Welcome Back to Chasing Dramas! This is the podcast that discusses Chinese history, through the lens of historical chinese dramas. This is your host, Cathy. Today we are discussing episode 70 of the Story of Ming Lan or 知否知否应是绿肥红瘦。
This 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 via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or else reach out to us on instagram and twitter! Also please do leave us a review on whatever platform you listen to us to!
If you are new to the podcast, please check out our intro the podcast and intro to the drama episodes. As we normally do for our podcast episodes, we will do a drama episode recap and then talk about culture and or history referenced in the drama and finally end with some book differences.
These episodes are very plot heavy as we are now in the end game. But it’s also an opportunity to see how many friends and allies Ming Lan has amassed over the years with her strong will and good heart.
Episode 70 begins with the terrible news that Gu Ting Ye has been locked up by the Emperor. On Ming Lan’s side, she falls into a shock at the news and hurriedly reaches out to her and Gu Ting Ye’s friends, Shen Guo Jiu and his wife, Madame Zhang for help. As Shen Guo Jiu is a trusted military general and brother to the current Empress, they have some clout with the royal family. They themselves have been trying to help Gu Ting Ye but have also been turned away. But, Madame Zhang points out that even if Ming Lan, who has been rebuffed many times from entering the palace, cannot go, she at least can.
The other person intent on helping Gu Ting Ye is Sheng Chang Bai, Ming Lan’s brother. This upstanding gentleman was thrown into one of the Sheng family warehouses by his father in order to prevent him from going to court and blurt out the truth about Aunt Kang’s poisoning of Grandma Sheng, thereby helping Gu Ting Ye. It’s a rather hilarious scene when Chang Bai tries to escape his confinement and we see what happens when someone who has no martial arts training whatsoever tries to fight. He gets tossed back in. Hahahahahaha. Chang Bai steals the keys to his rooms from a servant that brought him food while also tying said poor guy up. The camera doesn’t even follow Chang Bai out, only on the struggling servant before the doors open up again and Chang Bai is carried back into the room by 4 servants, one grabbing each limb. Hahahahaha. He is ultimately a sweetheart because he only tied up the servant despite thinking it might be better to knock him out with a bench. After a hot second, Chang bai thought better of it because that would be quite painful. Such a subtle scene again shows Chang Bai’s forgiving and kind character.
He is beaten rather harshly by Sheng Hong in Sheng family shrine. On one side, Chang Bai wants to report the truth in order to do what’s right but Sheng Hong wants to protect the Sheng family. As we’ve said in previous episodes, if Chang Bai reveals the truth about Grandma Sheng’s poisoning, the careers and prospects of every member of the Sheng family will be ruined. It is something that Sheng Hong and Chang Bai have to balance.
At night, Madame Zhang successfully makes it into the palace to meet with the Empress. Madame Zhang subtly tries to ask about Gu Ting Ye’s condition which the Empress refuses to elaborate but Ming Lan bursts forward. She entered the palace disguised as one of Madame Zhang’s maids in order to have an audience with the Empress. The Empress is rather understanding of Ming Lan’s feelings and tries to console her before walking away but Ming Lan grabs hold of the Empress’s robes and continues to plead her case. Now, to me, the behavior of the Empress upon multiple viewings is quite suspect. When Ming Lan first bursts into the hall to speak to the Empress, the Empress doesn’t look at her with a straight face. And then, as Ming Lan shouts that there are spies from the Empress Dowager, the Empress looks even more flustered. She reiterates that there’s been a death in the Wang family which is difficult to explain as if those lines were rehearsed. And lastly, she doesn’t allow any maids to treat Ming Lan poorly or drag her off. She even relents and allows Ming Lan to see Gu Ting Ye in prison. Ming Lan’s actions could have resulted in a much worse punishment but for all intents and purposes, the Empress was quite reasonable and forgiving to her. This is one of the hints as to how this entire trial is playing out.
News of Ming Lan’s actions travels to Gu Ting Ye’s ears. He, who is now sitting in a dark but large prison cell, is paid a visit by none other than Prince Huan who tells him that Ming Lan created a huge scene with his mother in order to be allowed to come see Gu Ting Ye. After hearing this, Gu Ting Ye is not actually excited about the fact that she’s coming to see him, but rather that she caused a scene! He is over the moon to hear that she behaved this way for him and even rushes the Prince out of his cell to find someone who was a witness to Ming Lan’s behavior in order to report this back to him in detail. Hahahaha. What a weirdo. It’s because to him, this is another display that Ming Lan might actually have true feelings for him now. He wants to confirm it!
