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 episode 18 of the Tang Dynasty drama, The Longest Day in Chang An.
If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to reach out to us on instagram 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. If you have any questions or comments, please reach out to us!
There are two main activities in today’s drama. One is to rescue Zhang Xiao Jing who has been tired up at the Right Cavalry’s headquarters. And the other is to follow Li Bi.
The time now is 5pm or Sunset.
Rescuing Zhang Xiao Jing is quite the event. FIrst thing’s first. Yao Ru Neng drops off Wen Ran back at the Jing An Si jail where Yuan Zai, Wang Yun Xiu and poor Cen Seng is still there asking for food. But then Yan Ru Neng is told he has orders.
Yao Ru Neng in these few episodes I find absolutely hilarious. When he first hears that Tan Qi is going to try to break Zhang Xiao Jing out of prison, he at first is shocked, then puffs up and says that the Yao family has a backbone and then immediately tells Tan Qi that she shouldn’t go. Hahaha.
But he relents and changes out of his red robes into those of a servant to help guide the now beautifully dressed Tan Qi on horseback. Cathy will get more into this later on. Tan Qi looks absolutely stunning in this outfit. Her hair, makeup, clothes everything. But I call total BS on the fact that she was able to look this done up in such a short period of time. We’ll discuss more of that later.
The plan is for Tan Qi to pretend to work for the Right Chancellor. They will head over to the headquarters of the Right cavalry where Zhang Xiao Jing is being held and extract him on behalf of the Right Chancellor’s orders. Yao Ru Neng doesn’t think this plan will work but Tan Qi presents an intricately carved jade pendant which is a symbol of the Right chancellor. That will help them get in.
So, off they go. Tan Qi doesn’t have much to lose but we are reminded that Yao Ru Neng does. He is the sole male heir to the Yao family. If he’s caught up on the chaos today, it would spell disaster for him and his family name. However, I’m impressed since Yao Ru Neng decides to take that step forward.
Outside of the Right Cavalry headquarters, Tan Qi has a silk cloth used to cover half of her face. She and Yao Ru Neng are questioned by patrolling soldiers but Tan Qi is able to answer with ease. At first, the soldiers note that no one of her name is listed to see General Zhao. The situation gets rather tense but at this point General Zhao arrives to hear what the commotion is about. At this point, Tan Qi, with her face still covered, calmly plesents the jade flower pendant. In an instant, General Zhao seized up, recognizing who this order must be from. The Right Chancellor. He promptly bows his respect and all the surrounding soldiers do the same. I’m laughing over here because one of the soldiers in the back clearly was struggling to sheath his blade.
General Zhao brings Tan Qi and Yao Ru Neng over to see Zhang Xiao Jing but it’s not entirely smooth sailing. General Zhao isn’t an idiot and despite being respectful to Tan Qi, has to play it by the book. He raises the fact that there needs to be official documentation from General Gan to move someone as important as Zhang Xiao Jing. Tan Qi tries to put on the pressure but is rebuked. Her only option is to request just seeing Zhang Xiao Jing.
Inside the room where Zhang Xiao Jing is tied up, Tan Qi steps in with Yao Ru Neng and General Zhao. And this is where i’m like dude, Zhang Xiao Jing, just lighten up man. He’s surprised to see them and Tan Qi whispers to him to take her hostage in a moment so that they can escape. But then Zhang Xiao Jing responds not in a whisper, what kind of plan is this and I don’t take women hostage. This immediately prompt General Zhao to perk up and stand forward, being like, what’s going on? Before being instantly knocked out by Yao Ru Neng. Ahahahaha. Tan Qi promptly cuts off the ropes tying him but is pretty annoyed because now they don’t know how else to escape. Zhang Xiao Jing on the other hand, just comments that her outfit looks quite nice.
Well, the plan to escape is rather simple and not super sophisticated. Zhang Xiao Jing and company set fire to the rooms and then takes General Zhao hostage to clear their path. They are able to make it out of the room but then are met with Cui Qi of Lv Ben Jun who is there to stop Zhang Xiao Jing. We’ll see in the next episode how or if they manage to escape.
