雪中悍刀行》新剧照:张若昀变俊美,“姜泥”为“李淳罡”撑伞- 时尚资讯(娱乐新闻网)

Sword Snow Stride (2021) 雪中悍刀行

Summary: Xu Feng Nian (starring Zhang Ruo Yun) has the reputation of being a playboy and the humiliation of Bei Liang. However, in reality, he is extremely intelligent and understands the burdens he has as the eldest son of the King of Bei Liang. 

 

 

 

Overall rating: 8/10

Initial thoughts: I’m not going to lie, I’m enjoying this a little more than Luo Yang. Why? It’s actually hilarious. The team is the same one that put together Joy of Life which was a blockbuster drama in late 2019 and you can feel some of the same beats in this drama. I don’t think it’s as good as Joy of Life but it’s thoroughly enjoyable. The early criticisms of this drama are revolved around the main female lead and also the martial arts (or lack thereof) but that does not detract from the the much better acting from the main lead Zhang Ruo Yun. There are also plenty of belly laugh inducing moments in the drama which is keeping me hooked!  

 

Full review to come!

-Karen

 

 

LuoYang (2021) 风起洛阳

Summary: Under the reign of the only female emperor in Chinese history, individuals from various levels of society team up to investigate an ever expanding web of threats that threaten the safety of the Emperor and the regime. 

The drama stars: Huang Xuan, Song Qian and Wang Yi Bo as main leads.

 

 

 

Overall rating: 7.5/10

Initial thoughts: Having watched the first 28 episodes, I can unequivocally say the production value of this drama is absolutely top notch. The long takes and action shots throughout the show reflects how much care was put into creating a living, breathing world of Luo Yang during this period. The costumes and set pieces are some of the best I’ve seen in a drama this year so that alone should be enough to push one to see the drama. I hold back on considering this a classic because the acting for at least 2 of the main characters could be improved and the storylines can sometimes be hard to follow. But that doesn’t mean this is not highly enjoyable.  

 

Full review to come!

-Karen

 

 

 

 

Novoland: Pearl Eclipse (2021) 斛珠夫人

Summary:  The young girl Hai Shi (Yang Mi) was set as bait to procure naga pearls which set off a chain of events that changed her life. 

Following the death of her father and her escape from soldiers threatening her family, she is taken by Fang Zhu (William Chan) to train in the capital as a man and his student. 

As Hai Shi grows up, she must balance her love for Fang Zhu and the threats to the Empire. 

 

 

Overall rating: 6.5/10

An engaging mystical setting, strong visual effects, high quality production value and a relatively strong secondary cast makes for a fun show that unfortunately is set back by a lackluster script and cliched, often forced conflict.

As a fan of Yang Mi for more than a decade, I gave this drama a shot immediately because, well, it’s Yang Mi. I’ve watched every historical drama of hers in the last 10 years and am always rooting for her to do well. This drama only has a 5.2 rating on DouBan which I personally think is a little low but that does not mean it is not popular. On Teng Xun or QQ which has sole airing rights to the drama, the show hit 300million+ hits by the series finale. On Weibo, every day the show aired and even in the days immediately after its finale, there were plenty of top posts trending from the drama. 

Yang Mi and Chen Wei Ting/William Chan participated in a couple rounds of marketing where they did photo shoots together and live streamed to promote the show which was fun to view as Yang Mi and William Chan worked together years before in Gu Jian Qi Tan (Sword of Legends).

The biggest surprise actually came in the relationship between secondary characters Emperor Xu and his concubine, Ti Lan. 

 

Story: Set in a mythical land, the young girl Ye Hai Shi (Yang Mi) was set as bait by her father to procure naga pearls, tears of Chinese mermaids. Young Hai Shi was saved by the mermaid after her father tried to kill her for those pearls which led to Hai Shi being bestowed a special connection to the mermaid. 

Upon returning to her village, she sees the village threatened by soldiers seeking the naga pearls. In trying to escape the attack, she is saved by a passing Fang Zhu who takes her to the capital. There, she grew up as a boy and trained with her adoptive brother, Fang Zhuo Ying, to become a bodyguard for the Emperor Xu. 

As Hai Shi and her brother grow up, they help their teacher, Fang Zhu, who in reality is Fang Jian Ming, the Duke of Qing Hai and the Emperor’s best friend, complete missions to protect the Emperor and the Zheng Empire. 

Main characters:

Fang Hai Shi (played by Yang Mi) – Originally from a pearl harvesting village, she became the student of Fang Zhu after her village was threatened by soldiers. In the capital, she trained to become an elite bodyguard for the Emperor as a man but also slowly developed feelings for Fang Zhu. 

Fang Zhu/Fang Jian Ming (played by William Chan) – The Emperor’s most trusted advisor and best friend, Fang Zhu is the Duke of Qing Hai and responsible for the safety of the Emperor. Due to previous tragedy, Fang Zhu and the Emperor are linked by an ancient bond to keep the Emperor’s line safe. 

Emperor Xu (played by Xu Kai Cheng) – The Emperor of the Zheng empire who lost his beloved wife, Zi Zan, during a coup that also killed two of his brothers. Post the tragedy, Emperor Xu became easy to angry as his grief could only manifest inwardly. 

Ti Lan (played by Chen Xiao Yun) – Princess from Zhu Nian sent to the Zheng Empire to marry, she is the spitting image of her sister Zi Zan. This triggered the Emperor’s grief and therefore suffered heavily at his hands.

Fang Zhuo Ying (played Wang Sen ) – Another student of Fang Zhu and adopted older brother to Fang Hai Shi, he also grew up in the Capital to serve the Emperor. In reality, he is royalty from a northern clan.

Zhi Liu (played by Yuan Yu Xuan) – A young woman in charge of palace embroidery, she and Fang Zhuo Ying developed feelings for each other. But before they could express their affections, Zhi Liu suffered a devastating blow due to an attack in the palace.

 

What I liked:

Emperor Xu’s realistic portrayal of inwardly manifested grief. 

Di Xu to me is one of the most interesting characters in the drama. He is the centerpiece which all of the other characters revolve around. As a young prince, he had a best friend in Fang Jian Ming and a doting wife in Zi Zan, a princess from the neighboring nation of Zhu Nian.  There was not a whole lot more he wanted. 

But all of that changed during the Coup of Prince Yi which caused the death of Fang Jian Ming’s entire family and the death of Zi Zan who was pregnant at the time. Emperor Xu was also gravely injured which forced Fang Jian Ming to enact the Bai Xi ritual in order to save his life, thereby connecting the two lives forever. 

Stricken with grief over the death of his beloved wife and unborn child, Di Xu, who ascended the throne after the death of his two brothers involved in the coup, became suicidal and explosive with anger. He was snide and condescending to pretty much everyone around him. In essence, he is a man who lost his entire family and is a burden to his best friend but must take on the role of Emperor. 

This all came to a head when Zhu Nian, the nation where Zi Zan came from, sent her younger sister to marry him to continue this alliance between the two empires. But, this younger sister, Ti Lan, is a spitting image of Zi Zan. 

In any other drama, I could see Di Xu suddenly fall in love with this sister, Ti Lan, simply because she looks like his lost love and then be manipulated because the nation of Zhu Nian must have known what the were doing sending Ti Lan. Instead, in Pearl Eclipse, the Emperor fully knows that the two are not the same. So instead, he is extremely explosive towards her and punishes her often times without her knowing why. It’s simply because she reminded him of his tortured past. 

Now, in absolutely NO WAY should any woman EVER accept a man who puts his hands on her so that portrayal by the Emperor is NOT to be condoned. A lot of what he did would be enough to put him in jail by today’s standards but I appreciate that the Emperor is extremely clear headed knowing these two are entirely different people. This is also a portrayal of a man who clearly never processed his grief and let it manifest inwardly which led to his explosiveness. This paved the way for the Emperor to develop his feelings for Ti Lan that may have been influenced by Zi Zan but is still independent of her. That’s actually more respectful of Ti Lan than if he pretended she was someone else.

The Emperor is further complicated by the fact that while he does want to die to be with his wife, he feels a sense of responsibility to his people to be at least, a decent Emperor who provides for the people.  It’s difficult to see at first because the earlier episodes are all about him being abusive towards Ti Lan but when it comes to court and his job, he takes it very seriously. 

After realizing that he’s grievously hurt Ti Lan as a direct result of his grief, he learns that his anger stems from wanting to feel again but also not wanting to feel because of memories of the past. Once he moves past his grief and accepts that he must walk out of the past, he becomes a doting and loving husband once more, this time to Ti Lan. 

Supportive Friendships – (1) Emperor Xu/Fang Jian Ming, (2) Fang Hai Shi and Fang Zhuo Ying, (3) Fang Hai Shi and Ti Lan

Fans and marketing focused too much on the couples of this drama but I don’t think emphasized the extremely supportive friendships showcased in Pearl Eclipse. And by friendships, I think they’re more like brotherhoods and sisterhoods. These relationships stayed true throughout the drama which was incredibly refreshing and heartfelt. 

Emperor and Fang Jian Ming – these two grew up together and went through hell and back. Sure, Fang Jian Ming always felt a level of guilt for his actions that led to Zi Zan’s death and therefore dedicated his life to the Emperor, but the two often only need a glance or a motion towards one another to signal that something is afoot and either action or inaction is needed. This level of understanding is what makes the Emperor so complicated. He needed anger management but trusted Fang Jian Ming with his life. 

Fang Hang Shi and Fang Zhuo Ying – These two were both adopted by Fang Jian Ming to train together as teens. I personally loved their sibling interactions with each other. Zhuo Ying always looked out for his younger sister who the world thought was a man but only he and Fang Jian Ming knew the truth. Their sibling banter were some of the funniest dialogue in the drama and it seemed so natural. Who doesn’t want to have a big brother like Zhuo Ying?

Ti Lan and Hai Shi – Ti Lan knew from the very beginning that Hai Shi was a woman after ill placed hands on Hai Shi during a harrowing escape revealed the truth to Ti Lan. Though their stations were quite different, Hai Shi tried to look out for Ti Lan while she could and Ti Lan did the same. When the two ended up in the imperial harem together, their open conversations as sisters were incredibly satisfying as there was no hidden agenda between the two of them, just sisters looking out for each other and wanting the best for each other. 

 

What I didn’t like:

Fang Hai Shi/Fang Jian Ming’s back-and-forth relationship

Ok. Yang Mi, I love you, but the chick you portrayed needs to just CHILL.  Hai Shi has the hots for her teacher, which fine, but she is refused by him multiple times and she STILL does not relent. Every time she DOES give up, Fang Jian Ming does something that makes her think he actually does have feelings for her and returns to him. This level of stubbornness is generally not attractive.

He also needs to be more heartless in his refusal of Fang Hai Shi. Maybe I paid too much attention to Di Xu and Ti Lan’s relationship that I never felt the love Fang Jian Ming felt for Hai Shi was as natural. Is it just because they spent a ton of time together?

 

In any case, I thought the relationship was rather forced, or at least the drama was rather forced. There have been plenty of dramas where communication was the antidote to all problems and so the miscommunication and secrets in this drama seemed like it was too cliche. 

It did seem like there was tension for tension’s sake because that’s what tugs at heartstrings. 

 Acting – 

I’m probably going to be pummeled over the head with this but I thought that out of everyone in the drama, Yang Mi’s acting was the most problematic. Perhaps it’s because she didn’t use a voice actress this time which is commendable but for most of the drama, I just felt that I was watching Yang Mi say her lines. There were several instances throughout the drama where this was abundantly clear and a perfect example is when Hai Shi has a conversation with Ti Lan towards the end of the drama. The two women are chatting as good friends but when Hai Shi gets up to leave, everything she says is like she’s saying memorized lines. There’s not a whole lot of emotion. 

I don’t know, I feel like everyone else’s acting I could get into but Yang Mi, for the most part, I just saw Yang Mi. Not Fang Hai Shi. Her previous roles were much better in this regard.

 

Summary: Overall, I at least “chased” this drama to the end and still watched the drama through its entirety. That’s more than can be said about a few other dramas this year where I tried to watch it and gave up. You can tell the cast and crew put effort into trying to make this drama look good and the script was also changed from the storylines from the book that this drama was based on to be more palatable to current audiences. However, I did still think this drama was lacking in perhaps heart, primarily from the main leads. I would say give this drama a go since it does feature Yang Mi whom I love though do not be hesitant to recognize that there are areas of improvement that would have made this drama into an even better one. 

 

EPISODE 43

 

[Karen]

Welcome back to Chasing Dramas! The podcast that discusses Chinese history and culture through historical Chinese dramas in both Mandarin and English. This is Karen and Cathy. We are currently discussing Empresses in the Palace, 后宫甄嬛传. Last episode we discussed the ending of one of our favorite characters, the famous 华妃。I think we needed a little bit of a break to mourn the loss of this wonderful character. Today, we will be talking about episode 43 of the drama which is another key turning point of the show. Many secrets are revealed here.

 

If you are new to the podcast, please start with the intro to the podcast and intro to the drama episodes. Send us any comments/feedback to Chasingdramaspodcast@gmail.com. Share this podcast with your friends! We just love talking about dramas and dissecting them. Anyone who might like to hear our thoughts, please have them listen in!

 

[Cathy]

Before we get started though, I wanted to do this in the last episode but since it was already incredibly long, we didn’t get to talk about it. We’re more than halfway through the drama. Let’s talk about how many women in the palace have gone. Of the actual “concubines” there are – 

 

  1. 夏常在 – she get offed in episode 3
  2. 余答应 – maid turned concubine
  3. 丽嫔 – originally part of 华妃’s posse
  4. 淳常在 –  the cute foodie
  5. 曹琴默 – the devious former all of 华妃
  6. 华妃 – 华妃 herself
  7. 颂芝 – 华妃’s trusty maid

 

There are many other maids and eunuchs who have been killed too that we don’t count. Let’s take a step back to talk about how, from our 21st century perspective, worthless women’s lives or at least lives of those in the imperial harem were. Throughout the first half of the drama, we saw that women in the imperial harem were primarily used as chess pieces to either help with matters of court, or else simply as vessels for bearing children. Bearing children was an incredibly important part of Chinese culture and tradition. One on hand, it’s because the infant mortality rate was very high so it’s essentially a numbers game to see which child can actually make it to adulthood. On the other hand, the more children one has, the more options one has on having a child be smart or capable enough to succeed the family business. In this case, it is the throne. After thinking through a lot of this for a while and reading up on other emperors who failed to have sons to pass the throne to, I kind of get it. There are plenty of examples in history, both Chinese and Western, where you have people kill many others for the throne because there was no legitimate heir. It seems that the Chinese system allowed for what the west would call “bastard” children to inherit the throne thus causing a little more stability to the line. There is still that distinction of being born from the primary wife versus a concubine but, any son in the Qing Dynasty could technically inherit. This is just my observation. 

 

[Karen]

Something we didn’t discuss in the last episode is that, at least according to the book, one of the concubines, the lovely and kind 敬妃 never got pregnant because she lived in 华妃’s palace for a while when they were younger. And because of that, she got exposed to the harmful 欢宜香 that damaged her reproductive capabilities as well. The emperor doesn’t have too many feelings for this woman but does to some degree feel bad for her because 敬妃 is essentially collateral damage for 华妃. This contributes to her being promoted as she does and for her title to be 敬 which means “Respect”. The emperor clearly respects this woman, but unfortunately does not love her. 敬妃 is one of the smarter people in the palace. She knows when to keep her head down. She normally doesn’t say much but throughout the show she has shown kindness to the likes of 甄嬛 and 沈眉庄. 

 

— 

 

That was a lot to discuss and we haven’t even started Episode 43! One would think we’d get a chill episode after having finally removed 华妃 from the palace. Nope we don’t get that at all. The Empress turns her attention towards 甄嬛. Unlike 华妃, the Empress knows exactly what to do to deal fatal blows to 甄嬛. In this episode, secrets are revealed. We thought the special birth control fragrance was a big secret? Nope not at all. That’s tiny compared to what’s discovered here.

 

[Cathy]

Let’s start off with the recap.

