We start this episode with a man in white robes and wearing a cross walk into the hideout for the Wolf Squad. He is introduced as 右刹 and commands the immediate attention of the whole group and punishes 曹破延. In this scene 右刹 cuts 曹破延’s hair, which devastates him. This act is somewhat similar to what we saw in The Story of Yanxi Palace when the Empress cut her hair, in that it was essentially blasphemous. For the wolf squad, hair was sacred and a gift from heaven and to cut one’s hair meant an act of disrespect. In the book, it was described as basically his soul has been taken away. All he has left is his body. 曹破延 was punished for failing his mission and this act really sets the stage for the power struggle between him and the other members of the Wolf Squad.


Let me discuss 右刹 because he’s a very interesting minor character. He is the youngest son of the Commander of the Wolf Squad or 狼主. Before coming to Chang An, he lived a life of extravagance, with over 300 slaves serving him. In the drama, the Wolf squad, were the main force for their small kingdom but their kingdom was conquered by this country called 大食国. To save his own life and his way of life, this 右刹, surrendered to the Tang Dynasty and are now living in Chang An. 右刹 gathered this particular group of Wolf Squad loyalists to wreak havoc in Chang’An and force the Tang Dynasty to send troops against their sworn enemy the 大食国. 



Let me first dissect this scene and then compare this to history. The 右刹 himself is curiously wearing white robes and wears a christian cross. The young children who run past him call him 波斯僧 or Persian monk. We’ll see more of this church later but 右刹 is currently posing as a monk from the Church of the East or Nestorian Church. The 大食国 that 右刹 mentions as the empire that destroyed their homeland is most likely the Umayyad Caliphate. In Chinese, 大食国 is a broad reference to the Arabian empires that began in the 7th century. In English, the term used was the Saracens in reference to the people who lived in the Arabian desert and wider peninsula. According to records, there was a tribe in the Arab Empires that was very close to the Sasanian Empire, the then Persian Empire. When translated from Persian, it was translated to 大食 or Tay so the Persians would call this Arab Tribe something similar to Tay. From these Persian traders, the Chinese learned of the name and it’s from there that the Chinese generally refer to the Arabian empires as 大食国. I don’t 100% get Tay from 大食 but hey – we’ll roll with it. The name of 大食国 was used up until the Song Dynasty some 400 years later.


Now – here’s the historical context. In the book, the author had the Command of the Wolf Squad or 狼主 as Özmiş Khagan, a true historical figure and last Khagan of the Second Turkic Khaganate. This means that the Wolf Squad is really comprised of members of Turkic origin and their dominant religion would have been Tengrism. This character of 右刹 is fictitious but 右杀 was actually a title at court and we have records of this from 新唐书 or the New Book of Tang, which is an official history of the Tang Dynasty written in 1060. The word 杀 in Chinese means Kill but it most likely is derived phonetically from a turkic word similar to Shad. Regardless the title of 右杀 was most likely pretty high historically hence why it does make sense that this group of Wolf Squad members are so reverential to this 右刹. In history, this Second Turkic Khaganate was conquered by the Uyghur Khaganate in 744 which is this critical year. 



Back to the drama – the Wolf Squad has a mission to complete and 右刹 orders them to capture a woman and fulfill their destiny. We’ll talk about this woman in future episodes. 


The time is now 午 正午 or still noon time but a little after


Let’s return back to 靖安司。何执政 and 李必 are still in a standoff with the chief priest of the Zoroastrians.  何执正 actually calls the priests out on his bluff of having someone walk barefoot across coals in order to quell the fury of the residents in 怀远坊 for what happened earlier. 何执正 is like, ok i’ll do it and the priest is like….what… that’s not what I intended. Since 何执正 is so revered in the capital, if he did walk across the coals then there would be uproar against the priest which he doesn’t want. So this priest is just like fine, I accept this level of sincerity. I’ll also even throw in the registry that 姚汝能 wanted. 何执正 is like what registry only for Li Bi to interject and gladly accept the registry. 


张小敬 is yelling to be released from his prison cell so that he can save 长安。檀棋 does release him after he growls that Chang An is in trouble. 张小敬 rushes over to see 李必 and 何执正 and informs them that there is going to be disaster of fire and they must investigate all sources of oil in the city. 



