Ep 48



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, character analysis, historical analysis,  and then close off with some book differences!




This episode starts with a glimpse of prison life for the Gu sons who are currently “enjoying time there”. A couple of guards come in and start beating one of the young men up scaring the bejeezus out of the other family members. 


Back in the Gu Manor, the parents of these young men are extremely agitated. In a family meeting, parents of all three sons urge the Marquis, Gu Ting Yu, Gu Ting Ye’s older brother, to help save their sons. How they treat Gu Ting Yu though in asking for help, remains on trend for what we’ve seen in the last couple of episodes in how they treat Gu Ting Ye. The 4th and 5th uncles keep on emphasizing that Gu Ting Yu must help their sons, aka Gu TIng Yu’s cousins because they’re family. One of them says 血浓于水 which just means that blood is thicker than water, thereby implying how strong their family relationships are. Oddly, these uncles say nothing of remediating their sons behavior in the future or even drop a hint of gratefulness to Gu Ting Yu. They think it’s something that’s owed to them and that it’s not their son’s fault for being captured. Why do I say this? Look at their response when Gu Ting Yu asks, was it I who let them party it up in brothels? Was it I who allowed them to ally themselves with rebel princes? How did it all become my fault? The 4th uncle only cries, “What kind of crap are you saying?”. They have absolutely no remorse in what happened and only care about getting their sons out.


Madame Qin is crying fake tears on the side as well. Her wailing is actually hilarious and this speaks volumes of her actress’s acting abilities. She does not give a hoot about the other sons. She only talks about her son and saying that all of his faults are hers for not teaching him better. But then, she randomly changes the subject by saying that if Gu Ting Yu is upset because he doesn’t have a son, she promises to find a young boy from the clan to become her son. This royally pisses off Gu Ting Yu. As he explains while calling her out on why she said such things, she thinks he isn’t helping her son because he’s worried that if he passes, the title of marquis would go to her son. So by saying oh, we’ll find you a son so you keep the title in your family, suggests that Gu Ting Yu only cares about a title, not his relatives.



At this point, Gu Ting Yu is furious with the pressure his uncles and Madame Qin are placing on him. He tries to ask his uncles how his father and mother would think of their behavior. They quickly turn it back on him saying would they accept Gu Ting Yu letting his cousins die. Gu Ting Yu is so enraged at their accusations and words, he slumps over from fury. What a bunch of terrible relatives. I am dying of laughter when the room is screaming for a doctor and the 4th uncle is just flapping his arms like a chicken. Hahahaha He’s not doing anything at all except yell and flap. 


But, 顾廷煜 is still very much resolute against asking 顾廷烨 for any assistance. He still believes that 顾廷烨 will compromise and agree to the family’s begging without giving anything up. Let’s recall 顾廷煜’s very firm rebuke to 顾廷烨’s request in the last episode. He will not allow 顾廷烨’s mother to be added to the family ancestral hall because 顾廷煜 still very much believes that 顾廷烨’s mother essentially killed his mother. 顾廷煜 won’t budge in asking 顾廷烨 for help even with all the begging and pleading from his family.


That night, Gu Ting Yu overhears the diagnosis of his condition as the doctor tells his wife to prepare for the worst. There’s not much he can do. Gu Ting Yu falls to the ground and his wife and child rush over to help him. He is upset that his wife didn’t tell him the truth of his condition earlier. He thought he had more time. Everything he’s done up till now was because he thought he had at least another 7-8 years. Now he has to recalibrate his next steps. His daughter, Xian Jie’er also arrives tearfully to listen to his father’s instructions to take care of her mother after he leaves. Under the full moon, Gu Ting Yu heads to the Gu Family shrine to pray and think about his next steps in front of his ancestors. You can tell it’s a hard decision for him but he must think what’s best for the Gu family and his own wife and child.



The next day, there is a full family meeting. Gu Ting Ye and Ming Lan have arrived. Gu Ting Yu arrives to sit at the head of the room with Madame Qin on his right, the uncles and aunts in a row on his left. 顾廷煜 is the current marquis and has the last word of the family. He starts off with a snarky remark that his family has done nothing wrong but the families who have committed crimes aren’t the ones making the request.


We’ve said countless times before but the rest of the family really is quite despicable. The 4th and 5th houses beg 顾廷煜 to acquiesce to 顾廷烨’s request. They don’t believe it’s a big deal – who cares! It’s just adding someone to the ancestral hall! For 顾廷煜, it’s a big deal! Especially, if said woman apparently killed his mother.


