Welcome back to Chasing Dramas! This is the podcast that discusses Chinese culture and history through historical Chinese dramas. I’m your host for today Cathy and Karen! We’re recording on January 22 which means happy Lunar New Year everyone! It’s the year of the rabbit!
Today we are discussing episode 45+46 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.
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This podcast episode consists of a drama episode recap and we’ll move on to discuss the history portrayed in this episode.
In Episode 44, we saw Fu Heng return to the palace from war. At first he was excited to be back but then his world shattered when he saw Ying Luo appear before him as a concubine of the Emperor.
His return presents a sticky situation for both him and Ying Luo. 纯贵妃 who is not pleased at all at the rise of Ying Luo’s status in the palace, immediately takes action. One night when the Emperor visits her, she does not hesitate to casually mention how Ying Luo must be happy to see that Fu Heng is back and highlights their prior relationship back at Chang Chun Gong. This causes the Emperor’s suspicion to be tested and he deliberately avoids heading into Yan Xi Gon to see Ying Luo.
Shortly after, rumors start flying all over the palace about Ying Luo and Fu Heng’s prior relationship. Xiao 嘉嫔 who had been grounded takes this opportunity to stoke the flames of the fire by crying in front of the Emperor, begging for forgiveness and then casually mentioning 傅恒 as well as jealousy of women. The Emperor gets the hint but becomes angry at hearing this. He also heads over to the Empress’s palace who cleverly highlights that ying luo and fu heng’s relationship is bound to be stronger than others because of their relationship with the late Empress but then praises Ying Luo’s behavior in the palace for not having any opportunity to connect with Fu Heng since she arrived. This causes the Emperor to be further agitated because he’s not sure what to think any more while the Empress is mightly pleased that 纯贵妃 has such a foe in the palace.
Just as the rumors are everywhere, Ying Luo runs into Fu Heng in the gardens. But instead of turning back, she agrees to speak with him right then and there with Ming Yu present as well. Fu Heng doesn’t hesitate to bare his heart out and ask why YIng Luo didn’t wait for him and that he has no ability to not think about her. Ying Luo, to her credit, makes it clear to him that since that fateful winter day when Fu Heng and Er Qing came to the palace while she kneeled for hours, she already let her feelings go. And because this conversation was in public, it was overseen by both the Emperor and 纯贵妃 who most certainly guided the Emperor there after her maids saw Ying Luo and Fu Heng speaking in the garden.
With that the tide turns again against YIng Luo. Her maids are bullied in the palace and her favored gardenia flowers were confiscated by the Emperor as potpourri as chambers. Furthermore, a eunuch, 小全子 was captured by YIng Luo and MIng Yu to have been stealing goods from 延禧宫。 Ying Luo lets 小全子 go but notices a peculiar handkerchief that was in the bag of stolen goods. But even though 小全子 was apologetic about stealing the goods, he managed to swipe a hairpin that was then given to an unknown maid outside.
With this overhang that Ying Luo may not be faithful to the Emperor, she manages to seize her opportunity for a turnaround shortly after. Chun Gui Fei escorts the Empress Dowager, the Emperor and several other ladies in the palace to see the Su Zhou market that she set up in front of the palace. It’s a cute little market that 纯贵妃 put together to bring a smile to the Empress Dowager’s face. As the cohort of people walk around to explore the market, they hear a familiar voice and they see none other than 璎珞 at a stall in the market selling different wines. She has taken off her court attire and dressed down to match that of a wine peddling woman to great effect. Both the Emperor and Empress Dowager are pleasantly surprised to see her while 纯贵妃‘s face is hilarious to look at. She is absolutely sour at Ying Luo’s little display which takes the attention off of her. Not only is Ying Luo selling Jiang Nan wines but she also learned a bit of 苏州dialect in order to sell her wares. It’s a fun little scene for Ying Luo and despite the Emperor being rather dismissive of Ying Luo’s little act, he ultimately decides to visit her at yanxi gong that night.
