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 58 and all of episode 59 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 on to character analysis and finally book differences.
In the last podcast discussion, we saw Gu Ting Ye leaving on an official trip to review salt taxes with the Prince of Huan and Sheng Chang Bai. While this is an important trip for the Emperor, it comes at an inopportune time because Ming Lan is pregnant! We didn’t talk about this int he last episode but the hints were there in earlier episodes, particularly episodes 56 when Ming Lan called a doctor to come see her but didnt’ share exactly what was wrong.
Well we start the podcast discussion under this new status quo. Ming Lan is pregnant but alone at home. With this episode, we are truly heading to the end game. I always accidentally start rewatching this series on this episode and then somehow end up finishing the whole thing again. Hahaha.
These two episodes, highlight to me 3 things::
- Grandmothers know best. In these two episodes both Gu Ting Ye’s nanny and Grandma Sheng truly shine
- Women who have too much time on their hands can be quite scary
- Being born a shu nv daughter is generally a difficult life.
We start with Ming Lan’s Grandmother visiting Ming Lan and happily doting on her beloved granddaughter. They’re absolutely adorable together since Ming Lan and Grandma Sheng can act like children while they’re together, something we haven’t seen in a while. Grandma Sheng tells Ming Lan to take care of herself but also to watch out for Aunt Kang who has been spending significant amounts of time with Madame Qin, Mign Lan’s evil step-mother-in-law.
This episode is literally just Aunt Kang being shameless and horrible to Ming Lan and the best part is? She gets it dished right back at her. This is probably THE most satisfying episode in the entire drama for what’s about to happen.
After Grandma Sheng leaves, Ming Lan is told to greet Madame Qin and Aunt Kang and the not so subtle disrespectful actions from Aunt Kang start immediately. After Ming Lan greets the two older women, Aunt Kang neglects to tell Mign Lan to sit, as is customary. Ming Lan, who waited for a hot second to see if anyone would give her the courtesy, decides to sit herself. She is called out by Aunt Kang who insults her Grandmother for not teaching her better but then Ming Lan returns in kind by calmly asking how it’s acceptable for Aunt Kang to speak so disrespectfully about her Grandmother.
Honestly, this woman just from how she speaks is A) a total Karen and for those that don’t know what it means, it’s a slang term right now for a woman who is super entitled, rude and arrogant, I know it sucks to be named Karen right now, and B) would not survive half a day in the palace if she were placed in Zhen Huan ZHuan or Empresses in the Palace. Hua Fei and The Empress would eat her alive within two seconds.
Ming Lan’s maids inform the group that Chang Mo Mo, Gu Ting Ye’s nanny has arrived. Excited, Ming Lan gets up to leave. As she’s walking away, Aunt Kang loudly admonishes Ming Lan for going to see someone of such low status and tells Madame Qin to manage Ming Lan. She is met with an ice-cold glare from Ming Lan that has such an emanating aura of “don’t mess with me”, both of these older women actually stopped talking. That Lewk is probably one of my all time favorite screenshots or wallpaper images if you will of the entire drama.
This Chang Mo Mo is here to protect Ming Lan in Gu Ting Ye’s stead. Ming Lan and her maids happily greet Chang Mo Mo and the maids separately tell Chang Mo Mo the current dynamics of the household and the fact that Aunt Kang comes frequently to bother Ming Lan. It’s pretty obvious to everyone that Aunt Kang is just lording her supposed authority over Ming Lan and being extremely rude because one should not be requesting a pregnant woman’s consistent presence when she should be resting.
And the persistence continues as in the very next scene, Xiang Mama, Madame Qin’s head maid comes to ask Ming Lan to come to the great hall while Ming Lan is throwing up due to morning sickness. This woman would also not relent from being asked to leave given Ming Lan’s condition. Without a second thought, Chang Mo mo storms in, shoves this Xiang Mama and starts hurling insults. She doesn’t end there. Ming Lan’s maid drag Xiang Mama off to drink tea as Chang Momo next stomps over to the great hall.
