Ep 11: 



The Longest Day in Chang An – ep 11


We are in episode 11 of The Tang Dynasty drama The Longest Day in Chang’An, or in mandarin, 长安十二时辰. If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to reach out to us on instagram or twitter or else email us at karenandcathy@chasingdramas.com. As always, this podcast is in English with proper nouns and certain phrases spoken in Mandarin. Additionally, we reference translations from what is provided online and we’ll provide our own. 


After a couple of plot heavy episodes, history comes back in full force for episode 11 with the introduction of 2 rather important historical figures and some interesting customs.


There are 4 threads in today’s episode. 1) Zhang Xiao Jing has to recover a kidnapped 王韫秀 and 闻染 who were separately taken by the Blaze Gang and 曹破延 and 麻格儿.  2) 李必 is notified that there were two escaped members of the Wolf Squad when last episode 崔器 had announced a full victory. 3) 闻染 with her two Wolf Squad Captors and 4) 檀棋’s visit to the Prince of Yong. 


Let’s actually start with 李必。 After 檀棋 confirmed the victory announcement was false, this news traveled fast back to 靖安司 via the watchtowers. Tension immediately rises as Li Bi promptly orders the staff members to search the documentation of all flammable objects that entered the city and in the next 15 minutes. Everyone balks at this request and 徐宾 actually pipes up that they should instead focus on seeking the escaped members of the wolf squad since it’s probably faster. But 李必 stares daggers at 徐宾 for clearly overstepping his boundaries. 徐宾 and the staff have no choice but to start chipping away at this impossible task. In one of the documentation rooms, 徐宾 alone with 李必 takes this opportunity to share his assessment of the current circumstances. He advises they should focus on the wolf squad because if they keep searching for flammable objects, they would be doing more wrong things than fixing the right thing they did but was just not complete. Given that 李必 doesn’t say a whole lot in response, 徐宾 continues that if they keep searching for flammable objects, this could cause the Emperor to lay blame on the Crown Prince who would then blame Li Bi. 李必 interjects that even if one is loyal, they must also know what’s right from wrong. 徐宾 responds that when someone is loyal to another, they must accept that the other person is not perfect. Loyalty means you ignore all of the flaws and follow that person without bounds. 


I’m currently digesting his words and so is Li Bi who lets Xu Bin walk away but suddenly, Li Bi calls him back and rudely tosses all of the ink from his ink stone on Xu Bin. This is Li Bi’s way of letting out his frustration but then also piping up some suspicion for Xu Bin’s little talk. Is Xu Bin trying to prevent Li Bi from investigating further?  Xu Bin takes a very deferential stance and just states that he is but a lowly official and dare not do so before leaving. But in this one-on-one, I’m seeing that Xu Bin has more ambition and some extreme views I did not appreciate before.


Shortly after, we see an imposing number of soldiers escorting a regal older man on a horse arrive at Jing An Si. He calls Li Bi a rascal when asking for him, signaling that he is not pleased with Li Bi at this point. This guy is 郭利士, his historical counterpart is 高力士. He’s actually a eunuch but also a general. A powerful one at that. He comes to meet Li Bi and gives him an oral decree from the Emperor. Li Bi accepts the order and the eunuch/general asks him if he understood what the Emperor is saying. Li Bi says yes, it’s pretty clear. You can feel Guo Li Shi holding back rolling his eyes. He dismisses the young eunuch next to him so he can chat privately with Li Bi. He then is rather coarse in saying Li Bi understood nothing.  The decree from the Emperor was carefully crafted such that on the surface it seems acceptable, but if you read between the lines, there are threats abound. Nothing the Emperor says is ever as simple as it seems.  And in this next conversation, you see that while Guo Li Shi was rather rude to Li Bi to start, he’s really trying to help Li Bi. He makes it plain that every line of the Emperor’s decree has a hidden meaning and the meaning could have both the Crown Prince and Li Bi killed the next day.


Guo Li Shi warns Li Bi of the importance of the lantern festival tonight and nothing is to delay or distract from it.  Li Bi calls Guo Li Shi uncle Guo which shows just how close they are and responds that out of everyone, Guo Li Shi should be able to help them put in a good word with the Emperor for the Crown Prince. Guo Li Shi lets out a deep sigh at this saying that maybe yesterday he could have helped, but today, his words don’t matter. Turns out, the tea ware that Concubine Yan used was extremely old or of poor quality. This angered the Emperor for someone had whispered in his ear that Guo Li Shi had been secretly stealing goldware from the palace. Because of this teacup, the Emperor believes Guo Li Shi stole from or at least is mistreating his Concubine Yan. After that, the Emperor did not summon Guo Li Shi. 


Interesting. In the last episode, we heard exactly who gave that order to have the tea ware be switched. It was the Right Chancellor, 林九郎. In one brilliant stroke of changing this tea cup, he was able to create significant suspicion against the likes of 郭利士 and 郭利士 didn’t even know how that happened. That to me shows the brilliance of the Right Chancellor and i’m like okay okay, i see why you might be in the position you have. 


