The Story of Yanxi Palace – Ep 66+67pt1



In the last episode, we time jumped to the 30th year of QianLong’s reign. It’s been relatively peaceful in the palace in that it appears Ying Luo and the Empress Nala has left each other alone  and the focus has turned more towards the kids. Ying Luo at this point has had several children including 2 princesses and 2 princes tho only the 15th prince survived. He’s a little dumpling that we haven’t seen on screen yet but we hear that Ying Luo dotes on him quite a bit. The 5th prince who has been raised by Ying Luo is shown to be a capable young man and the favorite son of the Emperor’s.


We start episode 66 with the Emperor leaving the Empress Nala’s residence after hearing her babble on about how Ying Luo needs to better teach her children while the Emperor is also a little offput by whatever crazy Chinese medicine the Empress is eating in order to try to remain youthful.  Sigh – the lengths women go to to remain young. 



That night, the Emperor is staying with Ying Luo and they have a rather hilarious conversation. He’s a little antsy after hearing the Empress Nala’s words and does agree that Ying Luo should send the young 15th prince to school which she has neglected to do for a while. In her heart of hearts, she just wants him to be a happy little prince. I do appreciate that Ying Luo is very clear in what fate her daughters have as princesses. They’ll either be used to marry for an alliance or else to garner favor with a court minister. I think that’s rather refreshing that she’s very clear on this point and wants her daughters to go have fun before they are subjected to their inevitable duties.


The two, the Emperor and Ying Luo,  start bickering like small children and both manage to injure their backs as the fight gets a little rough and it’s hilarious since they’re both showing us that they’re not as young as they once were.



Once the hilarity calms down and the two get back on the bed to nurse their injuries, Ying Luo explains that because the 15th prince was rather feeble from a young age, she just wants him to be happy rather than be the best prince out there. In another rather intriguing line, she admits that her son is not the smartest or the most charismatic of the Emperor’s sons. He has the 5th prince for that. My eyebrows were raised and also rather impressed because guess who ends up being the next Emperor after QianLong? It’s the 15th prince. And he in history was considered just fine. No where near as capable as his father. So for his mother to say this now has quite a lot of foresight. 


In anycase, the key takeaways here is that Ying Luo does not care or has the ambition of making her son the crown prince. She just wants her son to be happy.



In this drama, the story of yanxi palace, the only person in the palace who is stirring up drama between the princes is oddly not Ying Luo, not the Empress or any of the ladies in the palace really. Nope, in this drama, it’s the eunuch Yuan Chun Wang. Also this right here is one of the main contributing reasons for why the Ming dynasty fell. Eunuchs had soo much power in the Ming Dynasty. And also the Tang Dynasty. That’s a total side tangent though.


Anyways. Yuan Chun Wang and Zhen Er, the Empress’s head maid basically goad the 4th prince who was raised by the Empress to lash out against the 5th prince and cause him to lose face at their next shooting competition. He wants to look better in the Empress’s eyes because he’s jealous that she won’t care much for him given she has her own son, the 12th prince.



And the poor 4th prince falls right into Yuan Chun Wang’s trap. He tells his eunuch to do something and the day of the shooting competition arrives. There’s a short back and forth between the 5th prince and the Emperor where they discuss various gun firepower and then the 5th prince opts to show his father the difference between the various guns. He takes a borrowed shotgun, keyword borrowed, and…the moment he fires it, something blows up in the gun and gravely injures his leg. While the atmosphere immediately becomes tense as people rush to help the 5th prince, Yuan Chun Wang is off in the distance with a smirk at the developments.


Poor 5th prince. We’ll talk about him more in the history section of the episode but with this accident, he most likely will never walk properly again. The doctor and even Fu Heng said that this type of accident is not uncommon for there to be an accidental discharge of a gun and many people have actually died from these types of accidents so the fact that the 5th prince is still alive is extremely lucky.