While Tan Qi and Yao Ru Neng are going off on their prison break adventure, Li Bi is also undergoing an adventure on his own. In the prior episode, General Guo told Li Bi about how it was He Zhi Zheng who used his seal to end the investigation and so Li Bi heads over to He Zhi Zheng’s home in Le You Yuan in order to discuss the case with him. At the entrance of the property, it is He Zhi Zheng’s mentally slow son who greets Li Bi at the door. He suggests Li Bi take a pill because his father got sick on the way home and this is to prevent Li Bi from falling ill as well. Li Bi investigates the pill and is able to smell certain ingredients in it, and believing there’s nothing wrong with the pill, swallows it without a second thought and enters the property. Except, He Fu’s eyes suddenly turn menacing.
Inside the property, Li Bi tries to make his case with He Zhi Zheng to return the seal of Jing An Si. He informs He Zhi Zhang that there are still 300 barrels of petrol or bombs still in the city and he needs Zhang Xiao Jing to help save Chang An. And, if possible, He Zhi ZHeng should request that tonight’s festivities be canceled in order to better protect Chang An and the Emperor. He Zhi Zheng however, does not agree with Li Bi’s plans. Because today is not only about saving the people of Chang An, it’s about protecting all of the Tang Dynasty. Today’s festivities include dignitaries from all over the world. If they saw weakness within the Tang dynasty, then that would give them ample reason to start attacking Tang borders. That will mean years of turmoil and conflict for many civilians. Li Bi doesn’t agree. If they back down today, they will back down on everything. How will they envision a future if they ultimately do nothing? He sternly gets up and leaves to seek help from General Guo instead.
As Li Bi was having this heated discussion with He Zhi Zheng, a hooded and masked figure was listening outside the room. We don’t have to wait too long to figure out who it is because next thing we know if that Li Bi is flat on the ground in a secluded room. Evidently, someone knocked him out. Inside the room, there are also many other bodies, seamingly of servants of the property. An old servant who was outside earlier when Li Bi entered the property is severely injured but manages to tell Li Bi that all of this was orchestrated by Hu Fu who is not a fool. That pill was used to make Li Bi weak. He Fu is actually the son of an official whose entire family was killed by none other than the Right Chancellor. He is planning to use the crouching fire bombs to enact his revenge on the Right chancellor.
Sadly, before the old man could say any more, the hooded figure comes into the room. Li Bi promptly lies back down and does something to feign death. And good thing because the hooded figure smashes the old man several times, killing him to prevent him from saying anything futher. The hooded figure? He Fu. He doesn’t do anything to Li Bi because he believes Li Bi is dead and we hear He Fu exhaling that finally, after 10 years, he is able to enact his revenge. Li Bi manages to escape after He Fu leaves and rides off with a stolen horse.
In the next episode, we will see how Zhang Xiao Jing and company manage to escape from their current predicament and what the next steps are for them and Li Bi,
What a thrilling episode! We have quite a few topics to discuss on history!
At the beginning of the episode, as a reminder
First and foremost – let’s discuss a little bit more about 姚汝能 and his history. In the drama, he keeps on talking about how his grandfather was a great politician and contributor to the Tang Dynasty. Who is he talking about?
It’s 姚崇 – he lived from 650 to 721 and served as Chancellor for 4 Emperors including under the reign of the only female Emperor of China Wu Ze Tian. 姚崇 entered into politics in his 20s as an attendant to then crown Prince Li Hong. However, it was during the reign of Emperor Wu Ze Tian in 696 when Yao Chong impressed the Emperor with his handling of paperwork during a Khitan invasion that propelled his career He was then promoted to de facto Chancellor in 698. He then served the reigns of Tang Zhong Zong, Tang Rui Zong, and Tang Xuan Zong as chancellor. He had an illustrious career and cleverly was able to avoid betting on the wrong horse. His legacy was tarnished during his later years, especially with the dealings from his sons. His sons, 姚彝、姚异, Yao Yí (姚彞) and Yao Yì (姚异) sought bribes in the capital city. One of Yao Chong’s associates 赵诲 also was caught accepting bribes from foreigners, which was a crime punishable by death.
