Ep 40

Ahhh! On episode 40!!! Almost to the end game!


It’s been several episodes where we’ve just been in flashback mode or else in the lantern tower but now we have several storylines coming back together. 


The first is the palace. The Emperor is still holding his lantern festival feast at this hour. The Crown Prince and the Right Chancellor are sitting on either side of the Emperor as the Emperor toasts the Right Chancellor. Director He asks for permission to walk around a bit which is granted by the Emperor. He gets up and is joined by the Emperor and we see undercurrents of tension in their conversation which is centered around children. The Emperor states that Director He has his adopted son and student all aligned with him and turns around to state that his own son aka the crown prince, doesn’t know his heart. Ouch, the Emperor with his constant public admonishment. I feel so bad for the Crown Prince.


Director He skillfully responds that if one doesn’t know how to take care of one’s own child, how is one expected to know how to take care of all the citizens of the land. This is quite the insult and causes the Emperor to pause, pour Director He a drink and say, you held that back for 50 years and are now finally able to speak the truth. 


We head back to the lantern tower where in the last episode, Wen Ran tragically killed herself in order to allow Zhang XIao Jing to escape from capture. Yuan Zai and Wang Yun Xiu along with many well armed soldiers had arrived to capture him. Zhang Xiao Jing escaped farther up the tower while Yuan Zai and Wang Yun Xiu pursued him.


This conniving Yuan Zai. He is freaking out while trying to figure out his next steps. In front of his soldiers, he shouts that Tang soldiers don’t retreat and urges the troops to head up the tower to continue the fight. But what does Yuan Zai do? He grabs Wang Yun Xiu and runs down the tower! He tells her to escape. Out on the streets, he tells Wang Yun Xiu to run at least a km away while he tries to round up more support to clear the plaza and apprehend the attackers. Clearly, he believes that there is a threat in the lantern tower that could hurt civilians. In his fast instructions to Wang YUn Xiu, he says that at least he wants to something kind fo the city and its people. If he dies, he wants her to forget her. She protests and wants him to not go back. She will give him the title and glory he needs by marrying him. He responds that that’s probably not the right path. He wants to be able to match her. So…maybe he’s not completely awful? I don’t know man. The drama makes him out to be much more annoying that the books in my opinion.


Back at the lantern tower, at long LONG last, Zhang Xiao Jing FINALLY sees who has been the mastermind behind all of this tonight. Long Bo has been speaking to Li Bi and even offers Li Bi to not kill the Crown Prince tonight. Before they come to an accord on how this could be done, Zhang Xiao Jing appears on the threshold and sees Long Bo.


Except, Long Bo is actually Xiao Gui. Zhang XIao Jing’s close friend during their time in the military. One of his surviving brothers from that traumatic battle on the beacon tower.


Once the two make eye contact, Zhang Xiao Jing takes a moment to process everything that’s happened and how it could be Xiao Gui standing in front of him.  Xiao Gui comments that it’s a pity Zhang Xiao Jing lost a pinky, he won’t be able to hold a crossbow well anymore. Zhang XIao Jing simply responds that he was never as good as Xiao Gui anyways. Poor Li Bi. He is so confused as to what’s going on right now.


Xiao Gui orders Zhang XIao JIng to kill Li Bi. Li Bi is shocked at this and turns to Zhang Xiao Jing who growls at him that Li Bi should return to study daosim. Zhang Xiao Jing states a bunch of daoist things Li Bi should see before swiftly raising a hand to Li Bi’s neck and chokes him to death. 


Well that was a turn of events. Li Bi was just straight up murdered. His body is carried down by Xiao Gui’s men down the stairs.


Zhang Xiao Jing turns back to Xiao Gui and states that many people died today because of him. Xiao Gui only responds that their deaths will save many more lives in the future. Umm ok. Xiao Gui takes Zhang Xiao Jing up to a location where the flag of the 8th squad is flying. Evidently, it is stitched together by pieces of flags that belonged to the surviving members of the 8th squad. Except, they died. Xiao Gui collected those flag pieces of his fallen brothers to make this collective flag. Sadly, all of them died rather gruesome deaths, utterly unbefitting of the bravery they exhibited on the battlefield.


