Episode 72 – I Cannot Do It


[Karen]

Welcome back to Chasing Dramas, the podcast that discusses Chinese history and culture through historical chinese dramas. This is Karen and Cathy. Today we are discussing episode 72 of Hou Gong Zhen Huan Zhuan. Empresses in the Palace. As always, feel free to reach out to us if you have any comments or questions either at karenandcathy@chasingdramas.com or else on instagram and twitter @chasingdramas.

 

This episode is split into 2 parts. The first, is the final judgement against the Empress. In our last podcast discussion, the Empress lost her final support system in the palace – her adoptive son the 3rd prince and her servants. Those servants were tortured for information and her multiple atrocities have finally been revealed to the Emperor and he decides her fate. Once that’s done, the episode kinda abruptly moves on to a meeting with the new Dzungar khan whom we’ve actually met in the past. We’ll do an in-depth analysis on the first part of the episode and briefly talk about the second part as it sets up the story for the following episodes. 


Episode 72 starts with the Emperor’s head eunuch 苏培盛 presenting the interrogation findings of the Empress’s servants to the Emperor in his study. 苏培盛 shares the bombshell that the Empress was involved in the death of the Emperor’s beloved first wife, 纯元。The Emperor is initially outraged to hear this accusation but 苏培盛 explained that there were several ingredients harmful to pregnant women mixed into 纯元’s food. These included 芭蕉,or commonly known as the Japanese banana, and 桃仁 or peach seeds both of which don’t impact the body immediately but is a slow poison. The fact that the stillborn child had purple and green patches over its body is further evidence of this poison.


The reason why this scheme wasn’t initially discovered was because there was another wife that disrespected 纯元. The Emperor thought that this was the root cause for the stillborn child and the eventual death of 纯元。 苏培盛 explains that it’s precisely this reason that this plot wasn’t discovered earlier.


With this painful revelation, the Emperor requests the Empress’s presence. He fully believes that she schemed for the throne, that she killed imperial heirs, that she eliminated women in the palace, but this, he has to hear from her directly. 


[Cathy]

So now onto one of the most iconic scenes in the drama. It’s iconic for several reasons that we’ll get into. The Empress is kneeling on the ground while the Emperor sits above, listening to her explain herself. 


Honestly, after watching this scene, the person I want to punch in the face the most is actually the Emperor. The Empress says that when she and the Emperor first married, he had promised her that if she birthed a son, she would be made 福晋  or the main wife. However, when she did give birth to a son, her sister 纯元 already married into the palace and usurped her position. The Empress’s son is now forever a 庶出 son or the translation is a secondary son because his mother is a secondary wife. 庶出 children are generally seen as second class in society. 


The Emperor says that he doesn’t care about the primary or secondary status and that he has always treated the Empress well. But it was never enough for her.


The Empress counters that her first wife position was taken, her son’s position of crown prince was taken, and even her husband’s entire love was taken. She would really like to think it was enough, but she cannot.


It’s quite heartbreaking to hear what happened to her son. He wasn’t even 3 years old when he became ill with a high fever and tragically passed away without any medical treatment. When her son died, the Emperor didn’t care much because he was so immersed in the happiness of 纯元’s pregnancy. For her crimes, the Empress does not mind if her sister comes after her life, why did the gods have to take her son’s life. Is it not her sister’s child that took her child? How could she allow her sister’s child to survive?


[Karen]

To this, the Emperor asks the quintessential question – I was the one who did all this, why don’t you hate me instead?


Which is a really fair question. He is the root cause to all of this pain.


The Empress responds with – Do you think I don’t want to hate you? You’re so focused on your relationship with my sister, have you ever noticed my love for you?  My love for you is not less than your love for my sister. 


Poor woman, she fell in love with the Emperor but he does not care for her very much. 


The Emperor doesn’t have much to say to this any more and is ready to remove her of her Empress position. As he’s writing out his decree though, his mother’s head maid hurriedly arrives with one final order from the deceased Empress Dowager.


This order was written on the Empress Dowager’s dying breath. It says that if ever there was an instance that the current Empress committed unthinkable atrocities, the Emperor must remember that she is never to be removed.


The Emperor is in disbelief. Why would the Empress Dowager write this order? He does not want to keep this woman around who killed his most beloved. The maid, however, reminds him that 纯元’s last wish was for him to never leave her younger sister. He cannot remove the Empress because she, her sister and his mother are all from the same or related families. 


The Emperor is furious but cannot outright defy his mother and 纯元’s last wishes. He decrees that the Empress will forever stay in her palace. In life or death, they will never see each other again. The phrase in chinese is 死生不复相见. This is quite a solemn oath.


[Cathy]

And that’s it for the Empress! Her crimes have finally come to light and she has been defeated!  Let’s talk about this scene because there are so many things to unpack. Here are a few topics I want to touch on.


  1. The Emperor is a complete hypocrite. He keeps on bringing up the fact that the Empress and 纯元 were sisters and therefore he cannot fathom how the Empress could kill her own sister. Um… How many of your brothers have you killed or imprisoned? Even your own blood brother from the same mother and father, the 14th prince, you wouldn’t let your dying mother see. You banished your own son, the 3rd son to be the son of your 8th brother which led to his death. It’s really rich of him to accuse the Empress of not prioritizing familial ties when he himself is not a beacon of light by any means. This just makes my blood boil. 

  2. I truly believe that the Emperor only loves 纯元 so much because she died at a young age. The Empress said it best, she regrets not letting the Emperor see her sister age. The Emperor, to me, epitomizes every saying where you miss what you’ve lost. He lost 纯元 when she was at her most beautiful and kind. She had yet to participate in Palace schemes and did not have to vy for power so she hasn’t turned, so to speak, “evil”. I do not believe that anyone who survives in the palace does not change for the worse and does not scheme. Even if it’s not to harm others, you will scheme to protect yourself. Alternatively, if 纯元 maintained her innocence and kindness, she would have been killed off in some other way. She would have too easily been a victim to one of these schemes. Lastly, we have seen time and again how short the Emperor’s attention span is. If 纯元 survived, who’s to say that the Emperor might have tired of her like he tired of so many other women in the palace? Dying may have been the best outcome for 纯元 because it solidified her existence and imprinted what her behavior was at that specific point in time.

  3. This once again shows the brilliance of the Empress Dowager. She knew full well what her daughter in law did to the women in the Imperial Harem but she decided that the glory of their clan and the position of Empress was more important. Even on her dying breath, she plotted to keep this glory for her clan. The Empress was not deposed nor killed, she is still the Empress, to the Empress Dowager, that was enough. She manipulated her son from her grave and that’s the last gift she could have given to the Empress.


Overall, while the Empress is reprehensible, the Emperor is not much better. The two of them are equally terrible people and I honestly think that the Emperor is the worse out of the pair. I don’t think the Empress would have done as many terrible things as she did if the Emperor kept to his word and cared more for her. Ultimately though, the Emperor and the Empress are products of their time. If not for all of these traditions and societal standards, these tragedies may have been limited.



[Karen]

Now let’s get to some more mundane matters of politics and the Imperial court, haha. I kind of wish that the drama just ended here?  The rest of the remaining episodes on one hand just adds more heartbreak but does have a rather satisfying ending.


The Emperor meets with his minister 张廷玉 to discuss unrest with the Dzungar Khanate or the 准噶尔部落. There’s been much upheaval in the empire but there isn’t a general that can lead the forces into battle. The best option is to have a Lord or Prince to lead the troops. The only person they can use? Why it’s the 17th Prince 果郡王.


The Qing dynasty overall isn’t doing too great in this battle. The Emperor receives a report that the the Dzungar Khanate and its new ruler, 摩格is demanding astronomical sums as tribute from the Qing dynasty in order to stop the warfare. Of course the Emperor does not agree and he receives good news shortly after. The Dzungar army has contracted the plague and is currently immobilized.


Because of this, the Khan requests a meeting with the Emperor for peace talks. Luckily, the Qing dynasty has a cure that the Imperial Doctor Wen Shi Chu discovered back with the Qing dynasty suffered from the plague several years back. This is their biggest bargaining chip. The Emperor agrees to meet the Khan at a banquet in the Summer Palace and we have a grand scene where this meeting takes place. The Emperor is present with his concubines and children on one side, and his brothers and their families on another. Outside are the various court ministers.


[Cathy]

We see the Khan come into the banquet hall to find out that it’s a familiar face. He’s the man that the 17th prince and 甄嬛 saved from a snake bite years ago when they were lovers. Uh oh… this does not bode well for either of them who are in attendance at this banquet.


The banquet is a battle of wits between the Khan and the Emperor. The Khan has a challenge for the court – someone needs to solve a 9 ring jade puzzle. It’s shown to members of the court standing outside and members of the imperial family. They all shake their heads to announce their inability to solve the puzzle. Even 甄嬛 declines to answer. Just as the Khan starts gloating, 甄嬛 whispers in daughter 胧月’s ear and she steps up to try to solve the puzzle.


The princess grabs the jade puzzle and throws it on the floor, promptly shattering it, and consequently solving the puzzle. The Khan is furious with this act but the Qing court all quietly smirks on the side. The princess was the perfect person to solve the puzzle in exactly this manner. I highly doubt that no one else didn’t know how to solve it. The 17th Prince and 甄嬛 both smiled when they examined the puzzle but the princess is someone who could a, do what she wanted, b, be a slap in the face to the Khan since she’s so small, and c, prevent the Khan from retaliating exactly because she’s so young.


[Karen]

The eunuch 苏培盛 enters to mutter some good news to the Emperor, one of his generals was victorious in battle. This gives the Emperor a bit more leverage over the khan and makes a gesture of peace by offering the cure to the plague to the khan. 


