to improve their station in the palace, which is to try to capture the attention of a prince or the Emperor to become a concubine. Chen Xiang doesn’t have such aspirations though her best friend Liu Li absolutely does. One day, Chen Xiang is shown a picture of the handsome 13th prince and immediately falls in love with him but to emphasize her good nature, she doesn’t take action. Liu Li, on the other hand, plots to land the affection of a prince and successfully spends the night with the 9th prince. She thinks he’ll marry her which is naive to the extreme and he pretty much discards her. That same night she was spending with the 9th prince, Chen Xiang, who was taking Liu Li’s post during her night shift, was over spending a more innocent time with the 13th prince, helping him attract butterflies to help remember his mother. She had her face covered during this endeavor as Chen Xiang was covering for Liu Li. 

 

That evening’s time spent, however, made the 13th prince fall madly in love with Chen Xiang as well and he wants to marry her. But not knowing who she was, he could only search for the maid on duty that night. Liu Li doesn’t hesitate to claim that it was her that night and is married to the 13th prince which leads to a heartbroken Chen Xiang. To add insult to injury, Liu Li brings Chen Xiang along as her personal maid. At this point, Liu Li forgets all pretense of friendship and sisterly love in the face of riches and wealth. Anything that threatens her position must go.  BUT, Liu Li continues to enjoy an affair with the 9th prince. 

 

[Cathy]

The rest of the film revolves around relationship conflicts between these 4 characters. Chen Xiang loves the 13th prince who thinks he loves Liu Li. Liu Li is going to marry the 13th prince primarily for the status but is having an affair with the 9th prince.  While all THAT drama is happening, a furious battle for the imperial throne is also waging. As explained earlier, the 13th prince and the 9th prince are on different teams so naturally, there are schemes against each other. We see the Crown prince infuriating the Emperor and is deposed. We also see the 4th prince taking calculated steps to being the next Emperor.. We kind of know how the movie will end since history stares us in the face but how it ends is the point of the film. There are many retellings of how the 4th prince actually earned the throne so this is just adding another example to the long list

 

[Karen]

Overall, I think this was actually a very interesting movie. It did take a bunch of liberties on history and the plot was somewhat contrived but, there’s a treasure trove of history to discuss so let’s begin!

 

 

Right at the beginning of the film, we see maids being selected for the palace. During the Qing dynasty, palace maids were under the management of 内务府 which is the Imperial Household Department. 

 

I was doing some research on the topic and there seems to be some conflicting information on the topic. Maids were either selected to enter the palace either at the age of 11 or 13. They were actually mostly selected from the Booi Aha of the 8 banners under the Qing regime. In mandarin they are called 包衣. They are basically bondservants or servile household members of the Manchu elite or members of the 8 banners. The members of the 包衣 have a lower status than a regular manchu. Maids chosen for menial tasks usually had no education but maids of the aristocracy usually meant being relatively well educated so as to serve their masters. We see glimpses of this actually in 甄嬛传 Empresses in the Palace with 甄嬛’s half sister 浣碧. She could read and write. In The Story of YanXi Palace, the maids of the Empress could marry quite well which reflects their high status.

 

Unlike in other dynasties, maids could leave the palace at the age of 25 if they were still of good standing. Though, as is discussed in the movie many times. 25 is an old age for a maid if she still wanted to get married. Understandably, life as a maid was not that glamorous. They were often physically and sexually abused. The miniscule upside is of course potentially capturing the eye of a prince or the emperor himself. That actually didn’t happen often but hey we wouldn’t have these Palace dramas or movies if it wasn’t a fantasy right?

 

Based on the math from the drama, 沉香 and 琉璃 entered the palace when they were around 13. The two young actresses 蒋依依 and 张子枫 were actually younger than that when the movie premiered.

 

[Cathy]

乾西四所

 

To serve, 沉香 and 琉璃 are first assigned to a placed called 乾西四所. This is an actual spot and is located on the northwest side of the Forbidden City. They were first built, of course, during the 明 dynasty and were continuously renovated during the centuries even in the 清 dynasty. The place where 沉香 and 琉璃 work was renamed to 建福宫 in the 1740s during the reign of 乾隆. 

 

There are plenty of bugs in the drama so let’s point out a few. 

 

In the beginning of the movie, 沉香 loses her earring and tries to find it. She actually steps on the dragon in the middle of the steps. That was a huge no no. The dragon represents the emperor in the forbidden palace. Absolutely no one could step on it. He/she would be severely punished and most likely killed. I nearly had a heart attack when I saw this on screen. For anyone who has visited the Forbidden Palace in Beijing, that’s something the tour guides mention. Only the Emperor could pass above the dragon. 

