Season 1 – Ep 3


Today, we are discussing episode 3 of Season 1 of Joy of Life. We’ll be doing a plot recap of the episode including some topics we didn’t touch up on in episode 2, introduce MANY characters, and then talk about culture that is referenced in the drama. Starting in this episode, we’ll also begin adding in book differences and spoilers too.





Before Fan Xian even sets foot in the Fan mansion in the Capital, multiple threads happen that we need to tease out and explain as it does set up quite a bit for the rest of the drama. We start from the end of episode 2 into episode 3.


First, the assassin from the 4th division Teng Zi Jing joins Fan Xian as a stowaway to sneak back to the Capital. Fan Xian pretended to kill Teng Zi Jing per his request. Now, Teng Zi Jing wants to return to the capital as well. Now, it is really important to highlight that from the get go, Teng Zi Jing has been portrayed to be a kinder man than most. Instead of poisoning or killing everyone in the Fan household when he was trying to kill Fan Xian, he added non-lethal poison. This is a mirror of Fan Xian’s actions when trying to find Lao Ha to see who added the poison. Fan Xian didn’t want Lao Ha to die in the cross fire and prevented the Red Guard from entering Lao Ha’s home. That’s an important connection in my mind showing why these two can become friends. They both value life.


Now, on the way to the capital, Fan Xian’s group meets a group of people from the Overwatch Council which includes his teacher, Fei Jie. The important piece here is that the mysterious person in the carriage is Yan Bing Yun who is being sent to the Kingdom of Qi to act as a spy. This is his punishment, well his father’s punishment, for having sent an assassin to kill Fan Xian, the Overwatch Council’s Ti Si. The Youtube translation call this title as Judge? It’s more akin to Deputy Director which means Fan Xian’s power is significant. We don’t see Yan Bing Yun’s face for now, but he does want to get the token of the Ti Si back. He doesn’t think Fan Xian is worthy of the role. Luckily, Fei Jie steps in but we will see more of Yan Bing Yun in the future.



At the gates to the capital, another character 王启年 makes his first appearance. He swindles 范闲 into buying a pamphlet that includes the map of the capital. In the city, Teng Zi Jing parts ways with 范闲. Meanwhile, 范闲 is enjoying the sights, not realizing he’s walking straight into a trap. There are several women, looking like prostitutes ready put Fan Xian in a compromising situation. But things take a turn. The red guard disappear, leaving 范闲 alone with a new man to escort him back to the Fan Manor. As we leave, we see that another set of guards, wearing white robes, have apprehended and dispatched all these ladies. Fan Xian, though, does not see this. 


The new man then drives the carriage all the way to an unknown temple. There are 2 other carriages waiting in front. Seeing that the driver disappeared, 范闲 heads off to explore, only to be stopped by a gentleman at the door. The 2 exchange blows, which surprises each in turn, because they were not expecting the strength of the other. However, after only a few moments, the gentleman opens the door again and informs Fan Xian that he is allowed to enter.


Picking up at the start of the episode 3, the gentleman informs Fan Xian that they worship the Holy Temple or 神庙 here at this temple.



范闲 is rightly confused as to why he was brought here and whether or not the gentleman knows who he is. At first, Fan Xian thought yes, this man did know him but it turns out there’s someone more important on the premises. 范闲 Fan Xiandoesn’t have anything else to do so he does some exploring, expecting an ambush. As he continues to explore though, he hears a sudden movement underneath a table in the room he is in. Expecting an attack, he draws out a dagger and unveils the tablecloth to see what it might be. Surprisingly, it is a young woman dressed in white holding a chicken leg.  And we are introduced to 鸡腿姑娘 or Ms Chicken Leg!


Well actually, her name is 林婉儿 Lin Wan Er, daughter of the current Chancellor 林若甫 Lin Ruo Fu. As the audience, we get that on the side but 范闲 Fan Xian doesn’t know this!


This is a very fun meet cute! Fan Xian is dumbfounded at just how beautiful this mysterious young woman is and doesn’t really know what to do. 林婉儿 is shy about their little encounter and hurriedly stuffs the chicken leg into 范闲’s Fan Xian hand and rushes out, but not before turning to give him a dazzling smile. 范闲 Fan Xian gives chase but is too late, she disappeared. Only after she left did he realize he totally forgot to ask her for her name. He also realizes that the other group with the gentleman has also left so fan xian is all alone at this weird temple not knowing why he was dragged there.



