Open Thread: Nirvana In Fire Episodes 4, 5 & 6

Welcome to the Open Thread, everyone! I am blown away by how much interest and enthusiasm you guys have shown in just our first Open Thread – and we are only at the beginning, wow! Things continue to get more interesting this set of episodes, and I hope you guys are ready to dig into it! (Also, isn’t that quite the poetic and meaningful shot of Mei Changsu and Prince Jing? Particularly with Mei Changsu partially veiled?)

Here are our usual ground rules, before we begin:

1. Please don’t post spoilers in the Open Thread, except for events that have happened in the show, up to this point. If you really need to talk about a spoiler, it is possible to use the new spoiler tags, but please know that spoilers are still visible (ie, not hidden) in the email notification that you receive, of the comment in question. We have quite a few first-time viewers among us, and we don’t want to spoil anything for anyone.

2. Discussions on this thread don’t have to close when newer threads open, just so you know! But as we progress through our group watch, please keep the discussions clear of spoilers from future episodes, so that future readers coming to this thread won’t be accidentally spoiled. Does that make sense?

Without further ado, here are my reactions to this set of episodes; have fun in the Open Thread, everyone! ❤️

My thoughts

Episode 4

Ooh. The plot thickens this episode, and I’m starting to feel the crack bite, all over again. Very nice.

I can’t help feeling quite amused and thrilled at the same time, at how shrewd and.. well, sneaky Mei Changsu is, in the way he engineers the Emperor’s approval for him to get Tingsheng and two other boys out of the Servants’ Prison to spar with Baili Qi (I didn’t realize it until this episode, but the big warrior’s family name appears to be Baili, and not Bai, and therefore his given name is Qi and not Liqi, as I’d previously assumed).

The way Mei Changsu plays it, he totally doesn’t want to get involved, and is absolutely getting dragged into this, just because the Emperor decided to interrupt his quiet (and purposely suspicious-looking 😉) conversation with Nihuang. Muahaha. I love how Mei Changsu manages to get exactly what he wants, while looking like he’s doing everyone a favor. 😂 It’s brilliant, and they are basically putty in his hands.

I do love how Commander Meng plays along without missing a beat, when the Emperor asks for his opinion. I get the feeling that Mei Changsu and Commander Meng haven’t discussed the specifics of this plan, and yet Commander Meng just instinctively knows how to align himself in a way that would be helpful to his old friend. He even knows to make sure to pick Tingsheng, when he goes to the Servants’ Prison to select the boys like he’d volunteered. Aw. Are we already getting glimpses of brotherhood? I like it.

I also love how, when the boys are presented to the Emperor, and the Emperor starts talking about rewarding Mei Changsu handsomely if they win, Mei Changsu expertly deflects the attention to the boys, saying that they should be the ones to receive the reward, since they are the ones doing all the work. This definitely feels like he’s laying the groundwork towards Tingsheng earning his freedom, and I like where this is going.

The way Commander Meng answers the Emperor’s questions consistently comes across as well-balanced and thoughtfully considered, like all he cares about is helping the Emperor. And yet, from everything that we see, it’s clear that he’s nudging things along in a way that helps Mei Changsu. Like when the Emperor expresses uncertainty about Mei Changsu’s chances of success, Commander Meng’s answer is vague enough to show that he’s not personally involved, and yet positive enough, to give the Emperor some hope that there are strange techniques in existence, that could point the way to success. Ha. I like the idea that Commander Meng is shrewd and wise in his own way.

Elsewhere in the palace, we see Imperial Concubine Jing (Prince Jing’s mother) run into Consort Hui, who’s all upset because she’s been bullied by the Empress again, and has been tasked with the eerie task of lighting thirty incense sticks at the late Empress Dowager’s quarters, as penance for not doing a good enough job of copying texts. How kind and gracious, of Imperial Concubine Jing, to offer to accompany Consort Hui, because she knows how timid and jittery Consort Hui is.

As a side note, I wanted to explain that I’m using the term Imperial Concubine Jing instead of Consort Jing because on this viewing, I noticed that when the two women greet each other, the titles that they use to address each other, are different. Prince Jing’s mother is addressed as 静嬪 Jìng pín, where Jìng (静) is her title and pín (嬪) is the rank of Imperial Concubine. The other lady is addressed as Huì fēi, 惠妃 where Huì (惠) is her title and fēi (妃) is the rank of Consort, a comparatively higher rank. You can browse the various iterations of the Chinese Imperial harem system and the various titles here.

This context backs up what we hear, when Imperial Concubine Jing speaks of her low rank later in the episode.

