Ep 21: 


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 21 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 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. If you have any questions or comments, please reach out to us! 



Episode 21 opens to a very interesting scene. Let’s make sure to take note of this scene. There’s a little lotus flower lantern floating down a river at Jing An Si. Xu Bin notices its existence but doesn’t make any more action towards it. Right after, we see Yao Ru Neng back in his court attire ask Pang Ling, the guy who has been watching the time all day, about if it’s true that when he’s at work, he doesn’t go to the bathroom for a whole 24 hours. Pang Ling says that’s not true. He can not go to the bathroom for 2 days one night. Except Yao Ru Neng points out that that’s not true either. Pang Ling was spotted leaving his spot multipel times by Xu Bin. Pang Ling basically ignores Yao Ru Neng but this conversation is VERY interesting.

Elsewhere, Wen Ran has met up with Long Bo and was punishing Yu Chang for trying to kill her earlier. Wen Ran has let off the necessary steam so she tells Yu Chang to get up in order to keep doing work. She once again shows that she is a bit of a loose cannon and even Long Bo implies she should not turn her skill towards family. This woman is crazy and also rather ineffective, as we’ll see soon. 



Now finally, let’s return to Zhang XIao Jing, Tan Qi and our new friend Yi Si, a minister or deacon of a christian church. They are looking for You Cha who seems to have disguised himself at this church. Yi Si shares with Zhang Xiao Jing and Tan Qi that there is an elder called Pu Zhe who fits the profile of You Cha and they head to his rooms. Zhang Xiao Jing tentatively leads the way in only to find You Cha bloodied on the ground. The music turns tense as Zhang XIao Jing turns to an open door on the other side of the room. Sure enough, an assassin was waiting for them. Zhang Xiao Jing engages in battle with the assassin, trying to capture him for questioning but the assassin breaks through a window to escape. And now, another one of my favorite scenes in the drama. A furious chase across the rooftops ensues and it’s not only Zhang Xiao Jing who gives chase but Yi Si also joins in the fray as well. Well, Yi Si is actually more adept on rooftop than Zhang Xiao JIng and more fleet footed.


I don’t know what the venn diagram is of people who play video games and also watch Chinese dramas and listen to this podcast. Well we fit into the center of those people. In any case, this scene is basically like playing a videogame, especially Assassin’s Creed. That’s all about parkouring and chasing people on rooftop so I was rather giddy watching this scene because it’s like hey! Assassin’s creed is being brought to life here! It’s funny because the Assassin’s Creed movie was pretty heavily panned so maybe they should have hired this production company to create an Assassin’s creed movie instead. For these chase scenes, it’s done with a mix of green screen in the back. But as I’m watching this i’m like dang, my knees would be in so much pain and I would’ve broken a couple of ankles. 



Unfortunately, Yi Si was not able to subdue the assassin as one of his accomplices gave him some cover and they escaped through the crowded streets. Zhang XIao Jing and Yi Si return to the Church to take a closer look at the assassinated man. Zhang XIao Jing performs a quick overview of the body and concludes that this is indeed You Cha. But they decide to put on a show. In the room, the three act as though the man is still alive and are in need of a doctor. The aim is to indeed get the Tang dynasty version of an ambulance to show up. A body is pushed into a cart and taken supposedly to a doctor. Except, this body was actually Zhang XIao Jing in disguise. In quiet street, another rather comical fight ensues as both of the assassins are subdued by Zhang Xiao Jing. Tan Qi and Yi Si also arrive with Yisi Confirming that these were indeed the men from earlier. 


The group brings back a survivor for questioning and Yisi tells the other monks of the church to arm themselves. There’s not a whole lot they can do though since these are just monks, not fighters. Problem is, Yu Chang has also arrived.  Zhang Xiao Jing then engages in questioning to the captured assassin. It’s quite brutal and painful as the man also tried to commit suicide. The monks wince at the scene and scuttle away, leaving Zhang XIao Jing to do his job. But outside, sadly, Yu Chang arrives and promptly kills the monks. Yisi only survived because of his proficient parkouring skills. Yu Chang is here to make sure there are no loose threads as to who killed You Cha and eliminate any connection to Long Bo. 



