The Story of Yanxi Palace – Ep 49: Off to Respective Battles


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


Today we are discussing the end of episode 48+all of 49 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.



尔晴 really is a nasty piece of work. She cannot change her ways despite all of her assurances to Fu Heng and she ends up wrongly accusing 傅恒“s maid 青莲 of pushing 尔晴’s son, 福康安 into a pond. In reality, 青莲 was the one to save the boy when he jumped into the pond to grab a toy. 


Fu Heng only hears from 尔晴 that Qing Lian was let go from the household who agrees to give her a handsome dowry now that she’s out of the house. Fu Heng doesn’t protest and walks away while I’m seething at the fake smile 尔晴 has on her face. 


Sadly, out in the streets, Fu Heng sees a young woman being brutally attacked by two men only to find that it is Qing Lian. Turns out, 尔晴 had sent Qing Lian off to be married but instead led her into a brothel. The young woman couldn’t handle the humiliation and would constantly run away but then would be beaten heavily for her actions. Sadly, after being rescued by Fu Heng and commits suicide.  



On her deathbed, she lets it be known that she loves Fu Heng and that she hates Er Qing for what she’s done. But even on her deathbed, Fu Heng does not agree to her request that maybe in the next life, they can have a future together. Ah, such a romantic. Qing Lian implores Fu Heng to not cling onto the past for a relationship that can never happen and passes away.


As if this tragedy was not infuriating enough, when Fu Heng serves divorce papers to 尔晴 she just scoffs. Her attitude when Fu Heng says he knows the truth is one of uncaring. She doesn’t see anything wrong with what she did to Qing Lian. God the restraint Fu Heng showed in front of her is commendable. She even rips up the divorce papers. 


Fu Heng’s mother and 3rd brother arrive to try to protect Er Qing who even hits her head to “try” to kill herself. But it’s all a show. I feel bad for him man, he cannot win. He is so checked out with this crazy woman and orders her to live at a buddhist temple forever to repent for her sins. UGH. 



The rest of this episode is way less infuriating. We return to the palace. Ying Luo, now Consort Ling, forcefully calls for the Emperor to eat because it’s quite clear that he is frustrated with matters at court. During the meal, Ying Luo maintains her style as a jokester and sits herself down while the Emperor eats which is most definitely out of decorum. As we’ve seen in prior episodes, when the Emperor eats, even the Empress must stand next to him and watch. There is good banter back and forth and the Emperor finally opens up about why he has been frustrated. The western war front is not doing well and when asked who at court is willing to step up to fight for the Qing empire, the only person brave enough to volunteer is Fu Heng. 


Despite knowing this is not acceptable for a woman in the imperial harem to discuss court matters, Ying Luo gives her thoughts on why Fu Heng should be sent to the front lines. It’s where he thrives and what the late Empress would have wanted. 


Indeed after that one meal, the next day, Fu Heng and Hai Lan Cha discuss how it’s possible the Emperor would finally agree to Fu Heng’s request. At that moment, YIng Luo’s litter procession walks by Fu Heng and Hai Lan Cha. Ying Luo gives Fu Heng the faintest of nods before looking onwards and Fu Heng knows that it was she who helped persuade the Emperor. 




With Fu Heng now off to the front lines, it’s time to turn back to palace tactics. The Emperor wants to invite YIng Luo to go hunting but before that teach her how to ride. This is a great honor and should be a fun experience. But, Ying Luo has the wheels turning in her little head and lets it be known she’s going on this little excursion. 


Why would she do that? Why of course, it’s to force those who want her out of the way to strike. And sure enough, we see 纯贵妃 and 愉妃 talking. 纯贵妃 gifts 愉妃 a prized ginseng for the 5th prince who is currently ill. After 愉妃 accepts, 纯妃’s maid asks whether or not Yu Fei knows that Ying Luo is going riding the next day. 纯妃 just says don’t disappoint me to Yu Fei and then walks away without any further instructions.


Well the time has come for Ying Luo to learn to ride, It’s quite funny as she has no idea what she’s doing. I’m thoroughly enjoying this little scene because hey guess what 聂远 the actor for the Emperor can actually ride! This shouldn’t surprise anyone because he’s been in dramas on horseback for 20 plus years. After some banter back and forth where YIng Luo is struggling to stay upright, the Emperor instructs the tame horse he asked for be given to Ying Luo to ride. IN the meantime, he hears of the latest military updates from 海兰察. But just as Ying luo is getting started on her new horse, the horse starts bucking her around and actually throws her off. She goes flying in the air. Luckily the Emperor jumps forward and helps catch her fall but not without injury on both sides.



