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 are discussing the rest of Ep 57 and the first half of episode 58 of the Story of Ming Lan. 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 at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please also leave us a rating of the podcast on whatever platform you listen to us to!
For this podcast episode, we are going to do a drama episode recap, then move onto history and finally lightly touch on the book differences.
Last episode was certainly all about politics as the Empress Dowager wasn’t going down without a fight. The result was that many of the government officials, Qi Heng included, publicly opposed the Emperor for his so called treatment of the Empress Dowager and were demoted.
We turn back to Ming Lan now as we check in with her and her family before continuing the excitement with the Emperor. One night, Ming Lan is joined by her step-daughter, Rong Jie and her niece, Xian Jie. Recall that Xian jie is the daughter of Gu Ting Ye’s older brother. The young girls are actually being trained by Ming Lan to understand how to do accounting! They’re checking the accounts of the family and learning why certain numbers don’t match. This is actually really quite generous of Ming Lan because these are skills that generally the di chu daughters are supposed to learn for when they marry as wives, they’ll have to know this in the future. We can infer that Grandma Sheng taught her a lot of this when she was young and therefore is now training these two girls. With this skill, the girls will have an easier time running a household when they are married. This is certainly Ming Lan’s way of planning for their future. Why I say this is generous is because Rong Jie is not a di chu daughter but rather a shu chu daughter and Rong Jie isn’t even her daughter. So for her to train them means she wants to build a relationship with them.
Once the session is done, Rong Jie remains behind to quietly point out to Ming Lan that it doesn’t seem like her dad has been chatting with Ming Lan much. Awww, she’s sweet. Rong Jie is worried that something might be wrong with Ming Lan and Gu Ting Ye’s relationship. Ming Lan assures Rong Jie that everything is alright, but after sending her off to bed recognizes she should probably do something more to mend her relationship with Gu Ting Ye.
Elsewhere, Madame Qin, the evil step-mother-in-law, has called Xian Jie over to chat, along with her mother after the accounting lesson. She’s trying to understand what Ming Lan’s relationship status is with Gu TIng Ye because she asks Xian Jie if Gu Ting Ye was also present during the lesson. Xian Jie actually lies and says, yes, he was sitting on the side, listening the entire time. This surprises Madame Qin as the implication is that she thought the two still had a poor relationship. 娴姐‘s current intel is different from what she’s heard.
On the way home, Xian Jie’s mother also expresses her surprise that Xian Jie said Gu Ting Ye was there as Xian Jie initially told her he was not. Xian Jie in this scene shows us her intelligence because she recognized that Madame Qin was trying to use her to learn about Gu Ting Ye and Ming Lan’s secrets. Evidently, she knows what type of information Madame Qin wants and doesn’t want to give her the ammunition to butt into Ming Lan and Gu Ting Ye’s affairs. Clearly, Xian Jie has seen that Ming Lan and Gu Ting Ye do not try to use her to learn about Madame Qin and therefore doesn’t see why Madame Qin should use her. Perhaps it’s also to thank Ming Lan for teaching her about accounting since her own mother is not teaching her, that Xian Jie is repaying Ming Lan’s generosity through this type of protection. Additionally, she is taking her deceased father’s words to heart. They need to stay out of the conflict between Ming Lan and Madame Qin. By lying, this is the best way to keep themselves out of further drama.
We said earlier that Gu Ting Ye’s older brother is one of the smartest men in the drama. His daughter is shaping up to be quite formidable herself.
We also see that Madame Shao doesn’t have many opinions for herself nor is she planning for her daughter’s future. Ming lan is teaching 娴姐儿 a crucial life skill. 娴姐 is the legitimate daughter of a former marquis and will have decent marriage prospects. If she doesn’t learn how to manage a household from youth, how will she do so when she marries and has to run her own household? 娴姐儿’s mother isn’t thinking long-term and has the gall to blame 明兰 for teaching 娴姐 useless skills. I did an eyeroll when she said that. Just because you aren’t thinking of your daughter’s best interest, doesn’t mean others aren’t.
Later that night, Ming Lan stops by the study to check in on Gu Ting Ye.
The next morning, Gu Ting Ye is finally well enough to go to court despite his injuries. He hobbles over to his litter while being helped out by his faithful servant, Shi Tou. Inside his litter, he finds a seat pillow. At first he’s all upset because he thinks it unmanly of him to have something like that for court but then after thinking about it for a bit, realizes that it must be Ming Lan who told her servant Xiao Tao to make it for him. Once that clicks, he snatches the pillow back and is all smiles and rainbows. Clearly he likes these cute romantic gestures from his wife.