 

Separately, 琉璃 mentions her quarters as 淑芳斋 which is SO popular for everyone who has watched 还珠格格 or My Fair Princess but this place was renamed during the reign of Qian Long Emperor, 2 emperors after Kang Xi. 

 

[Karen]

Moving on, when the eunuch 春寿 he finds out that 琉璃 has taken 沉香’s place as the future wife of the 13th prince, he uses the idiom 李代桃僵. The english translation on screen was just “how dare 琉璃 take your wealth and position!” which I guess works, but that’s why we’re here to explain what it means.

 

The literal translation is the plum tree sacrificing itself for the peach tree by pretending to be the peach tree. In the beginning, this idiom had a positive connotation. Brothers helping each other and sacrificing for the greater good. It is actually one of the famous 36 stratagems for Chinese war. However, in the drama, the eunuch 春寿 uses the phrase to show his indignation at 琉璃’s betrayal.

 

After 琉璃 successfully marries the 13th prince, which we all know is probably way too easy and would have had little chance of happening in real life, she does something called 割肉喂亲 or with the literal translation, cutting my own flesh to feed my kin. This is when 琉璃 pretends to cut herself to help medicate 德妃。Now, this is very much just folklore. Do NOT do this. There are instances in history though of individuals who did do this to save family members when they were in destitute poverty. That’s why when mentioned, everyone was shocked at 琉璃’s filial piety but not shocked at the actual act. This is an extreme measure to take but not wholly unheard of. We actually saw 安陵容 do this for 甄嬛 in Empresses in the Palace in an effort to show 甄嬛 that she, 安陵容 was loyal to 甄嬛,even though she wasn’t. Lol. Another scene borrowed from that drama. 

 

[Cathy]

On the topic of 安陵容 from Empresses in the Palace, you will remember her singing a song that captured the attention of the Emperor. It’s called  金缕衣 – or the poem’s name is “Golden Threaded Clothes” and those lines are reflected here in the film. BUT in my opinion, the film used this poem completely inaccurately. 

 

The full poem is this: 

 

劝君莫惜金缕衣,劝君惜取少年时。

花开堪折直须折,莫待无花空折枝

This poem is from the Tang Dynasty, about 1000 years before the Qing dynasty. We’ve mentioned how these last two lines are very famous and voila here they are again! So what does this poem mean? 

Our translation is this: I urge you to not value the wealth and riches of the Golden Threaded Clothing, I urge you instead to value your youth and capture that time – just like flowers on a branch which require you to pick at the right moment. Don’t wait until there are no flowers left on the tree and pick empty tree branches.

[Karen]

The last 2 lines were written on a prayer note of sorts and attached to a bell. To the 13th prince, he believes that 琉璃 is worried that he’ll marry another since it’s talking about how one is waiting until there are no flowers left. But he tells 琉璃 not to worry. He is absolutely going to marry her. 琉璃 immediately suspects correctly that it was 沉香 who left that note. 琉璃 thinks 沉香 is trying to hint to the 13th prince that 琉璃’s flower is already gone to someone else. Uh…….What? That does not make sense at all. I totally do not understand why Chen Xiang wrote that as the 13th prince’s understanding of the poem more closely aligns with what I think the poem is trying to say. Does the screenwriter think that we don’t know Chinese poetry??? 

In any case, this note was enough to threaten 沉香 with their good friend 春寿’s life, which then brings us to the next topic. 

[Cathy]

对食

Again, we’ve discussed this at length in Empresses in the Palace but here’s a recap. 对食 is eating food opposite of one another. The first record of this phrase is found in 汉书 or the Book of Han finished in around 111 AD.  It originally actually was used to mean same-sex relationships between palace maids. Over the years, the phrase of 对食 changed it’s meaning to include relationships between Eunuchs and palace maids. 对食 typically refers to a short relationship between the maids and eunuchs. Once a maid and eunuch establish a long term relationship, they are known as 菜户。The couple behaves like a married couple but are not legally married. 

 

In this movie, 对食 seemed to be a pretty open topic but I don’t think it was really the case as it wasn’t as common during the 清 dynasty. People also looked down at the woman who agreed to marry the eunuch as was shown in the movie. 

 

[Karen]

 

十八阿哥

The next big historical event that happens in the drama is the death of the 18th prince. 

 

胤祄 xiè

 

Born in 1701, he died young at the age of 8 in 1708. The 18th prince was very favored by the Emperor.In history, his death and the emotionless response from the then Crown Prince 胤礽 actually did lead to the first time 胤礽 was deposed as Crown prince for the first time. Well, it wasn’t just due to the death of the 18th prince, but his death was certainly a factor.

