Welcome back to Chasing dramas. This is the podcast that discusses Chinese culture and history through historical Chinese dramas! We are your hosts, Karen and Cathy!
Today we will discuss episode 48 of the Story of Ming Lan or 知否知否应是绿肥红瘦。The podcast is in English with proper nouns and certain Chinese phrases spoken in Mandarin Chinese. If you have any questions, please reach out to us on instagram or twitter at Chasingdramas or else email us. Also leave us a rating on whatever platform you listen to us to! We also have a new poll on our website! We are more than halfway through our current drama and are looking to you to vote for what drama we should discuss next! Please head over to chasingdramas.com to vote!
We will start off with the episode recap, historical analysis, and then close off with some book differences!
In the last episode, Gu Ting Ye’s cousin’s from the 4th and 5th house found themselves in deep trouble due to their involvement with the previous princes who incited a failed coup. These two cousins procured some women for a prince in an effort to bribe and create connections with notable military and court members. Due to this, these two cousins are currently in prison.
It’s not Ming Lan’s responsibility to help these cousins but she is now being accosted by their mothers, the 4th and 5th aunts. They want her to speak to Gu TIng Ye and ask him for help. That’s where we begin episode 47. The thing is, people, if you need help from someone, threatening them and blackmailing them is probably not the right way to do it, especially if the other side is in a position of power.
But what do these two ladies do? They come to see Ming Lan in her residence and then threaten to expose to Gu Ting Ye that she was previously engaged with the He family. If both of these were exposed to Gu Ting Ye, it would be grounds to divorce Ming Lan.
Why is this a big deal? In today’s world, who cares? But back then, apparently it was not proper for a woman’s reputation to have been engaged and then married to another man. There are significant negative implications to what type of woman she is by doing so. Apologies because I can’t find actual sources right now. I read it somewhere while researching a few episodes back but now can’t find it so if any listeners know of it, let me know.
Ming Lan understandably is upset. The gall of these two women to come threaten her with this and forcing her to help their sons. I am always so impressed with Ming Lan’s ability to calmly rebuke other people’s words at her while still insulting them. She basically tells them that there’s no need to say this in her face and firmly states that she was never engaged. After this statement, she simply just walks off leaving these two ladies rather surprised.
Gu Ting Ye sees Ming Lan storm away angrily which he actually finds amusing. What a weirdo. He heads into the hall to see his two aunts. They immediately tell him that he’s been tricked! His wife was engaged before marrying him.
I always adore this exchange for how simple it’s resolved. These two aunts thought they could harm Ming Lan irrevocably but instead, Gu Ting Ye is just like, oh nope, she was never engaged. They’re surprised. He knew? Of course he knew. Come to think of it, he actually had to employ some tactics in order to marry his wife? Then he sarcastically thanks them for thinking of him. THeir houses are already on fire but they have come here to seek justice for him on old matters. He’s chuckling at them while they look away sheepishly. Hahahaahahaha. What a great way to shut down these gossipers. They think they can come here and cause havoc in Ming Lan’s home but little do they know, their ammunition is completely ineffective.
The aunts don’t give up harassing Ming Lan and Gu Ting Ye. Even though Ming Lan and Gu TIng Ye have left them, they vow to just wait there. Fortunately, Ming Lan, after letting out her frustration by hitting a pillow, has a plan to kick them out. Or at least make them leave of their own accord. She nicely tells her staff to bring over a table of food for the aunts to treat them as they’re planning to stay. The 4th aunt is like, ok fine, i’ll eat. But then, as she’s about to take her first bite, a screen is brought over and an accountant sets up paper and ink outside. He’s there to document everything these ladies say just in case Ming Lan and company are questioned by even the Emperor.
This pauses the aunts in their tracks. They know what they’re saying is rather inappropriate and definitely do not want it documented. The 4th aunt and 5th aunt leave hastily with their tail between their legs.
Did you learn these tactics to get rid of annoying relatives? I guess it doesn’t hurt if you have a scribe on hand for matters like this. Hahahahaha.
After Gu Ting Ye hears that the aunts left, he sighs. These families have been spoiled all their lives by his father and now his brother. He’s a little worried whether his stance of not helping is too harsh? But as Ming Lan explains, he doesn’t actually want them to beg him. He wants them to apologize to him. They’ve disrespected him, tricked him and left him out to dry. Any innocent person wants their unjust charges removed and apologized for. As long as in his heart he feels he’s doing the right thing, he should feel bad for doing it, even at the expense of the uncomfortableness of his leeching relatives.