甄嬛 excuses herself from the banquet to change. However, outside the Khan stops her. He recognizes her as the woman with the 17th prince all those years ago. 甄嬛 denies any of his allegations but he threatens her to be careful. Unfortunately this conversation is overheard by one of the Emperor’s spies. The episode ends with the Emperor ordering the spy to investigate further and he goes to meet with the Khan.





[Cathy]

Analysis


In episode 72, we have the final showdown between the Emperor and the Empress.


The Empress will still be around for a few more episodes but we’ll say our goodbye to her here. 


The Empress in history was called 乌拉那拉 多棋木里. Born in 1681, she married 雍正, the then 4th prince in 1691. When she was only 10?? She was his primary consort or wife. She gave birth to her son 弘晖 in 1697 and died prematurely in 1704. As in the drama, she didn’t have any more children after her son.  She became empress when her husband ascended the throne in 1723 at the age of 43. In this episode, the Empress quotes from the Imperial edict for her ascension to Empress. The piece she quotes is directly from the Factual Records of the Qing Dynasty or 清实录雍正朝. So again kudos to the drama for this.


She died in 1731 at the age of 51, which is actually right around when the final scene between her and the Emperor takes place. The Emperor praised the Empress for her adherence to duty, frugality, and kindness. The whole story of 纯元 is of course fictictional as well as any claims to her plotting to kill the Emperor’s unborn children.


[Karen]

This episode features an iconic scene, specifically the phrase 臣妾做不到 that the Empress states a few times as she’s confessing her crimes. This translates to I cannot do it. She could bring herself to hate the Emperor so she says 臣妾做不到. Why is this iconic?


Well, this along with a few other phrases from the drama, has been memed, recreated, you name it in all forms of social media in China. It’s taken a life of its own more in a joking manner. So for example, if you wanted to say, I want to stop eating desserts, but I cannot do it. In mandarin, you’ll say, 叫我不吃甜点,臣妾做不到! Ada Choi, the actress, actually perpetuated the meme and she has a ton of fun with it. She posted on her weibo saying – tell me to not love ada choi? I cannot do it! I cannot do it!


If you see Ada Choi in reality TV shows, someone will inevitably bring this quote up. 


[Cathy]

Speaking of, let’s give a shout out and praise to the actress 蔡少芬, Ada Choi. I’ve watched several of her Hong Kong TVB dramas growing up but she really astounded me here in this drama. She was extremely famous in Hong Kong and gained more popularity in the mainland with this drama.


Some fun behind the scenes tidbits. She was 37 when she filmed Empresses in the Palace. Shortly before filming, Ada found out she was pregnant with her first child! She initially contemplated backing out of the production but since she already signed, she decided to conceal her pregnancy and continue filming. A few months in, the cast and crew finally found out about her pregnancy but they were able to carry on. What a trooper! 


I’m thoroughly impressed that she was able to act while pregnant especially in those flower pot bottom shoes! Well, I guess that’s what pregnant women had to do back in the day anyways?


If you look at interviews with Ada during this time, she constantly jokes that it was relatively easy to adjust especially since she was the Empress. She says that rarely had to kneel or bow and as the Empress, she always had people to hold on to while walking. Ada Choi is an absolute gem! I’m very glad she didn’t pass on this role. I can’t imagine another person as the Empress. 


[Karen]

We’ve mentioned this before but her reality tv show appearances are hilarious. Her husband is from the mainland but he speaks Cantonese at home so she doesn’t speak Mandarin much except for her guest appearances. BUT her Mandarin in China has become known as the “Ada Style Mandarin” or “Empress Style Mandarin”. It’s hilarious and cute. I highly recommend googling some of her appearances. There’s a reality tv show called 王牌对王牌 where she reprises her role as the Empress to play some games and such. She’s so charming and a great sport in those episodes. I will warn you, you will roll over laughing. It’s on youtube. To this day, Chinese media will refer to her as 皇后娘娘 or the Empress. 


That’s it for this episode. We devoted a ton to the Empress because well, she is the last “boss” in the Imperial Harem. 甄嬛 has more obstacles to face in the Palace but she’s vanquished her foes in the Imperial Harem. With only 4 episodes left, stay tuned to find out!


Episode 70+71 – Check Mate


[Karen]

Welcome back to Chasing dramas.  This is the podcast that discusses Chinese history and culture through historical Chinese dramas. Today we are discussing episode 70 and 71 of Empresses in the Palace, 后宫甄嬛传。 We are your hosts, Karen and Cathy.  This podcast is in English with proper nouns pronounced in Mandarin Chinese. As always, we first do an episode recap and then discuss any interesting historical or plot details described in the episode.


In the last episode, one of the main themes was the 3rd prince’s infatuation with the beautiful and lovely 瑛贵人. This paved the way to weaken the Empress’s support in the palace as we head into the end game. Episode 70 + 71 we’re combining because they are heavily plot driven and focus on 1 thing, defeating the Empress.


I like to think of the Empress as a final boss. Zhen Huan has defeated all of the Empress’s lieutenants while developing a strong army herself. If we look at Zhen Huan’s team, you have 敬贵妃, 皇贵妃, formerly 端妃, 欣嫔, her adoptive son the 4th prince, her own sisters and at minimum 宁嫔。 All of these ladies are very powerful, intelligent and attuned to Palace politics. What about the Empress? She currently only has her servants and the 3rd prince. Now it is time to turn our attention to coming in for the kill. So, what happens in these 2 episodes?


[cathy]

First and foremost is to cause the Emperor to lose trust in both the 3rd prince and the Empress. How is this done? The 3rd prince was idiotic enough to serve himself on a platter. In the last episode, the 3rd prince became infatuated with one of the Emperor’s women, the beautiful 瑛贵人. And so, he decides to write a love letter to her. 


Unfortunately, this love letter was discovered by 敬贵妃, a member of 甄嬛’s camp. 敬贵妃 presents this evidence to the Emperor who summons 甄嬛, the Empress and 瑛贵人.  While 敬贵妃 explains what she discovered hoping to land a huge blow to the 3rd prince and the Empress, the Empress was able to turn the tables and accuse 瑛贵人 of seducing a prince。The Emperor is furious and swiftly sentences 瑛贵人 to death by hanging. The poor girl is dragged out crying that she is innocent and that’s the last we see of her. Such a sad ending for her and because the 3rd prince couldn’t keep his emotions in check.   


But even though the Emperor sentenced her to death, he’s fully aware that she was innocent. He had to do this to protect the reputation of the imperial family. He says as much to the 3rd prince who had been punished to pray in the royal temple in the palace. While the Emperor does not raise his voice, he slaps the 3rd prince for 1) being interested in his father’s woman and 2) being interested in the Emperor’s woman. The Emperor is furious with his son and warns him that if there are any future mistakes, he may not be able to save his son. The 3rd prince is left crying and in shock of what transpired.


[side note: I was shocked at those 2 slaps to the face! The Emperor must REALLY be angry]


[Karen]

But really? 3rd prince. Why on earth did you think this was a good idea whatsoever? Great job for you, you just killed a completely innocent woman. This certainly causes a rift between the Emperor and his eldest son.


The death of 瑛贵人 had collateral damage though. The Emperor is suspicious that the 17th prince and 玉隐, Zhen Huan’s younger sister, may have had a hand in telling 瑛贵人 to seduce the 3rd prince. While this is obviously not true, he becomes distant towards 甄嬛. They had a frank conversation about how this looks. 甄嬛 has sons, who would gain if the 3rd Prince falls out of favor? The Emperor admits it doesn’t look good for her. 甄嬛 is certainly saddened and annoyed that the Emperor would entertain this type of wrongful suspicion on the 17th prince’s household that are completely innocent. But this is the Emperor’s true nature.


We shouldn’t feel too bad for 甄嬛 though. As 敬贵妃 finds out when trying to make up for acting to rashly on this matter, 甄嬛 is actually pregnant again. This means that her current loss of favor will resolve itself as the Emperor will be pleased to hear there’s another pregnancy.  What I love about this scene is it again shows that 敬贵妃 knows how to play the game in the palace. It’s just when she decides to act. Here it backfired but her goal was to strike a blow to the Empress.


[Cathy]

[Really? I thought this was VERY rash of 敬贵妃 – she even admitted it herself. 甄嬛 has now lost favor, the 17th prince, who has done nothing, is on pins and needles even though he doesn’t know it, and poor 瑛贵人 died. I actually don’t know what she wanted to accomplish]


He acknowledges to 苏培盛 that he’s most anxious about ties between the Imperial Court and the Imperial Harem. He’s worried everyone’s calculating against him – well he’s not wrong – and must plan against that. 


This is further exacerbated by the pending preparations for the previous Emperor 康熙’s birthday ceremonies. The Empress wants the 3rd Prince to stand out during the proceedings. Unfortunately, it does seem the whole fiasco with 瑛贵人 has sowed the seeds of suspicion towards the 3rd prince. During a meeting with a minister, the Emperor finds out the 3rd Prince has recruited ministers and scholars to discuss political matters. This is a HUGE no no – the Emperor even points out this wasn’t allowed under his father. Why? Well – that’s basically building your own political faction. You’re telling everyone that you want the throne. The Emperor is getting more and more disappointed with the 3rd Prince. So much so that he doesn’t immediately appoint him to lead the proceedings for the birthday celebrations. That’s a big red flag.



[Karen]

Now that the 3rd prince has suffered a blow and has annoyed the Emperor, onto the Empress.


In a stroke of good luck, as 甄嬛 is watching the prince princesses play with each other, she is prompted by a sentence Princess 静和 exclaims, which is “My sister chasing my sister”. Yes, the translation is a little off but this is similar to 安陵容’s final words, The Empress kill the Empress. We discussed before how this could mean an action, as in The Empress, Go Kill the Empress, or a statement: The Empress Killed the Empress.  With this epiphany, 甄嬛 discusses with 敬贵妃 and 皇贵妃 who are with her watching the kids play in the palace that could it be possible the current Empress killed the former Empress 纯元。 This would be a bit of a stretch because they were sisters after all but 皇贵妃 shares the circumstances in which 纯元 died. 


