It’s 19 episodes in and we’ve finally reached the evening. For at least the next 20 episodes or so, we’ll be in darkness. At Jing An Si – the themes of lotus are everywhere, especially with the lanterns that lit up at night.
It’s now almost 7PM.
In the last episode, Tan Qi and Yao Ru Neng are off trying to prison break Zhang XIao Jing from the Right Cavalry’s headquarters. Tan Qi pretendes to be in the employ of the RIght Chancellor but things don’t go according to plan. Well, Zhang Xiao Jing isn’t super cooperative but they end up taking General Zhao hostage and having him lead the group out to escape. That’s where the episode starts. Zhang XIao Jing has a knife pressed against General Zhao’s back and he clears a path for them. Except Cui Qi stops the group. He calls his soldiers to try to stop Zhang XIao Jing and all hell breaks loose as General Zhao takes this opportunity to escape and scream to kill Zhang Xiao Jing.
Zhang Xiao Jing throws a handful of dust as a diversion and grabs Tan Qi’s hand and runs. He yells for Yao Ru Neng to cover their exit. And in the probably THE funniest scene in the entire drama, at least to me, Tan Qi is worried that Yao Ru Neng might not be able to handle it. Except Zhang XIao JIng says people who are scared of death won’t die. Next thing we know, Yao Ru Neng is pelting in front of Zhang Xiao Jing and Tan Qi with the most serious look on his face. I always die laughing when I see him. Tan Qi is like wtf how is he so fast?
Unfortunately, the group are not able to escape out of the Right Cavalry’s headquarters as at the entrance of the compound, none other than General Gan Shou Cheng and his soldiers. Uh Oh. The trio get tied up again and General Gan is not a nice person. Tan QI and Zhang XIao Jing are trying to protect each other from further abuse but General Gan is super disrespectful to Tan Qi. From her hands he can tell she’s a servant and asks if she knows how to dance. But at the sound of this request, he orders a large plate of burning hot coal be brought forth. She has to choose, whether or not to dance, shoes on, on this plate of burning hot coal, or Zhang XIao Jing is branded with hot iron from said coal.
Zhang Xiao Jing huffs that he doesn’t mind the burn but Tan QI, who has been extremely protective of Zhang Xiao Jing during this exchange, agrees to dance.
It is a tense moment as Tan Qi grimaces but continues to dance. Yao Ru Neng is interrogated by General Zhao and when asked who exactly sent her here, she reveals that she is here for personal reasons. She states that she developed feelings for Zhang Xiao Jing following the events of today and she hopes to break him out of prison so that they can escape together today and disappear. Yao Ru Neng is shocked to hear this. Zhang Xiao Jing is too and we’re all trying to decide how much of what Tan QI said is true vs just a lie to get them out of this tense situation. But it does some to make an impact on Zhang XIao Jing as it is quite unique for a woman to say such things out in public and in the company of so many men. This affair at least bought the trio some time as General Gan Shou Qi ponders her words and reviews her slave contract.
But at this moment, General Guo or the Eunuch Guo arrives. Earlier in the episode, he received a desperate letter from Li Bi to save Zhang Xiao Jing. General Guo decides to help Li Bi given the things Zhang XIao Jing has accomplished today and how Li Bi said that if everything was easy, then it wouldn’t be called a choice.
I personally really enjoyed that scene where General Guo debates with another eunuch about his future. General Guo decides that his future doesn’t compare to the future of Chang An and decides to save Zhang Xiao JIng. Contrast this to the Right Chancellor who is only thinking of his own power.
With that, Zhang Xiao Jing, Tan Qi and Yao Ru Neng are released and taken by General Guo, on the condition that Zhang Xiao Jing is not allowed to appear again in Jing An Si. General Gan isn’t stupid, it’s not worth keeping Zhang Xiao Jing especially when General Guo said that he is willing to accept any consequences. Why not make this exchange?
Xu Bin was waiting for the trio and directs them to the secret chamber next to JIng An Si that Li Bi and the Crown Prince had met earlier in the day. Zhang Xiao Jing tries to confront Tan Qi about what she said earlier when she expressed her feelings. She tries to deny that any of this was real except Zhang Xiao Jing doesn’t believe her. He thinks what she said earlier had some level of truth to it. Tan Qi is flustered and doesn’t say much afterwards.