Back at the Sheng manor, Ming Lan is preparing for her visit to see Gu Ting Ye but is paid an unexpected visit by Madame Wang. She traveled all the way from You Yang after hearing of Ming Lan’s plight and even received permission from Chang Bai and SHeng Hong to speak to Ming Lan. I really like this scene as it is the crucial scene where we see Madame Wang truly be a mother to Ming Lan. She appears in the night to speak to Ming Lan and help her, as well as us, understand why it is important for Ming Lan to separate from Gu Ting Ye immediately. If Gu Ting Ye is charged and his title removed, Ming Lan’s son would also be labeled as the son of a criminal. If Ming Lan separates from Gu Ting Ye now, Ming Lan would preserve herself as well as her son by returning to the Sheng family. The Sheng family can at least still protect her. If Gu Ting Ye ever gets his name cleared, they can always re-marry. This is the best course of action for Ming Lan.
Ming Lan understands what Madame Wang is saying to her because it’s for Ming Lan’s good. I think that if this was at the beginning of her marriage, Ming Lan would have listened to Madame Wang and separated. But now, after all they’ve been through, Ming Lan is not going to separate from her husband and instead, will face the troubles together as a married couple. This reflects her changed sentiment in this marriage.
Now the other important takeaway from this conversation is that Ming Lan finally feels a mother’s love from Madame Wang. The analysis that Madame Wang shares is a painful truth for Ming Lan but she does so to help Ming Lan. At the beginning of the conversation, Ming Lan is still rather guarded with Madame Wang and calls her as such. After hearing how Madame Wang is thinking about how to protect Ming Lan and her son, Ming Lan actually calls Madame Wang 母亲, the term for mother. It is as though Madame Wang’s departure has done her some good in repenting for her past crimes. On Madame Wang’s side, she also started the conversation by calling Ming Lan 明丫头 and then moved to calling her 明儿 after Ming Lan changed her reference to Madame Wang. It’s evident that at this moment, the Sheng family is closer than ever in an effort to help Ming Lan.
The next day, Ming Lan is escorted to Gu Ting Ye’s prison cell and brings out the various items she’s brought for him, particularly the blankets that could help him keep warm. She also brought the knee guards that Ming Lan gave Gu Ting Ye all those years ago as a thank you for helping her find a doctor for her dying mother. It’s funny that those knee guards seem to be the item that tied the pair together. As Ming Lan reiterates, no matter what happened after that, Ming Lan was always grateful for his help that day.
After the pleasantries, Gu Ting Ye comes out with the heavy hitter and says that they should separate. Ming Lan’s eyes immediately well up with tears. She’s upset that he wants to divorce her. She’s taking it as a divorce but he says it’s an amicable separation. The document has been created and his assets have all been given to her as well. He wants to protect her which is why he wants them to separate first. Just as Madame Wang explained the previous night.
But Ming Lan does not acquiesce. She even mentions that she named their son, the word 团 which literally means togetherness. They will wait for Gu Ting Ye to be released so they can be together again as a family. This causes Gu Ting Ye to well up with tears now. He still wants to separate with Ming Lan because he thinks it is what’s best for her. Ming Lan pushes back that if they do separate, they will no longer have any connection whatsoever. That is her threat to him from following through and he knows she will not look back.
As Ming Lan leaves the cell, a procession of guards and eunuchs head to Gu Ting Ye’s cell with an imperial decree. The decree states that Gu Ting Ye, his wife and child will be stripped of their titles. After the fall, Gu Ting Ye will be exiled 2000 miles.
The other friend who is worried about Ming Lan is Qi Heng. Episode 70 ends with Qi Heng heading over to visit Ming Lan to see how he can help. At first he is dressed all in black, hoping to go alone under the cover of darkness but is caught before heading out by his mother. Princess Ping Ning, of course, doesn’t want him to go for a myriad of reasons. Qi Heng’s wife also appears. To his surprise though, Madame Shen, creates lies to help Qi Heng leave the house with her and then changes course so that the husband and wife pair head over to see Ming Lan together. Once there, they ask what Ming Lan’s next steps are. Right now, Ming Lan is acting too rashly because she is being emotional over Gu Ting Ye. But, now that Madame Shen sees her husband is over Ming Lan, she is able to exhibit her intelligence as she tells Ming Lan that without new evidence, she should not try to present herself in front of court. But with new evidence, a new opportunity would be presented. Therefore, the next step should be for Ming Lan to create an opening for those operating in the background to strike. Once that happens, they can go to court with the new evidence of someone trying to harm both her and Gu Ting Ye. The episode ends with the trio planning their next steps. It is touching to me that Ming Lan now has allies again in Qi Heng and Madame Shen. You can tell that at first, Ming Lan is still being guarded with Madame Shen particularly when Qi Heng mentioned the Empress Dowager but Madame Shen implied her allegiance towards helping Ming Lan, or rather help Qi Heng help Ming Lan. Through this conversation, Qi Heng and Madame Shen’s relationship changes dramatically for the better.