 

Chinese opera – 齐天大圣

 

In the movie, the Crown Prince was deposed after his blatant disregard for his younger brother’s death and his performance of Chinese Opera – specifically portraying 齐天大圣孙悟空 or the monkey king. 

 

This whole portrayal is of course an anachronism. Peking Opera didn’t officially become a pastime until late in 18th century and we’re only at the beginning of the 18th century. Ok, the movie doesn’t state that it’s Peking Opera but I think we get the point. 

 

I did a bit of digging and the scene portrayed in the movie is most likely from the Peking Opera called 大闹天宫 – or the Monkey King Wreaks Havoc in the Heavens. It’s actually quite a popular opera now. It did have roots in folklore but i guess the productions became more formalized in the 20th century.

 

As mentioned before, the Crown Prince gets deposed in 1708 and reinstated in 1709 before being finally deposed in 1712. It really is a testament to Emperor 康熙’s love for his first Empress that he actually named a Crown Prince and reinstated him! In the 清 dynasty, it was not common practice to do so.

 

[Cathy]

 

上屋抽梯

 

As the fight for the throne heats up, the 13th prince says this idiom to the 4th prince when he decides to aid his brother in the fight for the throne. This is also one of the 36 strategems but not as famous as the earlier one mentioned. The literal translation means – go upstairs and remove the ladder.  

 

The story for this is as follows – during the three kingdoms period specifically around mid to late 2nd century AD, an aristocrat 刘表 preferred his younger son 刘琮 and didn’t like his eldest 刘琦. Now this 刘琦, feeling the pressure of his younger brother and his mother sought the advice of the brilliant strategist 诸葛亮, chancellor and later regent of the state of Shu Han. But 诸葛亮 didn’t want to meet this 刘琦. So what does 刘琦 do? He invites 诸葛亮 for drinks on the second story of a restaurant. Once 诸葛亮 arrives, 刘琦 removes the ladder, forcing 诸葛亮 to have this conversation with 刘琦. Seeing no other option 诸葛亮 does indeed give 刘琦 the advice to flee the city. From a strategy perspective, this idiom is used to say – lure with a small bait and then block all exit opportunities. 

 

In the movie, the 13th prince tries to lure his father during a hunt. The hope was to get his father in a secluded area, block all of his exit options, and actually have a conversation. It was well meant, i guess, but execution was not so great. 

 

[Karen]

The place where the imperial family goes to hunt is called 南苑. This place served as the royal hunting grounds for the imperial family starting from the Yuan Dynasty. So the late 13th century all the way up until the early 20th century. Presently, it is located within the city boundaries of Beijing and looking at the map, only 15 kilometers from the Forbidden City due straight south. 

 

In the drama the 13th Prince is sent to 宗人府 or basically exile after this fiasco. In history, he does lose favor starting in around 1709 and never regains favor with his father. It is recorded that his health fails and his 4th brother, the future emperor, looks far and wide for doctors to heal him. I’m not sure Chinese doctors can perform miracles like regain one’s eyesight but hey, maybe they can.

 

[Cathy]

 

Guns

For the first time in our 清dynasty dramas / movies, we see firearms! The chinese invented gunpowder but firearms were introduced from abroad. It’s not 100% clear i believe on where the first firearms such as cannons were introduced.  Muskets were introduced to the Chinese in the mid-16th century by the portuguese. This was of course during the 明 dynasty. During the Ming and Qing Dynasties, there were military branches that used muskets, matchlocks and cannons but they were still very rudimentary. Muskets and Matchlocks were the primary firearms used until the early 20th century.

 

喇嘛

Lamas are prominently seen during the final confrontation between the 4th Prince and the 9th Prince. They are part of Tibetan Buddhism. They surround the bed of the deceased emperor. I don’t have too much to say about the Lamas but they were prominent during the 清 dynasty. We see them in many forms in several chinese dramas. 

 

[Karen]

Wow – that was a ton of history to procure from this movie. This definitely isn’t comprehensive but it covers many topics that we found interesting. It’s a nice convergence of the two dramas that we’ve discussed – Empresses in the palace and of course the Story of Ming Lan. I am quite shocked but also pleased to see Zhao Li Ying take this evil turn and she absolutely kills it. Chen Xiao and Lu Yi are as handsome as ever and 周冬雨 the actress for 沉香 is one of the most accomplished young actresses in china now! 

 

Again, to watch this, if you’re in the US, Jubao TV is a free streaming service that has english subtitles. If you search online, there are other options to view this in other regions. 

 

That’s it for today’s special episode! We hope you enjoyed it. We’ll continue to bring new content on top of our weekly drama recap episodes for your enjoyment! Until next time!

 

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