The whole point of the Emperor sending Guo Li Shi to give this oral decree to Li Bi is to warn both of them that if Guo Li Shi tries to help the Crown Prince and Li Bi again in the future, there would be dire consequences. With that, Guo Li Shi leaves Li Bi to ponder his resolve in searching for the escaped members of the wolf squad. 


The stakes are raised now that Li Bi and the Crown Prince no longer have a powerful ally at court to aid them in front of the Emperor. The Crown Prince secretly meets Li Bi again to express his worry which is further compounded when Li Bi reveals that there must be a spy in their midst at Jing An Si. How else would the Emperor know that there were escaped members of the wolf squad already? The crown prince primarily wants Li Bi to capture the escaped men and then laments what this could mean for the policies he wants to enact as crown prince and eventually the Emperor if his father decides to give all the governing power to the Right Chancellor. In this conversation, we are once again hearing about how within the walls of Chang An, the Emperor sees a glistening and bustling city but there is rot outside the city walls. Outside of the city, there’s homelessness due to the overburden of taxes that should not be what the Tang dynasty represents. Before the Crown PRince leaves, li Bi asks what else he can do for the Crown prince at this moment to which the Crown prince responds that no one must know about his secret meetings with court officials at this location. –



Wooof – that was a lot on Li Bi! I mean i think he had the most meat this episode. Cui Qi manages to get his hands on a dog from a specialized department in the palace at the request of Zhang XIao Jing. The reason for this is because zhang xiao jing needs the dog to follow Wen Ran’s scent. Once they get to Wen Ran, they’ll hopefully be able to find Cao Po Yan and Ma Ge Er. 


As for Wen Ran, she actually leads Cao Po Yan and Ma Ge Er to find Long Bo who along with Yu Chang are gearing up carts and getting ready to head out. Long Bo impresses Cao Po Yan with very intimate knowledge of Cao Po Yan as a person and through his language reveals that was he, Long Bo, that selected the likes of Cao Po Yan to come to Chang An. And thus, the alliance between Cao Po Yan, Ma Ge Er and Long Bo is solidified. We don’t know exactly why or how Wen Ran is connected to Long Bo yet. All we do know is that Yu Chang is able to sniff out quite quickly the unique scent on Wen Ran and actually points out that Wen Ran will bring a tail with them. But again, I’m like Yu Chang, girl calm down that Long Bo knows Wen Ran. You’re a mercenary not a jealous lover can you please just chill? Hahaha


And finally, in this episode we meet a young and handsome Prince of Yong. He is currently participating in a polo match and we are met with rather impressive shots of people actually playing polo.This is another one of those scenes where I’m like, dang this drama spent a lot of money.  This is the first polo match for spring and the Prince of Yong and before the match, he pays his respects to a tablet of his deceased mother. In the brief dialogue there we already learn his yearning, as all princes do, of wanting more power as the son of the Emperor. Tan Qi come sto greet him and while he recognizes her, is extremely dismissive of her. He doesn’t have time to chat with her about Li Bi and or the Crown Prince. But Tan Qi promptly just blurts out the sole line Zhang Xiao Jing told her to say – “Let Go of My, Zhang Xiao Jing’s Person”. The PRince of Yong basically freaks out after hearing this line with the name, asking Tan Qi to repeat it once more. Tan Qi does so and responds that no other orders or lines were shared. The Prince of Yong, walks past Qin evidently much more tense and tells h er to relay the message that The Prince of Yong will follow orders. Uhhh. Mad respect for Tan Qi handling this well because I’m like who is Zhang Xiao Jing for a freaking son of the Emperor to so willingly and respectfully take his orders. In any case that is where we leave off this episode. 





The sand ceremony – at the beginning of the episode, the remaining members of the Wolf Squad, 曹破延 and 麻哥儿, perform a ceremony in remembrance of their fallen brothers. This was made for the drama but essentially the goal was to represent the earth will fall to the earth and the air will float back to the sky.


Next – let’s discuss the dog that Zhang Xiao Jing requests for their mission. In chinese, it is called a 细犬 or a Xi Quan – which is a very ancient and rare breed of sighthound from China. There are records of these Xi Quan dating back over 2000 years. The Chinese used them as hunting dogs due to their excellent sense of smell and agility. There are several types of existing Xigou, that are all based off of different regions in China, including Shaanxi, Hebei, Shandong, and Mongolian XiGou. The Shandong xigou specifically was a preferred hunting dog of the royal family during the Tang Dynasty.


In Chinese mythology, the sky dog guardian 哮天犬, who was companion to the god 二郎神 was a 细犬. Unfortunately, in recent years, the population of these dogs have drastically dwindled as the Chinese government has set restrictions on hunting so there hasn’t really been the need to use these dogs for their historical uses.


