Ep 36+37

Welcome back to Chasing Dramas! This is the podcast that discusses Chinese culture and history through historical Chinese dramas. We are your hosts, Karen.


Today we are discussing episodes 36+37 of the Story of Yanxi Palace or 延禧攻略. This podcast is in English with proper nouns and certain phrases spoken in mandarin Chinese. 


This podcast episode consists of a drama episode recap and then we’ll move on to discuss culture and history portrayed in these episodes.




After the dreams have shattered in the last few episodes for both Ying Luo and Chun Fei, we are now at a new status quo starting in episode 36. 


Chun Fei who is utterly devastated at learning that after more than 10 years of believing 傅恒 had affections for her, realized that it was all a lie. The tassel she gifted him and which he had worn for the last 10 years was just a simple miscommunication. He thought the tassel was from his sister while she thought it meant he had affections for her. After cold heartedly removing the tassel when realizing it came from 纯妃, 傅恒 shattered 纯妃“s heart. Now, with a little bit of nefarious prodding from 娴妃 who suspects that 纯妃 must have some undisclosed affection for the 富察 family, finally stokes 纯妃 into acting.


And, with just a tiny bit of acting, 纯妃 successfully charms the Emperor into giving her favor. It’s quite impressive how easily distracted the Emperor is in my view but it also speaks to the fact that 纯妃 is an extremely capable woman in the palace. She just opted not to fight for favor these last 10 years.


But this for the Emperor was just an interlude. After the pointed questioning he received from the Empress in the last episode, the Emperor is rather flustered with his feelings for Ying Luo which he still cannot parse out or put his finger on. 


Regardless and no matter how sad of a face Fu Heng puts on in front of the world, he must get married. Honestly, I get he’s upset but he’s the one that made this choice so I don’t have a lot of sympathy towards him and his long face. We get a quick wedding scene where it’s his big day with Er Qing. Er Qing is beautifully dressed and on this wedding night, she is rather reasonable. She says she understands that Fu Heng still has another in his heart but she is willing to wait. Fu Heng at least says all the right things to her about how from now on he’s going to remind himself that she is his responsibility and his wife blah blah blah. 


In the very next scene, his resolve is severely tested.


On a blizzarding day, Ying Luo is by herself in the freezing cold, kowtowing every three steps in the palace. As she’s doing so, Fu Heng and Er Qing arrive. They are stunned at the sight and is explained that this is Ying Luo’s punishment. On the first snow of the winter, she is to kowtow every three steps for 24 hours around the palace. Once done, she is able to return back to Chang Chun Palace. At this heart wrenching sight, Fu Heng motions forward to help Ying Luo but is pulled back by Er Qing. Meanwhile, Ying Luo absolutely ignores Fu Heng and continues with her punishment.


It turns out, Ying Luo could have avoided punishment. The Emperor gave her a choice. Tell Fu Heng she never loved him and was only interested in him for his money and power. Otherwise, kowtow every three steps for 24 hours around the palace and apologize. Evidently, Ying Luo chose the latter. But this is almost her break up ritual. She is accepting this punishment because she does not want to deny her love for him. But after this punishment, she decides that she will only ever be strangers with Fu Heng. Their love is gone forever.


After about 8 hours of this, both Yuan Chun Wang stop by to look after Ying Luo who is adamant in her task, and the Emperor. In front of the Emperor, Ying Luo finally collapses and he immediately picks her up and carries her off. This really is quite the favor by the Emperor.


He carries her off to a room where she is laid on a bed to rest. He sits by her bedside and caresses her frozen cheek with his hand but remembering what the Empress said about his personal reasons for not allowing Fu Heng to marry Ying Luo, removes his hand as if burned. He is still struggling internally with how he feels but it is certainly coming to the surface. 


When Ying Luo awakes, she is dressed by several maids in clothes that are not her own but that of a woman with much higher status. The clothes are more elegant and her hair more elaborate. The maids hurriedly leave when she asks them what’s going on and runs headlong into the Emperor when she tries to leave the room herself.


That brings us to episode 37. Ying Luo is scared out of her wits as to what is happening but the Emperor calmly sits down in the room. He loudly shares that the Empress thinks he might be into Ying Luo and wants to hear Ying Luo’s thoughts. Ying Luo freaks out and hurriedly says all manner of things, trying to avert the Emperor’s attention and allow her to leave. But the Emperor actually forces himself on top of her on the bed. It is at this moment that Ying Luo changes tact and purposefully shares that this was her tactic all along. She wanted to attract the Emperor and state that she finally has that opportunity. It is with these words that confirmed to the Emperor his suspicions all along that she was just a greedy woman and instantly his interest fades. She is allowed to leave to return to Chang Chun Palace.


-Um, although, can we pause to state that it was rather distasteful of the Emperor. He was basically about to commit rape to 魏璎珞. 


