Ep 29+30 


The crux of these two episodes is getting the truth that one wants to hear, vs the actual truth. We’ll focus more on 李必’s side today. After leaving from the underground world, 李必 finds some soldiers to be brought to General Guo. 李必 wolfs down some food and in between mouthfuls tells General Guo the next step in his investigation because he doesn’t think 何孚 is the mastermind behind today’s events. General Guo though, you can tell is more resigned to the truth that 何执正 might be involved. After several episodes of searching for the aged man, General Guo and the Right Chancellor hear news that 何执正 has been sighted, complete with his old donkey and crying out poems in the midnight streets. General Guo does not want 李必 to come near this “case” anymore because the truth might be uglier than what 李必 wants to hear or see. 


General Guo manages to find 何执正 first. He desperately wants to try to intervene with 何执正 in order to protect both him and the Crown prince. While the Right Chancellor, wants to take this exact opportunity to bring the Crown Prince down. The Right Chancellor orders General 甘守城 to apprehend 何执正 and bring him in for questioning. There is a tense standoff between 甘守城 and General Guo as they vye for custody of 何执正 with General Guo chewing 甘守城 out for his behavior. They all know that 何孚 is at the center of today’s events. General Guo is trying to keep 何执正 away from revealing the truth that he is behind it while we know that’s not what the Right Chancellor wants.


The standoff between the two sides becomes even more intense as Li Bi and Tan Qi arrive. But Tan Qi also went and got back up from a number of scholars from the HanLin Academy. They are pupils of 何执正 but the leader of this group is the grandson of the Prince of Ning. They have royal connections and are skilled with their words that potentially could drown the Right Chancellor and General 甘守城 if their negative writings are brought to the Emperor.


In front of this crowd of many people willing to help protect him, 何执正 ultimately decides to go with General Gan to see exactly what the Right Chancellor has in store for them. Li Bi and Tan Qi also accompany him for this confrontation. 


Once again, we see the master of manipulation and cunning at work. The Right Chancellor has 何孚 under his thumb and right before 何执正 arrives, tells 何孚 that the only way to protect his adoptive father from being implicated in today’s events, is to confess exactly the way the Right chancellor wants.  何执正,李必 and 檀棋 finally arrive at the Right Chancellor’s residence where the Right chancellor has a trap laid out for them.


何执正 is absolutely heartbroken to see his adoptive son blinded the way he is and you can see that there is strong fatherly love from 何执正. Li Bi steps up and says he will take the responsibility of questioning 何孚. But 何孚 doesn’t respond to Li Bi’s questions and instead, just asks if killing one person to save the ship is the right way. 李必 just responds, what do you mean before 何孚 pauses. He then promptly lies that the healer sent from the palace was actually a spy from the Crown Prince used to pass messages directly from the crown prince to 何孚. This was the older healer we saw 何孚 kill at his residence earlier in the drama. 何孚 cries out that it was the Crown Prince who ordered 何孚 to kill the Right Chancellor and screams multiple times that his adoptive father is completely innocent. In the rush, before anyone could do anything, 何孚 stabs himself in the stomach and hunches over. Dead. His false confession, taken down. Not a word about 龙波 or anything other event that night. 


李必, 何执正 and 檀棋 are all shocked at how fast the events unfolded. They didn’t even have time to blink before 何孚’s dies in front of them. 何执正 is utterly heartbroken but there’s not much he can do. 何孚’s body is taken away as the Right Chancellor overseas the documented confession be officiated. 何执正 is escorted out with the body of his son while 李必 tries to fight back. The confession didn’t undergo trial, this isn’t the process by Tang law! But does the Right Chancellor care? Nope. He got the answer that he wanted. All three seals required to “officiate” this confession are in posesion of the right chancellor which speaks to the amount of power that the right chancellor has. In the face of Li Bi’s question of whether he’s afraid of what the world or the Emperor will say, he just calmly response, no I’m not scared. Dannnng!!! 


But that’s not all. The right chancellor reveals he knows that Li Bi was using today as a way to stop the Right Chancellor from more authoritative power. Earlier in the day, Li Bi had told Tan Qi that because the both of them were around, he will make sure that the Emperor does not give out that decree that will give the Right Chancellor that power. Li Bi is shocked to hear these words because they were told in confidence in Jing An Si earlier that day. How could those words have traveled to the Right Chancellor’s ears? 