Significantly, the two women overhear a secretive conversation between a maid and a mysterious old lady, where the old lady hands over a bottle of a very strong wine called Qing Si Rao, the same wine which the late Empress Dowager had supposedly used on Princess Liyang (Marquis Xie’s wife and Jingrui’s mother). We soon learn from Consort Hui, that this wine works like an aphrodisiac, and renders the drinker unconscious. Very suspicious stuff, for sure.

Even though Imperial Concubine Jing quickly shushes Consort Hui and tells her it’s best not to get involved, we see that she works quickly to find an audience with Grand Princess Liyang. (Honestly, how shrewd is she, to find her way to Grand Princess Liyang, via an embroidered pouch! It’s complicated living the palace life! 😅)

How graceful, subtle and smart, are these ladies? I love how they appear to do nothing much on the surface, when they’re actually silently making plans for a top secret rendezvous. And, how utterly shocking, that Grand Princess Liyang had been a victim of Qing Si Rao.

That flashback, of the late Empress Dowager urging her to drink it, while Marquis Xie looks on with gratitude and.. anticipation, is stomach-churningly sickening. 🤮 I mean, she was basically drugged by her own mother, so that she could be raped, and thus have to marry Marquis Xie?!? WHAT. What kind of mother does that?! 😳🥴

The two ladies quickly conclude that the target of this current scheme has to be Princess Nihuang, given the recent happenings in the palace, and Grand Princess Liyang determines to save Princess Nihuang from suffering the fate that she herself had endured.

Meanwhile, Fei Liu’s doing a good job training the 3 boys, and Princess Nihuang goes to look in on them. I find it pretty significant, that she tells Mei Changsu that she’s in a difficult and dangerous situation, where she has no other alternatives, and asks him to put his best effort into this. That’s showing him vulnerability, when they’ve technically barely met. I feel like this is unusual for her, given her badass general background. It seems that there’s something about Mei Changsu that inspires her trust?

We then witness the Very Important Conversation between Mei Changsu and Prince Jing, where Mei Changsu essentially tells Prince Jing that he would like to help put him on the throne. Well, Prince Jing certainly didn’t see THAT coming! 😆

Prince Jing: “Then do you intend to choose the Crown Prince or the Prince of Yu?”

Mei Changsu: “I wish to choose you.”

Such an iconic moment, and spoken with such quiet conviction, on the part of Mei Changsu. 🤩

Mei Changsu positions his proposal as one that will better showcase his abilities as a strategist, since Prince Jing is not in an advantageous position, and it would reflect extra well on Mei Changsu if he can make Prince Jing succeed the throne, but Prince Jing does not mince his words and replies that he hates people who scheme.

Mei Changsu seems to understand Prince Jing pretty well, though, because he knows just what buttons to push, to get Prince Jing to consider the throne. The way he asks Prince Jing if he can really bear to see the throne in either the Crown Prince’s or Prince Yu’s hands, is so shrewd. This is the turning point of the conversation, because Mei Changsu is right; Prince Jing doesn’t want either of the two on the throne, if he can at all help it.

Significantly, Mei Changsu mentions that saving Tingsheng is a gift that he’d prepared for Prince Jing. To add a bit of color, I thought I’d mention that the exact phrase that Mei Changsu uses is “见面礼” (jiànmiànlǐ), which refers to a gift that is given to mark a first meeting.

Also significantly, later that night, Commander Meng and Mei Changsu discuss the probability that Tingsheng is actually the deceased Prince Qi’s son. They agree that the probability is high, given his age, his resemblance to Prince Qi, and the likelihood that the Tingsheng’s mother would have risked her life to save her son. All these factors, including Prince Jing’s own deep interest in Tingsheng, make for pretty solid circumstantial evidence that Tingsheng is indeed Prince Qi’s son.

Importantly, Mei Changsu tells Commander Meng his plan to help Prince Jing ascend the throne, which means that now Commander Meng is in the know, and perhaps will be able to assist him?

Also significant, I feel, is the fact that Mei Changsu says gravely, that there will be innocents who will be hurt in the process, and because Prince Jing would not be able to bear that burden, he is determined that he will bear it in Prince Jing’s stead. This feels.. pretty somber and dark, especially since Mei Changsu himself is here to seek justice for innocent lives that were spilled. The fact that he will have to spill more innocent lives to further his cause feels.. a bit dark. 😬

The last key conversation this episode, is when Grand Princess Liyang secretly seeks out Mei Changsu, and enlists his help in alerting Princess Nihuang to the potential danger she might face.

At first, this does seem like an odd request, since Mei Changsu is new to Daliang, and Grand Princess Liyang ought to have many more options. However, when Grand Princess Liyang explains herself, it makes a lot of sense. She has no evidence, and cannot involve her husband or sons, and she has no idea when the schemer will make a move, and thus cannot enter the palace to prevent it from happening. However, Mei Changsu is due to present the 3 boys at the palace the next day, and would therefore have a sure crossing of paths with Princess Nihuang.