 

It’s time for the Empress 皇后 to spin her web. With 华妃out of the way, the empress needs to remove her next biggest threat – 甄嬛. In this episode, let’s pay special attention to the Empress’s faction and the actions of its players both in court and in the Imperial Harem. We start off with a visit from the Empress to the Emperor’s study. 甄嬛’s um involvement with court affairs has not gone unnoticed. The Empress warns the Emperor that women in the Imperial Harem should not interfere with matters of state. 安贵人 and 祺贵人 are much better in that regard. The Emperor agrees but as the Empress continues to talk, he dozes off. Haha, he’s not listening to her at all. At this point, the Emperor favors 甄嬛.

 

The Emperor makes a pit stop at his mother’s palace, the Empress Dowager. More talk about politics, balancing power. Here though, the Emperor is more explicit in his distaste for a certain 隆科多. He dealt with the general 年羹尧, it’s time to clear remove any other obstacles in his path. There’s history between the Empress Dowager and 隆科多. She wants to persuade him to stop but she needs to tread carefully. We already discussed how her relationship with her son isn’t as tranquil as it seems so she wants to keep the peace. Otherwise, their relationship will be more strained.

 

[Karen]

In the evening, the Emperor is with 甄嬛. He shows her the collection of writings from 汪景祺. We discussed him in the last episode. This man was in league with the now deceased 年羹尧 For his writings, the man was beheaded and his head to be hung outside of a market for 10 years. 甄嬛 agrees the writings are a pile of rubbish but she’s saddened by the punishment served out to the rest of his family. They were innocent in this. The Emperor disagrees – he needs to suppress any hint of rebellion with force. Little does 甄嬛 know, her sentiments of pity are being used against her and this is only the beginning.

 

Later that night, there’s a shot of the two of them in bed together. The Emperor mutters two words “莞莞”. Now “莞” is 甄嬛’s title – remember 莞嫔 or 莞贵人. She assumes he’s calling out to her. It definitely seems like it. When the Emperor leaves for court the next morning, he still calls her by the name of “莞莞”. We’ll dive into either this episode or a later episode. Unfortunately, the Emperor’s behavior is seen and heard by 安陵容。 She was waiting outside to head to the Empress’s palace with 甄嬛. Quite convenient right? Like um why were you there to begin with? 安陵容 does not hesitate to make this known to the Empress that the emperor called 甄嬛 菀菀。 Although 安陵容 shares the information in a joking sort of way – saying oh look, the Emperor even has a nickname for 甄嬛 which is 莞莞。

 

[Cathy]

Again, Karen and I now know what’s going on through the Empress’s mind. She wants to use this information as a weapon but on first watch, I also just passed off the excuse that the Empress gives as something normal. Because why? The Empress chuckles, repeating 莞莞 but merely says- your title is 莞, this is a normal nickname. The Emperor really does favor you. The Empress then discusses some basic details about the upcoming promotion ceremonies. She clearly says – I will have your ceremonial robe sent to you. Let’s keep this in mind.

 

甄嬛 and 沈眉庄 are together trying to see what can be done about 沈眉庄’s burn. She’s been secretly refusing to take medication or ointments just so she can flirt with the Imperial Doctor 温实处 but 甄嬛 doesn’t know that. 甄嬛 offers up her ointment 舒痕胶 that 安陵容 gifted her to 沈眉庄. Just then, the doctor 温实处 appears for the ladies’s usual check up. He however becomes suspicious of the ointment and requests to inspect it further. 

 

FINALLY – someone will look into it. Praise 温实初’s nose for being able to detect certain fragrances that other people cannot. Is he a dog in a past life? Can someone tell me if Chinese medicine doctors are trained to have amazing noses?

 

[Karen]

At court, the new Noble Lady, 祺贵人’s father shares another collection of poems with the Emperor. This collection is written by a guy named 钱明世。According to 祺贵人’s father 鄂敏, this man was a close friend of the deceased general 年羹尧. They took the civil exams in the same year. 祺贵人’s father 鄂敏 states that he discovered this collection of poems at the home of 甄远道, 甄嬛’s father. This collection is not widely printed, how could he have gotten a copy? There must be something going on between them.  祺贵人’s father continues – certain lines in the collection praise 年羹尧 and even the now banished and imprisoned 14th and 10th Prince. 

 

The Emperor’s face turns sour. He questions 鄂敏, are you saying that 甄远道 is sympathetic towards them? Listen to what 鄂敏 responds with, he says, I don’t know about the 14th Prince but 莞嫔 (or 甄嬛’s) leniency towards the 10th Prince’s son is quite telling. 

 

Well the seeds of suspicion have been planted. The Emperor is now mulling this over. Why did 甄嬛 ask for leniency? You’ll remember that the reason 甄嬛 asked for leniency was because the 10th prince’s wife came to see her while she was out of favor. The wife even brought some nice ginseng to help 甄嬛 recover from the miscarriage. It has nothing to do with politics or to help the 10th prince. The emperor also conveniently forgot that 甄嬛 was instrumental in coming up with ideas on bringing down the 10th prince.

 

[Cathy]

Well, it looks like that whole scene was nothing but a scheme concocted by the Empress. The Empress and 祺贵人 try to plan out their next move after hearing of the Emperor’s lack of reaction during the meeting because apparently, the Emperor didn’t really say much. They are doing their hardest to knock 甄嬛 down, using 祺贵人’s father as a tool. To be honest, I’m somewhat surprised that the 2 of them are scheming like they are but after further reflection it makes sense. They are both from the manchu banners. They want manchu women to be in favor in the palace, not han women. Naturally, the 2 manchu women would band together.

 

[Karen]

Let’s see if 甄嬛 recognizes the trap. The Emperor now comes to 甄嬛’s palace to test her. He brings her the collection of poems but doesn’t say anything as to who wrote it and the background, he just has her read through it.  She dismisses the poems, stating that they’re nothing special. The Emperor starts his questioning – I agree they aren’t great. Who do you think would have a copy? 甄嬛 responds – well, i guess it would be friends or family. 

 

Wrong answer #1 – this confirms the Emperor’s suspicion that 甄嬛’s father is friendly with the author. He then presses on, I believe these poems are nothing but pointless adulations for certain individuals. The author must be punished. 甄嬛 responds – i didn’t see anything too terrible. Wrong answer #2 – she’s making light of the Emperor’s statements. The Emperor asks his final question – but these poems praise the 10th Prince. What do you think i should do. 甄嬛 hesitates but still decides leniency should be the way to go. Wrong answer #3 – this re-affirms what the Emperor heard earlier from 祺贵人’s father. 甄嬛 is sympathetic to the 10th Prince! How dare she? 

 

I guess 3 strikes? The Emperor’s face doesn’t change but the mood shifts, he decides not to stay the night. 甄嬛 has no idea what just happened. Girl – you’re good nature will get you killed. It’s no time to be soft! The Emperor looks extremely sour in his carriage. 

 

[Cathy]

It is now time for the Consort ceremony! It’s quite an honor! 甄嬛 has only been in the Imperial Harem for a few years and she’s already a Consort or 妃! Everyone in her palace is excited for the special day. 甄嬛 is about to change but just as the servants bring out her consort ceremonial robe, everyone gasps. There’s a huge gash on the robe! 

 

She hurriedly summons the head eunuch of the imperial interior department 内务府. He comes and is also perplexed at what happened. These ceremonial robes are custom made – there’s not enough silk for a quick repair. The Eunuch suddenly remembers that the Empress recently had a robe brought out for repair. By the looks of it, it seemed to be a ceremonial robe. It might be a bit old but that might work. With no other options, 甄嬛 quickly changes into this new robe.

 

It’s a dark rouge color? Very extravagant, I personally really like her headdress. Everything seems good to go but 甄嬛’s maid 瑾溪 seems to have seen this robe before. 甄嬛 hurries over to the Empress palace. The Empress mysteriously has a migraine – she’ll have to wait a little bit. She urges the Emperor to head over first. What a master player. She slowly laid her trap and 甄嬛 is about to fall right it.

 

[Karen]

The Emperor walks out to the main room. A woman has his back towards him and is hidden behind a thin veil. He is stunned at the scene. How could she be here? The Emperor – showing the LARGEST eyes we will ever see in the show, is astonished. He rushes over to the woman, calling out “莞莞”. He pauses right before the screen and says once more “莞莞, you’re finally back”. He grabs her hand, caressing it. The woman finally presents herself, “I 甄嬛 greet your majesty”. The Emperor cannot believe his ears. He pulls apart the veil to see 甄嬛 in utter shock on. He first asks – how is it you? Then he demands – where did you get this robe? How dare you!

 

甄嬛 finally realizes somethings wrong and immediately kneels. Right on cue, the Empress arrives, looks at 甄嬛 and exclaims – Oh my goodness! How can you be wearing the Empress 纯元’s robe? The Empress reprimands her maid – how could this have happened? The maid gives a sob story about how they brought this out to repair and she somehow forgot to pack it. 

 

The Empress is um “beside” herself. She then looks at 甄嬛. How dare you! Out of all of the Empress 纯元’s clothes to take, why this one?  The empress is such a good actress. This is why she is a master manipulator. She spun this web for 甄嬛 to fall into and 甄嬛 never even thought twice.

 

The Emperor of course remembers, this is the robe that 纯元 wore the first time he met her. He orders 甄嬛 to take it off. The Empress continues her act – I’m sure this was an accident. Why did you do it? 甄嬛 dutifully takes off the robe and tells the truth but the Emperor is livid. The Empress puts a nail in the coffin and begins to say “莞妃 or Consort 莞” . The Emperor, in his maddened state, coldly responds Consort? She may have received her seal but she has yet to complete all of the rituals. She is not a Consort. Go back to your palace to reflect on your mistakes.

 

The order travels fast to her palace. Everyone is to be put under house-arrest. The head eunuch that came up with the idea for this swap? Killed. Poor guy. This eunuch was actually placed into this role by none other than the Empress. She totally used him like a worthless pawn.

 

[Cathy]

甄嬛 is alone in her room. She has now realized the sad truth and confronts her maid 瑾溪 about it. I look like the deceased 纯元. Is this why you came to my palace? This must be what 端妃 meant when she first saw me. Is this why the Emperor favors me? She is heartbroken. The truth has finally been revealed to her. She has no idea what to do next. 

 

I will commend 瑾溪. She’s still trying to analyze the situation. She never served 纯元, the eunuch that was killed also didn’t. She correctly guesses that this was all a setup.

 

With this, 甄嬛 finally realizes that this was all a trap set by the Empress. Who else could have ordered the robe to be laid out of the deceased Empress 纯元? Who else could have had her original robe destroyed? There is only 1 person in the palace and that is the Empress, 皇后。

 

This is incredibly heartbreaking. 甄嬛 has lost favor with the Emperor. She realizes now that she never had favor with the Empress. This time, she wore the Empress 纯元’s clothes which seems to be an absolutely fatal mistake. There doesn’t seem to be any hope for redemption. She says to herself that I am nothing but a replacement. 甄嬛 ends up crying in her palace, all alone.

 

[Karen]

Elsewhere, the Empress and her little posse are celebrating at her palace. 安陵容 is now a 嫔 or Concubine which is the same level as 甄嬛. Can I also just say that I really don’t like her headdress and overall getup? Her bangs are pulled up so I feel like she looks more severe. I prefer her with bangs. 

 

This scene is just a summary of the events of the episode. The Empress truly lets everything out of the bag. From the robe to the collection of poems, they were all just traps in the Empress’s plan. She even evilly thanks her sister while caressing the robe as without her sister, none of this can be achieved. This time, she’s confident that even if the Emperor forgives 甄嬛, 甄嬛 will not want the Emperor anymore. 

 

The episode ends with 甄嬛’s one true friend 沈眉庄 trying to request audiences with the Emperor, Empress, and Empress Dowager but to no avail. It’s looking hopeless for 甄嬛。

 

That was the recap for the episode! Let’s get into our analysis!

 

In this episode we start to see the players in the Imperial Court and the Imperial Harem finally turning their attention and vitriol towards 甄嬛. Before, 华妃 was always the one everyone was wary of, with her death, the ladies of the Imperial harem now have a new target, 甄嬛. 

 

We see again in this episode that while 甄嬛 has matured significantly throughout her years in the Imperial Harem, she is till quite a novice when compared to the Empress. Just when 甄嬛 thought she could live peacefully in the rest of the Imperial harem, she’s faced faceless enemies. Even her poor father got dragged into this.  The Emperor is no longer a fan of him.

 

[Cathy]

Let’s first start off looking into the collection of poems by the man 钱世明。Born in 1660, he met the general 年羹尧 on their way towards the civil service entrance exams. This 钱世明 did pretty well on the exams and was praised for his scholarly talents. He actually worked on the History of Ming – one of the official Chinese historical works. 

 

In 1724, 钱世明 wrote some poems for the then popular general 年羹尧 who was on his way to quash the rebellion in the Northwest. The four lines that are the most questionable are

 

分陕旌旗周召伯,从天鼓角汉将军

He compares 年羹尧 to the Duke of Shao – ji shi who helped the king of 周 defeat the kingdom of Shang and the legendary generals of the han dynasty.

 

钟鼎名勒山河誓,番藏宜刊第二碑

This phrase is even more problematic – why? It basically translates to, during the Emperor 康熙’s reign, the 14th Prince successfully won battles in Tibet. The Emperor built a monument in his honor. The merits of general 年羹尧 warrant another monument. 

 

Let’s take a look – this was written in 1724, when 年羹尧 had favor. To the unsuspecting person, this would have been great. This praises the general and his achievements. Unfortunately, 年羹尧 is now dead and the Emperor has banished his brother the 14th Prince. These two phrases could be construed as treason for praising a criminal. These 4 lines are actually indeed the ones that got 钱世明 into trouble in 1726. Or they are the ones most frequently mentioned in history. I will give props to the show for being accurate here.

 

钱世明 was stripped of his commission and sent packing back to his hometown. This isn’t even it. The Emperor personally wrote a plaque with the words “名教罪人” or how I’ll translate it to be Famous Criminal. This was to be hung on his front door. Local officials checked in on the 1st and 15th of each month to see if it was still there. The Emperor did some more things to this guy but we’ll just leave it at that. The Emperor REALLY did not like this guy or really just wanted to set an example to others. 

 

[Karen]

Let’s move on to talk about why 皇后 orchestrated this whole thing. I don’t’ think she would have done this or at least wanted to destroy 甄嬛 so immediately if it wasn’t for 安陵容 relaying to 皇后, the empress, that 皇上 called 甄嬛 菀菀。 This is discussed more fully in later episodes but 菀菀 was the nickname of the deceased first wife, 皇上’s “true love”. This slip made 皇后 incredibly jealous as it meant that 皇上 is falling harder for 甄嬛. Her favoritism will be so powerful that a) it could threaten the Empress’s title, and b) the emperor will fully rely or fall for 甄嬛. The empress could not have this and chose to strike.

 

But the Empress is masterful in how she strikes. This revelation that 甄嬛 looks like the deceased first wife was not to make the Emperor mad. Yes, he will be upset but if 甄嬛 forgives him and throws herself back at him like she did before with the miscarriage, nothing will change. The Empress chose to act in this way to show 甄嬛 that a huge part of her favoritism is because she looks like the former empress. It means she is nothing more than a replacement. The emperor doesn’t love her for her, but rather, because she reminds him of his first wife. The empress sees that 甄嬛 is incredibly proud and will not accept being in someone’s shadow. 甄嬛 will not want to look back after this or fight for favoritism, thus be eliminated as a threat for good. This is the result that the empress ultimately wants. By the looks of it, the empress, leveraging 祺贵人’s father in the imperial court and this tactic in the harem, is succeeding. 

 

[Cathy]

Everything that happened at court, the collection of poems by 钱世明 were nothing more than to sow the seeds of suspicion and disappointment in the Emperor’s mind. If 甄嬛 still had the sterling reputation, the Emperor might not have been this angry. The Emperor is a deeply suspicious man and he’s already questioning her and her father’s loyalty. The whole robe fiasco was just another whammy.

 

Hints of this similarity in resemblance were embedded throughout the drama as far back as episode 1 when 甄嬛 was going through the court selection to be a concubine in the palace. If you go back to watch, the emperor was surprised by her the moment he saw her. We now know it’s because she looked a lot like his deceased first wife. The main reason why the empress dowager, the emperors mother who was also present in that scene tried so hard to prevent 甄嬛 from entering the palace in that episode was also because she saw that 甄嬛 looked like 纯元。 Later in episode 2 when discussing the women selected to court, 皇后, the empress even made the comment that it was rumored that 甄嬛 looked almost exactly like… She didn’t finish the phrase then but now we know it was in reference to the first wife. The Emperor’s response at that point was that her eyes had similarity and that was it. There are many other references and examples to this connection but those were very obvious right from the beginning of this drama.

