Ep 8: 


We are in episode 8 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 karenandcathy@chasingdramas.com. 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. 


After a couple of episodes away, we finally return to the Wolf Squad and the two mysterious ladies. One of them was 王韫秀, the daughter of a very famous general, and the other 闻染. She was the one who lured 王韫秀 to the Wolf Squad. Both of the them are now captured but what’s interesting is that 闻染 knows the plans of the 右刹, the leader of the Wolf Squad, and the man that we met only briefly in episode 4. If you’ll recall, 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. He was the one who cut 曹破延’s hair and has greater plans for tonight. The fact that 闻染 knows 右刹 and his plans surprises the rest of the Wolf Squad members.


The time is now 未初 – 日中而昃 rì zhōng er zè. The sun will begin to set from its peak


At this point, 张小敬 is out there looking for the wolf squad lair and 靖安司 or at least 李必 received word for the general 崔器 to quickly head to 张小敬’s aid. However, news has traveled everywhere about 张小敬‘s betrayal of one of his spies. 李必 is quick to understand 张小敬 and decide to continue to believe him but 崔器 is extremely derogatory towards 张小敬. 崔器 believes that a guy who betrays a spy is not worthy of trusting or helping. But, he doesn’t have much choice given the direct orders from 李必 so he heads out to find/aid 张小敬。Now, I do find it interesting that the news traveled back to Jing An Si before Yao Ru Neng was able to send word the way he wanted. There was a brief scene where we see Yao Ru Neng being a little disconcerted at hearing news of Zhang Xiao Jing’s request for Cui Qi and what not had already traveled to Jing An Si.


Zhang Xiao Jing has made his way to the 修正坊 and disguised himself as someone selling lanterns for the festival. Wen Ran is still bartering with the Wolf Squad members when they observe Zhang XIao Jing wandering around and want to snipe him dead. Wen Ran clearly knows Zhang Xiao Jing and stops the archers from firing their bows. She reveals that Zhang Xiao Jing is her husband and is allowed to go grab him. Within the wolf squad though, a divide occurs because cao po yan wants the group to leave given their hiding spot has been revealed while Ma Ge Er thinks they need to wait for news from You Sha. 


Wen Ran greets Zhang Xiao Jing with a smile. She’s happy to see him since it’s been 6 months and is wondering how he is able to escape from prison. He doesn’t lie and says he’s free for a day before going back. She’s upset at the news and tells him not to continue seeking the ppl in the house she came from. She wants them to escape. It’s obvious she knows more than she lets on but Zhang Xiao Jing plans to have her escape from her current danger. He tells her to grab a flag from his old spot in Wan nian county and to wait for him at a certain tea spot. Using a lantern as a signal, he agrees to meet her and escape tonight. She is over the moon to hear this news and actually skips away with the lantern. Interestingly, while her cover story for him is that he is her husband, he calls her 丫头 which is a colloquial and sometimes endearing term for young girl. Meaning that there’s obviously a different viewpoint in how the pair see each other. 


I don’t know if 张小敬 every actually wanted to meet up with 闻染 at this point in time because next thing we see is Zhang XIao Jing going to attack the wolf squad lair by his lonesome. I’m a little surprised and confused he would do this without waiting for back up but it’s an intense scene with very quick and brutal attacks. Unfortunately, with only one person and also a hostage of 王韫秀 in tow, 张小敬 is forced to surrender so that nothing happens to 王韫秀. He is brutally tortured with hot irons to the flesh as Ma Ge Er enjoys watching Zhang XIao Jing suffer. 


While all of this is happening, 崔器 is slow as can be on his way to “aid” Zhang Xiao Jing, taking the busiest route with lots of crowds because he doesn’t think a guy like Zhang XIao Jing deserves his respect. Meanwhile back at 靖安司, Li Bi, 徐宾 and 檀棋 piece together the connections between Zhang Xiao Jing and Wen Ran. Wen Ran’s father 闻无忌 was in the army with 张小敬 in a brutal battle several years ago. Only 9 survived out of 220 or so men in that battle, including 闻无忌 and 张小敬。 As for how the blaze gang is connected, several months back, 闻无忌 and 闻染’s fragrance shop was forced to close. Li Bi is able to deduce that this closure may have caused Zhang XIao Jing to act against the blaze gang who were involved in the forced closure. Sure enough, members of the blaze gang were quick to happen upon a solo Wen Ran and swiftly surrounded her. Uh oh.


So how close was Wen Ran’s father to Zhang XIao Jing. We get a flashback to when Zhang Xiao Jing was a soldier defending the beacon or 烽燧堡 against invaders. In the crowd are a few other men, including 闻无忌。The events of the battle were already described earlier by Li Bi but now we see it in action. In this battle, Zhang Xiao Jing and company are using their meager resources to try to defend their fort and desperately need back up from nearby soldiers. They’ve sent up distress signals and do not understand whatsoever why reinforcements have not arrived when the troops are nearby and there’s enough bodies to support their poor company. They don’t have too much time to think before they come under attack by opposing forces. But one thing they said is that they have to protect their flag. The symbol of why they are fighting. We will talk more about this in the history portion of our podcast episode.