That’s good thinking by Grand Princess Liyang, and quite creative too (and her old maid is creative as well, since she basically guilt-trips Marquis Xie into retreating from Grand Princess Liyang’s chambers, ha).

Mei Changsu muses darkly to Commander Meng that the person behind the scheme must be either the Empress or Noble Consort Yue, and they will see which of them it is, when one of them invites Princess Nihuang to the palace. Dang. Will Mei Changsu be able to warn Nihuang in time? And will Nihuang’s smarts be enough, to outwit the wily witches in the palace?

Episode 5

The next day, before the match between Baili Qi and the boys, Mei Changsu manages to gives Nihuang a quiet heads-up, telling her to be wary of the ladies of the inner court, and not to accept any invitations. If it couldn’t be helped, then not to accept any food or drink while visiting.

Two things that I feel are worth noting are, 1, From the way she reacts to Mei Changsu’s warning, Nihuang appears a little over-confident of herself, and 2, Mei Changsu lets slip that Nihuang’s habit of never bringing a maid with her is not a good one, which he totally shouldn’t know, if he’s actually just met her. Nihuang’s surprised response is interrupted by Yujin, but I’m sure this will come back to give Nihuang pause for thought.

This also makes me realize that, although Mei Changsu is consistently calm, controlled, and fully deliberate in what he “lets slip,” he appears to be more emotionally involved when it comes to Nihuang, and is more likely to make a mistake. Eep. That’s not exactly helpful, if he wants to keep his identity a secret?

The boys put up a dizzying dance of a fight, and come out victorious in the face-off against Baili Qi. As a result of this, Baili Qi is politely removed from the running to be Nihuang’s consort.

Nihuang and Mei Changsu put up a bit of a show, bickering over which of them would get to take the boys under their wing, and, I think as a result, the Emperor is in a good enough mood to give permission for the boys to leave the Servants’ Prison. It seems to me that Nihuang and Mei Changsu sure know how to humor the Emperor, and coax his whims, without him even really realizing it. Or maybe he realizes it, but allows it anyway? 🤔 He leaves it to them to figure out who will take the boys, and Nihuang quickly stakes her claim.

How interesting, though, that Nihuang stops Mei Changsu outside afterwards, and presses him to explain how the boys could have won. According to Nihuang, the skills that the boys learned notwithstanding, there is no way that they could have beat Baili Qi – which is when we learn that Baili Qi is part of the Jiangzuo Alliance, and Mei Changsu had basically planted him in the tournament, because he could come in useful, if there was a strong suitor in the race that Nihuang didn’t like. Woah. Ok, that’s brilliant and sneaky and something that I didn’t see coming. 😱

This also reminds me of what Nihuang had talked about in an earlier episode, of how a stranger had just appeared, helped her when she’d been stuck in battle, and then disappeared at the Jiangzuo border. I guess Mei Changsu is nothing if not consistent. Even now, in disguise, he continues to look out for Nihuang. This, considering how much more he has on his mind. I’m impressed.

Mei Changsu deflects Nihuang’s suspicion around why he’d go to so much trouble, by saying that he was just hoping to gain favor with her. Specifically, he uses the phrase “卖个人情” (mài gè rénqíng) which literally translates to “sell a personal favor.”

To clarify, Mei Changsu is not saying that he wants a favor from Nihuang right away; he claims that he’s done this thing with Baili Qi, hoping to create a debt of gratitude with Nihuang; something he might claim against at a later point in time, if he were to have a need. Also important to mention, I think, is that this is not considered rude of him to say. It’s like.. an almost self-deprecating way of saying something along the lines of, “Please buy the personal favor that I’d like to sell to you.”

Like I said earlier, I feel that Nihuang’s just a little too confident of herself, when it comes to being wise to the schemes of the inner court, and when an invitation by the Empress is communicated to her, she ignores Mei Changsu’s Persuasive Meaningful Look, and accepts. Sigh. If only she’d found a way to decline, we could have averted a lot of drama in the rest of this episode, but.. I guess that’s what we’re here for? 😆

As it turns out, it’s not the Empress who’s scheming against Nihuang; it’s actually Noble Consort Yue – which Mei Changsu only clues in to, when he hears from Yujin, that the candidate with the Empress’s backing, is playing polo. The way Mei Changsu’s body reacts violently to the news, is such a big statement, I feel, in terms of how deeply invested he is, in Nihuang’s well-being.

While Mei Changsu works as quickly as he can to intervene, using Commander Meng as a conduit, and getting Prince Jing, the Empress, and other guards involved, Nihuang attempts to navigate the minefield that her audience with the Empress is turning out to be.