Zhang XIao Jing sees Yu Chang and he sneers that they’ve managed to trap an even bigger prey. Another brutal fight happens with between Yu Chang and Zhang Xiao Jing. Meanwhile, Tan Qi implores the assassin to give up information about who paid them to kill this man. Clearly, their lives are of no use any more to whoever paid them because Yu Chang is proof that they never wanted to keep this mercenary group alive. If he doesn’t tell them who actually hired them, then this mercenary group will be left to feel the wrath of the government and the entire organization would be in peril. This moves the assassin who is near death anyways but he manages to utter through his bloodied mouth of a place in Ping Kang Fang and seek the Flame master


At this point, Zhang Xiao Jing also managed to subdue Yu Chang. She tries to goad him into killing her and he was super close to, but Tan Qi managed to back him off. They capture her as their prize for the night. Sadly, the mercenary killed himself and outside in the courtyard, Yisi also had to take care of the bodies of all of the monks in the church. Evidently, Yu Chang was adept in killing all these innocent civilians but is too useless to kill Zhang Xiao Jing. Ugh. The more I see her now, the more annoyed I am of her. SHE”S USELESS AND AWFUL.


The episode ends with Zhang Xiao Jing and Tan Qi tying up  Yu Chang and having a heartfelt conversation about the 守捉郎 mercenaries and their life which we will elaborate on in a moment. Outside, yi si had sent a pigeon messenger and he is now greeting soldiers at the church entrance.


Let’s introduce our actor 伊利多斯 or Eldos Faruk who portrays 伊斯! The actor hails from the city of 乌鲁木齐 from the province of Xinjiang and is of Uighur descent! The now 30 year old actor studied at the Central Academy of Drama as a director but has several acting credits in movies and theater. 


While casting for this role, the director wanted someone not of east asian descent and set their sights on someone from the middle east. They searched far and wide even to Egypt, North Africa, and even parts of Southern Europe! But the cast lucked out by finding Eldos. If you look closely at his eyes, he has green eyes which mirrors the character in the book. Even though Eldos studied at the Central Academy of Drama, he also had to work hard on his mandarin to keep up with the rest of the cast. 


For the parkour scene in this episode Eldos had to train for 2 months to get this scene right. 



Now turning to the character of 伊斯. He’s actually several historical characters melded into one. 


The first is the Persian Prince Peroz the 3rd. The character 伊斯 states that his grandfather was a Persian king whose kingdom collapsed. Looking at history, the closest is the story of Prince Peroz the 3rd who was born in 636. His father was Yazdegerd III, the last Sasanian King of Kings of Iran who ruled from 632 to 651. For much of his reign, Yazdegerd III faced an onslaught from the Muslim Arabs. As early as 639, he sent envoys to the Tang court for assistance but the Tang didn’t respond until 661. By then, Yazdegerd III had died in the city of Marw which is now in modern day Turkmenistan. His son Peroz III had fled to Tang China and was made “Prince of Persia” or 波斯王 and given the title of 右武卫将军 or – I’ll take the wiki translation Martial General of the Right Guards. There’s some conflicting records because it’s believed that Peroz III died in the city of Luo Yang some time in the 670s but there are other records that a “Peroz”, escorted by Tang troops, returned to Persia and stuck in a place called Tokhara for 20 years which is located in modern day Afghanistan. This “Peroz” returned to the Tang court in 708. It’s mainly believed that this was Peroz III’s son Narsieh.



As for the other historical figures includes a man called 伊斯. The name 伊斯 or Yazedbuzid is actually recorded in the Nestorian Stele. Yazedbuzid or 伊斯 was granted the title of 金紫光禄大夫 or a court position of 3rd rank. With that he’s allowed to wear purple at court. He played a crucial role, serving alongside 郭子仪 during the An Lu Shan Rebellion to crush the rebellion. For his support, the Church of the East was rewarded by the Tang Emperor Su Zong. The Stele also notes the expansion of the Church with white robed missionaries. It was YiSi that lead the Church of the East to its pinnacle reach during the Tang Dynasty


These two historical characters lived about 100 years apart and the character of Yi Si more align with the historical person of Yi Si. The author just threw in the line about his royal heritage which mixes this up a bit


On the carriage ride back to the monastery, 张小敬 and 檀棋 have a very touching scene. 张小敬 wants to sing a song for her but doesn’t know any. Instead, he recites a poem for her. One that really moves her.


