Ep 48

This is it! The final episode! We are back where it all started the day before – the gates of the West Market or 西市, the time is also the same as the day before, 巳初 or around 9am.

People are waiting for the gates to open for the day but, 徐宾 appears, dragging the discheveled Emperor with him. He himself has bombs tied to his person. He instructs the soldiers manning the gates to beat the drums to signal attention from the crowd.

A crowd gathers and in the crowd is someone we haven’t seen in quite a long time – Yao Ru Neng. He is in disguise right now, and a fellow court official helped him get there. Now very importantly, this friend says I can only help you from here. If you need me, remember to take this coin to find me in An Xi. It’s a blink and you miss it moment, but what is that coin? It’s that persian daric we saw in the last episode that was in possession of both Long BO and Xu Bin. We will talk about the significance of this coin and the mention of An Xi at the end of this episode but it hints to another party behind the scenes calling the shots.

Up on the gate balcony, Xu Bin calls for an audience. The Emperor believes that he working under the employ of the Crown Prince but Xu Bin is adamant he is working alone. He is also adamant that he has the skills worthy of a chancellor. Xu Bin quotes lines from deceased chancellor Yao Chong which incites the disguised Yao Ru Neng to shout back, crying out what exactly does Xu Bin want.

At this point, Zhang Xiao JIng has also made it to the top of the tower while soldiers under the lead of Yuan Zai and Wang Yun Xiu arrive to take down Xu Bin.

The Emperor hears what Xu Bin has to say, and it’s quite touching. Xu Bin is furious that the Emperor focuses attention solely on the Right Chancellor, someone who has the entire court under his thumb. Can the Emperor change his behavior? THe Emperor actually agrees and states that he believes Xu Bin is doing this for the good of the Empire, not necessarily for his own personal gain.

This acknowledgement causes Xu Bin to tear up. He knows he cannot live but needs to bring the Emperor with him. Before Xu Bin can ignite the bombs around his waist, Zhang Xiao Jing arrives to stop him. Zhang Xiao Jing wants Xu Bin to reveal the actual person who instigated this but Xu Bin insists it was all him. He gives examples of how he influenced the key players of the day’s events, like Mao Shun, Long Bo, Li Bi, the Crown Prince to act the way he did. Quite clever actually.

As to why Xu Bin worked to release Zhang Xiao Jing? Xu Bin simply cries, I want you to live! Xu Bin was clearly influenced by Zhang Xiao Jing’s positive nature. Even though he is just a sleuth hound captain, his attitude of living in Chang An was very rare. Xu Bin laments for Zhang xiao jing that he is stuck doing such menial tasks when he has the ability to lead armies. Xu Bin feels there is significant injustice on Zhang Xiao Jing’s behalf.

While all of that sounds well and good, Zhang Xiao Jing asks the most crucial question. What about all the innocent civilians that died today? Xu BIn’s response is, why should we look only at what happens today! He turns around to the balcony and screams that he has the skills to be chancellor. In this instance, Wang YUn Xiu shoots him in the chest with an arrow. He drops down to his knees, the torch in his hand falls and he lights aflame.

Zhang Xiao Jing sprints to grab the emperor and they jump from the balcony as it explodes. Luckily, they fall into a pile of hay, both men alive.

When Zhang XIao Jing wakes, the Emperor is sitting next to him already clothed back in his Emperor’s robes. He tells Zhang Xiao Jing that he will be fine and asks what kind of reward does he want for his services today. The Emperor is surprised to hear that Zhang Xiao Jing doesn’t want a reward. He is a soldier after all. It is his duty to protect the people. If there is one thing he can request, it is for the Emperor to give the people a prosperous Chang An.

We near the end of this journey with a few threads to wrap up. Director He goes to see Li Bi who was drugged by him earlier the evening and advises him to never lose sight of what’s important. With those words, he writes a few lines of a poem before heading home, leaving Chang’An.