Once there, she spends the next several minutes doing one of the best telling offs of a person I’ve seen in a while. She calls Aunt Kang out for being extremely rude and pretending to be one of Ming Lan’s elders. Chang Momo is like, who do you think you are, do you really take yourself to be a plate of actual food? The way she insults Aunt Kang is just – Chefs Kiss. Funnily enough through this entire telling off, Madame Qing says very little and just lets Chang Momo yell at Aunt Kang.
At first Chang MoMo is willing to leave while still insulting Aunt Kang’s inconsiderate and entitled actions. Aunt Kang couldn’t take any more of the insults and yells for people to beat Chang Mo Mo up. At this, Chang Momo rushes back to the hall and continues to yell at Aunt Kang. I mean yea, who does she think she is? She has no right to dish out any punishments in a household that is not hers. Chang Momo yells at Aunt Kang that this entire property is Gu Ting Ye’s, and not hers. She’s escorted out again by a couple of maids but that doesn’t stop her from continuing her insults so that the entire house can hear. Honestly, every time I watch this scene I just chuckle. The best part? It gets so bad that Aunt Kang tries to chase after Chang Momo but trips at the door’s entrance and falls over. HAHAHA
After the fact, Ming Lan’s maid requests for forgiveness on behalf of 常嬷嬷 and asks to wait until 顾廷烨 returns to serve punishment. With that, no one can do anything about 常嬷嬷
The issue is that with this telling off, both Aunt Kang and Madame Qin now are full of hatred against Ming Lan and want nothing more than to exact revenge against her.
Before we move onto exactly how these two are going to retaliate, we turn to the Emperor. He’s currently farming in the palace while his concubine, Liu Gui Fei watches on. This Liu Gui Fei shares her rather accurate thoughts of what happened in court the last couple of days while also implying that Gu Ting Ye has been less than eager to the Emperor. She also dishes out the gossip about Qi Heng and Ming Lan’s nonexistent relationship. We don’t have to tell you that what she is saying is incredibly out of bounds. Someone like her should not be discussing matters of court but she’s being incredibly matter-of-fact about it all. Furthermore, we see later on that everything she just said to the Emperor was planted by the Empress Dowager. The most important thing to me is the Emperor’s reaction which seems a little forced or almost like he was acting a little over the top to placate what Liu Gui Fei was hoping to see.
Ok now let’s turn back to Ming Lan. On this day, Ming Lan is continuing to teach her niece and stepdaughter accounting skills but then is visited by one of Ming Lan’s cousins – Kang Zhao’er. She’s one of the shu chu daughters of Aunt Kang so technically not a blood relation to Ming Lan. Kang Zhao’er said she’s here to apologize on behalf of Aunt Kang and would like Ming Lan to come to the main hall in order to help accept the apology.
At first Ming Lan was hesitant because she could feel a trap but ultimately relented because she felt sorry for Kang Zhao’er as her status as a shu nv.
That brings us to episode 59. Sure enough, heading to the main hall was a trap. At the hall, all of the women in the family have gathered including the 4th aunt and 5th aunt plus their daughter in laws in addition to Madame Qin and Aunt Kang for a meal. After some initial pleasantries, the real reason Aunt Kang and Kang Zhao’er showed up is revealed and that is for Aunt Kang to push Kang Zhao’er onto Ming Lan to be a concubine for Gu Ting Ye.
Ming Lan though was not going to accept this so easily. She calmly raised to the entire table all the terrible deeds that Aunt Kang has done in the past. Aunt Kang probably killed several people in her household and is generally viewed incredibly poorly by her Grandmother which speaks volumes to her problematic character. Ming Lan says all of this in a very meek and even tempered manner which I personally think is impressive but that adds an aura of truth to what she says. This revelation makes the rest of the women at the table feel rather awkward and they try to leave but Aunt Kang then blows up, screaming her head off at the group. She turns her ire in particular to Madame Qin stating that it was all her idea and that she’s already told her entire family that Kang Zhao Er was to come be a concubine. She’s not willing to lose this face so she’s just going to leave Zhao Er here for the Gu Family to deal with.
