Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Virtuous Queen of Han Episode 3 Recap

Episode 3

The site which I watched this drama before had a weird way of separating the episodes, I have realised that for some websites where I ended off on the last recap is actually only halfway through episode 2. I'm going to be watching from another site from now so this might get a bit confusing and I apologise for that. Also note I'm not literally translating or covering every single phrase. Apologies for the late post.

For the accident during the dance, the dancers all kneel to beg for the emperor's forgiveness. He heads off to rest and Zifu is sent to serve him to help him undress him and whatnot. She is shaky to help him get into his clothes, he tells her not to be scared. She replies with saying that she's just anxious of being in the presence of the emperor which is referred to as 'tian zi' - a son of the heavens. He questions her about what she sees to be a 'tian zi'. She says that a 'tian zi' has the heart for all those under the skies (i.e. his citizens), and should feel, understand and care for his people. He asks about the state of his country and whether she sees it to be prosperous and peaceful. She replies with those six characters that the citizens are poor and yet the government officials taunt them with gold nuggets. The emperor is fascinated at how she knows those six characters and comes upon the revelation that Zifu is the woman the prime minister referred to (remember the 苦饥寒逐金丸 phrase) and is in admiration of her.

After spending night with Emperor, Zifu's brother brings Duan Hong to meet her. She remembers back to a childhood incident where she lost her way. Duan Hong had helped her find her way and from then on she had referred to him her 'Northern Star Big Brother', revealing a sweet and deep friendship between them. Also there is a childhood incident where Zifu promises to be Duan Hong's wife (sort of like how kids like to play 'husbands and wifes' or 'mummies and daddies' --> pretend marriages).

Commoner girls who spend the night with the emperor almost never get to go the palace since all his other consorts are daughters of really powerful officials and it would cause significant political upheaval. So it wouldn't be common protocol to take Zifu with him to the palace. Zifu reveals a hint of disappointment when he doesn't give indication of taking her. But perhaps out of impulse, he later tells her to come with him. Princess Pingyyang is happy to know she now has a person in the palace and reveals to Zifu her hopes that she (Zifu) not forget the one who helped her get where she if she becomes someone powerful and high in ranks. Pingyang reminds her to be a good concubine and to take this seed she planted and help it flower.

Duan Hong is the official who will manage the travel arrangements for Zifu's entry to the palace. It's clear that Duan Hong likes Zifu, but she only sees him as a "brother", to quote her words. He says that though she's entering the palace to be a consort, as long as she doesn't mind, he'll always be her brother who will protect her. Zifu is grateful at his offer of friendship. She asks for a favour that he take care of her brother (who will also enter the palace to play a small government role but will obviously not be staying with her) as she has never been separated from him before and worries for him. (Little does she know that her brother would become such a prominent historical figure.)

The Emperor (Liu Che) and Zifu take the boat into the palace. Liu Che points out the landmarks to her: the place where he hunts, where he goes for his daily meetings with his officials. Zifu points out a building that is a beautiful pepper red and asks what it is. Liu Che replies that it is the Empress' (his wife's) chambers and is obviously dismayed and worried for Zifu as though he has the ability to appoint consorts, the Empress is the head of the harem and yields control over all his consorts and concubines. Zifu tells him not to worry because she will behave well and be understanding and obedient.

Zifu enters palace and meets the Empress (Jiao Er). Empress appears friendly and virtuous, she calls Zifu up closer to take a better look but her demeanor shatters and she slaps Zifu. Clearly jealous and angry at Zifu for seducing her husband, and being of lowly birth. Other consorts fuel her anger, by saying that they are all daughters of high ranking officials or royalty. Jiao Er is ready to slap Zifu again when Liu Che arrives.

