The Story of Yanxi Palace – Ep 67pt 2 + 68

In the last podcast episode, we saw that the 5th prince, raised by Ying Luo, was gravely injured in a gun accident and the 4th prince, raised by the Empress Nala, was banished for his part in it. All of this was orchestrated by Yuan Chun Wang in which he claims is his way of paving the path for the Empress Nala’s birth son, the 12th prince to inherit the throne. 


The last few episodes of this drama really allowed Yuan Chun Wang to shine as he is pulling all the strings in the palace and creating an inordinate amount of chaos. But the most skillful part of his plan is that in the process of harming all of the princes in the palace, he skillfully makes it all seem like it is the Empress Nala’s plan and paints her in a terrible light.


Lets turn back to the second half of episode 67 where the Empress Nala has fallen ill given the events of what happened with the 4th prince turning on her and now being banished by the Emperor. Little does she know that while she’s in bed, Yuan Chun Wang has already taken his next steps. 


First, he persuades a maid in the Empress’s palace to dress more beautifully than before but this angers the Empress when she sees the maid and slashes her face. Unfortunately, this outburst is seen by the Emperor who comes to visit, putting him on edge for the Empress’s poor behavior. After the Emperor leaves, the Empress orders the maid to be lashed 30 times. However, what does Yuan Chun Wang do? He murders the poor maid. Unfortunately, the Emperor finds out that the maid has “committed suicide” and though not explicitly stated, it’s not far off to suspect that the Empress did it. But as we know, the Empress is in the dark. When she finds out that the maid committed suicide, she is actually quite furious because this looks very poorly on her. She becomes more enraged and rather psychotic at all of the recent developments.


The news of the maid’s death traveled fast and the Empress Dowager is now also aware of what happened which has left a bad taste in her mouth. But the pressing matter right now is discussing the upcoming expedition the Emperor has planned to visit the south of China. The Empress Dowager was chatting with Ying Luo, 舒贵妃 and 庆妃 when the Empress arrives to chat specifically about this topic. The Empress is adamant she is not sick and wants to be on that trip but things get rather heated with the Empress Dowager as well. It does not look good for the Empress.


She doesn’t do herself any favors as well because in her ill state, she confronts the Emperor and rather forcefully argues that she must be included in the expedition. Though I will say the Emperor was rather quick to point out that the Empress is going not for filial piety or to follow any tradition, but rather it’s because she wants to maintain her authority and presence as Empress. The conversation ends unpleasantly as the Emperor firmly states he will not be bringing the Empress while she insists otherwise.


Now onto Yuan Chun Wang’s next step. He sees that the Empress has been shut out and promptly finds an opportunity to speak to the 12th prince and convince him to try to persuade the Emperor. Once the 12th prince leaves to go see his father, Yuan chun wang then immediately tells a eunuch to inform the 5th prince what’s happening. The end result? The 12th prince kneels outside for several hours to no avail while the 5th prince arrives and just speaks a few words which convinces the Emperor to allow the Empress to join the expedition. Yuan Chun Wang’s tactic has two purposes. One) Cause the Emperor to be annoyed at the 12th prince for essentially weaponizing filial piety to force the Emperor to allow the Empress to come on the trip and 2) cause the Empress to be furious at the difference in treatment by the Emperor of the two sons. She clearly sees that the Emperor favors the 5th prince rather than her own.


Now onto Yuan Chun Wang’s 3rd step. He overhears Shu Gui Fei and Qing Fei arguing. As a reminder, Qing Fei is actually raising the 15th prince for Ying Luo at the moment and from this dialogue we understand that she is very protective of the young boy. Shu Gui Fei becomes upset after hearing that the gifts such as a very expensive writing brush and inkstone she gifted the 15th prince were all left unused by Qing Fei and she accuses Qing Fei of thinking she’s out to harm the 15th prince. Yuan Chun Wang overhears this and uses this to his advantage. One day, as the 15th prince is going to school, a eunuch bumps into the 15th prince and switches the writing brush the 15th prince uses.


Sure enough, Ying Luo, Qing Fei and Shu Gui Fei find out later that the 15th prince was poisoned. The culprit? The brush Shu Gui Fei gave. Luckily, the 15th prince is not in life threatening danger but Qing Fei and Shu Gui Fei are able to deduce that with all these injuries of these princes, the biggest beneficiary is the 12th prince. Or, the Empress. This puts them on alert as to what the Empress might be planning, though Ying Luo is a little more hesitant to point fingers. She thinks everything happened way too quickly for it to be the Empress’s actions. Which I agree. The Empress is able to wait for years before going in for the kill. The actions lately are not her style.


But that doesn’t stop Shu Gui Fei from informing the Empress Dowager who promptly disciplines the Empress who has no idea what has happened. That was all part of Yuan Chun Wang’s plan. For the Emperor and Empress Dowager to misunderstand the Empress which will allow Yuan Chun Wang to cry foul to the Prince of He.


In the very next scene, Yuan Chun Wang makes the Empress seem extremely pitiful in front of the Prince of He and make all of this Ying Luo’s fault in order to prompt the Prince of He into action. What kind of action? Well. Becoming regent. This is equivalent to staging a coup and the Prince of He, to his credit, is outraged at Yuan Chun Wang’s proposal but then turns around and requests for the responsibility of managing the protection detail for the Emperor and Empress Dowager during the southern expedition. That’s a lot of power and authority to have.


And the final push Yuan Chun Wang needed to make the Empress and the Prince of He take action is manipulating the words of the Empress Dowager and the Emperor. The Prince of He overhears the Emperor discussing with the Empress Dowager the desire to promote Ying Luo to the title of 皇贵妃 or Imperial Noble Consort which essentially means a “vice empress”. It would be a slap in the face to the Empress by promoting Ying Luo since it essentially strips the Empress of power. But in this conversation, both the Empress Dowager and the Emperor agree to table the discussion for now until after the southern expedition.


Yet what does Yuan Chun Wang tell the Empress? That the plan to promote Ying Luo is set in stone and the announcement will for sure be made after the southern expedition. They have to act now! The thought of losing her power as Empress definitely backs her into a corner and she immediately asks for a secret meeting with the Prince of He who makes the most dangerous proposal – kill the Emperor and take over. Otherwise, the 12th prince will end up like him, the Prince of He. 


Yuan Chun Wang is once again smirking as he oversees this secret meeting. Ugh. Why is he able to be everywhere in the palace? Doesn’t he have a job to do? I totally feel like the writers made him so overpowered in these episodes to push the final conflict.  He also manipulates the Empress’s head maid Zhen Er into stealing something of the Empress’s. Wow. Everyone in the palace really is his puppet.


The episode ends with the entourage from the palace heading out for their southern expedition. But before they leave, Fu Heng stops Ying Luo to give her a warning about the Prince of He as he is being sent off to war and will be unable to help Ying Luo if anything were to transpire on this trip. 




弘昼 – 


We ge a lot about 弘昼’s life in the short scenes between him and the Emperor. Much is actually based in fact. For example, 弘昼 really did enjoy holding fake funerals for himself. He apparently once said – There is no one who will not die in a hundred years, so why avoid the inevitable? He’d sit in his courtyard at home and have family members mourn him while enjoyed the spectacle. He even ordered a variety of funeral vessels be made and placed in front of where he sat. 


Kind of a weird hobby right? For this, he was punished a fine of 3 years worth of salary.


In my opinion, we don’t really see much of 弘昼 outside of the palace, so it’s kind of jarring that this piece of history was dropped on us by the Emperor. 


There’s no evidence that he had any feelings for Empress Nala. We’ll talk about his death in the next episode


Duo Er Gun


In the episode, 袁春望 proposes that the Prince of He should aspire to become regent like 多尔衮 once did. The Prince of He’s face immediately turned white and basically called 袁春望 a traitor. What’s the story there?


多尔衮 was born in 1612 as the 14th son of 努尔哈赤, the founder of the Later Jin Dynasty. He was also younger brother to 皇太极, the found emperor of the Qing dynasty. Known for his military exploits, 多尔衮 was a critical member of the Manchu royal family in defeating the Ming Dynasty. When his older brother 皇太极 ascended the throne, 多尔衮 was too young to mount a challenge. However, when 皇太极 died in 1643, 多尔衮 with the Standard White banner and his two brothers supporting him, could mount a serious challenge to 皇太极’s eldest son 豪哥. Unfortunately because the two of them were so evenly matched, neither won out in the end, with the result being that both compromised and agreed to have the young 5 year old son 福临 being selected as emperor. 


However, included in this compromise was that 多尔衮 would become co-regent. In 1645, 多尔衮 seized more power and was named “Imperial Uncle and Prince-Regent” (皇叔父攝政王). Later, in 1649, the title was changed to “Imperial Father and Prince-Regent” (皇父攝政王). 


In folktales and rumors, the reason why 多尔衮 was able to name himself Emperor’s father was because he married the Empress Dowager 孝庄. This is just fiction but that hasn’t stopped many people still writing stories about this pairing. 


Even though 多尔衮 greatly contributed to the creation of the Qing Dynasty, his act to appoint himself as regent and Emperor’s father was viewed unfavorably by EMperor ShunZhi after his death and basically wiped from the imperial ancestral temple. He was rehabilitated by Emperor Qian Long. 


In the drama, the main reason why the Prince of He was scared about becoming another 多尔衮 is that connotation that he will essentially usurp the young Emperor, should Emperor Qian Long die. The rumor that 多尔衮 secretly married the Empress Dowager 孝庄 also was a trigger for the Prince of He because that meant that he might be accused of doing the same withe Empress Nala. Although in this drama, that’s probably something he wanted. You can see the parallels between Duo Er Gun and the Prince of He at this moment should he choose to take that next step.


南巡 – 


The Southern Inspection Tour is the main topic of debate between the Emperor, Empress, and 魏璎珞. Why is it such a big deal and honestly, why haven’t we really heard about these tours in the drama?


During his lifetime, Emperor Qian Long had 6 Southern inspection tours starting in 1751. 2 years before his first tour, he issued 2 royal decrees detailing the 4 main reasons for his tours. 

  1. The officials in the Jiangsu and 浙江 provinces, on behalf of the military and subjects, respectfully invited the Emperor to grace them with his presence
  2. Court officials referred to the historical precedent set by his grandfather Emperor 康熙 for southern inspection tours
  3. Inspect and investigate the local conditions in the south
  4. As an act of filial piety, take the Empress Dowager to enjoy the sites


With these edicts, the Emperor had 6 trips starting in 1751, 1757, 1762, 1765, 1780, and 1784 to the south of China. Each time, he would travel to present day 南京, 苏州, 杭州, 扬州. These cities were all located along the eastern Grand Canal. The primary method of transportation was actually via boats along the rivers and canals.


Each trip would take 4-5 months so these were grand affairs. The retinue often included the Empress Dowager, several ladies from the harem, prince and princesses, and many many officials. 


The fourth one is what everyone is planning for in the drama. That trip occurred in 1765.


The trip started on the 16th day of the 1st month. The Emperor, along with the Empress Dowager, traveled from Beijing to the city of 德州 in Shandong Province. From there, they traveled south to the Jiang Su province and crossed the Yellow River at 徐家集. While traveling along the Yellow River, the Emperor inspected the affairs there and began to travel by boat. 


The retinue then went to 苏州 where he toured the gardens. From there, he traveled to the cities of Jia Xing and Hai Ning. Finally they made it to Hangzhou to inspect the Fujian navy and enjoy Xihu. On the trip back, Qian long also stopped at Nanjing to pay respects to the tomb of the first Ming Dynasty emperor zhu yuan Zhang. The whole trip took 126 days, making it the longest southern inspection tour amongst the 6 that he had.


During this trip – something very suspicious happened with Empress Nala. We’ll discuss this at the end of this series because it is shrouded in mystery.


On the whole, these southern expeditions of Emperor Qian Long’s are extremely popular subjects of dramas and books as many different types of stories can be written and portrayed on screen about his various excursions. Once again, I will recommend watching clips from RuYi’s love in the palace because they spent a boatload haha of money recreating the scenery of these expeditions that we don’t really get to see in this drama.


Last note on this – there’s some beautiful paintings of Emperor Qian Long’s Southern inspection tours housed at the Met in NYC! We should go check it out some time!

The Story of Yanxi Palace – Ep 66+67pt1



In the last episode, we time jumped to the 30th year of QianLong’s reign. It’s been relatively peaceful in the palace in that it appears Ying Luo and the Empress Nala has left each other alone  and the focus has turned more towards the kids. Ying Luo at this point has had several children including 2 princesses and 2 princes tho only the 15th prince survived. He’s a little dumpling that we haven’t seen on screen yet but we hear that Ying Luo dotes on him quite a bit. The 5th prince who has been raised by Ying Luo is shown to be a capable young man and the favorite son of the Emperor’s.


We start episode 66 with the Emperor leaving the Empress Nala’s residence after hearing her babble on about how Ying Luo needs to better teach her children while the Emperor is also a little offput by whatever crazy Chinese medicine the Empress is eating in order to try to remain youthful.  Sigh – the lengths women go to to remain young. 



That night, the Emperor is staying with Ying Luo and they have a rather hilarious conversation. He’s a little antsy after hearing the Empress Nala’s words and does agree that Ying Luo should send the young 15th prince to school which she has neglected to do for a while. In her heart of hearts, she just wants him to be a happy little prince. I do appreciate that Ying Luo is very clear in what fate her daughters have as princesses. They’ll either be used to marry for an alliance or else to garner favor with a court minister. I think that’s rather refreshing that she’s very clear on this point and wants her daughters to go have fun before they are subjected to their inevitable duties.


The two, the Emperor and Ying Luo,  start bickering like small children and both manage to injure their backs as the fight gets a little rough and it’s hilarious since they’re both showing us that they’re not as young as they once were.



Once the hilarity calms down and the two get back on the bed to nurse their injuries, Ying Luo explains that because the 15th prince was rather feeble from a young age, she just wants him to be happy rather than be the best prince out there. In another rather intriguing line, she admits that her son is not the smartest or the most charismatic of the Emperor’s sons. He has the 5th prince for that. My eyebrows were raised and also rather impressed because guess who ends up being the next Emperor after QianLong? It’s the 15th prince. And he in history was considered just fine. No where near as capable as his father. So for his mother to say this now has quite a lot of foresight. 


In anycase, the key takeaways here is that Ying Luo does not care or has the ambition of making her son the crown prince. She just wants her son to be happy.



In this drama, the story of yanxi palace, the only person in the palace who is stirring up drama between the princes is oddly not Ying Luo, not the Empress or any of the ladies in the palace really. Nope, in this drama, it’s the eunuch Yuan Chun Wang. Also this right here is one of the main contributing reasons for why the Ming dynasty fell. Eunuchs had soo much power in the Ming Dynasty. And also the Tang Dynasty. That’s a total side tangent though.


Anyways. Yuan Chun Wang and Zhen Er, the Empress’s head maid basically goad the 4th prince who was raised by the Empress to lash out against the 5th prince and cause him to lose face at their next shooting competition. He wants to look better in the Empress’s eyes because he’s jealous that she won’t care much for him given she has her own son, the 12th prince.



And the poor 4th prince falls right into Yuan Chun Wang’s trap. He tells his eunuch to do something and the day of the shooting competition arrives. There’s a short back and forth between the 5th prince and the Emperor where they discuss various gun firepower and then the 5th prince opts to show his father the difference between the various guns. He takes a borrowed shotgun, keyword borrowed, and…the moment he fires it, something blows up in the gun and gravely injures his leg. While the atmosphere immediately becomes tense as people rush to help the 5th prince, Yuan Chun Wang is off in the distance with a smirk at the developments.


Poor 5th prince. We’ll talk about him more in the history section of the episode but with this accident, he most likely will never walk properly again. The doctor and even Fu Heng said that this type of accident is not uncommon for there to be an accidental discharge of a gun and many people have actually died from these types of accidents so the fact that the 5th prince is still alive is extremely lucky.



Ying Luo is obviously upset that this happened to the 5th prince but she has a hunch which she shares with Fu Heng that this was no accident. He’s been practicing for months. Why would he suddenly get injured? Today?  But the kind and understanding 5th prince privately tells Ying Luo that even though he may know it wasn’t an accident, he wants to believe it’s just an accident. This injury, while not fatal, has just cut off his hopes of being crown prince because there cannot be a “lame” Emperor on the throne. He is saddened by this but he is also considering what his father, the Emperor is feeling. Today, the Emperor essentially lost a son or at least his most prized heir to the throne. The most likely culprit is another prince and if the 5th prince continued to seek the truth, there would be 2 princes lost due to today’s accident.


