The Story of Yanxi Palace – Ep 54


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 episode 54 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.




We are finally at one of THE most satisfying episodes in the entire drama. Wooo. So excited. 


In the last episode, the Empress Nala successfully got her way in having the silkworm ceremony take place which will allow her to preside over it. This was crucial for her to retain her power and status as Empress, or so she thinks. This, however, pisses off the Empress Dowager who was not so eager for this ceremony to take place.


As we described last episode, the silkworm ceremony is rather extravagant and ladies of the aristocracy and of court officials are all included in the ceremony. But before we get to the actual event, let’s turn back to what’s happening in palace. 


Ying Luo’s maids 明玉 and 珍珠 happen upon their old colleague 琥珀 who had been sentenced to kneel for several hours after upsetting 舒嫔 in the earlier episode. 琥珀 used to all work with 明玉 and 珍珠 under the late Empress Fu Ca but has since been demoted to Xin Zhe Ku.  琥珀 passes out in front of these two ladies and they bring her back to 延禧宫 to recover. 璎珞 is not pleased to see 琥珀 who had disrespected her in the past which is why she was banished but 琥珀 pleads for forgiveness and trades valuable information to ensure it.


That is when, 琥珀 reveals that on the night the late Empress fuca died, 琥珀 overheard 尔晴 having a conversation with the late Empress. It was that day that 尔晴, with fake tears, reveals that the Emperor kept her over the night of the 2nd princes memorial.  What’s worse is that at this critical juncture, Er Qing also reveals that she is pregnant with the Emperor’s child. Honestly I’m just pissed watching this scene because we all know Er Qing orchestrated all of this, even ate medicine to make it easier to get pregnant. And for her to tell the Empress right now in her weakened state? It’s utterly despicable. The despair on the Empress’s face when she saw this as two people closest to her betrayed her. It’s telling that the Empress’s last words to Er Qing was that she is to never step foot in the palace again. Does she listen? No. Not at all.



Thank god we have Ying Luo. She is shaking with anger at hearing 琥珀 recount this story. She now recognizes that it was ultimately 尔晴 who pushed the late Empress to utter despair and take that final step to end her life. There is no way Ying Luo is going to let this go easily. Her anger though is not only towards Er Qing, but the Emperor as well. She smashes all of the food that 李玉 brought for Ying Luo from the Emperor because she cannot stand the hurt that he inflicted upon her beloved late Empress.


The day of the silkworm ceremony arrives. 尔晴 takes this as her opportunity to plead to the Emperor of her treatment in the 富察household by 傅恒. She thinks her tears will at least put some pressure on the Emperor to help her given that they share a child. He hears her comments, a little frustrated, and allows her to leave.  She is then immediately led, well technically abducted, to meet Ying Luo who is patiently waiting for her in the late Empress’s palace.


Er Qing recognizes this is not in her best interest to stay and tries to leave but her exit is blocked.  In front of a memorial for the late Empress Fu Ca, Ming Yu exchanges barbs with her and questioning how she could do this to her old master. Finally, Er Qing lets out her frustration. She could not stand suddenly losing her favor after Ying Luo arrived. She could not stand that the Empress did not help her secure a marriage with Fu Heng. And so she has to retaliate. She has to take her revenge. What better blow would it be to tell the Empress she is pregnant with the Emperor’s child immediately after the death of her son? Man, this woman is absolutely despicable and essentially maniacal. I do appreciate Ying Luo’s words of don’t try to find excuses for your despicable deeds. 尔晴 is trying to play the victim after “suffering’ in the palace when in reality, it was she who made all of these choices time and again. 



Without further ado, Ying Luo like a total boss, presents Er Qing with a few options of how she wants to die. Er Qing is shocked that Ying Luo would dare to kill her given her status as Fu Heng’s wife but Ying Luo does not care one iota. Next thing we know, the Emperor who had heard that Ying Luo and Er Qing had not been present for the silkworm ceremony hurriedly arrives on the scene only to see Er Qing’s body slumped on the ground. 