As for the Emperor, he sits with the Crown prince in the secret location in Jing An Si. The crown prince actually starts burning all the evidence they gathered from the Right Chancellor’s daughter from the last episode because he recognizes that he does not have the capability that the Right Chancellor has to help the Epmeror. THe Emperor at first was shocked to see the Crown prince burning this evidence, but then lets it go when he hears from his son that all he wants, is to help the Emperor.

The day of January 15, the gates open. THe flag of the 8th squad was taken by hte Epmeror and now hangs in one of his halls. He visits the room where Director He wrote 2 lines of a poem and helps him finish the last 2 lines. THis poem is perhaps one of the most famous poems in all of CHina, one that every child knows how to recite.

When the dust settles, we see Zhang Xiao Jing and Li BI walking away from Chang An. Both of them gave up extremely prestigious posts to focus more on what they think is right. Li Bi wil continue studying daoism while Zhang XIao Jing will remain a soldier, somewhere. As for Tan Qi, though she greets the two men, she is not going with either of them. Instead, she is entering the palace to serve Yan Tai Zhen. This is her way of doing something of her own accord, with her own value, and provides an opportunity to help protect Chang An.

Zhang Xiao Jing was maybe disappointed for a split second, but he walks forward simply saying that they will meet again. Tan Qi’s gaze follows him as he walks away, saying that she is watching the sun of Chang An. With that, the story ends.

 

What are some final thoughts on this drama.

I’ll be honest, because of how detailed, how scale, how grungy, how grandiose, how diverse this drama is, many dramas I watch today really pale in comparison.

The drama placed us in the year 744, which was a turning point for so many of the character in the drama, but also history, and I’m glad that we finally got a drama that isn’t all sunshine and roses.

This is one of those dramas where there’s a strong sense of foreboding, as if the show is moving along, waiting for the crash that we don’t see. I get that sense because I do know how history pans out.

In the drama, we see that the good guys didn’t win. Zhu Ci’s family died protecting an old man. Jia Sui died helping the unknown 曹破延. 闻无忌 died after confronting the Blaze Gang. 萧规 didn’t succeed in enacting revenge. For all intents and purposes, the bad guys won. Li Lin Fu essentially wins with the destruction of Chang An and An lu Shan rebellion that he doesn’t live to see. The Emperor continues to favor Noble Consort Yang and discards her once his power is threatened. Yuan Zai achieves his lifelong dream at chancellorship.

Zhang Xiao Jing tried to protect Chang An and succeeded this one day but even he was not able to stop the inevitable decline of the Tang Dynasty.

Book difference
The big bad revealed at the end of the book is He Fu rather than Xu Bin. Xu Bin was in the book but didn’t have nearly the impact or role as he did in the drama and was actually killed off. The book also did not have nearly as much commentary on the political component that the drama portrayed. The crown prince was not portrayed as weak, Consort Yang was also less cunning in terms of how she approached the Emperor. The romantic intrigue between Tan Qi and Zhang Xiao Jing was there, but there wasn’t as much of an emphasis on the independence of Tan Qi. The book was generally more of a thrilling action movie, rather than a book with significant political intrigue and discussion of the every day person in Chang An.

Historical events:

As we say goodbye to the characters of the drama, we’ll touch up on the historical outcomes for several of our characters. There’s some facts which we’ve previously mentioned but we’ll expand on them.

Let’s first start with the key piece of history that was shown to us in the drama, in the form of a poem. This is the poem that Director He began writing but didn’t complete. The Emperor came to complete it for him after the old man left.

The poem goes as such:
少小离家老大回,乡音无改鬓毛衰。
儿童相见不相识,笑问客从何处来

I left my hometown as a young boy and only returned years later
Not much has changed from my hometown but my hair has turned white
The young kids meet me but don’t recognize me
They jokingly ask where this guest is from?

