[Cathy]

Welcome back to Chasing Dramas! This is the podcast that explores Chinese history and culture through historical Chinese dramas. This is Karen and Cathy here discussing Episode 25 of 后宫甄嬛传! 

[Karen]

This episode is quite action packed, especially in the second episode. We have a flower viewing party that ends with a miscarriage but also another pregnancy announcement. We see 皇后’s true face. This podcast episode is going to be a little different. We’ll of course discuss the plot and analysis on some of the texts/themes but we’ll also freely discuss the characters and the drama thus far. That section will be full of spoilers so if you haven’t watched the drama and don’t want things spoiled for you, we’ll let you know when to duck out.

[Cathy]

The first half of the episode is pretty simple. 华妃 is getting a check up from one of her imperial doctors and she is asking when she’ll become pregnant. He says that she has nothing to worry about. 

富察贵人 is pregnant, as we found out two episodes ago.  She is lauding this fact over everyone, even during the daily court greetings with 皇后, the empress and the other ladies. She is gifted intricately made make up by the emperor and the make up was specifically made to not include certain scents like musk scent which is not very good for pregnant women and instead, uses other scents that are safe. 富察贵人 is of course very pleased.

Elsewhere in the palace, 甄嬛’s friend 沈眉庄 is recovering from her bout with the plague. She is being treated by 甄嬛’s other friend, the imperial doctor 温实初。 He is very attentive and 沈眉庄is looking much better. He questions, though, how it’s possible for 沈眉庄 to have contracted the disease when it first originated in the city and then directly after it popped up at 华妃’s palace. It’s odd for the disease to then end up at 沈眉庄’s place when she is already isolated from most people. They deduce, accurately,  that 华妃 purposefully infected 沈眉庄 in order to get rid of her. 沈眉庄is livid but of course, there isn’t a whole lot they can do at this point.

[Karen]

Here is where the fun starts.

The last couple of episodes, we have been discussing how 安陵容 has been drifting farther and farther away from 甄嬛。 It’s looking like she’s beginning to side with 皇后. Well 皇后 continues to show who is the master manipulator in 后宫, the imperial harem. 安陵容 is at 皇后’s palace. She’s been spending more and more time there. 安陵容 gifts a perfume sachet to 皇后 but 皇后 says that she does not use perfume so doesn’t accept the gift. 安陵容 apologizes for not being perceptive of this fact but 皇后 isn’t angry. She instead says that it isn’t that she doesn’t like perfume, but if some of the fragrances are not used adequately, they can hurt one’s health. She then says that since you understand perfume and fragrances, then you know what terrible things can happen when not used properly. 

Cue 皇后’s cat 松子 who makes an appearance. You’ll recall that this cat was introduced quite a few episodes ago and 甄嬛 does not like cats. 皇后 casually says that it’s spring time and other cats during spring time meow because it’s courting/mating season. Her cat, however, likes to jump on things.

安陵容 doesn’t skip a beat and says that cats are not easy to tame during this period in the spring but they like smelling certain smells and CAN be tamed after smelling something for a while. She says she’ll go back to her palace and develop a fragrance that will help tame 松子, the cat.

皇后is very pleased and says that the flowers of her palace have all blossomed. She wishes to invite the ladies of the imperial harem to enjoy the spring view.

[Cathy]

OKAY… What just happened here. This seemed innocent enough right? The first couple of times I watched this I did not fully understand the implications. Because, what happens next? 

Essentially, 皇后 invites all of the ladies of the harem to view the flowers that have bloomed in her palace. Inevitably, whenever you have all the ladies together, drama ensues. 华妃 says some pretty rude things to 皇后 but 皇后 is ultimately saved by 甄嬛. However, as the ladies are viewing the blossoms, 安陵容 baits the cat with some fragrance that had she developed. This causes the cat to leap onto the pregnant 富察贵人, specifically her stomach. Everything gets thrown into chaos. Someone pushes 甄嬛 forward into 富察贵人 but 甄嬛 is also scratched pretty badly in the neck by the cat.