Back at 延禧宫, the doctors diagnose her with an arm fracture as she is currently out cold. The Emperor instructs everyone in the palace to care for YIng Luo but sadly he has to run off to do his own work. It is in these moments where once again I am impressed with the work ethic of this Emperor. He does a full day of work, hearing all sorts of updates from his court ministers only for 李玉 to find out at the end of the day that the Emperor was sporting a nasty wound as well on his arm. We close out the episode recap with the Emperor stating he doesn’t want to cause further distress to yanxi palace by calling for doctors which shows his care for 璎珞. 


The only other major thing to call out here is that 璎珞 asked for her adoptive brother 袁春望 to join her in 延禧gong. He was extremely upset at being ditched back at 圆明园 which is understandable and was even violent to 小全子 who came with gifts and money to ask 袁春望. In any case, this anger will come back to bite Ying Luo.


Screaming with bulging eyes. I also thought this acting was a bit over the top. Fans of the show basically dismissed the actresses acting skills because of her performance in scenes such as this, which is unfortunate. Yes, her acting is not up to the level of Charmaine Sheh, but the amount of vitriol she got shortly after this drama aired was undeserved.





Let’s discuss the history that we see! 


后妃不能与皇上进餐 – first is of course, a refresher that the women in the Imperial Harem cannot eat at the same table as the Emperor. We talked about this in episode 17, but have a more concrete example here and some more information on this specific custom. 


In this episode, we see that the Emperor is seated by himself for meals and poor Li Yu almost has a heart attack when 魏璎珞 plops herself down to eat with the Emperor. 


Let’s give some more data on this subject and the overall apparatus of the kitchen.


By 1750, the Imperial Kitchens has an inner kitchen 内膳房 and an outer kitchen. For the inner kitchen, there’s the meat department, vegetable department, grains department, pastries department etc. They manage the meals and food for the Emperor and the Imperial Harem. The outer kitchen or 外膳房 focused on managing the meals for the Ministers and Imperial Guards. 


Each person in the Palace from the EMperor, to the ladies in the imperial harem, to the princes and princesses, all had recorded notes on how much food was to be allocated to each person, according to his or her rank. I’m going to use the word Catty a lot – in Mandarin that’s a 斤 which is roughly around half a kilogram.


The Emperor, of course, had the most lavish of meals and was allocated the most amount of food. This included -> 5 catties of meat for soup, 22 catties of platted meat, 2 goats, 1 catty of lard, 5 chickens, 3 ducks, 19 catties of greens including cabbage, cilantro, spinach, celery. Various types of carrots, turnips, winter melons etc. 6 catties of onions. Sauces included 2 catties of vinegar, 3 catties of sauce. 8 plates of 饽饽, which are basically like buns. Then there’s also the milk and tea allotments. This was just his DAILY allowance. 


It drops significantly for each subsequent level in the harem. At the level of Noble Consort or 贵妃, the daily allotment is 3 catties and 8 liang of meats and vegetables. Platted meats is 6 catties. Each month – they’re allowed 7 chickens and ducks. 


For the Consort or Fei – that drops to 3 catties of meats and vegetables, 6 catties of platted meats and only 5 chickens and ducks per month. 


There was also the allotment for various vegetables, sauces, lard, milk, and of course tea. I find it hilarious that the tea allotment for the emperor was a whopping 75 bags while for the lower ranked concubines, it could be only 5 bags. 


When the Emperor ate – he will always be facing south. This is of course to reflect himself as head of the table. When eating, no one was allowed to persuade the Emperor of eating one particular dish. That’s why in this episode, when 魏璎珞 did this, Li Yu was so aghast. We also saw that YIng Luo kept around a few dishes to eat when the emperor was done because, 


As a refresher, for 清dynasty Emperors, they can only eat 3 bites of any one dish. This was of course to prevent poisoning. Even if the Emperor really enjoyed the dish, tough luck because 3 bites is all he was going to get. It would then go back into rotation and not be served for some time. The eunuch would also be the one to place small amounts on the Emperor’s dish. There’s records with regards to Empress Dowager Cixi that no one knew what she liked because she still followed this rule in the late 19th century.