顾廷煜 coldly tells them that if you want to ask for a favor, actually admit to your mistakes and come clean. Madame Qin quickly says – of course, I can bow to 顾廷烨, that’s not a problem. she’s ok with bowing which is already a big deal! Bowing especially to a younger generation is unheard of because of the strict social hierarchy. However, I believe Madame Qin said she’ll bow as a way to get out of the other requests from Gu Ting Ye. Since she’s offering one pretty big thing already, in my view, this will prevent her from having to do any thing more. 



顾廷煜 has other plans – he has his wife bring out a box. Look at the faces of the other older family members. Blood basically drains from their faces and It’s marvelous to watch. 顾廷煜 hands out the letters from the box over to 顾廷烨。


The letters are a part of their father’s last will. It was supposed to be sent over to the Gu Clan Elders upon his death and read in front of the clan. The letter stated that 顾廷烨’s mother’s dowry was all to be bestowed to 顾廷烨. A full 115,000 taels of silver!


顾廷烨 is stunned at this letter. He can’t believe his father actually wrote this for him on his deathbed. His stare turns icy though when he asks the family if this letter was sent to the Gu Clan and read in front of the elders. Of course it wasn’t. 


Madame Qin immediately begins her act, crying crocodile tears and blames not reading of the will on the men of the family, namely the 4th and 5th houses and of course 顾廷煜. 顾廷煜 basically rolls his eyes at her words. The 4th and 5th uncles look extremely sheepish. Their eyes are diverted and they themselves are turned away. They respond with, the elders wanted to take care of your finances and make sure you didn’t spend it all.


I could not believe my ears when I first watched this! The rest of the family basically wanted to steal all of 顾廷烨’s money for themselves. For them to call him basically a bastard and talk about family when they literally siphon money off of his mother’s wealth. That’s why they didn’t read the will because they could pretend to always just use Gu Ting Ye’s money if no one knows about it. 顾廷烨 is furious. Why should he help?



顾廷煜 though continues with his surprising actions and comes clean with all of the family’s assets – all the Gu family properties and valuable antiques or art. He also provides the division of these assets amongst the clan. The amount of money that is to be given to each house is stated explicitly in the text.  Madame Qin and the rest of the family try to stop him but to no avail. When Gu Ting Yu brought out the box, you can see how threatening Madame Qin’s shouts were at him. 顾廷烨 is perplexed at his brother’s actions. Why would he do this? 顾廷煜 doesn’t immediately answer him and asks 顾廷烨 to come with him to the ancestral hall. At this point, the relatives understand they’ve lost.


In the shrine, the two brothers finally have a heart to heart. 顾廷煜 shares that from the moment he could remember, he was told that his mother was killed by Gu Ting Ye’s mother. And that his frail health is also attributed to the drama in his youth. Gu Ting Ye doesn’t understand why his brother is sharing this. He’s used to being blamed for every bad thing that happens in the family. Is there anything new? 顾廷煜 continues and asks Gu Ting Ye, what would he do if, in order to save his family, he was forced to divorce Ming Lan. What would he choose? And by family, 顾廷煜 does not mean the Gu family. But rather, his daughter, his son, his wet nurse and his servant Shi Tou. The people who are truly close to him.  Gu ting Ye responds that he never thinks about what ifs. Even if he had nothing, he wouldn’t allow a woman to take the blame or fault of his actions.


顾廷煜 doesn’t press him for an answer. It doesn’t matter. Their father chose one path, and their mother chose another. 



Before we continue on, i think this question is extremely important and does illuminate the characters of these 3 people – Gu Ting Ye, his father, and his mother. As Gu Ting Ye states, he is not going to buckle under this kind of pressure. It’s implied that he is willing to lose everything to save the ones he cares about. And by everything he means his title, his wealth and power. He knows what is truly important to him and he also believes in his own capabilities in providing for his family. That was not the case for his father. His father divorced his first wife in order to marry Gu Ting Ye’s mother for her money. His father wanted to save the Gu Family from ruin and thus had to sacrifice multiple people. It’s a hard decision especially since hubris and ego are so important in this part of the equation. It takes a rare person to behave like Gu Ting Ye and be ready to give up so much. Not many people would answer the way he did. Gu Ting Ye’s father was faced with a lose lose situation – either his family would become destitute or he would lose his wife. He chose family over his wife. For Gu Tin Ye’s mother – she or her father wanted an aristocratic title and she paid for it with her life. She’s probably came out the worst of them all. Well – she died so yea.