And we are now back at Court. Gu Ting Ye has returned while Qi Heng and his group are missing following last episode’s events. Prince Huan raises the issue of salt taxation which has not been accurately audited for some time, thus resulting in inaccurate numbers and limited amounts actually reaching the treasury. The Emperor agrees that it is time to audit the salt taxation process and requests volunteers to step forth to help him with this undertaking. He is met with silence as no one steps up. The Emperor then pointedly asks again if no one is willing to help the citizens with this task only to be met with a change in subject around the Emperor’s father being named the royal emperor. One minister from the Censurate even says that the taxation issue isn’t as problematic as Prince Huan has made it out to be so therefore they should finish the issue of naming the Royal father before turning to taxation.
This greatly angers the Emperor as it would see that if one issues does not go the way the ministers want, in this case the naming of his father as the royal father, then these ministers and officials are completely ok with letting the pressing matters of the empire stall. He admonishes the Censurate for not caring about the treasury, the citizens or national security, only caring about rites of what his father should be referred to.
After a rousing speech, Prince Huan steps up and volunteers for the opportunity. The Emperor agrees and also adds Shen Guo Jiu, his brother-in-law and general in Court to accompany Prince Huan. In, my view, a surprising twist, Sheng Chang Bai, Ming Lan’s brother, is also tasks to join this trip. The Emperor says it’s because he’s learned and has a photographic memory but I think he’s done this partly as a reward for not picking sides like we talked about in the last episode. It’s a dangerous task but I think a highly prominent one. You can see Sheng Hong’s eyes moving around rather quickly in the background.
Of note, the people on this trip are solely from the Emperor’s camp or else neutral. Well, I don’t know if Chang Bai is entirely neutral because of his connection with Gu Ting Ye but no one from the Empress Dowager’s side is going.
Well, pretty much immediately after the trip is announced are obstacles put in place to set back the Emperor’s grand plan. On the day Shen Guo Jiu announces he’s ready to leave with Prince Huan for this trip, a member of the Censurate steps forth to accuse Shen Guo Jiu of allowing his family to forcefully take property and money among a whole list of other accusations. Shen Guo Jiu is adamant that this is false.
At Ming Lan’s residence, Shen Guo Jiu’s younger sister, Xiao Shen Shi, comes to tearfully ask for help from Ming Lan and Gu Ting Ye. She explains that the joining political factions and what not are all made up, but what is true is that her nephew, so Shen Guo Jiu’s son, has indeed been embroiled in a scandal. It turns out that Shen Guo Jiu’s first wife’s family, the Zou family, has used his son’s name to loan out money and become loan sharks. This is the high interest loans we talked about in previous episodes. This is highly illegal even though it is lucrative but apparently, one of the individuals that borrowed money could not afford to repay the debt and hung himself. Xiao Shen Shi is extremely worried that her brother and nephew may end up in jail for this. Fortunately, Ming Lan and Gu Ting Ye are able to calm her down and send her off. Both Ming Lan and Gu Ting Ye are recognizing that this scandal was targeted towards Shen Guo Jiu.
Now that Shen Guo Jiu is mired with scandal and a court case against him, he can no longer accompany Prince Huan on his journey.
In the next scene, for some reason, 顾廷烨 is being dragged by his friends to 广云台 which is a well known brothel in the area. The excuse for this little excursion is to help placate SHen Guo Jiu for his recent troubles. At the brothel, the men are enjoying drink and company from the ladies there. 顾廷烨 is chatting with his good friend, 魏行首。We met her all the way back to episode 16. In Chinese, 行首 is another term for prostitute but more like a high-end escort. We rarely see this term used in Chinese dramas. It originated specifically in the Song Dynasty as a term for these women. We typically see the words 妓女 used instead. 顾廷烨 takes this opportunity to ask 卫行首 for some relationship advice. At first he hides who he’s talking about and raises the hypothetical wife and husband. You know, asking for a friend. But then immediately it’s obvious that it’s about him.
His biggest issue with 明兰 is that he doesn’t know if everything she does is for him as 顾廷烨 or for him as the Marquis. He doesn’t want a virtuous person. He wants a real person. His buddy 沈国舅 comes to tease him that he’s making issue out of nothing. Which, I agree.
The guys suddenly realize that one of their party 小段 has gone missing. 小段 is a general that helped the Emperor secure his throne and was part of the original group from Yu Zhou. After some searching, the guys peek into a room and see 小段 sleeping on the bed in one of the rooms. There’s a woman also sleeping next to him. The guys surmise that it must be a prostitute and think nothing of it and leave. 顾廷烨 and 沈国舅 head off to 沈国舅‘s house to continue drinking.