The title of this poem is called 回乡偶书 – or the Writing of return home. There are 2 of these poems with the same name. This is one though (arguably) his most famous poem and probably one of the most famous of Chinese poems ever. It is only 4 lines with 28 words but conveys one man’s whole life. Growing up, we would learn the 300 poems of the Tang and this one was always up front and honestly is ingrained in my brain that I can recite this from memory. FINALLY – one poem that I can pretend to be a scholar from the dramas and just state from memory.

As Director He or his real life counterpart – 贺知章 – he lived roughly between 约659年-约744. He became a member of court by passing his exams in 695 and became a well respected member of court. In 738, he became a guest to the Crown Prince to guide him. In 744, due to illness, at the ripe old age of 86, he requested retirement and to return to his hometown to build a daoist temple so that he may spend his days as a daoist priest. The Emperor Tang Xuan Zong agreed. Unlike in the drama, the Emperor and Crown Prince treated this as a grand affair. Shortly after his return home, 贺知章 wrote 回乡偶书 – or the Writing of return home which became wildly popular. He died sometime that same year.

Next, let’s discuss 李泌 – 722年-789年4月1日. At the young age of 7, he was coined a prodigy for his writing abilities and received high praise from the Emperor himself. He became highly favored with high ranking officials at court including then chancellor 张九龄. After 李泌 came of age, he decided to focus on the study of 易经 and spent his days traveling hoping to uncover the mysterious of immortality. He only came back to the capital in 751 to submit several writings to the Emperor. He developed a deep friendship with the Crown Prince. During this time, he wrote some poems ridiculing 杨国忠 and 安禄山. As revenge, 杨国忠 accused him of being disrespectful to the government and exiled Li Bi elsewhere. Li Bi then left court to live in the mountains.

It was only until after the An Lu Shan rebellion erupted did Li Bi literally come down from the mountains to assist the Crown Prince who the declared himself Emperor at 灵武. Li Bi played a critical role in supporting the Emperor, often providing military and government counsel to the Emperor. His closeness with the Emperor was met with suspicion from other court officials and, after seeing that the rebellion was pretty much handled, returned back to the mountains.

In the subsequent 2 decades, Li Bi served 3 emperors including Su Zong, Dai Zong and 德宗. He was offered the chancellorship a few times but he refused the post, well, there was also some back handed machinations from existing court officials as they feared Li Bi’s reputation and abilities. Li Bi did enter court but was sent to far off locations. It was only in 787 at the age of 65 did he agree to become Chancellor. In the drama, we saw that Li Bi had aspirations to BECOME chancellor early in his career but changed as the day progressed to focus on daoism but not neglecting his own duties for the Tang Empire when the time came. Li Bi very much embodied this in history.

 

姚汝能 – he tries to flee 长安 at the end of the drama. There isn’t much history on him just that he was a 县尉 or an advisor to a local magistrate. His biggest contribution is the compilation and writing of The Chronicle of An Lu Shan. The first volume recorded An Lu Shan’s life from birth in 703 to 753. The 2nd volume recorded An Lu Shan’s plots to spur on the rebellion. The final volume recorded An Lu Shan’s activities of declaring himself emperor and establishing the Kingdom of Yan in 755 all the way to his death in 762 that ultimately ended the rebellion. It seems as though this was written a century after the events but it was a chronicle in 3 volumes but no one really knows when this was written.

What was written includes one small blurb on 张小敬. In it he wrote – 骑士张小敬先射国忠落马,便即枭首,屠割其尸。The horseman Zhang Xiao Jing shot Yang Zhong Guo off his horse. Beheaded him and destroyed his corpse. 杨国忠 was a distant cousin of Noble Consort Yang and served as Chancellor from 752 to 756. The man basically could not govern and drove the Tang Empire into upheaval. He is blamed as a primary force for allowing the An Lu Shan rebellion to occur as he had a fierce rivalry with An Lu Shan before the rebellion. 杨国忠, as he fled with the Emperor from Chang An during the rebellion, was murdered by Imperial soldiers perhaps by one 张小敬. This is the only time we see 张小敬’s name in history.

