We are in episode 7 of The Tang Dynasty drama The Longest Day in Chang’An, or in mandarin, 长安十二时辰. If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to reach out to us on instagram or twitter or else email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, this podcast is in English with proper nouns and certain phrases spoken in Mandarin. Additionally, we reference translations from what is provided online and we’ll provide our own.
This podcast episode will be a bit shorter because we’ll mainly focus on the plot. There’s only some history to discuss and then I’ll point out book differences.
The last episode was absolutely heart wrenching and heart racing. As payment for information from the Lord of the Underground, Ge Lao, 张小敬 had to reveal one of his own spies that he placed in the Underground of Chang An. With no other choice, 张小敬, kills the man in order to save Chang’An. Meanwhile, Li Bi requests an audience with the powerful right chancellor 林九郎 for him to grant a reprieve on the two hour deadline that was placed on 靖安司.
This is where we start the episode – it is now 1PM. Phew – 7 episodes in and it’s only been 3 hours!
The timekeeper 庞灵 says 未初 昧 – time of 1pm, obscure – meaning, one can’t see properly anymore, pretty apt for this episode.
Out at the right chancellor’s residence, Li Bi is finally allowed entry. The housekeeper gives a sarcastic reply for the lateness of the audience saying that the chancellor is busy because of all of the problems Li Bi caused, which honestly, isn’t false.
Li Bi makes his way to the main hall where Lin Jiu Lang is currently discussing matters with other generals and captains. It’s a very cool walk because we see just how sweltering it is inside the rooms even though it’s freezing outside. The other officials waiting for an audience are all still sweating and fanning themselves. In the main room, everyone is wearing their full armor or court attire and it’s only the Right Chancellor who’s still barely dressed.
When Li Bi walks up to Lin Jiu Lang, the man completely ignores Li Bi! It’s such a power play and really shows just how much control Lin Jiu Lang has of this entire situation. The Right Chancellor orders the generals and the officials to prepare for the evening’s festivities, including the protection of the Emperor, and then turns his daggers towards Li Bi saying that they’re doing all of this because of Li Bi’s dereliction of duty.
After all of this, Lin Jiu Lang finally addresses Li Bi directly. They have a fascinating back and forth on the two topics Li Bi brings forth
- The removal of the troops at Jing An Si and
- Director He’s attendance at the evening’s festivities
The sparring between the two are based on two schools of thought, Law or 法 or Rites or 礼. When it comes to the removal of the troops at Jing An Si, Li Bi advocates that according to the Law, this is illegal. The Right Chancellor retorts that all of Jing An Si’s mistakes today, including the death of innocents in the various 坊, should be punished according to the law. Li Bi is able to calmly deflect those saying that those were all due to the Wolf Squad and any punishment should be reviewed through the court system. It is then that Li Bi essentially says – if anything that happens tonight, it will be no fault of the Right Chancellor.
He then turns the topic towards the Law or Rites, specifically regarding the Emperor. Here, interestingly, the Right Chancellor caves. He believes in the might of the law but concedes that the Emperor believes in Rites and tradition. Where Li Bi is going with this is essentially to allow Director He to have a seat at the evening’s banquet. If he’s not allowed a seat, then the world will say that the Emperor is not adhering to traditional Rites. The Right Chancellor acquiesces and says Director He has always kept his right to attend.
As Li Bi leaves, the Right Chancellor backs Li Bi in a corner because he knows that Li Bi is using a convict to solve today’s mysteries. If the convict, Zhang Xiao Jing, shows any sign of betrayal, it’s Li Bi’s life and future that will be on the line.
Back at the underground, Ge Lao has agreed for Tong Er to provide Zhang Xiao Jing the information he needs. Unfortunately, Tong Er has demands of her own.