Yao Chong tried to save the three of them and 赵诲 huì was sentenced to exile instead of death. Because of these events Yao Chong finally retired in 716. In the drama, 姚汝能 is the great grandson of Yao Chong. Everyone disparages him due to his grandfather’s actions for bribery and that’s what 姚汝能, in this entire drama, is trying to clear. We’ll actually discuss a bit more about what his FATHER also tried to do. Just a note – in the drama 姚汝能 is the great grandson of 姚崇 but in history there’s no clear relation. For the purposes of this drama – the author just linked these two Yao families together.
Finally we get to see our girl 檀棋 in proper Tang Dynasty women attire and what a sight at that! She looks absolutely resplendent!
Let’s talk a little bit about her whole costume and makeup. During the Tang Dynasty, what was in vogue was to have a very pale face, so the foundation was of a chalky white color. The makeup artist in the behind the scenes videos shared that it took about one hour just to put on the white foundation for all of the ladies in the drama.
During the Tang Dynasty, the order of applying make up was as follows, 敷铅粉、抹胭脂、画黛眉、贴花钿、描斜红、涂唇脂
Or – apply the white base or skin whitener, then blush, then draw the eyebrows, add the flower petals, apply a side shape (if wanted), and then finally apply lipstick
The white base has been used for thousands of years in China. The blush is applied very liberally along the cheekbones so much so that it almost seems as though half the face has blush applied. The 花钿 or flower petals are either drawn on or kind of like a temporary tattoo, applied on. In the drama, the whole thing takes between 3-4 hours for each lady, depending on the difficulty of the make up.
Let’s turn our attention then to our girl 檀棋 – for her flower petals on her forehead, it looks like lotus flowers. What’s interesting is that she also has 2 dots on her dimples called 面靥. Originally, these 2 dimples were used by ladies in the palace to indicate that they had their period and so could not sleep with the Emperor. This practice then made it to the masses but the original purpose was discarded. Ladies then just chose to decorate their face with shapes such as stars, crescent moons etc.
Looking at her hair – she has a 插梳 which is the small golden comb placed on top of her head. She has 4 golden hairpins inserted into the sides of her hair. On the back of her head is a large flower that was also customary of the time. 檀棋 is wearing a 齐胸襦裙 or the Chest High Ru Qun. The colors are interesting with the mix of the orange, red and green. Honestly, they remind me of many uncovered Tang Dynasty artifacts because they typically used those 3 colors. I couldn’t find any reason for the colors of her outfit. To close everything out – She also has the 披帛 or the silk shawl. On her chest is a pearl necklace.
I absolutely love her look and am sad that we only see it for a brief period of time as she generally is in more mens fashion. But we shall enjoy it while we have it on screen.
Next – as a quick reminder when we’re at the scene with Director He and Li Bi, there’s a folding panel in the background with calligraphy that has the lines 列祖应命，四宗顺则 from a poem written by 贺知章 called 太和. That poem was praising the might, splendor, and beauty of the Tang Empire but so far, we’ve seen it slowly crumbling. I feel like this really is a theme of this whole drama and why I’m always interested when we see this poem shown on screen.
Lastly – let’s talk about 门籍 or the visiting cards. To enter into the palace or a notable house, one had to have his or her name on a list. If you were not on the list and tried to enter the palace, you would be punished. This was first recorded as a practice as early as the Han Dynasty in the 2nd century BCE and was used until the Tang Dynasty. This reminds me a lot of calling cards that we see in British shows.
Now – a couple of changes from the book. Yao Ru Neng in the book is less crafty or you could say cowardly than Yao Ru Neng in the drama. He is quite eager to help rescue Zhang Xiao Jing. In the drama, he is also the one to step forward first at the headquarters of the right cavalry. As for the jade flower pendant, the book describes this as a pendant for Li family members and so this one was specifically borrowed from the crown prince as in the book, the right chancellor’s last name was also Li, not lin. So it doesn’t work as well in the drama thus, Tan Qi almost let slip this was related to another case. And in the book, Tan Qi is here on request of Li Bi. THere’s not much personal wish to be here. That’s not the case in the Drama where she certainly has more…complicated feelings towards Zhang Xiao Jing.
As for Li Bi’s visit to He Zhi Zhang, in the book, he did indeed visit, but he was not poisoned and there was not that interlude with He Fu. That is a major deviation in the book vs the drama.