It turns out, the current Empress was first to marry the Emperor, back then just the 4th prince. The Empress was also not the wife but rather 侧福晋 or a secondary wife. The plan was for the Empress to be promoted to the primary wife after she gives birth. But what happened?  The Empress’s older sister, 纯元 came to the household to take care of the Empress while the Empress was pregnant but when the Emperor met this older sister, he immediately fell in love and requested that she be named wife. The Empress, being younger and born of a secondary wife herself could not argue and accepted this. Later, when 纯元 became pregnant, her pregnancy was extremely difficult. The Empress was tasked with taking care of her older sister since she had a background in medicine. Sadly, 纯元 gave birth to a stillborn child. She also died soon after.


[Cathy]

Upon hearing this information, the trio of she, 甄嬛 and 敬贵妃 surmise that the Empress certainly had motive to kill her older sister. After all, 纯元 stole her husband and her coveted wife position. The trio agree to act cautiously and search for evidence of the Empress’s heinous crimes.


The plot to bring down the Empress almost falls into place a little too easily. The pregnancy is taking a toll on 甄嬛. She’s not doing great and it’s only 4 months. The Imperial Doctor 卫临 is out of ideas and they have no choice but to summon 温实处 back from his self-imposed exile. After his examination, he delivers the unhappy news. The pregnancy will not last more than 5 months. Heartbroken, 甄嬛 plans for her next step. If you couldn’t tell, she plans to do to the Empress what the Empress was trying to do to her during 安陵容’s pregnancy


[Karen]

How will she trap the Empress? The opportunity presents itself when the Emperor surprises 甄嬛 with a present – a large 珊瑚 or Precious Coral. It is said to have mystical properties so this should help 甄嬛 with her pregnancy. 甄嬛 immediately requests for all of the concubines including the Empress to come and enjoy the Coral and said that in order to make sure there is enough good luck, the most powerful people in the Palace should be in attendance. The Emperor agrees. She says this to ensure that the Empress cannot refuse. 


The Empress is delayed because well, she doesn’t want to come. She has no idea what 甄嬛 is planning and she doesn’t want to take the blame if anything happens. That’s very much the right thing to do. Unfortunately for her, the Emperor demands her presence and she has no choice but to come.


[Cathy]

The episode ends with 甄嬛 requesting that the 4 of them, The Empress, herself, 皇贵妃, and 敬贵妃 place good luck charms on her bedside to ward off the evil spirits.


Episode 71 picks right up from where we left off.


The Empress, 皇贵妃, and 敬贵妃 all go ahead into 甄嬛’s bedroom to hang the charms but 槿汐 delays 甄嬛 for a moment. She’s holding a bowl of medicine for 甄嬛 to drink – this is the very prescription that 甄嬛 requested earlier from the doctor to help her lose the baby. 槿汐 knew this is a unique opportunity to take down the Empress and nudges 甄嬛 to make the decision. 甄嬛 makes no comment but immediately drinks the concoction, turns around, and enters the bedroom.


The Empress finds herself alone with the pregnant 甄嬛 and she’s worried. You can see her eyes darting around. There’s absolutely no way that 敬贵妃 that 皇贵妃 were not in on this and purposefully left these 2 alone. Finally alone, 甄嬛 lifts all pretense and formally accuses the Empresses of the many terrible deeds she’s done, going so far as to grab the Empresses hand. The Empress is shocked and shakes off 甄嬛’s hand but then, 甄嬛 pushes herself onto a table. She cries out in pain as she knocks things over and passes out. 


All the while, the princess 胧月 is hiding in the corner watching this unfold.


[Karen]

Given the commotion, the Emperor and the rest of the ladies rush to see what happens. Zhen Huan is placed on her bed and the Imperial doctor comes to check on her. When she wakes she is informed that the child has been lost. Of course, this was all part of 甄嬛“s plan but she puts on quite the show, crying and accusing the Empress of harming her child. She feeds into the Empress’s dislike of her that the Emperor knows about. The Empress does a pretty good job of defending herself and evoking an anecdote which we’ll discuss later. The trump card though comes in the form of tada – Princess 胧月! 甄嬛’s eldest daughter. She starts crying and tells her father that she saw the Empress push 甄嬛。 We all know that’s a lie but the Emperor takes this as proof that the Empress did it. I mean, you have to believe a 6 year old child. They’re not supposed to know how to lie! But oh, but little does he know. 


The Emperor is furious and places the Empress under house arrest. So now both the 3rd prince and the Empress are not favored. This isn’t the end of them both so 甄嬛’s team continues to act. 


[Cathy]

甄嬛 makes clear to her adoptive son, the 4th prince, that the 3rd prince and the Empress are connected. The 4th prince gets the hint and devises a clever plot against the 3rd prince. 


The 4th prince meets his older brother and surreptitiously mentions that he went to visit their 8th uncle who is currently imprisoned. This is strictly forbidden and I don’t think the 4th prince actually did this but he cons his older brother into requesting clemency for these imprisoned uncles. The 4th prince mentions how forgiveness of these uncles will reflect well on their father the Emperor. The poor 3rd prince actually thinks this is a wonderful idea and agrees he’ll make this request. 


Unfortunately, this was probably the WORST thing the 3rd prince could have done. We’ve explained in this podcast series repeatedly about how the current emperor had to fight his brothers for the throne. He defeated his brothers the 8th prince and the 14th prince and had them imprisoned. Therefore, when the 3rd prince asks his father for forgiveness of these 2 uncles, his father becomes so furious that he tells the 3rd prince to be the son of his 8th uncle. Moving forward, the emperor will no longer have this son. 


[Karen]

The 3rd prince is shocked and crying but there’s nothing that can be done。 His father has made his final decision and has made this decree.


With that, the 3rd prince is now out of the picture. All that’s left is the Empress. We checked this and the fact that the 3rd prince was moved to be the son of his 8th uncle is in fact true. His father was angry at his arrogant nature and this was his punishment. Sadly, this son died a year after this punishment.



Now onto the Empress. The Empress and her head maid,剪秋 are shocked to hear this news. All those years of plotting to raise the future Emperor have been wasted. 剪秋 is raging on behalf of her master and decides to take matters into her own hands. This turns out to be the Empress’s final undoing.


[Cathy]

Later one evening, the Emperor hosts a family dinner. In attendance are him, Zhen Huan, 敬贵妃, their children, 宁嫔, the 17th prince with his two consorts, 玉隐 and the heavily pregnant 孟静娴, and the 19th prince with his wife, 玉娆。


甄嬛’s son the 6th prince is very interested in the pregnant 孟静娴. Of course we know it’s because they’re actually siblings but 甄嬛 continues to highlight that these 2 are cousins to avoid any suspicion. When a soup comes, the 6th prince asks 孟静娴 to feed him which she does. She first takes a sip of the soup to see if it’s hot. Before she can feed any to the 6th prince though, she starts coughing up blood. 


Turns out, the soup was poisoned. Both the 6th prince and Zhen Huan’s bowls of soup were poisoned by the famous 鹤顶红. This poison shows up in pretty much every chinese drama. 


[Karen]

The Emperor orders an investigation on how these bowls of soup could be poisoned. Very quickly, the guards were able to apprehend 剪秋 the Empress’s head maid. She was the one to put the poison in the soups. She shows absolutely no remorse for what she did and is dragged off to be tortured for information.  The oddest part about this is that she is screaming at the Emperor for not believing his wife, the Empress that she did not harm 甄嬛’s child. I find that quite funny. What about all the other terrible things the Empress has done in the past?


WIth that, the Empress now has absolutely no more allies and these servants are bound to spill her secrets. After all, they are undergoing intense torture. 


As to 孟静娴,she gives birth to a son for the 17th prince but since she was poisoned, sadly passes away. We find out that her pregnancy was a result of making the 17th prince drunk one night which she feels sorry for. The palace is saddened to hear of this death because she was completely innocent in this. It was a stroke of bad luck that she drank the soup first instead of anyone else. 


These two episodes completely deplete the Empress of any and all allies in the palace. 甄嬛 and team are closing in to finally defeat this formidable foe. It’s some what sad to see how weak the Empress is, completely isolated and weakened. But let’s take a look at 甄嬛’s faction now. Not only does she have amazing allies in the form of fellow concubines, her adoptive son, the 4th prince is incredibly cunning as well。 He totally manipulated his brother into visiting their uncle which is banned. His brother didn’t give it a second thought. This guy also did not care whatsoever that he essentially sentenced his brother to death by his suggestions. 甄嬛’s daughter, 胧月, is also dare i say even more cunning and intelligent than her mother. This young princess takes to heart what her adoptive mother says about protecting her birth mother and straight up lies in front of her father.  With a son and daughter like these, 甄嬛 has absolutely nothing to worry about in the future. 


—–

[Cathy]

Ok – On to some historical analysis


In episode 71 when the Empress was being accused of murdering 甄嬛’s unborn child, she says that she is similar to the Tang Dynasty’s 王皇后 or Empress Wang。 Empress Wang was framed for killing another concubine 武媚娘’s infant daughter and was severely punished for it. But the truth was that 武媚娘, this concubine, killed her own daughter, in order to bring down the Empress. What’s this story?


It’s actually quite a famous one that is often portrayed in television dramas. The Concubine who’s daughter was murdered is none other that the famous 武则天, the one and only female Emperor of China. There are many dramas and tales of this story but essentially when 武则天 was still a concubine, then commonly known as 武媚娘,this 王皇后 or Empress Wang was in power. The two women were at odds as 武媚娘 was heavily favored by the Emperor. Soon after 武媚娘’s first daughter was born, the young princess was found dead in her crib. It was said that 王皇后 was just in the palace where the princess was and without a strong alibi, the Emperor 李治 became furious with her. It paved the way for stripping 王皇后 of her Empress title and turning her into a mere citizen in the future. The catch is, it was never clear how the young princess died. There are stories that it was actually 武媚娘 who murdered her own child in order to frame the Empress. We will never know. 