Let’s now touch up on the 2.5 main baddies of the drama.

The first will be 李林甫, the right chancellor. Born in 683, to an offshoot of the Imperial Li Family, he was very accomplished in music but not in academics. Because he was a member of the aristocracy, in his youth, he was a member of staff for the then Crown Prince 李瑛. 李林甫 quickly rose through the ranks of government and in 734 was appointed the Minister of Rights and one of 3 chancellors at court. He served all until his death in 753. His tenure around 18-19 years (depending on how you calculate it) is the longest as a chancellor during the reign of Emperor Tang Xuan Zong.

During the 740s, because Li Lin Fu didn’t support the appointment of the current Crown Prince, instead backing another prince, Li Lin Fu was paranoid that the Crown Prince would one day turn on him. Li Lin Fu seized every opportunity to frame many high ranking officials who supported the Crown Prince including 韦坚 and 皇甫惟明. We briefly met them during the drama. In 749, Li Lin Fu along with An Lu Shan framed the general 王忠嗣 (who is 王韫秀’s) father who was demoted and suddenly died in that year. 李林甫 heavily favored An Lu Shan and appointed him to several key positions, planting the seeds for the future rebellion. In 752, there was an attempted coup by 王焊. The Emperor appointed 杨国忠 to oversee the interrogation. 杨国忠 subsequently reported that Li Lin Fu was actually a co-conspirator. It was after this event that Li Li Fu gradually lost favor. He fell ill in 752 and passed away in 753. At first, the Emperor granted him several posthumus titles but then in 753, 杨国忠 and An Lu Shan conspired to accuse Li Lin Fu of treason for another coup. The Emperor was enraged at this new “evidence” and ordered all of Li Lin Fu’s titles stripped, his assets confiscated, and his sons exiled. The Emperor even ordered that his casket be opened so that he was stripped of his Purple court outfit and buried as a commoner.

During the end of his tenure, he controlled the government, restricted speech, built factions, resulting in a non-functioning government. He is widely considered one of the key figures who led to the decline of the Tang Dynasty. In the drama, Lin Jiu Lang was despicable but he made a formidable foe. No wonder why the Crown Prince honestly was no match.

Let’s now talk about the couple of 元载 and 王韫秀.

It’s unclear when 元载 was born but what we do know is that he grew up in a poor family and was an avid reader. He was extremely intelligent and quickly caught the eye of 王韫秀, daughter of General 王忠嗣. They married but he spent several unhappy years subjected to the Wang family’s ridicule because he didn’t pass his imperial exams. He moved with his wife to Chang An to test his fortunes and successfully became a Jin Shi in 742. He thought that this was his chance for fortune and power but he remained at his lowly 6th rank position in the Court of Judicature for over a decade. It was only until the reign of Tang Su Zong, did his fortunes change. Yuan Zai had connections with the now head eunuch 李辅国 who gave him plenty of opportunities to showcase his abilities in front of the Emperor. When Emperor Tang Su Zong died, his son Emperor Tang Dai Zong also granted Yuan Zai his favor and, in 762, Yuan Zai became chancellor. It took him only 20 years to rise from Jin Shi to Chancellor.

Yuan Zai knew that Tang Dai Zong resented being controlled by eunuchs such as 李辅国 and 鱼朝恩, so Yuan Zai took measures to kill them both. As a reminder, 李辅国 was the one who supported Yuan Zai into the chancellorship in the beginning. Yuan Zai just straight up turned on him and had him murdered. Feeling on top of the world, Yuan Zai essentially followed the path of Li Lin Fu. He built factions, he demoted enemies, he sometimes framed enemies, and gathered vast amounts of wealth through corruption and bribery. He also turned to wine and women, leaving the government an absolute mess.