 

[Karen]

This is a really big reveal for 甄嬛 and a heartbreaking one at that. She realized that a huge part of her favoritism is because she looks like someone else. She gained favor so easily because of her appearance and now she loses favor because of her appearance as well.

 

Unfortunately, this isn’t even the end of this story.

 

Let’s end today’s episode on a lighthearted note!

 

One very funny and very meta fact about this entire show is is that the actress for 甄嬛 looks very similar to the actor for the emperor’s real life wife. Her name is 蒋勤勤, an actress who retired for the most part after she married 陈建斌, the actor for the emperor. Fans joke about this all the time that 纯元 is pretty much 蒋勤勤。 纯元 never makes an appearance in the drama but there is a lot of fan art depicting 蒋勤勤 as 纯元. Like if you google 纯元 now, it’s just a bunch of pictures with 蒋勤勤’s face photoshopped onto drama pics from the drama. It’s quite funny actually. What’s even more coincidental is that when the actress for 甄嬛, 孙俪, first started acting, her nickname was actually “Little 蒋勤勤!” People noted their similarities long before 孙俪 took this role. 蒋勤勤 or the wife of the actor 陈建斌 was extremely famous in mainland china so she was the more popular woman. Now that’s not the case since 蒋勤勤 doesn’t have as many works under her name as 孙俪。孙俪 is definitely the more famous one now. I do highly recommend you google 蒋勤勤. She was absolutely gorgeous. How she married 陈建斌, I will never get it… 

That’s it for today’s episode! As always, if you have any questions or comments, please contact us at chasingdramaspodcast@gmail.com. We’ll catch you in the next episode!

 

 

 

 

你是我的荣耀》发海报,感谢潘粤明题字剧名_迪丽热巴

You Are My Glory (2021) 你是我的荣耀

Summary: A superstar celebrity Qiao Jing Jing (Dilraba Dilmurat) encounters her old high school crush Yu Tu (Yang Yang) while playing the mobile game Honor of Kings. What happens when they finally meet? 

Based on the book, You are my Glory from the author Gu Man (顾漫), the drama began airing in China on July 26, 2021. 

Let us know your thoughts!

-Cathy

 

Overall rating: ~ 9/10

If you want to enjoy a great rom-com drama without contrived plots, this the drama for you!

Key Highlights: 

  • A great and very faithful adaptation of the source material
  • Amazing chemistry between the two leads 迪丽热巴 (Dilraba Dilmurat) and 杨洋 (Yang Yang)
  • Great supporting cast with well known actors and actress from the Chinese entertainment industry
  • Healthy and cute love story that doesn’t shy away from adult responsibilities and personal goals
  • Unique inclusion of the Honor of Kings CGI
  • On location filming for the China’s Air and Space program in the Gobi Desert and Hai Nan

Spoilers below!

Story: Superstar celebrity Qiao Jing Jing 乔晶晶 is the brand spokesperson for the megahit game Honor of Kings. While practicing the game, she reconnects with her old high school crush and aerospace engineer Yu Tu (于途). The drama follows the two as they fall in love and overcome professional and personal struggles to finally become each other’s glory.

The drama begins with someone leaking a video of Qiao Jing Jing playing rather poorly in the game Hong of Glory. As the spokesperson, she needs to play the game during the Hong of Kings Awards Ceremony to redeem herself and keep the sponsorship. Unfortunately, Qiao Jing Jing is pretty bad at the game. While practicing at home, she is mistakenly added into a game by Yu Tu, her old high school crush, to play with his friends. 

Yu Tu doesn’t know it’s Qiao Jing Jing and the group continues to play a couple of matches together. Yu Tu is surprisingly very good at the game and Qiao Jing Jing decides to asks Yu Tu to become her personal coach for the game to prepare for the Awards Ceremony. Qiao Jing Jing invites Yu Tu to meet in person and the two begin a relatively professional coach / student relationship.

The story progresses as the two get to know each other better. Qiao Jing Jing’s feelings for Yu Tu resurface and Yu Tu, surprisingly, begins to have feelings towards Qiao Jing Jing too. 

During this time, Yu Tu is taking a break from his job as an aerospace engineer at China Aerospace Science and Technology. He’s reevaluating his professional aspirations as he has to face the reality that his career would not allow him to support his loved ones financially or even have time to spend with them. He turns his sights towards Investment Banking. 

Yu Tu decides to return to his job but in doing so, believes that he cannot take care of Jing Jing and rejects her. Shortly after, he regrets his decision and spends some time trying to win her back.  

The two finally decide to together and we see their cute and loving relationship blossom into one in which both Qiao Jing Jing and Yu Tu support each other to achieve their goals. Not gonna lie, I did tear up in certain parts of this drama. The drama ends with a very inspiring launch of the satellite that Yu Tu leads at the Wenchang Space Launch Site in Hainan, China

Thoughts:

Pros: This is a great drama that gets a lot right!

Plot The drama rightfully focuses the attention to the two main leads Qiao Jing Jing and Yu Tu. Qiao Jing Jing is a superstar actress but she is willing to put in the hard work to prove to the naysayers and to her fans that she is deserving of their praise. She is extremely intelligent and has a very positive outlook on life. She is like a sun that shines brightly and gives warmth to those around her. Yu Tu is the brilliant ambitious aerospace engineer that is somehow good at everything but in the face of real life woes a.k.a. money, he still has to make difficult choices.

It’s refreshing to see a drama that doesn’t belittle anyone’s profession and actually shows that jobs require effort. Qiao Jing Jing is a professional actress and makes sure she is always ready for her roles. She also takes her sponsorships seriously. Yu Tu is an aerospace engineer that works overtime with his teammates to solve problems. How many dramas have I seen where the main leads are CEOs of a company but somehow are never in the office? I can actually clearly see that these two people got to where they are in life because they worked for it. There’s also no contrived plots with ex-boyfriends / girlfriends. Everyone behaves as adults and solves issues as adults. There are some really great friendships in the drama too and we see people actually supporting each other.

This is one of the first shows to really showcase China’s aerospace capabilities and it is clear that the drama did their research on the subject of aerospace. The author Gu Man is also the screenwriter of the drama. She made several trips on location and requested reviews of the script with senior aerospace engineers to make sure the story made sense. It’s rare that a show does this level of homework and I’m glad it did. 

  

Casting: This is probably one of the best casted Chinese dramas in years. Why do I say this?  The drama cast some very well known actors and actresses that are leads in their own respective dramas so the fact that Tencent was able to assemble this cast is very impressive! I don’t think there’s a bad apple of the bunch!

Let’s start with 乔晶晶 Qiao Jing Jing. When I read the book, the person in my head to play Qiao Jing Jing was Dilraba 迪丽热巴 and I was not the only one. She was by far and away the fan favorite to play this part when the book was completed. I couldn’t believe my eyes when it was announced that she would play this part! I’m very happy with her performance here as I believe she really brought the character of Qiao Jing Jing to life. I’m a huge fan of Dilraba and I’m grateful that she played this role. This is the 3rd time she played an actress in her career but it’s clear that Qiao Jing JIng is not like the other roles and indeed it’s not like her own self. Dilraba has really grown as an actress over the years and I’m excited to see her next roles.

Next up 于途 or Yu Tu. 杨洋 is a favored actor of from the author 顾漫 (Gu Man). He portrayed Xiao Nai in the megahit Love O2O back in 2016.  I initially was somewhat skeptical that he could separate this role from his role in Love O2O but he does a great job here. In the earlier episodes, he was able to portray the internal struggles that Yu Tu faced surrounding his job pretty well. Once the two characters get together, woo, Yu Tu turns up the notch and is a Grade A boyfriend! Overall the chemistry between the two is great! I mean two beautiful people acting as a couple? Sign me up please!

The rest of the cast includes a lot of very famous people that I actually watched dramas of growing up. Shout out to 高露, who plays the wife of Guan Zai, Yu Tu’s mentor. She is of course 林小娘 or Mistress Lin in The Story of Ming Lan. I’ve loved her work for ages and it was like a dream come true when her character and Qiao Jing Jing finally meet in the drama. 

CGI: Since this drama was produced by Tencent and Tencent also makes the Honor My Kings games, Tencent was willing to go all in on the CGI for this drama. The CGI renderings of the game characters are really good and I believe even game fans are quite happy with it. 

On Location Filming: I’m very happy that the drama decided to film on location in Shanghai, the Gobi Desert, and Hainan. These places are heavily implied in the book so it’s great to have these regions showcased in the drama. 

Faithfulness to Source Material: A+ here. Probably like 90% retention of the source material. This isn’t surprising as the author was the screenwriter for the drama. Keep this coming please!

Cons: No major cons! My main nitpick is that Yu Tu – you are an idiot for rejecting Qiao Jing Jing not once but TWICE! She should have made him work for their relationship a bit more.

Final Rambles:

I’m so happy that this drama came out this summer with the cast that it did. I’ve mentioned before but it definitely is a dream come true. It fulfilled all the requirements I had on the cast, the story, and faithfulness to the source material. I doubt we’ll actually see anything like this in the near future so enjoy this drama if you can!

Funnily enough, this whole entire drama is also quite meta. Dilraba and Yang Yang are actually the global spokespeople for WeTv and Tencent Video. Dilraba is the game spokesperson for 和平精英 or Game for Peace, another Tencent game. Dilraba is also a superstar celebrity in China with a growing name recognition worldwide. That’s partially why she was such a fan favorite. Who else should play Qiao Jing Jing other than an actual superstar actress? You’ll notice that a lot of the photos of Qiao Jing Jing in the drama are of Dilraba’s actual other media campaigns. 

I’ll be happy to ramble on about this drama for many many more posts. Until next time!

-Cathy

 

 

 

Review: Song of Youth (2021) 玉楼春 

Summary: Set in the Ming Dynasty, this drama portrays the relationship struggles in the wealthy Sun family. 4th son Sun Yu Lou falls in love with the daughter of a executed minister, Lin Shao Chun and is determined to marry her. After solidifying their relationship, the drama turns to the other struggles within the Sun family to often times hilarious effect.

 

 

 

Overall rating: 7/10

Overall thoughts: The costumes, set design and soundtrack are some of this drama’s best features as it had me hooked in the Ming dynasty setting which I have historically found to be rather bland. The secondary characters also outshone the main leads as they brought additional depth and color to the story. Overall, a fun, casual drama to watch.

This is a drama by YuZheng who helmed the popular The Story of Yanxi Palace and the Gong (Palace) series. It’s clear that since he found success in the Story of Yanxi Palace, he’s hoping to capture the same success in subsequent dramas by having special care on costume and set design as well as having a no-nonsense female lead. It wasn’t the runaway success that YuZheng hoped but I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s overall a feel good drama with some heartbreaking moments but for the most part is quite satisfying and easy to watch. It’s not overly memorable but does have a lot if interesting history portrayed throughout the drama that I appreciated.

于正夸下海口的《玉楼春》究竟怎样?【七猫影视】

 

The main lead actress Bai Lu had a ton of screen time this year not only with this drama, but with the more popular Zhou Sheng Ru Gu (One and Only). I personally liked her better in this drama where she plays Lin Shao Chun, the daughter of a framed court minister who grew up in a Chinese theater company, hoping one day to clear her father’s name. She meets Sun Yu Lou, son of a powerful minister at court, who instantly falls in love with her. Incidentally, his father is the one who put her father in prison and caused his death. The drama revolves around their relationship and the relationship of the rest of both their family members. 

 

网评《玉楼春》最讨喜的古装美人TOP 10!白鹿第四,金晨第二,冠军是话题担当_林少春

The drama does well in minimizing conflict resulting in miscommunication and having issues resolved relatively quickly. In multiple plots against Lin Shao Chun, other dramas would have had her fight with her husband or her in-laws but in this drama she was able to avert those pitfalls through her intelligence and communication to find the real culprit behind whatever was happening. That’s what makes this drama such a satisfying one to watch. 

It’s largely low stakes as the conflicts facing Shao Chun involve helping her brother and sister-in-law repair their marriage, stop another sister-in-law from bullying her, or help yet another relative runaway from a dead marriage. These relatives are probably the most fun of the dramas I’ve seen and why I enjoyed it so much. La Mu Yang Zi who portrayed the eldest sister-in-law certainly garnered quite a few positive reviews for her portrayal in this drama.  Where the stakes do become higher aka escalate to involve the emperor, it feels like everything is in hand because most people in the drama are not portrayed as incompetent. 

Many people didn’t care for the main male lead and I totally understand why. He’s rather boring and relatively inept compared to his superpowered wife. His best attribute is his unconditional love and support but honestly, this drama would barely miss him if he wasn’t around. 

Bonus – I thought the soundtrack for this drama was absolutely lovely and have it on repeat quite a bit. The songs are entirely Chinese traditional music oriented and one song, Ren Jian, is almost ethereal. The main theme, Zi Chai Ji, I also have on repeat and it’s actually quite easy to play along with on my Zither so I’ve been doing that as well. That’s how much I liked the songs. 

-Karen

EPISODE 41+42

 

 

[Cathy]

Welcome to Chasing Dramas! This is the podcast that discusses Chinese history and culture through Chinese TV shows! I’m Cathy and I’m Karen. Today, We’re going to talk about episode 41+ 42 of 后宫甄嬛传, Empresses in the Palace.

 

[Karen] – We’re quite a few episodes in and I realized that as much as this podcast is about chinese history and culture, it’s also about chasing the drama, fangirling about certain actors/actresses, and doing a ton of in depth character analysis. Let’s just say – being nerds because we love it.

 

I’m very excited to discuss these 2 episodes. They are what I consider the resolution to probably the most exciting parts of this drama. After this the mood totally shifts because…spoiler alert… the fantastic 华妃 is no longer. We’re sad about that which is why we are doing a ton of analysis for these 2 episodes. 

 

[Cathy]

The drama is currently available on Youtube if you would like to rewatch and or follow along. If you’re new to the podcast, please start with our intro to the podcast and intro to the drama episodes. If you have any comments/questions, please email us at chasingdramaspodcast@gmail.com. Share this podcast with your friends!

 

Today in this episode – We will say goodbye to one of our main characters and fan favorites. We knew this was going to happen. 

 

The three key events to discuss today:

  1. The Death of 襄嫔 – real name – 曹琴默
  2. The introduction of a new manchurian concubine, 祺贵人 – Real name, 瓜尔佳 – 文鸢
  3. The Death of 华妃 or now 年答应 – real name – 年世兰

 

[Karen]

In a change to how we normally do these episodes, we are going to discuss the events surrounding these 3 ladies, and then some analysis so it won’t be a straight recap of the episodes and analysis afterwards.

 

Let’s start off with 襄嫔。

 

In episode 41 + 42, we see her sudden rise and sudden death. 

 

In episode 41, the newly promoted 襄嫔 is plotting her own next move. She was previously 曹贵人, an ally of 华妃 but betrayed her and was luckily promoted by the Emperor as a reward for revealing all of 华妃’s evil deeds. Look at 襄嫔! Look how lavish she’s dressed! Especially with her hair accessories! The thing is, she’s ambitious – she wants to become a Consort or 妃 and even Noble Consort or 贵妃。Everything she does is for her daughter 温宜. As a lowly noble lady, her daughter would most likely have been sent away to marry a lowly lord or as a marriage alliance. 襄嫔 needs to rise up the ranks to protect her daughter. As for her alliance with 甄嬛, 襄嫔 knows full well that 甄嬛 cannot be trusted。 She goes so far as to say if 甄嬛 blocks her path to becoming 妃, or a Consort, she will not hesitate to attack 甄嬛. Will 襄嫔 or her maiden name 曹琴默 get to see her move up the ranks? 

 

[Cathy]

Little does she know that her husband and her mother in law, the emperor and empress dowager have other thoughts.