Ying Luo is obviously upset that this happened to the 5th prince but she has a hunch which she shares with Fu Heng that this was no accident. He’s been practicing for months. Why would he suddenly get injured? Today?  But the kind and understanding 5th prince privately tells Ying Luo that even though he may know it wasn’t an accident, he wants to believe it’s just an accident. This injury, while not fatal, has just cut off his hopes of being crown prince because there cannot be a “lame” Emperor on the throne. He is saddened by this but he is also considering what his father, the Emperor is feeling. Today, the Emperor essentially lost a son or at least his most prized heir to the throne. The most likely culprit is another prince and if the 5th prince continued to seek the truth, there would be 2 princes lost due to today’s accident.


The Emperor, in his palace, is trying to distract himself from what happened earlier that day. The Empress Nala tries to persuade him to not be as upset but her words that it’s unfortunate the 5th prince was punished by the gods in this way yaddy yadda yada actually angers the Emperor even further. He clearly suspects that she was behind this accident.  



Meanwhile, the 4th prince is feeling pretty antsy at the moment because the Emperor has required all princes stay inside the palace walls. To make matters even worse, Zhen Er arrives with food for the 4th prince supposedly from the Empress. But before the 4th prince takes a bite, Zhen Er immediately feigns being distraught and “spills the beans” to the 4th prince that the food has poison! The Empress wants to kill the 4th prince!


He is freaking out now as the Emperor hears from Fu Heng that the 4th prince’s eunuch was in the storage facility where the guns were being held for quite some time. It was shortly after that that the 5th prince’s original gun was damanged thus forcing him to use a borrowed one, leading to today’s accident. 


Right as the Emperor hears this, the 4th prince bursts over to his residence and screams for protection. The Empress Nala has also arrived with Yuan Chun Wang in tow looking very smug. Sadly, the Empress and the 4th prince start verbally attacking each other as the 4th prince accuses the Empress of trying to poison her while the Empress denies any involvement. The poisoned food? Nope, no poison at all. Even Zhen’er’s visit is glossed away by Yuan Chun Wang who says she’s been ill. How could she go to the 4th prince’s residence?


To make matters worse, the 4th prince does admit that he told his eunuch to damage the 5th prince’s original gun. Seeing that he’s being framed, he starts screaming and crying about how he’s just trying to be more impressive in his parents eyes, especially the Empress who he sees as his birth mother. It’s quite a sad sight but not an uncommon one. And sadly, the Empress Nala is completely in the dark as to why the 4th prince would lash out in this way. It’s evident that she is saddened by his “betrayal” but because he ultimately is not her birth son, she doesn’t really stand up for him.


The Emperor orders the 4th prince to be imprisoned in the Imperial Clan Court for further questioning while he instructs Fu Heng to speak with him privately. I dont’ think the Emperor truly believes it was the 4th prince who did this but as the Emperor states, it’s clear that the 4th prince is not a righteous person. The Emperor instead laments the fact that he now lost 2 sons in one fell swoop. 


We end the episode recap in the middle of episode 67 with the Emperor naming the 5th prince 荣亲王 or The Prince of Rong with the title of Prince of the 1st rank, a high honor. The Empress Nala is furious at the 4th prince’s actions but cannot do anything to change this so she decides to fall ill while Yuan Chun Wang is over there being an awful human being, playing the Empress like a fiddle. 




Let’s talk history!


The first  bit is actually kind of a throwaway line that the Empress mentions in the beginning of episode 66 about the 紫河车. This was different from the deer fetus soup / ointment that was mentioned at the end of episode 65. Well – after a quick google search 紫河车 is basically Human placentophagy, or the consumption of human placenta. The consumption of placenta has been recorded in Chinese history since at least the 16th century in  Compendium of Materia Medica or 本草纲目. There aren’t really any reputable scientific studies to prove medical benefits but in Chinese culture, it is believed that the consumption of placenta will treat weakness of the body and anemia. 


Oof – didn’t really need to know that but some interesting medical history.



Now onto firearms history. 


In the episode, there’s a lengthy discussion that the 5th prince has with the Emperor about the benefits of the flintlock guns over the musket. Later, the 5th prince gets into an accident shooting a musket. Let’s briefly discuss firearms during the Qing Dynasty. 