With that tirade and honestly quite an annoying screech, she leaves and Ming Lan is left to deal with her not-blood-relation cousin.
This Kang Zhao’er turns out to be more problematic than Ming Lan initially thought. Since Aunt Kang left Kang Zhao’er at the Gu Manor, she can only wait for Ming Lan to accept her. After a nap, Ming Lan finally agrees to see her but after Ming Lan sternly informs Zhao Er that she must leave the Gu premises, Zhao Er actually grabs a dagger she hid in her sleeve and stabs herself in the neck, crying that if she were to die, she has to die in the Gu Manor.
Luckily, Chang Momo and others were able to save Zhao’Er and patch her up. Ming Lan is visibly shaken from this as she was not expecting Zhao’er to behave in this way but is also at a loss as to what they should do next. If Zhao Er were to die on the premises, this would be a significant crime added onto Gu Ting Ye’s name. So many of the Emperor’s allies are already being watched like hawks or have experienced their own fair share of scandals, Ming Lan cannot allow her husband to befall his own set of scandals as well.
What is most despicable is that this Aunt Kang returned to the Gu manor the next day and is seething at how Ming Lan treated her. She wants nothing more than for Ming Lan to be ruined. For me I’m like, why???? What has Ming Lan done to you？ This is a woman who clearly has way too much time on her hands with nothing better to do. She is just a vile woman who is being used by Madame Qin as a pawn. Madame Qin doesn’t want to do the dirty work of ruining Ming Lan so she brought in help in the form of AUnt Kang.
Fortunately for Ming Lan, she has a wonderful Grandma Sheng to help her. Ming Lan wakes up to see Grandma Sheng waiting for her at her bedside. One of Ming Lan’s maids has already informed Grandma Sheng of what happened and she is here to help Ming Lan figure out exactly what plot is being enacted against her and Gu Ting Ye.
IN this next scene, we see on display once again just how intelligent Grandma Sheng is. She may be calm and otherwise reserved as a Grandma, but she is not unaware of her surroundings. She has clearly kept tabs on her and Ming Lan’s surroundings. As they say, knowledge is power. Her knowledge allows her to notice exactly when an action is more dangerous than just meets the eye.
Grandma Sheng summons Kang Zhao’er and is able to recite all of the comings and goings of the Kang family. Zhao has 2 other sisters who are of marriageable age but both of their birth mothers are concubines that are favored by the master of the house, Master Kang. Only she is born of an unfavored concubine and is therefore being used as a pawn by Aunt Kang.
Kang Zhao’er agrees with everything Grandma Sheng said and reveals that she was told by Aunt Kang to hurt herself in order to stay at the Gu family as a concubine. Grandma Sheng is not impressed with this answer. Everyone in the capital knows that Gu Ting Ye no longer has concubines, what makes Aunt Kang think Zhao’er can not only stay as a concubine but thrive?
ZHao’er, after further pressuring from Grandma Sheng, finally reveals, whilst crying buckets of tears, that she has to do this because her birth mother’s life would be lost if she does not comply. Zhao’er was told by Aunt Kang to kill herself within the Gu manor. Not only that, her body must have various injuries. That way, Aunt Kang will be able to go to court against the Gu Family and destroy both Ming Lan and Gu Ting Ye.
At this, it finally clicks to Ming Lan the utterly nefarious nature of Aunt Kang’s plot. Aunt Kang doesn’t just want Ming Lan and Gu Ting Ye to have to deal with a concubine. No, Aunt Kang wants their lives. Once she understands what could have befallen her, Ming Lan is furious. She chucks her tea bowl on the floor near where Zhao’er is kneeling.
After calming down, Ming Lan actually decides to help Zhao’er. She gives Zhao’er the option to pretend to be one of Grandma Sheng’s maids and escape the Gu Manor. Afterwards, the Sheng family can help her find a match and marry her off in their old hometown of You Yang. That way, no matter what, she will be married off as a wife rather than stay here as a concubine. Zhao’er is stunned at this level of kindness from Ming Lan. In probably one of the most heart wrenching but most accurate lines spoken in this drama, she states that no one is born to be a station below others. Which woman doesn’t want to marry as a proper wife. She would rather die than to be a concubine.