The Emperor, in his palace, is trying to distract himself from what happened earlier that day. The Empress Nala tries to persuade him to not be as upset but her words that it’s unfortunate the 5th prince was punished by the gods in this way yaddy yadda yada actually angers the Emperor even further. He clearly suspects that she was behind this accident.  



Meanwhile, the 4th prince is feeling pretty antsy at the moment because the Emperor has required all princes stay inside the palace walls. To make matters even worse, Zhen Er arrives with food for the 4th prince supposedly from the Empress. But before the 4th prince takes a bite, Zhen Er immediately feigns being distraught and “spills the beans” to the 4th prince that the food has poison! The Empress wants to kill the 4th prince!


He is freaking out now as the Emperor hears from Fu Heng that the 4th prince’s eunuch was in the storage facility where the guns were being held for quite some time. It was shortly after that that the 5th prince’s original gun was damanged thus forcing him to use a borrowed one, leading to today’s accident. 


Right as the Emperor hears this, the 4th prince bursts over to his residence and screams for protection. The Empress Nala has also arrived with Yuan Chun Wang in tow looking very smug. Sadly, the Empress and the 4th prince start verbally attacking each other as the 4th prince accuses the Empress of trying to poison her while the Empress denies any involvement. The poisoned food? Nope, no poison at all. Even Zhen’er’s visit is glossed away by Yuan Chun Wang who says she’s been ill. How could she go to the 4th prince’s residence?


To make matters worse, the 4th prince does admit that he told his eunuch to damage the 5th prince’s original gun. Seeing that he’s being framed, he starts screaming and crying about how he’s just trying to be more impressive in his parents eyes, especially the Empress who he sees as his birth mother. It’s quite a sad sight but not an uncommon one. And sadly, the Empress Nala is completely in the dark as to why the 4th prince would lash out in this way. It’s evident that she is saddened by his “betrayal” but because he ultimately is not her birth son, she doesn’t really stand up for him.


The Emperor orders the 4th prince to be imprisoned in the Imperial Clan Court for further questioning while he instructs Fu Heng to speak with him privately. I dont’ think the Emperor truly believes it was the 4th prince who did this but as the Emperor states, it’s clear that the 4th prince is not a righteous person. The Emperor instead laments the fact that he now lost 2 sons in one fell swoop. 


We end the episode recap in the middle of episode 67 with the Emperor naming the 5th prince 荣亲王 or The Prince of Rong with the title of Prince of the 1st rank, a high honor. The Empress Nala is furious at the 4th prince’s actions but cannot do anything to change this so she decides to fall ill while Yuan Chun Wang is over there being an awful human being, playing the Empress like a fiddle. 


Let’s talk history!


The first  bit is actually kind of a throwaway line that the Empress mentions in the beginning of episode 66 about the 紫河车. This was different from the deer fetus soup / ointment that was mentioned at the end of episode 65. Well – after a quick google search 紫河车 is basically Human placentophagy, or the consumption of human placenta. The consumption of placenta has been recorded in Chinese history since at least the 16th century in  Compendium of Materia Medica or 本草纲目. There aren’t really any reputable scientific studies to prove medical benefits but in Chinese culture, it is believed that the consumption of placenta will treat weakness of the body and anemia. 


Oof – didn’t really need to know that but some interesting medical history.



Now onto firearms history. 


In the episode, there’s a lengthy discussion that the 5th prince has with the Emperor about the benefits of the flintlock guns over the musket. Later, the 5th prince gets into an accident shooting a musket. Let’s briefly discuss firearms during the Qing Dynasty. 


In the early years of the 17th century, the Manchus learned from the Ming dynasty to use cannons in battle and essentially defeated the Ming Dynasty using a combination of cannons and an unparalleled calvary. By then, muskets were introduced and used for warfare while flintlock guns or pistols were gifted from the west to the Qing Emperors but not widely used in the military. 


In the 100+ years since the defeat of the Ming Dynasty, the Qing troops continued to use firearms but it really depended on the types of campaigns and battles that really determined the use of firearms. 


 One of the biggest headaches for Emperor Qian Long, his father Emperor Yong Zheng, and his grandfather Emperor Kang Xi was the Dzungar Khanate. They collectively spent 70 years trying to win the war. 


During the reigns of Emperor Yong Zheng and Emperor Qian Long, and I talked about this in episode 59 and 60, the Qing army began using Zamburak guns loaded on camels in those battles. Zamburak guns were favored due to their range and lethality. Muskets on the other hand had a shorter range and weren’t as usable. So the Qing used a combination. During the campaigns, the Zamburak guns were first used, and then muskets, and then arrows, and then weapon combat. When able, the cavalry would swoop in to fight too.


The Dzungars were a nomadic group so heavy cannons and muskets weren’t very useful against them. That’s why Zamburak guns, traditional fighting, and the cavalry were favored. During these campaigns, muskets and quite frankly flintlock firearms contributed very little to the success of the battles because well, they just weren’t very helpful against the enemy. The Qing thought, hey the Zamburak + calvary combo was great so let’s keep this strategy then. 


In the subsequent campaigns that Emperor Qian Long had during his reign, this strategy essentially worked or else the opposing forces had weak enough firearms where the Qing saw no need to innovate their own firearms or strategy. The neighboring east asian kingdoms were no match for the Qing might. However, that all changed by the time of the First opium war in the 19th century where the Qing finally got a wake up call in how far behind they fell. But by that time, it was too late. The qing were out gunned and outpowered by the western powers. 



Ok – moving on to the 2 princes of the drama. 


The 5th prince gets injured and the Emperor grants him the title of the Prince of Rong or 和硕荣亲王. This title was Prince of the First rank. The 5th prince, 永琪 was only 1 of 3 of Qian Long’s son’s to be granted a Prince of the First rank while the prince was alive. 永琪 was also the youngest to be granted this title. 


In history, in 1763, there was a great fire that burned in the old summer palace or 圆明园. The 5th prince, then only 22 rushed in to save the Emperor 乾隆 from the flames, carrying his father on his back and rushing out. This deeply affected Emperor 乾隆. The promotion of a member of the royal family occurred only every 5 years, so Emperor 乾隆 waited until the first opportunity and in 1765, promoted the 5th prince 永琪 to 和硕荣亲王. 荣 – in chinese means glory. 


In history, 永琪 was one of Emperor qianlong’s standout sons. He was an excellent student in all of the gentlemanly arts, was fluent in several languages, and a great calligrapher. These certainly did help with his promotion. 


In the history, he wasn’t injured by a firearm but yes – he did have a life threatening injury. In history, he fell ill with Osteomyelitis or a bone infection. According to records, he most had this condition when he was promoted to Prince of the First rank. This probably also factored into Emperor Qianlong’s decision to promote him so young, in hopes of curing the young man.



Lastly – we’ll touch up on the 4th Prince – 永珹. At this point in the story, he is 26. 


He was born in 1739 and married in 1754. in 1763, he was actually pushed to inherit the title of 和硕履lǚ懿亲王 as a 履郡王. So he held the title of Prince of the 2nd rank. The original title holder was the 12th prince under Emperor Kang Xi, so 永珹 was essentially inheriting the title from a great-uncle. This also meant that he was out of the running for inheriting the throne of the Empire. The original prince had no living sons who were alive at that time to inherit when he died in 1763, which is why this 4th prince inherited that title. 


As to the 4th prince, there’s not too much more to write about. He performed with his brothers in 1771 during the Empress Dowager’s 80th birthday. He himself died in 1777 at the age of 38.

The Story of Yanxi Palace – Ep  64pt 2+65


Welcome back to Chasing Dramas.  This is the podcast that discusses Chinese culture and history through historical Chinese dramas. We are your hosts, Karen and Cathy. TOday we are discussing the last ⅓ of episode 64 and all of episode 65 of the story of yanxi palace. 


This podcast is in english with proper nouns and certain phrases spoken in mandarin Chinese.


If you have any questions or comments, feel free to reach out to us on instagram or twitter or else email us at




So we’re headed into the final conflicts in the drama as we’re only a few episodes away from the finale. We left off the last podcast episode with Chen Bi being banished to the cold palace, Ying Luo pregnant and returned to favor with the Emperor and Ying Luo and the Empress Nala established a pact to leave each other and children alone in the palace.  There’s quite a bit of history to cover today as we get our bearings with all of the princes that now become the main focus of the drama. 


Now we fast forward several years to the 30th year of Emperor Qian Long’s reign which places us in about 1765 where the Emperor is about 55. 


We are presented with a scene where the Emperor’s sons, the young princes, are in the training grounds and practicing archery. We now get to meet the 4th prince, the 5th prince and the 12th prince. In this scene alone, we get to see that the 5th prince is quite a capable archer and exceeds in most other subjects while the 4th prince has a big temper and not as capable. The 12th prince, younger of course than his older brothers, recognizes he may not be as talented or skilled as his older brother, the 5th prince, but understands that being hard working is still important.


These time jump episodes are just full of plot exposition to get us up to speed on what’s been happening in the palace and basically a who’s who in terms of the princes we care about. At Empress Nala’s residence, 袁春望 tells us that the 4th prince is hot tempered, which we saw, the 8th prince likes the earthly pleasures of flesh and drink while the 11th prince is rather stingy, thus none of them are favored by the Emperor. The 6th prince has been moved to be part of another family so the only two princes left in the palace that are favored by the Emperor are the 5th prince and the 12th prince. One raised by Ying Luo after his birth mother Yu Fei is out of the picture, and one birthed by the Empress.  In this instance, the biggest instigator is not the Empress. No, she’s actually trying to keep the pact that she made with Ying Luo. Instead, its Yuan Chun Wang who is no longer able to sit still and is trying to inception into the Empress’s mind that she needs to act against the 5th prince in order to promote her son, the 12th prince. 


Next up, we finally see the now older YIng Luo and Emperor. Except Ying Luo still loves joking around. She hears that the 5th prince is coming to see her and knowing he’ll admonish her for eating iced foods that aren’t good for her, hides in a nearby box, hoping he’ll leave soon. Problem is, the 5th prince stays and the Emperor arrives shortly after as well. The Emperor takes one glance at the box and the half eaten grapes and knows she’s probably hiding in the box. But instead, he insists that he and the 5th prince play around of Chinese go ON the box no less. Finally, after the first round and the Emperor says they should play a second round does YIng Luo yell out from the box, in desperate need of fresh air. It’s a funny little scene that shows us that the 5th prince deeply cares for his adoptive mother while Ying Luo is less careful about herself. Additionally, the Emperor and Ying Luo have certainly mellowed out and become a more understanding couple. 


After the 5th prince leaves, we learn that Ying Luo had another son that died and has most of her children raised by others. Whether it’s’ the Empress Dowager or even Qing Fei, just not herself.  The 15th prince, her one son in particular, is raised by Qing Fei.  While the Empress Nala and Yuan Chun Wang earlier suggested this was all Ying Luo’s plot to secure her standing in the palace, the Emperor says he knows Ying luo is trying to protect them in case she is unable to survive long enough to raise them. Quite a different viewpoint and story.



In episode 64, ying luo told the Empress she had no desire to fight for that title because it’s too tiresome and we see that reflected constantly in episode 65. In front of the Emperor another day, she is able to joke with him about a painting that Fu Heng sent over and try to convince him that the new painting is a fake one. Both the Emperor and Ying Luo know they’re conning each other and they just let it happen as their chemistry and understanding has reached that very seamless level. Meanwhile, the Empress has become much more insecure about her age and capabilities. She’s worried about her beauty and youth and is trying everything to stay young. This has caused her temper to become much more elevated than before as she is jealous of the younger women in the palace.



The thing is, while the Empress Nala is more focused on her youth, the eunuch Yuan Chun Wang is making a big ruckus trying to goad Empress Nala into focusing more on her son’s future. He wants her to strike Ying Luo’s sons. He gets quite a scolding from the Empress for his impertinence but he doesn’t mind whatsoever. He turns immediately to the Prince of He for help instead. He says all these nice things to the Prince of He about how he’s the only one in the palace who cares for the Empress Nala which I’m like dude, you’re crossing so many boundaries but whatever.


The Prince of He takes Yuan Chun Wang’s constant badgering words to heart and in one scene with the Emperor where they’re overseeing examinations, the Prince of He becomes rather agitated with the Emperor and implies that the Emperor doesn’t trust him. The Emperor’s face immediately hardens and the Prince of He recognizes he overstepped a boundary. He fails to pipe up any more comments when the Emperor sternly gives him the opportunity but you can tell the aura of the room has shifted dramatically. The episode ends with the Emperor visiting the Empress Nala in her palace only to see her eating rather gross foods in order to retain her youth. He doesn’t comment on this while the Empress Nala starts pressing the Emperor to force the 15th prince to start taking classes. Something that Ying Luo has been pushing back on due to his young age. The episode ends with the Emperor leaving Empress Nala with a thinly veiled excuse, clearly not wanting to further this conversation any longer.



We skipped a lot of time here so let’s move on to discussing the Emperor’s children.

The last time we spoke about Emperor 乾隆’s children – this was still in the 1750s. We’re now in the 1760s and he’s had several more children but pay attention to the mother of these children.


In 1756 – Empress Nala gave birth to the 13th prince 永璟 but he died young in 1757. This is the prince that 袁春望 was talking about. In 1757, 令妃 gave birth to 永璐, the 14th prince who died when he was only 3, in 1760, which is why we won’t see him in the drama.


In 1759, 令妃 was promoted to Noble Consort  


In 1760, 令贵妃 gave birth to 永琰 the 15th prince. She then gave birth to a 16th prince but there are no records of him simply because he died too young. Then in 1766, 令贵妃 gave birth to the 17th prince 永璘. That is it for the Emperor’s sons – so 17, but from 1757 onwards, all of the Emperor’s sons were borne to 令贵妃, showing just how much favor she had. 


But that’s not it! Let’s look at his daughters. 


In 1756, 令妃 gave birth to the 7th Princess. This child was the couples first child and 令妃 was already almost 30. In 1758, 忻贵妃, who we never really met in the drama gave birth to the 8th princess but she died young at the age of 10. Then in 1758 令妃 gave birth to the 9th princess. And finally nearly 2 decades later, another woman 惇妃 gave birth to the 10th princess. 


Phew – that’s a lot of children! But let’s take a look, from 1756 all the way to 1766, 令妃 gave birth to 6, yes 6 children! 4 boys and 2 girls. In the drama, they only said 令妃 had 4 children even though the year is 1765. She should have had 5 by now and will have one more in 1766. 令妃 is one of only less than a handful of women in the Qing Dynasty to have had this many children. Once again, what I find fascinating is that she only started having children near the age of 30 in 1765, she’s almost 40 but still had much favor from the Emperor. 


The drama really picked a great time to end the time jump because the players are set for the end game.


I’m going to now walk through, as 袁春望 did for several of the princes, where we stand with the battle for the throne amongst the princes.


In 1765, of the EMperor’s sons, only the 4th prince, 5th prince, 6th prince, 8th prince, 11th prince, 12th prince, and 15th prince were still alive. Yes, that’s 7 princes to choose from, but as was mentioned in the drama the 6th prince, who was the son of 纯贵妃 was out of contention. The 4th prince was also out of contention because both of them inherited titles of other imperial relations so they could not inherit the throne. The 8th prince and 11th princes did not behave as a future emperor would, such as favoring the arts instead of warfare etc. The 5th prince was 24 at the time and had a lot of favor with the Emperor. The 12th prince was the legitimate son from the Empress and the 15th prince, who was barely 5, was the son of 令贵妃. So, as was mentioned in the drama, it was really up to these 3 princes. 


This will set up nicely a lot of the events that will occur in these last episodes. 



Ok – let’s turn to the one painting that was discussed today! 


富春山居图 Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains by the Yuan Dynasty Chinese painter Huang Gongwang 黄公望 (1269–1354). 


This painting is one of the 10 major Chinese paintings, showing how important it is to Chinese culture. The painting itself was completed between 1348 and 1350, however I read that from conception, it probably took more like 7 years.


Unfortunately,the painting was burnt into two pieces in 1650. 


