Ep 26 + 27
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 26 and 27 of the Tang Dynasty drama, The Longest Day in Chang An. We are officially at our halfway point in the drama!
The time is now 10PM at night.
Episodes 26+27 are a strong test of resolve for those trying to do good. Li Bi is still held captive in Long Bo and He Fu’s hideout. Except, Long Bo has made it abundantly clear how little he cares for He Fu. He Fu has his eyes gouged out by Long Bo’s men. He is returned to the chamber holding Li Bi who is stunned to see what happened. Li Bi questions urgently where He Jian is but He Fu doesn’t respond, only laughing maniacally that he cannot see his revenge anymore.
Li Bi is taken into a side room by Wen Ran and several men. They are about to kill him but he pipes up that he can save Zhang Xiao Jing. THat’s his only saving grace because Wen Ran wants to save Zhang Xiao Jing and Li Bi might be the only person who can do so. Wen Ran agrees and has him drugged as Long Bo and his men ready themselves for the next step of their plan.
In his dream state, Li Bi asks his teacher, He Zhi ZHeng whether he knew about He Fu’s true nature. He Zhi Zheng raised He Fu for 20 years, would he know that He Fu was feigning his mental illness this entire time. IN the flashback, He Zhi Zheng is rather blunt in showing that he didn’t want to expose He Fu’s actions because the biggest beneficiary would be the Crown Prince in the end. While He Zhi Zheng may not have directly participated in He Fu’s actions, only with Lin Jiu Lang’s death can the crown prince be safe. The truth is not that important. Li Bi mulls over these last words before waking up. It is this theme that separates the politicians compared to those seeking to do good. This theme we will see repeated in the next episode. Li Bi manages to untie himself and escape out into the streets.
At this point in the evening, it is time for the Right Chancellor to head over to the palace for the evening’s festiviites. The Emperor has ordered him to arrive. We see him getting dressed in armor and his magnificent purple robes that reflects his status at court. Except…it’s not actually him. The right chancellor has a decoy dress in his clothes to head out onto the streets in case anything bad should happen. And it’s more likely than not that something bad will happen as the decoy himself bows to the Right Chancellor and requests his family to be taken care of.
Once again, I am impressed with the Right Chancellor’s cunning. He is as sly as a fox. He’s chilling in his rooms waiting to see if an explosion does indeed happen. If it comes to fruition, then he already has all the documents needed to pounce on the crown prince. The Right Chancellor is stressed for his life, but he’s not going to take this without a fight.
Out on the streets, this decoy Right Chancellor is on his way with many soldiers. He Fu himself is in a carriage with supposedly a bunch of the bombs, getting ready to kill the Right Chancellor. I believe the original plan is for He Fu to bomb both himself and the Right Chancellor in order to avenge his family. Except He Fu is too naive to believe the dangerous Long Bo. He Fu lights the flames for the bombs and there is chaos in the streets, but, nothing happens. No explosion occurs. He Fu is apprehended immediately. Li Bi who witness this entire thing, tries to stand up for He Fu and claim he isn’t the mastermind behind this but is in turn chased by the soldiers as well for being a part of today’s plan. Li Bi pelts his way through the streets of Ping Kang Fang to hide from his chasers. A young courtesan helps Li Bi hide from his attackers and he manages to escape down below but then is knocked unconscious in the underground world as he flashes that he is a court official.
Meanwhile, Zhang Xiao Jing is being chased throughout the city. Ji Wen has given orders to apprehend Zhang xiao jing and now Yuan Zai and Wang YUn Xiu are leading a group of men to kill Zhang Xiao Jing. Yao Ru Neng is sent to a watch tower to oversee that the watchtowers are working properly to aid the capture of Zhang Xiao Jing. You can tell he is extreemyl conflicted about this. FOr this drama, I am really confused about how much collateral damage happens. One of the watchtower guards straight up shoots an old courtesan who is standing next to Zhang XIao Jing and isn’t thinking twice about it. Like ???? Anyways, fortunately for Zhang Xiao Jing, his old buddies in Bu Liang Ren, find him and put on a show that they’re capturing him. Instead, they bring Zhang Xiao Jing back to their station and give him rations plus a disguise to help him escape the city. These men should be commended for their bravery in helping their former boss. Yuan Zai and Wang YUn Xiu arrive, hot on their tail and in an instant, orders soldiers to attack these Bu Liang Ren. In quick succession, these Bu Liang Ren are killed protecting Zhang Xiao Jing. Their sacrifice gives him the opportunity to escape.
Back on the streets, he is carefully being tracked by the watchtowers. Luckily for him, Yi Si finds him and gives him warning that the streets ahead are unsafe. Yi Si wants Zhang Xiao JIng to go into hiding right now and stay safe before continuing his investigation. But Zhang XIao Jing’s resolve is wavering. He just saw his buddies die for helping him. He doesn’t think he has much use left for the city. For the first time today, Zhang Xiao Jing thinks he should leave. Yi Si impresses me here because even though he’s a bright ray of sunshine, he tells Zhang Xiao Jing that he shouldn’t retreat. In episode 27, in the face of oncoming attackers, he steps in front of Zhang Xiao Jing, ready to fight them in order to give Zhang Xiao Jing the chance to escape. Zhang Xiao Jing yanks him to the side and they run off for their lives. But it’s not much use. The watch towers have their position tracked.