She can only decline the food and drink offered for so long, before rousing the Empress’s ire, and so, when Noble Consort Yue appears to save her by claiming that Nihuang’s already agreed to eat at her quarters, Nihuang is grateful to accept. As it turns out, however, Noble Consort Yue is like the devil in disguise.

She’s so wily; she knows that by overstepping her boundaries to persuade Nihuang to consider Sima Lei as a suitor, she will offend Nihuang – which would then give her the opportunity to offer a toast as an apology. Because it is an apology toast, Nihuang cannot but accept, otherwise she will appear to also not accept the apology. Very crafty.

And of course, when Nihuang drinks it, she starts to feel woozy really quickly, which is when the Crown Prince makes his planned entrance, with an apparently primed and willing Sima Lei in tow. UGH. What is it with these men, being ok to “win” their wives via a rape set-up? 😳 I know, I know.. It’s all about gaining power at all costs, but it’s still cruel and wrong. 😠

I’m pleased that Nihuang has enough wits about her to be able to fight off Sima Lei’s advances (it was so satisfying to see her push him to the ground despite her compromised faculties!), but it’s still horrifying to hear Noble Consort Yue order everyone to catch hold of Nihuang and not allow her to get away. UGH. This is a conspiracy to have Nihuang trapped and raped, and it’s really disturbing to realize that everyone in that palace is complicit.

I was so glad to see Prince Jing arrive on the scene. He’s so stoic and righteous that he doesn’t care about the decorum that should have prevented him from entering Zhaoren Palace, and barges right in, felling soldiers if he has to. You go, Prince Jing!

That conspiracy grows even darker, however, when Noble Consort Yue decides that it’s better to silence Prince Jing, and orders the soldiers to shoot their arrows at him. Woah. Noble Consort Yue is really going all in, isn’t she? 😳

Prince Jing quickly turns the tables enough to take the Crown Prince hostage, but accepts Noble Consort Yue’s extension of truce and drops his sword, when she proposes that they both step back and pretend nothing ever happened that day. Thanks to the timely arrival of the Empress, and her sharp questioning of the situation (I really liked the Empress’s firm and unrelenting aura in this scene!), everyone’s soon hauled before the Emperor for an audience.

I know Noble Consort Yue is a slippery snake, and even then, it’s galling to see her simper and claim innocence with such an injured air. Oh my. 🙄 The woman really has no shame, seriously. Even with Nihuang’s detailed accusation, the Empress’s witness account and Prince Jing’s testimony, she talks as if they are the ones who are colluding against her. Wow.

It’s only when Commander Meng arrives with a report that Sima Lei has been arrested for trespassing Zhaoren Palace, that she starts to look visibly terrified. (I must say, it was really quite gratifying to see her turn tail and start to panic, ha.)

All this time, it strikes me that the Emperor can actually see through Noble Consort Yue’s act, and is biding his time, in conducting this interrogation. It’s clear that he does favor her, but it’s also clear that she’s dug herself into a hole that it would be unrighteous of him to pardon her from.

When the Emperor turns his wrath on Noble Consort Yue, she quickly tries to shield her son and take all the blame, and I’m glad that the Emperor doesn’t buy any of it. I’m also glad that he doesn’t permit any of the Crown Prince’s sniveling, and berates him instead, for blindly following his mother’s depraved lead.

I’m pleased that the Emperor punishes everyone involved, from Noble Consort Yue, to Sima Lei, Sima Lei’s father, and even the Crown Prince (though his punishment is really light), and I’m particularly pleased that Noble Consort Yue gets demoted to Imperial Concubine – pín (嬪) – the same rank as Prince Jing’s mother, which is, as we’ve discussed, considered very low. That’s a very big drop in rank, since her original title Noble Consort – guìfēi (贵妃) – is a high rank not much lower than the Empress’s rank. I’m sure she would find this particularly humiliating. 😏

I am, however, rather concerned that the Emperor now turns his attention to questioning Prince Jing, because even though he’d held the Crown Prince hostage, he’d done it in self-defense?

Episode 6

Well, that was a twist I didn’t see coming. To think that it’s Prince Yu who steps in to say that he was the one who sent Prince Jing to check out Zhaoren Palace, and to plead for leniency for Prince Jing. 😳

To be honest, although Prince Yu’s explanation may sound somewhat reasonable, there are bits that don’t actually make sense to me. The Emperor’s question is relevant and sharp: if Prince Yu had perceived that something wasn’t quite right in Zhaoren Palace, why would he have sent Prince Jing, instead of investigating it himself?

His answer that it would have been inappropriate for him to force his way in with his guards makes no sense to me. Since he says that Jingyan, as a prince, would be able to go in to take a look, then he, also being a prince, would have been able to do the same. The Emperor appears to buy this story, but I do wonder if perhaps he  guesses that this isn’t the whole story, but chooses not to pursue it. After all, that bit just.. doesn’t quite add up.