He is absolutely furious to see Ying Luo act so rashly without thought of consequence. She calmly tells him that it was Er Qing who told the late Empress of her liaison with the Emperor the night the late Empress died. That’s why Er Qing must die. In that moment, the Emperor’s expression shifts immediately and understands in an instant why Ying Luo did what she did. 


He isn’t given much time to explain what happened before the Empress Nala bursts in. She is “shocked“ to see Er Qing’s body and gives a quizzacle look to the room. The Emperor steps in and just says that Er Qing was overcome with grief and decided to follow her late master, evidently trying to protect Ying Luo. The Empress isn’t fully convinced but instantly helps put together a plan to make Er Qing’s death more plausible. The Emperor also claims that Ying Luo is sick before storming off.



With just the two main ladies left, the Empress praises Ying Luo for her swift and decisive action against Er Qing. But, Ying Luo is recognizing what a formidable foe the Empress is because she was not at all surprised to hear that Er Qing was another woman of the Emperor’s. Given that, it would seem that Hu Po’s presence in front of Ying Luo was all orchestrated by the Empress so that Ying luo would act the way she does. The ultimate goal? Removing Ying Luo from the Emperor’s favor. 


And it seems to have worked for now. But does Ying Luo care? No. She finally enacted revenge against everyone who caused the late Empress Fu Cha’s death. That was her whole purpose in coming to the palace. Now that she has completed her goal, she is not worried about the consequences.



Behind the scenes


Cut – ming yu was the one who actually killed 尔晴.


One important scene here that was cut was Er Qing’s actual death. Ming Yu was the one who forced Er Qing to drink the poison which is why the dialogue in the espide is all about Ming Yu killing Er Qing. The drama cut that out and all we see is Er Qing already dead on the ground. 


Next up, there’s also some rumors that scenes were cut between Er Qing and Fu Heng’s brother who seemingly had a crush on Er Qingk. There’s a couple of rumors that the two of them had an affair based on preliminary cuts of the drama but that storyline was ultimately cut out. This is why in some scenes Fu Heng’s brother was quick to come to Er Qing’s aid but nothing came of it. 

Fu heng wife


We finally say goodbye to the despicable, selfish, and crazy 尔晴. I remember when I first watched the show, I was like – was that how bad she really was in history? So down the rabbit hole I went and let’s just say the show dramatizes everything about 傅恒’s wife. 


First up, born in 1722年-1793, fu heng’s wife did not come from the 喜塔拉 or Hitara clan but from the Yehenara or 叶赫那拉 clan. So, I’ll call her Lady Yehenara. Unfortunately, we do not have a full name found in the records. Quite frankly, there’s little in the official records about Lady Yehanara. Her family was not from the baoyi class, but rather the exact opposite. Lady Yehenara’s father was the grandson of a very famous minister 纳兰明珠, who served three reigns. Her mother came from the 瓜尔佳 clan.These two clans both comprise of the big 8 manchu families so we can see Lady Yuhenara’s lineage and pedigree was top notch. 



The Yehenara clan was able to boast having several women in the imperial harem throughout the dynasty including Empresses, so Lady Yehenara grew up trained as a proper lady, learning the arts of zither, go, calligraphy, and drawing. She also was a beauty. There were rumors or folk sayings that she was the most beautiful manchu woman for a time. Think probably of 沈眉庄 from Empresses in the Palace. It probably wasn’t a stretch to say that the Yehenara clan probably wanted her to also enter into the palace. 


However, Emperor Qian Long showed no interest in growing the power of the Yehenara clan and honestly the power of other notable manchu families so he stopped the selection for a time. Even though there was one yehanara woman who entered the palace during qian long’s reign, namely 舒fei, who we don’t really see much in the drama. The Yehenara clan then turned their attention towards making a good match with other prominent families in the capital and that’s how they selected 富察傅恒. 



Lady Yehenara was a lucky woman, much luckier than 尔晴 in this drama. 富察傅恒 only married her and there’s no record of him taking any other concubine after their marriage. That was extremely rare for men in Imperial china. So there must be something going right in the marriage. 