And with that, Ming Lan’s trouble is solved with Grandma Sheng’s help.
The rest of the episode turns back to the Sheng family as Grandma Sheng returns to first berate Madame Wang and also inform Master Sheng of what happened. Grandma Sheng is furious that Madame Wang is still seeing her sister despite Grandma Sheng repeatedly telling Madame Wang to keep her distance with Aunt Kang. Madame Wang just doesn’t listen. And so, Grandma Sheng sends Madame Wang off in the dead of night to tell Aunt Kang to apologize to Ming Lan for what she’s done.
As for Master Sheng, Grandma Sheng tells him what happened and while he is annoyed, he cares mostly that Aunt Kang is trying to experience the benefits of being connected to the powerful Gu family. Every word out of his mouth is that he and his family haven’t even benefited yet from Ming Lan’s marriage to Gu Ting Ye, how dare the Kang family act first? Or else it’s that the Kang family shouldn’t use the Sheng family name to ask for favors. It’s pretty sad that neither of Ming Lan’s father and “mother” care that much about her.
Let’s talk about these two episodes a bit for some character analysis.
- Ming Lan is visibly much more confident in the Gu family now that she’s been married a while and now she’s pregnant. The way she glared at Aunt Kang and the things she said in the presence of the Gu family women while Aunt Kang was trying to force a concubine on her, she would not have dared to say such things in the past. I think this shows a lot of character progression of how, through Gu Ting Ye’s continued support and doting, she has come out of her shell to be a powerful presence.
- Aunt Kang is a spoiled brat but there is a saying 可恨之人必有可怜之处. Which means the most hated people must also have a reason to be pitied. In her case, it’s probably because her husband evidently is a philanderer and has many women in his life. As the wife, Aunt Kang has no choice but to accept her husband’s behavior and therefore takes it out on the unfavored women and children in her household. She is despicable and I wish so dearly she would just stop talking but part of it is society pushing her this way. You realize that once she hears her sister, Madame Wang talk about how her and Sheng Hong actually have a pretty good relationship now that Mistress Lin is gone, Aunt Kang becomes agitated and annoyed. She can’t accept that other ppl should have a good relationship because her marriage is probably hell.
- That turns us to our 3rd point. Kang Zhao’er is the example of what most Shu Nv or daughters not born of the main wife’s life was like during this time period. The more I see these dramas, the more I see how little people’s lives were valued at this time. Her birth mother and siblings are nothing more than tools and Zhao’er is threatened with their lives to do Aunt Kang’s bidding. And the bidding is to essentially kill herself! This could have been Ming Lan’s life if not for Grandma Sheng’s care. As we have repeatedly seen, Sheng Hong does not care that much for Ming Lan so if it weren’t for Grandma Sheng, Ming Lan probably would have been killed as well if not by Madame Wang, then by Mistress Lin. Ming Lan knows this very well which is why she is so grateful to Grandma Sheng. Though I will say, no matter what, I don’t think Madame Wang would ever have been as ruthless as Aunt Kang or Mistress Lin. She doesn’t have the brains or the heart for that.
- Lastly, I want to further reiterate how Aunt Kang’s little ploy here was all designed by Madame Qin. Way back from when Ming Lan just married into the Gu Family, Madame Qin could tell that Aunt Kang would be her pawn in bullying and destroying Ming Lan. As we found out, the whole idea of bring ZhaoEr probably stemmed from Madame Qin. Aunt Kang is too unintelligent to see that she’s being used and Madame Qin only hangs around Aunt Kang for the benefit she brings. Madame Qin ultimately does not care one iota about Aunt Kang if she does not have any further value.
Many of the scenes in episodes 58 and 59 are taken directly from the book, especially the dialogue. I think that’s why I like these 2 episodes so much. We’re back to the meat of the story. Ming Lan battling all these women for her own survival! I’ll expand much of today’s discussion on book differences. Even though the drama was pretty faithful to the book, I will confess, I prefer book ming lan’s handling of these difficult situations than to drama Ming Lan.