As it turns out, it was Mei Changsu who had sought out Prince Yu, and enticed Prince Yu to get involved, by telling Prince Yu that all he has to do is to claim the credit. Ahh, that’s good thinking. Because, even though Nihuang’s been safely rescued, they do still need a cover story for why Prince Jing knew to go to Zhaoren Palace. Trust Mei Changsu to think of everything, eh?

While Prince Yu muses to his mother about how brilliant Mei Changsu is, to be able to deduce so much from so little, and determines to gain Mei Changsu as his strategist and advisor, Nihuang and Prince Jing seek out Commander Meng, to ask him how he’d known about the secret schemes of the inner court.

Looks like our stoic, straightforward Commander Meng hasn’t given much thought to this, however, because he stutters and stumbles a bit, with a lame stab at an excuse, that he’d known about Sima Lei’s trespassing because of his position as Commander General. Pfft.

Nihuang sees right through him, and Commander Meng ends up ‘fessing up to Nihuang and Prince Jing. I am quite amused by this. Looks like if you want to involve Commander Meng in some kind of secret ruse, you need to give him instructions that lean detailed? Coz sometimes his ability to ad-lib isn’t so great? 😆

This incident does impress on Prince Jing, however, the caliber of Mei Changsu’s capabilities, and Prince Jing muses that with Mei Changsu being able to stir up the muddy waters of the palace, none of them will be able to avoid the fate that he’s planned for them.

Interestingly, Nihuang says, “A storm is coming, who knows where this stream of wind will go?” It seems that based on this incident, both Prince Jing and Nihuang can sense more shaking on the horizon. Mei Changsu’s making quite the impression, isn’t he?

Prince Jing doesn’t waste any time and seeks out Mei Changsu the very next day. It’s an important conversation, where bottom lines are expressed and expectations set; a very key step in setting up any partnership, I feel like. It might be an uncomfortable situation, and Prince Jing might be coming across as really prickly right now, but I do think that this is some critical stuff that needs to be settled, if their partnership is going to work.

I appreciate how calm and unruffled Mei Changsu is, in the face of Prince Jing’s testiness. And also, once Prince Jing starts to explain his point-of-view, I can understand why he’s so touchy. He suspects that Mei Changsu hadn’t only saved Nihuang with his tactics, but had actually created the situation itself, so that he could save Nihuang with his tactics. Ooh. Ok. Big difference.

I’m glad that Prince Jing is straightforward with Mei Changsu, so that Mei Changsu gets the opportunity to set the record straight. To be honest, Prince Jing remains low-key unpleasant during the conversation, almost like he resents having to work with Mei Changsu. However, after he explains all that he’s been through and where this hostility is coming from, I do feel sympathy for him.

He’s suffered personal loss because of strategists’ schemes, and he can’t bear the thought of becoming like the ones who’d killed the ones whom he’s lost. Ack. That’s a gut-wrenching sort of thought, and if his distaste for scheming and strategists is as strong as his love for the ones whom he’s lost, then he surely loves them a great deal. 💔

Also, I just wanted to say that even though Mei Changsu maintains his composure very well, if you look carefully, there is a subtle reaction in his gaze, when Prince Jing speaks of his loss. It feels.. complicated, and it feels like there is a lot that Mei Changsu is choosing not to say, in this moment.

Mei Changsu assures Prince Jing that he will not become like those people (bearing in mind that Mei Changsu himself has told Commander Meng that he will bear that instead, augh), and agrees to abide by the principles that Prince Jing’s expressed. Significantly, Prince Jing is now calm enough and mollified enough, to agree to now listen to Mei Changsu, as he asks to say a few words.

He warns Prince Jing that they will need to be more ruthless than the ones they want to fight, if they want to win, and asks that Prince Jing begin to trust him. Mei Changsu also indicates to Prince Jing, that he doesn’t need to feel like he has to hide certain things from him, and demonstrates that he already has a good idea of Tingsheng’s birth secret.

In closing, Mei Changsu echoes Nihuang’s words somewhat, saying that a storm has begun in Jinling, and urges Prince Jing to stay resolute. The moment feels important and weighty, as Prince Jing nods his assent, and Mei Changsu reciprocates with a bow.

Over at Marquis Xie’s manor, we see that the young man from the boat in episode 1 – who is Zhuo Qingyao, his son-in-law, the son of the Zhuo family, with whom the Xie family shares Jingrui – is taking shady instructions from his father-in-law.

Apparently, Inspector Dong’s investigations on the Prime Minister Duke of Qing’s (apologies, I realized that “prime minister” is a mistranslation in my subs!) crimes have also unearthed Zhuo Qingyao’s shady involvement on the plaintiffs’ side of things, and this is a problem. Essentially, Zhuo Qingyao had escorted the plaintiffs into the city, to make their case against the Prime MinisterDuke of Qing. The old couple that had been with him on the boat, turn out to be those plaintiffs.