 

Next we have a scene with the Emperor discussing matters of court and the Imperial Harem with his mother the Empress Dowager. The General 年羹尧 has died. The once mighty 华妃 is now a lowly 2st class female attendant or 年答应. The Emperor believes if 年答应 doesn’t cause any further ruckus in the Imperial harem, he’ll let her live with at least a Noble lady title. I mean look, that’s pretty lenient of him. This is exactly why 甄嬛 nudges 襄嫔 in the next scene。 Everyone wants this woman dead but the emperor doesn’t have the full heart to kill 年答应。Clearly, he feels bad for how he tricked this poor woman for many years. Even though he knows she is a terrible person, but she loved him and he was never true to her. 

 

The Empress Dowager also commends the Emperor for the way he handled 襄嫔’s promotion. He bluntly tells her and us the audience that he knew full well 襄嫔 was in cahoots with 年答应 but he needed her to serve as the witness in order to clean 年答应’s faction in the Imperial Harem. See? Nothing escapes their eyes.

 

Funnily though , the way mother and son talk about the Imperial Harem, it’s so, what’s the word? Business-like? Aloof? The Empress Dowager tells the Emperor it’s best not to favor 襄嫔 anymore. He should even stop giving 甄嬛 information about court! It’s dangerous. Once again, he has to calculate every move he makes in order to balance both the court and his harem. That’s why in Chinese, you have the front court and the “back palace”. In english it sounds so odd but in Chinese it makes sense. The empress dowager constantly reminds the Emperor that he cannot have true feelings – we see exactly why. If he had true feelings for 年答应, he wouldn’t have been able to use her and her brother as effectively. Though, I think the Emperor is a little annoyed at his mother’s comments because then he says, I just destroyed 年羹尧’s faction. There are other groups in court that becoming like his, I need to destroy them one by one. 

 

[can delete]

The Empress Dowager, in a rare slip up, says – 隆科多 is old. Let him leave court and enjoy the rest of his life. Notice how the mood shifts. The music changes too. The Emperor says I didn’t mention him and takes his leave. There’s a whole backstory between the Empress Dowager and 隆科多 that we’ll get into in future episodes. We’ll just remind everyone that 隆科多 was a huge supporter of our current Emperor 雍正 and was crucial in helping the Emperor seize the throne. 

 

[Karen]

Moving on, we see that 襄嫔 is watching her daughter 温宜 play in the snow when 甄嬛 comes to say hi. They briefly discuss the gossip of a new Noble Lady 祺贵人 joining the Imperial Harem. Suddenly, the princess 温宜 slips but is saved by the sickly 端妃. 襄嫔 rushes over. This particular scene is hilarious. I love how she tries to walk over to her daughter but almost trips because of the flower bottom shoes she wears. It’s a real struggle for the actresses. I don’t know how ladies stayed upright in those shoes in winter.

 

甄嬛 seeing that 端妃’s clothes got slightly soiled, invites her to her palace to change. 端妃 leaves first, giving 甄嬛 a chance to finish her conversation with 襄嫔.  [UMMM i don’t think so – 甄嬛 purposefully wants to talk to 端妃 so she makes an excuse]

 

The two cunning ladies in the imperial harem have a nice chat. 襄嫔 shares her ambition of next becoming a consort in order to help her daughter secure a better future. 甄嬛 says she understands – I mean, it makes sense. 甄嬛 also explains why the emperor gave 襄嫔 the title of 襄。 襄 means to help. With the front court already having enough evidence or support to remove 年羹尧, the emperor needed someone to help him in the imperial harem. 曹贵人 now 襄嫔 fills that role of the helper. Now, the key here is that 甄嬛 says 年答应 is still a concubine which means not much can be done to not lose too much face. 襄嫔 gets the hint and ushers 甄嬛 to see 端妃.

 

Interestingly, we hear that 襄嫔 isn’t really educated, at least in books, which is why she doesn’t understand what 襄 means. 

 

Look here, 曹贵人, now 襄嫔 is extremely sharp. She, taking 甄嬛’s hint, thinks she needs to convince the emperor to kill 年答应。However, I believe 甄嬛 is taking this opportunity, to remove 曹贵人 as well. It’s really subtle but I feel like 甄嬛 is nudging 襄嫔 to help kill 年答应 but that results in continued displeasure by the emperor. It will not turn out well for 襄嫔。

 

甄嬛 returns to chat with 端妃. She makes a curious comment to her. She says Princess 温宜 is so cute but I wonder how she’ll turn out with a mother like 襄嫔. What would happen if she were to have another mother? Foreshadowing much?

 

In the very next scene, 襄嫔’s own maid is pouring some suspicious powder into a brew for 襄嫔. 襄嫔 doesn’t look too well…

 

[Cathy]

Later on we have a scene where, In a surprising move, though mostly guided by 甄嬛’s words, 襄嫔 openly voices her recommendation to kill 年答应. She says – such an evil woman cannot be allowed to live in the Imperial Harem. The Emperor hears this and walks away muttering – you really are ruthless to 襄嫔. I don’t think this had the intended result 襄嫔 was hoping for.

 

The Emperor once again chats with his mother the Empress Dowager 太后. This time, they’re discussing 襄嫔. Her words have irked the Emperor. He cannot have a traitor who openly wishes for her old master’s death around. This will be dangerous for the Imperial Harem. Again, it doesn’t even feel like they’re talking about people, just chess pieces. The Emperor at least worries about his daughter not having a mother but the Empress Dowager just says – there are plenty of women in the Imperial Harem without daughters. We’ll just have to find 温宜 another mother. Well that’s settled. 

 

The end result? 襄嫔 dies off screen – 甄嬛 secretly tells 端妃 that this was the Emperor’s orders. This is the same as what happened to 年世兰. The doctors were told to keep everything quiet. Can you believe it though? It was 襄嫔’s own personal maid that did this.

 

The princess 温宜 now has no mother. 甄嬛 recommends for 端妃 to foster her. This is the last time 襄嫔 is mentioned. We no longer see 温宜 on screen anymore either – though she’s mentioned in the drama. Again – she’s super cute!

 

襄嫔 – 曹琴默

 

[Karen]

Let’s talk about this woman. She is a noble lady for the majority of the time we see her. She finally ends up as a 嫔 which means she can control her own palace only to be poisoned by her own husband. 

 

Her fate was determined well before her betrayal of 华妃. 

 

When we were first introduced to her, she’s the less pretty ally to 华妃 who also had 丽嫔 in her posse. 曹贵人 is unique in that she at least has a child, which we now know is very rare in the palace thanks to how the Empress runs the harem.

 

From the get go we learn/see that 曹贵人 is cunning. Time and again, 甄嬛 almost gets punished because of events plotted by 曹贵人。

 

Sure, 曹琴默 was doing 华妃’s bidding but in episode 17, 瑾汐, 甄嬛’s main maid said something very important – people who care about riches and money will never get far. This was in response to a very unique/expensive fragrance 甄嬛 gifted 曹琴默 in an effort to root out who was the spy in her group. Remember, that spy turned out to be her half sister, 浣碧.

 

This observation by 瑾汐 is very astute. 曹琴默 cares about her daughter which is true, but in these few episodes, she reiterates many times how much she wants to “climb” the ladder in the imperial harem. She’s not happy to just be a 嫔, she wants more. It’s evident with her hair decorations immediately becoming more extravagant once she is no longer under 华妃’s control. Her greed blinded her to observing the emperor’s feelings towards 华妃。If she had stopped talking, just kept her mouth shut about 华妃, she may not have been killed. But because she kept on saying terrible things towards her former master, it just increased the disgust by the emperor and the empress dowager. The people who stay alive in the imperial palace, or at least live peacefully and rise through the ranks – such as 敬妃 and 端妃, plus 甄嬛, are the ones who aren’t greedy. They just let everything be.

 

I explained that 甄嬛 nudged 曹琴默 to step on 华妃。 I don’t know if 甄嬛 knew the end result of her nudge was to get 曹琴默 killed, but 曹琴默 ‘s greed pushed her to this step. Some comments also say that 曹琴默 is generally extremely smart. Saying such negative things about her former master was out of character for her and probably only happened because the writers needed her to die. I personally don’t think so. I think this is in character for her. She doesn’t know why the emperor is so lenient on 华妃 with the whole special fragrance and causing her infertility so 曹琴默 can’t understand why the emperor would be annoyed with her. He already killed 年羹尧 and pretty much all the key clan members. Why would he keep 华妃 alive? She focused too much on her own fortune to notice anything else. Unfortunately, she fell into 甄嬛’s trap.

 

[Cathy]

From a political perspective, 曹琴默 was never destined for greatness. She comes from a Han Banner (as evident by her last name). Different characters always call out her family’s lack of position at court so we can assume her family is neither powerful nor wealthy. She doesn’t have a family to give her support in the imperial harem or to help attract the emperor’s attention. While this is not always beneficial as is the case with 华妃, it would have helped a bit.

 

The result of all this is that her daughter will now be raised by 端妃. This was actually foreshadowed wayyy back in episode 14 I believe during 温宜’s first birthday party. 端妃 comes to the celebration where she first meets 甄嬛. At that party, 端妃 gifts 温宜 a necklace that’s very valuable. It’s at that point we are shown a strong interest or at least a stronger bond between these two. 端妃 has always liked this 温宜 princess.

 

Well that’s it for our analysis of 曹琴默. She started off not very interesting but dies a much more fleshed out character.

 

Next up! We are also introduced to 祺贵人 in episode 41!

 

We are at another court greeting but we see a new woman! 祺贵人 is portrayed by the lovely 唐艺昕. This I think was her first drama! She was 22 or so at the time. 祺贵人 comes from the Bordered Yellow Banner so she is manchurian. Her maiden name is 瓜尔佳·文鸳, of the 瓜尔佳 clan which is very highly regarded. She was selected to come to the palace due to her father’s contribution in bringing down 年羹尧 and his faction. In this episode alone, we learn quite a lot about her. Her attitudes, her intelligence, and her abilities. Can’t wait to discuss! To our listeners, this 祺 means good luck or good fortune. It sounds the exact same as 齐 for 齐妃, the doltish mother of the 3rd prince. These two ladies will never have the same rank so hopefully it won’t get too confusing.  

 

At an imperial harem greeting, The other concubines start gossiping. The older ladies don’t seem to care too much but 甄嬛 looks rather glum. I think she’s slightly jealous at what she knows will come. Outside, 甄嬛 and 沈眉庄 are heading back together but is stopped by the new 祺贵人. She just wants to say hello yadiyada. Ugh, 安陵容 is sulking in the back. I think she again is thinking, why doesn’t anyone want to talk to me???

 

[Karen]

To no ones surprise, the Emperor does indeed pick 祺贵人 for the evening. We haven’t seen a scene like this in a while but she follows the tradition of being rolled up in the bed covers and carried to the emperor’s bed. It’s hilarious.  What is surprising is that the next day, she has moved into 碎玉轩 甄嬛’s palace. In her own rooms, this 祺贵人is plotting her next move. She has it figured out – get close to 甄嬛. The Emperor likes 甄嬛 so living close to her will be very advantageous.

 

Ok – so far so good. She seems to know how the game works in the Imperial Harem.

 

Next – 祺贵人 pays a visit to the Empress. The Empress pretty much lays it out – the 2 of them are from the manchu banners. All of the other favored ladies are from the han banners. The Manchu banners must be represented in the Imperial Harem. Here is a little bit of political discrimmination happening that we haven’t talked about in a while as well. The han, manchu divide simply permeates the Qing dynasty. Then the Empress offers some pretty sage advice. To become a favored concubine, watch how others become a favored concubine. I don’t know if 祺贵人 will take that advice but she does seem like she listened. 

 

[Cathy]

Outside, 祺贵人 encounters the demoted 年答应.  祺贵人 roundly scolds 年答应 for not curtseying and begins to mock her for her misfortunes. Let’s look at how 年答应 responds. How are you any different from me? You came to the Imperial Palace due to your family’s influence. Enjoy your dream. Who knows, maybe you’ll end up like me. The Empress and 甄嬛 were no match for me. I’ll see about you. 祺贵人 is very much annoyed but she doesn’t have a retort. 年答应, despite her rank, is still as proud and as haughty as ever. I love the smirk she has on her face when addressing 祺贵人.

 

Why is 年答应 so upset? It’s because she’s burning paper money for her family. The only person left with her is 颂芝. 年答应’s entire family has died and she knows there’s no hope for left in the Imperial Harem. She turns her bitterness and hatred towards 甄嬛. There’s one eunuch that she’s planted in 甄嬛’s palace. It’s time to use him to seek revenge.

 

Things move along quickly in the next few scenes. 祺贵人 tattles to the Emperor about her encounter with 年答应. The Emperor’s conviction against 年答应 seems to be falling. He keeps making comments that oh she really isn’t too bad. I just want her to stay quiet and she’ll live… He feels bad for how he treated her and completely disregards how she has treated other people in the imperial harem.

 

[Karen]

The Empress has invited the ladies of the Imperial Harem to the opera but 甄嬛 doesn’t join. She has her own plans for the evening. Well there’s always something of note at the opera and today doesn’t disappoint. When I first watched this scene, I wasn’t sure on how cunning the new 祺贵人 was. There were flashes of brilliance but this scene sealed the deal for me. She’ll just be the next dumber 华妃. Why? Let’s see.

 

祺贵人 voices their good fortune to have the Empress in charge of the Imperial Harem. The Empress waves off these compliments. She says – we are all sisters. We should take care of each other. There’s some back and forth between the ladies. The Empress states – With the way you all are chatting, I am reminded of my own family. It’s pleasant.

 

Here comes the kicker from 祺贵人. She says – Dear Empress, as long as you don’t think we’re too chatty. When I’m at home, I can never talk to my two bastard sisters or 庶出 sisters but when I see you Empress, I feel like I can tell you everything. 

 

Uh oh – look at everyone’s face. The word in chinese 祺贵人 uses is 庶出 – which means, not born from the main wife. 祺贵人 quickly realizes her mistake and immediately falls to her knees to beg for forgiveness. I love Ada Choi’s (The Empress’s) acting here. Her gaze stays straight, her face is still serene, but her eyes and her voice (well, her dub) turn steely. She simply responds – we are all sisters in the Imperial Harem, I will not quibble. 

 

[Cathy]

Why is this comment so problematic? It’s because the Empress herself is not born from the main wife. She is only 庶出. This fact has and always will be her biggest trigger. With this phrase, 祺贵人, just lowered the Empress’s status to that of her two 庶出 sisters. How dare she? 祺贵人 is also inadvertently hinting that she looks down at people who are 庶出, which now includes the Empress. The callous way 祺贵人 said this phrase was also unbelievable. She didn’t think twice!

 

When 华妃 was at the height of her powers, she would constantly use this as ammunition to belittle the Empress. In Imperial China, being a bastard or 庶出 was a stain on anyone’s birth. Of course the Empress is pissed!

 

I read one of the comments on youtube which i think is so apt! When 祺贵人 said her comment about her own sisters, there was a zoom in on 齐妃’s face. The youtube comment was 齐妃’s finally can think, WOW someone is dumber than me in the palace! Hahahaha. So yea, at first I thought 祺贵人 would be a legitimate threat but after this, nah…

 

The Empress expresses her anger at 祺贵人 once she’s back in her own palace with 安陵容. She even says that we desperately need women like 祺贵人 in the palace – women who are pretty but also stupid. I love that the empress immediately was like “YUP” – she’s stupid. But, the Empress is more or less over it. Who cares if you have a low birth? I am still the Empress! 

 

So to recap – this new woman is in the imperial harem who has a powerful family but is not sharp. She’s arrogant but pretty. She will be joining 皇后’s posse with 安陵容.

 

—-

 

[Karen]

And now!!! Lets discuss the fan favorite – 华妃 – 年世兰。

 

We mentioned her throughout this episode already but let’s get to the meat of her death and also analyze this truly heartbreaking woman. 

 

Her death plays out through the end of episode 41 and the first half of episode 42. 

 

沈眉庄 is playing Chinese Go at 甄嬛’s palace while all of the other ladies were watching opera. 甄嬛’s head eunuch comes into declare 年答应’s spy looks like he’s about to start a fire. This is an opportunity from heaven! 甄嬛 orders everyone to play their part – the fire must be lit but make sure to catch the culprit.  

