The Longest Day in Chang An – ep 13
Welcome back to Chasing Dramas. This is the podcast where we discuss Chinese culture and history through historical Chinese dramas. We are your hosts for today Cathy and Karen
We are in episode 13 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 email@example.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.
We’ll start with an episode recap, then move on to history, and then close out with book differences.
At the beginning of episode 13, Xu Bin has been arrested and sent to the prison at Jing An Si. He’s stuck with Cen Sen someone i totally forgot about. Hi dude! He’s so funny like, it’s not that bad here, there’s just no food. Hahaha I’m pretty sure everyone in Jing An Si completely forgot about this guy. Xu Bin is yelling about being let go and when Cen Sen gets a closer look at some of the ink droplets on Xu Bin’s outfit, he is hit with sudden inspiration that he knows what que le huo duo, or the blaze is going to be. The two of them both start yelling their head off for someone and i burst out laughing that Cen Sen is yelling about food still. Hahahahaha.
The time is now a little after 4PM in the afternoon. It’s been 6 hours since all of the events started.
At Jing An Si, Tan Qi finally makes it back to report to Li Bi. He’s a little annoyed it took her that long to arrive and was intrigued why she would listen to Zhang Xiao Jing’s order. She doesn’t know but at least she shares what exactly he told her to do. This is even more confounding to Li Bi who then orders Tan Qi to return back to Zhang xiao Jing because he doesn’t think the person the Blaze Gang has is Wen Ran, but probably some other person. Zhang Xiao JIng wouldn’t just leave Wen Ran to some unknown person.
Let’s turn then to the person the Blaze gang actually did capture. In the last episode, we were introduced to an impoverished court official, 元载 who is an official of the 8th rank at the Court of Judicature or 大理寺. He was called up to help the Prince of Yong and the Blaze gang leader 封大伦. In a meeting with 元载, 封大伦 explains to 元载 that he just needs 元载 to recall 张小敬 from the streets and stick him back in prison. That was all the information that 封大伦 at first was willing to share but 元载 pressed for more information. And these scenes really show 元载’s thoughtfulness and cunning. Any other person would have been like, fine, I’ll do this because the Prince of Yong told me to. But 元载 is like, I would like to know more background here. Only that way, can I more accurately help the situation. As Feng Da Lun accurate states in the episode, Yuan Zai doesn’t give up any opportunity to advance. But in my view, it’s not just that. Yuan Zai is exceedingly careful in how he takes his next steps because one wrong move could result in not only a demotion but possibly certain death.
And that is pretty much what happened next. Yuan Zai asks Feng Da Lun to take him to meet the supposed “wen ran” in order to use her as the opportunity to lure in Zhang Xiao Jing. But Yuan Zai takes one look at the kidnapped woman’s attire, especially the hair accessory she has and immediately turns away. He is exasperated at Feng Da Lun for not confirming the woman they kidnapped because that hair accessory can only be made for someone of the aristocracy. If that is indeed who is kidnapped, then their careers are over.
Ugh – what an idiot Feng Dan Lun is geez.
Though I will say yes, I’ve been quite critical of 元载 already but i must admit, I do respect him somewhat for being extremely observant and also confident in his own abilities. He volunteers to figure out exactly who the kidnapped woman is and the moment 王韫秀 is ungagged, she spouts all manner of horrible and condescending things to 元载 because of his 8th rank official outfit. He actually softly slaps her and directly states that he worked extremely hard to get to where he is today, just as hard as her father. I’m like, okay that’s impressive. But now he knows who she finally is and he comes up with a plan to help rescue her. Well this plan isn’t as simple as just rescuing her. 元载 needs to help 封大伦 come up with a scapegoat too since 王韫秀 doesn’t know anything about the Blaze gang, she only knows the Wolf Squad and the fact that 张小敬 wrote up a map of the Right Chancellor’s home to the wolf squad. We don’t know exactly what 元载 has up his sleeve right now other than the fact that he actually has 王韫秀 tied up and gagged again and placed in a carriage to be carted off somewhere while also sending a detailed document over to 靖安司 for 李必 to read. In it, he details the fact that they were able to rescue 王韫秀 from the wolf squad members but Zhang Xiao Jing shared a detailed map of the Right Chancellor’s home. At the exact same moment though, the Right Chancellor is getting this information in real time. To me now it’s glaringly obvious that someone is sharing secrets to him. Interestingly, the right chancellor isn’t too worried about a possible attack by 2 members of the wolf squad. He’s more pleased to hear this information because it means that 张小敬 committed treason. And THAT is surely going to help him bring down the crown prince and li bi.
So what has Li Bi been getting up to today. After Xu Bin screamed his head off about a new lead, he presents his information to Li Bi saying that Zhang Xiao Jing previously told him all about this type of extremely destructive and violent type of black liquid that when set on fire, would blaze for days on end. However, because this type of liquid or oil is very rare, not many people know of it. Furthermore, it can avoid detection and search as a flammable object because its alternate use is to actually make ink. That’s why this entire day, they were not able to accurately identify whatever the wolf squad was trying to use as their destructive source. All of this is well and good but even I picked up on it and was happy for Li Bi to focus on it too that hey, why does Xu Bin know all of this information from Zhang Xiao Jing. This is a difference in the book where Xu Bin had said he didn’t know Zhang Xiao Jing and used his 大案牍术 or database search skills to find Zhang Xiao Jing. In the book, he says very clearly in the beginning that they know each other. In any case, Li Bi wants Xu Bin investigated now since everything that happened today is too closely tied to Zhang Xiao Jing and overly coincidental.