Because the Prime Minister Duke of Qing is Prince Yu’s man, Marquis Xie is happy to have him be incriminated, but not at the cost of having his own people dragged down, which is why he instructs Zhuo Qingyao to eliminate Inspector Dong. His logic is cold, but eerily workable: as long as evidence can be served against the Prime MinisterDuke of Qing, it doesn’t have to be Inspector Dong who submits it. Dang. Kill off Inspector Dong, yet benefit from her investigative work? That’s cold.

Meanwhile, Banruo receives intel that has to do with Inspector Dong returning from Bin Province, which she immediately burns.

Banruo muses aloud that with Inspector Dong on her way back from Bin Province, there is nothing else she can do for the Prime MinisterDuke of Qing’s case, but she wonders whether the Divine Talent – Mei Changsu – can.

Meanwhile, Marquis Xie, too, expresses deep interest in Mei Changsu, and even though he asks Jingrui quite genially, to let him know if Mei Changsu needs anything, this makes Jingrui vaguely uncomfortable. He tells Yujin that lately, it feels like both his father and Mei Changsu have changed. Yujin urges Jingrui not to think too much, and they’re just about to leave the riverbank, when they run into Inspector Dong.

Although she acts as if she’s fine, she’s actually heavily injured, and has a legion of attackers on her tail. It isn’t long before the attackers come out in what feels like literal droves, in an effort to kill Inspector Dong.

In a rather extended and fanciful fight, Jingrui, Yujin and Inspector Dong manage to fend off the attackers. Inspector Dong is even able to capture one attacker alive, and, after knocking out the poison he keeps in his mouth (along with a tooth, eep), she demands to know who’d sent him. The answer the man ekes out, is, “Prince Yu.”

Hrmm. Given that we see the Prime MinisterDuke of Qing pleading with Prince Yu for help, and Prince Yu mentions that they don’t even know where Inspector Dong is, it seems like the attacker is lying. It’s more likely that it was Marquis Xie who’d sent them to kill Inspector Dong. Dun dun DUN. Never trust a paid assassin’s dying breath?

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phl1rxd
phl1rxd
11 days ago

Character Reference Guide
(In order of appearance and description is based on their place in drama at time of appearance).

Episode 4

  • Consort Hui – friend of Concubine Jing and mother of two of the Emperor’s sons – Prince Ning and Prince Xiao Jingli  
  • Empress Dowager – mother of the Emperor  
  • Consort Chen/ Lin Yueyao,  – one of the Emperor’s consorts, mother to Prince Qi/Xiao Jingyu

Episode 5

  1. Liao Tingjie – Prince Yu’s pick for marriage to Nihuang  

Episode 6

  • Duke of Qing – Prince Yu’s man – official on the military side who publicly supports Prince Yu, one of his allies, involved in the Land Infringement Case in Bingzhou/Bing Province

The character list gets shorter each week.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
11 days ago
Reply to  kfangurl

💖💖💖

Snow Flower
Snow Flower
11 days ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

, is the Duke of Qing the same as the Prime Minister?

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
11 days ago
Reply to  Snow Flower

Snow Flower – no he is not. He is one of Prince Yu’s men and a military official. I do not think there is a Prime Minister per say. There is a Grand Secretariat who we shall see later.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
11 days ago
Reply to  kfangurl

Hmm, FG you may be correct. I never saw that and I don’t believe he is mentioned as such in the book. I will look again and follow up as you may be correct. There is so much in every episode isn’t there? Makes your head spin when you dig into it. It is like a 500 course meal.

Last edited 11 days ago by phl1rxd
phl1rxd
phl1rxd
11 days ago
Reply to  kfangurl

Fangurl – just checked and I cannot find him listed as Prime Minister in the book or in the wiki. This is really interesting. Could it be mis-translated or, per your knowledge of Mandarin, is he really using the term Prime Minister?