As I said, this scene is portrayed in numerous Chinese dramas. Of the ones I’ve seen, yes, 王皇后 was framed but it was not 武媚娘 who killed the child. Instead, it was some made up character.


In our current drama, this is quite the apt comparison. The Empress is being framed for the death of a child that she did not kill. It was a powerful antidote to bring up but unfortunately for her, a lying 6 year old princess quashed the Empress’s hopes for a murky alibi.



One last item to chat about is this poison that killed 孟静闲 but was originally planned for 甄嬛 and her son. 鹤顶红. This poison pops up in so many Chinese historical dramas at this point, it’s almost a cliche. It’s pretty much just, Arsenic Trioxide. The direct translation of this name is the Red on top of a Heron. Historically, it was believed that that part of the heron was poisonous but that’s not the case. Nowadays it’s white but back then since the components were not pure, it looked red. In modern day, there are some medicinal purposes to it but historically, this was a poison that people favored because it didn’t have any taste or smell. Though for the poison to kill, it would take much longer than what was displayed here. 孟静闲 had one bite of soup and started coughing blood. That’s a little aggressive. 


Also – 鹤顶红 has been mentioned a few times in this drama. Typically when a concubine dies in the palace, she has three choices, this 鹤顶红, white silk, or a dagger. I guess most people choose silk to hang themself instead.


Episode 69 – Like Mother Like Son


[Karen]

Welcome back to Chasing dramas.  This is the podcast that discusses Chinese history and culture through historical Chinese dramas. Today we are discussing episode 69 of Empresses in the Palace, 后宫甄嬛传。 We are your hosts, Karen and Cathy.  This podcast is in English with proper nouns pronounced in Mandarin Chinese. As always, we first do an episode recap and then discuss any interesting historical or plot details described in the episode.

 

In the last couple of episodes, main character Zhen Huan has been working to dismantle her prime enemy, the Empress’s faction. She has successfully removed both key concubines that did the Empress’s bidding. Now that the Empress’s team is effectively destroyed, the drama turns to her last remaining support, her adoptive son, the 3rd prince, who in this drama, effectively showcases that his intelligence level is on par with his not so smart mother. 


Right now, in the palace, we have the 3rd prince, raised by the Empress and the 4th and 6th princes raised by Zhen Huan, the former an adoptive son, the latter is actually not the son of the Emperor’s but rather her love child with the 17th prince. The 3rd prince doesn’t have the highest intelligence whereas the 4th prince is very hardworking and the 6th prince is too young to matter.


[Cathy]

The episode starts with the 3rd prince being reprimanded by his father the Emperor for not being able to explain historical political discourse about the Tang Dynasty which for us nerds is quite interesting and we’ll talk about in the analysis portion of our episode. Zhen Huan, the 4th prince and 叶澜依 or now 宁嫔, the former horse tamer maid turned concubine, are waiting outside the Emperor’s residence. They hear this tirade and Zhen Huan actually kindly consoles the 3rd prince when he comes out. But already you hear the tension between the 2 brothers. The 3rd prince is the eldest surviving son of the Emperor and raised by the Empress. Undoubtedly there are high hopes but unfortunately, he is not gifted and struggles with his studies. The 4th prince, on the other hand, was abandoned for most of his childhood but is highly intelligent and hardworking. He has memorized all of the books his older brother cannot. He also displayed in this scene his ability to keep his head down by lying to 宁嫔 and saying he doesn’t know these books even though he has them fully memorized. What’s at stake here is obviously the position of crown prince, or the throne as the next Emperor. The awkwardness though is that Zhen Huan’s real birth son is favored by the Emperor and even the 4th prince himself to be the crown prince but as we know, that’s not a good idea because the 6th prince is not the son of the Emperor’s. Zhen Huan tactfully deflects all conversations around this topic. 


[Karen]

In the next scene we see the Empress, Zhen Huan, 敬贵妃 and her daughter 胧月 in the Imperial Garden helping the 3rd prince select a wife. There is a line of beautiful young women being presented to him as potential options. He doesn’t much have a preference but the Empress has her eyes set on her niece, 青樱, hoping to consolidate power of her clan。However, the 3rd prince is rather cold towards 青樱 which is somewhat justified because she is rude towards Princess 胧月 when she comes over to make small talk. Now that it’s been a few years, 胧月 has blossomed into a cute young girl and is very loving towards her two mothers, Zhen Huan, her birth mother, and 敬贵妃,her adoptive mother. 


To help the 3rd prince get some fresh air from this match making session, 胧月 is instructed by her adoptive mother to take the 3rd prince for a stroll. This leads to disaster waiting to happen. As they’re out in the garden, the brother and sister pair encounter the beautiful 瑛贵人 admiring some flowers and the 3rd prince is immediately smitten. 瑛贵人 is a relatively new addition to the palace. She was uh gifted to the Emperor by 玉隐, the concubine of the 17th prince. 瑛贵人 used to be a maid in the 17th prince’s household but has evidently gained favor by the Emperor. I will say that in this scene, she is absolutely gorgeous. The trio have a brief conversation about flowers and it is evident that the 3rd prince is mesmerized by her beauty and poise.


[Cathy]

This infatuation is taken to the next level in the next scene. The Emperor is listening to 瑛贵人 play the Chinese Zither. We’ll talk about this instrument later in our episode. As she’s performing, the 3rd prince just so happens to arrive to greet the Emperor. He requests pushing off selecting a wife in order to focus on his studies which the Emperor allows. Before he leaves though, he compliments 瑛贵人’s zither skills, clearly trying to get on her good side. 瑛贵人 doesn’t think too much of it.


Meanwhile, the Empress’s niece 青樱 is thoroughly annoyed that the 3rd prince decided to not ask her to be his formal wife. The Empress’s head maid tells 青樱 she should first just be a lowly concubine and at least she’ll be a part of the 3rd prince’s household but 青樱 refuses and says hurtful things about the Empress. The Empress, hearing this, becomes frustrated and decides to appoint 青樱 as a concubine to the 4th prince as a slap in the face to both of them. The woman the 3rd prince doesn’t want is now given to the 4th prince as a consolation prize. 


[Karen]

Now for those of you who have watched RuYi’s Love in the Palace which is kind of a sequel to this drama, this is technically the same person as RuYi, meaning 青樱 is 如懿. However, in RuYi’s Love in the Palace, the story was retconned such that RuYi and the 4th prince were actually lovers and childhood friends. In this drama, Empresses in the Palace, it is clear that RuYi and the 4th prince had no relationship prior to meeting.  Both the 4th prince and 青樱 are rather disdainful of this pairing but the 4th prince accepts it for the greater good. 


This acceptance of this match is another example of the intelligence between these two brothers, the 3rd and 4th prince. While the 4th prince accepts this new concubine, the 3rd prince accosts 瑛贵人 in the garden again and tries to declare his love for her and grabs her hand. 瑛贵人 is rightly shocked and tries to get him to stand down but he is does not back down. She runs away with him chasing behind her. We don’t need to tell you that this relationship is taboo. She is his father’s woman. A woman of the emperor. Technically the 3rd prince’s mother. Why on earth the 3rd prince would think there is any way on earth a relationship between the two of them would ever work showcases that he doesn’t use his brain enough. He has no clue how this could harm both him and 瑛贵人 and does not think of any of the consequences.


[Cathy]

Unfortunately, 敬贵妃 saw the 3rd prince chasing after 瑛贵人 and is able to deduce something about their relationship being amiss and instructs her subordinates to pay close attention.


After this failed attempt of wooing 瑛贵人, the 3rd prince has the gall to write a letter to send her expressing the feelings. That’s totally going to go over well right? Yes, absolutely. NOT. We shall see the aftermath of the 3rd prince thinking too much of romance and not enough about social norms.


[Karen]

The other thread in this episode is the growing tension in the 17th prince’s household. He currently has 2 secondary concubines, one is 玉隐, or formerly known as 浣碧 and is the half sister of 甄嬛. The other is 孟静娴. Remember, none of them are considered his wife, just secondary concubines or 侧福晋。


甄嬛 is out for a stroll with 敬贵妃 and 瑛贵人 where they bump into the 17th Prince and 孟静闲. Is it just me or is he looking quite scraggy? We rarely see him unshaven so I’m like…what’s happening at home?


Well – this is the first time 甄嬛 has met 孟静闲 and she’is surprised to find them here by themselves. Where’s 玉隐, this is unbecoming, she must pay her respects to the Emperor! The 17th Prince quickly gives the answer that 玉隐 is had matters of the household to attend to and couldn’t come. Listen to 孟静闲’s response – 玉隐 is very capable whereas I’m always sick and only a burden to others. Since 玉隐 is your sister, if it isn’t too bold, I would like for you to treat me as a sister. Then when the 17th prince tries to motion to leave, she purposefully grabs his hand. Everyone of course sees this and 敬贵妃 immediately teases the 17th prince for his luck for having such a loving relationship. 甄嬛 looks slightly uncomfortable, obviously jealous which he acknowledges and immediately removes his hand from 孟静闲’s grip. 


[Cathy]

甄嬛 returns back to her palace to find a surprise visitor, 宁嫔。Now two women who love the 17th prince are gossiping about the politics of the 17th Prince’s household. It’s hilarious – 宁嫔 warns 甄嬛 that 孟静闲 is no pushover. 玉隐 needs to be careful. Based on what we just saw? I agree. Don’t underestimate a woman’s love or jealousy!