 

Why does this have to happen? Technically, 甄嬛 already knows someone is trying to burn her place down. She could avoid the fire right?  A key theme throughout this drama is that you have to let something get really bad before a really impactful punishment will be made. The goal for both 甄嬛 and 沈眉庄 is to get 华妃 -or now 年答应 killed. As of right now, the emperor isn’t willing to do so because he is starting to feel sympathetic. The 2 ladies need to put the nail in the coffin. That is why 甄嬛 actively dumps oil onto her materials so that the fire will be more devastating.

 

沈眉庄, seeing that revenge is in sight, willingly burns herself to play her part. Parts of 甄嬛’s palace is severely burned and the Emperor rushes to see the remnants. Thankfully none of the ladies are harmed except for 沈眉庄。Her acting is so great – she’s shivering in the snow, playing up her part as the victim.

 

甄嬛’s eunuch brings the captured culprit. The Emperor’s head eunuch 苏培盛 immediately recognizes the man as someone from 年答应’s palace. The fire and this eunuch is the one two punch. This is concrete evidence that 年答应 will still try to murder people for her own means. Whatever sympathies the Emperor did have are now gone. The Emperor coldly declares to the group – get this culprit’s confession. If 年答应 did order this, kill her. No need to report to me.

 

As soon as the Emperor leaves, we see a close up of 沈眉庄. Her tears? Tears of joy.

 

[Cathy]

The Empress is livid at the events of the previous night. She must be secretly SO happy, hahahaha. 年答应 will be sentenced to death. As an act of mercy, she will be allowed a full corpse. Her options will be a dagger, poison, or a white sash. 

 

Before 年答应’s sentence, 甄嬛 decides to visit her one last time. The once powerful 华妃 is now imprisoned in 冷宫 or the cold palace with nothing. With all pretenses dispensed, these two ladies finally confront each other face to face. 

 

年答应 is bitter about the turn of events. She still doesn’t accept that she did anything wrong. She admits to the murder of 淳贵人, pushing 沈眉庄 etc but she doesn’t care. That was her power – she could do whatever she wanted. 

 

At this point the Emperor’s head eunuch, 苏培盛, arrives with 年答应’s three options. She, however, refuses to die. She demands the Emperor’s own Imperial Edict. If the Emperor could deliver one for my brother, why can’t he do one for me? 年答应 is grasping for that last piece of not hope but acknowledgement that the Emperor did care about her. But alas, she won’t get it.

 

甄嬛 orders everyone to leave for one final one-on-one conversation with 年答应. I do want to go through this scene in detail because it’s just so riveting. If you haven’t seen the scene, I recommend you watch it. It is incredible. We’ll attempt to do a re-enactment of the scene.

 

年答应 is still sitting imperiously in her seat, regal, upright. 甄嬛 has to deal each blow one by one. Let’s go through this scene. 甄嬛 starts. 

 

[Cathy]

Do you know why the Emperor detests you? 

 

[Karen]

He never detested me. He favored me. Whenever I made a mistake, he couldn’t stay away for too long.

 

[Cathy]

Do you know why the Emperor favored you? Because of your beauty? The Imperial Harem is never lacking in beautiful women. 

 

[Karen]

Are you saying he favored me because I was 年羹尧’s sister? Other women also have families in the military. You’re lying – he truly loved me.

 

[Cathy]

You’re right – he might have but your family’s arrogance has whittled away any love he has for you.

 

[Karen]

年答应 finally stands up to reminisce her early days as a concubine for the Emperor. He was only a prince at the time. The 4th Prince would take her riding, hunting. He said he only liked her. She hated that there were so many women. She would wait from dusk till dawn but he wouldn’t come. Do you know how it feels to wait? Of course, you’ve never loved him like I do. Then I got pregnant. The Emperor was excited but then he wasn’t. It must be because the only living son was his 3rd son. I told him, don’t worry, it’ll be a son. But, not long after, I lost my baby. It was a son!

 

Ugh, 蒋欣’s acting is marvelous. The way her eyes well up in tears. Absolutely heartbreaking. This entire sequence will just be of us praising the acting. 

 

[Cathy]

甄嬛 finally retorts – you lost your son, so you decided to take my child?

 

[Karen]

年答应 is beside herself – she turns 甄嬛 around, tears streaming down her face, to talk to her face to face. She spews out these words – I hate you. The Emperor has never treated any woman the same way as he treats you. I don’t ever want to wait from dusk till dawn again. I did plot to poison you but I never wanted to kill your child. 

 

[Cathy]

甄嬛 coldly responds – If it wasn’t for the 欢宜香 or perfume in your palace, how would I have miscarried?

 

[Karen]

年答应 is in disbelief. She backs away. What are you talking about?

 

[Cathy]

甄嬛 delivers the final blow. She tells 年答应 the truth – did you know that the perfume you treasured above all else contains large amounts of musk? You’ve used it for so many years, of course you will not get pregnant. You’re infertile. 

 

[Karen]

年答应 cannot believe her ears. She completely breaks down at this earth shattering news. How could it have been the Emperor? This cannot be – this is his gift! 年答应 is now hunched in the corner. 

 

[Cathy]

甄嬛 presses on – look at the power shift. She says – If it wasn’t for the Emperor, why hasn’t any Imperial Doctor told you about your condition? Even your miscarriage was ordered by the Emperor. The bowl of medicine that you drank from 端妃? That wasn’t her idea, but your beloved Emperor. 

 

[Karen]

年答应 tries to process the news. She’s still clinging on to some hope that this isn’t true. She desperately asks – why? Why would he do this to me?

 

[Cathy]

甄嬛 reveals the final secret. It’s because you are 年世兰, the brother of 年羹尧. The Emperor was never going to allow you or the 年 family to have a son. 

 

[Karen]

年答应 finally understands. Her beloved Emperor has always lied to her. All of their time together was a farce. He betrayed her, he played. Full of despair and finally hearing the truth, 年答应 can’t stop laughing. Ugh, the tears can’t stop streaming down her face. Well mine either. 

 

 年世兰’s famous last words are – “皇上, 你害的世兰好苦”.  One translation could be – “Emperor, you’ve caused me so much pain” or “you betrayed me”。 Without any further thought, she runs headfirst to the wall and dies, leaving 甄嬛 as the only witness. 

 

42 episodes later – the once powerful 华妃 has finally died!

 

Maybe I’ve seen way too many shows and knows what happens after this but after this rewatch, she’s terrible but not that terrible? She was a product of her upbringing. She was mischievous and deadly but she truly loved the Emperor. I cannot help but feel pity for her at the end. Everything she did, the plotting, the murders, was for the Emperor to gain his love. She never once thought that the Emperor did not love her. We’ve seen how the Emperor treated everyone in the Imperial Harem like a chess piece. She just wanted him. 

 

In this scene, she held out hope that the Emperor would deliver that final edict; show that he cared. The only reason she was sentenced to death was because she got caught. As 甄嬛 slowly peeled the onions to reveal the truth, 年世兰’s demeanor completely changes until finally, she realizes that everything was a sham. His so called “love”, her favor, nothing was real. With the truth revealed, she lost the will to live. So she died as she lived, straightforward and unrelenting. She also died on her terms. You realize that she decided not to take any of the 3 options offered to her by the Empress. She decided to kill herself by running headlong into the wall. 

 

[Cathy]

Let’s also give a shout out to 颂芝. Despite the way 年世兰 treated her, she stuck with 年世兰 until the very end. 

 

甄嬛 has 端妃 over for chat and laments 年世兰’s death. The Emperor has posthumously gifted 年世兰 the title of 敦肃皇贵妃 an Imperial Noble Consort! Only one rank below the Empress! 年世兰 never reached this title in life, she only managed to get to 贵妃 or Noble Consort.

 

端妃 comments on the irony of the title. 敦 means gentle. When was she ever gentle? This is just for the Emperor to declare to the world that he isn’t a cold hearted man. He just killed the entire 年 family but still will honor his concubine with a high rank. Who cares about the dead? This just for the living to see. 

 

Phew – we close one chapter of 甄嬛’s journey with 华妃’s death. 

 

This character was far and away the fan favorite of the show. Everyone knew who 华妃 was. 

 

When the show first aired, this character was constantly quoted, memed, imitated, you name it. People loved 华妃’s attitude. She was evil but cute. She was ruthless but she at least never willingly crossed a line. The most famous quotes include 贱人就是矫情 from episode 34 and her last words here. 

 

In interviews, the actress 蒋欣 would constantly be asked to act out these two scenes. This was definitely her breakout role.

 

Even recently, there was a trending tag on Weibo called – talking to your parents with 华妃’s quotes. Some were quite hilarious. 

 

[Karen]

I want to round out this character by giving a little historical context. This drama does take a lot of liberties regarding 华妃 but this is mainly for plot purposes. In history, 年世兰’s real name is not known but she was a favored concubine and consort of the Emperor. Contrary to this drama, she did indeed have children, several in fact. 3 sons and 1 daughter. Unfortunately, none of her children lived to adulthood.  

 

She was also of a gentle nature, very different from 华妃. She didn’t have a special title of 华 and was just known as consort Nian or 年妃。 However, she also had poor health and her pregnancies may have contributed to her early death. She is the only woman to have been promoted to the rank of Imperial Noble Consort or 皇贵妃 during 雍正’s reign when she was alive. Unfortunately, she died shortly after her promotion. She died in the winter of 1725 as an Imperial Noble Consort not a 2nd Class Female Attendant as is in the drama. She died before her brother 年羹尧. Once again, the timeline in this drama is a little bit all over the place, but her death is within the 1725/1726 timeframe. 

 

The Emperor was beside himself with her death. She had an extravagant funeral. I think in history, the Emperor truly did love 年妃. The drama doesn’t explain what happens to the rest of the 年 family but in history only 年羹尧’s line was punished. The rest of the 年 family, including 年妃’s father were spared. 

 

[Cathy]

Let me quickly finish the recap for the rest of the episode. 

 

The Imperial Doctor 温实处 checks in on 沈眉庄. Let’s just say, she’s very busy flirting with him. She wants to continue to see him so she actually dumps her medicine out without drinking it. You go girl, whatever it takes. 

 

At court, the Emperor reviews the writings of one 汪景祺. He was a civil servant under the deceased general 年羹尧. Some of the writings can be construed as traitorous. He wrote things like 年羹尧 was the wisest person in the universe, the Emperor will kill you in the future etc. 

 

The Emperor cannot let these writings come to light. What will people think of his legacy? The man will be beheaded. His head will hang for 10 years and his family will all be banished to slave labor. The words the Emperor uses are actually written in a copy of these writings. Pretty cool. 

 

In this episode, we see time and again that the Emperor doesn’t care about the truth, he cares about how people will view him and his legacy. This happens one more time in this episode when he learns that the now imprisoned 10th prince has been voicing his displeasure of the Emperor’s treatment towards him and his family. With a little urging from 甄嬛, the Emperor is willing to give the 10th prince’s son an honorary title just to shut everyone up. For 甄嬛, this is the last mercy she can show to thank the 10th Prince’s wife for her act of kindness when 甄嬛 was out of favor. 

 

The episode ends with some promotions! The Emperor promotes 甄嬛 to a 妃 or consort. 安陵容 is promoted to a 嫔 or Imperial Concubine. 欣常在 is also promoted to a Noble Lady. 安陵容 is ecstatic with the news. She is now officially higher than 沈眉庄!

 

One of our fan favorites is finally dead. How will the story progress now that we don’t have this villain around? Tune in to find out! Thank you very much for listening today. As always, if you have any questions or comments, please email us at chasingdramaspodcast@gmail.com. Catch you all next time!

EPISODE 39+40

 

 

[Karen]

Welcome to Chasing Dramas! This is the podcast that discusses Chinese history and culture through Chinese TV shows! I’m Cathy and I’m Karen. Today, We’re going to talk about episode 39+40 of 后宫甄嬛传, Empresses in the Palace. In the last two episodes, 华妃 is desperately trying to stay in favor, even sending her maid to become a concubine, but does it work? 

 

Let’s find out.

 

The drama is currently available on Youtube if you would like to rewatch and or follow along. If you’re new to the podcast, please start with our intro to the podcast and intro to the drama episodes. If you have any comments/questions, please email us at chasingdramaspodcast@gmail.com. Share this podcast with your friends!

 

We combined these 2 episodes even though there’s a lot going on because it flows pretty well together. 

 

[Cathy]

Episode 39 starts off with the Emperor 雍正 meeting with his some of his court ministers, including 甄嬛’s father. The emperor is contemplating what to do about his brothers, the 8th Prince 允禗 and the 9th Prince 允糖, both of whom we talked about in the last episode. These 2 brothers schemed against the emperor for the throne and are now imprisoned. 华妃’s brother, the mighty general 年羹尧, sent a memo recommending clemency and forgiveness towards these 2 brothers, which is not what the Emperor wants to hear. In the previous episodes, we’ve learned that the general 年羹尧 has developed close ties with the Emperor’s 10th brother, 敦亲王, who in history was close to the 8th and 9th prince as well. 

 

The Emperor comes to the conclusion that in order to destroy 年羹尧 and his faction, he needs to also deal with his brother, the 10th prince. At the end of the meeting, the Emperor makes a curious comment. He says – It hasn’t been calm in the Imperial Harem. The ladies are constantly squabbling with one another. Once I resolve the issues in the Imperial Harem, I’ll deal with the matters in court. 

 

What does he have in mind?

 

[Karen]

It’s another banquet at the Imperial Harem. This time though, I feel like the roles are reversed. Let’s take a look at what happens.

 

The new concubine 颂芝 offers a plate of grapes to the Emperor, who eats one. Let’s recall, this concubine 颂芝 used to be 华妃’s maid, but 华妃 offered 颂芝 to the Emperor as a way to strengthen her own standing in the imperial harem. It seems to have worked

 

In a reversal of her usual habit, 甄嬛 begins to openly mock 颂芝 during the banquet. 甄嬛 starts by saying – oh my dear sister, the Emperor didn’t comment on the fruit. You need to be more observant. She continues to escalate her insults. This one is pretty good, 甄嬛 says – There’s the common phrase – industrious people don’t age. That must be true for you but you also are very astute. That’s why you came into favor with 华妃. She must like you so much, which is why she recommended you to the Emperor. I must commend you, even I can’t do that. 

 

This is 甄嬛 on the offensive! She just mocked 颂芝 on her low background and her ability to please other people, which is not a good thing. Poor 颂芝 is completely at a loss at how to respond. 华妃 steps in – “Emperor, are you not going to say anything?” It’s because she knows that 甄嬛 insulted 颂芝 which is out of line.

 

The Emperor interestingly throws the question to the Empress. “What do you think?” The Empress merely says, it must be due to the drinks that 甄嬛 would say such things. I will take measures after the festivities. Pretty reasonable right? Nope – this is not your ordinary banquet. The Emperor’s face turns sour and he slams the table.

 

Is this how you govern the Imperial Harem? No wonder why it’s always so chaotic. 

 

Everyone is stunned to see the Emperor so angry. They all immediately kneel, with the Empress begging for forgiveness. 

 

The Emperor chides the Empress for her lack of leadership and ability to quell the squabbles in the Imperial Harem. He then turns his attention towards 甄嬛. He reprimands 甄嬛 for her jealousy towards 颂芝. This is not how concubines should behave in his harem. In a surprising move, he banishes 甄嬛 to 蓬莱洲. Where’s that? A desolate island in the middle of the lake at the Summer Palace. Two concubines make a plea on behalf of 甄嬛. 安陵容 and 敬妃. 敬妃 actually does want to help, I think 安陵容 is doing it just for show. The Emperor is not moved by their pleas. He has his eunuch 苏培盛 remove 甄嬛 from the banquet. 华妃 is just smirking on the side.

 

That was an action packed banquet! Since we have been privy to the Emperor and 甄嬛’s conversations, we know that this was all for show. You’ll notice that 甄嬛, who hasn’t really worn bright lipstick before, is now wearing it which is an attempt to make herself stand out in the crowd. 甄嬛, who is also known for her mild temper, behaves in an incredibly rude manner towards 颂芝. Why? So that the Emperor can have the excuse to banish her! This entire evening was for 华妃 to see. The Emperor needs 华妃, and by extension, her brother, to lower their guard. With 甄嬛 banished, 华妃 will believe she has all the favor and glory again in the Imperial Harem. She will continue to accept bribes, spend money etc. With her and her brother’s guard down, the Emperor can continue to gather evidence against them.

