The Longest Day in Chang An – ep 17
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 17 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
Episode 17 really slows down the pace after a heart racing episode 16.
In episode 17- Zhang Xiao Jing is evidently alive after his heroic deeds earlier in the day to stop major casualties in his chase against the remaining members of the wolf squad. He eliminated the 3 members and diverted the explosive carts. But he’s carted back to Jing An Si. General Guo arrives with an edict from the Emperor. Li Bi is given orders from the Emperor to consider this case solved and closed and told to disband Jing An Si. He doesn’t want to given there are still too many unsolved threads to today’s case but he has no choice except to accept the Emperor’s orders. What’s interesting is that General Guo informs Li Bi that this is also directly coming from He Zhi Zheng, Li Bi’s mentor and formal director of Jing An Si. Why he would make this order perplexes Li Bi but he doesn’t have much wiggle room as of now.
Zhang Xiao Jing is ordered to be sent back into prison and what’s quite interesting is that Li Bi actually wants Tan Qi to help him secretly escape and to rendezvous with Li Bi elsewhere to continue investigating the case on their own.
But when Tan Qi arrives at the jail cell, Zhang Xiao Jing has escaped. Unfortunately, he…didn’t really escape. Yes, he managed to subdue his guards that I don’t think had too much fight in them and were ok letting him go but then he got stopped by Cui Qi. Cui Qi, leader of the Lv Ben Jun, has been extremely upset at the fact that the Emperor did not give any praise or accolades to those who sacrificed their lives for today’s victory. For Cui Qi, it means that his brother died earlier in the day for naught. His other troops and soldiers as well. That is something he cannot just accept and wants to see if there’s another way out for him for higher glory and power.
He was given the other option to join the Right Cavalry who wants him to capture Zhang Xiao Jing and after some heavy thinking, he decides that abandoning Jing An Si and turning to the Right Cavalry is the right play. You can tell he’s conflicted but he wants to make it up to those who died fighting with and for him today. It was Cui Qi who captured Zhang XIao Jing and dragged him over to the Right Cavalry’s prison. And they are not so nice to him. Zhang Xiao Jing is tied up and beaten. Poor guy. It’s been a tough day for him. At least you can see that Cui Qi is grappling with his own inner turmoil about his decision because he KNOWS that Zhang Xiao Jing is not actually an awful person but a decent leader and hero at that. General Zhao on the other hand is hilarious because he is such a coward hiding behind Cui Qi when beating up on Zhang Xiao Jing. In the book, Cui Qi drags Zhang Xiao Jing off to the Right Cavalry for interrogation right after Zhang xiao jing is pulled from the water after saving Chang An. In the drama, we are given a few extra steps to see Cui Qi’s inner turmoil.
Elsewhere in the episode, Lu San, the messenger and spy in Jing An si, leaves his post and we see him rendez vousing with Long Bo after “killing” Xu Bin. Apparently, Lu San was Long Bo’s spy for today. Lu San rejoins the ranks of Long Bo as his identity has been revealed. Long Bo and Yu Chang get into a little spat since Long Bo can tell Yu Chang is lying about Wen Ran’s whereabouts. We still don’t know exactly what their relationship is but Yu Chang is now off to look for Wen Ran. Seriously, girl. You gotta do something right today.
As for how on earth Lu San failed to actually kill Xu Bin boggles my mind. Like did Xu Bin just feign death? I’m not going to think too long about this because Xu Bin magically reawakens and finds the true record of how many crates of petrol came in today that he grabbed from Lu San. That was also something I was like, Lu San, what are you doing??? Why didn’t you search Xu Bin after killing him? Geez. Anyways, Xu Bin screams to find Li Bi to tell him the news that it’s not 15 crates of petrol that came into the city today, but 300! Eeep! Oh and that there’s a spy.
Well that’s not good. Clearly this means that there are more threats in the city but Li Bi has no more troops, his staff have all just left him and Zhang Xiao Jing has also been taken away.
To make matters worse, there’s clearly not just one spy within Jing An Si and this spy is still there in the midst because the Right Chancellor, Lin Jiu Lang almost immediately is able to receive news that there are now 300 crates of petrol in the city. He also recognizes that Li Bi has no resources any more to further investigate so he, with Ji Wen’s reminding, asks that Yuan Zai step in to do the investigation.
And not too much later, Yuan Zai and Wang Yun Xiu arrive at Jing An Si to retrieve all related documents for today’s events so that The Court of the Judicature where Yuan Zai works is able to take over. Except, Li Bi is no fool. He sees right through that Yuan Zai is not here on official business. There’s no way that Da Li Si would step in at this critical juncture where there are still so many loose ends. So, he instead has Yuan Zai and Wang Yun Xiu imprisoned. Poor Cen Sen. He gets so many visitors or new cell mates and no one stil has given him any food today. That’s so sadly hilarious.
The big task for the next episode is to see how Tan Qi, at the orders of Li Bi, manages to rescue Zhang Xiao Jing. We can see Tan Qi being more and more drawn to Zhang Xiao Jing after all that’s happened today. And I was surprised to see at least the coroner’s still working. They are presiding over a mortally wounded but somehow stll breathing Cao Po Yan. We’ll see what words he is able to utter for Li Bi.
