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 35 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!
We’re picking up at the end of Ep 34 and then moving on to discuss episode 35. And we’re smack dab at the halfway point of the drama! There is some extremely important historical references here which will be important moving forward so we didn’t want to lump it in with our frustration towards Fu Heng.
Last episode, Fu Heng acted too rashly and promptly agreed to marry Er Qing in order to save Ying Luo’s life from the ire of the Emperor. Ying Luo is absolutely heartbroken at the news and bawls her eyes out in her shed living quarters in 辛者库。 Her adoptive brother, 袁春望 is present listening to her tears and is oddly upset that she so loudly pronounced her love for 傅恒。He tells her off for falling in love and is rather blunt in how useless love is. I mean, his words have some merit but I do think delivery could have been slightly better. But after hearing the next story, we get some sympathy for his dismissal for any type of love.
As Ying Luo is crying on his shoulder, she asks about how he came to the Forbidden Palace and he begins to tell his story. It’s a rather tragic one. Displaced for some reason or another when he was just a boy, his father wanted to leave him but his mother always came back for him. Five times his father left him and five times his mother came back for him. But after making it to Beijing, both of his parents fell ill and passed away. But upon her deathbed, Yuan Chen Wang’s mother reveals that he was adopted. His real mother passed away early and was brought to his adoptive parents as a means to extend the family line.
After Ying Luo inquires, Yuan Chun Wang reveals that he ultimately did find his father. Ying Luo doesn’t see the flashbacks but we get pretty telling clues. Yuan Chun Wang said he was tricked and ultimately sold to the big house where his father lived. The house is extremely big and filled with many jewels and riches. At the big house, he could only be a servant boy to tend to a young son of the master of the house. Except, young Yuan chun Wang was full of hatred. He could only play horse for the son and was severely punished when the son fell ill. And so, when young Yuan Chun Wang saw the bedridden son, he went and opened the windows. The implication is that the son would become more ill.
Now, Ying luo does not get as much information as we do in these flashback scenes but if you watch those flashbacks closely, you’ll understand who Yuan Chun Wang thinks he’s related to. And this is not necessarily a spoiler. They say it in the drama, we’re just bringing the clues to the forefront.
While young Yuan Chun Wang was at the house as a servant, his clothes look exactly like those for a eunuch of the imperial palace. Furthermore, the son whom Yuan Chun Wang was serving called his father 皇阿玛 which is only reserved for the Emperor. And this man calls his son 福慧。 With those clues alone, we know that Yuan chun wang was present in the Imperial Palace. The father? Emperor 雍正. The son, his 8th prince, 福慧。 Importantly, this young prince in history only lived for 8 years, dying of illness at that tender age, and was the son of Hua Fei. That means, from Yuan Chun Wang’s story, he most likely helped murder the 8th prince because he opened the windows while 福慧 was ill, thereby contributed to his death. But more importantly, Yuan Chun Wang exclaimed he was furious his father did not recognize him as son even though he was right in front of his father.
That’s a bold claim. Right here, we learn that Yuan Chun Wang, the eunuch, believes himself to son of Yong Zheng, brother to our current Emperor.
Sadly, Ying Luo fell asleep and didn’t really pay attention to what he said. I do feel bad for Yuan Chun Wang who we see has had a hard life. He’s been betrayed by his family and his teacher in the palace. He has no loved ones which is why he is so protective of Ying Luo. I think it’s a little over the top but perhaps understandable given what he’s been through.
Anyways, this revelation is extremely important for the second half of the drama.
We now turn back to Fu Heng who is currently being accosted by 纯妃 who is in disbelief that he would agree to marry 尔晴 to save the likes of 璎珞。 Fu Heng has a very tepid response to her and heads to walk away. At this point, she can’t take it any more and point blank calls him by his name and asks if he really doesn’t remember her. He has absolutely no clue what she’s saying. In flashbacks we see that she and his sister, the Empress, were friends prior to marriage. When they were young, she already fell in love with 傅恒 after seeing him during a visit to the family home. She gifted him a tassel ornament for his jade pendant that she saw him wear ever since. Sadly, he ruthlessly removes the tassel ornament when he hears that it came from her. The only reason he kept wearing it all these years is because he thought the Empress gave it to her.
纯妃 unfortunately, seeing that he wore it for so long, mistook that it was because he had feelings for her. She later finds out that the letter she wrote to him all those years ago that accompanied the tassel which revealed her feelings for him never got to him. She had entrusted her maid to give it to 傅恒 but the maid, acting on her own volition, tore the letter into pieces.