 

[Cathy]

I love the stagings and the cuts for this scene. Yes, the Emperor’s angry but there is a ton of focus on other people’s faces, especially the Empress. No one knows what is happening. Ada Choi, the actress for the Empress, does an amazing job showing us the audience how she is processing all of this information. She sees and listens but doesn’t react. When 甄嬛 is led away by the eunuch, the Empress is contemplating these turn of events with a furrowed brow.  That’s it. Compare the Empress’s reaction to that of 华妃’s. She’s over there smirking and feeling belated at this turn of events. Oh honey – you have no idea what will happen to you.

 

Let’s continue on that thread of the Empress. Later that evening, she summons 安陵容. She shares her suspicions about everyone’s actions earlier that evening. She can’t quite put her finger on it but she knows she cannot have 华妃 back in power again. With 甄嬛 banished, 华妃 will have no competition and she will be a legitimate threat to her own position as Empress. The Empress needs to devise another plan. The Empress orders 安陵容 to join 甄嬛 in her banishment. Why? It’s twofold – 1) 华妃 will just find ways to insult 安陵容, which doesn’t help anyone and 2) if 甄嬛 comes back to favor, 安陵容 can say play up their relationship in the future and gain a lot brownie points with the Emperor. 

 

安陵容 at first is not happy with the plan but acquiesces only after she gets confirmation from the Empress that if 甄嬛 truly is banished, the Empress will summon her back to the Imperial Harem. I am so impressed with the Empress’s intuition. At the end of the conversation, the Empress says – I just have a feeling that it’s better for you to be with 甄嬛. The Empress has no idea that the entire evening was just a show but she knows something is up and acts accordingly. What a woman. So smart.

 

[Karen]

It looks like 甄嬛’s banishment has achieved its purpose. 华妃 is in her palace gloating at the turn of events. 曹贵人 and 颂芝 are both there. Let’s remind everyone that 曹贵人 was originally team 华妃. Now she’s team 甄嬛. She applauds 华妃 for the turn of events but she cleverly pushes 颂芝 into some hot water by saying, I hope 颂芝 can birth a child soon. That way, she’ll be like me! A noble lady! 华妃’s eyes immediately turn into daggers. With one phrase, 曹贵人 is able to incite jealousy between 华妃 and 颂芝. Well, 颂芝 is just doing 华妃’s bidding. Nice job 曹贵人!

 

Here is some analysis – There is absolutely no way 颂芝 can get pregnant because she’s been in 华妃’s palace for so long, smelling the perfume fragrance that has the musk which, according to this drama, damages your reproductive capabilities. I think this is also why 皇上 is fine with favoring 颂芝 because he knows she won’t get pregnant. Let’s also point out that in the episode, it was 曹贵人 who advised 华妃 to tell her brother that the response to the Emperor’s question about his brothers should be to focus on comradery and clemency. I feel like 曹贵人 knows this is not what the emperor wants and is pushing 华妃 and 年羹尧 into making a mistake. We can’t be completely sure though because I can’t imagine 年羹尧 not having other people vet the answer as well but still, we can hypothesis that 曹贵人 is pushing them this way.

 

In any case – 甄嬛’s crew arrives at the island. Back in her own palace, the Empress is busy trying to maintain balance in the Imperial Harem but 华妃 is back to her old self. 华妃 goes so far as to not even go to the greetings anymore. The Empress is livid but she’s powerless to do anything right now.

 

[Cathy]

It’s been about a month or two. Fall is right around the corner. 沈眉庄 finally hears about 甄嬛’s predicament. Her maid asks if they should send anything over. 沈眉庄 quickly shuts her down – 甄嬛 used to have everything, what do we have to send her? Aw, it looks like their friendship is over. Haha but in the next scene, the Emperor’s head Eunuch 苏培盛 arrives onto the island to visit 甄嬛 bringing fall clothes and food from 沈眉庄. She’s all talk. She really does care about 甄嬛. 

 

The Eunuch 苏培盛 doesn’t tarry for long but does give 甄嬛 some critical pieces of information. The Emperor will return to the Forbidden Palace the next day. He was worried that she’ll get caught in the firestorm which is why she was sent to the island. This confirms that both the Emperor and 甄嬛 knew this banishment was just a farce. Unfortunately, 安陵容, who is hiding behind some rocks, also overhears this information. 

 

Back at the Imperial Palace, the 17th Prince who we haven’t seen in awhile rushes in with a secret memo. The 10th Prince is trying to persuade 年羹尧 to join him in a coup to depose the Emperor 雍正 and install the currently imprisoned 8th Prince as the Emperor. With this information, the Emperor can now act against the 10th Prince. He orders his assassins and generals to surround the 10th Prince’s residence. The Empress Dowager, who is unwell, requests the company of the 10th Prince’s wife and son,and with his daughter who is already with the Empress Dowager, to take care of the Empress Dowager. If you couldn’t tell, this is to hold the 10th prince’s family hostage so that the 10th prince can’t do anything crazy. 

 

玄武门之变

 

[Karen]

Later that evening, the 17th Prince delivers the good news to the Emperor. The 10th Prince, 敦亲王, has been captured. With him captured, it’s only a matter of time before 年羹尧 and his faction falls. 

 

At the island, 甄嬛 spots a small boat with Imperial guards heading towards them. She has no idea if the Emperor succeeded or not so she’s prepared with a small dagger. If the Emperor failed in stopping the coup, she’ll follow him to the next world. Luckily, it doesn’t resort to them. The eunuch delivers the good news that the Emperor has succeeded. 甄嬛 is to be welcomed back into the Imperial Harem. Yay! 甄嬛 is absolutely relieved.

 

Once the 甄嬛 is safely back at the Imperial Harem, the Emperor visits her to share the news of his successful capture of the 10th Prince and his punishment for the 8th and 9th Prince. We went over the fate of these two princes in the last episode. The 8th and 9th Prince are imprisoned in the Imperial Clan Court. Their names are changed to 阿其那 and 塞思黑 on an Manchu – dogs and pigs. 

 

The timing of these are a bit off. In history, the 10th Prince was stripped of his titles in 1724 while the 8th and 9th Prince were imprisoned in 1726. 甄嬛 says she’s been in the palace for 3 years so I think we’re at least around 1725/1726. 

 

[Cathy]

安陵容 returns to the Imperial Court and pays a visit to the Empress. Let’s take a moment to applaud the Empress and her intuition. She knew there was something off with 甄嬛’s banishment. She had a hunch that it would be better to send 安陵容 off with 甄嬛 and she was right. The Emperor now remembers 安陵容 for her devotion to her sister. We as the audience learn that the Empress needs 安陵容 to be her eyes and ears. She cannot allow 甄嬛 to become the next 华妃. That’s too dangerous for the Empress. How can she continue to build her faction? Why more women of course!

 

The episode ends with the Empress discussing, well demanding for 甄嬛 to be ok with new ladies entering the Imperial Harem. The emperor doesn’t want to do a court selection so they’ve decided to include women from families who were helpful in resolving this coup.

[Karen]

Episode 40 continues with the consequences of the attempted coup by the 10th prince. The 10th prince and his family aren’t going to be killed, but will be reduced as regular citizens – no longer related to the royal family. 甄嬛 is a little sad for the wife and kids but what can you do.

 

As they’re having this discussion, a docket from 年羹尧 arrives. What happens here is actually based on historical fact. The dockets contain pleasantries for the emperor because astrologists saw fortunate signs in the heavens which I guess represent good things for the empire. So obviously, all of the officials and ministers are kissing the emperor’s butt and saying nice things.

 

BUT – 年羹尧’s greeting changed the order of meaning for a commendable phrase which severely angered the emperor. 

 

We generally save this analysis for the end of the episode but we can discuss now so that it makes sense for the rest of the episode. 

 

So there’s this phrase that originally reads: 朝乾夕惕 but 年羹尧wrote it instead 夕惕朝乾。Essentially, the first 2 words are flipped with the last 2 words. On the face of this, it’s not the biggest deal. Perhaps 年羹尧 made a simple mistake. However, the emperor doesn’t take it that way and gets incredibly angry.  Why?

 

The original phrase 朝乾夕惕 originates from 周易 or, the  Book of Changes which is a book on divination and the oldest of Chinese classics. The words mean that during the day you work really hard, at night, you reflect and be thoughtful of what happened during the day. The original text is to revere the Emperor. By flipping the words, the meaning changes. It means that the Emperor is not worthy of the reverence and respect or the thoughtfulness. 

 

That’s why this pisses off the Emperor because 年羹尧 is basically stating that the emperor is not to be respected and does not deign to give the original phrase to the emperor. This is the straw that breaks the camel’s back and truly angers the emperor. The docket is sent back without any response to 年羹尧.  

 

[Cathy]

华妃 hears this news that 年羹尧 sent this wrong phrase. Initially she’s like, oh it’s not a big deal, it’s an honest mistake. But upon hearing that the docket was sent back without any response, 华妃 is shocked. 

 

This is also another prime example of the difference between 华妃 and 甄嬛’s intelligence or at least education. 甄嬛 was the one to first see the language in the docket. She immediately recognized that there was something wrong and said she didn’t want the Emperor to see the language because she knows it’s disrespectful and will make the emperor angry. 华妃, on the other hand, doesn’t see anything wrong with it. She only recognizes that something is wrong when the docket is returned. 

 

In court – many ministers and court officials are discussing all of 年羹尧’s faults. The emperor decrees that anyone part of 年羹尧’s group who continues to work with him in corrupt manners will be severely punished.

 

年羹尧 sends over documents to justify himself but it just makes the emperor even more angry because 年羹尧 essentially writes all of his accomplishments. These accomplishments are to suggest that without him, the emperor can’t survive with him.  As a result, the emperor demotes 年羹尧 to a lowly position.

 

华妃 is very upset at hearing this news and tries to see the emperor but the emperor ignores her in favor of, surprisingly 安陵容. 

 

How the tides have turned. 华妃’s family is now in deep trouble.

 

[Karen]

With the court moving against 年羹尧, the next stop is to get rid of 华妃 in the imperial harem. The news has spread of 年羹尧’s demotion which is being discussed during a court greeting at the Empress’s palace. 曹贵人 takes this opportunity to betray 华妃. She confesses all of the horrible things 华妃 has done, that she, 曹贵人, is aware of which includes killing the concubine,noble lady 淳 who discovered 华妃 taking money from people trying to buy ministerial positions in court. All of the ladies are shocked at hearing all of this being exposed. The empress summons 华妃 to her palace. When she arrives, 华妃 kicks and hits 曹贵人 for betraying her. The empress is really smart and exclaims – look! 华妃 and 曹贵人 are incredibly close so everything 曹贵人 has said must be true! 

 

At this point it’s pretty sad for 华妃。 Everything is getting exposed and no one is doing anything to protect or stand up for 华妃。 It just shows how many people she’s pissed off, neglected, and hurt over the years.  The empress orders all of the servants in 华妃’s palace be interrogated (which probably means tortured). Her brother has now also been demoted to a guard at Hang Zhou city’s gate. His and his children’s titles stripped as well. 

 

[Cathy]

After days of interrogation, the emperor is in the imperial harem with the empress and the rest of the ladies of the imperial harem to discuss the results of the interrogation. The servants have described everything from pushing 沈眉庄 into the water to try to kill her, 沈眉庄’s fake pregnancy scandal, giving her plague infested dishware to try to kill her, buying ministerial positions at court, hurting Princess 温宜 to try to hurt 甄嬛, poisoning 甄嬛 and many others. Honestly, it’s been so many episodes I can’t even remember all the terrible things 华妃 has done. 

 

The emperor doesn’t seem too surprised. He’s upset but is rather calm in the face of everything he’s hearing. He orders that everyone who was close to 华妃 is to be beaten to death. 华妃 is to be demoted to a 2nd class female attendant, and her title removed. She is now to be known as 年答应。 

 

The emperor agrees on some other matters as well. They are to have another manchu lady come into the palace to serve the emperor as a noble lady. She comes from a family that helped bring down 年羹尧。 颂芝, 年答应’s former maid turned concubine is now to be a maid again. Surprised she’s not beaten to death but there you have it.

 

[Karen]

I love this next part. The dumb 齐妃 chimes in that 曹贵人 was also very close to 年答应。Obviously, trying to get 曹贵人 to be punished as well. But, 曹贵人 tearfully responds that she had to keep her mouth shut and do 年答应’s bidding because 年答应 at the time was incredibly powerful. If 曹贵人 didn’t help 年答应, her daughter would not be protected.

 

It’s hilarious because 齐妃 is looking all smug trying to bring 曹贵人 down but the Emperor is staring at 齐妃 like she’s an idiot. 齐妃 knows she somehow annoyed the emperor so she looks down. I mean, 曹贵人 has a clear defense. It just makes everyone look bad if they punish her, a mother trying to protect her child since everyone knows how difficult 华妃, now 年答应 can be. 甄嬛 comes to the rescue which results in 曹贵人 not only avoiding punishment, but actually getting promoted to 嫔, or Imperial Concubine and is given the title of 襄, which means “helpful”. 齐妃 looks very disheartened and abashed now and shrinks in her chair. What an idiot.

 

With that, the once powerful 华妃 is now no more than just a lowly 答应。

 

[Cathy]

Her brother, cannot give up his fame or power. He continues to disrespect the emperor even as a gate guard. The Emperor is livid that 年羹尧 wore his 黄马褂 or Yellow Imperial Jacket while on duty. Traditionally, only precious few are allowed to wear a Yellow Imperial Jacket. The Emperor mostly gifts them to people for their civil or military merit. By wearing the jacket, 年羹尧 is trying to remind the people of 杭州 of his past military glory and how he helped stabilize the empire. He’s trying to make the Emperor seem ungrateful in the eyes of people of 杭州. 年羹尧’s actions angered the entire court as well as the emperor. 

 

This event doesn’t happen in history and the whole 黄马褂 or Yellow Imperial Jacket may be an anachronism. There were no records of Emperors gifting these 黄马褂 or the Yellow Imperial Jacket as rewards or for recognitions until the 19th century. Before that in the Qing Dynasty, the only people who could wear the jacket were Imperial guards, and only guards on active duty. The Emperor might gift these jackets at a hunting party but that was about it.

 

[Karen]

Back to 年羹尧 and court. The emperor says that ministers have detailed 92 different instances where 年羹尧 and his faction were disrespectful, overstepped, or lied etc to the emperor. This is actually true and noted in the history books. As a result, 年羹尧 is allowed to commit suicide. His eldest son is to be beheaded. All male family members over the age of 15 are to be exiled. The year in history is 1726. The once powerful 年羹尧, his family, and faction have been dismantled.

 

A couple of things we didn’t discuss in the episode: 

  1. 沈眉庄 and 甄嬛 have made up and are close friends now. Both of them are still pretty upset that 年答应 wasn’t killed, just demoted. 
  2. 甄嬛’s father was promoted for helping with getting rid of 年羹尧. Her mother was also allowed to come back into the palace again to see 甄嬛.

 

After 40 some episodes – the powerful 年羹尧 is no longer.

 

[Cathy]

Look back to episode 1. In the first couple of scenes we saw 年羹尧 and another gentleman, 隆科多 walking out of the palace after court. Episode 1 showed us who are the key players in court and in the drama. 年羹尧 has been defeated. Next up, we will see what happens to 隆科多。 

 

Again, that’s why this drama is great. The seeds are sown way back in the beginning of the drama but you have to go back to watch it multiple times to catch everything. 

 

年羹尧 is gone but her sister is still in the Imperial Harem. What will happen to her? Who’s the new noble lady that will enter into the Imperial Harem? We’ll find out in the next episodes!

 

Thank you so much for joining us this episode. Again, if you have any questions or comments, please email us at Chasingdramaspodcast@gmail.com . We’ll catch you next time.

EPISODE 37+38

 

[Cathy]

Welcome to Chasing Dramas! This is the podcast that discusses Chinese history and culture through Chinese TV shows! I’m Cathy and I’m Karen. Today, We’re going to talk about episode 37+38 of 后宫甄嬛传, Empresses in the Palace . These 2 episodes are setting up the stage for hua fei’s last ditch effort to maintain power.