As for Zhang Xiao Jing, he is hot on the tails of the wolf squad members thanks to his trusted dog friend and using his brains rather than listen to that hilarious beggar who tried to lead him elsewhere. At an abandoned residence, he is greeted to a bloodthirsty 鱼肠 who promptly enters into a furious fight with him. But she’s not there to really fight to the death. As she states herself, she’s just trying to waste some time to keep him at bay. But she does connect the dots though that Zhang XIao Jing is looking for Wen Ran via the unique fragrance she has. Anyways, Yu Chang doesn’t win and actually gets injured by Zhang Xiao Jing which tells you a lot about how adept he is in combat since he’s been injured quite a bit today already.
He manages to use the hound to find where Wen Ran truly is hiding. But, inside the other abandoned property, 曹破延 is waiting for Zhang Xiao Jing. Another intense and brutal fight scene breaks out as Cao Po Yan knows this is a suicidal event. He does not hold back but Zhang Xiao Jing still manages to subdue him in one of the most brutal ways. Zhang Xiao Jing stabs Cao Po Yan straight through the abdomen as the two men wrestle on the ground.
That was our podcast episode recap – let’s move onto the history of this episode!
Early on in the episode, right around the 4 minute mark when 檀棋 and 李必 are having their discussion, we get a view of this massive statue in the background. Pretty cool right? I’ve never actually paid attention to this statue.
Anyways – it looks to be an interesting mix of buddhism and daoism because on the lapel of the statue, there’s a hexagram from 易经 an ancient book on divination. The two circles form the shape of It’s the 6th hexagram sòng which means arguing or conflict. It also means that there’s blessing among misfortunes and misfortunes among blessings. We don’t see the rest of the statue very well but the ears are more reminiscent of a buddha, hence the mix. Pretty cool right?
Shortly after, in the scene where 元载 and 封大伦 have their little meetup, the two are using two glass looking goblets. These look pretty similar to glass goblets that were unearthed in the 1980s from the tomb of an 6th century general 李贤. The artifact originated from the Sasanian empire and the one found in the tomb was one of the first well preserved pieces found in China. The example that we see in the drama is another callout to the abundance of trade during the Tang Dynasty
Quick aside – when 王韫秀 talks about her father, she says my father is a 云麾将军 or in the Youtube translation, a Flag general. I like how 元载’s like which one because there’s like 20 in Chang An. When 王韫秀 finally says her father’s name, 元载’s like…oh shoot. The title of 云麾将军 was around for around 2 centuries by the time of this story. During the Tang Dynasty, if one had the title of 云麾将军, he was at least 3rd rank or higher.
The big reveal during today’s episode is that Cen Sen and 徐宾 finally figured out what was the impending apocalypse is. 石脂 or essentially petrol transformed into Ink Sticks and Ink stones that become highly flammable.
During the Tang Dynasty, petrol or oil was called 石脂 which translates literally to fat from stone. The name changed to 石油 or stone oil during the Song dynasty 300 years later.
The first references to oil were recorded back in the 1st century AD as water that could be burned. By the late 3rd century, there were records of thicker liquids from the ground that were not edible but could be burned.
Oil, during the Tang Dynasty, was already being drilled or cultivated to light objects and funnily enough used to grease carriage. There are records dating to the late 6th century AD of Northern Zhou soldiers using oil as a mechanism for self defense during a battle with the turks. The soldiers essentially poured oil over the city walls to burn the invaders.
The specific province noted in the drama where the oil and subsequently the ink stones originated from was the city of 延州 which is in current day central china. Thousands of years later, a huge oil conglomerate now calls its place home in this area. The name 延长油田 Shaanxi Yanchang Petroleum.
The Chinese did actually use oil to make ink stones and ink sticks but that process wasn’t invented until the 11th century by a gentleman named 沈括. 沈括 was an absolute genius and basically creating this ink was only one of his many achievements, including being the first to describe the magnetic needle compass. Anyways, he was posted in 延洲 for a while and one day he realized that locals were using this interesting fluid that spouted from the ground to use as something to burn. The locals would scoop the oil using chicken tail feathers and collect the oil into jars. It was 沈括 that renamed 石脂 to 石油 that we use today.
Anyways 沈括 quickly realized the soot from burning this oil was a prime substance into creating ink to write. It actually was better than most other types of ink in that it was very black and bright. It was better than the ink produced by pine trees that was the standard of the day. He originally thought that this was a much better alternative to pine ink because pine trees could one day be depleted while oil could not.
His recounting of this discovery can be found in his Dream Pool Essays 梦溪笔谈 which was published in 1088.
Lastly – in our final scene, we get about a minute of one long shot of the explosion that the Wolf Squad member sets off. This scene took 15 days to film. It was all practical effects, which is crazy. That took a lot of choreography to pull off