Tong Er is very confident in her love with her lover but Ge Lao only says one person is allowed to leave. 瞳儿 proudly states she will pick her lover and her lover will pick her, that’s how strong their love is. But Zhang Xiao Jing doesn’t have time to waste and he goes over to the brutally injured man, leans his head over, quickly gets up and announces the lover chose himself. 瞳儿 is absolutely shocked at this while the lover gasps that he didn’t say anything. But Zhang xiao jing goes ahead and releases the injured man and even shoves him out of the prison, into the sunlight. Tong’er remains in place uttering, more to herself than anyone else that he won’t leave her. They agreed to live and die together. But the man cannot let go of the temptation of freedom. He’s offered several chances by 张小敬 to stay but he ultimately walks through that threshold and cannot bring himself to come back inside. The rays of sunshine pouring onto his face are much more important than just a woman. Instead, he says a bunch of beautiful words about how much 瞳儿 means to him but at this point, 瞳儿’s heart is broken. 葛老 repeats a line that has been said in various ways throughout this series in that you should watch what a man does not what he says. She takes a moment to collect herself after seeing her world shatter and promptly turns around to Ge Lao to announce her allegiance while the pathetic man screams he will try to save her in 24 hours. Whatever.
Despite her tears, she actually thanks 张小敬 for showing her the truth. And at last, 张小敬 gets some intel on Long Bo. And the information is quite valuable. She shares that the man likes to hear stories about the RIght Chancellor, but not just any story. Stories about how the failed assassination attempts on the Right Chancellor. Furthermore, she shares the location of an abandoned property where Long Bo has taken her and the fact that there’s rations there to sustain probably 50+60 ppl for 1-2 months. THat’s definitely the wolf squad hiding spot. This intrigues Yao Ru Neng because apparently none of the night guards came to investigate the noise.
Meanwhile – chaos breaks out at Jing An Si or the Department of City Security as the captains of the troops completely disregard the 2 hour deadline and begin to take over. Luckily, Li Bi is able to race back to Jing An Si to stop the madness. He gives the secret memo to the captains and even reads it out loud. Essentially, if Li Bi fails, then he will be sent to prison. If the Emperor comes into any danger or is aware of the threat, then the punishment is death. The Captains and guards take this information and leave, believing that Li Bi will inevitably die. In a touching scene, the rest of the men at Jing An Si decide to stay. In a touching scene, 檀棋, also makes the decision to stay and support Li Bi even though he grants her her freedom.
Zhang Xiao Jing and Yao Ru Neng leave the underground. Unfortunately, everyone knows of Zhang Xiao Jing’s betrayal including the other members of Zhang Xiao Jing’s old team and members of the Sleuth hound. Without his old men, Zhang Xiao Jing is even more isolated in the resources that he can use.
That was the plot recap for the episode, the highlight really was the disappointment that Tong Er had towards her lover’s betrayal. I was very disappointed in the man! Before I dig a little bit more into this, let’s touch up on some history.
First – the Right Chancellor’s housekeeper refers to his master Lin Jiu Lang as 阿郎. During the Tang Dynasty, they didn’t use the term 老爷 that is commonly heard in Song, Ming, and Qing Dynasty dramas for master. What was used was the term 阿郎, which really translates to man. For the son of the master, the term used would be 郎君. The word 郎, which is a term used to reference a man is used much more frequently during the Tang Dynasty. If you listen to 瞳儿, she references her lover as 秦朗 -> or man with last name of 秦.
Next, the room that Lin Jiu Lang resides in is kept to a sweltering hot temperature. The character’s historical counterpart, 李林甫, loved orchids and wanted to have orchids blooming year round. He built himself a half moon shaped room that functioned as a greenhouse so that he could enjoy orchids year round, which is what we essentially have in this drama right now. In history, the greenhouse was called 偃yǎn月堂 or the Cease Moon Hall . Apparently, 李林甫 loved to contemplate big plans and schemes in this greenhouse, so much so, that when servants saw him leave the greenhouse with a big smile on his face, then they knew that someone at court was about to suffer.