In the drama, the breed is actually a Saluki, which most resembled the Shaanxi Xi Gou. The history for the Shaanxi breed is also long and well documented so it does make sense to also have this breed shown in the drama. There was a specific imperial department in charge of raising and managing pets, and these dogs were among the types of animals under their care. 


While filming, there were only 3 Saluki in China so the dog that we have in the show was actually borrowed from a neighboring Arab country. 

In this episode, we are introduced to Guo Li Shi, a man who we’ve only heard mentioned until now. He arrives in a regal purple robe but it becomes quickly clear that he is a eunuch. Not only a eunuch but a general too. Who is this man?


The historical basis for this man is called 高力士 and he has a fascinating backstory. Gao Li shi was born in 684 AD to an official based in 潘州 called 冯君衡. The Feng family had a pretty storied past, with ancestors including 冯盎àng who was a key contributor to the founding of the Tang Dynasty and therefore loyal to the royal family of Li. 冯君衡 wanted his son to achieve greatness and gave his son the name 冯元一. This was the young Gao Li Shi. 


Fast forward a decade, it is now 694 and the ruler is now the first female Emperor, Wu Ze Tian. She received a secret missive claiming that there were rebels in the south looking to usurp her reign. Her informants claimed 冯君衡 had many connections with the rebels. The 冯 family were thus rounded up, branded as traitors, and executed. 


Before the execution, 冯君衡 wanted to save his son and secretly sent his son 冯元一 to a friend, 李千里. However, this friend was afraid for his own well being and thus sent the boy to the Imperial Palace as a eunuch and changed his name to 冯力士. His thinking was, he was able to save himself from any connections with the Feng family but also save his friend’s son. 


For many boys, 冯元一 would have just wallowed as a eunuch in the palace but not 冯元一. He swiftly rose the ranks even as a young boy and man in the palace. Because he came from a government family, his upbringing was far superior to his other fellow eunuchs and as a result gained much favor from the older eunuchs. He soon was able to serve the Emperor Wu Ze Tian herself. Unfortunately, he committed a minor offense, and was expelled from the capital. 


He found himself destitute with no prospects but his life turned for the best at this point. He met another old eunuch 高延福, who after seeing the now 冯力士’s situation adopted him as a son and brought him back to work amongst the royals. The transformation from 冯元一 to 高力士 was complete.


As the now adopted son of 高延福, 高力士 was now able to mingle with the elites at court especially the Emperor’s own nephew Wu San Si. Shortly after, the Emperor’s anger subsided and recalled 高力士 back to the palace. During his second stint in the palace, he became very subdued in front of the Emperor while at the same time biding his time, turning his eyes towards the next ruler. He chose the then Prince of Chu, Li Long Ji. 


 Gao Li Shi served Li Long Ji after the deaths of Emperor Wu Ze Tian and through various power grabs involving the likes of Princess Tai Ping and Empress Wei.   Li Longji was created crown prince and subsequently ascended the throne in 712. Throughout the years, Gao Li Shi continued his rise at court as a confidant of the Emperor. 


We’ll spend some more time to discuss the rest of Gao Li Shi’s tenure during Emperor Tang Xuan Zong’s reign in subsequent episodes. 


The last topic to discuss today is polo!


We have previously discussed polo in episode 16 of the Story of Ming Lan but let’s focus on the Tang Dynasty’s interest in Polo.


Legend has it that polo was introduced to China during the late Eastern Han Dynasty and the Three Kingdoms period from the west, possibly from Persia. 曹植, the self proclaimed King Chen, who lived from 192 – 232AD, was the brother to the first Emperor of Wei during the Three Kingdoms era, mentioned polo or 击鞠 in one of his poems 名都篇. 


Over the centuries, polo grew in popularity and became a favored pastime of the aristocracy. Tang Dynasty Emperors also favored the sport and competed against teams from neighboring countries. The first one occurred in 709 when diplomats from the Tibetan Empire coming to marry a Tang Dynasty Princess proposed the idea of playing a match between members of the Tibetan Empire and men of the Tang. After the first few rounds, the Tibetans won. Finally though, the Emperor sent several princes and other members of the royal family to play polo. This also included the now 临淄王李隆基, our future Tang Xuan Zong. According to records, 李隆基 was spectacular at the game, roundly defeating the Tibetans. 


During his reign, polo remained really popular. The Emperor himself kept playing even in 751AD at the age of 67.  One Emperor, 唐穆宗 sustained a catastrophic injury while playing polo and suspended court for 3 years! During this time, polo wasn’t just a sport, but it was also a way for people to showcase military strategies and tactics. 


During the Tang Dynasty, women also played the sport. We do have contemporary poems written about women playing polo and archeologists have unearthed paintings depicting polo matches and 唐三彩 or Tricolor Glazed Pottery of females playing polo. 


We unfortunately only really see polo in this episode but I’m glad we see this sport showcased here as a reflection of its popularity in China.


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