In the side chamber, Li Bi greets Zhang Xiao Jing and the two continue to discuss the case. Zhang Xiao Jing is surprised to hear that there are 300 more barrels of bombs out in the open. He deduces that today’s plot cannot be devised by the wolf squad alone. The location of where the carts were stored and the intense planning for today could not be done by people who are not familiar with Chang An. Li Bi understands Zhang Xiao Jing’s deduction but isn’t willing to share that He Fu is probably behind this given his ties to He Zhi ZHeng. Zhang Xiao Jing picks up on the fact that Li Bi is hiding something except he can’t do much about it at this point. Li Bi decides to go interrogate their captive, Cao Po Yan for for more intel which is what we’ll discuss next episode.
The only other thread today is that Wen Ran manages to escape prison through her use of fragrance. I felt like this scene was a little too over the top because her fragrance causes people to hallucinate your worst fears and we are treated to a rather gross scene of Wang Yun Xiu’s nightmare of many insects crawling around. Blegh. Well, she escaped.
In the first half of today’s episode, Zhang Xiao Jing, Tan Qi, and Yao Ru Neng encountered a formidable foe in the form of General 甘守诚, the general of the right calvary. He’s a pretty ruthless person as seen by his eagerness to slap Tan Qi and torture her by having her dance on burning coals.
We’ve seen him with the Right Chancellor before but he hasn’t yet had the chance to shine. Who’s this guy in history? 甘守诚 only has a few lines about him written in the Old Book of Tang, which a historical work that was published in the 10th century AD. It simply chronicles that there was a captain in the right calvary called 甘守诚. During that time Emperor Tang Xuan Zong deeply believed in alchemy, and according to some masters of recipes, certain ivy from the lake of Tai Hu could extend life. 甘守诚 studied medicine and tried to persuade the Emperor to avoid these recipes but was brushed away from the Emperor. That was all that was written about him.
What’s interesting is that the author probably combined two historical characters into two. One includes 甘守诚 and the other 李嗣sì业. There’s no historical record of who was the General of the Right cavalry, but there are records of the main general of the royal infantry or 禁卫军. That means that 李嗣业 probably also led the right cavalry in 744.
In this episode, we also see many fish lanterns. This tradition has lasted for thousands of years. According to folktales, when a carp jumps over the dragon gate, then it’ll transform into a dragon. The dragon and the fish are intertwined and hence why for a lot of lantern festivals, they are traditionally seen together.
Next, there’s a brief mention of a gentleman called 孙思邈 who used to reside in Jing Long Guan, the secret hiding place of Li Bi. 孙思邈 lived roughly between 581 and 682 AD. He was a Chinese physician and writer who made tremendous contributions to Chinese medicine especially by documenting his findings. His masterwork 千金要方 or Essential Formulas worth a thousand piece of gold is comprised of 30 volumes and includes over 5300 medicinal recipes ranging from internal medicine, surgery, pediatrics, and gynecology. This man pops up in certain dramas here and there but we haven’t seen a dedicated drama about him. It’s kind of interesting that we literally just hear his name thrown about here and there in this drama but that’s it.
Lastly – continuing with the medicine theme. We get a shot of many needles and Li Bi applying one of the needles on himself. He is self administering acupuncture which is part of traditional chinese medicine. The whole premise is to insert very thin needles at strategic points in a body called 穴位. In traditional chinese medicine, it was used to treat pain and in dramas, it’s been like the magical technique that could save even a dying person. This technique has been around for at least 2000 years but it’s not based in scientific knowledge, hence why it’s considered a pseudoscience. Li Bi in the drama is probably trying to rid himself of any negative effects from the pill that he ate from He Fu.
Let’s close out with some book differences. In the book, General Gan does arrive when the trio are trying to escape but he just orders that they are released and the whole order of Zhang Xiao Jing never being allowed to appear back in Jing An Si is still part of the book. But what isn’t in the book is this whole forcing Tan Qi to dance on hot coals. I’m not entirely sure why they added that to the drama. And we were looking – there isn’t much historical ties to what that dance was for. Perhaps to dance more lightly? In the drama, Tan Qi said she practiced on hot plates when she was young not because she was forced, but because she wanted to in order to be a better dancer.
Furthermore, at this point in the drama, He Fu’s actions are not yet known to Li Bi but he does wait for Zhang Xiao Jing in that side chamber. Jing An Si has not been disbanded yet so there are plenty of people bustling about trying to help with more investigation. As for Wen Ran, she doesn’t try to cause Wang Yun Xiu and company to hallucinate. On the contrary, in the book, the two are still friends and shocked to see each other. Wen Ran is more a victim in the book.
That closes out our discussion of episode 19 of the longest day in changan!
The music for this episode is 清平乐 played by Karen with sheet music by 崔江卉.
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Another telling tidbit that tells us the drama combined the two characters is that if you look at 甘守诚 in the drama, he’s always carrying a heavy sword called the 陌刀 sabor. We don’t really see him showing it in this episode but the 陌刀