The 17th prince has to delicately balance these two women in his household. If he shows favor to one side, what will the other side think? What will their families think? 孟静闲 and 玉隐 both come from powerful families – it’s a tough choice for the 17th prince. Maybe that’s why he’s looking so scraggy, haha. Well as 宁嫔 leaves, she comments that she hopes 玉隐 doesn’t lose herself in this battle for favor and that she (宁嫔) is ready to watch how this’ll play out. She’s so funny – she’s like, I’m just gonna grab my popcorn and watch this firestorm break out.


Sure enough, 玉隐 decides to stay with 甄嬛 for a few days. She’s annoyed at 孟静闲 and all of her doe-eyed actions to keep the 17th prince who seems to be paying her more attention than 玉隐. The servants in the household also see where the wind’s blowing and are beginning to sideline 玉隐. Girl! You gotta step it up!


[Karen]

Just then 孟静闲 arrives. 玉隐, not wanting to see 孟静闲 quickly hides in a corner. Small digression – is it me or does 孟静闲 have the deepest curtsies in the show? Well 孟静闲 drops a bombshell. She’s pregnant. WHAT? But then she curiously says, the 17th Prince doesn’t love me, he just pities me. I know how I became pregnant…hm…what does this mean? 


She then also says – I originally thought that the 17th prince and 玉隐 were meant to be but it doesn’t seem like it. 玉隐 is also trying everything she can to please the 17th prince. I can’t figure out the reason. 甄嬛 coldly gives some advice and 孟静闲 takes her leave. 玉隐 comes out of her hiding spot worried. She says – this woman is too smart and saw too much. If she keeps this up, her suspicions will kill him. 


甄嬛 tries to console 玉隐 and I suspect try to console herself. 玉隐 must take care of the child, the baby is the 17th prince’s first “official” child and to represent her family, 玉隐 must do her part. I think this is also a warning to 玉隐 to not do any funny business with the pregnancy. We all know how easy it is to cause a miscarriage.


[Cathy]

Oh my gosh! I just had a great idea, this part of the episode should be called – the harem of the 17th prince. It’s like 4 ladies each being jealous of the relationship the 17th prince has with the other ladies. I’ll end the recap here on this note. 玉隐 and 甄嬛 are slowly recognizing the intelligence of 孟静闲.  甄嬛 of course is team 玉隐 because of their sister relationship. 玉隐 has a long road ahead of her – did she make the right choice in marrying the 17th prince? We’ll find out.



Alrighty, now onto the analysis. There’s tons to talk about today! We haven’t had a history and analysis driven episode in a while. 


First, let’s discuss Qing dynasty education。


The Qing Dynasty took the education of princes extremely seriously. Not only were they expected to continue the athletic manchu traditions of horsemanship, archery etc, they were also expected to excel in academics. Princes were sent to study at what was called 上书房 with renowned tutors and court ministers starting at the age of 5. Their days were long, waking up before dawn to begin their studies of history, classical texts, politics, military strategy. The princes got little respite from the daily grind and were expected to study daily. They stayed in the study until adulthood. Some dramas including 康熙王朝 depict the strict regimen these princes adhered to, but that also explains why many Qing Dynasty Emperors themselves were very intellectual and highly accomplished.


The Political Program in Zhenguan Times or 贞观政要 is the the topic at hand for the Emperor to quiz his son the 3rd prince. Compiled by the Tang Dynasty Historian 吴兢, it is a monumental work. Spanning 10 volumes and 40 chapters, it chronicles the politics and military strategy of the 23 years of the 贞观 era of the early Tang Dynasty. I can’t even imagine reading all of that but hey, I’m not vying for the throne.


[Karen]

Another document that’s brought up is 谏太宗十思疏 which roughly translates to 10 Suggested Reflections for the Emperor. This Emperor is the 2nd Emperor of the Tang Dynasty, 李世民 one of the most famous in Chinese history. This document was written by 魏征,one of this Tang Emperor’s most trusted advisors who is well known for speaking his mind about the Emperor and even criticizing him when warranted. This document basically gives 10 reflections for the emperor on how to rule and be effective. It’s a throwaway document that’s mentioned but still interesting nonetheless.


古筝


[Cathy]

Let’s talk about the Chinese zither! We’ve mentioned this instrument before but this instrument is highlighted today. 古筝 is another popular traditional chinese instrument. With records of the instrument dating back all the way to the Warring States period some 2500 years ago. It actually started out as a weapon and then gradually transformed into the instrument we see today. I read basically you just used it to swing at people when it was a weapon. Hard to imagine right? It grew in popularity throughout Chinese history and the number of strings grew for 13 to 21 or 26.


筝 holds its own compared to the 琴 and 琵琶. The 古琴 has been prominently featured in this drama but not so much the 筝. The instrument is meant to be plucked. Today, you’ll tape turtle shell nails to your fingers to get the crisp plucking sound. You’ll notice in the scene, 瑛贵人 isn’t wearing any extra nails. Historically, people would just pluck with their nails but it is quite tough to get the same sound. The modern zither has 21, 25 or 26  strings depending on the number of octaves you want. It is made of wood and there’s a whole range of wood you can use from the more common 桐木 or Paulownia to very rare 金丝楠 or Phoebe Zhennan. Some of the decorations on these Zithers are exquisite. Strings are now made of steel coated in nylon but were historically made of horse hair, deer tendons. A funny anachronism – if you take a look at the zither or 筝, there’s green strings on it. That’s definitely a modern string. I highly doubt they had those in the 1730s. 


[Karen]

The piece 瑛贵人 performs is called 高山流水 or High mountains, running water. It is named one of the 10 most famous classical pieces of Chinese traditional music.  It started as a 古琴 piece and was transposed for 古筝 over the centuries. Legend has it, the legendary musician 俞伯牙 composed the piece during the Warring States period. He played the piece in a lonely forest where woodcutter 钟子期 was able to comprehend the imagery evoked in the piece, from the towering peaks of 泰山 to the rushing water of the stream. 伯牙 was surprised to meet this kindred soul so much so that when 钟子期 died, 伯牙 destroyed his 琴, never to play again. 


People still perform the piece and it’s one that I’m trying to learn on the Zither as well. It is a gorgeous piece with the highs and lows and different dynamics of the piece. You can really imagine the rush of water when listening to it. Check it out on youtube if you can!


[Cathy]

Now, the talk about who will take the title of the crown prince has got me thinking about the Emperor’s sons. In the drama, the sons we see are the 3rd, 4th and 6th prince. The 1st and 2nd prince died at a young age.  It’s been years since this drama has been out and a question has always plagued me as to where the 5th prince is.  Why haven’t we seen him in this show? Long story short, the 5th prin ce didn’t serve a purpose to the story of Empresses in the Palace and therefore, he wasn’t featured. There was a brief mention of him by the Emperor but he is never on screen. 


But apparently, the 5th prince in history lived for quite a long time, dying at 58 years of age and had quite the close relationship with the 4th prince or the future emperor. The problem is that he was rather uh ridiculous. According to historical records, he was arrogant and abusive of his power. He would play ridiculous games and was an alcoholic. Therefore, this meant he was not a threat to the Emperor and his throne. Thus some historians may say that this prince was actually very intelligent by acting this way so that no one would view him as a problem to be eliminated. This was his method of survival.  


That’s it for today’s episode! Not as heavy on the drama but more with the history. Hope you learned something. If you have any comments, questions, please let us know. We look forward to having you with us in our next episode!

Episode 68 – The Truth is In the Fragrance


[Karen]

Welcome back to Chasing Dramas. This is the podcast that discusses Chinese culture and history through historical Chinese dramas. Today, we are going to be discussing episode 67 of 后宫甄嬛传, Empresses in the Palace. We are your hosts, Karen and Cathy. As for every episode, we first do an episode recap and then discuss the historical significance of any interesting items raised in the episode. If you have any questions or comments, email us at karenandcathy@chasingdramas.com or follow us on instagram and twitter @chasingdramas.


Today’s episode will be all about 安陵容。


Episode 68


Last episode, we learned that 安陵容 is pregnant. To celebrate this, she was promoted to a consort or 妃 and then given a title of 鹂 which means oriole. But 甄嬛 was able to accurately deduce that 安陵容’s pregnancy would not last and they discovered that 安陵容 is using an aphrodisiac which was how she secured favor by the emperor. Both of this information will be used against 安陵容 in this episode.


[Cathy]

The episode starts with the Emperor visiting 安陵容 and admiring her belly. She’s around 5 months pregnant. But as soon as he leaves, she gasps in pain and promptly requests the imperial doctors to come see her.


News travels fast to 甄嬛’s ears who doesn’t have much to say. She does admire a bouquet of beautiful lilies brought to her by a eunuch. Seeing that these could potentially help 安陵容’s sleeplessness, she instructs the eunuch to also send a bouquet to 安陵容’s palace. 


Well this bouquet of flowers becomes the key to 安陵容’s downfall. These flowers were initially examined by palace doctors and nothing amiss was discovered. However, on the night of 安陵容“s birthday when she is having dinner with the Emperor, 甄嬛 personally puts together a bouquet of lilies to be put in 安陵容’s room. The flowers work their magic and the emperor, who believes 安陵容’s pregnancy is stable, decides to spend the night together. This unfortunately was the wrong move. 


[Karen]

A eunuch rushes to 甄嬛’s palace to inform her and 敬妃 who was visiting that 安陵容 has miscarried.


[Cathy] Side bar – the two look so cute with their hair down just doing normal stuff like reading and embroidery. I feel like we don’t get a lot of scenes like that.


[Karen] haha ok back into the action. 


安陵容 miscarried while she was intimate with the Emperor. The Emperor himself is in a state of shock and is sitting aside in a daze. The ladies hurry over to 安陵容’s palace to assess the situation and confirm that the child is no longer. You’ll notice the glance 甄嬛 gives to her maid, 槿汐 which is a signal to remove the flowers from the room so as to not leave any trace of evidence.