The original painting was drawn on six sheets of paper. They were then framed together to form a long scroll of about 700 centimeters. The painter did not necessarily conceive the structure according to the size, length and width of each piece of paper. I won’t comment on the skill of the painting because I am no artist but let’s just say that it has vastly influenced painters in the centuries since its creation.


黄公望 was a local official for many years but, at the age of 45 was wrongfully imprisoned due to a lawsuit incurred by his boss. After that episode, 黄公望 resigned from his post and decided to travel throughout the land. He joined the Quanzhen Sect which was a daoist sect, which advocated the integration of Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism. Through his wanderings, he became interested in the rivers and mountains and wanted to capture the beautiful scenery. He really only became a painter at the age of 50. It was during one of his travels to the 富春 river in Zhe Jiang did he get the inspiration to create a painting to capture the beauty with the output being 富春山居图.


The journey this specific painting to survive to today is quite fascinating. Upon its completion, 黄公望 gifted it to to a fellow daoist priest in his sect in 1350. The painting was acquired at some point by the famous Ming Dynasty painter Shen Zhou in the latter half of the 15th century. Shen Zhou sent the painting to an unnamed calligrapher to write a poem. However, the son of this calligrapher stole the painting and sold it. Distraught at the loss of this masterpiece, Shen Zhou painted a copy of the painting himself from memory. This imitation has, funnily enough, become one of the most well-known and acclaimed imitation. One of Shen Zhou’s friends was able to buy it back at a high price and then Shen Zhou himself wrote the story of its loss and retrieval on the painting. 


Towards the end of the Ming Dynasty, the painting fell into the possession of 董其昌, one of the most famous Ming Dynasty painters. By the early Qing, the painting was in the hands of 吴洪 . He loved the painting dearly and in his will, wished that this painting and another one (copy of the Thousand Character Classic by Master Zhiyong (智永法师) be burned after his death so that he could enjoy it in the afterlife. In 1650, he died, and his family first burned the Thousand Character Classic. They started to burn this painting  Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains but at the final moment, a family member pulled the painting from the painting, saving it. Unfortunately the painting was already split in two from the fire. The front section suffered minor damage but the second section required much restoration. The two paintings were subsequently hidden from history for about a century as they were purchased by various collectors. 


Then in 1746, EMperor Qian Long bought the second section with 2000 taels of silver. This is the funny part and basically what we saw in the drama! Earlier in 1745, he also received another version of the painting. He, as we saw in the drama, dismissed the real piece and mistakenly announced that the fake to be the real one. Apparently, the one he received a year earlier was a very good imitation but merchants essentially forged parts of the painting to claim it as the real piece. It was essentially the debate the the Emperor had with Ying Luo in the drama. 


The Emperor nonetheless kept both in the royal collection. Apparently none of the ministers at court dared to correct the emperor. It was only in 1816 when emperor Jia Qing ordered a review of these collections did the mistake get corrected. The first half of the painting fell to the hands of collectors and was known during world war 2. In 1956, the owner agreed to sell the painting to the Zhejiang Provincial Museum in Hangzhou which is where it is now. 


The second half is kept in the National Palace Museum in Taipei. I don’t believe we saw it while we were there. 

The Story of Yanxi Palace – Ep 63+ 64pt1

Welcome back to Chasing Dramas. This is the podcast that discusses Chinese culture and history through historical Chinese dramas. We are your hosts, Karen and Cathy. We’re back from our trip to asia and here with episode 63 and and part 1 of episode 64 of the Story of Yanxi Palace or 延禧攻略。Well I say part 1 but it’s really like ⅔ of episode 64.


This podcast is in english with proper nouns and certain phrases spoken in mandarin Chinese.


If you have any questions or comments, feel free to reach out to us on instagram or twitter or else email us at


These are two extremely exciting and satisfying episodes in the drama that I’ve rewatched a million times so I’m glad we are finally here to talk about it!



Ying Luo has hit rock bottom and she’s being abused in her palace by Yuan Chun Wang with little water and food. The Empress Nala is quite pleased with this development and is circling in for the kill while the Emperor is fine with ignoring Ying Luo, not recognizing the seriousness of her situation.


Now, it is time for 顺嫔 to enact the next step of her plan. She heads to 延禧 palace and tearfully justifies all of her current actions right now as simply wanting to help Ying Luo. She needed to push 璎珞 to the brink in order for her to take that next step towards a better life. 顺嫔 wants to repay 傅恒 for saving her life and realizing that he still loves 璎珞, she thinks that helping 璎珞 escape the palace so that she can be happy with 傅恒 will be the best way to repay him. 顺嫔 is tearful in her justification of her actions and implores her to leave and never come back.


顺嫔 also makes another pit stop in front of 傅恒 and confirms to him that 璎珞 actually accepted her offer and tells him that August 10th will be the perfect day to whisk Ying Luo away. 傅恒 was on his way to see the Emperor, probably to reveal 顺嫔’s plot but with this new information, decides to not say anything to the Emperor. Meanwhile, the Emperor orders Hai Lan Cha who is still distraught over Ming Yu’s death to head off to the front lines and do some tasks for him.



The last piece of the scheme for 顺嫔 is to prepare the Emperor. One day, 顺嫔 is showcasing her dancing skills to the Emperor once again and feigns injury. Then, she tearfully confesses she has something to share with the Emperor. We don’t know exactly what that is, only to hear the Emperor smash his tea ware and storm off. We can probably guess 顺嫔 shared the possibility of 傅恒 taking 璎珞 away with him to the Emperor. 


But before we turn to August 10th, we do get a scene where Ying Luo is sick in bed and her eunuch, Xiao Quan Zi, who was seen betraying her last episode, sneak some type of meat jerky into her bedside while loudly saying a number of nasty things to her. Ying Luo lets out a small smile at the food which gives us a hint of what’s to come.


The morning of August 10th, the staff in the palace are up early preparing for the Empress Dowager’s trip to a nearby temple. Shun Pin tells Ying Luo about an empty water tank that will be her way of escaping out of the palace. We see the water tank be loaded up and taken towards the gate and out of the palace.



At this moment, Shun Pin heads over to the Emperor’s residence and begs him to let Ying Luo go while he clenches his fist. After a few moments of thought, he orders that the Shen Wu Gate be closed. In front of the Emperor, Shun Pin makes this event seem like it was all Ying Luo and Fu Heng’s plan and she’s only there trying to help Ying Luo. She pleads and pleads to the Emperor to not kill Ying Luo but he doesn’t say anything. This is such a masterful stroke of manipulation on Shun Pin’s part.


The Emperor and Shun Pin along with many servants head over to where the water tanks were confiscated, awaiting inspection. The Emperor marches over to the water tank but hesitates from uncovering the tarp, clearly worried about what truth he might uncover while Shun Pin is almost overjoyed with glee that her plan is working.


But after the Emperor orders Li Yu to open the water tank, out pops none other than 小全子, Ying Luo’s eunuch. The Emperor immediately catches on that this was some type of trick while 顺嫔’s face turns from glee to anger as she realizes her plan failed.


She’s not willing to lose just yet. 顺嫔 doesn’t lose composure for a second after 璎珞 arrives to defend herself. 顺嫔 calmly tries to pin the actions again on 璎珞 and play the victim that she was just trying to help 璎珞.



At this point, 傅恒 arrives with a eunuch as well. 顺嫔 immediately proclaims that she was not lying since 傅恒 must have come from the Xi Zhi Gate in order to pick 璎珞 up. But he promptly turns to the eunuch who tells the audience 傅恒 was at another gate, Shen Wu Gate. 


顺嫔 changes tact in a blink of an eye, changing the story to make it so that 璎珞 and 傅恒 set her up so that she would be the fall guy in front of the Emperor once their plan was revealed. She accused 璎珞 of harming her but at this point, the game was up. Everyone there could see that this was a scheme set up by 顺嫔 in order to harm 璎珞 and 傅恒。


The big question though was why would 顺嫔 want to harm 傅恒, the man who saved her life? 


The Emperor had an answer to that question.  He immediately summons the information that 海兰察 helped investigate. Apparently, this 顺嫔 was not truly the daughter of Ai Bi Da, the man who gifted 顺嫔 to Emperor. Instead, this 顺嫔 or 沉璧 was just a beautiful chess piece that Ai Bi Da discovered and did not want to waste, thus he sent 沉璧 in the stead of his actual daughter. 沉璧 was actually previously married and also had a child. 


This shocks both Ying Luo and Fu Heng, but there’s more. 顺嫔 absolutely hated 傅恒 for saving her life because she wanted to just end it and not enter palace. But because 傅恒 did this extra deed, she was forced to come to the palace and serve a man she doesn’t love.  Poor Ying Luo. She was caught in the crossfire of 顺嫔‘s desire for revenge. Ying Luo didn’t do anything to 顺嫔 but because she is 傅恒’s love and a concubine of the Emperor, she is the perfect candidate to create chaos in the Qing empire.  Honestly, i’m sorry Ying Luo. You got caught in the cross fire. But GEEZ BRING BACK MY MING YU!!!!


Seeing that the truth is revealed, 顺嫔 no longer keeps her mask on anymore and lets out a derisive laugh. She then turns towards the Emperor and in h  er anger, pulls out on of her hair accessories and tries to stab the Emperor, only for 傅恒 to block the blow and 顺嫔 is easily subdued afterwards. The Emperor subtly thanks 傅恒 and summons 璎珞 to his palace for further questioning.


Alone, these two master manipulators finally have it out with a hilarious conversation. They question each other on when they knew that 顺嫔 was problematic and why they would just let the events unfold with her. 璎珞 evidently saw through the fact that the Emperor was only treating 顺嫔 so well as a way to test her feelings for him and see if she would get jealous. The Emperor was also worried that 璎珞 would actually leave him for 傅恒. It’s a really cute conversation because clearly, the Emperor lost this game as Ying Luo saw through it. 


Fortunately for Ying Luo that the two were able to make up because at this moment, the Empress Dowager summons Ying Luo. She is worried about 顺嫔 because she still thinks 顺嫔 is her daughter reincarnated. But Ying Luo had to break the news to the Empress Dowager that no, she is not really the Empress Dowager’s daughter. THis pisses off the Empress dowager royally that Ying Luo would just trick her like that and TBH i agree with the Empress Dowager but the Emperor arrives and steps in to save Ying Luo. Under all the pressure, Ying Luo also passes out. When she comes to, the Imperial Doctor informs the Emperor that Ying Luo is PREGNANT! Yay! 


This saves Ying Luo’s life because the Empress Dowager cannot kill her or harm her now but that doesn’t mean she’s not extremely disappointed. Regardless, Ying Luo and the Emperor are now made up because, as Ying Luo says, only a woman would want to carry the child of the one she loves. So, these two scheming individuals finally clear the air in that they do care for each other.


With Ying Luo now securely back on top and also pregnant, she does take the opportunity to have one last conversation with Chen Bi. This scene is perhaps one of the best acted scenes in the drama and certainly by Zhang Jia Ni, the actress for Chen Bi. She plays the crazed beautiful woman to perfection. Her palace is to be boarded up and she will essentially live out her life in the cold palace. In this conversation, Chen Bi finally tells Ying Luo about her tragic life. She was forcefully taken selected by Ai Bi Da to be gifted to the Emperor. Her son’s life was used as blackmail to force her to comply. Sadly, her young son died trying to save her and she was left to come to the palace after Fu Heng saved her life. It’s a tragic story hearing what Chen Bi went through and the realization that we feel after hearing that she doesn’t have a husband, only a son sent chills through me. As she states, having a beautiful face isn’t always a good thing. So we can only guess what type of life she lived with her beauty before she entered the palace. She was just a gift that was given around. 


The rest of the episode is extremely satisfying as Ying Luo regains her status in the palace and is able to basically stick it to her enemies. 袁春望 is severely punished by the Emperor and even taken away right in front of the Empress because he was abusing not only Ying Luo, but also the Emperor’s child. This shocks 袁春望 and the Empress Nala that Ying Luo could be pregnant but that’s the truth! 袁春望 is taken away and beaten quite badly. The cherry on top there is that 小全子 is able to gloat in front of 袁春望 that this was all a ploy by Ying Luo. But Ying Luo does save 袁春望’s life as a way to say that the two are finally even. The injured yuanchun wang has no where to go but back to the Empress Nala to serve her.


As for the Empress Nala? She proactively seeks out Ying Luo at Yanxi Palace for a frank conversation. She wants Ying Luo to know that no matter how favored she is, there is only one Empress of the Qing Empire and it is her, Empress Nala. Ying Luo takes this in stride as she has no desire to fight for the title of Empress. Instead, she is quite happy to remain a favored Consort as she will have more freedoms. Our discussion will end here with Ying Luo and the Empress Nala making a pact that they will leave each other alone and not harm any children in the palace and with that agreement secured, the palace enjoys many years of peace. 



It only took 6 episodes for 顺嫔 to enter into our orbit and then not quite so gracefully disappear. That felt really quick but despite being here for only a few episodes, this character definitely made her mark. 


We say goodbye to this character who very nearly outwitted 魏璎珞, but who was she in real life? 


The character of 顺嫔 in this drama is actually based off of 2 women. 


The first is 顺贵人 from the manchu 钮祜禄 clan and the second is 容妃 from the Uyghui minority. Let’s start off with 顺贵人, as with the many other women, we don’t have her fully name, so I’ll just refer to her as Lady 钮祜禄


Lady 钮祜禄 was born in 1749 from the manchu bordered yellow banner clan. She was the daughter of 爱必达 and grandniece of Empress 孝昭仁, the second Empress of Emperor 康熙.


She entered the palace at the age of 19 as part of the selection process in the 31st year of Emperor 乾隆’s reign, so 1766. She was a full 37 years younger than the Emperor and the Emperor at this point was already in his mid 50s. I’m just gonna skip over that age difference.


She was given the title of 常贵人 at the level of 贵人 or noble lady. She must have gained favor from the Emperor because only two years later in 1768, she was promoted to the title of 顺嫔 or 嫔. 顺 in Manchu means victory or obedient. 


However, she stayed at that position for a number of years. It wasn’t until 1776, a full 8 years later was she promoted to the title of Consort. She didn’t have her official promotion ceremony until 3 years later though due to the death of the Empress Dowager. However, by the time she had her ceremony, she was essentially one of the most powerful women in the harem because many of the women we’re familiar with in this drama such as Consort Ling and Empress Nala had already passed away at that point. There are records of the gifts she received during her extravagant 40th birthday and where she lived in the palace.


However, in 1788, something mysterious happened. No one really knows what because we only really have the historical record of her being demoted first down to a 嫔 or Imperial Concubine and then shortly after, down even further to a noble lady in the same year. The reason for her demotion down to now 顺贵人 is unknown.


She died shortly after in 1790 due to sickness at the age of 41. There’s only a handful of women during 乾隆’s reign who were demoted and she was one of them. It’s very a much a mystery of WHY she was demoted but one can speculate that she must have made a grave mistake or deeply angered the Emperor for this to have happened.


In the drama, our 顺嫔 was abducted by 爱必达 in hopes of gaining regaining favor with the Emperor after the disastrous campaigns led by his brother 讷亲. We discussed 讷亲 in episode 41. He was the general who lost several battles during the first Jin Chuan campaigns and was sentenced to death by the Emperor in 1749 due to his failures. But in history, NeCin was Shun Pin’s uncle.


Next – let’s talk about the very famous Consort Rong or Rong Fei!


Born in 1734, she came from the Khoja or 和卓 clan. She was muslim and belonged to the Uyghar minority from present day Xinjiang in China but back then people called that area 回疆. She is known as lady he zhuo with the name 法蒂玛 but in Hui folklore, she was known as 伊帕尔罕 or Consort Xiang. We’ll call her lady He Zhuo.


Her story into the palace is greatly connected to the Revolt of the Altishahr Khojas. We talked about the revolt in episodes 48 and 49. Lady He Zhuo’s brother, Turdu, led a resistance against the Altishahr Khojas. The revolt ended in 1759 with the Qing Dynasty being victorious.


In 1760, Emperor Qianlong invited the He Zhuo households including Turdu who contributed to the war to Beijing. The Emperor invited them to live in Beijing and bring their families along with them. It was during this time that Lady He Zhuo entered the palace. She was the only Uygher woman in Emperor Qian Long’s harem and perhaps one of the most famous in Chinese folklore.