We now follow the group with the gentleman. He is clearly only serving the man in the carriage. Lo and behold, it’s none other than the Emperor of Qing. It is evident in only the few minutes of conversation that the Emperor is well aware of the events that transpired between 范闲 Fan Xian and the gentleman. The gentleman still doesn’t know who 范闲 Fan Xian is and is worried about the safety of the Emperor. The Emperor though is pretty pleased with the gentleman’s performance, much to the gentleman’s confusion. 


Then, the same group of guards wearing white appear to report to the Emperor that they have taken care of the Palace maids that were ready to block the path. Listen – they reported these women as Palace maids and NOT prostitutes, so whoever wanted to cause the commotion had the power to order personnel from the palace. These guards are the Emperor’s imperial guards so it’s not a far stretch to imagine that the Emperor ordered the attack on these maids. 


As this is all happening, we see that 林婉儿’s carriage is behind the Emperor’s carriage. She’s clearly smitten and we hear some crucial information too. She is actually betrothed to a son of the Fan Manor. Interesting right? Fan Xian is a son of the Fan Manor. Are they betrothed?


The Emperor and  the gentleman, who we now hear the name, 宫典 Gong Dian have a rather frank conversation. 宫典 Gong Dian guesses that it was the Emperor who ordered 范闲 Fan Xian to be brought to the Temple in order to get a closer look at him. 宫典 Gong Dian also makes a guess that it was the Crown Prince who ordered the palace maids to prepare for this commotion. The Emperor doesn’t respond to this accusation but does respond that he heard the Crown Prince gifted 宫典 Gong Dian a painting. 宫典 Gong Dian immediately kneels to the ground begging for forgiveness, the Emperor asks what does he have to forgive before heading back to the palace.


In this whole sequence, we as the audience see a few things. First and foremost, the Emperor is completely in control of the events today regarding 范闲 Fan Xian.

  1. He ordered the Imperial Guards to kill the palace maids who were planning “something” on 范闲 Fan Xian
  2. He knew that 宫典  Gong Dian had personal meetings with the Crown Prince
  3. He ordered 范闲 to be brought to the temple and have the fight with 宫典 Gong Dian. Please note, the driver is most definitely a eunuch.
  4. He also knew full well that 林婉儿 Lin Wan’Er was with his retinue. We’ll find out soon enough why he allowed 林婉儿 Lin Wan’Er to join his retinue even though she’s the daughter of a Chancellor. He definitely was planning or hoping for some sort of encounter between the two.


In less than 15 minutes and I hope you as the audience caught all that, we see how imposing the Emperor is, or rather WHY he’s able to be Emperor. He knows all and plots for all scenarios. Nothing escapes his eyes, especially any machinations from his sons. 


After that detour 范闲 Fan Xian finally makes it to the Fan family manor, carrying his mysterious box from Wu Zhu. He is unable to enter through the front door and instead is ushered in through a side door



This is where the story turns for a hot second into a family drama. Fan Xian arrives and immediately learns that Liu Yi Niang, the concubine of Fan Jian, Fan Xian’s father isn’t to be trifled with. Then, he meets his younger brother, Fan Si Zhe, played by Guo Qi Lin, who turns out to be a rather aggressive young man. 


I say that this almost turned into a family drama where Fan Xian is put in his place by this Liu Yi Niang and his legitimate younger brother but Fan Xian manages to talk circles around Fan Si Zhe and we also meet Fan Ruo Ruo, played by Song Yi. She arrives and immediately diffuses the argument Fan Si Zhe is having at Fan Xian by disciplining this younger brother.  Hilariously, Fan Si Zhi is rather scared of this older sister and runs away quickly crying out for his mother. Haha


Fan Ruo Ruo is most certainly a fan girl of her older brother. She worships him and this is a really adorable brother sister relationship. She has also made her brother a star. Apparently, over the years, he has been sending Fan Ruo Ruo chapters of Hong Lou Meng or Dream of the Red Chamber. She has published or shared them with many of the young women in her circle which has become extremely popular. This is obviously the modern day man literally memorizing and writing out everything from Dream of the Red Chamber and sharing it in this new universe. Dream of the Red Chamber is written by Cao Xue Qin which is why in the drama, Fan Xian references this man. Honestly, I’m just impressed that anyone can memorize this book to write down. That is Fan Xian’s super power. 


