Ep 47

Secrets revealed

It is morning again. Specifically, 8am We, like the rest of the main cast, are also exhausted at the relentless activity of the day.

Let’s first start at Jing An Si where if only Cheng Sen was involved in investigating the case this morning, the whole thing might have been solved.

Director He agrees to answer questions that Cheng Sen poses with several remaining members of Jing An Si helping think through the problem. He Fu, Director He’s adoptive son who is now deceased, was helping Director He sell properties in Chang An in order to move home since Director He has been feeling quite unwell. But, it would seem that because He Fu has been managing funds from these transactions, he was able to funnel some of the money over to pay Long Bo for today’s events.

Cheng Sen also presents evidence that the architect Mao Shun’s entire family was poisoned today. What’s odd is that it seemed like Mao Shun was the one to poison his family. This, I’m assuming is because Mao Shun knew his family would die anyways if his plan succeeded and therefore was acting preemptively. If we recall, Mao Shun actually was in league with Long Bo or Xiao Gui in creating the explosive lantern tower.

On one of the Mao SHun’s lantern tower blueprints, there was a line written on it. One qian can buy two naan or flat bread. This is is exactly the line Mao Shun remembered that changed his mind on the extravagance of the tower. Oddly though, the line was written to mimic the writing of Director He. THat means, someone was impersonating Diretor He into goading Mao Shun into acting the way he did.

All of the different clues of who could have access to not only Director He’s writing, but also Mao Shun’s blueprints as well as information from the Ministry of Work and Ministry of Rites etc, point to none other than Xu Bin. A lowly 8th rank official from the national treasury. It was actually Director He who brought him into Jing An Si because Xu Bin had been sending Director He poems for 10+ years. Interestingly, Director He didn’t think Xu Bin’s poems were that good. Average at best.

More and more damning connections point to Xu Bin, someone who is able to make critical observations of the inner feelings of individuals and spark action from a simple kernel of thought. While Cheng Sen is brainstorming out loud, Pang Ling, the man who for the entire day has been diligently keeping watch on the time, drops an ink slab causing a mess. He excuses himself but as he walks out, CHeng Sen recognizes something is off. Why would a man like Pang Ling who is more like a machine, have a woman’s perfume on him?

Lo and behold. Pang Ling. The man who had been watching that timer all day is caught sending a message via a lotus flower on a little stream in the compound.

Turns out, Pang Ling is a spy for the Right Chancellor. He has been sending the Right Chancellor message about what’s been going on in Jing An Si all day. News travels fast to the Right CHancellor that Pang Ling has been captured. Surprisingly, the Right Chancellor bursts into tears at this loss because not only did his daughter like Pang Ling and wanted to be with Pang Ling, the RIght Chancellor is sad to lose someone with the expertise that Pang Ling has. I am quite shocked honestly to see how distraught the Right Chancellor is given how ruthless he’s been to other people today. Perhaps it’s because he knows his daughter will be utterly defeated to hear of the loss of her lover.

In Jing An Si, Pang Ling requests for some food and he is given a handsome meal. Pang Ling wolfs down what is given in front of him and explains how he fell in love with the right chancellor’s daughter and is willing to bet big in order to spend his life with her. Pang Ling gives up the other primary spy in Jing An Si – Yao Ru Neng. THis shocks Director He but doesn’t really shock us since we already knew this. Xu Bin, on the other hand, is not a spy for the RIght Chancellor but Pang Ling recognizes the spark in Xu Bin’s eyes which are so like his own. The spark of someone who has bigger thoughts and ambitions.

Soldiers arrived at Xu Bin’s home and discovered significant quantities of an odd gold coin or Persian daric. THis type of coin or currency comes from Persia and does not have any use in the Tang empire. So how would both Xu Bin and Long Bo have such quantities of this type of coin, the exact same. This means that He Fu was not the only one giving funds to Long Bo.

At this point, evidence from Pang Ling’s home is being presented to Director He including a specific jade flower pendant. This was supposed to be a specific pendant from an asset named Ying Nv that was close to the Right Chancellor that Li Bi found. This asset, Ying Nv, was discussed in episode 1 as having been killed. The fact that the jade flower pendant was in Pang Ling’s possession shows that it most likely was he that person who killed Ying Nv to protect Ling Jiu Lang or the Right Chancellor. Seeing the evidence in front of him, Pang Ling calls out the time one last time before suffocating himself with the food in front of him. The evidence found in the correspondence in his possession comes from the Right Chancellor’s daughter which details many crimes that if presented to the Emperor, could save the Crown Prince. Director He gives the information to the Crown Prince. Meanwhile, Cheng Sen steps out of the main entrance of Jing An Si. He turns,to face the entrance again, sighing at everything he’s seen in the last 24 hours and leaves.