At Yan xi gong, the Emperor stoically drinks tea while Ying Luo takes her chance. She puts her acting skills on display and pretty much recreates exactly what 小嘉嫔, 纯贵妃 and the EMpress said to the Emperor about Ying Luo and Fu Heng earlier this episode in front of the Emperor. Its hilarious because the Emperor at first did not have any idea what was going on and when YIng Luo starts fake crying the little twitches on his face actually made me chuckle. He was like “wtf is she doing”. BUT this little show works because the Emperor decides to let this go as Ying Luo asks him for some more trust between them and the Emperor openly admits that he likes Ying Luo’s type of “bad” woman.
With this roller coaster seemingly subsided, we head back to the Su Zhou market in episode 46 with the Empress Dowager and the rest of the ladies in the palace. 纯贵妃 has helped set it up so that it can actually function as a market and items from the Imperial Household Department that are unneeded can be sold on specific days. But as the Empress DOwager strolls through the market, they see that stolen goods from the Empress Dowager’s palace are being put up for sale. Not only from her palace, goods from Yan Xi Palace and many others were on sale. This greatly angers the Empress Dowager that such theft has happened and does not hesitate to show her displeasure at 纯贵妃 who put this market together and was not careful in vetting where various goods came from. Evidently, this market became an opportunity for those thieving palace maids and eunuchs to make a quick buck.
纯贵妃 suffered a heavy blow today and she knows full well that this was orchestrated by Ying Luo. Indeed, we see that she had told 小全子 to move the pilfered goods from the palace to the market and humiliate 纯贵妃 today. This was Ying Luo’s retaliation against the rumors that 纯贵妃 spread about her and 傅恒。
Speaking of. This poor guy is still being mopey about his non-existent relationship with Ying Luo. Like dude, it’s been years and plus, you were the one to give Ying Luo up! Geez. THere’s melancholy music on the background and he’s fully ignoring Er Qing’s attempts to seduce him which, good for him but he should recognize that there’s absolutely no future between him and YIng Luo. Not only that, I think it needs to be drilled into his head that HE caused this to happen!
Ugh. Anyways, we now turn to the memorial to the late Empress to finally put the whole rumors to rest. Fu Heng arrives at Chang Chun Gon to pay his respects to his late sister. As he’s heading out to meet the Emperor, he is bumped head on by a young eunuch who had a bowl of sacrificial meat in his hands. NOw that his outfit is unclean, he agrees with the nearby maid and the young eunuch who help him clean his outfit before seeing the Emperor. As he is about to leave however, he is called back by Ying Luo who is with Ming Yu at Chang Chun Palace. Ying luo requests him to stay and they have a heartfelt chat. She says that he ought to leave the Capital as he doesn’t fit in the palace while he also acknowledges that it was his mistake for his decisions in the past. But as they’re speaking, 小嘉嫔 arrives with the Emperor and states that the two of them are having a secret amorous rendez vous. The Emperor is furious at the sight while 小嘉嫔 says all manner of nasty things implicating that the two are having an affair. It gets worse when one of YIng Luo’s hairpins fall from Fu Heng’s person evidently planted there by the small eunuch earlier when they cleaned Fu Heng’s outfit. The Emperor at this point is fuming at the scene though he actually doesn’t have too many words to say. But that’s when Ying Luo starts laughing. She laughs that 小嘉嫔‘s acting is too poor and calls for the eunuch 小全子 to come forth. In front of the Emperor, 小全子 reveals that he stole the hairpin by order of 小嘉嫔 in order to create the facade that 璎珞 and 傅恒 were having an affair. This was all a plot by Ying Luo who recognized that because Xiao Quan Zi tried to steal a basic handkerchief, he was most likely trying to creat a fake relationship between her and Fu Heng. Plus, because he was involved in the blackmarket activity at Chun GUi Fei’s Su Zhou market, Ying Luo basically gave him no choice but to come forth in front of the EMperor and come clean.