The Emperor blames himself for what happened and the fact that he couldn’t control himself. He says he normally could but for some reason today he couldn’t. 甄嬛, 敬妃 and the Empress console the Emperor as there’s not much that can be done now. The child is gone. 


The next day at the Empress’s palace, she is lamenting the fact that they lost this round. Initially they were going to try to use this child to topple 甄嬛 but the only person they scared was the Emperor. The child is also now gone so they don’t have any more leverage. The Empress doesn’t have any evidence that 甄嬛 was involved somehow but she just has a hunch 甄嬛 is entangled in yesterday’s events. Unfortunately, she can’t do a thorough investigation because this will unearth the truth about 安陵容”s pregnancy which will expose the lies they’ve told in regards to her condition. The Empress can’t have that so this miscarriage will just have to stand the way it is. 


Understandably, the emperor is in a dour mood. We all know that he has done many terrible things that has caused the death of his children or else prevented him from having children. If anyone needs a refresher, he’s most likely talking about 华妃 and the women that was collateral damage because of 华妃 such as 敬贵妃 and 端妃 now 皇贵妃。 He originally thought that since so many children have been born in the palace now that he’s been forgiven but the truth is that he is still being punished by the heavens. He yells at a concubine who comes in trying to capture his attention.


[Cathy]

What I think is funny is that none of the children born in the last few years are actually his children. 甄嬛’s twins and 沈眉庄’s daughter are both not the Emperor’s.


Anyways, 安陵容 is also rather heartbroken at losing her child but her feeling is resigned. She knows she’s done terrible things to 甄嬛 so she views this as her karma coming back to her.


And indeed losing her child was just the beginning. In the next scene, we see that the 4 most senior ladies in the palace, the Empress, 皇贵妃, 敬贵妃 and 甄嬛 are at the Empress’s palace. 皇贵妃(who used to be 端妃) brings up the topic of fragrances and steers the conversation towards a special fragrance she discovered at 安陵容’s palace. She informs the Empress that this fragrance ensures that the Emperor will spend time with 安陵容。 At first the Empress doesn’t fully believe the accusation but 皇贵妃”s maid provides clear evidence of this fragrance’s existence. The Empress has no other option but to do an investigation and search 安陵容’s palace. 


What we learn here is that the Empress did not know about this aphrodisiac. 


To me, that’s interesting – it may be that the Empress just ordered 安陵容 to find a way to keep the Emperor in her bed and didn’t question the specifics or it may be that 安陵容 was just really good at hiding it. There were several scenes where she ordered her maid 宝娟 to dispose of any of the aphrodisiac.


[Karen]

苏培盛, the Emperor’s head eunuch is in charge of the search of 安陵容“s palace. She is extremely rude to him but is rather stoic given the potential consequences of this palace search. 


With the hard evidence of this aphrodisiac unearthed, they go up to see the Emperor. 


The Emperor, upon hearing this discovery, is unhappy but leaves a sliver of pity towards 安陵容 for having lost a child. Aphrodisiacs, while I guess are used in the palace, aren’t viewed as proper. This is not acceptable for concubines to use. He initially decides to remove her title and demote her to a 答应, a 2nd class female attendant. And here is where 甄嬛 is now a master manipulator herself. Instead of affirming this punishment, she instead says that since 安陵容 lost her child, she’s already learned her lesson. Additionally, fragrances are not all without their benefit. 甄嬛 brings up this cream that 安陵容 made for 甄嬛 after she was scratched by a cat several years ago. The cream was to prevent scarring and indeed, she doesn’t have any scarring. Based on this benefit, she recommends not punishing 安陵容。 


As she brings up this cream, the Empress’s face turns pale. 皇贵妃 takes this opportunity to remind everyone about the timing of this cat scratch and using this cream. It was when 甄嬛 had her first pregnancy and not long after miscarried. At the time, everyone thought it was because 华妃 had forced 甄嬛 to kneel outside in the sun. But now thinking back, that doesn’t sound right. The Emperor takes the bait and asks to see the imperial doctor 卫临, student of 温实初。 Hilariously, he just so happens to be outside, obviously planted by 甄嬛. 卫临 comes to investigate the cream and tada!!! Loudly says that there is a heavy amount of 麝香 or musk in the cream.


We all know by now that 麝香 or musk is an incredibly harmful product to pregnant women and would cause them to miscarry. 


[Cathy]

甄嬛 puts on a show and cries about how ruthless 安陵容 is for having killed her first child. Yes, she’s sad but she has known for years by now that 安陵容 was the culprit. The other ladies, 皇贵妃 and 敬贵妃 reiterate how terrible this is. 皇贵妃 even brings up that it was 安陵容‘s servant that spoke to 沈眉庄 which ultimately caused her death. 


To make all of this even more impactful, 苏培盛 shares a box he discovered after searching 安陵容’s palace. The doctor confirms that the objects in the box are incredibly potent and expensive balls of musk.


That’s the last straw for the Emperor. 安陵容 is summoned to see the Emperor who asks her why she did what she did. Her ruthlessness is 100x that of other people in the palace. She takes full responsibility of her actions and does not try to request for any leniency. Not that the emperor would have given it. Her final punishment is to create a living hell. She is not going to be killed, she is even going to keep her rank and title. But, every day, someone will come to slap her across the face. And every day she is to kneel in front of buddhas to repent for her misdeeds. Her palace will become her cold palace and will not be allowed to leave. Her servants will either be killed or sold as slaves.  We find out later, that her father was sentenced to death by beheading.



[Karen]

The episode ends with 安陵容 requesting to see 甄嬛. She asks 甄嬛 to bring bitter almonds with her which she does and they have one final conversation.  It turns out that the reason why the Emperor couldn’t control himself that night was because 甄嬛 added the fragrance to the flowers herself and only for that one night. The flowers that were sent every other time were perfectly clean. Only that bouquet was embedded with the aphrodisiac and caused 安陵容’s downfall. Quite genius if you think about it. 


甄嬛 arrives at 安陵容’s palace. It’s stark and cold, void of all the luxuries mentioned in the last episode. The makeup team did an excellent job showing some slap marks on 安陵容’s face, as a reminder to us of her punishment.


安陵容 calmly says she’s not the same naive girl when they first entered the palace. If she was, she would’ve died one hundred times over. She begins to narrate her sad, pitiful story. Starting from how her mother did everything for her father, only for him to discard her after her beauty waned. She recounts the helplessness she felt when she first entered the power, cowering under the tyranny of 华妃. 


甄嬛 coldly responds – everyone was in that situation in the beginning. You shouldn’t have schemed against those who treated you as a sister.


安陵容 scoffs at this. She says – I once foolishly thought you treated me as a sister. You have everything, beauty, noble birth, and the Emperor’s favor. Then I figured it out, you needed me to win favor to strengthen your own position in the palace. That’s the only reason why you pushed me to the Emperor’s bed.


[Cathy]

During the conversation, 安陵容 starts and continues to eat the raw almonds. 


安陵容 continues – I didn’t want to just be a pawn but what can I do? I don’t have a family, I don’t have money, I can only obey. The Empress just needed me for her faction. The Emperor didn’t love me. In the end though, I hate you the most. You have everything, and I have nothing. 


甄嬛 has nothing more to say. She sees that 安陵容 feels no remorse for any of the actions she’s done, especially what she did to 沈眉庄. For 甄嬛, they aren’t enemies, they aren’t friends. 安陵容 is nothing to her. 甄嬛 leaves.


Right before 甄嬛 leaves – 安陵容 cries out this words in Chinese “皇后杀了皇后”. It’s hard to translate in english because of the tenses but the literally translation is as such. The Empress kill the Empress. So perhaps 安陵容 is saying, The Empress, kill the Empress as an action for 甄嬛 to take or let’s think about it the Empress killed the Empress. This is shocking news regardless of the meaning. We definitely keep this in mind as we speed towards the end of the show.


The scene of 甄嬛 turning to glance at 安陵容 though is iconic. Right at the 40:30 mark. It’s a frightful glare but oh so good!


After 甄嬛 leaves, 安陵容 finally falls to the ground. She dies finding i guess some peace. She couldn’t choose her birth, she couldn’t choose a lot of things, but at least she could choose how she died. 


With that, 安陵容 dies, with the song that she sung to capture the Emperor’s attention way back in episode 31. The song is called 采莲曲 and is a fitting end to this character. Now, of the ladies that entered the palace with 甄嬛 only she remains.


[Karen]

Phew that was our recap. Today will focus on 安陵容. 


安陵容


After all this time, 安陵容 finally meets her end. Looking back at her speech, you can’t but help feel conflicted. On one hand, she did terrible things. She betrayed her friends, 甄嬛 and 沈眉庄 which caused 甄嬛 to lose a child and 沈眉庄 to lose her life. But on the other, she is a product of her time and upbringing. She came from a very poor family and had none of the political currency that 甄嬛 and 沈眉庄 had to survive in the palace. This translated to not having much education or money to spend in the palace. The money piece is important. In the earlier episodes in the palace, you could see that 沈眉庄 would tip her servants quite handsomely. That’s something she was conditioned to do as a daughter of a relatively powerful man. This meant servants would treat her well. 安陵容 on the other hand, was constantly belittled by servants because she didn’t have this money. 