After trying to persuade Yuan Zai, The Emperor finally had enough and decided to remove him. In 777, the Emperor ordered the capture of Yuan Zai, and after listing all of his crimes, sentenced him to death. All of his sons were killed. His wife 王韫秀 was sentenced to exile, but she chose to yell back at the officials and was unceremoniously beaten to death. During the confiscation of Yuan Zai’s assets, the Emperor’s men found an obscene amount of riches. The Emperor was outraged upon hearing this and ordered that Yuan Zai’s grandfather and father’s graves be dug up and bones discarded. This was a SERIOUS offense. In 784, the now Emperor Tang De Zong, in memory of the aid that Yuan Zai had for him as crown prince, changed his sentence and posthumously gave him his titles back.

As for Wang Yun Xiu, we do know that she was born in 725 and married 元载. She was known for a rather nasty and contentious temper. She did write a few poems that have survived, which makes her one of the few ladies in history to have surviving poems. As mentioned earlier, she died in 777 after the crimes of her husband were exposed.

As to the drama, we 100% see hints of who these historical characters would become in history. 元载 is still the lowly official but will seize every opportunity to stay alive and CLIMB the ladder. 王韫秀 is haughty and arrogant who will boast about her father’s accomplishments.

For history – I won’t touch up on the Emperor Tang Xuan Zong or the Noble Consort Yang Yu Huan. There’s too much to be written about them and who knows, we might head back to discuss their story!

Last but not least – let’s discuss the careers of our 3 key actors and actresses.

Career of Lei jia yin, yi yang qian xi and Re Yi Zha

Lei Jia Yin
In the past 5 years since the airing of this drama, Lei Jia Yin has firmly planted himself as an A-List actor and began mixing his output between television dramas and movies. He has proved himself capable of being both a box office draw and a ratings draw. Awards wise, for this drama, he was nominated for the Shanghai Magnolia Award for best actor in 2020 but didn’t win. He was amongst the winners for the Best actor award for Busan International Film Festival.
In A 2023, he did win the Shanghai Magnolia Award for best actor with his performance in A Lifelong Journey or 人世间. He’s also been in hit movies such as this year’s 热辣滚烫 You Only Live Once directed by Jia Ling which grossed 3.5B Yuan
He was in the movie Article 20 directed by Zhang Yi Mou and this grossed 2.5B Yuan
He was in last year’s 满江红 Full River Red directed by Zhang Yi Mou which grossed 4.5B yuan. He so far has had a thriving career and honestly one that many “流量” aspire to, we’ll just have to see if the others can catch up to him.

易烊千玺
Jackson has been a busy BUSY man these past 5 years. He’s focused on movies and music moreso than TV dramas. He was in 2021’s The Battle at Lake Changjin, which grossed 5.6B RMB, making it one of the highest grossing movies in Chinese history. He was in last year’s 满江红 Full River Red directed by Zhang Yi Mou alongside 雷佳音. He has even released 4 albums since 2020! There was a TFBoys reunion last year that was like “THE EVENT” of the summer. He was involved in a scandal for his acceptance in the National Theater Company of China or 中国国家话剧院. There’s an in the know episode about that so you can check it out. Out of all of the young celebrities – he has the most “accomplishments”. At the young age of 24, he has box office hits, album hits, and part of a famous boy group. He just needs to win some awards to solidify his status in the A-List.

热依扎
Re Yi Zha took some time after the airing of The Longest Day in Chang An due to her mental health. She turned eyes in 2021’s Minning Town or 山海情 in which she won an award for the 华鼎奖. She was nominated for best actress for the Golden Eagle awards and Shanghai Magnolia awards for that role. The drama won for best tv drama at the Magnolia wards in 2021.
She gave birth to a baby girl in december 2020, which is shocking because she WAS pregnant during the filming of 山海情. So all the kudos to her.
Since then, she’s slowed her output and focused more on modern day dramas.

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