I do really like that the drama immediately cuts to a mysterious woman in red holding an oil lantern. The flames being protected by the wind. She tries to leave 怀远坊 but is stopped by 姚汝能. She removes her face covering to reveal a beautiful young lady. She flashes a sweet smile as she explains that she wants to leave but is told to return home. She doesn’t protest and turns around but her smile turns more sinister. We see that her name is 鱼肠. The literal Chinese translation is Fish intestine. Lol. 姚汝能 doesn’t think too much of her at the moment but her smile seems to have made an imprint on him.

Back at 靖安司, the executives, I’ll call them, are examining a map of huge map of Chang’An. 徐宾 deftly marks all of the various 坊 that would be impacted if a large fire broke out or multiple fires broke out in the city. It’s already a bleak outlook but Zhang Xiao Jing makes it even worse. He says, what about the fact that there will be lanterns out everywhere in the city tonight. The tension in the room immediately becomes elevated to the next level. Given the severity of this threat, Zhang Xiao Jing becomes even more aggressive as he hears that 靖安司 is investigating everywhere except for the palace for whereabouts of oil.  



An argument erupts between Zhang Xiao Jing and 何执正 because Zhang Xiao Jing just wants to capture the Wolf Squad while 何执正 has other considerations. He Zhi Zheng orders Zhang Xiao Jing to a separate room for them to have a more frank conversation.


Alone with Zhang Xiao Jing, He Zhi Zheng shares that there is a popular poem that’s spreading throughout the city.




The tall willow tree is full of jade colored leaves

Thousands of green ribbons hang down from the branches

Who had cut those leaves so expertly?

The spring winds of February are like nimble scissors


The use of this poem is an anachronism. This was written in 744 when 贺知章 retired back to the countryside. On his boat ride on the rivers and throughout the cities, he finally left the city. The time of his trip just so happened to be the 2nd month of the year where the willows were beginning to bud and the spring breeze was pleasant. The old man was very happy with this journey and penned the poem. 



This is a poem that literally every small child learns in China growing up because it’s easy to learn and the meaning is quite simple as well. I remember as a small child my grandparents would have us recite this poem. Even in Chinese schools in the US this poem is taught to its students at a young age. 


Contrast this the original meaning of the poem with the political message in this drama which basically says that this poem is about how the Crown Prince is mature and grown, ready to take over for the current Emperor. 


I’ll give a big kudos / shoutout to the author for interpreting the poem as such. It is ironic that the author of the poem in the drama He Jian says the political message wasn’t his intention but remember in episode 2 when Li Bi has his secret meeting with the Crown Prince? The secret passcode was exactly lines from this poem. So ya know, it’s 100% political now and everyone, including the Crown Prince uses this poem as code to say – the time for the Emperor is over.



But this crown prince’s sentiment is extremely dangerous. He is not allowed to find allies at court and thus Li Bi is his only “spy” because Li Bi normally isn’t at court. He studies daoism in the mountains instead. He Zhi ZHeng must therefore try to protect Li Bi and 靖安司 which then means he’s protecting the Crown Prince. Being too blatantly aggressive right now could mean they step on landmines and destroy not only their careers but also kill the Crown Prince. 


What’s interesting here is that we see two opposing sides to this current conflict. Is Zhang Xiao Jing wrong in trying to use every resource to find the Wolf Squad? No. Is He Zhi Zheng wrong in considering the impacts to the Crown Prince? No. This tension will continue throughout the drama. All I can say is that the court politics is TIRING. Geez. 


Outside, Tan Qi reports to Li Bi that their spy, 影女 is dead. This shocks Li Bi because this 影女 is a very secret spy that only Tan Qi and Li Bi know about. The fact that she’s dead means someone else must have figured out this secret. There is a clue leftover however. A mysterious and distinctive fragrance is leftover. Tan Qi decides to investigate this as it is their only lead. But the lingering question is that who is this traitor or spy in 靖安司 that is able to overhear such secretive details. 