There were typically between 15-25 dishes for each meal with at least 8 main dishes and 4 smaller dishes and then you add up hotpot, congee, and soup. We don’t see any hot pot right at this table, but as I mentioned for episode 30 + 31, our Emperor Qian Long loved hotpot. 



Next – let’s turn our attention to military matters and war.


The reason why Wei Ying Luo had to console the Emperor is because of dire news from the front. Here’s where it becomes very murky history wise because the screenwriter merges several events together. 


In 1754, Emperor Qian Long, who saw an opportunity to conquer the Dzungars, wanted to send the military out west to conquer this long troublesome region. However, due to the Qing Dynasty’s historical difficulties, or defeats, in this region dating back all the way to the late 17th century, Qian Long’s court officials were very hesitant on giving their support on this war effort. Fu Heng was indeed the only one who supported Emperor Qian Long in this endeavor. Based on my research – he was instrumental in rallying the Grand Council or 军机处 in on supplying intel to the Emperor and supporting the logistics of the war, including securing funds and food. However, I did not read that he actually fought in any of the battles. 


By 1755, this was the final conquest of the Dzungars. The general who led the Qing forces was a man called 乌雅·兆惠 or 兆 惠. Here’s a prime example of wikipedia falling short because there isn’t even an entry for this general!


Born in 1708, 兆惠 came from the Manchu Standard Yellow Banner and was the grandson of Emperor Yong Zheng’s mother. He is credited as the man who brought the modern day regions of XinJiang under Qing rule, defeated the Dzungar Khanate, and defeated the Revolt of the Altishahr Khojas. That also credits him with one the largest land expansions for any Chinese empire in history. 


In 1755, Qianlong sent the Manchu general Zhaohui to lead a campaign against the Dzungars. Amursana was a prince of the Khoit-Oirat tribe, and after a betrayal from his longtime ally Dawachi, swore allegiance to Emperor Qian Long. He joined Zhaohui’s forces. The Qing army, led by Zhaohui, reached Ili in 1755 and forced Dawachi to surrender. Qianlong appointed Amursana as the Khan of Khoid and one of four equal khans.


Shortly after, Amursana rebelled against Qing authority after rallying the majority of the remaining Oirats. It was once again General Zhaohui who defeated these remaining forces and Amursana died in Russia after fleeing there. 


Then we turn to the Campaign in Altishahr or the Revolt of the Altishahr Khojas, in Chinese, it’s known as the 大小和卓之亂. 


In 1757, two Altishahr nobles, the Khoja brothers Burhān al-Dīn and Khwāja-i Jahān or Hojijan, started a revolt against the Qing dynasty in the southern part of modern day Xinjiang. Emperor Qian Long ordered General Zhaohui to turn his attention towards this rebellion.


In 1758, Zhaohui marched south from Ili. He was unsuccessful in recovering the fortresses at yarkland and Kashgar and was forced to retreat. He set up camp near the Black River – hence why his camp was called black river camp or 黑水营.


Zhaohui did try several times to attack the two fortresses but were unsuccessful. On one attempt, he tried to lure the rebels out of Yarkland, but upon reaching a bridge with his forces, the bridge broke. The rebels, with 5000 cavalry and 10k infantry took their chance. Zhaohui and his forces fled back to the black river camp and were surrounded. Emperor Qian Long sent reinforcements but were stopped by the rebels. 


The siege at the Black River Camp lasted for several months, including the dead of winter. Supplies were running short. It was a desperate time. In several clever and lucky moves though, the Qing forces were able to gather ammunition from the rebels when they shot into the forest, plucking bullets and arrows from the trees. The Qing forces also were able to find previously hidden caches of supplies when digging down for more water in their wells. 


Out west, another tribe began looting a Kashgar city at the same time Qing forces from the black water camp burned two Altishahr camps. Hojijan thought that this was a calculated effort amongst the two forces and temporarily turned his attention to the other tribe. The Qing reinforcements seized the opportunity in the early months of 1759, and with a force of 3000 strong, came to the rescue. General Arigun also led an infantry of 600, calvary of 2000, and 1000 camels to fight against the Khojas. The rescue was a success.


In history, Fu Heng was not present during these battles, so his departure was mainly for dramatic purposes. The general we should be talking about though is Zhaohui. He unfortunately is not very famous in Chinese general but should be.




That is it for this podcast episode!


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We will catch you all in the next episode!

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