In the early years of the 17th century, the Manchus learned from the Ming dynasty to use cannons in battle and essentially defeated the Ming Dynasty using a combination of cannons and an unparalleled calvary. By then, muskets were introduced and used for warfare while flintlock guns or pistols were gifted from the west to the Qing Emperors but not widely used in the military. 


In the 100+ years since the defeat of the Ming Dynasty, the Qing troops continued to use firearms but it really depended on the types of campaigns and battles that really determined the use of firearms. 


 One of the biggest headaches for Emperor Qian Long, his father Emperor Yong Zheng, and his grandfather Emperor Kang Xi was the Dzungar Khanate. They collectively spent 70 years trying to win the war. 


During the reigns of Emperor Yong Zheng and Emperor Qian Long, and I talked about this in episode 59 and 60, the Qing army began using Zamburak guns loaded on camels in those battles. Zamburak guns were favored due to their range and lethality. Muskets on the other hand had a shorter range and weren’t as usable. So the Qing used a combination. During the campaigns, the Zamburak guns were first used, and then muskets, and then arrows, and then weapon combat. When able, the cavalry would swoop in to fight too.


The Dzungars were a nomadic group so heavy cannons and muskets weren’t very useful against them. That’s why Zamburak guns, traditional fighting, and the cavalry were favored. During these campaigns, muskets and quite frankly flintlock firearms contributed very little to the success of the battles because well, they just weren’t very helpful against the enemy. The Qing thought, hey the Zamburak + calvary combo was great so let’s keep this strategy then. 


In the subsequent campaigns that Emperor Qian Long had during his reign, this strategy essentially worked or else the opposing forces had weak enough firearms where the Qing saw no need to innovate their own firearms or strategy. The neighboring east asian kingdoms were no match for the Qing might. However, that all changed by the time of the First opium war in the 19th century where the Qing finally got a wake up call in how far behind they fell. But by that time, it was too late. The qing were out gunned and outpowered by the western powers. 



Ok – moving on to the 2 princes of the drama. 


The 5th prince gets injured and the Emperor grants him the title of the Prince of Rong or 和硕荣亲王. This title was Prince of the First rank. The 5th prince, 永琪 was only 1 of 3 of Qian Long’s son’s to be granted a Prince of the First rank while the prince was alive. 永琪 was also the youngest to be granted this title. 


In history, in 1763, there was a great fire that burned in the old summer palace or 圆明园. The 5th prince, then only 22 rushed in to save the Emperor 乾隆 from the flames, carrying his father on his back and rushing out. This deeply affected Emperor 乾隆. The promotion of a member of the royal family occurred only every 5 years, so Emperor 乾隆 waited until the first opportunity and in 1765, promoted the 5th prince 永琪 to 和硕荣亲王. 荣 – in chinese means glory. 


In history, 永琪 was one of Emperor qianlong’s standout sons. He was an excellent student in all of the gentlemanly arts, was fluent in several languages, and a great calligrapher. These certainly did help with his promotion. 


In the history, he wasn’t injured by a firearm but yes – he did have a life threatening injury. In history, he fell ill with Osteomyelitis or a bone infection. According to records, he most had this condition when he was promoted to Prince of the First rank. This probably also factored into Emperor Qianlong’s decision to promote him so young, in hopes of curing the young man.



Lastly – we’ll touch up on the 4th Prince – 永珹. At this point in the story, he is 26. 


He was born in 1739 and married in 1754. in 1763, he was actually pushed to inherit the title of 和硕履lǚ懿亲王 as a 履郡王. So he held the title of Prince of the 2nd rank. The original title holder was the 12th prince under Emperor Kang Xi, so 永珹 was essentially inheriting the title from a great-uncle. This also meant that he was out of the running for inheriting the throne of the Empire. The original prince had no living sons who were alive at that time to inherit when he died in 1763, which is why this 4th prince inherited that title. 


As to the 4th prince, there’s not too much more to write about. He performed with his brothers in 1771 during the Empress Dowager’s 80th birthday. He himself died in 1777 at the age of 38.



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