The next day 明兰’s visiting Madame Zhang, wife of Shen Guo Jiu. I love this conversation because 明兰 has found a true friend who she can joke and be that “real person”. They look out for each other. I especially loved the piece when 明兰 starts joking how no one in her family is as smart as she is. Madame Zhang laughs and retorts that if 明兰’s eldest sister 华兰 heard this, she surely would hit 明兰! That’s so true! 华兰’s intellect is well known in the capital. 明兰’s jokes about Madame Wang are also hilarious. Madame Wang married a man who’s like a landlord and has a son who’s like a father. Hahaha – that’s both 盛纮 and 盛长柏 to a T! If you put it that way, I feel somewhat bad for Madame Wang.
Well, it’s an episode of setbacks, so of course something bad will happen. Sure enough, 沈国舅 wakes up and drags 顾廷烨 over to the local courthouse. Xiao Duan is in trouble.
Remember the woman that 顾廷烨 saw in bed with 小段 the previous night? Well she was not a prostitute! She was just a fisherman’s wife who went to deliver makeup for some of the ladies at the brothel. In front of the local magistrate, 顾廷烨 and the others, she accuses 小段 of raping her. That’s a serious crime. 小段 vehemently denies these claims but the fisherman’s wife makes a very strong case. She was able to answer all the rather pointed questions from 顾廷烨 and 沈国舅 that were aimed at discrediting her like why would she send makeup when the ladies from the brothel have their makeup specifically ordered from a special supplier. She knows that 小段 has a long scar on his back. How would she know if they didn’t sleep together?
That brings us to the end of episode 57. We pick up episode 58 right with 顾廷烨 and 沈国舅 trying to get to the bottom of this with 小段. 小段 proclaims his innocence – claiming that he was only drunk and did not touch the woman. 顾廷烨 analyzes the situation and pokes some holes in the woman’s story. If the woman’s accusations are true, how is it that no one saw 小段 drag her up the stairs, how did no one hear any commotion in the room? If the woman was truly raped, why did she sleep until dawn in the same bed?
The men surmise something’s fishy with this situation, they just don’t know what. It doesn’t seem like they are trying to scam 小段 for money because they didn’t ask for money and instead went straight to court.
Back at 沈国舅’s residence, the two couples 沈国舅, Madame Zhang, 顾廷烨 and 明兰 have a rather gloomy meal. The biggest setback is that now 小段 cannot accompany the Prince of Huan on the trip for salt taxation. Another one of the Emperor’s supporters is now mired in scandal. Before the group can think of another plan though, 明兰 suddenly calls out a big issue. If the fisherman’s wife commits suicide, 小段 would have a hard to extracating himself from the scandal and it would also look bad for the Emperor. 顾廷烨 hurriedly tells 石头 to head over to the fisherman’s home and keep an eye on the woman. But alas, they get there too late. The woman has already hung herself
石头 brings this unfortunate news back to the waiting group. The whole debacle continues to be very confusing. According to 石头 the body only had minimal heat left. 顾廷烨 surmises that the woman probably was already dead for 4 hours. What husband would allow his beloved wife to stay hanging for that long? The now dead fisheman’s wife chose to commit suicide rather than go to court just to nail 小段 down with this case. It’s pretty clear that this has been a complete set up and a rather elaborate one at that.
Ming Lan and Gu Ting Ye return home after this stressful day. At this point, both Shen Guo Jiu and Xiao Duan are no longer going to be able to accompany Prince Huan to audit salt taxes. 顾廷烨 tells 明兰 that he should step in because the Prince needs a persona with a military background to protect him while he’s on this trip. Additionally, 顾廷烨 ultimately is grateful for everything Prince Huan and the new emperor has given him since returning to the capital so he is willing to help them out.
As they’re having this conversation, Gu Ting Ye tries to hug Ming Lan tightly who tries to stop him. He’s confused as to why and she reveals…she is pregnant! The absolute joy from Gu Ting Ye is so cute. He picks her up and swings her around shouting at the top of his lungs how happy he is. After settling her down and tucking her into bed, Gu Ting Ye telling Ming Lan to be careful while he is away and to wait.
We end our recap with Ming Lan seeing off Gu Ting Ye, Prince Huan and Sheng Chang Bai as they head out on this journey that will surely keep them from home for a long time.