We get the more shocking reveal. Episode 30 opens with 姚汝能 visiting 李必 who was up in the mountains with 檀棋 evidently studying more daoism. It was 姚汝能 who passed along the message to 李必 that the Crown Prince needed his help and wanted 李必 to take over 靖安司. But to do so, 姚汝能 gave the story about the sacrifices his family made and how he wants to do better and do more. That is what moved 李必 enough to come help the Crown Prince. 


We see 姚汝能, who was being held in the prison in 靖安司, be given food and his personal affects back by a very deferential 吉温 who now runs 靖安司. 程参 bless his heart, is finally able to eat after being locked up in the prison all day when 姚汝能 gives him his food. Before 姚汝能 departs though, he gives 程参 a word of advice. Make his fortunes out west. He’s not fit for Chang An.  With that, 姚汝能 is escorted with a decent procession of people, including 元载 and 王韫秀 back to the Right Chancellor’s property.  It is there that we and 李必 realize, that 姚汝能 was working for the Right Chancellor all along. He is the spy and traitor that we’ve been hearing about. Let’s pause here! Isn’t this crazy! Sure, Yao Ru Neng’s been confusing and conflicting at times but he always ended up helping the heroes!


All those words he said to Li Bi earlier in the day about how he doesn’t have grand ambitions or grand aspirations when Li Bi and the Crown Prince were studying together blah blah blah. Evidently all of that was false. He wanted to bring honor back to his family. The Right Chancellor was the best path to do so. 


Li Bi is shocked to see this but he’s backed into a corner right now. The Right Chancellor locked up 檀棋 and is using her life as blackmail to force Li Bi to write a false statement incriminating himself, the Crown Prince and 何执正. If he doesn’t agree to sign the statement, they’ll kill 檀棋. I do feel bad for 李必 and 檀棋. She has such a hopeful look in her eyes when she sees him, hoping that he would save her. But he hesitates and you can see the look in her eyes change. She cannot fault him for his choice, but it just means that when compared to the Crown prince, her life may not mean as much. To Li Bi’s credit, he doesn’t actually make a definitive answer. Instead, he just says to sit for a while together. Only for this moment of calm to be interrupted by the arrival of 姚汝能.


姚汝能 is there to 落井下石 which basically means, kick you when you’re down. He reveals to Minister Pei who is documenting everything right now all of the secret meetings that the Crown Prince had with Li Bi and other members of court. These are serious crimes and if presented to the Emperor would definitely mean the end of the Crown Prince. Li Bi I feel like is overwhelmed with emotions right now. I mean I would be. He’s furious at Yao Ru Neng’s betrayal, helpless at being threatened to sign this confession with Tan Qi’s life and disgusted at the Right Chancellor’s abuse of power. Nothing in the confession points to Long bo at all. Only the crown prince’s motives to rid the Right Chancellor. These men are not actually worried about the safety of the people of Chang An. They are only worried about preserving their own power. At this point, it seems as though a mountain has just crushed Li Bi. He can try to fight, but he’s powerless to truly make a stand.


He’s given a brush to sign this confession but he pauses and asks for the time. Episode 30 ends with us hearing that it’s 11PM, midnight approaches. 



That was so much to digest for us with Li Bi’s side of things and it’s not looking good for him or the crown prince. On Zhang XIao JIng’s side, he doesn’t get the information he needs from the fire master even after presenting 葛老’s ring and getting into a fight because apparently, 鱼肠 had burned the evidence just before Zhang Xiao Jing arrived to ask for the information. She did leave what looks like a jagged bamboo piece for the fire master to give to Zhang XIao Jing which he takes to mean was a battle invitation. After a quick meal, the chase begins again for Zhang Xiao Jing. He attacks some members of a watchtower to get the latest news about what happened to Jing An Si. He learns that 崔器 died in combat and so did 徐宾. I’m a little confused by this timeline and questioning because why didn’t 李必 tell him all of this when he saw 张小敬 in the underground world earlier? Maybe a bug in the drama or maybe 李必 didn’t see the full aftermath before chasing after 龙波. 


In any case, 张小敬 tears away after getting this news and tries to escape in the streets. He jumps into a carriage to hide from his chasers and who just so happens to be the owner of the carriage? 许鹤子, the famous singer from earlier in the day. She apparently won the competition today but was looking all over for Zhang XIao Jing to try to thank or help him for saving her brother earlier in the day. He’s grateful for her help while she’s over there basically about to throw herself at him. She knows that he’s unmarried and has said she’s willing to escort him to the ends of the earth. His reaction gave me a chuckle in all of this intensity because he’s like, uhhhh i don’t have time for your affections right now. 