Before talking about some idioms in the drama, let me turn to something peculiar in the prison cell. I mentioned earlier that the Empress’s actions were a little suspect but Gu Ting Ye’s treatment in prison is even more of a green flag if you will. First, in his scene with Prince Huan where Prince Huan tells Gu Ting Ye about Ming Lan’s belligerence in front of the Empress, are two things. Why is Prince Huan able to have a conversation with Gu TIng Ye so easily and why are they able to play Chinese Go so easily. Gu Ting Ye is in prison! That’s a pretty nice way for him to pass the time. And then, whe Ming Lan comes to visit, she notes that she’s surprised there’s so much coal for him to be warm. The implication is that he’s not going to freeze in his cell. I guess you could argue that regardless, Gu Ting Ye is still a marquis at this point so his treatment in prison shouldn’t be THAT bad but it’s still surprising to me. It tells me that he’s living comfortably for being in prison without having Ming Lan bring him gifts and such.
Let’s dive into culture now!
When 长柏 gets beaten by his father, he has a powerful declaration on how a man should behave.
He says the following – 为君纠错是为忠，为家擎天是为孝，为子作则是为礼，为法辩白是为节. I did a bit of research and have come to the conclusion that this isn’t from any book and historical reference. However, this is still a very powerful statement. So i’ll try my best to translate!
为君纠错是为忠 – to correct your master, that is loyalty，为家擎天qíng tiān 是为孝，to protect your family from the sky, that is filial piety. 擎天 means to hold the sky – basically to withhold a large force. 为子作则是为礼，to behave as the model son is for propriety, 为法辩白是为节, arguing for the law is for integrity.
If we take the last word of each group, we get 忠孝礼节. Loyalty, filial piety, propriety and integrity. The first 2 are amongst the 8 virtues in Confucian teachings. 礼 is in the 4 cardinal principals. 节 or integrity is usually paired with 礼 but it’s nevertheless powerful. I really enjoyed the fact that the drama gave this time to spotlight 长柏 because he really is an upstanding guy. A little stern, yes, but he isn’t like his father who focuses solely on his career. 长柏 is willing to sacrifice his own career for what he believes is right.
This idiom is used when 明兰 tries to appeal to the Empress. The literal translation is Racoon dogs from the same mountain. The meaning is – they are all the same, they’re all evil.
In english, it’s kind of like to birds of a feather but with a much more negative connotation
The first use of this idiom comes from the Book of Han written by 班固 and finished in 111AD. The idiom appears specifically in the volume on 杨恽 yun4.
The story goes as such – there was a man called 杨恽 who was of noble stock. His father rose to the rank of prime minister. He himself was awarded for his loyalty with the title of Marquis. During his time, he implemented several reforms. However, as time passed, he became more and more arrogant. One day – 杨恽 heard that the leader or 单于 of the Xiong Nu which were a nomadic confederation of tribes was killed. He then responds with 若秦时但任小臣，诛杀忠良，竟以灭亡，令亲任大臣，即至今耳，古与今如一丘之貉。
This translates to – During the Qin dynasty, the emperor favored deceitful courtiers and killed his loyal subjects, causing the downfall of the Qin Emperor. It’s the same, from ancient times till now, emperors will all favor these deceitful men. They’re all like racoon dogs from the same mountain.
Now – nothing really wrong with 杨恽 stating 一丘之貉. But then he also said 古与今 or from ancient times till now. This means he’s also critiquing the current Emperor! The emperor heard this and immediately stripped him of his title and punished him. Ya know, can’t really blame the Emperor on this. If you have a subject stating that you’re the same as despots from the past, you probably wouldn’t be too happy about it either!
And Raccoon dogs! They’re native to east asia and look a lot like raccoons in North America but they’re not the same!
子丑寅卯 – mentioned as a time.
子时：23:00–1:00 corresponding zodiac is rat
丑时：1:00–3:00 corresponding zodiac is ox
寅时：3:00–5:00 corresponding zodiac is tiger
卯时：5:00–7:00 corresponding zodiac is rabbit
These are used for your horoscope
Ok – let’s discuss book differences. Well, not much to say again as the book completely diverges from the drama. 顾廷烨 is not thrown into prison so there isn’t much for Ming Lan to actually do. What does happen though is that 顾廷烨 is ordered to the western border on a mission with several troops. This is kind of similar to a few episodes later in the drama so I don’t dive into much here. Madame Wang does not return back to the capital to support 明兰. Their relationship never fully thaws out like it does in the drama so I’m glad that Madame Wang and 明兰 finally had that scene in the drama. 齐衡 and his wife Madame 申 also aren’t involved in any of the action so the scenes in the drama are purely to tie everyone back together. 齐衡 in the book doesn’t really have a great ending so I’m glad to see that he’s building a healthy relationship with his wife.
Lastly – this is the last time we see Madame Wang on screen! Very sad about this because she is one of the standout characters for me. The actress 刘琳 just does an amazing job portraying her. 刘琳 has been in several dramas from Daylight Entertainment or 正午阳光. They seem to really like using her. Let’s say one last farewell to the awesome Madame Wang. You were rightly punished for your plot to poison your mother-in-law but i’m glad that in the end, you finally decided to do something for your whole family and not just your own children.
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