His brother, in his ailing condition, continues to explain to Gu Ting Ye that no matter how much he hates how his father and his Gu family relatives treated him, he can not escape the truth that he is a member of the Gu Family. First he shows Gu Ting Ye a plaque which we will discuss later. 2nd, he points out to Gu Ting Ye that he was the only person under the new emperor’s regime to have been so successful in taking over the military command at his new post. No other person in the Emperor’s trusted group of advisers enjoyed such a benefit. It is all because he, Gu Ting Ye, is from the Gu Family.


Gu Ting Ye, at first, scoffs. He firmly stated that while he was in the military, he took his mother’s name, Bai. Gu Ting Yu clarifies to Gu Ting Ye – his stature, his persona, his face, all indicate that he is not from the same group as where the Emperor came from. No one said anything to prevent him the embarrassment but generations of Gu family members are embedded in the military. They listen to him solely because his last name is Gu and they are willing to offer their lives to them.



To this, Gu Ting Ye can only be impressed at his brother’s perceptiveness. He recognizes that the only reason his brother is telling him all this so as to provoke him to keep an ounce of kindness towards the Gu Family. When pressed as to whether or not his requirements have been met, Gu Ting Yu shares that he has already requested a title for Gu Ting Ye’s mother and written her into their ancestral books. Gu Ting Ye will finally achieve what he wants. But even more beyond that, Gu Ting Yu is entrusting his title and the entire Gu Family to Gu Ting Ye. Gu Ting Ye is confused. He’s going to take over all of it? 


And here is ultimately why Gu Ting Yu has a change of heart. He says that he is entrusting his wife and young daughter to Gu Ting Ye. He hopes Gu Ting Ye will take care of them after he is gone. As Gu Ting Ye leaves the shrine, Gu Ting Yu shouts the line that is one of the key themes in this drama – 父母之爱子则为之计深远。Because of a parent’s love for their children, they will plan for their future. Everything Gu Ting Yu has just done was to ensure that his daughter Xian Jie’er is cared for in the family. 




Let us talk about what exactly happened in this episode and caused Gu Ting Yu to have a complete 180 towards Gu Ting Ye. In the last episode, he was absolutely adamant about not bowing to Gu Ting Ye’s request but now not only did he do it, but he gave his title and the entire family’s wealth to Gu Ting Ye. Why?


In the beginning of the episode, he saw how his despicable and shameless uncles treated him. They bullied him, degraded him and threw lies at him in order to force him to help their sons get out of jail. As we mentioned earlier, there is absolutely no ounce of remorse for what their sons have done. Not once did they say they will go home and teach their sons a lesson. No, it’s only about getting their sons out. And so, Gu Ting Yu saw that these people could not be trusted. Turning to Madame Qin, the fact that she brought up how he has no son and they’ll find a young man to take over his title for him revealed what she truly cared about. The title of the Marquis. She is also not one to care for the family beyond getting the title for her son. 



Gu Ting Yu knew all of this but he thought that he had more time to plan his next steps. He allows all of this mistreatment of his relatives because the person he hates most and wants to destroy most is his brother Gu Ting Ye. However, after hearing that he does not have much time left due to his illness, he has to rethink everything. He is one of the most intelligent people in the drama. He has seen through everyone’s personalities and scheme’s particularly his brothers. But he understands that his wife is not someone who is capable of surviving on her own in the Gu Family especially under the likes of these people. They may on the face say they will take care of her, but Madame Qin and the Uncles will definitely not do much. His wife will also not be able to take care of their daughter under such a regime in the family. It’s clear he and his wife have a very loving relationship and that they both dote on their daughter. After thinking through the candidates of who would be best to take care of his widow and daughter, the only people would be Gu Ting Ye and Sheng Ming Lan.  


While Gu Ting Yu has done malicious things to his brother, like prevent him from ever placing in an imperial entrance exam, I do think he hedged himself with his brother. Why else did he not burn his father’s will explicitly stating the amount Gu Ting Ye was to receive? Yea perhaps it’s because he didn’t want to outright deny his father’s request but he didn’t bring it out for years. I think deep down, even in his hatred for Gu TIng Ye, he knew that his brother’s character was much better than the rest of his relatives. 