The next piece of history is something I’ve wanted to cover for a while but we haven’t had the chance for a breather so let’s discuss it now and what I want to review with everyone is the cross hand greeting that all of the characters make in the drama. In chinese it is called the 叉手礼. How to make the greeting is as such, the left hand needs to firmly clasp the right thumb, essentially wrap around the right thumb. The left pinky needs to point towards the right wrist. The 4 fingers of the right hand need to be straight and the right thumb needs to point towards the sky.
This greeting was used by both men and women alike towards someone of a higher status, that could be at court, an elder, a boss etc. Bows with hands had been around since the Zhou Dynasty, over 2500 years ago. This particular form of greeting or the 叉手礼 originated during the Western Jin period, around the late 3rd century AD and was widely used up until the Song dynasty around the 12th – 13th century AD.
It actually originated from Buddhist rites. In Buddhism, crossing hands means respecting each other. Buddhism was introduced to China during the Eastern Han Dynasty and quickly grew in popularity. By the Western Jin period, the Cross Hand greeting began to appear, but it was really during the Emperor Xuan Zong’s reign during the Tang Dynasty that his greeting became very ubiquitous. Chinese esoteric Buddhism established itself in China in the 710s during the early years of Emperor Xuan Zong’s reign. Remember, we’re in 744 in the drama under the reign of the same emperor. Due to the spread of Buddhism, the cross hand greeting spread throughout the empire and became a standard way of greeting.
The greeting is referenced in Tang Dynasty poems and we do have surviving paintings. In a crypt of a late Tang Dynasty man, around early 9th century, there is a wall painting of a woman in the pose of the cross hand greeting or 叉手礼.
The reason why I wanted to chat about the greeting in this episode because there’s clearly one person who is NOT greeting others in this same way. Who is it? Li Bi.
If you take a look at the scene where he greets the Right Chancellor, he simply bows to him with left hand covering his right hand. We can’t really see it but his right hand should be in the form of a loose first. Li Bi currently is still behaving as a Daoist. It was a conscious decision from the director and the acting coordinator to have Li Bi keep all of the rites performed by Daoists throughout the drama.
This cross hand greeting stayed popular all the way until the Song Dynasty. The customs then change to the more common 抱拳 or fist greeting that we see even today.
Ok. I’m recording now. Then going to find food.
Let me take a moment to chat about this scene with Tong Er. It’s another scene where the drama was really able to dial up the theatrics and tug at heartstrings whereas in the book, this scene was rather brief and unimpactful. In the drama, Tong er is really able to express her devotion and love to the man who is captured and bloodied. In the book, it is made to look as though she is too romantic rather than actually a believer in her love. In the book, it’s 张小敬 who makes the offer to release only one of the pair rather than 葛老. This gives Zhang Xiao Jing the role in the drama of more of a mediator rather than the harsher instigator. Furthermore, In the book, there’s no sob backstory about how 瞳儿 became a prostitute and the book doesn’t portray tong er’s anguish at seeing her lover leave her nor does it show the inner struggle the man had before ultimately deciding to leave. In the book, it just describes him as him being released from guilt because someone made the decision for him. He looked left and right, and seeing that no one was blocking him, he covered his eyes and frantically ran towards the exit. Not quite as impactful as what we got on screen right? I really liked how they depicted this scene on screen since it shows that truly when it’s life and death, it’s more imprtant to rely on yourself than someone else.
Plus not entirely sure why they changed the name from 韩郎 to 秦朗. And finally, I do think this scene portrays Zhang Xiao Jing as much more complicated and humane in the drama than it does in the book since in the book Yao Ru Neng is more just in disbelief that Zhang XIao Jing is able to treat a woman this way before acknowledging that this might have been a kindness for Zhang Xiao Jing.
Oh – and the actor for the lover? It’s 彭冠英。He’s been in several dramas such as Love Heals and Thin Ice from earlier this year. I’m impressed with his like 5 min screentime in this drama and would have had absolutely no idea this was him unless I looked at the credits.