She entered the palace at the age of 26 or 27, depending on how you view the calendar. In a time where women as young as 13 and 14 could enter the harem, this is pretty old. There are rumors that she probably was previously married before she entered Emperor Qian Long’s palace. Perhaps even the discarded wife of Khwāja-i Jahān [zh] (also known as Hojijan, Huojizhan), one of the two main Khoja’s that led the revolt. 


This union was definitely viewed as a political alliance but she was very favored by Emperor Qian Long. When she entered the palace, she held the title of 和贵人 or Noble Lady. the very next year, she was promoted to Imperial Concubine and granted the title of 容 when means accommodating.


There are stories that when she entered the palace, the lychee trees that were brought from the southern parts of the empire miraculously all bore fruit. Lady He Zhuo was subsequently viewed as auspicious and lucky in the imperial harem and garnered much favor from the Empress Dowager.


She was promoted to 容妃 or the level of consort in 1768 at the age of 34. 

When the Emperor and his whole retinue traveled to inspect the southern regions of the empire, he also brought lady he zhou with him. There was a ton of other people yes, but he also made exceptions for her to include cuisines and dishes from her homeland during the trip. 


The Emperor built a mosque for her at the New Summer Palace and built a 方外观 at the Old Summer Palace that was decorated with European – style paintings and contained tablets with Arabic inscribed in them.


I’m trying to find historical corroboration but I believe the Emperor also built 宝月楼 or a tower that was in the style of Hui culture. I don’t think it was for her specifically because it was built before she arrived but turned into something for her to remind her of home. That building no longer exists but is now the Xinhua Gate. It turned into the front gate of the president back in 1913 and is now the front gate of Zhong Nan Hai, the compound that houses the Chinese central government.


There are records that for her 40th and 50th birthdays, the Emperor gifted her lavish gifts as well, including double elephant silver crystal earrings, countless jade and agate gifts too. 


She died in 1788 at the age of 54.


容妃 is the basis for so many folktales about this mythical 香妃. Viewers of Pearl Princess are no strangers to her. The story goes that Emperor Qianlong had a consort who was stunningly beautiful and had a fragrance that followed her everywhere. 香 means fragrant which is why she was named 香妃. These stories originated late in the 19th century and really made the rounds in Chinese folklore in the early 20th centuries. This one folktale has definitely persisted well into the 21st century due to dramas such as Pearl Princess. However, we do have more historical confirmation that Xiang Fei was fictitious and based off of 容妃.


As you can see from the two historical counterparts above, the character of 沉壁 or 顺嫔 is a combination of the two. I feel like we got the early history of 容妃 mixed with the later years of 顺妃.

We kept mentioning several scenes were potentially cut with regards to 顺嫔’s character. We don’t have any scripts to corroborate the additional scenes but there are plenty of promotional photos that came out before the drama aired of 张嘉倪 wearing these resplendent yet kind of ambiguous tribal robes and costumes. Even the screenwriter and producer Yu Zheng said that much of 顺嫔’s character was cut so that the drama can air. In the baike for this character, the entry has 顺嫔 schemed against Xiao Jia Pin, resulting in her losing favor once again. Maybe that’s why we never saw this character again? 


Remember in episode 58 when 魏璎珞 returns to the palace and gets a glimpse of the Emperor and 顺嫔 but we don’t actually see 顺嫔? I wouldn’t be surprised if in the scene 顺嫔 was dancing in these tribal robes for the Emperor, we just don’t see it in the final cut.


There’s one leaked photo where 顺嫔 was wearing the tribal robe and was sitting on the Emperor’s lap while the two were on a palanquin. That was a huge exception for 顺嫔 to have the privilege to do so. 


In the drama, we only see 顺嫔 wear Manchu palace robes and not any of her own tribal wear. There’s some rumors that the censors a) didn’t approve of the tribal wear costume because it wasn’t historically accurate and b) didn’t want to spark any unnecessary tensions with minority groups because 顺嫔 is ultimately a bad character in this drama. So, the result is a 顺嫔 who only wears Manchu palace robes in the drama. 

The Story of Yanxi Palace – Ep 62


Welcome back to Chasing Dramas. This is the podcast that discusses Chinese culture and history through historical Chinese dramas. We are your hosts, Karen and Cathy. Today, we’re back on track to discuss episode 62 of the Story of Yanxi Palace or 延禧攻略。


This podcast is in english with proper nouns and certain phrases spoken in mandarin Chinese.


If you have any questions or comments, feel free to reach out to us on instagram or twitter or else email us at


Today’s podcast episode isn’t going to be too long as it’s going to be heavy on the plot recap and not much on history. We’re saving that for the next podcast episode. 



Ying Luo is still heartbroken over the death of her close friend and confidante, Ming Yu who ended her life right as she was about to get married. In her grief, Fu Heng found her at Chang Chun Palace where she was letting out some of her emotions but this was unfortunately overseen by the Emperor who stormed away silently, furious at this sight. 


In episode 62, Ying Luo starts to consider what exactly happened to cause Ming Yu to take this action. For one, she starts examining the box that contained the pair of scissors Ming Yu used that unfortunate day. Xiao Quan Zi tells Ying Luo that it was 顺嫔’s maid that came to gift this box to Ming Yu as a wedding gift the day before she was supposed to leave the palace.


Realizing something was amiss, Ying Luo pelts over to the Emperor’s residence in the pouring rain, hoping to have an audience with him. She waits to no avail as the Emperor refuses to see her. Clearly still upset at what he saw previously with Ying Luo and Fu Heng.


Ying Luo’s next stop after seeing she will not be able to speak to the Emperor is to actually confront 顺嫔. She’s over there dancing in what I don’t know. Is it celebration that her malicious plans are making headway? The way she looks at the camera in certain cuts is quite mesmerizing as in I totally understand why men would be head over heels interested in her.



Ying Luo’s presence isn’t too surprising to 顺嫔 but she continues to act her like an innocent lamb. Ying Luo isn’t able to hide her anger in front of 顺嫔 any further and confronts her quite directly as to why 顺嫔 was so purposeful in befriending her and why she would harm Ming Yu. 顺嫔 denies any wrongdoing and insists she just wants to be Ying Luo’s best friend. She twists her motivation in helping Ming Yu end her life by saying that she was doing Ming Yu a favor. This was probably the most WTF monologue to date because most other people just own up to the terrible deeds they’ve done while she insists she did a nice thing even though it was downright horrible.


The argument becomes heated and even physical as 顺嫔 grabs the pair of scissors Ying Luo brought to confront her and even tells Ying Luo to stab her in order to take revenge for Ming Yu.  And what would you know. 顺嫔 just happens to trip and accidentally stab herself in the chest with the scissors. The scene instantly becomes chaotic as 顺嫔 falls to the ground and Ying Luo is left scrambling to see if 顺嫔 is ok. Classic 绿茶 behavior no?



Poor 璎珞. This looks extremely bad for her and even the Empress Dowager is now no longer on her side because Ying Luo hurt her beloved “daughter” aka 顺嫔. 顺嫔 also has let the mask come off in front of the Empress Nala who comes to see her in bed after her injury and doesn’t deny that Ying Luo is their common enemy. It’s pretty impressive to see what shun Pin has been able to accomplish in just a few months. YIng Luo, who had the favor of the Empress Dowager and the Emperor, now pretty much has nothing.


The Emperor decided to punish 璎珞 by having her confined to her palace. Meanwhile, the Empress Nala took this opportunity to utterly demoralize 璎珞 by having her servants interrogated and aim to turn on her. 小全子 her trusted eunuch indeed became a snitch and turned on his master. With a sly smile, the Empress Nala relished in seeing Ying Luo have no one and nothing left in her palace after 顺嫔’s blow. 袁春望 also takes this opportunity to express his fury at 璎珞’s betrayal by abusing her. He restricts what she’s allowed to eat and also has 小全子 serve her again which will be another way to abuse her because he already betrayed her so there’s no way he’ll treat her well either. 



Ying Luo has nothing to eat daily except for some extremely light porridge. It’s basically just water at this point. Xiao Quan Zi openly gloats and dismisses her to her face while Yuan Chun Wang relishes the abuse Ying Luo is now subjected to.


Elsewhere, Shun Pin no longer deigns to have any type of friendly mask on anymore. In front of Shu Fei and Qing Gui Ren, she is condescending towards them which infuriates Shu Fei who storms off. In quite a refreshing surprise, Qing Gui Ren tries to ask Shun Pin for forgiveness for Ying Luo, the only person to do so in the palace. Her request is rebuked by Shun Pin but for once, we see someone who is extremely aware of how the palace functions and her place in it. She never actively seeks a fight and hopes everyone can be peaceful in the palace.



Shun Pin having established her power in the palace moves onto her next part of the plan. Fu Heng is now not enjoying the full favor of the Emperor given the scene in the last episode where he was seen with Ying Luo. In a debate in front of the Emperor against Prince He, the EMperor sided with Prince He rather than listen to Fu Heng and there’s most likely a personal vendetta added into the verdicts here. 


After Fu Heng leaves, Shun Pin uses an excuse to lure Fu Heng to speak with her. I do appreciate Fu Heng calling her out on the fact that it’s inappropriate for her to see him. But, she comes in right for the jugular by asking if Fu Heng wants to save Ying Luo’s life. She goes on about how furious and regretful he must feel for having left Ying Luo despite having proposed marriage and now seeing her be discarded and mistreated in the palace by the Emperor must make him feel extremely upset. There are a few plot holes here in my opinion. How did she find this information that there was any kind of marriage proposal. How did she know of this history? Regardless, Shun Pin goads Fu Heng about his prior relationship with Ying Luo that leaves him fuming before storming out. Even if he doesn’t say much in return, he’s clearly impacted by Shun Pin’s words about Ying Luo’s current treatment.




The episode closes with us seeing how poorly Ying Luo is being treated by Yuan Chun Wang and Xiao Quan Zi. Ying Luo basically doesn’t have any food or water because it’s being controlled by these two eunuchs. What’s awful is that Yuan Chun Wang has been hiding in the corner just waiting for Xiao Quan Zi to show any hint of kindness to Ying Luo in order to jump out and prevent her from having any sustenance. Dude. This guy is extra cray cray and needs to have a life. He’s so obsessed with Ying Luo.


Before we close out this plot recap, I do want to highlight that it’s odd Xiao Jia Pin has just mysteriously disappeared from the cast. Shu Fei and Qing Gui Ren are the only ones left of the old guard while Xiao Jia Pin is no where to be found. I wonder if Shun Pin did something to her but those scenes were cut. 




There’s not much on history today – there’s going to be a lot for next week’s episode.


The two topics I do want to cover all come from the discussion that the Emperor has with Fu Heng and the Prince of He.


A man from Shangdong Province, 刘德照, is accused of treason because authorities found treasonous writings in his home. Some of these include writings such as 兴明兴汉 which means to restore the ming dynasty and restore han rule. This was seen as extremely traitorous because the Qing are Manchu.


It seems as though 刘德照 was a mentally unstable man, which is what 傅恒 says in the drama. However, the Emperor believed that this was just a cover so that 刘德照 could continue to spread the writings. In 1756, The Emperor ordered the execution of 刘德照 and his wife. 刘德照’s younger brother, who probably had no knowledge of any of this, was sentenced to exile to Heilongjiang and made a slave.


This case is just one example of many 文字狱 or literary inquisitions or speech crimes that occurred during 乾隆’s reign. In the later years of 乾隆’s reign, he clamped down on any speech he thought were anti-qing, resulting in thousands of books being burned and many killed for their supposed sedition



Lastly let’s finally close out on 高斌. It’s so funny because his daughter died ages ago and we’re still talking about this bloke. Anyways – he’s the father of 高贵妃 and I discuss him in episode 32.


We’re now in the mid 1750s so let’s see his fate.


In 1753, several areas under his watch became flooded. In the same year, it came to light that his subordinates created a budget deficit. 高斌 was dismissed from his post for trying to protect these officials. This is discussed in the drama. Gao Bin was sent to a river construction site to atone for his actions. 


In the same year, the Yellow River destroyed several dams in Jiangsu. As previous governor overseeing the construction of these dams, Gao Bin was fined to go to block the embankments. The officials in charge were executed for embezzling money and building subpar dams. Gao bin was there as witness, but because he wasn’t aware that he was about to witness an execution, he fell unconscious due to fright. 


In 1755, Gao Bin died on a river construction site at the old of 72. Despite his failings in his old age, Gao Bin received several honors after his death. The Emperor bestowed him the posthumous title of a grand Minister of the Interior, ordered one thousand taels of silver from the Department of Internal Affairs.


The Story of Yanxi Palace – Ep 60pt 2+ Ep 61


Welcome back to Chasing Dramas. This is the podcast that discusses Chinese culture and history through historical Chinese dramas. We are your hosts, Karen and Cathy. Today we are chatting about the second part of episode 60 and episode 61 of the Story of Yanxi Palace or Yanxi Gong Lue. This podcast is in english with proper nouns and certain phrases spoken in mandarin Chinese.


If you have any questions or comments, feel free to reach out to us on instagram or twitter or else email us at



In the second part of episode 60 and into 61, we see the beautiful, intelligent but also mysterious 沉璧 aka 顺嫔 slowly reveal her devious nature. But I’m not going to lie, I feel like the primary conflict in these episodes was a little contrived. What do I mean? 明玉 in the middle of episode 60 starts feeling immense pain in her chest. She tries to play it off as probably walking too quickly but it does seem to be a bother.


My main question is, why does this pain have to be highlighted now? Right when, as we see in the next scene, Hai Lan Cha proposes to Ming Yu. He and Ying Luo have worked together to already put together a bride price for Ming Yu so they can marry when Ming Yu reaches the age she is allowed to leave the palace which will be in a few months. This is super cute and I am extremely happy for them but the stupid needle that 纯贵妃 ordered to be placed in 明玉’s body years ago now is starting to wreak havoc on her. The remaining needle in her body will take her life at any moment. This pain plus the fact that she doesn’t want to leave Ying Luo all on her own in the palace means that she, despite having agreed to marry 海兰察 and loving him all the same, begs Ying Luo to cancel the wedding. She wants to stay with 璎珞 in the palace.


I have a major problem with this storyline because of all the people she tells the truth to, she tells her concerns to 顺嫔 who arrives to check in on Ming Yu. She sees Ming Yu clutching her chest in pain and Ming Yu just tells her exactly what the problem is. She might die at any moment and there’s no cure for the needle in her body. Like, dude, Communication! Why tell 顺嫔 whom you barely know as opposed to Ying Luo? I know you want to protect Ying Luo but come on! And I also understand that she doesn’t want to marry Hai Lan Cha because she is worried he’ll be a widow with her passing at any random moment. Again, COME ON!



Through all of this, 顺嫔 starts to act like a 蛇蝎美人 which directly translates to a scorpion, snakelike beauty for they are devious and conniving. In front of the Emperor, she is happy to sing praises about Ying Luo and is rather eager in helping the Emperor check in on Ying Luo’s feelings for him which is rather odd for any woman who claims they truly love their husband to help him find out if his love loves him back right? 顺嫔 also sneaks into Ying Luo’s rooms one night and they have a heart to heart in bed. She helps advise Ying Luo that she needs to be more open to people that way others can help. But 顺嫔 also tells Ying Luo that 明玉 is not truly an equal to Ying Luo. The underlying connotation is that she, 顺嫔 is more aligned with YIng Luo. All of these actions are blaring red flags for Ying Luo because Shun Pin is just too gosh darn nice to YIng Luo but she can’t put a finger on 顺嫔’s motives just yet. There are also a few scenes or cuts where 顺嫔s gaze turns more “evil” as if she’s plotting something which is paired nicely with some more ominous music. 


The next couple of scenes are rather all over the place. We see that the Empress Dowager is not entirely pleased with YIng Luo after they have returned to the palace given everything that’s happened with He An princess. The Empress Dowager is wary of Ying Luo’s involvement. Elsewhere, we see that the Prince of He continues to be a bright spot for the Empress Nala as she places too much pressure on her son, the 12th prince, who is just a boy. The Prince of He sent a gift for the 12th prince and a letter to Empress Nala after hearing that the 12th prince has been rambunctious and unwieldy, stating that it’s fine for boys to act this way at his age. It doesn’t mean he’s not smart. 