We return back to Gu Ting Ye who, that night, is reviewing the documents that his brother has shared. He tells Ming Lan that his brother is the most intelligent person he knows. If his brother’s health was not as frail, there would be nothing left for Gu Ting Ye. And this is true. The only reason Gu Ting Ye now has a title, his share of the Gu Family wealth and his mother’s reputation restored is because his brother gave it to him. If he didn’t do so, Gu Ting Ye would have very little. As ever the clearheaded one, Ming Lan also shares that even if not requested, she would take care of her sister in law and niece. She has the forgiving stance that the conflicts between men should not translate to conflicts with women and children.


Speaking of women and children, we now turn to Gu Ting Yu on his deathbed surrounded by his wife and young daughter. Say what you will about him, he is a doting husband and father. I don’t think many fathers would do as much as he did in planning for their future. His wife reveals to him that Madame Qin suggested they take in her son’s shu chu son as their own to inherit the title. Once again, you can see the claws of Madame Qin trying to reach into the affairs of the Marquis title. Gu Ting Yu sees right through this and tells his wife to never agree to discuss inheriting the title ever again. His wife is no where near as intelligent as him or his daughter and doesn’t see how she’s being manipulated. If they allowed Gu Ting Wei, the third brother’s shu chu son to inherit the title, the marquis title is as good as Gu Ting Wei and Madame Qin’s. That’s not what Gu Ting Yu wants for the Gu family and his wife and daughter.


With his dying breath, he instructs his daughter and wife to never discuss adopting a son ever again, no matter how anyone tries to push them. He also instructs them to stay clear of any conflict between Ming Lan and Madame Qin. He finally realized that this stepmother uses others as targets for her own plots. His wife and daughter tearfully agree. He then, calls out to his father and mother, and finally utters that he’s lost face for them. His younger brother is better than him at everything. With this he passes away. 


The episode ends with Gu Ting Ye holding up his side of the bargain. In front of the entire court, he pushes the Emperor to forgive his brother and cousins. Qi Heng who seems to have been promoted since he’s now wearing a red outfit, objects. But Gu Ting Ye persists. We will see more of the Emperor’s reaction in the next episode.





We’ve already talked at length about Gu Ting Ye’s older brother in this episode but I think there’s a little more to be said. With his dying breath, we see what truly motivated him against his brother all these years – his jealousy towards his brother. While on one hand he blames his brother and his mother for breaking apart his family and killing his mother, he was probably jealous of all the things Gu Ting Ye could achieve but he could not. With his frail health, he is not able to fight for the country nor did he take the imperial entrance exams to offer his services at court. It is unfortunate he could not use his intellect for good. He is one of THE most intelligent people in the entire drama. If we had our top most intelligent list, he’d be up there in the top 5. 




The doctor uses an idiom called 华佗再世. Basically he claimed that unless he was 华佗 reincarnated, he wouldn’t be able to save 顾廷煜. Well, who is this 华佗?


He is one of the most famous physicians in Chinese history. He was born around 145AD and died in 208AD – killed by the one and only 曹操. He was a master in internal medicine, surgery, gynecology, pediatrics, acupuncture and many others. The earliest records of him are in the Book of Later Han and Records of the Three Kingdoms. Some of his contributions include treating Jaundice with capillary wormwood, developing mafeisan – possibly the world’s first anesthetic, and the exercise of the 5 animals or 五禽戏 in which you perform exercises that mimic five such as animals tiger, deer, bear, ape and crane..


He was celebrated in life and has been basically deified since his death. He died under torture of 曹操, a Eastern Han Dynasty Warlord and very famous figure in the 3 kingdoms period. 曹操 was suffering migraines and requested treatment from 华佗. After a while, 华佗 resented his position and refused requests to treat 曹操, claiming that his wife was ill. When 曹操’s guards saw that 华佗 was lying, under command from 曹操, 华佗 was captured and thrown into prison 华佗 wrote his life’s learnings in a book called 青囊书 but unfortunately it was lost. Even though his writings were lost, many of his students continued with his teachings. He is a legendary character in Chinese history and will be referred to often in regards to medicine.






