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 Episode 34 of 延禧攻略 or The Story of Yanxi Palace. This podcast is in English with proper nouns and certain phrases spoken in Mandarin Chinese. I also did just post a few additional reviews on our website so please do remember to check out our chasingdramas.com periodically for our latest reviews and thoughts on dramas!
The big day arrives and we are finally at episode 34. I have many thoughts on this episode.
Episode 34 begins with the Emperor finalizing his plans for tax reduction. In last episode and the beginning of this episode, we do see that the Emperor is one that is focused on ruling the Empire and we commend him for his efforts. One morning, he sees Ying luo clearing out weeds as part of her job at Xin Zhu Ku. Remembering her words that as long as he does his job one step at a time, his subjects will remember him, he decides that he’s been too harsh on her in the past and wants to lift her punishment. He wants to personally deliver her the news in Chang Chun Gong.
But, luck really isn’t on Ying Luo’s side. One night, when Ying luo sneaks out of Xin Zhe Ku to Chang Chun Gong to take care of the Empress, she is seen by Er Qing. Er Qing is considered one of the worst people in this drama and we’re now seeing maybe 30% of how terrible she is. She is insanely jealous to find that Fu Heng has also sneaked to Chang Chun Gong to see Ying Luo and help her take care of her sister.
When the Emperor arrives to see the Empress who is still in a coma, he originally came to tell the Empress the good news that he’ll place Ying Luo back at her side. But, Er Qing skillfully advises the Emperor to go find Ying Luo in the back to tell her the news personally. However, when they arrive, they happen upon Ying Luo and Fu Heng helping each other gather water in the back. Except their actions are extremely friendly. So much so that the Emperor is furious to see this scene and storms out. Er Qing, meanwhile, is extremely pleased with herself for sabotaging Ying Luo and Fu Heng in front of the Emperor. That edict to promote Ying Luo back to Chang Chun Gong? Nope, it’s being tossed away. I believe it is now that the Emperor has possessive affections over Ying Luo.
At this point, Ying Luo is none the wiser as to what happened the prior night. But back at Xin Zhe Ku, she is met with a messy scene. Ying Luo’s quarters are being searched by a slew of eunuchs and the managing auntie announced they found a wooden doll. This is serious business and is escalated all the way up to the now Noble Consort Xian as well as the Emperor who decides he wanted to interrogate the truth directly.
Turns out, the wooden doll that was discovered is currently being claimed by Liu Mo Mo that it was used by Ying Luo to curse and kill Noble Consort Gao. The doll has Gao Gui Fei’s birthday on it as well as a red string tied around its neck. Clearly, it was used to kill Gao Gui Fei. Ying Luo soundly denies this but the Emperor does not want to believe her.
Meanwhile, Yuan Chun Wang also hears the news that Ying Luo is in trouble. He hurriedly rushes over to find Fu Cha Fu Heng to tell him the news. He quickly explains that Fu Heng cannot go to find the Emperor directly because it would solidify that Fu Heng has undisclosed personal feelings for Ying Luo that would land her in even worse trouble. That doesn’t prevent Fu Heng from rushing out and heading over to Chang Chun Gong where he pleads for his sister to wake up and save Ying Luo. While the Empress does shed a tear and moves her fingers to his pleas, she does not wake up.
Er Qing, though, pipes up and says if he wants to save Ying Luo, there is only one solution.
Fu Heng is too gullible in my opinion because Ying Luo did not really need him to save her. In front of the Emperor and Noble Consort Xian, she easily pointed out several key holes in this accusation against her. The knot used for the red string around the doll’s neck is entirely different from what she normally uses. Furthermore, the place the doll was supposedly found is damp and humid over the summer. A wooden doll placed there for over 2 months would most certainly be moist or at least changed in shape. But this wooden doll is dry as a bone which means it must have only recently have been placed there.
Immediately the tides turn and both the Emperor and Xian Gui Fei become impatient at the false accusation from this Aunt Liu and she is dragged off.
Except this Emperor is still furious with Ying Luo. He agrees that she should not be punished for this false accusation but still orders her to be dragged off to the Department of Punishment or Shen Xing Si for having an affair with an imperial guard. He becomes even more furious when Ying Luo just gets up willingly to take her punishment. She doesn’t even try to beg or explain herself.
The scene shifts and we see Fu Heng kneeling outside of the Emperor’s palace. When the Emperor finally arrives outside to speak with him, the Emperor is still angry. He wants to kill Ying Luo. Fu Heng though, surprises the Emperor by declaring that he wants to marry Er Qing.