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
11 days ago
Reply to  kfangurl

Your summary skills are exceptional. I suspect we will have more errors like this Fangurl. This is complicated to watch – just imagine how complicated it is to translate. What I would not do to have your knowledge of Mandarin!

manukajoe
manukajoe
11 days ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

Mandarin is so hard :'(

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
11 days ago
Reply to  kfangurl

FG – there is such a level of detail and intricacy in this drama that I had to watch, read and search other sites all at the same time and I still get things wrong. I took copious notes and still missed the 5th Prince of Northern Yan. I am still laughing about that. Then to top it off you have to worry about spoilers as well. You are da Bomb! 💖

BE
BE
11 days ago
Reply to  kfangurl

I am certain Mandarin is difficult on many fronts. However, listening to it spoken while looking at the subs, it strikes me that unlike Korean, Mandarin and English have similar syntactical patterns and rhythms.
I have been paying attention to this for the past three episodes, and am quite amazed at how consistent the sentence patterns sound. Maybe I am wrong about this, but I still after a few years of watching K Drama find it very hard to make sense of where the parts of speech or how the subject, predicate, and phrases in Korean correspond to the English I am seeing up in the subs, except for a familiarity here and there with particular words.

manukajoe
manukajoe
11 days ago
Reply to  kfangurl

I don’t think the grammar of Mandarin is hard, it’s the writing system, pronunciation/listening, and how the words are constructed which are very different to English.

Trent
11 days ago
Reply to  BE

Mandarin is grammatically similar to English insofar as word order: both are subject-verb-object (Japanese and Korean both stick the verbs at the end of the sentence). It’s also grammatically similar in that their both pretty much non-agglutinative languages (unlike, say, Latin or Japanese).

Mandarin’s difficulty (for an Indo-European language speaker, at least) comes from its tones (only four, though, Cantonese is much worse), and then just the total lack of cognates. And of course, shifting from spoken to written, well. The writing is logographic, not syllabic at all (you can sometimes guess at pronunciation of a character you don’t know based on the radicals it contains, but you might be wrong…) Learning to read Chinese is a whole lot of memorization (it’s also fascinating once you get into, but it’s a lot of time and effort).

CP
CP
11 days ago
Reply to  kfangurl

Wow I didn’t know you were a fellow Cantonese speaker! I’ve noticed that for some reason all mandarin speakers know mandarin has 4 tones (maybe becuase they formally teach it in school?), but pretty much no native Cantonese speaker knows what 9 tones Cantonese has LOL. Guess we would all fail if we were to go to Cantonese school

CP
CP
11 days ago
Reply to  kfangurl

I grew up in Canada, so most of the native speakers I know are people of my parents’ generation. They wouldn’t have had any reason to formally learn how to speak Cantonese in school (given that that is the native language there), and I assume back then formalized learning of Cantonese as a second language was not popular/ my parents wouldn’t know anyone trying to learn it. Times have definitely changed with globalization though, and the formalized tonal system for learning Cantonese seems to be more well known! (Which is great, I hope more people learn Cantonese so it doesn’t die out like so many dialects).

CP
CP
11 days ago
Reply to  kfangurl

Haha yes! It’s funny, my speaking/listening is miles better in Cantonese, but whenever I read or write I have to think in Mandarin because reading written Chinese in Cantonese just sounds too weird. You actually can write Cantonese now (my HK friends do it), but it involves a lot of made up words or words that are out of context but have the sound. Feels like a different language altogether for sure, as if Chinese wasn’t complicated enough…

Trent
11 days ago
Reply to  kfangurl

Yeah, it makes a huge difference in developing the “ear” (listening comprehension), being exposed at a younger age. When I’m “on”, I’m told my accent is pretty faint, and I can fool native speakers for short stretches on the phone (sooner or later they figure out I’m a 老外 ), but that listening comprehension, man. I’ve often thought what I wouldn’t give to have been exposed to it as a young kid so it just kind of seeped into the recesses of the language acquisition part of my brain…

LongJumpingRiver
LongJumpingRiver
11 days ago
Reply to  Trent

nevermind. I was being pedantic about inflected/synthetic and agglutinative languages.

Last edited 11 days ago by LongJumpingRiver
Trent
10 days ago

Nothing wrong with that! My encounter with formal linguistics was brief and cursory and a long time ago to boot, so corrections and gentle updates are always welcome!

(and you’re right, I think I did kind of conflate agglutinative and inflected there, oops).

LongJumpingRiver
LongJumpingRiver
10 days ago
Reply to  Trent

It’s impressive that you know the term agglutinative at all! (I’m a professional linguist–and a semi-professional, but recovering pedant 😂). Your original comment was insightful.

BE
BE
8 days ago
Reply to  Trent

@ Trent: I am sort of a dilletante when it comes to linguistics, but by non agglutinative/logographyic non syllabic are you saying that every word is without relationship to its phonetic content or is built as idiographically? Are words monosyballic then? I understand tone determines meaning on words that orthogrphically transposed into European letters appear to be homonyms, but I do not get if words have more than one syllable how at least part of the pronounciation is determined by the sound of those syllables.
Also when you say there are no cognates, are you also saying Mandarin is a root language of itself?
Once again, listening to how language is spoken on show, more than just syntactic order I hear similar inflections of expression for how the whole meaning of the sentence is being delivered word after word. Beyond tone of individual words, I am hearing some tone inflected in what the words mean in the context of the whole sentence as translated in the subs.