小嘉嫔 can only cry denying that she was involved but the Emperor has had enough. She is placed under house arrest in her palace and no longer allowed to leave before he storms off. Problem is, just as 小嘉嫔 states, she might no longer be in favor, but Ying Luo’s position in the palace is now in an even more precarious position. After all, the Emperor did just see her and Fu Heng together. NO matter how innocent this encounter was, it will still have a lasting impact on the Emperor.
And that’s where we leave episode 46! We will find out next how YIng Luo again turns the Emperor back in her favor.
This poem was written probably between the years of 836 and 837 by the Tang Dynasty poet 刘禹锡. He lived from 772 to 842. He was a philosopher, scholar, court official, and poet.
Here’s my translation of the full poem
The petals on the flowers in the kingdom of Shu have already fallen but the Gardenias are still blooming
The bright colors are like those of the immortal trees, the fragrance is almost as though it comes from the far Jade Palace
While enjoying these flowers, we needed worry if the branches grow jealous of the petals
If the beauty wants to be praised through song and poems, why wait for the winter plum blossoms to bloom?
越桃:栀子花的别名 – another name for Gardenias
玉京 – represents the palace the Heavenly Emperor lives in.
Next up! Let’s move on to the Su Zhou market that 纯贵妃 so deftly put together and then was promptly overtaken by 魏璎珞. The 苏州 market in the drama took place in the palace. Did you guys catch the one phrase that the Emperor says in the drama?
在万寿寺前，沿御河两岸，专门为太后建一个苏州街 – in front of the Longevity Temple, along the 2 banks of the royal river, I will build a dedicated Su Zhou street for the Empress Dowager.
Well – he did indeed build it!
In 1750, Emperor Qian Long began a project that would cost over 4 million taels of silver to build what was called 清漪园 or Gardens of Clear Ripples for his mother as a sign of filial piety and also for her 60th birthday. This became the precursor of what we now know as 颐和园 or the Summer Palace which is in the western part of Beijing.
The 苏州 Street is situated between 后湖 or the Hou Lake. It’s not really a lake but a river. Along the two banks of the river, a small market that replicates the sound and feel of a Jiang Nan water market that was to be enjoyed for the royal family. The first version of the 苏州 street market was indeed built for the Empress Dowager’s birthday and, according to records, was quite rushed. In the subsequent years, the street market wasn’t really a market to be used by locals but kind of like a tourist attraction for the royal family. There were antique stores, jade stores, silk stores, pastry stores, jewelry stores, you name it. The workers were of course eunuchs and maids who pretended to be the shop owners for the pleasure of the royal family, somewhat similar to what we see in the drama.
Unfortunately much of it was destroyed in 1860 during the second opium war. In 1986, there was an effort from the Chinese government to restore the su zhou market. Today, a stretch of 300 yards of the su zhou market was restored and rebuilt based on records from the 17th century including 60+ store fronts.
I feel like we use the word Stunning to describe several things, be it wardrobe, jewelry etc, the Summer Palace or 颐和园 is truly stunning.It is a UNESCO world heritage site. It thankfully mostly survived the pillaging by the western forces during the opium wars and the grandeur that we see today can rival the most famous palaces found elsewhere in the world. The grounds are massive so it’s tough to visit every part of the park and people usually do a quick sprint around the lake.
I don’t think I’ve ever paid attention to whether or not I’ve been to the Suzhou street market because I typically just climbed up the Longevity Mountain to see the main pagodas. I feel like in recent episodes, we’ve just been calling for all of you to visit China to visit these landmarks. This SUmmer palace is a must see. If you can only visit one, visit this one rather than 圆明园 or the old summer palace.
All different types of wine found in china. They’re typically rice based but for example 菊花 is chrysanthemum wine which uses a mix of chrysanthemum flowers and gluttonous rice and qu to make the wine.
