Ep 24 + 25:
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 24 and 25 of the Tang Dynasty drama, The Longest Day in Chang An. We are officially at our halfway point in the drama!
After the heroic display at Jing An Si in the last episode by Cui Qi, we now turn back to Zhang Xiao Jing’s story line. He has been chasing the Shou Zhuo Lang or mercenaries that were sent to kill You Sha and the Church. He has Tan Qi and Yi Si both in tow.
It is now 9PM at night.
The group heads to the location their captured mercenary shared before he died in order to seek a “fire master”. But when the door opens, Zhang Xiao Jing is surprised to see a familiar face.
Turns out, this fire master is one of his buddies during his time at war. One of the few who survived. A guy named Ding San. Ding San is rather hospitable to Zhang XIao Jing while keeping Tan Qi and Yi Si under careful watch by other mercenaries. Ding San has lots of food around and says he must have food within 5 paces around him otherwise he starts seeing flies. This seems like an odd comment until we find out later that it’s because his wife, mother and children died of hunger. The flies in the hot july months left what we can believe is unimaginable trauma for this man. He bursts out in tears after recounting the horror of what he saw. Zhang Xiao Jing tries to console him and asks who hired them to make the hit on You Cha. They’re harming innocent people in Chang An with their actions.
Zhang Xiao Jing at this point doesn’t know what has befallen Jing An Si. Even with Cui Qi’s defense, Long Bo set Jing An Si ablaze and we see soldiers trying to carry the bodies of the dead out or try to revive those who might still be alive. Li Bi chases after Long Bo and company through the secret passageway from whence they came. Li Bi is covered in blood and easily captured by Long Bo and men and whisked away. Meanwhile, news has already been sent to the palace and General Guo is back at the Right Chancellor’s residence with orders for the Right Chancellor to now take over management of Jing An Si. Apparently the crown prince told the emperor that it was because the Right Chancellor removed Lv Ben Jun earlier in the day which caused the security to be very lax at Jing An Si. General Guo is very sarcastic in his congratulations towards the Right Chancellor. Everyone knows that the Right Chancellor now has that hot potato on his hands. After General Guo leaves, the Right Chancellor screams at Ji Wen, his close subordinated from today that he must now take over Jing An Si and give him a culprit within the hour.
Unfortunately this means that we see more of the annoying Yuan Zai, Wang Yun Xiu and Ji Wen. Ji Wen arrives to take control of Jing An Si and Yuan Zai is ordered to see him. Yuan Zai brings along Wang Yun Xiu and asks her to just write her name down to confirm the days events. She’s surprised the piece of paper is just a blank paper but Yuan Zai just tells her to trust him. What is her evidence used to state then? That Zhang Xiao Jing is the main culprit behind today’s events. Ji Wen, in front of the surviving members of Jing an si which includes Yao Ru Neng, gives this whole speech about how today’s events must have included a spy and that in order to quell the situation, they must find the person responsible. That person is Zhang XIao Jing!
The men of Jing An Si all mutter under their breath at this proclamation and some even burst out with cries of indignation. They are met with brute force as a soldier steps forward and slaps one of the men who disagreed with this conclusion. They can all see that Ji Wen is using Zhang Xiao Jing as a scape goat to solve today’s crimes as quickly as possible and not find the real culprit. The surviving men cry out that they will not agree to this and push Yao Ru Neng to step forward to oppose this resolution. Except this man, is still fundamentally weak. That small amount of courage he gathered in the last episode retreats once again once Yuan Zai shouts that if Yao Ru Neng opposes this is tantamount to treason. Yao Ru Neng turns to the crowd and says they should listen to Ji Wen. These upstanding men are disgusted by Yao Ru Neng’s words. Ji Wen sends orders for all of CHang An to seek and kill Zhang Xiao Jing. Anyone who does so will be handsomely rewarded.
The episode ends with Zhang Xiao Jing once again asking Ding San who exactly sent him. Zhang XIao Jing requests that Tan Qi and Yi Si are allowed to exit safely and he’ll stay as a hostage for them. Once the two leave, Ding San, having given his piece of the flag during their army days, actually turns around and kills all of the other mercenaries in the room. I guess he is trying to save Zhang XIao Jing? He calmly states that the person behind this is right. What he’s doing is correct. Sadly, he doesn’t get to say more before Ding San himself is killed by one of his downed men. In his dying breath, he says that he does not regret what he’s done. With that, another thread for Zhang Xiao Jing is lost.
We’ll continue directly into episode 25. Tan Qi and Isse are waiting for Zhang Xiao Jing outside. Isse declares that he can be helpful and states that he knows how to Parkour or freerunning. Parkour wasn’t officially named until like the 1990s. So let’s just ignore that whole statement in the drama. Isse gets into a little bit of trouble with Ding San’s remaining me and rushes back to Tan Qi.