This rightfully infuriated 纯妃. I’d be pissed at the maid too. This maid watched for a full decade as 纯妃 essentially made a fool of herself to support the Empress because she was in love with 傅恒 when he had absolutely no idea. But what’s worse is that she’s already married to the Emperor. Sure she didn’t have any intentions to betray the Emperor but still. It’s been 10 years. I think that’s honestly shocking.
At this moment, 娴贵妃 arrives and taking a leaf out of Empresses in the Palace, brings forth Auntie Liu who had accused Ying Luo of cursing Gao Gui Fei in the last episode. She had revealed that she was told by 纯妃 to accuse Ying Luo. 纯妃 adamantly denies this and Xian Fei who now has strictly turned to the dark side, has this poor servant’s tongue cut out for her insubordination. 纯妃 is terrified at this extreme response and 娴贵妃‘s knowing look. 娴贵妃 now has her eyes set on turning 纯妃 into her pawn as well. Leveraging纯妃’s current weakened emotional state, 娴贵妃 starts suggesting that 纯妃 should really focus on having a child to aid her position in the palace. 纯妃 who had been so adamant on avoiding the EMperor for the last 10 years to side with the EMpress, starts to relent on her position.
The remainder of the drama goes by rather quickly. We see that 锦绣 in 辛者库 is making fun of yingluo after finding out that 傅恒 is going to marry another. She even goes to 袁春望 and blabs that she knows who killed 高贵妃。 袁春望’s eyes go very wide and next thing you know, he and a posse of eunuchs announce to the other staff of 辛者库 that 锦绣 has gone missing. 璎珞 is suspicious a maid would just up and disappear like that but we never really hear about 锦绣 after this. We’ll talk about this later.
The big news though is that finally, FINALLY, the Empress wakes up. The Emperor is over the moon about the news but sadly she’s still bedridden and cannot move too easily. It’s understood that because she was asleep for so long, her muscles atrophied and she’ll need some type of physical therapy to help her walk again. 傅恒 also arrives to see his sister. The Emperor leaves with a veiled warning the 傅恒 to not rock the boat and upset his sister but it’s to no avail. Once the Emperor leaves, the Empress questions whether or not 傅恒 really did agree to marry 尔晴。 The Empress really is the best sister to Ying Luo because the Empress knows exactly how Ying Luo will react. She is sad that these two young people in love have just passed their fate and asks 傅恒 whether or not he’s willing to accept this choice for the rest of his life. He says he does which breaks the Empress’s heart even more. She dismisses him.
In the ultimate act in my opinion of the Empress’s kindness and care for Ying Luo, when the Emperor next comes to see her, the Empress asks the most pointed question possible. She asks whether or not the Emperor has his eyes set on Ying Luo and wants her for his own. That’s why he is so adamant on breaking up Fu Heng and the woman he marries. The Emperor storms off in a flustered state. He adamantly denies it but his behavior already reveals the truth. The Empress hit the nail on the head. His attraction to Ying Luo is exactly why the Emperor would not allow Fu Heng to marry her.
How many of you feel so bad for the Empress. She essentially just unveiled the Emperor’s own feelings. In modern relationships, he’s having an emotional affair. But because he’s emperor, or because he’s a man during imperial china, this is absolutely no problem.
We end the episode with a couple of cute scenes between 海兰察 and 明玉. They are a cute pairing but what will happen to them?
Plot issues –
Well first off – the child or the 4th prince 永城 still looks tiny. Which makes no sense due to the time jump AND also, I seriously doubt a kid that looks under the age of 5 could have such good handwriting as the one we saw in the last episode. Anyways, that’s just a small nitpick.
My main issue is the next one
Why do all of the ladies love 傅恒?? This is one of my biggest issues with dramas like these where different characters all have like 5 people who are madly in love with one character. Maybe because we only focus on certain characters but in this episode, we now find out that 纯妃 was in love with 傅恒 as well? So we now have 尔晴 who he will now marry, 纯妃 who he didn’t even know about, 明玉 who had a fleeting crush on him, and of course 魏璎珞 whom he actually loves. That’s a lot of ladies. Yes – 许凯 is also a handsome fellow but come on… I guess at the beginning of the drama, we already knew that he was really popular but this is kind of a lot. I should get off my high horse on this one – if we look back on Empresses in the Palace, all these ladies loved the Emperor and he wasn’t even a handsome fellow (sorry Mr. 陈建斌).
Let’s also talk about the whole plot point of the Empress’s coma. I feel like the whole reason why she had to be in a coma was so that all the other plot points could happen because if she WAS alive and well, many of the developments from the last several episodes probably wouldn’t have have happened.