 

The drama is currently available on Youtube if you would like to rewatch and or follow along. If you’re new to the podcast, please start with our intro to the podcast and intro to the drama episodes. If you have any comments/questions, please email us at chasingdramaspodcast@gmail.com. Share this podcast with your friends!

 

[Karen]

Episode 37 starts off with 甄嬛 meeting 曹贵人 and her daughter Princess 温宜 in the gardens. 温宜 is such a cutie pie! Definitely the cutest of the kids in the show, at least that’s my personal opinion.

 

曹贵人 is very astute in seeing that 华妃 will only be in favor for a short while. The two ladies discuss their plan going forward. 曹贵人 will continue to pretend to be an ally of 华妃 while in reality, she’s now team 甄嬛. Essentially she’ll be a spy. In order to strengthen this relationship, 甄嬛 says that she’ll be Princess 温宜’s what you would call godmother so that their incentives are aligned. 

 

甄嬛’s next stop is to see her friend 沈眉庄 who is annoyed at her, as we discussed in the last episode, for being the one to ask the Emperor to promote 年妃 back to 华妃。 It’s understandable that 沈眉庄 is upset. 华妃 was the one who caused her to catch the plague and the fake pregnancy scandal was because of 华妃.  甄嬛 tries to explain her point of view in that 华妃 returning to favor was inevitable. She’d rather be the one to make this ask so that the Emperor will feel guilty. In this conversation we find out that their friendship growing up shaped what 沈眉庄does or likes in order to not be second to 甄嬛. I guess that shows her competitive nature. 沈眉庄 is also sad that 甄嬛 seems to have everything – Doctor 温实初 ‘s love, the Emperor’s affection, and her family’s growing position, while she has nothing. 沈眉庄 is showing a bit of jealousy towards 甄嬛. 

 

Pay attention to what she says first – Doctor 温实初 ‘s love! Not the Emperor’s affection. This is a hint of who is more important to her!

 

Both sides have their own perspective and unfortunately neither will back down. 甄嬛 says her goodbyes and says she won’t bother 沈眉庄 until she has succeeded. 

 

[Cathy]

The people that reap the biggest reward from the divide between 沈眉庄 and 甄嬛 are none other than the Empress and 安陵容。Both of them discuss that the 沈眉庄 and 甄嬛  cannot be allowed to grow their power within imperial harem and especially cannot be as powerful as 华妃. That’s perhaps why 安陵容 was trying to sow discord between the two. 安陵容 is sooooo fake.  

 

安陵容’s inferiority complex is on full display in this episode. She can’t wait to “gift” 甄嬛’s mother items from the palace. She fully admits this! She even says, it’s my time to gift people things. Sure honey. This again, is her worldview. She didn’t give any thanks about spending time with 甄嬛’s family – she just said, I felt beneath them, now look at me.

 

[Karen]

At least in this episode, 沈眉庄 completely calls 安陵容 out on it. We have a scene later in the episode where 安陵容 and 沈眉庄 are talking again. This is such an awesome scene. You just want to say “Yas girl”. 沈眉庄 totally saw through the fact that 安陵容 used her maid to tell her, 沈眉庄 about 甄嬛 asking to reinstate 华妃 in an effort to make 沈眉庄 mad at 甄嬛. 沈眉庄 knows that 安陵容may not be as straightforward or good either. 沈眉庄 tells 安陵容 to stop scheming as well. The entire time 安陵容 is clenching her fists because she is being told off. She holds her tongue and again plays up the whole I’m innocent act. I’m really happy 沈眉庄 sees through her act. FINALLY, someone does. 

 

安陵容 doubles down on her act to be good friends, or what you would call “sisters” with 甄嬛. She makes some medicine for 甄嬛 with some very expensive ingredients and even goes so far as to cut her own wrist to use blood as an ingredient in the medicine. She brings the medicine over to 甄嬛 who notices the injury.  安陵容 goes on to say a whole speech about how she feels that her and 甄嬛 have lost touch as friends. 安陵容 starts crying and hoping that the two of them can remain really close friends. She cuts herself in an effort to gain 甄嬛’s trust or at least to show that she is trustworthy.

 

BUT YAY, 甄嬛 doesn’t even drink the medicine. She has gotten much smarter. She knows to not drink anything not given to her by the imperial doctor 温实初 so she asks her maid to dump out the medicine. 甄嬛 says that it doesn’t really matter if 安陵容 did cut herself, her trustworthiness is not reflected in these types of acts. Clearly, 甄嬛 is also skeptical of how earnest 安陵容 is. 

 

But hello, what else are you using from her??

 

[Cathy]

I’m condensing the episode a bit but there are 2 other items to talk about.

 

  1. 甄嬛’s younger sister, 玉娆, and her mother, are able to come into the palace and visit 甄嬛. This is the first time that they are able to visit 甄嬛 in the palace since she became a concubine. They have a lovely chat and 甄嬛 is presented with the opportunity to share at least briefly that she’s having a difficult time in the palace. Her mother though, says that 甄嬛 should be careful what she says in the palace as one never knows who might be watching or hearing. It’s a heartwarming scene to see the family together. 甄嬛’s mother does notice that 浣碧, one of 甄嬛’s maids is wearing really nice clothes. 甄嬛 says she treats her maids like her sisters to which zhenhuan’s mother says that they may be treated like sisters, but they’re not actual sisters. Welp I guess at this point, she doesn’t know that 浣碧 is indeed 甄嬛’s half sister. I guess 甄嬛 and zhenhuan’s father are keeping the mother in the dark about that. 甄嬛 also seems to be treating 浣碧 pretty well with the nice clothes at least. There’s not much else to say for this scene other than a lot of foreshadowing of what’s to come in the future. We’ll see 玉娆, 甄嬛’s sister in future episodes. They sit for just a  short while before leaving. They don’t want to give the optics that the family is using the emperor’s favor to stay in the palace too long. This contrasts heavily with 华妃’s family who often visits her in the palace apparently. See – with just one small detail, you see the difference between 甄嬛 and 华妃 and who will last longer in the imperial harem.

 

Side note: the dub for 玉娆, her sister is the same as the bubbly 淳贵人 who died. I was very confused the first time i heard this.

 

  1. The second item to talk about is the newfound interest the emperor starts to have in 华妃’s main maid, 颂职。One day the emperor stops by for a meal and takes note of the maid after she is able to answer a question very well. The emperor compliments her a couple of times which…immediately causes 华妃 to be jealous but there’s not a whole lot 华妃 can do. That evening, 华妃 gets very mad at 颂芝。She wants to kick her out of the palace. But after being calmed down by her main eunuch, 颂芝 is left alone.

 

[Karen]

This interest is continued into the next episode, episode 38. 

 

This episode focuses on the Emperor’s last straw with 年羹尧 and 华妃’s effort to maintain her family’s power plus her own position in the imperial harem.

 

From the start of this episode, the emperor receives many reports of the corrupt and overreaching actions by 年羹尧 and his underlings. This puts the Emperor in a dour mood but is still thinking about what to do. Who’s delivering the reports? 甄嬛’s father.

 

华妃 hears the news that her brother is being negatively discussed in front of the emperor. She’s worried that no one can help put in a good word for 华妃 and her family because she herself has been neglected by the emperor.  I think it’s funny because you see in her dialogue how naive she still is and that she is generally still a terrible person.

 

For 1, she says her brother’s underlings were being reported for embezzlement and bribery. She doesn’t say this is wrong, she just says “how can these people be so careless”. Clearly, she doesn’t care about the fact that corruption is bad, she is just mad they got caught.

 

Second, she doesn’t realize the gravity of the situation her brother is in. She’s still wondering if the Emperor is going to be truly mad at her brother or if this will be like previous times where the emperor sided with her brother because this is just his underlings acting poorly. She has absolutely no idea that the emperor is already really done with her entire family. 

 

[Cathy]

But to try to protect her family and have someone be able to speak to the Emperor on her behalf, 华妃 begrudgingly decides to send 颂芝 over to emperor for tea…

 

颂芝 stays the night…and becomes a concubine.

 

‘Pause’ – can we just say – WOW emperor. WOW.   

 

Massive eye roll. I believe he did this on purpose! Why else would he pay attention to 颂芝 in episode 37? She’s been around forever! 

 

华妃 is understandably very saddened by this all evening. The next day 颂芝 returns to 华妃’s place to continue to serve her. She tells 华妃 that she’s been given the position of Second Class Female attendant, which is a step up from “Chosen Maid”, or 管女子 which is what generally maids are promoted to after becoming a concubine. 华妃 has to suppress her discontent. I mean, she is the one who allowed 颂芝 to stay the night.

 

At least this step indeed pushes the emperor to come see 华妃 where before he was avoiding her. That at least means her move was a success. The emperor stops by for a meal to see this new concubine which allows 华妃 to discuss her brother. However, the emperor tells her that she shouldn’t be discussing such matters.

 

[Karen]

 This promotion, of sorts, gets discussed by 曹贵人 and 甄嬛. 曹贵人 explains that 华妃 has been meaning to develop additional allies in the imperial harem to help her strengthen her position but doesn’t want to use someone who has a strong family background. Thus, she picked her trusted maid. 甄嬛 asks 曹贵人 if she thinks 颂芝 is going to be a threat.

 

曹贵人 though, is rather direct and says that 华妃 was too hasty in this decision. 颂芝 is too afraid of 华妃 which means she will not be too much of a threat. 甄嬛 is pretty funny at this point because she says that she doesn’t even deign to take action against 颂芝. I guess 甄嬛 sees 颂芝 as a level 1 opponent. Not someone she has to actually worry about to endanger her current position and status. 

 

The next scene is pretty funny. The ladies have all moved to the summer palace 圆明园 earlier in the episode and now they are out on a walk. 甄嬛 is walking her her maid and bumps into 华妃, 颂芝, and 曹贵人 (who is pretending to be part of 华妃’s group). 华妃 saunters over to 甄嬛 and gloatingly asks whether 甄嬛 would see the day that she has favor again. 甄嬛 is nothing but respectful towards 华妃 with of course a slight tinge of sarcasm which annoys 华妃. Little does 华妃 know that 甄嬛 is the whole reason why she has returned to favor. It’s moments like these that showcase the difference in intelligence levels between the two women. I do appreciate that now 甄嬛 is no longer meek or scared of 华妃 but rather, she stands her ground. 颂芝 tries to stick up for 华妃 and humiliate 甄嬛 by insulting her but 甄嬛 is able to return the jabs. 曹贵人 steps in to calm the situation and diverts the ladies away from each other. Still, an interesting and fun scene.

 

Little does 华妃 know that in court, there are many, many dissenters against her brother 年羹尧. At this point, 皇上, the emperor is discussing at court with a select group of ministers the negative things being said about 年羹尧。 

 

[Cathy]

The Emperor brings up an important topic that he’s discussed with the 年羹尧 and wants to here from the ministers in front of him. The topic at hand is the emperor’s 8th brother and 9th brother. This is a touchy subject. These 2 brothers are part of the infamous coup where 9 brothers all vyed for the throne or the Nine Lords War. The 8th brother and 9th brother were on the losing side. They are currently imprisoned in 宗人府 or Imperial Clan Court. Apparently, these 2 have not been remorseful while in isolation. The emperor asks a bunch of his ministers what to do about these 2 brothers. Some say to be lenient. Others say to be harsh and punish them. Faction lines have been drawn based on their answers. 

 

华妃 discusses this with 曹贵人 because her brother, 年羹尧 has been asked what his suggestion is by the Emperor. They are all worried about this answer because it could imply something bigger to the Emperor given all of the negative information coming out about 年羹尧。 华妃 asks 曹贵人 what should be the response to the emperor on this topic so it doesn’t hurt 年羹尧 。

 

[Karen]

曹贵人, the shrewd one, recommends that 年羹尧 focus on brotherly love and past merits. She tells 华妃 that mentioning these things will appease the emperor and also remind him of the valuable things 年羹尧 has done for the emperor. 华妃 is convinced by 曹贵人 that this is the correct move.

 

[side musings] – now that 华妃 is back in favor, 曹贵人’s hairstyle and clothes are much simpler again. She knows she can’t wear anything too attractive in front of 华妃.]

 

Everyone knows 华妃 is on her last legs except for her. 甄嬛 even makes a big show of jealousy about 颂芝 at an evening gathering with 曹贵人 and 欣常在。I find the next scene hilarious – 颂芝 is with the Emperor trying to discuss politics or more specifically 年羹尧. I love the eye roll the Emperor gives when she leans on him. In this situation, even the Emperor has to um … pretend?

 

[Cathy]

Is it me or does the Emperor’s wig also seem off in these two episodes? It seems a bit higher on his scalp?

 

[Karen]

The episode ends with 华妃 gloating to 曹贵人 that her brother seems to have gotten a reprieve from the Emperor. With some goading by 曹贵人, 华妃 is back to relishing 甄嬛’s seeming lack of favor. Poor girl – you have no idea what’s coming for you.

 

[Cathy]

Phew – Let’s get into our analysis – we did most of it in our recap. These two episodes focus a bit more on the Imperial Court so let’s talk about politics.

 

In Episode 38, the Emperor voices his displeasure of his younger brothers, the 8th Prince 胤禩 and the 9th prince 胤禟. That’s their given names. Remember way back in episode 2, we discussed how everyone throughout the Empire had to change their names if any part of their name sounded like the Emperor’s name? That’s why here, they are referred to as 允禩 for the 8th Prince and 允禟 for the 9th Prince.

 

These two princes are imprisoned for their involvement in the Nine Lords War. There were several factions including the Crown Prince’s Party, the 8th Lord Party, the 14th Lord Party, and finally the 4th Lord Party. The 4th Lord won and is now our Emperor 雍正。

 

Let’s talk about the 8th Prince. Born in 1681, he was a strapping young lad who was promoted to 贝勒 or a Prince of the 3rd Rank or Noble Lord at only 17. The youngest of all of Emperor 康熙’s children at the time. This prince, 允禩, was always ambitious. There was a Crown Prince at the time but his position wasn’t stable. In 1712, the Crown Prince or the 2nd Prince was finally stripped of his titles and demoted, no longer posing a threat for the throne. The 8th Prince tried to seize his opportunity. I mean, throughout the years, he was constantly building his own faction, which I think was his undoing. He was too obvious. The Emperor was still alive and healthy. He could very much see what his sons were up to. The 4th Prince or our current Emperor was much more subdued in building his own faction

 

One specific incident in 1714 dashed all hopes for the 8th Prince’s bid for the throne. On a tour of Jehol Province (热河) or modern day 东北 Province, the 8th Prince was supposed to travel with his father as a member of the Imperial retinue. However, he requested leave so that he could visit his mother’s grave. For his absence, he sent two eagles as gifts to the Emperor. Unfortunately when the Emperor received them, the eagles were feeble and ailing. This enraged the Emperor. To the Emperor, the dying eagles symbolized the 8th prince’s desire for himself to die. The 8th prince was admonished in front of court – the emperor even went on to say we are no longer father and son. The Emperor also cut off all of the 8th Prince’s salary. 

 

Seeing that his chances for the throne were gone, the 8th prince steered his faction towards the 14th Prince 胤提. Who is he? Why, he’s our current emperor’s blood brother! This faction now included the 14th Prince, the 8th Prince, the 9th Prince, the 10th Prince, and many other court officials and generals. It came down to the wire – people were waiting with bated breath at Emperor 康熙’s bedside – the successor the 4th Prince.

 

In history, the 8th Prince wasn’t immediately thrown into prison but his faction, along with all of the other factions were slowly destroyed. The 8th Prince was imprisoned in the Imperial Clan Court in 1726 – 4 years into the reign of Emperor YongZheng. He died there shortly after. The 9th Prince was also imprisoned and died in 1726.

 

In the drama, I can’t tell if the timing is exactly right. 甄嬛 has been in the palace for at least 2 years because we’ve seen two winters. This is a 3rd summer so I think it adds up.

 

This is just a tiny snippet of what actually happened during the Nine Lords War or 九龙夺嫡, but this provides some context for the Emperor, 雍正’s actions in this episode. He cannot show mercy even to his brothers – they plotted against him. This is alway why he is so wary of 年羹尧 and his faction.

 

That’s it for today! The chess pieces are in motion! The traps are laid! We’ll have to see who survives!