At long last, Yao Ru Neng on one of the watch towers can’t take it anymore. He punches one of the watchtower soldiers and orders the other soldier to get lost. He takes over the messaging and beats a simple message. “Don’t Retreat”.
This shift in message is heard by everyone in the city. Other watchtowers also relay this message. Ji Wen back at Jing An Si orders an investigation on this message while Tan Qi and Li Bi hears this while in their despair. Tan Qi cannot find Zhang Iao Jing while li Bi has been captured by the underground world of Ping Kang Fang. Yao Ru Neng also adds additional orders for all watch towers to go dark and go home. We hear soldiers at one of the watchtowers question this order only for I guess a high ranking soldier to say, it must be true. Let’s all go home. I dont think he truly believed this but is willing to help Zhang XIao Jing in this instance given all of his heroic deeds today.
Finally, Yao Ru Neng finally grew his backbone. This scene was very touching to me because if we recall, in the second episode of the drama, Zhang Xiao Jing made the comment that Yao Ru Neng likes to retreat. Or back off. That signals his cowardice nature. In this moment, we see a lot of growth in Yao Ru Neng. Unfortunately, he is captured back to Jing An Si. In front of Ji Wen, Yao Ru Neng does not back down on his choice but is admonished for his poor actions. Ji Wen says that Zhao Xiao Jing is the culprit that the Right Chancellor needs. They don’t care about the truth. Only what is helpful to the Right Chancellor. This right here, to me shows that He Zhi Zheng isn’t too far off from the likes of Right Chancellor or Ji Wen. In both this episode and the last episode, we are shown that the truth doesn’t matter if it gets to the end that is wanted. Yao Ru Neng is dejected at hearing this and the fact that He Fu was apprehended as a mastermind for the night but is reassured in the Jing An Si prison cell for doing that hard thing.
Yi Si exclaims to Zhang XIao Jing that the watch towers have gone dark and the message of Don’t Retreat or bu tui are being repeated. Someone is helping him! Zhang Xiao Jing pauses and is reminded of his time as a soldier. The two words that were a key driving force for him and his fellow soldiers. 不退. Don’t Retreat. Understanding the message that was sent and revitalized in his resolve, he orders Yi Si to not look at what he’s about to do next. Zhang Xiao Jing turns around to meet the oncoming soldiers. The despicable Yuan Zai orders Zhang Xiao Jing to be killed only for Zhang XIao jing to brutally eliminate these soldiers. At least now we see Zhang Xiao Jing reinvigorated.
As for Li Bi, he is thrown into the same jail cell in the underground of Chang An as a young woman covered in boils and blisters. He’s thrown in there as a blackmail hostage to gain money. I really like this quick little side adventure of sorts. Li Bi investigates the young woman named 阿枝’s medical ailment on her body. Her brother, the captor, arrives and is furious that he’s looking at her body. The brother chokes Li Bi while A Zhi steps in saying Li Bi is just trying to help. Li Bi gasps out several ingredients to help her. The brother is in disbelief at first and thinks Li Bi is trying to trick him into having hope but Li Bi simply says, fake hope is still hope. Why not give it a try. A Zhi sheds a tear hearing that someone is actually willing to stand up for her.
I really like this scene because it shows that Li Bi, despite being scared, is willing to work with people from all walks of life, even supposedly the lowest of the low. Li Bi gives A Zhi more respect in their brief interaction that A Zhi’s own brother who looks down on her for having been a courtesan and now is covered in boils. Well, I think he’s more conflicted because he apparently spent 3 years looking for a cure for his sister to no avail. I think he’s only so mean to A Zhi because she’s a reflection of his failure to earn money to call a doctor for their mother which ultimately led to A Zhi’s current predicament.
Li Bi tells A Zhi she should tell people what she wants to do if she gets to live. I personally love this story. This blistered young woman loves the morning sunrise of Chang An and the tasty pastry the old grandma makes every day. A Zhi wants to be like that old grandma – have her own business, clean, able to stand up straight making a living with her own skill, and also able to support her brother because by that time, her brother will also be old and needs supporting. It’s such a random scene but so touching. To me, it reflects the simple dreams of ordinary people that may not have the opportunity to simply because of societal expectations or misfortunes. Li Bi in this scene shows his ability to look beyond the exterior and be respectful to people of all walks of life.
This is in heavy contrast to Lin Jiu Lang and even He Fu. At the beginning of episode 27, Lin Jiu Lang has He Fu brought over to his residence for questioning. He Fu at first didn’t know Lin Jiu Lang was present given that he’s blind but unleashed his fury at hearing Lin Jiu Lang. However, when hearing that Lin Jiu Lang is willing to bring justice to He Fu’s birth father’s name, He Fu says he’s willing to give the confession that Lin Jiu Lang wants. Aka fake testimony. This means that while He Fu is a victim of Lin Jiu Lang’s power hungry antics and right in wanting revenge, he is not a “righteous” person in the same vein as Li Bi or Zhang Xiao Jing.