We also do meet Fu Heng’s son, 福康安 whom we have talked about more in depth in prior episodes. On this day, 傅恒 is picking up his son from his studies in the palace since the Emperor did allow 福康安 to study with the other princes. This boy is extremely mischievous and it’s utterly adorable. 顺嫔 arrives to save 福康安 from acting out further against his father and they have a chat with 傅恒. She purposefully drops her handkerchief which has an interesting embroidery pattern on it that catches the eye of Fu Heng. The pattern reminds him deeply of the pattern that YIng Luo embroidered for him on his fragrance pouch but he doesn’t follow up, at least for now.


Later in the imperial gardens, he meets 顺嫔 again and they have a more prolonged conversation. In my opinion, her words in this conversation certainly crossed boundaries. She made plenty of assumptions about Fu Heng’s life and also almost goaded him into acting more rashly because he is always so reserved. But, she emphasizes that it was Fu Heng who saved her life on the way to the palace. That is a day she will always remember. This line is extremely important. 



Regardless of how uncomfortable 顺嫔 made him, Fu Heng does finally ask her about the pattern on her handkerchief which she doesn’t deny was inspired by Ying Luo. When pressed as to why he is so interested in this pattern, Fu Heng comes up with an excuse that the design is rather unique for women which is why he paid more attention to it before taking his leave. In a flashback scene, was see Fu Heng saving 顺嫔 from her fall on a cliff. He lost the pouch ying luo gave him and he frantically went to search for it which means that 顺嫔 most likely saw how important that pouch was to Fu Heng. 


We turn back now to Ming Yu and Ying Luo. They had a lovely heart to heart as to why Ying Luo is so adamant in wanting to see Ming Yu married which reemphasized their relationship. Ming Yu looked beautiful in her wedding outfit.  But, on the day she was supposed to leave the palace, Ying Luo finds Ming Yu dead on her bed, still in her wedding outfit with a pair of scissors as her tool. Ying Luo is absolutely distraught. Poor Hai Lan Cha. He’s equally if not more distraught that the love of his life is now gone. 



The Emperor summoned the Imperial Doctor 叶天士 who tells him and 海兰察 about the silver needle in Ming Yu’s body that had no recourse. I feel so bad for Hai Lan Cha who receives another blow with this news since he now blames himself for pushing Ming Yu into taking this course of action to protect him.


Ying Luo meanwhile has fallen into depression. One day, she disappears when 顺嫔 tries to speak with her. She informs 傅恒 who was able to easily find 璎珞 in Chang Chun Gong. He tries to console her while also keeping a respectful distance as she cries over her impact on MIng Yu. But unfortunately this scene is overseen by the Emperor who storms away furious that perhaps his worst suspicions have come true. All the while, 顺嫔 has a coy smile on her face while the recent events unfold. 



Boo – it’s with a heavy heart that we lost another fan favorite character 明玉. With regards to the drama, I also think they took the most liberty with the age of 明玉. It’s late 1750s with the Emperor in his 20th year of his reign. Ming Yu has been with the Empress Fucha since before he was crowned. So unless Ming Yu was like 5 when she entered into the Empress’s service, then the timeline doesn’t work. Let’s not think too much about this timeline because you know, plot purposes.


We also say goodbye to a character who quickly became a fan favorite after her initial disagreements with 魏璎珞. Ming Yu was fondly known as 明玉小可爱 or Cute little Ming Yu and fans were SO devastated when she died. Everyone was like – can i please have at least 1 HE couple? HE in chinese is Happy Ending. But nope, this is another BE couple.


I do think that this was a rather sudden development because it felt like all easy dandy and then in the span of 2 episodes, Ming Yu was gone.


The actress for Ming Yu 姜梓新 has gone on to act in several dramas post The Story of Yan xi gong lue but mainly in supporting roles. She was also in her early 20s when this drama first came out so she still has a long career ahead of her.


There’s really not much written in history about her so instead, let’s discuss her fiance and upstanding guy 海兰察.


多拉尔·海兰察 was a member Manchu Bordered Yellow Banner, but more importantly also a member of the Evenks ethnic group, which is an ethnic group that is recognized both in modern day Russia and China. In history, they were referred to as the 索伦 people, which is why in the drama, every calls him Sir Suo Lun or Suo lun Da Ren. 海兰察 himself hailed from the Heilongjiang area in the northeast of China. 


He was a famed general, participating in over 60 battles in his life. In 1755, participated in the Dzungar-Qing war as a member of the Evenks cavalry. He performed extremely well during that war, capturing 巴雅尔, one of the Dzungar commanders. He was rewarded for his service and granted the privilege to become an Imperial Guard in the Forbidden city. He was also granted the title of 巴图鲁, a title bestowed to those who fought bravely on the battlefield


There was a time when Emperor Qian Long went hunting and found himself cornered by tigers or wolves. I’m reading accounts with different animals. But, they all wrote that Hai Lan Cha saved the Emperor during the hunt, furthering his favor with the Emperor. 


In 1767, he participated in the campaigns in Burma as part of the vanguard. Fu Heng was also a commander during this campaign but he fell ill. It was Hai Lan Cha who led the troops to several crucial victories.



In 1771, he participated in the second of the Jin Chuan campaigns and became the deputy commander of the Mongolian Bordered White Banner troops. In the subsequent five years, the Qing troops seized forts and key passes, finally ending the war in 1776. Hai Lan Cha was promoted to commander of the mongolian standard red banner troops. He was granted the title of Marquis of the First Rank.


In 1781 and 1784, 海兰察 led troops to suppress revolts in gansu province. In 1787, under the leadership of Fu Kang An, he also played a critical role in the suppression of the Taiwan rebellion. In 1791, he once again joined Fu Kang An in what is now modern day Nepal to fight against the Gurkhas in the Sino-Nepalese War. He was victorious in several battles and granted the title of Duke of the 1st rank.


He died in 1793. Unfortunately we don’t when he was born but if I had to guess, it probably was some time between 1735 and 1740 because if he participated in the Dzungar campaign in 1755, anything younger than that probably would have been too young. If we put his birth year around 1735, that means that he died at a respectable age of 62.


Now in history, that would mean that Fu Heng was at least 10+ years older than 海兰察. Since Hai Lan Cha didn’t come from an aristocratic family, he didn’t have much connection with Fu Heng. Although Hai Lan Cha served under and with Fu Heng and his son Fu Kang An in many campaigns. 



In history, he was not the upstanding gentleman that we see in the drama. By all accounts, he was a rather rough and brash man, who preferred the battlefield. He did have some interesting tastes though. Apparently, he was a okay with eating bugs on campaigns including crickets, scorpians, and spiders. This apparently freaked a couple of his fellow soldiers out. 


He was highly favored by Emperor Qian Long. Later in life 海兰察 suffered from old wounds and the Emperor specifically granted a carriage for him to attend to court. This was a privilege that was not lightly granted, especially for members of the military. 


Now onto his personal life. His wife wasn’t recorded in history. In an article, I read that he did prefer fuller women and did ask Consort Ling to gift a fuller woman to him. However, I wasn’t able to find other sources to corroborate the ask of Consort Ling, but it does seem true that he preferred plumper women. He did have 2 sons and at least 2 daughters because we do have records of his son-in-laws. His eldest son inherited his father’s title when hai lan cha died in 1793 but he himself died in 1799 after a skirmish.



Next up in history is a brief discussion on 韩希孟. 


She was a Ming Dynasty seamstress who was the originator of the dragonfly pattern that was of much interest in episode 61.


韩希孟 lived during the reigns of emperors Wan li and Chong Zhen, so late 16th and early 17th centuries. She was the wife of 顾寿潜 and lived in what is now modern day shanghai. She was skilled in painting flowers and embroidery, especially the embroidery of famous paintings. 


She is most celebrated for her embroideries of Song and Yuan dynasty paintings. Because she was the wife of 顾寿潜 and lived in a beautiful garden, her embroideries were called 顾绣.


Her husband, Gu Shouqian, once studied under Dong Qichang 董其昌, a famous calligrapher and painter in the Ming Dynasty. They supported each other to further develop techniques for needlework and adding rich colors and textures of feathers, hemp, and velvet with silk threads.


In 1634, 韩希孟 collected several Song and Yuan Dynasty paintings and traced 8 of them. For those 8, she then used different sewing techniques to sew the paintings as embroidery. For each of the embroideries, the Ming Dynasty painter 董其昌 wrote a corresponding poem. These, including the dragonfly embroidery, are currently housed in the palace museum in beijing. You can search for photos of the original – it’s quite lovely and so impressive that these are embroidery. If you don’t look closely, I thought they were legitimately just paintings. 



Lunar and Solar Eclipses


There was a short mention of a Lunar eclipse towards the end of episode 60. So I’d thought lets dig into the history of Lunar and solar eclipses. The Chinese have recorded eclipses dating back more than 3000 years. Even in the book of song or 诗经, which was comprised of works dating back to the 11 – 7th centuries BCE, there’s a song about eclipses.


In Imperial china, the Emperor represented the heavens. If the sun or moon became dark, then it represented a bad omen. The occurrence of a solar eclipse meant that the emperor behaved immorally, while the occurrence of a lunar eclipse meant that there was a loss of order. The Emperor must take steps to repent and change his ways or else he would be punished by the heavens. 


By the late Ming Dynasty and the early qing dynasty, with the introduction of several Western sciences, the Chinese were able to more easily predict the occurrence of eclipses. So much so that in 1675, there were clear guidelines set by court on what needed to be done to prepare for the eclipse. Solar eclipses were more important than lunar eclipses. They needed to perform 救护 rituals or saving rituals. That meant that everyone at court needed to wear muted colors, perform rituals, and avoid certain palaces. These customs continued all the way to the end of the Qing Dynasty.

The Story of Yanxi Palace – Ep 59+60pt1


Welcome back to Chasing Dramas! This is the podcast that discusses Chinese culture and history through historical Chinese dramas. We are your host for today Cathy and Karen!


Today we are discussing episode 59 + pt 1 of ep 60 of the Story of Yanxi Palace or 延禧攻略. This podcast is in English with proper nouns and certain phrases spoken in Mandarin Chinese. 


If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to reach out to us on instagram or twitter or else email us at




In the last episode, YIng Luo is warned of a new adversary in the palace by Fu Heng who has returned from war. This new woman, Chen Bi, has completely captured all of the Emperor’s attention and favor. Ying Luo returns to the palace immediately in order to see how she can preserve her standing in the palace because if she didn’t return, she may be forgotten by the Emperor. After returning to the palace, Ying Luo agrees to work with the Empress in bringing down Chen Bi.


The beginning of episode 59 is a lot of plot exposition with discussion of politics. Fu Heng is chatting with the Emperor who agrees to give Zhang Ting Yu a spot in the ancestral temple given he has recently passed. The Emperor also tells Fu Heng to bring his son Fu Kang An into the palace to study with the princes, a great honor. But most importantly, the Emperor asks about Fu Heng’s visit to the Empress Dowager. Fu Heng doesn’t shy away from the fact that he actually saw Ying Luo instead and told her about the new Concubine Shun in the palace and it was this information that drove her to return to the Forbidden Palace.



And finally, after 3 years, the Emperor sees Ying Luo in Yanxi Palace and after some back and forth discussion, the Emperor actually agrees to stay over in Yanxi Palace! But in separate rooms. Ying Luo tries her hardest to get his attention but he for once has the upper hand if you will. The next morning, the Emperor ditches her and heads to 丽景轩 to have breakfast with Concubine Shun which actually causes Ying Luo to be rather jealous. 


Since Ying Luo has returned to the palace, she pays a visit to the Emrpess for the normal morning court greeting. There, we also see 舒妃 who has been promoted to consort and also 嘉妃 who was also promoted. I totally forgot she was around and thought she had just disappeared in the palace. Anyways, the two consorts plus the Empress basically created, as Ying Luo called it, a bad women’s club as they just all conspired to bring Concubine Shun down. 



After all of that talk about this mysterious and beautiful 顺嫔, we at last meet her. 沉璧 played by 张嘉倪 is currently learning how to walk in the pot bottom flowered shows with Ying Luo overseeing her training. This beautiful young woman is not at all perturbed by Ying Luo’s cold mannerisms. Instead, she finds Ying Luo rather endearing because after all, a woman who is cold in front of you is much better than a woman who is feigning kindness. We are presented with a scene where 顺嫔 feeds a black kitty some food which is done to reflect her kind hearted nature. As of now, we see 沉璧 as a gentle, kind and beautiful young woman who is perhaps unfairly the object of the palace’s ire. Ying Luo also has a bleeding heart for this woman because she recognizes that 沉璧 may not be as harmful as other women make her out to be. 


A perfect opportunity presents itself to attack 顺嫔 and that is the memorial of the Empress Dowager’s daughter, Princess 和安. It will be a grand affair in the palace and all of the women in the palace are working tirelessly to put together an event that will be respectful for the Empress Dowager. Ying Luo recognizes that this is the Empress’s opportunity to strike and so right before the activities begin on this day, Ying Luo drags 顺嫔 to the side but we don’t know exactly what happens. 



The ladies of the palace are kneeling behind the Empress Dowager who is very sincerely praying for her daughter while a shaman is conducting her prayers as well. The Empress and other ladies present their buddhist sutras as tribute for the deceased Princess. When 顺嫔 finally arrived, she placed her text on the table but suddenly the pot with tributary buddhist flowers burst into flame. This shocks the Empress Dowager who becomes distraught that something this terrible would happen for her princess He An.


The shaman immediately jumps forward and claims that it was 顺嫔 who caused this havoc and that she is an inauspicious woman, a bad omen. The Empress Dowager at first wanted to seize 顺嫔 but she cries out that she is innocent. The Empress Dowager takes a closer look at 顺嫔 and immediately takes her to her rooms for further questioning, shocking all the other women in the palace who do not understand why 顺嫔 would be let off so easily. The Empress Dowager questions 顺嫔 on when her birthday is and then summons 璎珞。 Apparently, when the Empress Dowager’s daughter He An is sick and dying, the Empress Dowager prayed to temples everywhere hoping to save her. A respected monk said that if in this life they don’t meet, the Empress Dowager might still meet her daughter in another life as long as the Empress Dowager places a mark on her daughter. And so she left 2 needle pricks under He Ans lip. And guess what, Shun Pin has the exact same pricks under her lip as well. And their birthdays? Are the exact same. The Empress Dowager is adamant that Shun Pin is her daughter reincarnated and is why she is willing to let her go.  



The Emperor arrives shortly after and takes Shun Pin with him. He is not fooled by what happened and Shun Pin readily reveals that it was 璎珞 who saved her. 璎珞 pricked her skin to leave those marks and told her these things to say to the Empress Dowager in order to save her life. The Emperor isn’t mad at either of these ladies for the turn of events. Instead, he also helps give some more information to 顺嫔 to better round out her lie in front of the Empress Dowager in the future. 顺嫔 is pleased to hear this but she acutely points out that the Emperor is helping her primarily because he wants to help Ying luo. 顺嫔 can tell that in his heart, the Emperor has extremely strong feelings for ying Luo and not necessarily for her but 顺嫔 is willing to help the Emperor and Ying luo due to their kindness towards her. On first watch – I was like, wow, what a nice woman. Now though – not to spoil too much. But man, every single woman who is able to survive in the Imperial Harem? No joke. Keep her actions in this episode in mind because they will contribute to a lot of future pain.


Meanwhile, Ying Luo has to contend with the ire of the Empress. She is not happy at all that 顺嫔 was not eliminated and upset at Ying Luo’s interference. Ying Luo though, is not fooled because once 顺嫔 is taken down, the Empress’s next target is her. She’s just preemptively protecting herself right now. The Empress warns Ying Luo that she will regret this decision. Ugh – and boy does she. But regardless, it seems like Ying Luo and 沉璧 or 顺嫔 are now on the same side. The Empress Dowager has been successfully tricked by the two of them and both are relatively safe in the palace. 



We’re finally introduced to 顺嫔 who is portrayed by the lovely 张嘉倪! The now 35 year old actress rose to fame in the 2007 drama 又见一帘幽梦 or A Dream’s Link as the lead actress 紫菱, starring alongside our Empress in this drama 秦岚. She’s known as another 琼女郎 because the drama A Dream’s link is a remake of one of 琼瑶’s books and dramas. 琼瑶 is the famed taiwanese writer and screenwriter who had megahits such as Pearl Princess back in the 1990s. 秦岚 herself is a 琼女郎 as she was tapped by 琼瑶 to act as 知画 in Pearl Princess 3. Unfortunately in this drama, the two actresses never had a scene together.