They all jump as someone gives 张小敬 a message. It turns out to be from 徐宾 who instructs 张小敬 to meet him at his paper mill. This surprises him pleasantly since he literally just heard that 徐宾 died. And then we get flashbacks to when 张小敬 was on death row. And damn his time on death row was rough. Just a hole in the ground, left out in the elements even in the freezing rain. How 张小敬 is alive right now even after being imprisoned that way surprises me. Wouldn’t  his muscles atrophy? 


In any case, we learn that 徐宾 was the only person that went to visit 张小敬. He even gave 张小敬 food and wine to help him stay alive. It was also 徐宾 who told 张小敬 he’ll try to get him out of prison with his 大案牍术 methodology. The reason? 徐宾 thinks 张小敬 is a good person and good people shouldn’t end up with this fate. 


Did you you guys also see how 



Wow! What a reveal! The drama finally reveals a true traitor to Li Bi! One that has been along with us the audience for a ride for the whole drama. Did you expect that it was 姚汝能?


After a rewatch, it’s actually interestingly quite obvious that 姚汝能 was the spy. Early on in the drama, the Right Chancellor keeps referring to intel provided by this person called 三女. Or 3 woman. This is where I love the chinese language because there’s so much word play involved in this! When I hear 3 woman, I personally assumed – oh, it’s a woman. But no! It directly refers to 姚汝能. In the second character of his name, 汝. If you break up the roots of the word, it’s 3 dots of water on the left and Woman right! That’s basically 3 Woman! In addition – if you look at the character itself – the 3 dots expanded LOOK like the character 3. So voila – 三女 or the traitor was staring at us in the face the ENTIRE time. That’s crazy right and how awesome is that? Such a clever word play in hiding the traitor literally in plain daylight. 


In interviews, the actor also said he kept subtle ticks during his portrayal as 姚汝能 that hinted at his betrayal, namely the fact that he kept holding / caressing his jade pendant whenever he had to make a difficult decision. He definitely did that in episode 29 while captured.


We’ve mentioned before that 姚汝能 is a very interesting character because of how conflicting he is. Yes – we’ve seen that he is a coward, but he has often saved our heroes. Look at how valiantly he fought Long Bo and tried to save Cui Qi as well as Zhang Xiao Jing. But unfortunately he had long been the spy against this group of people and all he wanted was to restore glory for himself and the Yao Family.


So? What do you think of this reveal? 

There’s a couple of historical topics to discuss today. 


Let’s take a look at the weapon that 甘守诚 has in episode 28. It’s a long weapon kind of like a spear but with a 2 sided blade instead of only a spear. This is very evident when you see him trying to apprehend Director he.


This is called a 陌刀. The name 陌刀 appears repeatedly in historical chronicles of the era but what’s interesting is that there are no paintings or historical artifacts that can corroborate the true shape of the weapon. All we have are writings that describe the weapon as weighing either 50 jin or 15 jin and used against the enemy cavalry. I was getting conflicting reports on the weight but most say 15 jin and that equates to around 16 pounds. 


During the early Tang period, around the 620s, neighboring Turkic tribes constantly invaded the western Tang borders. As they were nomadic, the Tang troops needed weapons that could stall the imposing cavalry. And that is where 陌刀 became widely introduced. 

Historically, 陌刀 was simply a broadsword used during the Han era for ceremonial purposes. During the Tang dynasty, this 陌刀 was repurposed to become a terrifying weapon. In 679, it is recorded that 裴行俭, who is one protagonist of the drama Weaving a Tale of Love, lead 100s of thousands of troops against Turkic groups, and it was documented that some of these troops were equipped with the 陌刀. That victory pushed for more development of 陌刀 in the Tang army.


Fast forward to the era of Tang Xuan Zong which is our current emperor for the drama, 陌刀 became once again famous due to one person 李嗣业, bringing 陌刀 to the pinnacle of its popularity. He joined the army some time before 742 but after joining the army in 安西 in 742, he became well known for using the 陌刀.


In 747, he participated in a military campaign out west and was instrumental in recapturing Little Palola. After that campaign 72 kingdoms out west became subjects of the Tang Empire. During the An Lu Shan rebellion in the 750s, he also played a crucial role in defeating An Lu Shan’s troops after being summoned by the new emperor Tang Su Zong. Unfortunately he died in 759 due to injuries. 