Zhang Zhongjing (Chinese: 張仲景; 150–219), formal name Zhang Ji (張機), was a Chinese pharmacologist, physician, inventor, and writer of the Eastern Han dynasty and one of the most eminent Chinese physicians during the later years of the Han dynasty. He established medication principles and summed up the medicinal experience until that time, thus making a great contribution to the development of Traditional Chinese Medicine.[


Shanghan Zabing Lun (Chinese: 傷寒雜病論; pinyin: Shānghán Zábìng Lùn, lit. “Treatise on Cold Pathogenic and Miscellaneous Diseases”). Shortly after its publication, the book was lost during the wars that ravaged China during the period of the Three Kingdoms. Because of Zhang’s contribution to traditional Chinese medicine, he is often regarded as the sage of Chinese medicine. He and huatuo were contemporaries




This phrase was used to describe 顾廷烨’s father on his deathbed. It is essentially terminal lucidity in which the patient has a short span of lucidity / clarity before death. If there are any opera fans here, think La Boheme and Mimi. She has a short moment of lucidity right before she succumbs to consumption. It’s either La Boheme or La Traviata. Interestingly, this phrase terminal lucidity was coined by Michael Nahm in 2009. 


The first instance of the phrase 回光返照 appeared in the Tang Dynasty in buddhist teachings so I don’t think it really meant the same thing. However, the phrase is clearly written in 红楼梦 or Dream in the Red Mansion published in the mid-late 18th century and used with the definition of terminal lucidity.





Let’s discuss the 丹书铁卷 – the youtube translation is that it’s an iron plate written on cinnabar which is a pretty accurate translation. 卷 means scroll though and sometimes 丹书铁卷 is also referred to as the 金卷 or gold scroll. Historically, this was gifted by the Emperor to his subjects who then received an elevated status or nobility titles and oftentimes included what was called a 免死金牌 or death exemption plate or basically immunity against death. Typically this would be gifted to loyal subjects who aided with the founding of the dynasty.


The first instance of this occurred with the founding of the 汉 dynasty in 202BC under the reign of the emperor 汉高祖 刘邦. To reward the loyalty of his most trusted generals and advisors, he ordered an iron plate 铁卷 written with cinnabar or 丹书 to be placed in a golden box and safely placed in a temple. In the beginning, the 丹书铁卷 didn’t have immunity powers, it was more as a representation of nobility. The earliest records of 丹书铁卷 having death immunity powers was during the northern and southern song dynasties – around the 5th century AD. By the tang dynasty, families with the 丹书铁卷 were granted immunity 3 times. During the 宋 dynasty – there was one family the 柴 family – well they were the previous rulers that the 宋 dynasty overthrew and were granted blanket immunity. 


The first written record of 丹书铁卷 appeared in the book of han in the specific section that chronicled 汉高祖 and was completed in 111AD. Even though the translation is iron plate written on cinnabar, the plates were usually engraved using gold, which was a custom that began during the 隋 dynasty or the late 6th century AD which is why there were also called a golden scroll or golden book.


Book differences


Let’s start! The drama showcases 顾廷煜 and his family dynamic much more than in the book. In the drama, we see him refuse 顾廷烨’s request in the last episode but he changes his decision this episode after hearing of his health. In the book, it goes straight into the family discussion shown in this episode. With regards to the secret will from 顾廷烨’s father, the family basically got clan family members drunk, learned of the secret will and stole it back. 


In the book, we do get some more of 顾廷烨’s thought process. He was ready to let the 顾 family basically perish. He’s fine with rising through the ranks himself. However, 顾廷煜 had more to say about their father and just how much he actually loved 顾廷煜 and how conflicted their father always was when facing him. 顾廷烨 was the son that was closest in temperament to his father but the two just didn’t know how to interact. 顾廷煜 also had the added calculation that if 顾廷烨 threw the family away, that might also mean that 顾廷烨 would not keep the Marquis title. 顾廷煜 knew he was not long for the world. For his wife and daughter, a dowager marchioness and daughter of a marquis would mean elevated status for the rest of their lives If 顾廷烨 dispatched with the title, 顾廷煜’s wife and daughter would suffer immensely in society. As we mentioned earlier in the podcast, 顾廷煜 is a very calculating man and on his deathbed, he put his personal family over his crazy relations and was betting on 顾廷烨 to do the same.


Last piece – in the book, 顾廷煜 is described as a very handsome man, probably even more handsome than 齐衡. That’s not the case here in the drama, at least I don’t think BUT the actor did a great job.



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!


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