Ok – starting off. In the book, Ming Lan is already around 7-8 months pregnant. So she’s taking every encounter with Madame Qin very seriously. She now has a “I do not give an F” mentality towards the evil stepmother and Madame Kang. When Madame Kang comes for her first visit in episode 58, Ming Lan in the book doesn’t keep a smile on her face. She makes it clear to the two women that she is not to be trifled with. This is the first time that both women have seen her behave in such a serious manner and are taken aback. Drama Ming Lan still tries her best to fake a smile.
Chang Mo Mo and her very choice words towards Madame Kang are straight from the book and extremely satisfying! Either in the book or the drama, Chang Mo Mo is a force to be reckoned with!
One difference in the book is that 明兰 doesn’t have a really great relationship with 蓉姐儿. She sends 蓉姐儿 and 娴姐儿 off to school instead.
Ok – now let’s get into the meat of these two episodes, which of course involves the evil plot from Madame Kang to basically sell off 康兆儿。After the whole shouting match from Chang Mo Mom, Madame Kang doesn’t really react, instead she brings 康兆儿 a few times to visit and act as a benevolent elder. At this point in the book, Ming Lan is nearing full term. She’s getting rightfully suspicious of Madame Kang. She orders some of 顾廷烨’s guards to investigate the Kang family. The guards come back with some very useful information. During the meal with all the 顾 women and where Madame Kang puts on a display to force Ming Lan to accept 康兆儿 as a concubine, 明兰 in the book stands her ground much more forcefully against Madame Qin and the rest of the women. She is able to leverage the dirt the Gutingye’s guards dug up to force them to not take sides during this argument. 明兰 tolerance of Madame Kang is at zero and spills all of Madame Kang’s dirty secrets.
Drama Ming Lan, in my opinion, is still too mellow. I couldn’t really tell that she’s angry. She’s frustrated, yes but not angry.
Back to the book – after the meal, 康兆儿 is outside crying and begging for forgiveness. It’s 明兰 who immediately tells her maids to search 康兆儿. They find the scissors and don’t give 康兆儿 any chance of hurting herself. When Ming Lan interrogates 康兆儿, she’s the one who lists out the dire straits that 康兆儿’s family is in. She’s the one who knows that 康兆儿 mother is in the hands of Madame Kang. She’s the one who coldly peels back 康兆儿’s lies to uncover Madame Kang’s vile plot to kill 明兰 and 顾廷烨。明兰 was prepped with the knowledge from 顾廷烨’s guards and was astute enough to see through 康兆儿. She was able to do this all by herself.
I really didn’t like how they changed this in the drama. In the drama, Ming Lan was essentially rescued by Grandma Sheng. Grandma Sheng was the one who saw the dangers in Madame Kang’s plot and uncovered the truth from 康兆儿. Ming Lan was very reactive. Too me, it felt a little too nice?
Then we get to the next part – Ming Lan gives 康兆儿 the choice of either entering into the gu manor as a concubine or marrying someone else. In the book, this choice was in reality a test of character for 康兆儿. If 康兆儿 chose the Gu Manor, Ming Lan would have simply gifted her as a concubine into Madame Kang’s daughter’s household instead. This would have wreaked havoc on Madame Kang’s own daughter’s happy marriage. Alas, 康兆儿 did not choose this path and instead had a good heart and chose marriage. 明兰 saw
this and decided to help her out.
We don’t see ming lan give this test at all. We just see her benevolently give these two options. Again, I didn’t particularly like that they cut this part in the drama.
Basically – in the book, 明兰 was an absolute badass when dealing with Madame Kang and this evil plot. In the drama, 明兰 was still coddled and protected by her Grandmother. I guess I understand why. It’s to sow hatred in the minds of Madame Kang and by extension Madame Wang but the book was able to do this without Grandma sheng’s direct involvement.
That is it for today!
Today was definitely really plot heavy but that made it extremely entertaining. We must thank all of the great actresses that gave us two highly entertaining episodes. But once again, we have to commend the grandmothers for being absolute rockstars.
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!