And finally, Ying Luo returns into the arms of the Empress. Ying Luo and Ming Yu spend a wonderful several months helping the Empress recover her ability to walk. Honestly, I feel like this some of the best months for the three of them. No distractions and just one goal which is to help the Empress regain her mobility. Why couldn’t the drama have just left it here? 


By now it is spring time. And Yay! Success! After a lot of help from Ying Luo and Ming Yu the Empress can finally walk on her own. We officially get the year of 1746, the 11th year in 乾隆’s reign.


But that is not the only happy news in the palace. 纯妃 is pregnant! Looks like the time spent with the Emperor has been fruitful as now she is going to have support in the palace. Additionally, Yuan Chun Wang has also been promoted. Having impressed Xian Gui Fei in prior episodes, she provides him an opportunity with a promotion to a posting in the Internal Houshold Department or 内务府。 That’s quite the honor for him. So in all, things are going well for people in the palace.


The only place it’s NOT going well is Fu Heng’s household. He, unsurprisingly, has been extremely cold towards Er Qing despite getting married. And she does not take it kindly. She is upset that despite his reassuring words, he has not treated her well since getting married. He has basically buried himself in work and has neglected her which she is unhappy about.  Her extreme jealousy comes out when she sees a random maid help clean Fu Heng’s rooms and severely beats this woman. We will see more trouble in paradise in episode 38.  The only other thing to note is that Er Qing meets Fu Heng’s younger brother this episode.


What I do find absolutely fantastic though is that Fu Heng’s household is a complete mess and a lot of it is due to his own poor communication. But he is still pining over Wei Ying Luo despite saying the contrary. I personally think that Fu Heng needs to grow up. He’s already married 尔晴 and he promised her to try to make this marriage work. He’s doing like the bare minimum. Yes, 尔晴 has gotten quite paranoid but I blame that more on Fu Heng rather than her, at this point in time. 


On the other side, Wei Ying Luo has already moved past her previous feelings towards him. It does not mean that she loved him any less than him. I guess it’s due to their different upbringing. Ying Luo knows how difficult it is to survive so she recognizes when she needs to move on. She sees the world extremely clearly and should be commended! WooO! 


Let’s move onto history!


First up – let’s talk fashion because we haven’t in a while. The subject of today? It’s 尔晴’s wedding outfit! Specifically the headdress.


It’s very different from what we’ve seen before. It’s elaborate with a main headdress and two side pieces. I don’t even really know what to call the side pieces so I’ll just keep it as side pieces. 


That type of headdress is called a 挑tiāo杆gǎn钿子 . 挑tiāo杆gǎn essentially means rod / pole


But first – let’s talk about 钿子. That’s basically the term for the headdress or headpieces Qing Dynasty adult women wore. The bottom of the structure is created by either wires or wisteria twining vines. The structure is then covered with silk, fabric, or even paper. Then, accessories are added to the headdress. Accessories can include precious jewels, jade, pearls, gold flowers, and 点翠, etc. 点翠 , as mentioned in Episode 71 of the story of ming lan, is a style of Chinese art that features Kingfisher feathers. The color is a beautiful blue color. We actually see a lot of 点翠 being used by the women in the drama, especially by 纯妃 in episode 36. She basically uses exclusively 点翠 as her accessories. 


Back to 钿子 in general, the more wealthy and powerful the family, the more elaborate these 钿子 were. 


There were 4 types of 钿子 – 半钿、满钿、凤钿、挑杆钿。 Half, Full, Phoenix, and a mix between the full and phoenix 钿子, which gets us to the 挑杆钿 or pole dian.


The phoenix style was pretty elaborate. There would be, Phoenix, on the headdress. In addition, there were also be some sort of dangling accessories such as pearls. The phoenix style was developed during the Yong Zheng era. I’ll try to point them out next time we see them. 


The usage of the 凤钿 was twofold. The first was used during weddings and the second was when women had proper functions and banquets to attend. The 凤钿 was used by the Imperial Household all the way up till the end of the Qing Dynasty. 


We don’t see that many of the concubines wear 钿子 that often in this drama. The best example for the empress is actually in episode 1 when she was helping the Emperor select more women for the Imperial Harem. Women in Empresses in the Palace wore 钿子 much more often, think the Empress and 甄嬛 during the end of the show.


Let’s actually discuss the headdress that 尔晴 wears. It’s called the 挑杆钿 and is the most elaborate of the headdress styles. The 挑杆 refers to the tassels on both sides, which I personally don’t really get. I’ll need a fashion historian to correct me. 