张嘉倪 didn’t achieve superstar status but she has decent name recognition due to her affiliation with 琼瑶. She also went through a rocky time last year with crazy rumors swirling around her husband. 


We’ll continue to discuss this character but I want you listeners to keep in mind that apparently a lot of her scenes were cut for the final version. The original drama was apparently 90 episodes and a lot of what was cut was from her scenes, which is why people say that it’s quite choppy. 


There’s not much history with these two episodes.


At the beginning of episode 59, the Emperor discuss the Zamburak guns that 傅恒 brought back from front lines. Zamburak means wasp in persian and were small swivel guns that were mounted on and fired from camels. The Dzungar Khanate heavily used these types of guns during Dzungar-Qing wars in the 17th and 18th centuries. These Zamburak guns were known to the Qing for decades so it’s not as though Emperor Qian Long hadn’t seen these before. In fact, by the time of Emperor Yong Zheng, he had the military manufacture Zamburak-like guns for the army.


Ok – quickly on to the next topic of Zhang Ting Yu.


We talked about him back in episode 47. 张廷玉 was a courtier who served Emperor Yong Zheng faithfully. 张廷玉 pissed off the Emperor Qian Long. It was only after he died in 1755 at the ripe old age of 84 did the Emperor finally agree to have his plaque installed in the ancestral temple.



In these two episodes, the deceased Princess 和安 is the catalyst for either the Empress Dowager’s wrath or love. Unfortunately, Princess 和安 is completely fictional with no historical basis. The Empress Dowager had only one son and no daughters.


There’s one major bug though in the drama with regards to this princess. It’s actually about the painting. In the painting, we see a woman with a 旗头 that is a rather pronounced black headdress. Unfortunately that style didn’t become popular until the end of the Qing Dynasty. If you look at photos of Empress Dowager Cixi, she wore the 旗头s that are similar to this painting. I thought that it was a very weird miss from the set designers to pick that particular painting because we never see any of the ladies in the Imperial Harem with that type of headdress.



However, continuing on this topic – let’s turn our attention to Manchu Shamanism or 萨满. Shamanism was the dominant religion of the Manchu people and of the jurchen people before the manchu. The religion is animistic and polytheistic and was once very popular among many nomadic peoples. Traditions and culture were passed down orally


The religious activities of Shamanism mainly include sacrificial activities related to nature worship, totem worship and ancestor worship. Manchu shamanism also worshiped crows, dogs, willows, and ancestors.


The shaman of the village or clan had several roles. This included healing diseases from members of the clan, calculating good and bad luck for various major events within the clan, and presiding over various sacrificial ceremonies. Oftentimes, the shaman was a woman. For various religious ceremonies, these shamans typically wore a feathered cap, an apron, a mask and held various instruments, such as waist bells, bronze mirrors,knives, and drums. All kinds of instruments were engraved with patterns of various gods, especially the colorful shaman masks. Since Manchu shaman masks are religious items, they are handed down and treasured.


In the Qing Dynasty, there were two places where shaman sacrifices were held in the palace, one was in the Kunning Palace, and the other was in the Tangzi in the southeast corner of the imperial city. In the palace, there were 2 lead female shamans and additional 10 women shamans to perform the rituals. At Kunning Palace sacrificial offerings include grand sacrificial offerings, four-season offerings, monthly offerings, and daily offerings. There’s even morning sacrifices and evening sacrifices in the daily sacrifices. 

In 1741, Emperor Qian Long commissioned a standardization of Manchu folk religious rites due to his belief that Manchu traditions were slowly eroding amongst the Manchu bannermen. The “Manchu Sacrificial Ritual to the Gods and Heaven” was published in Manchu in 1747 and in Chinese 钦定满洲祭神祭天典礼 in 1780.

 The Story of Yanxi Palace – Ep 58


Welcome back to Chasing Dramas! This is the podcast that discusses Chinese culture and history through historical Chinese dramas. We are your host for today Cathy and Karen!


Today we are discussing episode 58 of the Story of Yanxi Palace or 延禧攻略. This podcast is in English with proper nouns and certain phrases spoken in Mandarin Chinese. 


If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to reach out to us on instagram or twitter or else email us at Today’s episode is going to be light on the plot recap and very heavy on the history so buckle up! 



In the last few episodes, the Empress Dowager was embroiled in a whole saga where it was revealed that she was not the Emperor’s birth mother. His mother was actually a madame Qian who was killed most likely by the late Emperor Yong Zheng. It was a whole thing but right now, the Empress Dowager has jetted off to Yuan Ming Yuan to provide some distance between her and the Emperor especially since she feigned sickness in order for her to tug at the Emperor’s heartstrings. Because Ying Luo tried her hardest to help the Emrpess Dowager, she brings Ying Luo along to help her get back into the Emperor’s good graces. 


So now we have it that the Empress Dowager and Ying Luo are in Yuan Ming Yuan while the Emperor and Empress remain in the Forbidden Palace. The Empress Nala is relishing in this turn of events because now, the palace is her empire. There is no one in the palace left to oppose her. But that doesn’t mean Ying Luo and the Empress Dowager aren’t also enjoying their time in Yuan Ming Yuan. In monthly letters to the Emperor, Ying Luo writes of all the fun activities she does with the Empress Dowager which we will discuss more about later on in the podcast episode. They celebrate the mid-autumn festival, enjoy chrysanthemums for the double-ninth festival and plenty others. These monthly letters are eagerly awaited by the Emperor who seems to have started to forgive Ying Luo for her past betrayal. 


I personally love all the small interactions between the Emperor and 李玉. 李玉 knows the emperor SO well, especially the tease with the letters, haha.



We are now according to the drama in the 20th year of Emperor Qian Long’s reign which makes it 1756. It’s been three full years since Ying Luo moved to Yuan Ming Yuan. Quite a bit has changed in the Palace. Well primarily that the Empress Nala gave birth to 2 young sons, the 12th and 13th princes.


袁春望, is now the lead eunuch in the palace, relishing in all of his power. One of his subordinates thought that 袁春望 desired a pretty maid and had her brought to 袁春望’s quarters. He basically physically abuses the poor girl and throws her out but not before somehow still being an absolute creep when it comes to 璎珞. He’s still talking all about love and betrayal against 魏璎珞. Buddy – you betrayed her and basically had her thrown out of the Imperial Harem. What are you still thinking about?


Back to the Emperor. It does seem that the Emperor is anxious to hear that Ying Luo is healthy given that on the 36th monthly letter, she sent only the word 安 or Doing Well which caused some worry for the Emperor. But before he could spend too much time thinking about her health, he receives news that his military campaign against the 霍兰 tribe was victorious and their troops are on their way home.



What that means is that 傅恒 whom we haven’t seen in many episodes is finally back in the palace and with him, the news of the victorious conquest means a new threat for Ying Luo in the palace. 傅恒 visits Ying Luo in Yuan Ming Yuan but instead of interrogating her about killing his wife, he urges her to return to the palace. Though I do find it absolutely hilarious that he totally just glosses over the fact that his wife is dead. He is probably over the moon happy about that. 


Side note – I thoroughly enjoy Ming Yu and Hai Lan Cha’s side conversation. He’s all pouty when Ming Yu tries to overhear Fu Heng and Wei Ying Luo’s conversation. Hai Lan Cha is such a good guy


Anyways, 傅恒 brings news that over the last 3 months, a new woman in the palace who is essentially perfect has appeared. This woman is so wonderful that she has taken all of the Emperor’s attention. She is a serious threat to Ying Luo’s position in the Emperor’s heart and could mean that all of her plans the last few years will go to waste if she doesn’t return to the palace immediately. The woman in question? 沉璧。



With Fu Heng’s words of warning, Ying Luo aka Consort Ling immediately returns to 延禧palace.  How problematic is this woman? So problematic that the moment Ying Luo returns, the Empress Nala summons her. The two left on rather poor turns but right now Empress Nala actually requests the two work together in order to combat this new formidable foe. At first Ying Luo refused but then went to take a single look at the new 沉璧 aka Concubine Shun or 顺嫔 and she immediately turned around and agreed to work with the Empress Nala. Seems like she recognized how beautiful and pure 顺嫔 looked which is indeed a threat to her position in the palace. That and also she’s a little jealous that 顺嫔 now has the full attention of the Emperor. We’re going to end the episode recap there as we have tons of history to talk about but in episode 59 we will finally get the chance to meet this mysterious 沉璧.


There’s a lot of history that is introduced in this episode and also historical events that are just thrown at us this episode so let’s spend some time to discuss them.


First and foremost – 令妃 was never banished to the 圆明园 so her 3 year long stint there with the Empress Dowager is just here for dramatic purposes. 


In one of the letters that 魏璎珞 sends to the Emperor, she mentions a book 酌中志 and specifically the volume 饮食好尚纪略. I’ll use the youtube translation – Discretionary Comrades, Diet is Good, History is Slightly. 


This was written by the eunuch 刘若愚 who was born during the Ming Dynasty in 1584. He came from a powerful military family and hence was educated. He self-castrated at the age of 16 after a weird dream and then was sent to the palace in 1601. As an educated eunuch, he had the privilege of serving at the Emperor’s study. During his time at the Palace, he saw the political rise and fall of the notorious eunuch 魏忠贤. Unfortunately for 刘若愚, because he was a eunuch and served the emperor at the same time as 魏忠贤, court officials deemed him an accomplice and sentenced him to death. While in jail, 刘若愚, unsatisfied with these false accusations, wrote 酌中志 to clear his name. In this book, he documented all that he had seen and experienced of Ming Court Life. This book, or the beginning of this book, did indeed clear his name


This book was first written in 1629 and completed in 1641. It is comprised of 24 short chapters and details palace life from the reigns of Emperor 万历 to Emperor 崇祯. This includes the daily lives of the emperor, women of the imperial harem, palace rules, palace staff, palace dining and clothes. 


The information written here will never be found in what was viewed as proper history but this is nevertheless an invaluable historical artifact. 


The volume that 魏璎珞 mentions – 饮食好尚纪略 – details how cuisine was prepared in the palace at that time. I do find it interesting on the line of how did the empress dowager get her hands on this. Despite the book being a Ming text, it was very valuable even during the Qing dynasty. Emperor Qian Long even had it revised and added to his collection. However, because this is a Ming text, revisions had to be made with regards to date names etc. 



While at 圆明园 – the two of them celebrate a ton of holidays including the Mid-Autumn Festival which is observed on the 15th day of the 8th month of the year, the day in which the moon is the fullest in the year. 


The mid-autumn festival is an important festival for the chinese as the fullest moon represents a time for family, a whole family, and to be thankful for the family. 


It has also been a long tradition to eat crab for this holiday. In China, the favored crab is the 大闸蟹 or the Chinese mitten crab or the Shanghai Hairy Crab. This species of crab is native to China and viewed as a delicacy. 


September-November, which is right around the time of the Mid-Autumn festival each year, is typically the best time to get the largest and fattest crabs. 


By the Ming dynasty, the aristocracy also enjoyed crab for the festival. Typically, the crab would be steamed and then enjoyed with some wine vinegar.


In Chinese “蟹”与“谢” crab and thank you sound the same. For a holiday that represents togetherness, crab is also the perfect dish to represent that thankfulness of those around us. 


It’s difficult to gift a thanks, but a crab that sounds like thanks? That’s a very meaningful gift. To this day in China, it is still a custom to make and gift crab during the mid-autumn festival. 



In the drama we quickly move to 九月重阳节. This is Double Ninth Festival which is observed on the ninth day of the ninth month in the Chinese calendar. This holiday has been observed since time immemorial, popularized during the Han Dynasty, and reached its pinnacle after the Tang Dynasty. 


The reason for this holiday is due to the auspicious nature of the numbers. Nine is the largest single number, so a double nine day on the calendar is a very auspicious date. According to I Ching, nine is a yang number. With two 9s, that makes it Double Nine or Double Yang – hence why it’s called 重阳. 重 also means double. For local customs, with the double 9s, these also represent longevity, so this holiday also is a time to respect elders and wish them a long and healthy life.


For the holiday, there are a ton of customs that also differ with each province. However, typically it is customary to climb a high mountain, enjoy the autumn views, pray to the elders, fly kites, eat the chongyang cake, enjoy the chrysanthemum flowers, drink chrysanthemum liquor, and wear the zhuyu (茱萸) plant Cornus officinalis. These flowers are thought to have cleansing properties, which is why these flowers specifically.


In the drama – we see the yellow chrysanthemum flowers featured quite prominently. 



Which then brings us to this peculiar dish that 明玉 is preparing –  糟瓜茄 or the youtube translation is Wasted Eggplant. This was a dish that was first recorded during the Song Dynasty and was then a Ming Dynasty Palace dish. 


The instructions include – for each 5 catties of eggplant, add 5 两 of salt. So that’s around 2.5 kilos of eggplant and 250 grams of salt. Then mix with distiller’s grain or 糟. Afterwards, add the copper money on top. After 10 days, retrieve the money, discard. Then change the distiller’s grain or 糟 into another bottle. Afterwards, retrieve, the color should be green as new.


Now – it might seem kind of unsanitary with the whole put copper coins in the eggplant and I have no idea how this dish tastes but I think it might be more of a fermenting process that keeps the eggplant edible? 



Ok! That was a ton on Chinese holidays and food. Let’s now turn our attention towards the Emperor’s family affairs, namely his children because a ton were briefly mentioned.


There’s been a lot of time jumping in this drama but we now definitively know that it’s 1756 or the 20th year of Emperor 乾隆’s reign, which makes him 45 right now. 


Between 1750 – 1756, he had several children and I’ll list them out here.


The 10th prince 永玥 was born to 舒嫔 in 1751 but he died very young in 1753

The 11th prince was born to 嘉嫔 and subsequently 嘉妃

Yongxing, Prince Chengzhe of the First Rank (成哲親王 永瑆; 22 March 1752 – 10 May 1823), 11th son

The 12th prince Yongji, Prince of the Third Rank (貝勒 永璂; 7 June 1752 – 17 March 1776), 12th son was born to Empress Nala at the age of 34. She had a slew of kids all in short order

The 5th daughter (23 July 1753 – 1 June 1755)

Yongjing (永璟; 22 January 1756 – 7 September 1757), 13th son


Noble Consort Xin (忻貴妃) of the Daigiya clan (戴佳氏) (26 June 1737 – 28 May 1764)

6th daughter (24 August 1755 – 27 September 1758)


I’m going to turn my attention briefly to some historical matters because we get snippets of the events of 霍顿 and 傅恒 return. 


In episode 48 / 49, we discussed at length about the revolt of the Altishahr Khojas or 大小和卓之亂. This occurred in 1757. As a reminder two Altishahr nobles, the Khoja brothers Burhān al-Dīn and Khwāja-i Jahān or Hojijan, led a revolt against the Qing dynasty in the southern part of modern day Xinjiang. The events of 霍顿 which is this revolt are finally tying to the events in the imperial harem. So we’re right around 1756 – 1757. I feel like timeline wise, we’ve been in this vague 1750s timeline forever. 


Fuheng was also not really involved in the front lines of this particular campaign. One more thing. Fuheng’s dad dies all the way back in 1723 so this whole line of 傅恒 missing his dad’s funeral isn’t remotely correct. 




The name for 沉璧 as we see in the drama comes from Song Dynasty 范仲淹’s 岳阳楼记 or a prose which we have actually talked in this podcast during our discussion of the STory of Ming Lan. 1046年10月17日



The lines that are recited in the drama are as such:




Here is my translation:

There are times when the fog disappears and the bright moonlight can be seen for a thousand miles. The shimmerlight flashed with golden hues. The calming reflection of the moon looked like a jade that sunk in the water. The fisherman’s song that can be heard answering each other, this happiness cannot be limited. 


Her name is to praise her for her similarity to the jade in the water, pure and unblemished.

 The Story of Yanxi Palace – Ep 56p 2 + 57


Welcome back to Chasing Dramas! This is the podcast that discusses Chinese culture and history through historical Chinese dramas. We are your host for today Cathy and Karen!


Today we are discussing episode 56 pt2 + 57 of the Story of Yanxi Palace or 延禧攻略. This podcast is in English with proper nouns and certain phrases spoken in Mandarin Chinese. 