In the next episode, Fan Si Zhe and Liu Yi Niang conspire to bring Fan Xian down a notch while Fan Xian meets with his father for the first time. There are many mysteries around why Fan Xian was just left in Dan Zhou to grow up all alone but we won’t really get answers to that for quite some time.


Before we wrap up, we also do meet the crown prince in this episode. Gong Dian goes to meet the crown prince after the strong commentary from the Emperor. Here, Gong Dian returns the painting given to him by the Crown Prince and sets boundaries between the two. This was the crucial warning from the Emperor to Gong Dian on keeping his independence to maintain loyalty to the Emperor. The Crown Prince in this conversation denies that he was the one to attack Fan Xian which suggests there is someone else.




That was the episode recap! Let’s move onto some history and pop culture!

正门 and 侧门


When 范闲 arrives at the Fan Manor, he is not allowed to enter the front doors of the manor. Instead, he is ushered into a side door. For drama purposes, this is viewed as a slight because his stepmother or actually, the concubine 柳姨娘 refuses to let him in the front door. 范闲 is the illegitimate son of 范建 and 柳姨娘 doesn’t grant him the honor of having him walk through the front door, instead slighting him for his birth and trying to put him in his place. 


Interestingly, if we take a look at Dream of the Red Chamber, the Front Door, which in chinese is 正门, is only opened for proper events. The opening of the front door represents the entire family and a proper event is needed to warrant such an occasion. This includes when a member of the family, who is an Imperial concubine returns home, or when a family member dies and the family must attend the funeral procession. Apart from that, the front door remains closed. In the book, when Lin Dai Yu, who is a granddaughter of Lady Jia, comes to visit, she is also only allowed to enter via the side entrance or the 侧门. Yes, Lin Dai Yu is only a relati ve but she also wasn’t granted the honor of walking through the front door. Based on that, we can deduce that entering through the side entrance really isn’t THAT big of a deal. 


二夫人 vs 姨娘

I also want to turn your attention to what different characters call 柳如玉 this episode. She is a concubine to 范建 and can ONLY be called a 姨娘 because she never married 范建 to be his wife. To those of you who followed our series The Story of Ming Lan, we go into a lot of detail on the difference between the Madame of the House vs a Concubine of the House. 范闲, upon his return, only calls 柳如玉 as 姨娘. He firmly puts her in her place as only a concubine. Listen though to all of the other servants and what they call her – 二夫人. In the book, it’s also 二太太. When you add 夫人 – that means wife, which elevates her status to the proper wife or madame of the household, which 柳如玉 is not. Speaking of doors – as the WIFE and first wife at that, the woman could enter during her wedding through the front door. Concubines and second wives as in the man is now widowed or divorced, could only enter during the wedding via the side door. Please note how 范闲 calls 柳如玉 now because that will change. 



Let’s now move onto some pop culture!


范思哲 is the name of 范闲’s younger brother. 范闲 has a funny reaction to the name and so do most Chinese audiences. 范思哲 is actually the Chinese name of Gianni Versace. Hear the resemblance? Anyways – the author chose the name 范思哲 because the brand represents prestige and well, money. That’s what 范思哲 in the drama LOVEs. Not women or books, just money. It helps that the 范 or 范思哲 is the same 范 as the 范 family. 

Additionally, Fan Ruo Ruo mentions the term 更新 which is the mode rn chinese term for update. As in updating a new chapter or updating a new episode of a drama. 


By episode three, we’re already firmly in the second volume of the book. I sped read the first volume again, and yes, completely agree with the compression in the drama. The first volume is just about 范闲’s life in 儋州. The author makes constant references to 红楼梦 or Dream of the Read Chamber, especially with 范闲 seeing himself as the character of 贾宝玉, living amongst many young maids. We also much of 范闲’s training regimen – he spends his days extremely disciplined in learning martial arts and the 霸道真气. But that’s only like 4% of the whole book.


Now that Fan Xian is in the capital, the order of events shifts a little bit. Fan Xian meets 林婉儿 right as he comes to the capital but in the book, he heads home first to battle it out with the Fan family. He also knows about his engagement to Miss Lin before heading to the capital. The drama shifts these events around to quickly introduce 林婉儿 and I’m happy they did. In the book, 林婉儿 really doesn’t have much book time. 



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