In the very next scene, we see 林九郎 or the Right Chancellor being given basically a real time update on what’s happening in 靖安司. I did not pay too much attention to this scene the first like 5 times I saw this but the placement of this scene is rather skillful as it highlights that there is indeed a spy within 靖安司 that is able to give real time updates over to this opposing side. 



Two new platoons of troops show up – one under the helm of general Chen with the Dragon Army or 龙虎军 and the other, 右骁卫 or the Right Cavalry and there’s also a third person who is  clearly a eunuch from the palace. They each are under orders to take over the 靖安司 or the Department of City Security which is currently protected by 崔器 and his 旅贲军 Royal Escort. All very confusing but at least the armor that the three groups are wearing are different so you know who’s who.


The Dragon Army 龙虎军 – was probably one of the most prestigious armies during the reign of Tang Xuan Zong. They protected the royal household and the palace but were also the Emperor’s most loyal guards. They only answer to him and are focused on the Emperor’s protection. 


Then there’s the Right Cavalry or the 右骁卫 – this group was one of 12 卫 who protected the exterior of the Palace. The Right Calvary were also called Leopard Riders and that name was derived from the leopard skin decorations on the saddles of their war horses. Take a look at the leader of the Right Cavalry – he does indeed have leopard skin embroidered in his outfit. 


For purposes of the drama – just follow the colors of these troops. We’ll see much more of the Right Cavalry so remember them more and they are under the lead of Captain Zhao.



This party marches in menacingly and General Chen of the 龙虎军 orders Li Bi to give up authority of 靖安司 given all of the mishaps that occurred today. I burst out laughing when Li Bi just said nope. 


Li Bi makes a whole argument on whether the 鲲鹏 or Roc which is a legendary bird is bigger or the 蚍蜉 which is a large ant. Li Bi needs to protect the ants. We’ll get back to the term 蚍蜉 later in the drama so remember this.


They all ignore Li Bi’s protest and march into 靖安司 and the palace eunuch recites a decree from the Emperor. He has allowed 何执正 to return home. 


This is a huge blow to 靖安司 and He Zhi Zheng. To add insult to injury, He Zhi Zheng isn’t even allowed to go to the palace banquet tonight. He Zhi Zheng’s efforts to at least maintain power for the day are rebuffed but he IS given 2 more hours to continue to investigate, courtesy of Zhang Xiao Jing reminding the group to give He Zhi ZHeng some respect. With that, He Zhi Zheng is escorted off the premises, distraught that he cannot even see the beautiful lantern built for the Emperor.


The Department of City Security only has 2 hours to solve the mystery and they use something called a Fire Alarm or 火闹钟 to track time. A beautiful dragon contraption is brought forth to track time – this is called a 龙舟香漏 or a Dragon Boat Incense Time Keeper. Historically by burning a standard incense, that was a set amount of time. For this drama purpose, one stick of the incense was 2 hours or 1 时辰. As the incense burns, it will burn the strings of the small bells attached to the Dragon boat. The bells will fall, notifying everyone of the time that has passed.





Out in the courtyard, Zhang Xiao Jing is wolfing down food again as he and Li Bi have a brief heart to heart. Li Bi orders Zhang XIao Jing to continue investigating the Wolf Squad and while he, Li Bi, will remain in Jing An Si to manage the various officials. Zhang Xiao Jing starts to respect Li Bi a lot more because Li Bi says that even if something happens to him, he wants Zhang Xiao Jing to protect the citizens of Chang An. 


Fortunately, Xu Bin arrives with new clues. After cross referencing the registry of residents in 怀远坊, they find one suspect. Long Bo who seems to have used a fake identity. On the ground, 姚汝能 is immediately sent to investigate and indeed there are several suspicious clues. For one, this 龙波 has a huge box of Persian Darics or coins that are not able to be used in Chang An so its ozdd he would have this. Additionally, 姚汝能 finds that there are 2 beds in this residence. He is also told that the man and woman living here are both quite good looking. The woman in question wears a bracelet of coins on her wrist. 



After further investigating, 姚汝能 finds a placard hidden behind a poster on the wall. The drama doesn’t really reflect this well but the poster is in reference to a Chinese cooking deity. Long Bo is thought to be from the west so why would they have this type of deity in his home. And sure enough, a new clue is presented. This provides new life to the investigation.


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