As the conflict at home continues, the drama in court also escalates. The Empress Dowager has requested a meeting with the Prime Minister Han Zhi. The Empress Dowager gave the Emperor the Imperial Seal because he was going to a temple to pray for rain. She would like the Imperial Seal back. Han Zhi, deflects this request and instead focuses on how successful and important the trip was. When the Empress Dowager presses him for the seal, respectfully states that matters of court are frequent and burdensome. Every time the Emperor has to use the seal, he has to bother the Empress Dowager. He doesn’t want to continue to bother her and thus has kept the seal.
The Empress Dowager is furious. It was the Prime Minister who told her she should oversee court affairs and now they stole the seal from her? How dare they?
Out in the garden, the Empress Dowager surmises that the only person capable of such a lowly tactic is 顾廷烨. He spent a long time in the markets with all manner of people. He is the sole person in the Emperor’s cohort that could come up with an idea like this to trick the seal away.
Why is this such a big deal? We will explain what a 玉玺 is in more detail later on in the podcast episode but for now, it is the seal that represents the power of the Emperor. Without the seal, royal decrees would not be formalized. The Empress Dowager was given the seal in order to ensure no further turmoil in the transition of imperial power but she refused to give it back. This meant she had overall authority on what is approved or not at court because the EMperor, as we have learned, had to ask the Empress Dowager every time he wanted to use it for something. The implication is that if she did not like something, she would simply not provide the seal. This deeply restricts the power of the Emperor and essentially means that it is the Empress Dowager with all the power. Now that she has total authority, who would want to relinquish it? The Emperor had no other recourse but to trick the Empress Dowager into lending him the seal for a royal trip and just not give it back.
The Empress dowager summons the scoundrel who provided such a tactic to the Emperor. As Gu Ting Ye is kneeling outside her rooms, she yells her head off at him. She’s known him since he was just a child and has protected him on a number of occasions. How dare he trick her like this and bully a widow. SHe tells his eunuchs to grab a cane. He should be punished for what he’s done.
The Eunuchs are a little afraid to beat Gu Ting Ye because there are so many scars on his back after he removed his top, awaiting punishment. They’re not sure where to start. The Empress Dowager scoffs and personally grabs the cane. If the eunuch is too scared to cane beat, she will. The moment she turns around to see Gu Ting Ye’s back, she also pauses. It’s full of scars – evident of his bravery in war or else his suffering as a youth.
Her stance immediately weakens. When he came to save her and the late Emperor, she thought he was a good kid, loyal to the emperor but now she can’t even beat him readily. She throws the cane to the ground and storms off.
Why didn’t she beat him? I feel like this scene is rather important in humanizing the Empress Dowager. She isn’t someone who is simply power hungry, she does have empathy. She saw his scars and recognized that they came from battle and suffering. For him to be here today must not have been easy. At the core, the Empress Dowager does want what’s best for the Song dynasty. She thinks what she’s doing, aka maintaining power is what’s best for the Empire. I do find it interesting she concedes her anger after seeing that someone else also fought hard for the safety of the Empire.
At home, Ming Lan is once again listening to Gu Ting Ye describe what happened over a meal.
[Ming LAn and Gu TIng Ye Debrief?] [Qi Heng ignoring Gu TIng Ye? Qi Heng meeting the Empress Dowager?]
Soon after, we see that Gu Ting Wei, Gu Ting Ye’s younger brother, is dragged off from his home to be interrogated. His wife cries to beg his mother in law, Madame Qin to save him. What happened? Why would he be taken away? Apparently, he took in 2 women that the cousins had procured for the rebel prince to enjoy for himself. Madame Qin is furious. How could he be so careless in accepting this kind of gift. Madame Qin explains that this was certainly a trick by the cousins. If the rebel prince had declared victory, they would have been honored for doing their part but not Gu Ting Wei. However, if the prince lost as he did, these 2 women would be enough of a connection to implicate Gu Ting Wei with the coup. This essentially forces the Marqui’s household to help the 4th and 5th houses. It is certainly a devious scheme and again showcases how shameless those two families are.
Ming Lan and Gu Ting Ye are summoned to the Gu Manor where the family is assembled. Gu Ting Wei’s wife begs them to help save her husband. Gu Ting Ye shares that his brother won’t lose his life but depending on what crimes he actulaly committed, may be exiled. This causes the room of wives to start crying and squabbling with each other.
In the midst of the chaos, the sickly Gu Ting Yu, Gu Ting Ye’s older brother and current Marquis steps forward. He directly asks whether Gu Ting Ye has the capability to save the Gu Family. Gu Ting Ye responds confidently that he can. Gu Ting Yu asks the price. Is it his life? Or who’s life? Gu Ting Ye doesn’t care about that. He wants his mother’s name to be added to the clan registry and her actions that ultimately saved the Gu Family to be recorded for the entire clan to see. Gu Ting Yu, in a heaving voice, shouts that he will never agree to this unless he dies.