The two had 6, yes 6 children! 4 sons and 2 daughters. 

福灵安(?-1767) 多罗额驸,正白旗满洲副都统,署云南永北镇总兵





Ok – I’m also reading that 傅恒 did have one concubine, who was the birth mother of 福长安 but that also doesn’t see corroborated. Anyways – let’s just say he didn’t have many women in his life. 


We don’t know the names of his daughters but we do know that one married the 10th prince of Qian Long 永瑆 and the other, married 睿恭亲王淳颖 a descendent of 多铎.


Lady Yehenara was granted the title of Duchess of the First Rank or 一品夫人 due to the accomplishments of her husband. 



All seems fine and square right?


So then what about the story of sleeping with the Emperor and having a son by the Emperor, who we have as 福康安 in this drama?


Well – over the centuries, there has been plenty and I mean plenty of rumors of 福康安 parentage. 


A lot of these rumors, stories, folk tales began flourishing after the fall of the Qing Dynasty in 1912. Books were printed during this time that include rather pointed stories in their accusations or suspicions that 福康安 might be the illegitimate child of the Emperor and Fu Heng’s wife. 


In a novel compiled by 吴士鉴 Wu Shijiàn所撰的《清宫词》。书中有诗云[参3]:




This basically means – when Fu HEng’s wife went to visit Empress Fu Cha, she slept with the Emperor and gave birth to Fu Kang An. Multiple stories published in 1916, 1919 and beyond all printed various versions of this story. Some wrote that the date happened during the Empress’s birthday. Another said, the Empress got into an argument with the Emperor on this matter, hence why she died in 1748. That one I can’t get behind because well, 福康安 was born in 1754. THe Empress died in 1748 so don’t know how to square that timeline away. 



What’s also hilarious is that in a lot of these stories, Fu Heng’s wife’s last name also changes. It goes from Nara to 孙佳 to 佟佳 or 董额 which are pretty random. This storyline was picked up as plot points for various writers well into the later part of the 20th century. Including the famed Wuxia writer, 金庸 who made 福康安 a major character several of his books set in the Qing Dynasty and went with the rumor that he was the Emperor’s illegitimate son. I remember reading those books when I was younger so I was well versed with this rumor. 


Most historians view this as simply speculation. Why the speculation, well because, in life, the favor that 福康安 received from Emperor 乾隆 was well beyond that of any normal official. From a relations perspective, Emperor 乾隆 is 福康安’s uncle. So let’s remind everyone of this. 


福康安 in history was a well respected general and court official. He is one of the few men during the Qing Dynasty to be granted the title of 王 or Prince who was not a royal. In life, he was gifted the title of 贝子 or Prince of the Fourth Rank and after he died, was given the title of 嘉勇郡王 or Prince of the Second Rank



What’s also curious is that Fu heng’s other sons were able to marry 乾隆’s daughters or marry royal princesses so why not 福康安? These two points above led storytellers to go wild with speculation.  


Honestly though, these can be easily explained. 福康安 basically grew up in the Imperial Palace with 乾隆’s own sons. Emperor qian long, still remember is late wife, favored Fu heng and his sons. Thankfully, they all lived up to his expectations. 福康安 also looked shocking like the Emperor’s second son 永琏. The boy of course died young and was the first son of the Empress. So, the Emperor, naturally favored 福康安. Another point, Emperor qianlong wanted to confer the prince title to 傅恒 but he adamantly refused, so the Emperor decided to confer it to 福康安. 福康安, by himself rightly earned his prince title because he contributed greatly on the battlefield and for the Empire.


As to him not marrying a princess, there wasn’t any princess available of eligible age when he came of age so who was he to marry? 


In dramas, the most famous is perhaps 福尔康 from 还珠格格 or Pearl Princess


The portrait of the Empress is a well known piece that was painted by court painters when the Empress turned 24 and became Empress. She is in her formal court attire. I believe it was painted by Giuseppe Castiglione, one of his many works of the ladies of imperial harem. The painting is currently housed in the palace museum in beijing.


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