People wonder why or how could 安陵容 betray her friends so badly. A huge part of it was 安陵容’s personality. She is overly sensitive and likes to overanalyze things in a negative way. Certain things that people said would heavily impact her and make her suspicious of 甄嬛 or 沈眉庄”s motives. She is also jealous of when she’s not getting as much attention by 甄嬛 or 沈眉庄 compared to say the little foodie, 淳儿。 But, we should also recognize that 甄嬛, while she treated 安陵容,kindly, never treated her as a sister to the extent that she treated 沈眉庄 or 淳儿。 沈眉庄 and 甄嬛 were childhood friends and so that’s understandable. No matter what, 沈眉庄 and 甄嬛 both came front he 8 banners with father’s at court. They were members of the nobility. 安陵容 was not. I don’t think 甄嬛 was fully aware of the difference in treatment and affection she showed towards 安陵容 but I do think deep down 甄嬛 did look down on 安陵容. No matter how much she fooled herself, 甄嬛 didn’t treat 安陵容 as an equal. 安陵容 wanted stability and comfort from 甄嬛’s friendship that she couldn’t give. When she couldn’t find this stability, she turned to the Empress and essentially sold her soul. 


[Cathy]

To me, 安陵容’s inferiority complex also sealed her fate. She only noticed the position she was in and envied everyone around her, whether it was 甄嬛, 华妃, or even 祺嫔. She only focused on what they had and tried to claw her way to power and fortune. She however never thought to share her riches with others. Time and again, we saw how ruthless she could be, especially to servants. At first, she felt helpless when her maids were killed but when she suspected a mole in her palace, she was more than happy to throw a maid under the bus or killed. Ok that part isn’t unique to her but we didn’t see her show her maids much kindness. She’d often times yell at her maid 宝娟 and we’ll talk about her shortly. 


During this episode, when the eunuch 苏培盛 is ordered to search her palace, 安陵容 says the phrase – it’s not something a “阉人” should have an opinion. 阉人 is a derogatory term for eunuchs in Mandarin. 安陵容 says this straight to 苏培盛’s face. He coldly reminds her – no matter what, eunuchs are still humans with feelings. 安陵容’s inferiority complex makes her disparage on people who she sees as beneath her. She never learned that 苏培盛 is that one person you need to have on your camp. He might have offered a hand but nope, she decided to treat all of the servants like dirt. Well you reap what you sow. No one came to her aid at the end. 


This character is such a hated character that the actress 陶昕然 struggled for many years to get positive roles. Many of the roles you see her in are those of the antagonist. I feel so bad for her because weibo would be blown up with negative comments. If we want to be an optimist about this, one could say that she did such a great job in the role that the audience can’t tell her apart from that character. But still.  It’s sad to hear this. We’ll give a shout out to 陶昕然 – she did an amazing job. 


[Karen]

One character that we haven’t really talked about but is up for much debate is actually 安陵容’s maid, 宝娟。宝娟 was assigned to 安陵容 from the first day she stepped into the palace. Now, we never know for sure, but I’ve read some theories and actually think this might be the case that 宝娟 was actually working for the Empress. If you watch certain scenes throughout the drama, the Empress receives information about 安陵容 that is very private. How would the Empress have been provided this information if not for a spy? A prime example is the last episode. 安陵容 was upset to hear that the servants selecting her title were punished. She thought those characters were very good. In the next scene we see the Empress and her maid mocking 安陵容 for her anger. How would they know? The only other person 安陵容 was speaking to was 宝娟. 


Bitter Almonds – now in case people are confused about how or why 安陵容 suddenly died, it’s because she was ingesting a large number of bitter almonds. Bitter almonds, different from their sweet almond counterpart, are poisonous in their raw state. They contain cyanide and therefore it is plausible that 安陵容 would have died after eating them. 


[Cathy]

Now there is no way that 甄嬛 didn’t know of the properties of the bitter almonds. I think this was her last act of mercy towards 安陵容. For 安陵容 though, there is another purpose of picking bitter almonds. This ties directly to the phrase she cries out The Empress kill the Empress. We won’t divulge too much here but again, let’s keep this in mind.


That’s that for today’s episode! Thank you very much for listening!We are doing a top 25 countdown of the most intelligent people in the palace for this month. Follow us on instagram and twitter to find out who we think they are. Let us know your thoughts about our rankings! Until next time!




Episode 67 – Little Bird


[Karen]

Welcome back to Chasing Dramas. This is the podcast that discusses Chinese culture and history through historical Chinese dramas. Today, we are going to be discussing episode 67 of 后宫甄嬛传, Empresses in the Palace. We are your hosts, Karen and Cathy. As for every episode, we first do an episode recap and then discuss the historical significance of any interesting items raised in the episode. If you have any questions or comments, email us at karenandcathy@chasingdramas.com or follow us on instagram and twitter @chasingdramas.


The last couple of episodes were focused on marrying off 甄嬛’s 2 sisters, one to the 17th prince and another to the 19th prince. Now, we’re back to drama in the palace. There’s not a whole lot of historical analysis in this episode but there is quite a bit to discuss character wise that ties into history which we’re eager to chat about. 


[Cathy]

Empress Dowager’s death


We start up right at the Empress Dowager’s bedside. She’s on her dying breath. The Emperor has rushed over to her bedside after the wedding of 玉娆 and the 19th Prince which is perfect timing because when there’s a grand death, such as the death of the Empress Dowager, the country has mourning rites where no one is allowed to get married for 3 years. This is what Zhen Huan tells us as well in the last episode. The rest of the concubines in the Imperial Harem are already there. The Empress Dowager starts muttering in her sleep. The Emperor understands what she is saying and immediately dismisses the women to have one final conversation with his mother.


Mother and son try to have a heartfelt discussion but it ends in disappointment for both of them. The Empress Dowager wants to see her other son the 14th Prince. It’s been years since the current Emperor ascended the throne but the 14th Prince is still imprisoned. The Emperor coldly denies this request. He claims that his brothers forced his hand. She begs him with tears streaming down her cheeks but he is not moved by this. This goes back to the entire story about how the Emperor gained his throne. We’ve discussed this earlier in this series but his younger brother from the same mother, the 14th prince, decided to back another prince for the throne. In total, there were 9 princes vying for the position of Emperor. Those that were not on the Emperor’s side were either killed or banished. The 14th prince is one of them. 


[Karen]

The Emperor then starts numerating his own filial piety towards her. He claims he didn’t say anything about her relationship with 隆科多, he’s treated 纯元 and the current Empress well. This was all for the Empress Dowager. His final words to her are – thank you for dealing with 隆科多, you spared me from sullying my own reputation. After hearing this, the Empress Dowager gasps her last breath and passes away. Remember that the Empress Dowager went and poisoned 隆科多 who was one of the Emperor’s trusted advisors but the Emperor had no use for him any more and needed to get rid of him.


The Emperor, seeing this, kneels at her bedside to recite a childhood song. She never sang it to him, can she sing it to him one last time?


[Cathy]

Usually we leave the analysis of scenes at the end of the episode but this is all fresh in our mind so I want to talk about this right now. I’m going to go on a rant.


First and foremost – ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Once again, this Emperor shows that is a childish, petty, selfish, self-centered man. Your mother sacrificed so much for you, you even acknowledge this! She paved the path for your throne, scheming, building alliances, and even killing her beloved to secure your throne. Let’s recall that the Empress Dowager and 隆科多 knew each other before she entered the Imperial Harem. She was the one who killed him because the Emperor couldn’t be seen killing all of his ministers. All the Emperor had to say is, you should thank me for NOT revealing your past with 隆科多? On her deathbed??? Even at the very end, he’s lamenting what she didn’t do for him, like singing a child’s lullaby. There’s a reason why he won’t let her see the 14th prince, his own blood brother. He’s still jealous of the relationship they had so even on her deathbed, he won’t grant her this request. Sure there might be political motivations and everything but i think it is more to do with his own jealousy and insecurity. The Empress Dowager dies disappointed at her son and I’m honestly disappointed too. 


I will commend both actors in this scene especially 陈建斌 the actor who plays the Emperor. He’s stoic face breaks when he realizes his mother has passed but he quickly composes himself as he kneels at her bedside.


[Karen]

Anlingrong’s pregnancy


With the Empress Dowager’s passing, the whole Empire is in a state of mourning. It’s the new year and all of the celebrations were muted. The Emperor commends the Empress for her frugality. There’s some small talk and the Emperor makes some subtle jabs at the Empress. Well I don’t think he realizes it but she certainly took it that way. He says things like, you haven’t had children in a long time, you probably forgot how difficult it is to raise one. The Empress is like – nuh uh – i’m over this. She stands up and congratulates the Emperor, she exclaims 安陵容 is 3 months pregnant!


What? This is surprising news. 宁贵人 is the first to get all snarky – she’s like…isn’t this opportune? If we remember from the last episode, 安陵容’s father is in prison and she’s been looking for a way to save him. This is her trump card. The Empress immediately uses this opportunity to push 甄嬛 into a corner. She says – well, we need to make another 齐妃 fiasco doesn’t happen again. 甄嬛 understands the context. Remember 齐妃 was worried that 宁贵人 would get pregnant, so she stupidly sent a bowl of 藏红花 or basically infertility medicine to 宁贵人 and she drank it. For her trouble, 齐妃 committed suicide. 甄嬛 right now runs the palace, if anything happens to 安陵容 during her pregnancy, the responsibility will fall under 甄嬛. This is basically what 甄嬛 did to the Empress the times she got pregnant. She asked for protection under the Empress which meant that the Empress couldn’t actually do anything. 甄嬛 agrees to “protecting” 安陵容.


[Cathy]

Seeing this settled, the Empress then makes another request; promote 安陵容 to the rank of Consort or 妃. Her father is still imprisoned, the news of a promotion will lift 安陵容’s spirits. In the palace there can be 4 consorts, currently there are only 3. There’s space enough for 安陵容. I’ll applaud the Empress – she knows how to get what she wants. She told 安陵容 last episode that getting pregnant is the only path forward and now with 安陵容 pregnant, the Empress can ask for higher titles and solidify her alliance.