If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to reach out to us on instagram or twitter or else email us at


This podcast episode consists of a drama episode recap and we’ll move on to discuss the history portrayed in this episode. There’s a LOT to digest in this episode so what we’ll do is primarily focus on plot recap and discussion. Then we’ll save further historical discussion for the next episode. 




The big secret.


In the last few episodes, Ying Luo and the Emperor had a massive falling out after the Emperor deduced that the whole reason Ying Luo came back to the palace and became his concubine, did all those things to win his favor, was to enact revenge for the late Empress FuCha. This turned the Emperor’s heart cold and basically left YIng Luo in the Cold Palace. Ying Luo doesn’t fight back because in the end, the two main culprits that led to the Empress’s death – 纯贵妃 and 尔晴 both met their demise. But, despite Ying Luo not caring about her current standing in the palace, she decides she must retain some sort of power in order to protect her staff, particularly Ming Yu from being bullied. So, she turns to the Empress Dowager.


At this point, the Empress Nala is the most powerful woman in the palace. 袁春望 has also betrayed Ying Luo and is now the Head of 内务府 or the Imperial Household Department, reporting directly to Empress Nala. In Episode 56, 袁春望 brutally interrogates the old head of the department 吴书来 for information. I gotta say, I feel pretty bad for 吴书来 because he worked many years to climb his way up the latter only to be halfway cut off from his path. We also don’t know what happens to this guy after this brutal interrogation. I think the worst happens. In any case, 吴书来 did scream out that he had a life saving secret which 袁春望 then investigates.



Seems like the details of this secret have\ been confirmed and pieces of the puzzle are now set in motion. This secret has to do with the Empress Dowager whom the Empress Nala now is greatly displeased with and wants to remove from power. But the crafty Empress is not going to let this come back to her at all. INstead, she leverages the Prince of He, 和亲王, the Emperor’s brother. One day, he comes into the palace to pay his respects to his late mother, 裕太妃。 In her belongings, he happens to find a letter that he recognizes was his mother’s protection against the Empress Dowager.


The Prince immediately presents the letter to his brother, the Emperor. The note says that the 4th prince aka the Emperor’s mother, is a woman from the 钱 family. 钮祜禄氏 aka the Empress Dowager, killed the mother in order to take the son for her own. This note was apparently written by the Emperor’s nanny 温淑夫人 which speaks to its validity.


The Emperor hastily storms over to the Empress Dowager’s residence and point blank questions whether or not he is her son or the son of Madame Qian. Under his questioning, the empress dowager actually admits that he is not her son but the son of Madame Qian, a han woman. The moment the Emperor was born, he was brought over to the current Empress Dowager to raise because of his birth mother’s lowly status. She doesn’t know that the note said mentioned her killing madame Qianbut after the Emperor confirmed that he was indeed not his mother’s child, he apologized and walked away without saying much further. The Empress Dowager at that point recognizes that the note must have contained additional information. After all, why after so many years after the death of the nanny, did this letter just pop up.



The Emperor then heads over to the Empress’s residence hoping to have someone to talk to about this, not knowing that she’s the one who planted the information. She skillfully points out the holes in the Empress Dowager’s story about how or why Madame Qian would ask the Empress Dowager to raise her son when there were plenty of women in the Emperor’s father’s harem that did not have children who were more powerful and favored than the Emrpess Dowager. This causes the Emperor to further believe that yes, it wasn’t Madame 钱 who requested the Empress Dowager raise him but the Empress Dowager killed Madame Qian in order to claim him as her own. 


It just so happened that earlier in episode 56, the Emperor was given a painting by a Mr. 钱 where he requested the Emperor write a few lines on the painting as a gift for Mr. 钱‘s aging mother. Turns out, this Mr. 钱 is Madame Qian’s brother. The Emperor is running around everyone clutching the painting thinking there’s some hidden or deeper meaning in the painting and summons this Mr. Qian to see him. The Emperor wants to question him as to the truth about his birth. But, just as he’s hoping to see this Mr. Qian, news travels to the Emperor that he fell off a horse and died. 


This infuriates the Emperor and makes it seem like the Empress Dowager killed him to hide the truth. It was all way too convenient. Meanwhile, the Empress Dowager in all the stress of what’s going on, has passed out and fallen ill. 



With all the chaos that’s happening, the person who is most pleased with the developments is the Empress. While the Empress Dowager is bedridden, the Empress takes this opportunity to gloat in front of her. The Empress tells the Empress Dowager that her nephew will be killed for being involved in a corruption case and then threatens her with not needing to help the EMperor ever again in the future. The Empress wants the Emperor to hate the Empress Dowager forever for this betrayal. Oh and the death of Mr. Qian? One of the Empress’s works. The Empress Dowager is so upset and infuriated by the Empress’s words that she falls out of bed and cannot even speak due to her anger. Ying Luo rushes to help the Empress Dowager while the Empress smirks and walks out. 


Things don’t look good for the Empress Dowager who apparently is suffering from a stroke. Ying Luo requests for her friend 叶天士 to come diagnose the Empress Dowager just in case there was something amiss with the main doctor. Which was a good call because this doctor was controlled by the Empress. 叶天士 gives the Empress Dowager another prescription that would be a better treatment. Meanwhile, in a surprising twist, Ying Luo, who has taken over caring for the Empress Dowager, receives a visit from 庆贵人. She shocks everyone as she brings medicine and prescriptions that could help the Empress Dowager. Having entered the palace all the way back in episode 1, she has always been meek and shy, always under the shadow of 舒嫔. But, as 庆贵人 states herself, she recognizes the limits of her capability but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t know right from wrong. She’s hoping that her contributions this time will be remembered in the future. 



Wooo – a surprise ally for 璎珞! And Ying Luo takes this kindness in stride and offers to help 庆贵人 become more powerful in the palace. 


There is a brief scene that definitely caused me some worry the first time I saw it in this distressing time. A maid gives the Empress Dowager’s head maid medical prescriptions for the Empress Dowager only for the head maid to rip it up. Oh no! What could that mean!


We next turn to the Emperor who absolutely cannot sit still with so many questions and he storms into 寿康宫 again. There, he is greeted by a trembling 庆贵人 who takes this opportunity to tell him of a story. A young farmer’s wife was left to care for her aging in laws after her husband fled due to famine. The wife wanted make a living off of embroidery but the earnings were too meager and the neighbors couldn’t help either so she turned to selling her smile. Using the profits, she was able to care for her in-laws and even bought another young woman. When her husband finally came home, she told him that she is returning his parents unscathed and the other young woman is the new wife she bought for him. With that she kills herself. 



The Emperor is confused as to what this story means for him at this moment to which 庆贵人 continued, after the death of this young woman, the local magistrate pronounced her as unchaste and not allowed to be buried with her husband. Her in-laws were furious at this outcome because it was she who aided them while her husband, their son left them. What’s more important? Chastity or Righteousness or Doing the right thing, which one is correct?


She then goes on to recount what happened with the Empress Dowager. During an excursion with the late Emperor 雍正, he and Madame 钱 were targeted by bandits in the mountains. Their group was surrounded and so Madame 钱 switched into Emperor Yong Zheng’s clothing and took off, hoping to buy the Emperor time and safety. After this act, it was rumored that Madame Qian was captured by the bandits and was subject to their humiliation. OTher rumors stated that she threw herself off a cliff in order to protect her chastity. But whatever the truth, neither story would look good for the current Emperor even though Madame 钱 did indeed do the right thing. But too many people would cling on to the fact that she is unchaste and ignore her heroic deeds. That is why the Empress Dowager was so adamant in keeping the Emperor’s true birth a secret. 


庆贵人 then follows up saying that the Empress Dowager had requested an old guard come to the capital. He can answer any questions the Emperor may have about what happened.



And so, the next day, the Emperor indeed questions the old man who confirms that Madame Qian was with the Emperor on this excursion. But the bombshell pieces of information include that Madame Qian was alive and returned to the palace and then was ultimately sentenced to die for her humiliation towards the then Emperor Yong Zheng.


The Emperor 乾隆 is furious at these words because it once again shows him the Empress Dowager lied to him. He storms over to 寿康宫 one more time, and this time walking so fast he doesn’t even have the patience to be carried by his servants. Problem is, the Empress Dowager has already left the palace with 璎珞.


The Emperor races after them only to find 庆贵人 waiting for him once again out in the woods. She finishes her story by telling the Emperor that the late Emperor knew just how important it was to ascend the throne as rightfully as possible. When the then Empress Dowager brought the poison to Madame Qian, Madame Qian bowed to her three times and accepted her fate without a word. With this, the Empress Dowager decided to use her life to protect the then 4th prince, aka the Emperor.



After this revelation, the Emperor jumps back on his horse and chases after the Empress Dowager. At her carriage, he begs for forgiveness only to be dismissed by 刘姑姑 without a single word. All the Emperor can do is watch his adoptive mother, the Empress Dowager, head off without forgiving him. In the beginning of episode 58, Ying Luo, in the carriage with the Empress Dowager and Liu Gu Gu has a curious look on her face. She’s a little surprised at when the Empress Dowager recovered enough to take this trip. The Empress Dowager lets out a sly smile and says the right question to ask is when did the Empress Dowager become ill.


Turns out, the Empress Dowager was never sick to begin with. It was Liu Gu Gu who used her own medical expertise to make it seem like the Empress Dowager was sick. This way, the Empress felt comfortable enough to expose her true motives to the supposedly dying Empress Dowager. Additionally, the Emperor will now feel awful for having questioned the Empress Dowager’s motives thereby amplifying his guilt. And why bring Ying Luo? Of course it’s to help her regain favor with the Emperor. The emperor probably guessed it was Ying luo who instructed Qing guiren to tell him those stories but if Ying Luo remained in the palace, the Emperor would be irritated with her. By accompanying the Empress Dowager, the Emperor will have another reason to miss her and calm his anger towards her.



OK – there is a LOT to digest from the episode. At first, the Emperor is furious that his mother lied to him about being his birth mother. And then even more angry at her because it seems like she killed his birth mother in order to gain power. But after the stories 庆贵人 tells him it’s revealed that it probably wasn’t the Empress Dowager who killed Madame Qian on her own volition but because she had to die in order to protect Emperor Qian Long and Emperor Yong Zheng’s reputation. By the end of the episode, the Emperor realized that he had wrongfully accused his adoptive mother, thinking that she was the one to kill his birth mother when in reality, the late Emperor Yong Zheng gave the order. The Empress Dowager was just doing her best to raise him as a son. 




In these couple of episodes, we had a brilliant battle of the Empresses! There’s Empress Nala on one side and Empress Dowager Niu Hu Lu on another. Empress Nala got cocky! She believed that she had subdued all of her threats in harem and turned her attention towards the Empress Dowager. What do I mean – Chun Gui Fei died and Wei Ying Luo is out of favor. Empress Nala now wants to seek revenge on the Empress Dowager for her position against her father, which ultimately led to his death. 


I 100% believe it was the Empress who planted the letter for 和亲王 to find and she of course was the one to kill 钱正源. She was very confident in believing that she had all the cards and knew how to manipulate the Emperor into despising the Empress Dowager to such a point that the two will be permanently estranged. Little did she know, gloating in front of enemies is never good because she let her guard down when she saw the Empress Dowager ill in bed and let the events slip from her control. 


What do I mean? She didn’t know about Qing Gui Ren’s allegiance. She also dismissed Wei Ying Luo as a non entity. She also believed the Empress Dowager was on her deathbed but little did she know that all of these women played a part in telling the story that the Empress Dowager wanted the Emperor to hear. 


The old guard that came back to tell the “truth”? The Empress Dowager probably paid him off to tell that story which caused the Emperor to chase after the Empress Dowager. There’s no way Qing Gui Ren would have let slip such an important witness without the Empress Dowager’s approval. Once the Emperor raced to catch the Empress Dowager, who was there again to complete the story? Qing Gui Ren. This was all secretly approved by the Empress Dowager. The Emperor heard a story that he fully believes.


In the end, the most cunning person in the palace truly is the Empress Dowager. Plenty of ppl still call her 嬛嬛 ala 甄嬛传 for being the big boss in the palace. And that extremely sly smile to Ying Luo’s question of just how Madam Qian died reveals all you need to know about this woman in the palace. She has everything under her control.


This story of Lady Qian will come back at the end but let’s leave it for now.



There’s a ton of history in these 2 episodes with a lot of rumors flying around and murky history, so without further ado, let’s begin!


The first topic is going to be on the man 钱正源. He is the court official who sent a painting to Emperor 乾隆 as a request to write a couple of words for his elderly mother. We then find out he’s the brother of Emperor Qian Long’s mother and that he suddenly dies on his way to Beijing. Who killed him? It is heavily implied that it’s the Empress. 


We’ll focus on the story of 钱正源 first. He is based off another historical figure called 钱陈群. He was born in 1686 in the city of Jiaxing. His father died when he was young so it was left to his mother to raise two young boys to adulthood. 


He passed his imperial entrance exams in 1721 and served the courts of three Emperors, 康熙, 雍正, and 乾隆, serving posts as 顺天学政, basically the overseer to the Imperial entrance for Beijing and in the Ministry of Justice. 


In 1736, 钱陈群 requested to be relieved of his post due to the death of his mother but he still held the post of 顺天学政. He returned to court and was appointed to the ministry of justice in 1742.


He requested retirement in 1752 due to his poor health, which was granted. 


He was a very gifted poet and quickly became favored by Emperor 乾隆 and acted as a close advisor. So close that for 4 of the 6 trips that Emperor 乾隆 had to go south, 钱陈群 was summoned along for the trip AND the Emperor stayed at the 钱 residence while in 嘉兴. 


钱陈群 died in 1774 at the ripe old age of 88, so not randomly in an attack as we saw in episode 57. 


Let’s turn our attention to his mother. His mother was called 陈书 and was a female painter. She was left widowed with 2 young boys and in-laws to care for, so she spent her days selling paintings and embroidery to get buy. Her hard work paid off as both of her sons passed their imperial entrance exams and became well respected officials. Towards the end of her life, she gifted one of her paintings 夜纺授经图 – or night embroidery to teach to Emperor 乾隆. He was very touched by the painting and wrote a poem on it and highlighted this as a reminder for the other ministers at court. There are a few of her paintings that can be seen today in the Jiaxing Museum. I think that’s pretty cool and definitely deserves some accolades for her accomplishments.


So listeners -> there’s no 钱正源, only 钱陈群


Next – let’s dive into the whole mystery that is 乾隆’s birth and who this mysterious Lady Qian is. For this drama, the screenwriter decided to tie Lady Qian to the 嘉兴 钱 clan but in reality there’s no relation between the two. 


However, out of all the Qing Dynasty Emperors, for some reason 乾隆 has had the MOST number of rumors surrounding his true mother. I’ll first start with rumors, then what’s written in history, and then some VERY interesting contrasting documents. 


Here’s 3 rumors that have floated around with no real historical basis but live on in folklore. 


  1. 乾隆是雍亲王府侍妾的儿子。- Qian Long is the son of a lowly maid.


In the 承德 district of Hebei province, there was a poor family with a young daughter who sold wine and food for a living. When the young girl was 13 / 14, she snuck herself into the caravan of carriages for the Imperial Selection. She was then subsequently sent to the then Prince of Yong’s residence as a lowly maid. Lucky or unlucky for her, the Prince of Yong fell ill and this young girl took care of him. After he got better, he slept with her and then that’s how she got pregnant with Qian Long. 


This rumor doesn’t hold much water because the selection process was extremely strict. There’s little chance that a random girl who wasn’t trained to be a maid was able to join the caravan


  1. 乾隆是热河行宫宫女的儿子。QIan Long was the son of a palace maid at the 热河 summer palace. 


In my mind, this one is really random. The Prince of Yong was out hunting with his father the EMperor 康熙 at Re He, an area to the northeast of beijing. They shot a sika deer and drank the deer blood. Apparently deer blood is um a strong aphrodisiac, so the Prince of Yong quickly bedded an ugly han maid who subsequently had 乾隆. This rumor also doesn’t make much sense because Emperor QIan Long was born on the 13th day of the 8th month but hunting occured around the 5th month so the timing doesn’t really work. 


Honestly – I don’t even know how these rumors take hold. 


  1. 乾隆是浙江海宁陈世倌guān的儿子。One more rumor – Qian Long is actually the son of 陈世倌. 