That night, the uncles, the older brother and Madame Qin are discussing what to do. The uncles don’t think there’s any other option but to agree to Gu Ting Ye’s demands. After all, it is just a little humiliating but they are saving their sons. Gu Ting Yu, though, interjects. He knows that no matter what happens, Gu Ting Ye will not actually let his family come into trouble. It’s all a bluff and they can call his bluff by just not doing anything.
The episode ends with Ming Lan once again trying to ease her husband’s tensions. She recognizes and we will explain further in the next episode that Gu Ting Ye’s older brother is a big obstacle for Gu Ting Ye. He saw right through Gu Ting Ye’s soft heart and is therefore not going to back down. Will Gu Ting Yu actually agree to his younger brother’s demands? We will see what happens in the next episode.
Shen Da Niang Zi – brief scene.
玉玺 – The Yu Xi is THE Imperial Seal of China used only by the Emperor. Originally created by the first unifier of China, Qin Shi Huang, in 221BC, it was used by generations of Emperors as the ultimate signal of ruling authority and the mandate of heaven. It is made of jade and carved with dragons, The words, “Having received the Mandate from Heaven, may (the emperor) lead a long and prosperous life.” (受命於天, 既壽永昌). And legitimized the authority of whoever held it. If you declared yourself king or emperor without this seal, you could be considered illegitimate. I’m sincerely impressed that this one object passed through time and survived as long as it did. It disappeared
韩璋 – 韩琦
Let’s introduce 韩璋 or in real life 韩琦 1008年8月5日－1075年8月8日. He was a very important political figure during the reigns of 宋仁宗, 宋英宗, and 宋神宗. Hailing from a bureaucratic family, he passed the imperial exams and became a 进士 at the age of 19. Over the years, he successfully pushed through reforms, brokered truce in the west and was a crucial member of cabinet and prime minister over 3 reigns.
He’ll feature more prominently in later episodes and we’ll discuss the major topic of contention in the later episodes
The literal translation is the golden cicada sheds its skin – but the meaning is – to do a quick change. This is often used to describe a military strategy in which one army pretends to do something so as to lure the attention of the enemy army. The defending army then retreats or does something else to utterly surprise the enemy army, such as escaping. This tactic has been used since time immemorial but military strategists just didn’t use the phrase.
This is actually also an anachronism because the first written record of the phrase 金蝉脱壳 didn’t appear until the Yuan Dynasty in an opera called 钱大尹智宠谢天香 by the Chinese opera composer 关汉卿 who lived from 1234AD – 1300AD
鸿门宴 – The literal translation of this event is The Feast at Swan Goose Gate and was recorded by Han Dynasty historian Si Ma Qian. The feast itself is about a meeting during the power struggle for the throne after the fall of China’s first unified dynasty, the Qin dynasty. The players are Xiang Yu and Liu Bang, two opposing leaders following the demise of the Qin dynasty and this event takes place in 206 BC. Xiang Yu who was the leading power at the time became wary of Liu Bang’s incremental power. He invites Liu Bang for a feast at Hong Men Gate but the goal is to kill Liu Bang at that feast. Liu Bang learned of the trap but was still forced to go. At the feast he was apologizes to Xiang Yu for misunderstandings between them and with the help of one of his soldiers, Liu Bang was able to escape. Historians argue that this event could be seen as the beginning of the end of Xiang Yu’s hold of power as 4 years later, he was defeated by Liu Bang who became the first emperor of the Han dynasty. This event is now referenced for any feast, meal or meeting that is a trap and bodes ill will towards the guest invited for the event. There is actually a film called Hong Men Yan where Feng Shao Feng, the actor for Gu Ting Ye plays the doomed Xiang Yu.
The main book differences for this episode include the fact that the book made no mention of 齐衡’s wife and her involvement on anything related to the gu family or indeed her views of marriage with 齐衡. There’s glimpses of dissatisfaction but nothing quite as major as shedding tears over two toys. I still don’t get that scene. Again – why do you think your husband loves you?
Gu ting ye also doesn’t make a request to his older brother for commemorating ahd placing his mother in the family shrine gently. The rest of the family are trying ways to have Gu Ting Ye deal with the issue but to no avail. Sometimes, floods are just as dangerous as family in laws. The events are dragged out in the drama more than in the books. Gu ting yu has like a reckoning next episode which causes him to do a 180 on his attitude for today.
That is it for today!
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The music you heard is the zither piece called Lan with sheet music by 冰酒蜗牛军 and played by me!