He asks Jiao Er whether she had received his gift. She replies that she really liked it but had "accidentally" knocked it over. She asks whether he sent her the gift as a remember for his oath many years ago. This oath was '金屋藏娇‘ a common saying these days, its meaning now has changed a lot from its intended meaning. In this historical context, the phrase is a famous reference to the story that Liu Che in his youth had told his aunt (also Jiao Er's mother) that he would like to build a golden house to hide Jiao Er in (according to rumours this is hence why they got married). Nowadays meaning has evolved such that it means hiding a mistress, similiar to 'hiding a pretty woman'.

Jiao Er is annoyed that he loves another now, questioning whether he is blaming her for not having a child. He says that it is a common occurrence to bring more women to the harem and tells her to be encompassing and welcoming of the other consorts.

Jiao Er's mother, Grand Princess Guantao, arrives. and settles their dispute. But Guantao is really a sly, cunning woman -she reminds the emperor of the rules of the court that Zifu being a lowly woman would have to be under the Empress' control and learn the proper rules before being given a title. She also reminds Liu Che that the Grand Empress Dowager (his grandmother) and Empress Dowager (his mother) have heard of his actions and are angered by the news.

Liu Che meets with his mother, the Empress Dowager, who warns him not to harshen the relationship between the Empress and the Grand Princess (Guantao) since they were the ones who helped him to the throne back in the days. The Grand Princess is favoured Grand Empress Dowager, being her daughter and all, and we must not forget the the person who wields true power in the court is the Grand Empress Dowager who has supported two previous emperors in their reign and her grandson now the third. But Liu Che doesn't want to be a puppet emperor who has to listen to the commands of others. Liu Che's mother blames herself for not being able to help her son and being useless. Liu Che doesn't want to put his mother in a difficult position so he decides he will leave the palace and go investigate his kingdom under the name of the Marquess of Pingyang.

Liu Che lets Zifu know of his departure and is in admiration of her understanding.

Zifu is sent to serve Concubine Rui, a concubine to a previous emperor (Liu Che's grandfather). She approaches the shabby chambers and finds Concubine Rui asleep, upon awaking Rui starts to attack Zifu and appears out of her mind. Rui believes Zifu is there to harm her but Zifu tells her she has been sent there to learn palace rules. Another palace maid tells her Rui is a mad woman and is dangerous; no one wants to serve her. Zifu comes to the revelation that leaving the place will be difficult, serving Rui will be even more so but she dismisses this difficult task saying that in bitter times or sweet moments, she will be happy.

Rui appears to like and trust Zifu. She teaches her the rules and customs of the palace, the statuses of all the consort, the power of the Empress, how to walk and serve others. Rui has a headpiece that reveals a mysterious relationship between her and the Grand Empress Dowager. Rui had a bad flashback to when the Empress in her time forced her to drink medicine to make her miscarry her child. This is probably the root cause for her madness and why she stays in a hidden shabby palace chamber. Rui apologises for biting Zifu during her flashback. Rui tells Zifu her story: Rui was a maid to the Empress of the time and the Empress had assigned her to be a concubine of the Emperor. Rui had promised Empress that she wouldn't have kids but then she did fall pregnant and when such a thing happens Rui explains that its inevitable that you want to protect your child and a child would save her life and position in the palace. Rui compliments Zifu on being a great woman but tells her she must protect herself. She hopes Zifu will be luckier than her.

Meanwhile the Grand Princess and the Empress plot to harm Zifu. They had originally planned that sending Zifu to serve Rui would mean that Zifu would either be seriously injured by Rui from her madness or Zifu would hurt Rui and hence be in trouble. Neither happened so the Empress is annoyed that her plans aren't going as she had hoped. Grand Princess suggests new plot to kill Rui and frame Zifu. Her plan succeeds and the episode ends with Rui spitting out blood, hinting at poison.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Virtuous Queen of Han Episode 2 Recap

Episode 2

We continue from the chase of Han Yan. Both Zifu and Wei Qing are safe from the chase of the soldiers as they meet up in their old home. He assures his sister that they won't be in a lot of trouble since to Han Yan, such a popular official, they would seem like negligible blemishes, plus he only had one look at them. (I think Wei Qing is a little hasty in his conclusion; he is totally jinxing it.)