[Karen]

富察贵人 takes a very hard fall and is in a lot of pain. Everyone is scrambling because she has lost a lot of color and doesn’t look well. They call for doctors and the result…unfortunately is that she has a miscarriage. This craziness even causes the empress dowager, someone as we’ve said previously who doesn’t bother much with affairs of the imperial harem, to come rushing into see what happened and whether or not the baby can be saved. She’s sad that it seems she has lost another grandchild. 

甄嬛 who was pushed into the crowd by someone (probably the devious 曹贵人) is also being looked at by the doctor due to the scratches on her neck and other injuries. Surprisingly though, the doctor congratulates her because… SHE”S 2 MONTHS PREGNANT! What???? Everyone is extremely shocked. 甄嬛 can’t believe her ears but is very pleased nonetheless. The empress and the empress dowager tell her that she has to take care of herself now that she is with child.

So right now, we have one child gone, but another one gained.

[Cathy]

甄嬛 returns to her palace and her friend 沈眉庄 comes to visit. 沈眉庄 is very happy to hear the news but tells 甄嬛 to be careful because there have been too many accidental miscarriages in the palace. What if these aren’t all accidents?

Let’s pause here for a second to discuss this. As of now, we know of 4 miscarriages that have happened in the palace:

1. 芳贵人 – She was the previous inhabitant of the palace where 甄嬛 lives currently. she had a miscarriage – remember that pot full of ___? After this miscarriage, she went crazy and is now living in the Cold Palace

2. 欣常在 – she’s a 1st class female attendant in the palace. When 甄嬛 first came to the palace, now 2 or so years ago, this lady JUST had a miscarriage. It was because she slipped and fell. If you go back to our earlier episodes, we discuss her situation. She’s still around and has managed to keep her head down though she is still just a 1st class female attendant, a step below 甄嬛。

3. 华妃 – we learned that 华妃 had a miscarriage a few years back, before 皇上 ascended the throne

4. 富察贵人 – and now, we have the most recent miscarriage which was caused accidentally, but we know that it was on purpose, by the cat

 

[Karen]

It is clear that whoever is pregnant, becomes a target in the imperial harem and it is not good. We’re not the only ones to have caught on to the fact that there have been lots of women who have had miscarriages. The sickly 端妃 who hasn’t appeared much in the drama except for a few scenes here and there, meets 甄嬛 late at night to tell her that she discovered a fragrance box. This may be the key to what happened today because it’s odd that the cat would only attack the pregnant 富察贵人 and no one else. 

端妃 isn’t the only one to have noticed an issue. 太后, the empress dowager has seen right through the devious plan and calmly confronts 皇后. 太后 knows full well that 皇后 was the mastermind behind the miscarriage today. She warns 皇后 that there are some things she is ok with letting go, others, she cannot.

Analysis – 

[Cathy]

In the midst of all the miscarriage drama and the true nature of the evil 皇后, I want to take a break to discuss a poem that 甄嬛 recites while the ladies are enjoying the flowers at 皇后’s palace.

华妃 starts discussing two flowers – 牡丹 and the 芍药。 牡丹 is a Chinese Peony. 芍药 is another type of peony. 

Let’s bring a lot of what we’ve discussed to this scene right here! Back in episode __, 甄嬛 was gifted with 椒房之礼 which is usually reserved for the wife. The color used is red. The Empress 皇后 picked a pink peony, to which 华妃 immediately responds by picking a red garden peony. She boldly claims – “I’m picking red, only concubines enjoy pink”. This brashness is extremely obvious to all the attendees. 

皇后 doesn’t have a good response. 

庭前芍药妖无格2,池上芙蕖净少情3。

唯有牡丹真国色4,花开时节动京城5。 

The garden peony in the courtyard is bewitching but lacks substance, the lotus in the pond is clean but lacks emotion

Only the peony is the true national beauty. When it blooms, the entire capital notices

This poem was written by 刘禹锡 during the Tang Dynasty in the late 820s. We talked about the Chinese Peony before. Way back in episode 2. The Chinese Peony is considered the national flower then and now. As the national flower, it represents the Imperial Family and in turn the Empress. 

甄嬛 here says, no matter what color you pick, you’ll always be subservient to the Empress. The use of this poem is extremely ingenious because the phrase 庭前芍药妖无格 directly insults 华妃. 甄嬛 accuses 华妃 of bewitchery and a lack of substance.