I’ve only had a few of the wines mentioned here including 女儿红 and 竹叶青. I personally prefer lighter wines such as 桂花酒 or Osmanthus Wine and 女儿红. The more famous Chinese wines or liquors such as 白酒 are wayy to intense for me. Let me know if you need any recommendations on Chinese wines or liquors. We’ve actually seen some good varieties in the US.
In the drama, 魏璎珞 speaks in a dialect when she’s selling the wine. It’s supposed to be 苏州话. 苏州dialect – is a variety of 吴 Chinese and spoken by the local population from the city of Su Zhou and its surrounding areas. Su Zhou Hua is one of the oldest dialects in China dating back to more than 3000 years. Thankfully, due to written records, we today can study the linguistic transformations of the language till now. Unfortunately, I am not well versed in the southeastern dialects of China. The dialects found in China range vastly and this is a prime example. The Su Zhou dialect is very different from Mandarin Chinese. For example, in Mandarin, there are only 4 tones, but in Suchounese, there’s 7. What’s interesting, is that the 苏州 dialect is different from the Shanghai Dialect and other cities in the Zhe Jian province. I went down a rabbit hole of finding videos of people reading poems in the su zhou dialect and the shanghai dialect and I kid you not, if it wasn’t for the subtitles, I would not have understood anything the folks said.
Karen – what did you find out about how our voice actor did for this speaking part?
[Karen] – ad lib
In episode 46, we also see the downfall of Imperial Concubine Jia. What’s the story with her historical counterpart? Well – apparently, nothing like the drama!
Lady Jin was born in 1713 to the Jin family who were also of the Bao Yi status. There’s conflicting documents but it’s most likely that she was of chosun or korean descent and a member of the 正黄旗 or Standard Yellow Banner. She married Emperor Qian Long when she was pretty young and when he ascended the throne in 1735, was given the title of Noble Lady Jin. She was then promoted to Imperial Concubine Jia in 1737. She gave birth to the 4th prince 永珹 in 1739. Contrary to what we have in the story, she didn’t die and have her family send her younger sister in to replace her. Instead – she went on to have more children with the Emperor.
Let me give a rough timeline of the main events in her life. In 1741, she was promoted Consort. She gave birth to the 8th Prince 永璇 in 1746. Then 1748, she was promoted to Noble Consort and gave birth to the 9th prince who wasn’t given a name because he died young. In 1752, she gave birth to the 11th prince 永瑆 who went on to become one of the 4 great calligraphers of the Qian Long era . I just the listed 4 sons that she had! That’s ASTONISHING. Unfortunately we don’t see any of these sons mentioned in the drama. She died in 1755 due to illness at the age of 43. A few days later, she was given the posthumus of Imperial Noble Consort 淑嘉皇贵妃
I’m looking at the list of sons the Emperor had and he often had multiple children with the same women. Lady Jin was one of them. So, as we can see, this Lady Jin or in the drama Jia Pin, was definitely favored by Emperor 乾隆 if she was able to have 4 sons. I doubt she would have been as petty in real life if she could garner this much attention from the emperor. Her brother also rose to become Minister of Personnel or 吏部尚书.
During his lifetime, Emperor qianlong actually ordered that Lady Jin’s family temple in Chosun be repaired. Apparently, it was still visible during the 19th century, but due to its location in present day North Korea, we don’t know of its current state.
She was gifted a posthumus title of Imperial Noble Consort 淑嘉皇贵妃. Emperor Qian Long had 5 Imperial Noble Consorts, either in life or death and she was one of them. What’s interesting is that it was Emperor Qian Long’s son, Emperor Jia Qing that rose her entire family from the lower banners of the 包衣 class to the upper banners as the manchu 正黄旗 and gifted the manchu name of 金佳. So we now call her as 金佳 but that was not the case when she was alive.
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