Xiao Gui says he never wants to see Zhang XIao Jing’s piece of flag and even tells him of a secret exit so that Zhang Xiao Jing may escape. Xiao Gui does not expect to leave this place alive but has a plan which he thinks is right. Zhang XIao Jing cannot wrap his head around why Xiao Gui would want to kill the Emperor. Was he coerced? Xiao Gui denies this, stating loudly he makes his own decisions. Why he wants to kill the Emperor? It’s for Zhang XIao Jing. This puzzles Zhang Xiao Jing but we don’t get get further elaboration. Soon after, the Tang troops goaded into fighting by Yuan Zai arrive near the top. Soldiers carrying Li Bi’s body lay him to rest on the ground while they fight the attackers. Yu Chang shows up and shows off her badass assassin skills by quickly dispatching these soldiers in swift but lethal blows. We will see what happens next episode to Zhang Xiao Jing.


Let’s turn back to Jing An Si. If we recall, Cheng Sen has taken it upon himself to investigate what happened today and find the real culprit of today’s events in order to not be made a scapegoat. He’s investigating the fire in the data or book warehouse in Jing An si with great detail, noting how it doesn’t seem plausible that Long Bo and company would come set a fire here in the depths of the warehouse during their invasion. Captain Zhao is watching over Cheng Sen and is hilariously getting insulted by Cheng Sen who basically says that Captain Zhao is essentially worthless. I find Captain Zhao just overall hilarious and the butt of many jokes in this drama. Cheng Sen asks Captain Zhao who in Jing An Si is the most detail oriented person. The drama cuts to Xu Bin. He is in a sleuth hound office, hoping to grab a change of clothes for Zhang Xiao Jing. That’s odd right? Why would Xu Bin want to grab this for Zhang XIao JIng?


When we next turn back to Cheng Sen, he is investigating the charred body of what supposedly WAS Xu Bin. If we recall, he was presumed dead in the fire. Cheng Sen though quickly deduced that this body was planted and not actually a deceased Xu Bin. He requests that Captain Zhao send out a warrant for the capture of Xu Bin immediately. 


Xu Bin’s home is searched and Captain Zhao returns with all the papers and scrolls in his home. Cheng Sen gets to work reviewing the various texts. Captain Zhao inadvertently finds a random piece of paper hidden between the pages of a book. On it are various dashed lines that seem incoherent. But hey, that’s what Cheng Sen is here for! He recognized that it’s some sort of mathematical code used over 100 years ago. Fortunately Cheng Sen knows how to crack it! Cheng Sen quickly deciphers it and writes down the translation. I see the words Emperor, Kill and Crown Prince. Captain Zhao and Cheng Sen look at each other, freaked. 


Interesting…we are getting somewhere with this case. I’m going to say this again all the way to the end of this drama. Why wasn’t Cheng Sen a part of the investigation earlier???


For the final part of the episode, we head back to the palace. Xu He Zi is waiting her turn to meet the Emperor. We realize that she has quite the burden on her shoulders. She must make the Emperor take an interest in her tonight in order to save the people of her hometown. How sad. Using a woman to change the fortunes and lives of a village. She is warned not to look at the Emperor but Yan Yu Huan, who hears of Xu He Zi’s arrival, is worried what kind of change her presence might bring to the Emperor. 


Before we even get there, the episode ends with court and us the audience being presented with a view of a magnificent dish. The Emperor calls for the Crown Prince to take a lead to sample the dish. The crown prince walks over and hesitates to take a piece of the dish. General Guo abruptly orders a eunuch to announce the dish name and we find out it’s called Jiang Shan which roughly translate to Country. The Emperor then quickly follows up by saying that My Country, I am willing to share it with everyone here. 


Immediately the crowd kneels, afraid to overstep their boundaries. The crown prince’s hand shakes as he decides what he decides whether or not he should indeed take a piece of his father’s country. 


