Ep 35


The lantern festival celebrations are in full swing. The Emperor has arrived in the Grand Auditorium or Flower Sepal Tower 花萼楼 and throngs of crowds are in the main plaza releasing lanterns into the sky. The crowd pays their respect to Emperor as well as the massive lantern tower which we learn is in the shape of the historical figure 老子。The father daughter pair we see in the crowd is none other than the barber and the daughter we saw all the way back in episode 1.


李必 has been captured by 龙波 at the 老子tower who reveals to us at long last, his plan. 龙波 wants to kill the Emperor. 


Inside 花萼楼, 檀棋 has requested help from her friend, the famed 杨玉环 but in this drama called 严羽幻 for help. Except 严羽幻 has stipulations. She gets asked constantly for favors with the Emperor and can’t agree to all of them so she set strict rules. She doesn’t help anyone lower than 5th rank. She doesn’t help those who committed one of the 10 great crimes。 She doesn’t help someone who works for the Crown Prince. She doesn’t help a killer. Well, Zhang Xiao Jing basically falls into most of all of these categories for ppl she doesn’t help. 檀棋 is a little distraught and in her haste, begs 严羽幻 for help to save Zhang Xiao Jing because he is her lover. That captures her attention.


I personally really like this scene because it adds a lot more cunning to 严羽幻. She’s not an idiot. She knows how to be careful in her position. None of this is stated in the book so the director of the drama and screenwriters added all of this in. 严羽幻 is fully aware of the power she holds and how to stay out of trouble. She’s not going to irk the Emperor by asking for forgiveness for someone that she doesn’t know and can’t verify the story. Therefore, these rules she set in place are quite smart. Not only that, she is focused on learning who the winner of the parade competition is outside. They learn it’s 许鹤子 the famous singer. This raises her warning signals because it is evident that 许鹤子 hopes to enter the palace to capture the Emperor’s attention. Who would that harm? 严羽幻. 


檀棋 listens to this and smiles on the sideline. She suggests that 严羽幻 does something about 许鹤子 to which 严羽幻 immediately agrees. She skillfully says that if 许鹤子 were to have some type of accident or issue when she meets the Emperor, then Zhang Xiao Jing can be saved, hinting at the exchange she wants from 檀棋. Once again, showing that 严羽幻 is a lot more cunning than history books portray her. She knows she needs to protect her position and is going to have someone else do it for her. 


We join 严羽幻 and 檀棋 as they head over to the area where the Emperor is holding court. They sit to the side as the Emperor begins his questions of court matters. He first asks how the Patola Sahi Embassy is doing. General Guo explains that the Ambassador was highly pleased with the embassy and is going to return to their king to ask that they resume paying tribute. This could mean creating more allies to the western border of the great Tang.The Emperor only has one response – It was worth building this embassy.


The Prince of Yong and the RIght Chancellor take this opportunity to preen their feathers and tout all of the achievements they’ve made, hoping to garner favor with the Emperor. Except, Director He chimes in whether or not the Emperor actually knows how the land the embassy was used for was procured.


We finally get a flashback into what caused Zhang XIao Jing to be imprisoned. The prince of Yong + the RIght Chancellor used the Blaze Gang and killed 闻无忌 or 闻染’s father, zhang xiao jing’s friend in order to force them to move from their home to use that land for the embassy. After seeing 闻无忌 die in front of him, 张小敬 goes on a massive rampage and murders 34 members of the blaze gang that were outside the property and had a hand in killing 闻无忌. Not only them, he also killed his supervisor in a super bloody manner because his supervisor told him someone wanted to see him and that he should live a new way. 


In his fury, 张小敬 storms over to the Prince of Yong’s residence. He;s over there pleased to hear the progress of securing the land for the Embassy before Zhang Xiao Jing arrives. He puts a knife to the Prince of Yong’s neck and threatens him to never touch 闻染 and ensure she is protected at all times. The Prince of Yong immediately agrees. Zhang XIao Jing drags him by his feet to the Prince of Yong’s mother’s memorial tablet and forces the Prince of Yong to swear by her name. In this entire exchange, the Prince of Yong acts like a scared little puppy and willing to agree to everything Zhang XIao Jing says in his frightened state.  Now we know why the Prince of Yong is so scared of Zhang Xiao Jing. He was humiliated quite severely at the hands of Zhang XIao Jing. 