Zhang Xiao Jing also rushes out of the room. He doesn’t have too much time to think about what just happened. At this moment, the watchtowers beat their drums with the order to seek and kill Zhang Xiao Jing. Zhang XIao Jing runs from the mercenary hideout of now dead people with more mercenaries hot on their tail. Zhang Xiao Jing pushes Tan Qi to run while he fights off the mercenaries. Tan Qi isn’t going to just leave Zhang XIao Jing to fend for himself so she runs to find nearby Bu Liang Ren or Sleuth Hounds to help. She comes up with a whole story about how they should go seek attackers and they do follow her out but then become hesitant when they see that it’s ZHang Xiao Jing. Zhang Xiao Jing doesn’t really need their help as he subdues the other mercenaries and then speaks with the Bu Liang Ren or Sleuth Hounds. They’re not pleased that he betrayed Xiao Yi earlier that day but do give their respects to him for this last day. When they immediately after receive orders from a messenger to apprehend Zhang Xiao Jing, they let him and Tan Qi escape as a parting gift of respect.
Meanwhile, He Fu is ecstatic to hear these drum beats and bounds in the tense conversation with Long Bo and Li Bi. You can feel the palpable annoyance Long Bo has for He Fu who asks for time alone with Li Bi. He Fu reveals to Li Bi that he was always faking his mental retardation. He tells off Li Bi because he, He Fu, is actually much smarter than Li Bi and knows how to hide his strengths and skills in order to achieve his ultimate goals. All he wants is to see the RIght Chancellor killed tonight. Li Bi becomes angered at He Fu’s questioning of whether or not his actions today were actually done to protect the people of Chang An or if there is another reason. Which, I think, is fair. Does Li Bi actually care? Li Bi then tries to strangle He Fu
We get a flashback to an unknown time back at the secret location where Li Bi, the Crown Prince and 韩朝宗 are meeting. They discuss the Crown Prince’s grand plans to enact his new tax reforms. A trusted official, Pei Mian, has already set up a private place in the locale of 灵武, to enact these new plans. 3 years into the reforms, none of the farmers have left and there seems to be great results. The 3 of them then get onto a topic of informing the Emperor of the oppression and terror imposed by the Right Chancellor. However, both Li Bi and the Crown Prince oppose this proposal due to the delicate position the Crown Prince is currently in. The Emperor knows that the Crown Prince and the Right Chancellor are at odds. It would look very suspicious if someone from his faction brought forth these charges.
Li Bi is still focused on the future that the Crown Prince will presumably bring, an era of prosperity. Back at the present, Li Bi then voices his anger at He Fu because everything He Fu’s done will endanger the Crown Prince’s future but He Fu doesn’t care. Long Bo breaks the two apart but He Fu insults Long Bo on the way – demeaning Long Bo and his men. Long Bo stares He Fu down and gives him a lesson on humility. I’ll cheer for Long Bo in this instance because He Fu really deserves no sympathy. He Fu does change his demeanor and apologizes to Long Bo but he makes the critical mistake of staking that he’ll give Long Bo and his men more money. He Fu’s blinded by his desire for revenge and believes everyone can be bought. We talked in the last podcast episode how Long Bo does have a code. He Fu blew right past that code and that’s the end for He Fu. While Long Bo agrees to allow He Fu to be present at the demise of the Right Chancellor, Long Bo will gouge He Fu’s eyes before then. He Fu is dragged away to complete this deed.
Back at Jing An Si, Ji Wen now has complete authority. 姚汝能 tries to appeal to Ji Wen to have him find another suspect because they all know full well that it isn’t 张小敬. However, Ji Wen just mocks 姚汝能 for his cowardice because 姚汝能 didn’t say anything in front of the other men earlier. According to Ji Wen, 姚汝能 is just a disgrace, like his father. We’ll talk about this later. 姚汝能 has nothing more to say except bow and ask for a task. Here’s where I’m confused by 姚汝能 – he risked his life to save 张小敬 earlier from the clutches of the Right Calvary. Why not now?
Meanwhile – 元载 promises to 王韫秀 that he’ll protect her and her family in the future. They are summoned by Ji Wen and ordered to capture Zhang Xiao Jing. What a total git. Ji Wen doesn’t want to do the job so he has Yuan Zai do it. The episode ends with a kind of reset. The different players are in motion – Li Bi captured by Long Bo’s men, Zhang Xiao Jing is back on the move, and 姚汝能 grieves of the bodies of the dead men, including what looks like 徐宾’s body.
Ok! That was 2 pretty heavy episodes that really pushed the plot to the next stages.