Back at the Pingyang household, the servants are hussling about. We are introduced to Jia'er, a good friend of Zifu and Jia'er's mother Xiniang who clearly dreams of her daughter becoming catching the eye of the emperor and rising in ranks. The man that the young Zifu saved in episode one with her steamed pancakes returns in this episode as the new chef of the Pingyang household, Yi Han. Zifu instantly recognises him from his face and scar.

Zifu is at her annual family reunion and they happily sing whilst reminiscing of their childhood days and promise that one day in the future they won't have to be separated. Wei Qing is walking in the streets with Zifu and is recognised by the soldiers who chased him previously. Han Yan arrives at Pingyang's household and insists on taking Zifu and Wei Qing away. The princess arrives and engages in a battle of words with Han Yan (as all educated people would), where they each indirectly assert their power and influence. Pingyang criticises Yan for his apparent egotism and arrogance, who seemingly believes that having the Emperor's favour means he can boss around the Marquess of Pingyang, who despite not having any important official role has a line of ancestors who were important officials. Although Princess Pingyang is the Emperor's sister, it's clear from this that her husband, the Marquess, is no way her intellectual equal as he doesn't have an intelligent mind nor a determined will, he isn't hardworking and it isn't hard to deduce why he has no important government role and why he probably wouldn't in the future.

In Ancient Chinese government, the officials usually make reports to the Emperor of issues of relevance. Empress Dowager Dou has ordered one such report to be burnt because she believes it would incite the Emperor to push for his plan for new policies which she opposes.

Liu Che vows to stop being a puppet Emperor and to repay the officials who have suffered to help him achieve his cause. Duan Hong, now a personal imperial guard to Liu Che, saves him from a snake as the Emperor pays his respects to the such officials and hence catches Liu Che's attention. Liu Che vents his frustration of being unable to read the report of his Prime Minister. Duan Hong tells him that the contents of the report can be summarised in six words, the very six Zifu had written for the Prime Minister (the one encapsulating the corruption of officials). Duan Hong explains that the officials do not show solicitude to the victims of natural disasters and neglect to feel concern of poverty of the citizens. Liu Che is intrigued by these six words and upon hearing that a woman had been the one who came up with the words shows admiration that a lowly woman could use six words to describe the state. He compliments her by saying that she has a worldly heart. The Emperor decides he needs to conduct more incognito visits to understand the lives of his people. (Oooh I feel that this is the beginning of the romance between Liu Che and Zifu.)

Liu Che decides to visit the Pingyang Household and the Princess is busy with preparations to welcome the Emperor. The Marquess takes his exit returning to his feudal land as he feels uncomfortable around the Emperor. The Princess wishes that the Emperor will fall in love with someone from her estate and take her back to the Palace so that she would have at least one of her people in the palace (this all relates to acquiring political power within the palace, something that would prove useful to any member of the royal family). Yep, Pingyang's a scheming princess.

Whilst dances go on, Liu Che is still curious of the woman Duan Hong spoke of, the woman who gave him those six words. Duan Hong is at Pingyang Household as is his imperial guard duties and whilst strolling about sees Wei Qing. They recognise each other and reunite.

Zifu is helping everyone prepare for the dance for the Emperor when one of the dancers falls down sick and Zifu has to step in for her. Zifu only had time to change into her dancing costume and due to lack of time she appears simple without hair accessories and jewellery. She says its alright as she is insignificant and unnoticed since all she's doing is playing the bells at the back. Liu Che is inattentive due to his curiosity for the woman whose capacity to care for the people in comparison to his inability to act as a result of being a puppet Emperor.

Zifu catches the Emperor's attention just as Jia'er slips on a red date. Zifu catches her and herself is thrown into a spin that loosens the one hairpin that holds up her hair. Her hair unfolds, like we see in asian shampoo advertisements, as she very gracefully spins about. This truly catches Liu Che's attention.

She is so beautiful.