There’s not too much history in this episode. I’ll just make a note that 吉温, in his report to the Right Chancellor, informs him of all the men that have written a report praising the Crown Prince. This includes a long list of people including the Left Chancellor. Let’s just say that in history, the list of 李适之, 韦坚, 裴宽, 韩朝宗, 杨慎矜 – all the men that 吉温 listed? They all suffered or else died at the hand of the Right Chancellor.
On that sad note, we’re going to spend some time discussing costumes. There’s a surprising a lot to discuss.
Starting off – 陆三, the mole from none other than Long Bo, will no longer wear his runner outfit. Most of his outfit is similar to the other soldiers of Jing An Si but as he is only a runner, he doesn’t wear a helmet and instead has 2 feathers and a bell. These were artistic choices by the costume designers and used to inform people nearby of his presence and honestly to get out of the way as a runner.
Next – let’s actually talk about the colors worn by the different court officials shown in this episode. I’ll remind listeners here and there after this episode because the colors reflect how powerful someone is at court.
Purple was worn by the highest ranking officials at court, namely anyone with a 3rd rank or higher. The Eunuch, 郭力士, currently is a 3rd rank general and dons the purple color. Director He also wore purple and we will see the Right Chancellor leave his home wearing purple. They all have at least a 3rd rank role.
Then there’s red. In this drama, 姚汝能 wears red and this means that he is of the 4th rank. During the early Tang years, someone with the 4th or 5th rank could wear red. After the An Lu Shan rebellion, someone of the 4th rank would wear red and someone of the 5th rank would wear a lighter red, almost like an orange.
For the 6th and 7th ranks, the gentlemen would wear green. Several members of Jing An Si are of either the 6th or 7th rank, based on the green that they wear. After the An Lu Shan rebellion, someone of the 6th rank would wear dark green and someone of the 7th rank would wear a lighter green. Then anything lower, for the 8th and 9th ranks, the men would wear blue. Take a look at 徐宾 and 元载. They keep emphasizing their 8th rank status and it’s easy to know this simply by the blue that they wear. After the An Lu Shan rebellion, someone of the 8th rank would wear a darker blue and someone of the 9th rank would wear a lighter blue. For the drama, we’re in the year 744 but the drama chose to have the gentleman wear the colors accordingly after the an lu shan rebellion. I think this is more to do with differentiating the ranks visually for the audience.
Let’s now move on to discussing armor! We’ve seen quite a few different type of troops so to speak but let’s give 崔器 and his 旅贲军 some time to shine. The costume designers referenced surviving paintings and wall paintings of Tang dynasty armor to bring to screen the final result. The helmets that 旅贲军 wears are called 丸盔 or circular helmets. That’s a poor translation but basically these types of helmets engulf the head and neck in one piece to offer better protection. For the 旅贲军, the helmets are actually taller than some other troops in the show, which more reflect the style of the late Tang dynasty.
As for the leader of the 旅贲军, 崔器 wears 明镜铠 or Mirror armor or plate armour. In the official youku photo, they denote that he’s wearing turtle shell chest plates but I think historically, those would be made of metal or leather. He also has on 鱼鳞甲 with the direct translation being fish scale armor but it isn’t made of fish scales, it’s just the shape of the armor. He’s also wearing arm guards, leopard waist protector and belt, greaves, and boots. His weapon is called 锤 which is kind of like a mace but it’s a metal sphere that’s typically used in pairs, which is what we see here. These 锤 in this drama make much more sense of how they’re used in real life because the point of them was to be heavy and just basically smash the opponent.
Lastly – I want to talk about 王韫秀’s costume! We finally see her in proper women’s attire and what a sight to behold! I mean, yes 元载 sold his beloved zither to buy this outfit and it really does fit her. We see that it is much more lavish when compared to 闻染’s outfit. The actress herself wrote a lovely post about her costumes for the drama so I’m taking what she wrote and translating them here.
What she’s wearing is called a 襦裙, specifically a 齐胸襦裙 or Chest High Ru Qun. During the Tangy Dynasty, the ladies would wear a long-sleeved blouse, long-full skirt, and long silk scarves. The skirt would be tied above the chest, which is what we see here in the drama.
The costume designer Kazuko Kurosawa specifically designed this and the production had this shipped from Japan. For 王韫秀’s eyebrows, the makeup artists specifically chose the 拂云眉 or translated into english – touching clouds eyebrows, to reflect 王韫秀 nobility and arrogance. What’s hilarious is that people online actually photoshopped the eyebrow style onto a bunch of buns to show how funny the eyebrow shape was. As for the hairstyle, it was the 双环望仙髻 or a double ring fairy bun which was recorded as a style during the tang dynasty. We mentioned this as the style for the singer 许鹤子. 王韫秀’s buns are much smaller and much more practical for her use today. Finally – let’s look at her hairpiece. It’s a very intricate gold crown that is themed with a flying moth. I also mentioned this for episode 12, but to celebrate the Lantern Festival, flying moths were motifs because moths are attracted to light. The specific piece that 王韫秀 wears is a direct replica from a Sui and Tang dynasty artifact found in the National Museum of China.