 

EPISODE 36

 

[Karen]

Welcome to Chasing Dramas! This is the podcast that discusses Chinese history and culture through Chinese TV shows! I’m Cathy and I’m Karen. Today we will discuss episode 36  of 后宫甄嬛传, Empresses in the Palace. 

 

The drama is currently available on Youtube if you would like to rewatch and or follow along. If you’re new to the podcast, please start with our intro to the podcast and intro to the drama episodes. If you have any comments/questions, please email us at chasingdramaspodcast@gmail.com. Share this podcast with your friends!

 

[Karen]

In the last episode, the Emperor had to deal with some pressing court matters involving his brother the 10th Prince that were resolved with some unconventional methods suggested by the main character 甄嬛. 甄嬛 acquired a new ally and is starting to scheme against everyone. Let’s start off from here.

 

甄嬛 gets word that the Emperor is furious again at the 10th Prince 敦亲王 so she goes to see him. More like she’s been called by the eunuchs because they have no idea what to do. This time the 10th Prince requested for his long deceased mother Noble Consort 温僖 to be granted the title of Noble Dowager Consort which is a promotion and to be re-interred in the Royal Mausoleum with the other consorts. Unfortunately, this 温僖贵妃 died young and had a falling out with the previous Emperor 康熙. That emperor even decreed that she would not be interred into the Royal Mausoleum. 

 

This puts our current Emperor in a bind. By agreeing to the 10th Prince’s demands, he can appease the military generals but this also represents a direct action against his father. An act against filial piety. As the Emperor, who should be the model of filial piety, this puts him in a vulnerable state. 

 

The more frustrating part is that as soon as the 10th prince sent his request, 年妃’s brother, the general 年羹尧 also delivered a request for the same thing. The Emperor is livid – here is proof that his court ministers and generals are forming factions right in front of him. This request is also an affront to his own mother the Empress Dowager. How dare the 10th Prince request for a dead woman to be promoted when the living dowagers in the Imperial Harem haven’t?

 

Once again, 甄嬛 analyzes this predicament. She asks if now is the time to “take down” 年羹尧. The Emperor cannot guarantee anything. He admits he only has 40% confidence that he can take down 年羹尧 and his faction. In a rare confession, he openly admits that even the Emperor is subject to different factions in court and the imperial harem.

 

甄嬛 consoles the Emperor, using the stories of the Han Emperors 汉景帝 and 汉光武帝 to tell the Emperor that these Emperors had to make tough choices but they were rewarded with prosperous empires. Our Emperor needs to make these sacrifices for long term stability.

 

[Cathy]

So, 甄嬛 shares her plan. The Emperor will indeed gift the 10th prince’s mother with the title of Noble Dowager Consort and reinterr her to the royal mausoleum BUT not only will she be promoted, the other dowagers currently living in the Imperial Harem will also be granted additional titles. The Emperor will use the excuse of praying for his mother the Empress Dowager to justify these promotions. Thus, the 10th prince will get what he wants, but it won’t be AS disrespectful as the 10th prince originally wanted. With this plan, the Emperor seems mollified. 

 

Man – his facial expressions…he doesn’t seem that angry?

 

The story about the 10th Prince’s mother is also a bug. In history, 温僖贵妃 came from an extremely prominent Manchu family, was sister to the 2nd Empress and was favored by the Emperor Kang Xi. I mean, she had the title of Noble Consort. Unfortunately she died young at the age of 34. I couldn’t find records of a fall from disgrace so this part isn’t accurate to history. Although, this might be because in the novel, the equivalent of this character did fall out of favor with the Emperor’s father.

 

Outside, the Empress has gotten wind of the Emperor’s fury and comes to check. But, upon hearing that 甄嬛 has already arrived, she decides to visit the Empress Dowager instead…I don’t understand why…We’ll see about that in a bit

 

Back at the Emperor’s study, 甄嬛 makes a really surprising move. She requests for the Emperor to restore 年妃’s title to 华妃. Now we all know that 甄嬛 hates 年妃 because she’s arrogant, a terrible person in general and also contributed to her miscarriage.  The Emperor is surprised by this request. He acknowledges that this move must have been tough for her but agrees to make this move. He finally promises that he will get his revenge for their child.

 

Next up, the Emperor goes to his mother, the Empress Dowager’s palace, to discuss his thoughts about the various promotions. The Empress Dowager is pretty understanding and doesn’t care about these titles. Do whatever you need to get done at court. In this scene, all of the layers are peeled away. This mother and son pair have a frank discussion about their worries about 年羹尧 and why they cannot allow 年妃 to have a child. We’ve explained this before but the Empress Dowager says this here. Once she does, the child’s uncle, 年羹尧 will attempt to seize power. At that point, none of them, talking about the emperor and the empress dowager, will survive. The Empress Dowager now pushes the Emperor to see 年妃, saying that this will be better for the empire. 

 

[Karen]

Another incredibly important point that the Empress Dowager brings up here is that her and the Emperor forced 年妃 to have the miscarriage all those years ago. But 10 episodes ago, 年妃 said that it was 端妃, another concubine in the palace, who gave her some medicine that ultimately caused her miscarriage. 年妃 then forced 端妃 to drink something that caused her infertility. What we discover here is that the Empress Dowager and the Emperor probably slipped miscarriage inducing medicine into the bowl of medicine that 端妃 gave to 年妃。 端妃 was made into a scapegoat so no one would suspect the Emperor or anyone else. Only 端妃 knows she was framed. I mentioned back in episode 26 that 端妃 was somehow protected by the Emperor and the Empress Dowager. It’s because both of them know 端妃 is getting framed that she is ultimately safe, even though she is sick and lives in a rather destitute situation. I think that’s also why they treat 端妃 kindly enough because they know she’s being abused by 年妃。

 

[Cathy]

At her own palace of 翊坤宫, the out of favor 年妃 is ecstatic to see the Emperor finally arrive at her palace. She’s beside herself with joy. I do feel for her right here. She truly loves him. Pay attention though to what she is spending her time with before the Emperor arrives. She is sitting in front of a fragrance burner, breathing in what I am assuming is the fragrance gifted by the Emperor but is the cause of her infertility. She has absolutely no idea that her most prized possession is the item that causes her so much pain. Anyways, the Emperor spends the night with 华妃. She’s now…back on top.

 

The next day, at the Empress’s palace for the customary court greeting, 年妃 finally arrives to greet the Empress. It’s interesting that we only see 甄嬛 here. True to form, 年妃 immediately starts – how should I say this – taunting 甄嬛?Poor girl, 年妃 is  still in her own bubble. She doesn’t think about why this sudden change of heart from the Emperor and only focuses on basking in her attention.

 

Little does she know that the Emperor summoned 甄嬛’s father who was recently promoted and has been working with other officials to gather evidence against 年羹尧. The Emperor offers him the chance to see his daughter but he politely declines. Smart man – I think this was a test for 甄嬛’s father. The Emperor does not want the Imperial Court to get too close to the Imperial Harem, even if it’s your own daughter, see 年羹尧 and 年妃。

 

I think the next scene is a great juxtaposition of that. 年妃 has just been restored to favor and her maid comes in to announce the myriad of people who would like to offer “gifts”.  年妃 has at least some caution this time to tell her maids to be more discrete but she only sees her brothers fortunes.

 

[Karen]

Not long after, an official edict is declared throughout the Imperial Harem. 年妃 is to be restored to her previous title of 华妃。No one is surprised, least of all the Empress. Note that she’s only restored to 妃 or Consort, not 贵妃 or Noble Consort. We will now refer to her as 华妃 again. There is a very interesting conversation happening between the Empress and 甄嬛 when this edict comes through. 甄嬛 starts the scene by noting that the Empress never uses any type of fragrance but never knows why she doesn’t use fragrances or scents. The Empress kindly responds that every woman likes to use fragrance but the emperor wants to cut these expenditures. However, seeing that 年妃 has her lavish 欢宜香, it’s difficult to enforce this rule so she herself doesn’t use fragrance to cut some of that cost. 甄嬛 is like that’s really thoughtful and kind of you.

 

This is a pretty innocuous and simple conversation. On the face of it, it sounds like the Empress is indeed trying to be kind. BUT, I think the Empress MUST know what’s in that fragrance. In previous episodes we heard her say that she does not like using any type of fragrance that’s not natural from fruits or flowers because you never know what’s been included in man-made fragrances. I think it’s really interesting this scene is in this drama. It showcases to us how easily the Empress is able to make herself look good in front of others even though her real motives are quite different.

 

[Cathy]

Ugh, we now have a scene with 安陵容 and 沈眉庄. We haven’t seen the two of them alone in a while. Once again, 安陵容 tries to play up her victim persona. They discuss the reinstatement of 华妃. 沈眉庄 is extremely disappointed but she acknowledges that she doesn’t spend much time with the Emperor anymore so has little say in the matter. She turns to 安陵容 and says – but you aren’t the same. 

 

Listen to what 安陵容 says – “Are you blaming me for 华妃’s re-instatement?” Once again, faulting herself. In a one-two punch, 安陵容’s maid chimes in to say, don’t blame her, blame 莞嫔, or 甄嬛. She was the one who suggested this to the Emperor. Ugh – look at 安陵容, she glances at 沈眉庄 to get her reaction and then doubles down to “question” her maid about the validity of the news. 安陵容 tries to sow some doubt in 沈眉庄’s mind but I am so proud of 沈眉庄. She’s mad at the news but she says, I won’t believe anything until I hear it directly from 甄嬛. That’s true friendship! 沈眉庄 knows that 安陵容 is purposefully telling her this information to get her mad so she doesn’t try to fall for it.

 

Ok but then immediately she says, if 甄嬛 really was the one who helped reinstate 华妃, then we are no longer friends. No! C’mon! Look at the bigger picture!

 

[Karen]

Next up –

甄嬛 goes to the Empress Dowager’s palace for a visit. Unsurprisingly, 沈眉庄 is also there. She’s been spending a lot of time with the Empress Dowager as she has decided that the Empress Dowager will be where she puts her time and effort in an attempt to stabilize her position in the imperial palace, especially since she does not want to go back to the Emperor. At first, the conversation is pretty tame.  After eating some hawthorn, the mood in the room immediately shifts. The Empress Dowager turns to 甄嬛 and reprimands her for interfering in court. She is of course referring to the 10th Prince’s request of promoting his mother at the beginning of the episode. The Empress Dowager notes that concubines are not to discuss or have any input in court matters.

 

We rarely see the Empress Dowager this angry. 甄嬛 immediately gets on her knees. She explains that the promotions of dowagers is a matter of the Imperial Harem. She dare not discuss anything about court. Her only selfish act was to ensure the health and longevity of the Emperor.  We discussed this before – women were not allowed to discuss matters of court. If someone really wanted to make a big deal out of this, 甄嬛 would be in big trouble. The Empress Dowager seems appeased by this answer.

 

[Cathy]

Here though, let’s talk about what the Empress Dowager says. I’m curious to hear what you think. The Empress Dowager continues – here in the Imperial Harem, the Emperor is everything. When he’s alive, you all have something to live for. If he isn’t, the Empress will be fine. She will be the Empress Dowager. 曹贵人 at least has a daughter but for those concubines like you two, without children, you will just meet sad, lonely ends.

 

Then – the Empress Dowager drops a bombshell for 沈眉庄. She nonchalantly says – “I heard the idea to reinstate 华妃 was your idea?” 沈眉庄 is stunned. Obviously 甄嬛 did not tell her. 甄嬛 confesses i guess? She says – someone needed to do it. The circumstances meant that someone had to be “wronged?”

 

The Empress Dowager praises her for unselfishness but 沈眉庄 doesn’t see it this way. She storms out of the palace. The Empress Dowager gives 甄嬛 some advice now that they are alone. Being smart is a curse and a blessing, you need to figure how to balance your actions. Everything women do in the imperial harem will have an affect on court. Be cautious of what you do. 

 

The episode ends with 安陵容 hearing the news that 沈眉庄 stormed out of the Empress Dowager’s palace. She starts gloating because she achieved her goal. Let’s see if 沈眉庄 and 甄嬛’s friendship can survive this.

 

Phew – ok that was a lot.

 

[Karen]

Before we get to the analysis, I want to say that while yes, the Empress Dowager probably has eyes and ears everywhere, BUT I think that probably the Empress was the one to tell the Empress Dowager that 甄嬛 has been discussing court matters. Remember how earlier in the episode the Empress, 皇后, stopped by the Emperor’s study to see if there’s anything she can do to appease his anger but was told that 甄嬛 was already there? Her next stop was the Empress Dowager’s palace. I think that 皇后 probably went to say how 甄嬛 was in the study, thus tipping off the Empress Dowager that 甄嬛 may have been meddling in court affairs.

 

Ok. That’s that. On to the analysis.

 

There’s two stories for today both from the han dynasty. 甄嬛 briefly mentions them when trying to calm the Emperor at the beginning of the episode when dealing with the request from the 10th prince. Once again, 1 or 2 lines of dialogue from 甄嬛 equates to tons of research and discussion on our end. Let’s get to it!

 

The first is the story of 汉景帝 晁错 – what happened here?

 

汉景帝 was the 6th emperor of the Han dynasty. We have lots of stories from the Han dynasty. We have to thank the really great historians that were I guess promoted at that time for all these wonderful stories. 

 

During this time period of the Han Dynasty, brothers of the emperor or at least legacy royalty all had separate smaller kingdoms within the empire that they would rule. This meant that the central government where the emperor rules, has limited power to rule these kings and their smaller kingdoms. It got to a point where these smaller territories indeed became very powerful. This dude 晁错 was an imperial minister/politician who advised the Emperor. He recommended reducing the powers of these kings and removing some of their territories in order to increase and centralize power of the Emperor. The emperor accepted this recommendation and began removing territories from various lords/kings. This angered many of these kings which resulted unsurprisingly in 7 of them revolting against the Emperor. In order to try to appease these folks revolting against him, the Emperor decided to kill 晁错, the guy who made this recommendation. This sentence didn’t fully result in the emperor quelling the rebellion but one could say laid the groundwork for it. Indeed, the revolt only lasted 3 months and the Emperor claimed victory. He was able to reduce a lot of powers of the territorial lords and punished them for their revolt. 

 

[Cathy]

The second is the story of 汉光武帝 or 刘秀. This piece of history is fascinating to me. He was the founder of the later Han dynasty and he is a 9th generation descendent of the 1st Han Emperor 刘邦. He was born in 5BC and lived until 57CE. By the time it got to his own generation, even though he was related to the renowned 1st Han emperor, he didn’t have any royal privileges. He was basically the same as a peasant. At this time, there was civil unrest due to the failure of the short lived 新 dynasty. After some back and forth, 刘秀 emerged as a claimant to the Han throne after his brother died. He married his childhood sweetheart 阴丽华. There’s a famous saying that 刘秀 said about her – 仕宦当作执金吾,娶妻当得阴丽华. 

 

If I had any job, I’d want to be a city lieutenant. If I want to marry any woman, it would be 阴丽华. That seems all lovey dovey right? It’s to say how much a husband loves his wife.

 

But unfortunately, real life was much more cruel. On the path towards the throne, 刘秀 was forced to marry another woman 郭圣通 for her family’s political sway. Like in so many stories, the original wife 阴丽华 was demoted to a concubine while 郭圣通 claimed the title of the official wife and eventually Empress when 刘秀 seized the throne. I won’t spoil the rest of the story if anyone wants to do a little research. There’s a great TV show starring 袁弘 and 林心如 about this Emperor called 秀丽江山. I thought it was decent.

 

Both stories again reinforce the point 甄嬛 was trying to make. The Emperor needs to make sacrifices for the sake of the Empire

 

[Karen]

Finally, let’s talk about the Empress Dowager

 

Here are a few questions to think about

Why reprimand 甄嬛 in front of 沈眉庄?

Do we really think she was going to punish 甄嬛? 

 

(Karen)

That’s that for today’s episode of Chasing Dramas! Let’s see how long 华妃’s favor can last. Honestly, after doing such in depth analysis on her at this point I find her attitude somewhat annoying? Like you need to calm down. No one is taking your shit anyone. You have no idea how many people are working to kill you and bring you down.

 

Anyways – if you have any questions or comments, please reach out to us at chasingdramaspodcast@gmail.com. We need to be better about our social media presence to get more people to listen but that’s something we’ll have to figure out. Thanks!