Most of the history will come from episode 26 so let’s get started!
First and foremost – when Long Bo comes to retrieve 何孚 after gouging his eyes out and locking him up, Long Bo sees that 何孚 has written a few words on the wall with his blood. They are 遥见双人影，知余在身旁. According to 何孚, these are nothing more than words from a lantern riddle or 灯谜.
灯谜 or Lantern riddles are pretty standard as an activity to perform during the Lantern Festival. These riddles could refer to a word, a person, a poem, you have it, but these riddles are very fun because with chinese characters, you can guess the composition of the word or else what the word means.
遥见双人影，知余在身旁 – Let me translate it literally. Seeing two shadows in the distance, I know the man Yu is by my side.
We don’t get the answer to the riddle in the drama. However, the answer is a MAJOR spoiler and a really clever one at that.
If you don’t want to get spoiled, skip the next minute or so. The first line of the riddle 遥见双人影is a word play on the 双人旁 or the double person radical of a chinese word，the second line 知余在身旁 – i know Yu is by my side. Add those two together and you get the word 徐. How’s the only other character in the drama that goes by 徐? 徐宾. He must have some connection with 何孚.
AND we’re back.
Next – let’s move to the dream that 李必 has with himself and Director He.
Director He begins the conversation by discussing the 8 sites of Chang An and focuses on one, the snow from the mountain Tai Bai.
I couldn’t find when exactly the 长安八景 was named, but in 1680 a stone stele was engraved naming the 8 sites of 关中 which basically is the 8 sites of Chang An.
A poem was written about all 8 and listen to how all of these are incorporated in the poem.
华岳仙掌 – the heavenly peaks of Mount Hua.
骊山晚照 – the sunset views of Mount Li 骊 (second)
灞柳风雪 – the wind and snow at the bridge of bà 灞柳
曲江流饮 – a boat ride and drinking on the Qu river
雁塔晨钟 – the morning bell tolls of the Geese Tower
咸阳古渡 – the ancient crossing of the river 渭 at 咸阳
草堂烟雾 – the mist from the well at the village of 草堂
太白积雪 – the snow capped peaks of Mount Tai Bai
Of the 8 mentioned above, I personally have been to 2 of them. This includes Mount Hua and Mount Li. The scenery around Mount Hua is absolutely breathtaking and I highly recommend it as a day trip to climb the peaks. On the same trip, I also went to Mount Li – and we’ll definitely be talking about this mountain more as this drama continues. There are hot springs there but the focus wasn’t so much on the scenery, rather the history of this mountain. I believe I also went to the Geese Tower in modern day 西安but it wasn’t as memorable.
Director He personally favors the mountain tai bai, close to the city of Chang An. The mountain is in the southwest of Shaanxi Province in China and only a 1.5 hour drive southwest from the city of Chang An.
Director He then quotes from the Commentary on the Water Classic or 水经注 by the Northern Wei Dynasty official and geographer 郦道元. Commentary on the Water consists of 40 volumes that discusses the understanding of waterways and canals.
In ancient times, Mount Tai Bai was also called 武功山 and in the Commentary of the Water Classic – it states 太白山南连武功山，于诸山最为秀杰，冬夏积雪，望之皑然. This part is quoted word for word in the drama so I’ll take the translation from Youtube.
Mount Taibai is connected to Mount Wu Gong in the south. It is the most magnificent of all mountains. There’s snow summer and winter. A scenery of pure white.
In the Commentary of the Water Classic – the author also wrote 汉武帝时，已有太白山神祠，其神名谷春，是列仙传中人. During the time of emperor Han Wu (so think 2nd Century BC), a Daoist temple that was already dedicated to Gu Chun existed on Mount Taibai. Gu Chun is a daoist god listed in 列仙传 or the Biographies of Immortals.
Lastly – let’s close out with daoism from the same conversation. Director He quotes these lines from Dao De Jing, the ancient chinese text of divination.
He gives this response when asked by Li Bi whether he is talking about man or mountain with regards to how cold Mount Tai Bai is.
Here’s the translation that I found on CText.org which I think is accurate – Man takes his law from the Earth; the Earth takes its law from Heaven; Heaven takes its law from the Dao. The law of the Dao is its being what it is. Youtube and other translations instead have it as Man follows the way of earth, Earth follows the way of Heaven, Heaven follows the way of Dao, and Dao the way of Nature. I personally think it’s important to highlight the word 法 or Law because it’s not just the way but there’s some order or law to this way.
I’ll also need some daoist scholars to help inform me. However, I think the reason why Director He or Li Bi’s subconscious responds this way is because it doesn’t matter if the conversation about Mount Tai Bai is about a man or mountain, it is the way of all things.