Immediately, Ying luo is released from Shen Xing Si.
UGHHHH. I’m SOOO pissed at BOTH of these men.
Afterwards, Fu Heng has the gall to find Ying Luo. He tells her point blank he’s going to marry Er Qing. Ying Luo is absolutely heartbroken and she tells off Fu Heng. In my mind, I completely agree with everything she said. This would have been a much shorter drama but if Fu Heng had also persisted and came forward with their affections. Sure the two of them would have been punished or killed, but at least they didn’t give up. That’s what Ying Luo wanted. She was willing to fight for their relationship and take every punishment thrown her way because she knows she went against palace law and fell in love with an imperial guard. But what did Fu Heng do? He gave up on their relationship. We know he did it to save her life, but as Ying Luo said, despite having thousands of reasons why he did it, the reality is staring them right in the face. HE was the one who walked away. Not her. And he has the audacity to come back to return the fragrance pouch she made him. Any woman would have been royally pissed at that move. I’m proud of Ying Luo for just walking away.
What do you guys think. In this episode, I see the fault almost entirely on Fu Heng’s hands. There were so many careless things that he did in this episode that resulted in him making one of the worst decisions in his life. I do place some blame on the Emperor but I don’t actually think he would kill Ying Luo. He’s just annoyed at the moment but he is the Emperor after all. It’s not worth his time to spend too much effort on the likes of Ying Luo.
It’s going to be rather light on history today！
At the beginning of the episode, a bunch of the palace maids are discussing the Emperor. He is always working relentlessly and is an Emperor who knows several languages along with all of the other gentlemanly arts.
These are all historically accurate. For the 清 Dynasty, the education of princes was extremely strict. They started their education from the age of around 6 and continued into adulthood. If the prince wasn’t given a formal position / post then he would continue to attend classes. They were only give a handful of days off during the year to celebrate the major holidays.
The started extremely early for the princes. They would arrive at the classroom between 3-5AM in the morning to review the studies from the previous day. The teachers would then arrive to begin classes between 5-7AM. The Princes had several teachers throughout the course of the day. Most of them were prominent court officials and taught everything from Mongolian to Manchurian to Mandarin. However, the vast majority of the day when reading and writing was involved included the study of Chinese texts. In the afternoon, the princes would then practice riding and shooting.
This is why, perhaps, the quality of Princes during the Qing Dynasty was pretty high. As in, most had a proper education.
As for our Emperor 乾隆 – he continued with the tradition of rising early. He typically was awake by 4am, went to court, and then reviewed documents throughout the course of the day. Dinner was around 7PM and then he’d either choose to spend the night with a concubine from the Imperial Harem or else continue working. It was typically lights out before 10PM. That’s still a long day! So yes – while the maids in the palace had long days, it wasn’t a walk in the park for the Emperor either.
Our 2nd and last history piece is just a watch and you’ll miss item. The Emperor is reviewing his son, 永珹’s homework. If we’ll recall, he is currently under the care of 娴贵妃.
The poem is called 滕王阁 or the Prince Teng’s Pavilion. It is written by the famous Tang Dynasty poet 王勃. This shorter poem is like the sequel to the very famous Preface to the Prince Teng’s Pavilion or 滕王阁序.
Here’s the full poem.
My translation is as such
The Prince Teng’s Pavilion is perched high on top and we see the gàn river below
The noble guests wear jade and jewelry, sitting in their splendid carriages
They have arrived to see the wondrous banquet
In the morning, they paint clouds from 南浦
At dusk, rain comes from the western mountains
The clouds are reflected in the river below, with no end
The stars move and the scene changes but after countless springs and summers
Where is the Prince of Teng
The only constant is the river flowing outside the railing.
This poem isn’t as famous as Preface to the Prince Teng’s Pavilion or 滕王阁序 but both are part of the standard repertoire of poems that one will have to learn even today. Time is a bit jumbled right now so I have no idea how old the 4th Prince 永珹 is supposed to be in the drama. However, this isn’t an entry level poem so definitely good for the Prince to be learning this.
As for the author of the poem – his name is 王勃（649～676). He had grand plans but he died shortly after writing this poem and Preface to the Prince Teng’s Pavilion or 滕王阁序 . He was actually traveling to Vietnam but drowned on the way there. If only he had lived longer, I’m sure he would have made a bigger name for himself than he already did.
And that is it for today’s relatively short episode. We just really wanted to get our disappointment out of the way this episode towards Fu Heng and also the Emperor. In the next episode, the Empress does this for us too.
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We will catch you all in the next episode!