Let’s turn to history and they all really appear in episode 25. We won’t talk about the Rainfall pavilion today because we covered it during our discussion of episode 22, although do check out the nice water wheel that’s shown at the end of episode 24.
We’ll focus on the flashback conversation between the Crown Prince, Li Bi, and the gentleman 韩朝宗.
At the beginning of the flashback, we hear two lines.
生不用万户侯，但愿一识韩荆州 or I don’t have to be born a duke with a ten thousand serfs, I only need to know 韩荆州
These 2 lines were written by none other than the master poet 李白 around 734. He wanted to become introduced to the aristocracy and officials at court and wrote what was essentially a 干谒 yè poem to 韩朝宗 who was also known as 韩荆州 due his time as an official in the city of 荆州.
We talked about these Gan Ye poems in episode 3. The poor poet 岑参 had all his poems destroyed. As a remind, 干in chinese means to work and 谒yè means to pay respects to or visit. So these 干谒 poems were literally to show someone in power my labor in hopes that this powerful person will take a liking to my poems and put my name up on the list for the final ranking from the imperial exams.
韩朝宗 was born in 686 AD born and raised in the city of Chang An. He gained favor with the Emperor 唐睿宗, the father of our current emperor. 韩朝宗 continued to rise at court steadily until the 730s where he was then demoted due to allowing officials under him to lazily enact strict taxes. In 742, 韩朝宗 returned to Chang An as 京兆尹 or basically the governor of the capital city. In his later years, his faction lost the battle against 李林甫 and was again demoted out of the capital city.
During his life 韩朝宗 was well known as having an eye for talent and nurturing young scholars and officials to entering court or higher ranks at court. Hence why the poet 李白, who was still struggling to make his way into court in the 730s wrote this now well known piece 与韩荆州书. Interestingly, 李白 still didn’t really make it to court after publishing this piece but 韩朝宗’s name has lived on for over a thousand years.
Next – 韩朝宗 also reports to the Crown Prince that a man named 裴冕 has implemented the Crown Prince’s reforms in a place called 灵武. 裴冕, born in 703, only became an official during the Tian Bao era so the earliest was 742. He became an imperial censor. During the An Lu Shan rebellion, the Crown Prince fled the capital city north towards 平凉. 裴冕 rendez-vouzed with the Crown Prince and convinced the party to head to 灵武. After 5 requests, the Crown Prince 李亨 agreed to declare himself emperor as 唐肃宗. 裴冕 was the appointed deputy head of the legislative bureau of government or 书侍郎. For the purposes of the drama, the timing for 裴冕 to be in the Crown Prince’s orbit is a bit early but he does play a crucial role later in the Crown Prince’s life. 灵武 also is of note because in history that’s where the Crown Prince declares himself emperor.
Lastly, let’s talk a bit more about 姚汝能. In episode 18, we talked about 姚汝能’s ancestors including the chancellor 姚崇. Let’s now talk about 姚汝能’s father, who is briefly mentioned by 吉温 in this episode as mockery of the 姚 family.
The man 吉温 is talking about is 姚闳, the grandson of the chancellor 姚崇 and father of 姚汝能. In the old book of tang, which is a historical text about the Tang Dynasty, a man called 牛仙客 rose to the level of chancellor during Emperor Tang Xuan Zong’s reign in the year 736 and served alongside 李林甫 which is our 林九郎 in the drama. During his political career, he also appointed 姚闳 to be an imperial censure. This 姚闳 claimed that he could communicate with other realms and was learned in supernatural matters and knew how to avoid misfortunes. 牛仙客 totally believed this. In 742, 牛仙客 turned gravely ill. Yao Hong comes over to say – hey! I’ll pray for you so that you can rise to the heavens but before I do so, you need to write a letter of recommendation to the Emperor telling him to promote Yao Hong’s Uncle 姚弈 and the Deputy Minister of War 卢奂 to become chancellors. Yao Hong wrote the letter and forced 牛仙客 to sign. But 牛仙客 was on his deathbed at this point and could barely write anything. The old man died shortly after. During the funeral, 牛仙客’s wife exposed Yao Hong’s treachery to the officials that came to pay respects. The Emperor became outraged at this news. He sentenced Yao Hong to death and had 姚弈 and 卢奂 demoted. This only happened in 742. In the drama, we’re currently at 744 so this is rather fresh in everyone’s memory. That’s why 姚汝能 is so desperate to try and be on the “right” side politically. His father and uncle stained the Yao family name and therefore he must act correctly to restore his family name. Again – he is an interesting character in the drama because so much of what he does conflicts with previous actions. I guess again, it just shows, when faced with adversity, people flip flop.
As a reminder, in the drama, 姚汝能 is the son of 姚闳 but that’s not clear from history.