Except, what does the Prince of Yong say to the Emperor? That he reasoned with Zhang Xiao JIng to think about the people, to think about the great Tang. He had no fear in the face of Zhang Xiao Jing blah blah blah. The story entirely painted the Prince of Yong in a heroic manner rather than the scared little mouse he actually was. The situation turns dire in front of the Emperor as the Prince of Yong raises how Jing An Si was using Zhang Xiao Jing today to solve various crimes. Zhang XIao Jing, this convicted murderer on death row. The verbal battle escalates and it doesn’t look good for the Crown Prince or Director He. They can talk about 大案犊术 all they want in selecting Zhang Xiao JIng but that won’t fly in front of the Emperor. It looks like the Crown Prince might be punished. 


At this point, Tan Qi wants to take this moment to run up in front of the Emperor to reveal the truth about today. 严羽幻 is surprised by this and Tan Qi actually tells her ways to avoid being connected with 檀棋 after she goes forward. But, once again, 严羽幻 surprises me. The Emperor is furious after the Crown Prince highlights that the Right Chancellor has amassed the 3 seals in Tang court and questions the impartiality of Tang Law. The Emperor yells at the crown prince to shut up while slamming his hand down on his chair. The entire room kneels to the ground. 


It is in this highly tense moment that 严羽幻 calls for the Emperor’s attention and steps forward. In front of all of court that is currently kneeling on the ground, she says that on this lantern festival day, she has an interesting story she’d like to tell him. Notice, she uses the term 四郎 which is a much softer way of addressing a man or is a way to address your lover. Not the way to address the Emperor. The Emperor calms down and actually tells everyone to leave. 


We don’t know exactly what 严羽幻 says to the Emperor. Next thing we know is that one of her maids is telling Tan Qi that both the Crown Prince and the Right Chancellor have come to an accord. Zhang Xiao Jing is safe for now. 



So what is going on with Zhang XIao JIng? We left off with him going on another murderous rampage in the face of 元载‘s attacks with remaining members of 旅奔军 at 晁分’s residence. Poor Yisi is badly injured and in the book, it’s stated that he most likely will never be able to parkour again but hey at least he’s alive. 元载 and 王韫秀 are forced outside to regroup while 张小敬 also takes a breather inside. 晁分 is a little hilarious though because he’s like “I have never seen anything so beautiful and pure!” while Zhang XIao Jing only grunts that there’s nothing beautiful about death. 


However, this does inspire 晁分 to help 张小敬. He knows of a way to get into the square where the palace is and helps him map out a way to get in. He agrees as well to find a doctor for Yisi. This sadly, will be where we leave him. At least he doesn’t die! Though chao fen for some reason breaks Zhang Xiao JIng’s blade in a decisive snap and zhang xiao jing is like…WTF why did you do that?


Regardless, everything that happened at court came at a perfect time because Zhang Xiao Jing would not have been able to exit the residence if not for the court order that 元载 received which stated from both the crown prince and the right chancellor to stop chasing zhang xiao jing. In the book, 元载 was so scared by how brutal zhang xiao jing behaved in killing many of his men that he actually wet his pants so he was not super willing to let this humiliation go. But he has no choice. He recognizes that he doesn’t want to play the hero right now which could result in backlash on his part. So what he decides to stand down. It’s actually hilarious when Zhang XIao Jing opens the door and is about to have another go but instead is met with a deferential Yuan Zai. He’s basically like what is going on? But Yuan Zai offers him a horse to be on his way. 


And how does Zhang XIao Jing actually get into the plaza? He becomes a stowaway in 许鹤子’s parade float. He sneaks into her parade and bluntly requests her aid. She is not one iota scared and instead agrees readily so that as she says “he will remember her”. Her song accompanies us as we see court reconvening in front of the emperor, Zhang xiao jing sneaking into a well that will take him to the grand lantern and Long Bo’s crew working on their final touches in their massive bomb. 




Right at the beginning of the episode, the people of Chang An are out in the square and praying for the prosperity of the empire. The young girl from episode one asks her father who or what is 太上玄元皇帝. 


Her father responds and says – why, it’s Lao Zi! The title is more specific to the Tang dynasty itself. 老子’s real name was 李耳 and lived roughly between the late 6th century BC to the 5th century BC. Because his last name was 李, the same as the imperial name to the Tang dynasty, he was venerated by the Imperial family and many claimed to be his descendants. Tang Emperor 唐高宗李治 gifted 李耳 or Lao Zi the name of 太上玄元皇帝 in 666. The english translation is Supremely Mysterious and Primordial Emperor. In 743, our current emperor added 大圣祖 to the name or Sage Ancestor. In subsequent years, Emperor Tang Xuan Zong kept adding to the name all the way to 大圣祖高上大道金阙玄元天皇大帝 or Great Sage Ancestor and Mysterious and Primordial Heavenly Emperor and Great Sovereign of the Golden Palace of the High and Supreme Great Way. Phew – what a mouthful.