甄嬛 back at her palace is surprised. How can 安陵容 be pregnant? She knows full well the lengths 安陵容 took to regain favor including taking large amounts of mus which means she cannot get pregnant anymore. Something’s fishy…


Anlingrong’s consort title


Shortly after, 甄嬛 brings some desserts for the Emperor. They include lotus leaf soup and lotus and osmanthus cakes, all specialties of the now deceased 沈眉庄. Why does 甄嬛 bring these specific desserts? Let’s pay attention to that because I have my thoughts. 


[Karen]

Right after, the eunuch 苏培盛 presents three characters that the Ministry of Internal Affairs or 内务府 determined as options for 安陵容’s consort title. She currently still is referred to by her last name. As a consort, there is justification to gift her a title. Just as 甄嬛’s title is 熹or 沈眉庄 ’s title was 惠. The Emperor allows 甄嬛 to help pick the title. 


Let’s take a look at them

肃 – means serene or stern. Doesn’t really fit 安陵容 so 甄嬛 dismisses this.

文 – when paired with 静 means gentle or peaceful but by itself, 文 means text so as a title, the person must be learned and cultured. It’s widely known that 安陵容 hasn’t read many books so this does not fit her. However, listen to what 甄嬛 says, instead of belittling 安陵容 outright, she says, if we give her this name, 安陵容 might have extra thoughts. The subtext is that she might think everyone else is mocking her. The Emperor agrees, haha


This leaves 俪. 俪 by itself means companionship. 甄嬛 then adds this also represents the deep affection between husband and wife, using the idiom 伉俪情深 which uses the word 俪.The Emperor initially agrees but after further examination disagrees. 安陵容 is just his concubine, how can she use the title 俪 which is used to describe the love between husband and wife?


甄嬛 comes up with a different solution. Why doesn’t the Emperor just gift a title for 安陵容?The Emperor agrees and orders 甄嬛 to come up with a suggestion. What does she write?


鹂 or Oriole. 甄嬛 explains – the oriole has a charming voice, is gentle, and only has one mate. The eunuch 苏培盛 chimes in – oh yes, I hear orioles also have many offspring this will be a good omen for 安陵容。 


[Cathy]

The Emperor doesn’t think much of it, agrees and orders 苏培盛 to tell the Empress the good news. 苏培盛 chuckles as he exits the palace, going so far to tell a young eunuch to grab 50 orioles to gift to the new 鹂妃 to congratulate her.


We’ll dive into this in our analysis because instead of this being a complimentary title, it is instead a slap in the face for 安陵容.


Palace promotion!


Well, with 安陵容’s title settled, 甄嬛 has other important matters to do such as manipulating the Emperor into promoting her own faction so as to better counter the Empress.


She starts off by reminiscing about her dear friend 沈眉庄 who tragically passed away and asks the emperor to provide her with some type of title now that she is gone. He agrees. She continues to ask for similar rewards for other women who have passed such as 齐妃, the 3rd prince’s mother we mentioned earlier. The Emperor on his own volition brings up 华妃 as well.


[Karen]

Now the 甄嬛 knows the Emperor is in a giving mood, she brings up the women in the imperial harem that are still alive. She says she agrees with the Empress in that there are many positions in the harem that are still empty and it’s a good idea to fill those positions with capable people so as to strengthen the camaraderie in the palace. And the most important line she says here is that no matter how the Emperor wants to promote, 端妃 must be at a higher position that her.


This is surprising because normally, people would want to move up the ranks as much as possible themselves but here, 甄嬛 is showcasing her gratitude and respect towards 端妃 who helped her when she first entered the palace. This is also showcasing that 甄嬛 doesn’t care too much about power. Yes, power to some degree is good, but it is better to share that ability with others. This is again, a difference in managerial style between 甄嬛 and the Empress.


The Emperor agrees to 甄嬛‘s suggestion and of his own volition, decides to promote 敬妃 to 贵妃 or Noble Consort, which is the same rank as 甄嬛 and 欣贵人 to 欣嫔 or Imperial Concubine.端妃 is to be promoted to 皇贵妃 which is the equivalent to vice empress. All three of these women are on 甄嬛’s team which most certainly bodes well for her stability in the palace. One last highlight is that the Emperor point blank asks whether 甄嬛 wants any type of reward. She actually says no, she has the Emperor’s favor and that’s enough. Her strength comes in knowing when enough is enough and that when others prosper, she does too.


[Cathy]

After this conversation, we have an interesting scene at the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The Head Eunuch is giving orders about the promotions and reminding the other eunuchs who are the most important people in the Harem. He then asks for the eunuchs that provided those words as potential titles for 安陵容. Instead of praising them, he instead has them beaten and sent to do hard labor. He tells the remaining eunuchs that trying to cozy up to the wrong person will have this result. Clearly, he can see through that even though 安陵容 was promoted to 鹂妃, she is not someone that should be valued. 


Ouch that is harsh. I’ve seen this scene many times and can’t help but wonder if 甄嬛 had a hand in manipulating those eunuchs into providing those titles to the emperor. She came to see him just in time for him to choose those words and was the one to direct the conversation on what words work better than others, and the one to finally give 安陵容 the title of Oriole. We’ll never know but that’s my hunch.


[Karen]

The rest of the episode circles around 安陵容’s pregnancy. The Empress and 安陵容 need the pregnancy to last as long as possible so 安陵容 has the Imperial Doctors do what they can to stabilize the pregnancy, using traditional methods such as burning 艾草 or Chinese mugwort.


At the promotion ceremony, everyone is in attendance except for 安陵容. The excuse is that she’s pregnant so it’s not safe for her to attend. Of course 安陵容 takes offense to this but what can she do. Everyone has gotten promoted, even 宁贵人 and the new 瑛常在 who was provided to the Emperor by 玉隐,the 17th prince’s consort and 甄嬛’s 2nd sister. They are now 宁嫔 and 瑛贵人。So again, everyone from 甄嬛’s team is getting promoted.


Some time passes and the ladies of the imperial harem visit the bedridden 安陵容. There’s 甄嬛, 敬贵妃 and now 欣嫔。 They make some lighthearted jabs at the luxuries that 安陵容 now has including the silk pillows, tea, and curtains. 甄嬛 covers these comments by saying oh my this is just a reflection of your favor from the Emperor!


[Cathy]

While on the surface 甄嬛 is being kind and sisterly, this entire scene is rather passive aggressive on 甄嬛’s part. She comes in with all these compliments and even reminding 安陵容 on what to avoid in order to protect herself but this is more or less putting on a show. She has multiple women accompany her to visit 安陵容,plus she has everything she is gifting 安陵容 examined by doctors to confirm that none of those items will harm the baby. She doesn’t want anyone to frame her for anything. You can tell that 安陵容 is a little uncomfortable with all the attention.


The whole purpose of this trip though was for 甄嬛 to investigate 安陵容’s pregnancy. As she was talking to 安陵容, 卫临, who is the student of her friend 温实初, was scoping out 安陵容“s medical condition while 小允子,甄嬛’s head eunuch, scoped out 安陵容’s palace for anything amiss. Sure enough, the eunuch discovered a weird type of fragrance. After they leave 安陵容’s palace, 卫临, the doctor first informs 甄嬛 that her suspicions were correct. 安陵容 will not be able to keep her baby. All the signs are there that her pregnancy is in danger. This is important information to protect 甄嬛 from being alone with 安陵容. She knows that the Empress and 安陵容 will try to pin any harm to 安陵容”s baby on her, 甄嬛 so she now must stay away. 


As for the fragrance. The doctor informs 甄嬛 that it is a very potent aphrodisiac. It contains monniers’s snow parsley and ylang ylang. Obviously, it is used to seduce the Emperor. This is another useful piece of information that 甄嬛 will be using next episode.





Official State of Mourning –


Empress loses her biggest ally


History


[Karen]

鹂 – Why is this word such an insult. The nickname for 安陵容 amongst all the chinese chat channels are to call her 安小鸟,or little bird.  It is because it reflects how the emperor feels about 安陵容。 He has no real emotions towards her, but rather, he sees her as a pet, a play thing that is very demure, talented, well trained and even cute. 安陵容 comes from a poor family and this is a huge slap in the face for her. If you look at the titles of the other ladies in the harem, such as 敬妃 or 端妃, those are all respectable titles. Indeed, 敬 means respect, and 端 means composed. The only person in the harem with an animal for a title is 安陵容。 While 甄嬛’s explanation was quite nice that the oriole or 鹂 has a beautiful singing voice, which reflects how 安陵容 first came to favor, and is also a calm natured animal, but this title is indeed insulting. Everyone in the palace picked up on the insult except for the Emperor himself. That shows his selfishness again since he doesn’t see anything wrong with placing 安陵容 on the same tier as an animal.



Next let’s discuss some history, specifically the Empress Dowager. The Empress dowager came from the powerful乌拉那拉 clan and a member of 正黄旗 or the Plain Yellow Banner. She was born in 1660 and entered the Imperial Harem in 1675 when she was only 15. She steadily climbed the ranks within the imperial harem, becoming a consort in 1681 with the title of 德 or virtuous. She had 6 children which reflects her favor with the Emperor 康熙. She had 3 sons and 3 daughters, her two most famous sons are of course the 4th prince and the 14th prince. Her other children died relatively young. The Empress dowager in history died 1723which is different from a timeline perspective. We are in around 1730 i would say. There is also no historical record of any romantic ties between her and 隆科多. He died in 1728 so there’s no way she could have poisoned him. 


As for the 14th prince, he was imprisoned in 1725 and not released until 1735 after the death of 雍正. He died in 1755.


Finally, let’s give a shoutout to the actress for the Empress Dowager 刘雪华. Born in 1959, she became a well known Hong Kong actress in the early 80s but she reached the zenith of her popularity acting in 琼瑶 dramas in the late 80s and 90s. 琼瑶 is of course the author of other popular dramas such as 还珠格格 and 情深深雨蒙蒙. She still acts in tv shows nowadays but they’re mainly empress dowager roles.