The episode ends with more festive matters. On one hand I’m impressed with the scene while on the other I’m like, Come one Cui Qi, let’s get going. They observe a battle of the bands pretty much as different parade floats with drums basically battle it out for the best mastery of their art. We see drummers performing impressive acts where the winner is able to then proceed and help celebrate the lantern festival tonight in front of the Emperor himself. A high honor. The troops are unable to pass the floats particularly when the crowd is all waiting to see one megastar, Xu He Zi. We’ll see her in the next episode.




Let’s move onto history! There’s a lot of fun little nuggets in this episode so lets give in!


Right off the bat in the beginning of the episode, the wolf squad leader 曹破延 has sword called a 十字格弯刀 in mandarin. The rough translation is a Cross Saber based on the hilt. It’s really hard to see and I don’t think it’s actually a cross saber but there is an original currently housed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. These Turkic-Mongol sabers originated during the 8th century and were primarily used up until the 14th century. You’ll notice a slight bend right after the hilt of the sword which was customary of the swords of the time. 




The next is a quick blink and you’ll miss scene but when 张小敬 arrives at the secret location with his horse, we see that the horse saddle is covered with a cloth. THat’s because a) if one is poor, they might not be able to afford a proper saddle and b) a lot of fancy saddles have jewels to accessorize the saddles. As such people didn’t want to be too flamboyant about them, which is why they were covered with cloth. 



Next – we’re gonna follow Captain Cui and his troops. When they are essentially casually walking to meet 张小敬, they pass a couple of dancers wearing masks. As we hear from another soldier, the people are dancing 傩舞 or the Dance of Nuo. It was also known as 鬼戏 or Ghost Opera. It is one of the oldest forms of dance for the Han people to perform sacrifices, pray to the gods, and drive away plagues. It originated from nature worship, totem worship, and witchcraft worship from the Han people and has a long history of combining local chinese religion with performance art. Typically when the 傩舞 is performed, the dancers wear masks to represent the gods or historical person in which the dance is referencing. This type of dance still remains in many villages of china. The accompaniment for the dance usually were drums or gongs. We see the small drums referenced in today’s episode but I want to discuss them in the next episode because we get a good look at them in the next episode. 



In the drama, the soldier says that this style of 傩舞 was heavily influenced by 安禄山’sintroduction of 胡旋舞 or Sogdian Whirl dance. Sogdian Whirl Dance was a very popular dance during the Tang Dynasty. The dance was imported to China with the Sogdian merchants that traveled to the major Chinese cities of Chang An and Luo Yang. In Chinese, the countries that exported Sogdian whirl dance included 康居国 – Kangju, 史国 Kess, and 米国 which are located around current day uzbekistan. 胡旋舞 literally translates to Foreign whirl dance. It comprised of a woman dancing and spinning in a circle. This dance was frequently referenced by contemporary poets. We have since found Tang dynasty pottery and funerary walls that depict this type of dance. Indeed Emperor Tang Xuan Zong and his favored concubine 杨贵妃 were recorded to have performed the dance. The accompaniment was also drums. The dance itself has been resurrected for modern audiences although it’s tough to say if these really were similar to the dances of the day. All we have now are paintings of the clothing and descriptions to make the assumptions.


Let’s turn to happier matters! We get a grand Float battle and everyone turns to watch the drummers perform!




The chants that are spoken by the drummers come from Amitabha Sutra from Buddhism. 


If we turn our attention to the float with the flutist – there are two vertical banners. On the banners are written the 4 lines from the Tang dynasty poet 李商隐. Here we have an anachronism! The poet 李商隐 lived in the 9th century instead of the 8th century. 


出自唐代李商隐的《观灯乐行》- Watching Lanterns






The translation goes as such: In the imperial city, the moon is as water, the flower lanterns are as mountains. The extravagant and fragrant horse carriages fill the large streets. Even though I am free, I cannot see the beauty of the lantern festival. I can only embarrassingly take my local villagers to see the Purple Goddess at the Temple. 


It’s interesting that the drama decided to put this poem on this float because as you just heard, the poet isn’t enjoying the lantern festival. 




In the drama, we are introduced to flashbacks of 张小敬 during his days in the army and the fateful siege of the 烽燧sui4堡 or of the beacon. We learn from Li Bi’s rather cold recount that in the 8th regiment of the An Xi Army, there were 220 soldiers protecting the beacon but only 9 survived.


These beacons weren’t referencing a specific location. The beacons themselves were a series of locations to warn of enemies. Think of the system for the Great wall of China. If one beacon was lit, then scouts from other locations would know that an enemy was coming. There were beacons set up 30 miles apart. So the one that 张小敬 was stationed at was the beacon for the city of Beshbaliq 拔换城


The army that 张小敬 and his men were waiting for were the 瀚海军 Army. During the Tang dynasty, the empire had different armies stationed along the northern route of the Silk Road leading out of the empire. The army was 12K strong with 4200 horses and were stationed in 庭州城, located in present day XinJiang. The army was established in 702 by Emperor Wu Ze Tian. 


The Siege of the Beacon 烽燧堡之战 occured in 735. In October of that year, the Türgesh tribal leader and Qaghan Suluk attacked Beshbaliq 拔换城, a city in present day XinJiang.  After the new year, General 盖嘉运 led his troops north to attack Suluk and his forces and crushed the Turgesh army. 


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