So what happened with Xu Bin? Xu Bin arrived at what seems like a funeral home that was closed off during the day. It just so happens to be where the tunnel exit from the Da Ji tavern is located. He quietly waits for the Emperor to come out of the tunnel. When the Emperor finally does exit, Xu Bin anxiously greets him. Not only does the Emperor exit, but the tavern owner and his father also exit. But what is even more shocking is that the tavern owner says this was all Xu Bin’s plan and he’s happy to have been able to carry out the plan. Huh? Does that mean everything was planned by Xu Bin?

The Emperor is highly skeptical of what’s going on and even though agrees to allow Xu Bin to take him back to the palace, the Emperor questions Xu Bin as to who exactly is the force behind Xu Bin. Xu Bin, on the other hand, tries to emphasize that everything that happened tonight was all by his hand. He is a genius who can determine future events with greater precision and speed than even Li Bi. Xu Bin continues to emphasize that he is someone of great value to the Tang. The Emperor continues to remain skeptical and responds, if Xu Bin was indeed such an asset, why at this age, was he still only an 8th rank official? Xu Bin’s face falls and questions if the Emperor does still only think of a person’s value by his rank. This seems to dishearten Xu Bin greatly. His eyes turn to anger and resolution as to his next steps.

We will find out in the final episode what happens with Xu Bin. The only other 2 tidbits here are that the Prince of Yong, drunk in his home play acting as the Emperor, kills Feng Da Lun, his sycophantic confidante and head of the Blaze gang. Zhang XIao Jing also escapes out of the tunnel, looking to save the Emperor.

Let’s talk about this. Finally, we find out who is the key spy in Jing An Si. It is none other than the exceptionally focused Pang Ling. There have been hints to the fact that he has been away from his post multiple times in this drama if you go back to watch it and there are close up shots of a flower lantern floating in a small stream and also being collected. Not only that, we also hear about what happened to Ying Nv that closes out the mystery of the flower jade pendant and what happened to her that had puzzled Tan Qi and Li Bi in the morning.

What I find fascinating is that this is an ordinary person again who made a big impact on today’s events. He shared several motivations as to why he did it but the ultimate reason was for love. Kind of again goes to show the impact that normal, every day people can have on grand events. They don’t need titles or background to change the game.

THat is why it is confusing as to what’s going on with Xu Bin. Up till now, we do not see any “force” behind Xu Bin other than him just wanting to make a change and offer himself as an asset to the Emperor. But the Emperor himself doesn’t believe that someone like Xu Bin can be the main perpetrator of the day’s events. Can one single kernel of thought really drive people that much?

There is still the outstanding question of who connected He Fu and Long Bo with the persian daric currency. Was it Xu Bin? Or someone else? How could Xu Bin have access to this kind of money?

We’re in the penultimate episode so now let us divulge the historical story so to speak for several of the characters. So let’s talk about two of them because this will be the last time we see them in the drama.

The first character to discuss is 程参 or 岑参. He’s had a hell of a day. From getting his poems burned all the way back in episode 3, to being thrown into prison for most of the day, to now solving mysteries at 靖安司 to save his own skin.

As we mentioned in episode 3, 岑参 was born around 715AD, 岑参 to a bureaucratic family that produced 3 chancellors during the Tang Dynasty. In is 20s, 岑参 hoped to gain favor from the emperor by submitting writings to the Emperor and aristocracy. But so did tens of thousands of hopeful men. He was not successful and finally he did indeed head to the capital in the year 744 to take the imperial exams. He successfully passed the exam and became a Jin Shi, he was 30 at the time.

He was given an extremely low position that was pretty chill, but for someone who had aspirations, this was not enough for 岑参. Over the years, he made many friends and several shared tales of their experiences with the military out west. Hoping for a change in scenery and also fortunes, 岑参 chose to head out west to the outskirts of the empire.