Let’s chat about what happened here.Two questions I had were one, why did 小段 and company have to go out to the brothel in the first place? If they didn’t go, it seems like the second setback would not have happened or at least the rape accusation would not have happened. In my view, I think that regardless of what activity, the force orchestrating these scandals would have found other opportunities. This just so happened to be one of them.
And second, what was the goal of this unseen force? Was it to prevent the salt audit from happening? Or was it to give the Emperor a slap in the face? I think it’s more of the latter. Clearly, the two scandals were targeted towards the emperor’s allies. If Prince Huan had no military help, his trip would be unsuccessful. The person to lose most from this failed trip would be the Emperor.
Regardless, Gu Ting Ye is now off on official business matters which could take several months. It is probably the least opportune time for him to be away as Ming Lan is pregnant. In the next podcast episodes we will see more of what Ming Lan has to contend with under these new circumstances.
Next up is the phrase
Escort Wei recites these words as a toast to 顾廷烨 towards the end of her conversation with him. The two lines come from 短歌行 a poem composed by Grand Chancellor 曹操 . It is unsure exactly when this was composed but there are 5 theories that the poem was composed between 208-216 AD. We’ve discussed two phrases from this poem before, in episode 54. The lines discussed there were 何以解忧，唯有杜康 – how can we solve our problem? Only through du kang. These lines come after.
It’s better two group 4 lines to discuss.
The moon rises and stars are in the sky. The magpies fly south. They circle the tree three times but are unable to find a branch to perch on. Ok on this – I couldn’t quite figure out if the birds are magpies or crows. Cause typically magpies are 喜鹊 – the second word being 鹊. And crows are 乌鸦. The first being 乌. Some say one or the other. I’m just gonna put both options out there.
After reading the whole poem – it really is excellent! I like it! Maybe in one of these episodes we’ll discuss the whole thing. I think Escort Wei recites these lines because 顾廷烨 has a home but is unsure of it. Eh – that might be a stretch.
Apparently, 饶恕三匝，何枝可依 has now been used with respect to Chinese Chess.. The two players play as either red or black. This is used when the player with the black keys is at a disadvantage. I just read this in baike – I’m not a professional chinese chess player so cannot corroborate that saying.
沈国舅 says these two lines when he drunkenly invites 顾廷烨 over after the brothel.
I really like this poem! So i’m going to share the whole thing. It goes like this
为乐当及时， 何能待来兹 ？
The following is my attempt at a translation. A life won’t live to 100, so why worry about what will happen in a thousand years?
Since you’re always complaining that the day is short and the night is long, why not take the candle and enjoy yourself?
People need to enjoy the now, why always wait until next year?
Fools are always unhappy. If they’re only thinking of obtaining wealth for future generations, they’ll seem even more foolish. You’re descents will joke that their ancestors didn’t know to enjoy themselves
To become an immortal like 王子乔 the crown prince Jin, you’ll probably have to wait!
There really isn’t a title for this poem – so it’s known as 古诗十九首·生年不满百. Nineten old poems – a life won’t live to 100. This poem was compiled in the anthology of Chinese poems called Nineteen Old Poems. We discussed this in episode 55. As a recap, it was believed to have originated from the late eastern han dynasty around the late 2nd century AD to early 3rd Century AD. The authors of these poems are unknown. The anthology in it’s current form was compiled during the 6th century under orders from the crown prince of 梁 萧统.
I do like this poem! In an age where we are all working! It’s good to be reminded to enjoy yourself! And hopefully you are listening to this podcast!
The two lines spoken are 昼短苦夜长，何不秉bing3烛zhu2游 or Since you’re always complaining that the day is short and the night is long, why not take the candle and enjoy yourself? Definitely take that advice once in a while!
Yay! We finally get back to the main book timeline! In the book, 明兰 already told 顾廷烨 that she was pregnant before all of this. He is over the moon about this! 小段 had already traveled down south to review the Salt Taxation issues and got caught up in this scandal.This all didn’t happen in the capital. 顾廷烨 had no other choice but to head south to take over the situation. 明兰 only heard of the events afterwards.
That is it for today!
That was a lot of historical references to go through and I certainly learned a ton doing research for this episode so hope you enjoyed it!
As always, feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions on what was discussed on our podcast. We would also like to point you to our sponsor, Jubao TV where if you are in the US, you are able to check out a number of Chinese dramas and movies for free. Those do have english subtitles and can be accessed via the website xubo or on tv through xfinity and cox contour.
The music you heard is the zither piece called Lan with sheet music by 冰酒蜗牛军 and played by Karen!