This 陈世倌 became a Jin Shi during Kang Xi’s reign, by the time of Emperor Qian Long, he already rose to the post of the Minister of Works. Rumor is, the two families had a child on the same day but the Prince of Yong had a daughter while the Chen family had a son. So the then Prince of Yong swapped the children. 


This is also a rumor because well, the Prince of Yong wasn’t really wanting for sons. He could always have more. There’s also little reason to swap children. This was also debunked by historians. However, this rumor, out of all the 3 above, this last one, qian long being the son of 陈世倌 is one that likes to be picked up by authors to write their own stories. For example – the Wu xia author Jin Yong went with this rumor and set the story that 乾隆 was the twin brother of the main character 陈家洛. 


Once again, these are all rumors but rumors on qian long’s mom. 


As we saw from 甄嬛传 or Empresses in the Palace – 熹妃 was Emperor Qian Long’s mother. 


According to historical records –  Lady 钮钴禄, 熹妃 started as a 格格 with the Prince of Yong. After he ascended the throne, she rose to 熹妃 or Consort Xi and then Noble Consort Xi and then finally Empress Dowager. Xi Fei was the one who gave birth to the future Emperor 乾隆. 


This is recorded in 清世宗宪皇帝实录, a historical document that was written and compiled during Emperor Qian Long’s reign of his father’s reign. 


In 清史稿·后妃传 Draft History of Qing – the history of the concubines, it basically states the same. Note the last name is 钮钴禄. This draft history was compiled shortly after the fall of the Qing Dynasty. 


These all seem pretty airtight right? On the surface, yes. This is also what is widely accepted as fact and the official records. 


But what’s interesting, is that the question right now isn’t whether 熹妃 was Emperor Qian Long’s mother. That, we can all agree on. Just toss away all you know from Empresses in the Palace and even what we saw in this drama because you know storytelling. 


The actual question right now is whether 熹妃 was from the 钮钴禄 clan OR from the 钱 clan.


Why? Because there’s interesting records before Emperor Qian Long’s time that tell a slightly different story. 


The first compilation is called 永宪录 Yǒng xiàn lù which was written by 萧奭 xiāo shì during the Qing Dynasty and chronicles history of the Kang Xi and early Yong Zheng reigns. This compilation though isn’t regarded as actual history. The one piece that catches our eye is that in here – he wrote that 钱氏 or Lady Qian became Xi Fei. Interesting – where does this Lady Qian come from? I also don’t know exactly when this 永宪录 Yǒng xiàn lù so this doesn’t quite help our case. However, let’s look at the next piece of evidence.


In another compilation 雍正朝汉文谕旨汇编 – which translates to the A Compilation of Chinese Edicts of Yongzheng’s Reign – it has on the 14th day of the second month of Emperor Yong Zheng’s first year, as per the Empress’s Dowager’s edict, promote 格格钱氏封为熹妃 or in english promote Lady Qian to Consort Xi. 


This compilation seems to have a bit more weight because this was just direct translations. However, since this is the Chinese translation, there are also the corresponding Manchu words. People have compared the two and the Chinese character is 钱 but the corresponding Manchu words mean 钮钴禄, so this adds more to the mystery and why there’s no consensus.


In the article I’m reading, the author says that possibly, Emperor Qian Long could have removed all records of this lady qian and swapped her to the more well known 钮钴禄 clan so that he had more standing in history books. It definitely sounds better to have a mother from a Manchu clan than from an unknown Han family. The problem is, subsequent historical records only have 钮钴禄 as Qian Long’s mother. We know basically nothing about this Lady Qian if she did exist. 


So this is very different from our current drama situation where Qian Long’s mother is Lady Qian and the current empress dowager from the 钮钴禄 clan. From a historical conundrum perspective, the question once again is whether the Empress Dowager is either Lady Qian or Lady 钮钴禄. 


This is a tough one – the official record is that Qian Long’s mother is from the 钮钴禄 clan. I’m inclined to go with the former that Qian Long’s mother was from the 钮钴禄 clan because it would be difficult for a Han woman with no relations to survive the Imperial harem. However, many online think that it was Lady Qian due to the earlier historical records. 


So what do you think? Do you believe the Empress Dowager is Lady Qian or Lady 钮钴禄


There’s more to this story, drama wise that we’ll discuss towards the end of the drama. 


 The Story of Yanxi Palace – Ep 55 + 56 part 1


Welcome back to Chasing Dramas! This is the podcast that discusses Chinese culture and history through historical Chinese dramas. We are your host for today Cathy and Karen!


Today we are discussing episode 55 + 56 pt 1 of the Story of Yanxi Palace or 延禧攻略. This podcast is in English with proper nouns and certain phrases spoken in Mandarin Chinese. 


If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to reach out to us on instagram or twitter or else email us at


This podcast episode consists of a drama episode recap and we’ll move on to discuss the history portrayed in this episode.




In the last episode, Ying Luo found out about the truth of the late Empress Fu Cha’s death in that it was all instigated by the despicable Er Qing. Without much second thought, she straight up just organizes 尔晴‘s death. No one is upset by it, at least not us viewers. Except the Emperor is quite displeased at Ying Luo’s rash actions. Reason being that 尔晴’s death reminded the Emperor of his shameful act in actually sleeping with 尔晴 and fathering a son with her. He hid this fact from the late Empress and he didn’t have much mental capacity to think about this further but now it’s eating him up inside. At least somewhat. He takes a break with a horseback ride out in the forest somewhere with a huge entourage to boot. In front of the imperial guard Hai Lan Cha, he recognizes that 容音 was not capable of being the Empress he needed by her side. Death might have been the best escape for her. 


To me this episode really reflects the difficult position the Emperor is in but with the power that he holds, we are reminded of his inherent selfishness. In this introspection, he holds his position as Emperor above all else. Despite his love for 容音 he is still disappointed that she couldn’t live up to the expectations that came with the role of Empress.


[Cathy] I really like how you said – inherent selfishness. I spent this entire episode getting annoyed at the Emperor because his whole excuse was – I am the Emperor, I am SUPPOSED to be heartless. I expect my wife, the Empress to be heartless as well. She was too emotional and unfit to be Empress. I’m like, buddy, you can’t have your cake and eat it too. This is exactly why you preferred Empress 富察 in the first place! But at least finally, we have a male character be introspective of the harm he has caused to his wife. We never got that in Empresses in the Palace. The Emperor in that drama was just – I am the center of the sun and screw all of these women, literally.


Ying Luo’s position continued to look precarious as the Emperor neglected to visit her for several days. But it takes a turn for the worse when her trusted friend, the imperial doctor 叶天士, is embroiled in a scandal. Recall a few episodes ago, 叶天士 had noted that various medicine was being wasted in the palace. 袁春望 had volunteered to help sell the leftover ingredients outside the palace and the funds could be used to help procure more medicine in the palace. But, the transactions turned into a black market as extremely valuable medicinal ingredients were being smuggled out of the palace as well. 叶天士 became the fall guy and he was apprehended for participating in this racket. 



What is worse though, is that through investigating 叶天士 and his prescriptions for Ying Luo, the Empress discovered an important secret. She requested the Emperor’s presence in hearing what this secret was. Turns out, Ying Luo has been taking a contraceptic tonic ever since she came to the palace. The Emperor storms out of the Empress’s palaces and makes his way over to Ying Luo’s 延禧宫.


In front of Ying Luo, he unleashes his anger at her. He point blank recounts her entire reason for being in the palace. She wanted to take revenge against 纯贵妃 to avenge the late Empress all the way back at the Summer Palace 圆明园. And to do so, she had to become his concubine. She worked her way up the latter and garnered his favor in order to have the power to match and take down 纯贵妃. 璎珞 does not deny any of this and even reiterates herself that now she has enacted her revenge, the Emperor has no value to her anymore. SHe does not need to fawn over him anymore.



The Emperor is furious at hearing this. And finding out she’s using a contraceptive tonic. Because to him, it means that she does not care about him at all. Every woman in the palace wants to have his child and she, the person that he has put so much favor and effort in, is the only person to not want his child. He was being used as a pawn for Ying Luo’s own goals and this is something he cannot take.


Ying Luo pushes back by raising the example of how he continued to use the late Empress Fu Cha even after her death to which he responds that he is the Emperor. The late Empress needed to be useful to him in her full capacity even in death. With that, he calmly but angrily tells Ying Luo, she won’t be needing the medicine anymore and walks out.


The cats out of the bag and at least these two are able to be very clear about each other’s motives. For me, I’m just glad Ying Luo was able to avenge the late Empress before this fall out. The person best able to profit off of this fallout? The Empress Nala. She comes to speak to the Emperor in his anguished state as a calming and loving figure. Just what he needs in this moment of rejection from Ying Luo. Sure enough, the Emperor eats it up and the Empress immediately garners favor. 


Ying Luo isn’t fooled with what her position is now in the palace. She recognized that her palace is most likely a cold palace now since she will no longer have the favor of the Emperor. Not only that though she will not fight for favor from the Emperor. She dismisses her servants but a few loyal ones remain which include 珍珠, 小全子, 明玉 and 袁春望。

But before we close out episode 55, Ying Luo drags 袁春望 to greet the Empress. There, the masks come off. 璎珞 respects the Empress for being the person behind the scenes that orchestrated everything without ever getting blood on her own hands. The news about 尔晴’s betrayal? Planted by the Empress. The discovery about Ying Luo’s birth control medicine? Revealed by the Empress. She is indeed a formidable foe. But the other revelation is that 袁春望 had betrayed Ying Luo. Ying Luo recognized this because 袁春望 was the only one to know about her medicine. He must have told the Empress in order to bring about Ying Luo’s downfall. 



In episode 56, 袁春望 doesn’t deny this. Instead, he claims that Ying Luo deserves this because she betrayed him first. She left him in 圆明园 when they vowed they will be together there forever. In any case, a new status quo is set. The Empress Na La has eliminated literally every threat to her in the palace and she has the sole favor of the Emperor. 袁春望 for his contribution to the Empress, will be the new head of the Imperial Household Department, a pretty big promotion. Ying Luo in turn, is now out of favor and currently has no prospects of ever reclaiming the Emperor’s attention. 


As we can guess and have seen in prior episodes and dramas, a woman in the palace with no favor is at the bottom of the totem pole. Ming Yu is openly bullied by 舒嫔 and humiliated by her. At least 海兰察 was able to step in to protect her but the situation in 延禧宫 don’t look great. Though, Ying Luo, 珍珠 小全子 and Ming Yu basically make up a small family unit that stick together even in their current state.



And what a great guy that 海兰察 is. He reports to the Emperor in his office one day about 傅恒’s current military campaigns. They’re off fighting the Huo Lan tribe who have actually sent an envoy to discuss peace talks. 海兰察 then just raised the words 延禧宫 but was roundly criticized by the Emperor for his impertinence and punished quite harshly. Keep in mind the Huo Lan tribe because they will come into play later on


For Ying Luo’s part, she recognizes that while she doesn’t care for favor right now, the people around her are getting hurt because of her lack of favor. Especially with 舒嫔 humiliating Ming Yu. So, Ying Luo takes a leaf out of 沈眉庄”s book from Empresses in the Palace and turns to the Empress Dowager. Gaining favor and protection from the Empress Dowager is pretty much the only way Ying Luo can survive in the palace. We’ve seen in the past that the Empress Dowager likes Ying Luo greatly and right now, Ying Luo has even decided to write buddhist texts for the Empress Dowager using her own blood as a way to show her devotion and dedication to Buddha. This shocks both 舒嫔 and 庆贵人 who visit the Empress Dowager and find out that Ying Luo has been spending significant time with the Empress Dowager. We’ll wrap up the episode recap here after we see Ying Luo confront 舒嫔 and even slap her across the face as revenge against her actions towards Ming Yu. After all, Ying Luo is still Consort Ling. A higher title than 舒嫔. And, Ying Luo will not allow 舒嫔 to treat Ming Yu with disrespect. I mean, you can take the revenge out of Ying Luo but you cannot take the eye for an eye mentality from her.




Today’s episode was heavy on the plot with all the backstabbing from all sides. We got 魏璎珞 being betrayed by 袁春望. Ugh – he’s such a creep. There’s the Emperor feeling betrayed by 魏璎珞 but then 魏璎珞 rightly pointed out that he was the one who betrayed the Empress. That one I MIGHT give a pass simply because it was 尔晴 who instigated that whole thing. 


We only have 2 topics to discuss today on history.

The first is of course 述悲赋. I briefly mentioned this piece when we talked about the Empress’s death in episode 40.


述悲赋 – or my translation as Rhapsody of Grief is a piece that Emperor 乾隆 wrote in remembrance of his wife during the first 100 days of mourning. This means that he wrote the roughly 550 word rhapsody in 1748.


Out of the tens of thousands of poems that Emperor 乾隆 wrote, this one ranks very highly amongst his works for how emotional and raw it is. This was also included in 清史稿 – Draft History of Qing。


In the drama, 魏璎珞 only says 4 lines. 痛一旦之永诀,隔阴阳而莫知。悲莫悲兮生别离,失内位兮孰予随


The first two lines come from the beginning of the Rhapsody while the last to come from the end. 


I’ll provide the full lines for both and then translate.




Why is it that the first chapter of Yi Jing, usually translated Book of Changes or Classic of Changes, an ancient Chinese divination text begin with 乾坤 or Heaven and Earth? Why is it that the first chapter of the Book of Songs or 诗经 being with 咏关睢 which is about the meeting between man and woman? That’s because man and wife are the start of everything human. Only the heaven and earth of 乾坤 is comparable. I was married to my wife, the late empress for 22 years. I am in so much pain – one evening, I have forever said goodbye to her. From now on, we are separated by two realms, never to hear from each other. 




My heart feels empty, life and death seems but a fleeting moment. I have lost this most virtuous empress. Who will walk with me on this road of life. The years will be the same. Everyday I think of you. I have come back to Chang Chun Palace. The palace is quiet. The phoenix bed is empty. The spring wind has passed but the beauty is no longer here. The Spring flowers and Fall moon have passed. When will the summer sun and winter nights come again?


I quite like all of these lines! We really get a glimpse of the Emperor’s grief at the death of his wife. He essentially compares his marriage to heaven and earth and that no one comes even close to the late Empress. 


We’ve talked about this before but the Emperor wrote many poems later in his life reminiscing the virtues of his late wife. In those instances, I kind of feel bad for Empress nala because she literally cannot compete. 



However, in this drama, I don’t think she really cares right now. She knows how to play the long game with the Emperor, which leads me to the next poem.






鹦鹉前头不敢言。 [1] 


The flowers bloom but the palace doors are tightly shut

There’s two beautiful palace maids sitting together at the veranda enjoying the sight

They have much to talk about and want to share their woes in the palace

But in front of the parrot, no one dares share anything. 


In this poem – we have two women in the palace who want to share their woes and thoughts in the palace. Unfortunately they don’t dare say anything because they worry that the parrot will learn something and repeat it. 


This poem was written by the tang dynasty poet 朱庆馀yú – now, it isn’t clear when he was born or when died but we do know that he passed his imperial entrance exams as a 进士 in 826 and became a court official. 2 of his poems are recorded in 全唐诗, the largest collection of Tang poetry, containing some 49,000 lyric poems by more than twenty-two hundred poets


The Empress here is VERY clever to have written this poem. I don’t know how she planned it or it was just pure luck that the Emperor found the exact poem, but this particular poem, along with the real parrot immediately had the Emperor thinking, hm – what does the Empress want to say but she can’t? This poem immediately – at least in the mind of the Emperor, changes his picture of Empress nala. Now, Empress nala is a woman who loves her husband but is too shy to really share her feelings with him. The Emperor even states – I thought you were only a woman of responsibility. The Emperor, who was very dejected from hearing that 魏璎珞’s sole purpose in returning to the Palace was for revenge and also his guilt towards the late Empress, turns his attentions towards Empress Nala as a woman. 


The two lines 含情欲说宫中事,鹦鹉前头不敢言 give the hint to the emperor that Empress has perhaps woes of love towards him that she has never shared. After this whole scene, he, of course, turns his attentions towards her. 


He is such a 大猪蹄子. Gosh – we haven’t used that phrase in a while. 大猪蹄子 means pig feet or a philanderer. Ya, he was just rejected by 魏璎珞 and immediately turns to the embrace of the other ladies in the harem. 


Ok! That’s it for today!