He became an advisor for general 高仙芝 and began his decade long stint out west. It was here that his works really gained recognition. His works yes, but not his actual position at court. After two years of relative ease, 岑参 became a judge under General 封常清. During his time as judge, 岑参 was praised for solving several mysteries. 岑参 also wrote notable poems about the harshness of the deserts, mountain steppes, and military life that have survived to this day. He also heavily praised the strength of the Tang military but still no promotions for himself. During the 740s and early 750s, the Tang did indeed have several victories against western kingdoms and empires. But that came to a halt in 751 with the defeat of the Tang troops at the Battle of Talas. With these defeats and victories, 岑参’s friends also left the front and headed back out east, leaving a more and more desolate 岑参.

In 755, the An Lu Shan Rebellion began. The following year 岑参’s superiors 高仙芝 and 封常清 were sentenced to death for failing to quash the rebellion. 岑参 was left feeling extremely anxious. 唐肃宗 ascended the throne in 756 and many tempted their fortunes to serve this new emperor, including 岑参. He did get appointed to new positions, but they were still relatively low ranks. In 764, 岑参 was appointed governor of 嘉州 at a 5th rank position but the province was extremely poor and 岑参 was able to retrieve the taxes levied on the people. Feeling the pressure and helplessness of the situation, 岑参 requested to retire and head home. He was in SiChuan province at the time but his trek home was extremely difficult. He died on the trip at the age of 54.

In the drama, 岑参 started arrived on the scene full of ambition and hope to make a name for himself in Chang An, but after the days’ events, he became disillusioned or I would say aware of the corruption plaguing 长安. Several other characters tell him to head out west for better fortunes. 岑参 does indeed head out west, but, as we just heard in history, here was a guy who just couldn’t get the break that he wanted. He was an extremely capable and intelligent man, but just couldn’t make it to the inner circle of the aristocracy to rise to higher positions. He however did make any friends with notable poets of the day including 高适 and 杜甫 and still has many surviving works, which is why we know so much about him.

The next character that I want to briefly touch on is the Prince of Yong. In this episode, we see that he was the one who ordered 封大伦 to smuggle men into the different troops and kill the Emperor. They didn’t succeed in killing the Emperor, but they did kill 萧规. In the drama, we clearly see that the Prince of Yong yearns to become Emperor but doesn’t quite have the chops to do so. He’s ridiculed by the Right Chancellor by his back and beaten up by Zhang Xiao Jing.

In history, the Prince of Yong doesn’t display these ambitions until after the An Lu Shan Rebellion begins. In 756, he accompanies his father as court flees to the Shu Land. Meanwhile, the Crown Prince crowns himself emperor at Ling Wu. The then emperor Tang Xuan Zong is still issuing edicts and names the Prince of Yong as commander of 4 areas including 山南东路、岭南、黔qián中、江南西 and also the military commander of 江陵. Jiang Ling is in the wealthy southern area of China. The Prince of Yong was able to conscript 10s of thousands of men and gather much riches from the taxes there. The Prince of Yong’s son and a few of his advisors, seeing the opportunity, persuaded the Prince of Yong to make steps to setup his own regime.

The Prince of Yong began his own rebellion or I would say coup in earnest in the winter of 756 but by the 2nd month of the lunar year in 757, the Tang Army under orders from Emperor Tang Su Zong arrived south and essentially crushed the coup. 皇甫侁 shēn shot and killed the Prince of Yong during a battle. The Prince of Yong’s son also died in that conflict, effectively ending the coup. Right before the failed coup, the then Emperor Emeritus actually demoted him to a commoner, so he would not have had his rights to command the army. The new emperor Tang Su Zong was quite devastated at the death of his brother. He essentially raised the PRince of Yong from infancy and they were extremely close. The Emperor didn’t even disclose the treason upon the Prince of Yong’s death and retained the titles of his sons.

The drama I thought rather accurately displayed the Prince of Yong’s weak ambition. He WANTED the throne but couldn’t quite get there. Surprisingly, in 763, shortly after the ascension of Tang DAI Zong, the Emperor ordered appeal of the Prince of Yong’s coup and essentially acquitted him of his wrongdoing. I say essentially because there’s enough evidence that he did order the coup but the Emperor just chose to kind of gloss over it.

That’s only 2 of the historical characters that we’ll say goodbye to today. There’s going to be a whole list for our final podcast episode!

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