The drama does an immaculate job of creating or I should say recreating the 挑杆钿, problem is, the timing for this is wrong. 挑杆钿 didn’t really appear until Emperor 光绪, which is the 19th century. We are currently in 1746 so this is an anachronism. There are actually surviving photos of women wearing this 挑杆钿. Please note that 挑杆钿 is Manchu. When we spoke about wedding headdresses, we spoke about 凤冠 or the Phoenix Haddress in the Story of Ming Lan. If you recall what Ming Lan wore, that headdress is very different from the one Er Qing wears here. The former is a 凤冠, which could be worn for for Han Marriages, the latter is the 挑杆钿, which could be worn for Manchu marriages.


Interestingly, the 挑杆钿子 rose in popularity during the mid to late Qing Dynasty especially outside of the Imperial Palace. It essentially replaced the 凤钿 in the aristocracy. In the palace, people would still wear the 凤钿, but it was rare to see outside of the palace walls, instead, people wore the 挑杆钿子



As for wedding customs – we’ve talked about them quite a bit. The one piece I’ll remind the listeners is that both 尔晴 and 傅恒 had to take a bite out of a dumpling. The maids asked 生不生 which means, is it raw. 尔晴 responds 生的. This is a wedding tradition. 生 means raw but also means to birth. So if the bride says 生 then that means that she’ll have children.


The last thing I’ll say about this marriage is, in history, 傅恒 didn’t marry a woman from the XiTaLa clan but of the 纳拉 clan. The marriage was an extremely happy one, completely different from what we see in the drama, so please don’t take this drama for gospel.


Before I discuss the next history topics – I will pause to give praise to the actors and actresses for wearing such thick clothing during the winter scenes. Filming of this drama took place between June 2017 to October 2017 so there were no real winter scenes, however, it did look quite convincing and lovely in episode 36 when 璎珞 had to complete her punishment. 


Moving on to our next history topics! We have 2 poems to discuss. 


The first one comes from the conversation between 纯妃 and the Emperor. She is reminiscing about the wonders of city of 杭州 and says these two lines


山寺月中寻桂子⑸,郡亭枕上看潮头⑹ – 


This two lines come from the Tang Dynasty poem 江南忆,最忆是杭州 – or Remembering Jiangnan, the city I remember most is Hang Zhou. It was written by the very famous Tang Dynasty poet 白居易 who lived from 772 to 846.


This specific poem is the second of 3 that 白居易 wrote about the wonders of Jiannan – which, during the Tang dynasty, referred to a wide area south of Chang Jiang and includes the cities of Hang Zhou and Su Zhou


The full poem goes like this – 




Here’s my translation – Remembering Jiangnan, the city I remember most is Hang Zhou. I remember visiting Buddhist temples to find the fall osmanthus flowers. I climbed the city tower, and while resting on a pillow, I looked down at the tides of the 钱塘 river. When can I return for a visit?


This poem is full of praise for the city of Hang Zhou. The author specifically remembers the autumn weather and his own experiences in the city. 


This definitely does work very well in the context of our drama as Chun Fei was trying to make a point of praising Hang Zhou.


Lastly – we will discuss the poem that 尔晴 reads from the papers that 傅恒’s younger brother, 傅谦.


The poem is titled – 眼儿媚 – 杨柳丝丝弄轻柔, or, as per the Youtube Translation, Bewitching Eyes, the Wind Gently Fiddles with the Fine Willow Branches.


眼儿媚 – was actually a style of poetry or music tune. It was a type of 词牌名, which means that that the accents of the poems and the musical tunes were already set. Authors would then use different words to fill this Ci. So there are many 眼儿媚 or Bewitching Eyes poems, the differentiators are in the actual lines of the poem. 


The full poem goes as such – I’m going to use a mix of the youtube translation and my translation.





the Wind Gently Fiddles with the Fine Willow Branches, The Smoke weaves thousands of sorrows. It hasn’t rained on the Chinese flowering apple, but the pear flowers have already blossomed like snow. Too bad half of spring has already passed.


The realities of the present make it hart to remember the past. My dreams remember the tower you lived in. My heartache and rememberance for you continues to this date. On the fragrant cloves and the beautiful cardamom branch. 


This was written by the Song Dynasty poet Wang pāng who lived from 1044-1076. He died at a young age in his early 30s. During the course of his life, he had always been a sickly man, so he decided to live separately from his wife. His wife lived in the 秦楼 tower. After a while, 王雱’s father organized for 王雱’s wife to be remarried to another man. 王雱 is reminiscing his wife, which led him to write this poem. 王雱 came from a well respected scholar family and passed his imperial entrance exams before the age of 20. He was well respected at court for the time he was there but, due to his prolonged illness, he died at a young  age. 


I honestly don’t know why Fu heng’s younger brother 傅谦 is walking around with this poem when he first meets 尔晴. Does he have some he loves already? It makes more sense after they first meet though because in one scene we see 傅谦 kind of staring longingly up at 尔晴 when she is sitting in a tower. What will happen with these two?


That is it for this podcast episode!


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We will catch you all in the next episode!


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