The poem is called 侠客行 or Ode to Gallantry. In the drama, 张小敬 only recites the first 8 lines of the poem. There are a total of 24 but in reading the full poem, it makes sense why 张小敬 only recited the first 8. They go as such.







The whole poem refers to the heroes of the warring states period who lived during the 3rd century BC. 


Here’s my translation –

The swordsmen from the kingdom of 赵 wears straw hats with no decorations. One has the famed curved broadsword 吴钩. The blade is as bright as snow.

They ride white horses with silver saddles, riding through the streets as if shooting stars from the sky

Their martials arts are unparalleled, killing people every 10 steps. They find no rivals in a thousand miles.

They are heroes of justice and chivalry. After performing their deeds, with a turn of their cloak, they leave and don’t even leave a name. 


The remainder of the poem recounts specific stories of the Lord of Xin Lin and his brotherhood. I’m not going to recount them here because they don’t really add much to this episode. 


For me, the reason why 檀棋 is so touched by this poem really is the last line 事了拂衣去,深藏身与名。Or they are heroes of justice and chivalry. After performing their deeds, with a turn of their cloak, they leave and don’t even leave a name. 


Right before 张小敬 recites this poem, he told her that she’ll turn into a mean old woman because the one person she’ll love in life, she’ll only know for one day. Connecting this statement back to the poem, 张小敬 is that hero of justice who will unfortunately have to leave her without leaving a name for himself. Is this foreshadowing? Perhaps? I don’t want to spoil the rest of the story.


The poem itself was written by who else, 李白. The drama heavily utilizes poems from 李白’s collection and this poem is no different. The timing of the poem doesn’t quite work out though because this poem is believed to have been written in 744 when 李白 was traveling to the city of 齐州.  From an analysis perspective, these 8 lines, at least in Chinese, really depict the atmosphere of these swordsmen. It conjures up an image of these master swordsmen racing through the city fighting for justice. 



Near the end of the episode, YiSi says a prayer for his fallen brethren.


He recites from The Sutra on Mysterious Rest and Joy or 志玄安乐经. It is believed that the surviving manuscript was unearthed from the caves of 敦煌. It came to the possession of the Qing Dynasty collector 李盛铎. The manuscript was purchased by the japanese professor Toru Haneda in the 1930s who wrote books about these surviving texts. 


Based on Toru Haneda’s analysis, The Sutra on Mysterious Rest and Joy has 2660 words and is a late Tang dynasty handwritten copy of an original. The Syriac Christian monk Adam or in Chinese 景净 was hypothesized to be the author, translator, or writer of the document. Adam lived in the mid 8th century and was also the author of the Nestorian Stele that I mentioned for last week’s episode. Adam translated over 30 biblical texts into Chinese written script of which include The Sutra on Mysterious Rest and Joy. He also helped translate Buddhist texts. We know of Adam or 景净 because his name is written in Syriac on the Nestorian Stele. According to the Beijing university philosophy professor 朱谦之, the text engraved on the stele reflect Adam’s high status and standing as the leader of the Church of the East during his time in the Tang Dynasty. 



Lastly – let’s close out on a discussion of the mercenaries or in this drama called 守捉郎. In history, 守捉 appears in the New Book of Tang which states that these Protection Garrisons were set up during the early years of the Tang Dynasty for border defense. But these were smaller forces. During the middle of the Tang dynasty, these 守捉 garrisons were expanded throughout the empire. They were bigger than an outpost but smaller than a formal garrison for troops. For each 守捉 garrison, there were between 300 to 7000 people. As noted in the drama, a portion of these men were transferred from the army but some were also convicts that were sent to these garrisons as punishment. Families also traveled or lived at the garrison. 


The word 守 means protect so these garrisons were sent and placed all throughout the north and northwest of the empire to protect against the nomadic tribes. The whole concept of these 守捉郎 as assassins were invented by the author. They were conveniently leveraged as an organization for hire.


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