Let’s think about it. The now 娴贵妃 wouldn’t have had the opportunity to showcase herself after the Empress fell conscious. She also wouldn’t be catching the eye of the Empress dowager, the Emperor, AND the 5th Prince 弘昼 because the Empress would have taken on her responsibilities of making sure the Empress Dowager was well and probably not have allowed 高贵妃 to continue with her performance, ultimately leading to her downfall.
The main reason though – was probably to move 璎珞 and 傅恒’s plot along because by the way it was looking, the two were going to get married. If that happened, then, this drama wouldn’t be called 延禧攻略 but probably 璎珞 – 富察福晋 or Ying Luo – the madame of the Fu Cha family.
Well since we know how history unfolds, the screenwriter needed to take the most level headed character out of the equation, which is of course the Empress. When the Empress finally wakes up, she starts asking questions to 傅恒 like are you going to regret this! Like YES PLEASE – someone please knock some sense into him. Well that doesn’t happen but now we have the Empress back and act as the audience’s conduit in this episode for trying to smack some sense into 傅恒 and also the Emperor.
Behind the Scenes
There was also a scene cut from this episode. The Palace maid 锦绣 never shows up again in the drama. It looks like there was a scene cut between where 锦绣 goes to find 袁春望 and when 袁春望 simply informs everyone that she eloped with a palace guard. The scene that was cut was apparently that 袁春望, hearing 锦绣’s threats, actually kills her and throws her body into a well, which is why no one knows where she is. He thought that she was too much of a threat to 魏璎珞 and decided to take action. I don’t know why they cut this scene, perhaps because what we have right now was sufficient enough. She doesn’t matter to the overall story anymore so just say she disappeared instead.
There isn’t too much history today.
Let’s talk about the 8th prince that 袁春望 says he killed in these two episodes.
In history, this is 福惠（1721—1728). I think timing actually works out because we’re now in like 1746 so 袁春望 is in his late 20s.
In history, this young prince died very early, at the age of 8, so he was never known as the 8th prince. Emperor Yong Zheng only had 6 sons that lived to at least pre-teen years so those are the only ones that are listed as 阿哥. If you look at Baike though, it lists 4 more sons who died young.
This 福惠 was probably emperor 雍正’s most favored son. The prince’s mother was none other than 年妃, or in Empresses in the palace, 华妃. Why do we say that he was favored? Well, 年妃 was able to personally raise her son, which wasn’t the case for almost all Qing Dynasty princes. When 年妃 died, Emperor Yong Zheng raised the boy himself. 福惠 was gifted fabulous presents by his father when he was only 4 or 5 years old that even his older brothers and uncles didn’t receive.
Unfortunately for the boy, due to his mother’s ill health – let’s completely disregard Empresses in the Palace at this point – 福惠 also wasn’t in the best health. He died when he was only 8 years old. Emperor Yong Zheng was devastated at the news. For the funeral, he ordered for 福惠 to be buried according to the rites of a 亲王 or a Prince of the First rank. There’s like no way the prince was murdered by a eunuch so that was completely for plot purposes.
Chun Fei quotes two lines from a poem in her distraught state when she finds out that 傅恒 didn’t even know the jade tassel was from her nor even receive her love letter.
The poem is written by the Song dynasty poet 李之仪 and is one of the 300 poems of the Song Dynasty.
《卜算子·我住长江头》- bǔ suàn zǐ, I live at the source of Chang Jiang, which is also known as the Yangtze River. I’ll be using Chang Jiang for that name
Here’s my translation of the poem.
I live at the source of Change Jiang
You live at the mouth of the river.
I think of you every day but cannot see you
However, we both drink the water from the same river
When will the river not move as such
When will this dreadful separation stop?
I just hope that your heart is like mine
I will not betray your longing
李之仪 was born in 1038 and died in 1117 and was a Song Dynasty Poet. He was a member of the famed poet 苏轼’s inner circle. However, that was also his downfall. In 1103, 李之仪 was demoted to Tai Ping. Unfortunately for him, tragedy continued to strike. He lost both his daughter, son, and wife of 40 years. He hit rock bottom and 65. However, that’s when he met the courtesan 杨姝. She was courtesan of a righteous character. He fell in love with her and viewed her as a companion. He wrote several poems and songs about her including this one. While traveling with her near Chang Jiang, 李之仪 wrote this poem to love poem to her.
At this point in time in the drama, I think it was fine for 纯妃 to use these two lines. She said that she didn’t care if 傅恒 didn’t love her. She just wanted him to acknowledge her existence and love. Alas, that didn’t happen for her. We’re exactly halfway in the drama and this is 纯妃 official turn towards the “dark side”
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We will catch you all in the next episode!