This is a bridge episode in my opinion as it builds up to the final conflicts of the drama. We are seeing that there’s more than meets the eye with Xu Bin who could be involved in tonight’s plot somehow. We see the Emperor continuing to take jabs at the Crown Prince and put him in awkward positions that could cost him his life. Li Bi is apparently dead while Zhang XIao Jing is now aware that his close friend Xiao Gui is behind a lot of deaths tonight.


In the book, much of what’s happening in the palace doesn’t appear. Zhang XIao Jing sees Xiao Gui much earlier plot wise but I do think the book does a better job in establishing how conflicted ZHang Xiao Jing is. In front of Xiao Gui, he learns that many of his closest friends survived on the battlefield only to die in brutal and unfair ways, often times at the hands of an unjust government. There’s also more aggression from Xiao Gui’s grew of Pi Fu who are eager to kill Zhang XIao Jing but is held back by Xiao Gui.





At the beginning of the episode and end of the episode, we are treated with the piece de resistance for the evening’s feast. It is a gorgeously crafted dish that is basically a mountain of food where individual bowls are stacked up like a pyramid. We hear at the end of the episode that the dish is called 江山 or Empire. What is comprised of this empire? On the bottom are black spiky looking items, then there are green wraps, then beautifully crafted flowers, then for the upper three layers, rice, and fish row, that culminate to the top with the taoist yin yang symbols and the 8 hexagrams underneath. I can’t really tell all of the ingredients but the black spiky looking items on the bottom are sea cucumbers or 海参 – which are still a delicacy today in China. I can’t really tell what the green wrap and flowers are made of. The pink flowers look potentially like ham. If any of you know what these are made of let me know!


We’ll talk a little bit more about the roasted lambs. The dish itself is called 红羊枝杖. 枝杖 or pole support. This represents that the full roasted lamb is supported by 4 poles. The name of 红羊 or Red Lamb comes from chinese superstition. There were two years – 丙午、丁未 in which it was said that there would be disasters near the end of the year. 丙丁”represents fire ,“未”为羊 represents lamb. The Chinese called it the Red Lamb Disaster. So, in order to dispel the disaster and bring about good luck – the ancient Chinese thought to make this a dish to eat the Red Lamb to prevent the disaster. 

On the main table, we also see an abundance of fruit. During the early Tang Dynasty, it is recorded that fruits such as dates, pomegranates, apples, melons, plums, pears, peaches, and citrus. During its zenith, the Tang also had cherries and lychee as fruits specially delivered to the capital. Those two fruits were pretty rare and there are noted cherry feasts recorded history. As for Lychee – there are whole poems dedicated to how the Emperor Tang Xuan Zong sent poems to his beloved Noble Consort Yang, which are two historical characters we see in this drama. 


As for the feast itself, we see many of those fruits just mentioned. The grapes especially are very prominent. 


In this episode, the Emperor and Director He have a verbal sparring match. In his hands, the emperor holds a golden cup which is a replica of the 伎jì 乐纹八棱金杯. An original was unearthed in 1970 in China. The cup itself has 8 musicians, each with a different musical instrument, carved on the sides. The clothing of the musicians indicate that the cup was from Sogdia or 粟特 – one of the neighboring kingdoms active during this time period, and one we’ve mentioned before. 


The Emperor then pours the wine into another drinking vessel called the Nautilidae Cup or the Parrot Cup. We saw another version of this cup all the way back in episode 1. The reason is because the shape of the shell and the curvature resembles a parrot’s beak, hence why it’s called a Parrot conch in Chinese. 


Lastly – before 张小敬 “kills” Li Bi, he tells Li Bi to turn back to Daoism and go pray to the 三清 and 十一曜. 


The 三清 are the Three Pure Ones 玉清元始天尊、上清灵宝天尊、太清道德天尊. We’ve mentioned them in episode 36 as part of the 12 dieties of Daoism but these are the three highest gods in the daoist pantheon.


As for the 十一曜 – which is another set of gods, they are 













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