After 李嗣业 died and with the decline of the Tang dynasty after the An Lu Shan rebellion, the Mo Dao also lost favor as a weapon. There are a couple of theories as to why there are no existing artifacts or even paintings of the weapon. 


1 – it was a special military weapon and couldn’t be created for personal use, so there weren’t that many in circulation to begin with. 

  1. There probably was difficulty in actually making the Mo Dao whether that was from raw materials or final make, local blacksmiths couldn’t just make them from scratch
  2. Because of the difficulty – it was probably also very expensive so no one really made them
  3. As time went on, the weapon had no use anymore. China invented gunpowder for wider use shortly after this time period and therefore the military used other means for combat rather than use this heavy weapon.


In the media, the depiction of Mo Dao is used based on the descriptions found in written texts and references to tang dynasty paintings that are of similar swords.


Next – during the confrontation, Director He is somewhat saved by a new group of men. The one leading them was called 宁王孙 or the Grandson of the Prince of Ning. 宁王 was 李宪 who lived from 679 to 742 and was the oldest brother to our current Emperor Tang Xuan Zong.


李宪’s original name 李成器 and at age six was named crown prince when his father became emperor in 684. However, when his grandmother 武则天 declared herself Emperor, 李成器 was demoted to royal grandson.  In 710, 李成器’s father reclaimed the throne as Emperor. He was about to promote 李成器 as the crown prince due to his status as being the eldest, but 李成器 declined the role because his younger brother 李隆基 contributed to the most in installing their father back as Emperor. The Emperor agreed, and from then on, 李成器 was known in history as 让太子 or the declined crown prince. 李成器 changed his name to 李宪 in 716 to avoid having a similar word in his name to the Emperor’s mother. 


He had a really close relationship with his younger brother Emperor 唐玄宗 since they were kids. It really showed because he still held pretty high posts at court throughout his life. This 让太子 died in 742 at the age of 63. A few episodes ago, I mentioned some reasons why our emperor, Tang Xuan Zong, wanted to change the era name. That included the death of his older brothers including this guy 李宪, which again highlights how close they were in life. The year is 744, only 2 years since the death of 李宪, which means that the EMperor still very much has his brother’s death top of mind. 李宪’s grandson still has sway at court, as can be seen in his efforts to protect Director He. That’s why he does have some clout and why 甘守诚 does indeed back off when he arrives. 


Lastly, in episode 29, the Right Chancellor gets the “confessions” from both He Fu and Li Bi. Li Bi’s over here exclaiming that none of this is legal because there was no trial by the 3 bureaus. Li Bi is stunned to see that the Right Chancellor has the stamps of the 3 bureaus because in doing so, he overstepped his authority and can be impeached for it.


It’s a little confusing because 三司 the 3 bureaus referred to the Bureau of Salt and Iron Monopoly, Tax Bureau, and Ministry of Revenue. It was established during the Tang dynasty and essentially managed the revenue of the empire. 


What we’re talking about is 三司会审 or Investigation of the 3 bureaus. Let’s talk more about why Li Bi is so indignant. During the Tang Dynasty, big cases needed to be reviewed by the 3 bureaus. The reason for 3 is to ensure fairness or rather impartiality in the final verdict. I’m not a lawyer so I don’t know if it is fair but basically if 1 of the bureaus make a decision, it’s kind of like you can appeal to the other 2 to see if they get the same verdict. 


For smaller cases, they were determined by the Censorate (yushitai), the Chancellery (menxia sheng), and the Palace Secretariat (zhongshu sheng). That was called the 小三司. 


For large cases, they were determined by the 大理寺卿 Minister of the Court of Judicature 、刑部尚书 the Minister of Justice, and 御史中丞 Deputy Censor in Chief. Note that these had to be the actual ministers who signed off for these cases. Those are the exact 3 stamps that the MInister of Justice places onto the “confession”. These 3 ministers represent the highest judicial offices in the empire and should present the impartial verdict.


What we see though in the drama is corruption at its finest. We find out in this scene that the Right Chancellor has SO much power that all 3 of these bureaus or ministers, who should be operating independently are in the pocket of the Right Chancellor. Otherwise, how else would he have the formal stamps to these? As we saw in these 2 episodes, the Right Chancellor could essentially just have the Minister of Justice write whatever and that would be enough to accuse his political enemies. This is exactly why Li Bi is flabbergasted at this and tries his hardest to state that this “confession” was illegal but to no avail. In history, the Right Chancellor did indeed amass so much power that he essentially freely accused his political enemies, leading to their deaths or demotions. 


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