The young girl responds with a quote from 道德经 Dao De Jing. As we mentioned in previous episodes, this text had a huge influence on Chinese philosophy including Confucianism, Legalism, and Chinese Buddhism. The quote the girl recites comes from the 7th chapter of 道德经. 




I found a translation online that goes as such


Heaven and Earth last forever. 

Why do heaven and Earth last forever? 

They are unborn, 

So ever living


I might change the translation for the 3rd phrase so that it goes like this


Heaven and Earth last forever. 

Why do heaven and Earth last forever? 

It is because their actions aren’t for themselves 

So ever living


This really is to represent the everlasting nature of heaven and earth. 


Next, let’s finally talk about court and the genesis of 张小敬’s troubles. The Emperor asks how the ambassador from Little Palola or 小勃律 was enjoying his embassy, to which the eunuch 郭li shi responds that the ambassador was very pleased with the embassy and stated that when he returned back west, he will persuade the King 苏失利 to reinstate its tributary payment to the Tang. This will be a big boon as the other 20+ countries along the silk road will also follow suit instead of allying themselves with the turkic tribes. As the Right Chancellor and the Prince of Yong were in charge of building the embassy, they received high praise from the Emperor.


The construction of the embassy was the spark that led to the death of 闻无忌 and 张小敬’s murderous rampage and imprisonment. We haven’t really talked about the small kingdom before so let’s do that now. 


Between the 6th and 8th centuries, the region of Gilgit in current day Kashmir was ruled by the buddhist Patola Shahi dynasty or in chinese 勃律. There are Chinese records of people in this land dating to the 4th century. In the early 7th century, the Tibetan empire essentially split the two kingdoms to what we hear now in the drama a Lesser Palola or a Greater Palola. The embassy built was for the lesser palola. In the mid 7th century, the region came under Tang suzerainty. The kingdoms, faced with continuous threats from the West from the Tibetan forces and encroaching Islamic caliphates, formed an alliance with the Tang dynasty. According to Chinese records, during the early years of emperor Tang Xuan Zong’s reign, the king of Little Palola 没谨忙 traveled ot Chang An to pay tribute. He and the Emperor had a close relationship and the emperor sent troops multiple times against threats from the Tibetan forces. Unfortunately in 736, Tibetan forces renewed their attack on Little Palola and conquered the kingdom, leading to over 20+ kingdoms in the region also falling under Tibetan suzerainty Some time before 740, the king of lessor palola became 苏失利 and married a Tibetan princess. The Tang dynasty sent troops 3 times to reclaim the kingdom but to no avail. It wasn’t until 747 did 高仙芝 along with his mo dao generals of 李嗣业与田珍 recapture the kingdom. The king and his wife were captured and taken back to Chang An and the region of Little Palola was controlled by the Tang until the outbreak of the An Lu Shan Rebellion in 755. 


We currently are in 744 where Little Palola is under Tibetan rule. Based on what I just shared, I don’t know how the king would have dared to pay tribute to the Tang if they were still under Tibetan rule, but we’ll just roll with it.


Lastly – let’s talk about the song that 许鹤子 sings at the end of the episode. It’s a lovely melody and once again is inspired by 2 poems from 李白. 










Here’s my translation

Longing day and night for my beloved in the city of Chang An

In the lonely season of deep fall, there’s the moving song of a seamstress near a well

There’s light frost in the air. The bamboo mat is also cold


The dancing eyes from before

Have now become the fountain for tears

If you don’t believe my pain from separation

Come back and look at my fading beauty.


The first 3 lines come from a poem called 长相思 that is from the perspective of a man missing his beloved. The last 4 lines are from another version of 长相思 that is from the perspective of a woman missing her beloved. 

Li Bai wrote 3 poems with the same name, each depicting longing in different ways. It is most likely that he wrote these poems around 730. There’s a couple of theories on why he wrote this trio. 1 – these poems aren’t about a particular person, but more about his time in Chang An. The 2nd – he had a rumored love interest, who happened to be Princess 玉真. 


For the drama, I believe this really is to indicate what 长安 represents to the characters of the drama, especially 张小敬. I don’t think it’s coincidence that we hear this song performed for the first time when we finally see the events leading to 张小敬’s rampage and eventual capture. He did everything for the city of 长安. 


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