Trent
8 days ago
Reply to  BE

@BE.. Whew, some meaty questions…I’m going to get myself in trouble here no doubt, because as noted, I am also very much a dilettante when it comes to linguistics (so welcome one and all to liberally apply the Rod of Loving Correction, as necessary).

Okay, first: without intending to be in any way comprehensive, writing systems have alphabets and syllaberies, in which the discrete symbols represent a specific sound or syllable, and can be combined together to create morphemes and/or words. The Latin alphabet is the obvious example, but also Cyrillic and Greek alphabets, for example. For syllabery, the one that pops into mind (because it’s the one I’m most familiar with) is Japanese hiragana and katakana, in which each symbol represents not just a sound, but a syllable (Japanese is also a hybrid in that, unlike Korean, it hasn’t ditched its use of kanji–Chinese characters–which can and do appear as roots, surrounded by hiragana particles, conjugations, suffixes, etc. It assigns variant pronunciations to the same character based on whether it is using the Chinese-analogue pronunciation in existence when characters were first imported (around the Tang dynasty, as I recall? So a couple centuries after our NIF drama), or a native Japanese pronunciation. So for example, 山, mountain, can be pronounced “san” (c.f. “shan” in modern Mandarin) or “yama” (and probably a couple of further variants I’m unaware of) depending on what word and/or context it appears in. Which you just have to learn as you go…).

I appear to have wandered off on a tangent, sorry. Anyway, so. Korean I think is more of an alphabet, in that each hangul symbol represents a sound rather than a full syllable. (Hangul is an amazingly compact, efficient writing system, by the way, in my opinion. Ol’ King Sejong done a good thing; he deserves “the Great” just for that).

Then alphabets and syllaberies aside, you have writing systems not tied to the sounds of the spoken language. I refer to Chinese as logographic because that’s what linguists say it is, but especially because my Chinese professor back in the day made special effort to beat it into our heads that (popular conceptions to the contrary) Chinese characters are not not not “ideographic” (except for perhaps the few most simple examples), but logographic: each character represents a morpheme or a word.

Classical Chinese, the language in which not only the classics (the Analects, Mencius (I agree with you, by the way, that Mencius is much more readable and approachable than Master Kong in the Analects), Zhuangzi, etc.) were written, but pretty much everything of any note was written in Classical Chinese until the great classic novels of the Ming and then Qing dynasties started to experiment with using the vernacular to write stories and stuff.

Sorry, another digression. To the point: Classical Chinese was essentially monosyllabic, in that each character was also a word. That’s no longer the case in modern Chinese: words can be a single character, but are more often formed by combination of two or more characters. Three utterly random examples just off the top of my head– to like is 喜欢 (xihuan); yesterday is 昨天 (zuotian); telephone is 电话 (dianhua). Each character is a morpheme–a discrete element carrying meaning. So to take that last example there: telephone is formed by combining 电, which means (in this context) “electricity”, and 话, which means “words”. (Quick joke. The verb used in making a phone call is 打 (da), which literally means “to strike or hit”. When I was in Taiwan, my English-speaking friends and I fell into the habit of, whenever we were going to make a phone call, saying “well, I guess I’ll just hit the electric words!” …and of course everyone just understood that meant make a phone call, because we all also spoke (at least some) Chinese. Aren’t languages fun?).

Each character has an assigned syllable/pronunciation value (sometimes more than one, but let’s not introduce additional complexity here)….which, you just have to memorize, sorry. That’s one of the things that makes learning Chinese writing so hard. You can’t look at a character you’ve never seen and sound out the pronunciation, unlike a word you’ve never seen written before in an alphabet, which you can sound out (as long as you know the alphabet, of course). I can look at a Korean sentence, for instance, and sound it out (poorly, sure, but still), even if I don’t know all or even most of the words. For Chinese characters, you have be told (by a person or a dictionary) what that character’s pronunciation is, and then remember it. That’s why I spent my first few months in Taiwan wandering around the streets with a dictionary in one hand and a notebook (for writing down characters to look up later) in the other. (Now, one thing that makes it slightly less nightmarish is that characters have constituent parts called “radicals,” of which there are traditionally recognized to be 214, and recognizing the radicals in a character can help in categorizing and remembering a given character (a lot of popular dictionaries–the one sitting next to me right now, in fact–are organized by radical).

By “no cognates,” I was referring to one of the reasons that Chinese seems difficult to native speakers of Indo-European languages. I don’t really speak French or Spanish, but there are various cognates (and yes, false cognates are a thing, I know!), which make approaching those languages a lot easier in some ways. But Chinese…no. Mandarin obviously will have various cognates with other Sinitic languages, and even if a language isn’t Sinitic per se, East Asian languages are going to have a bunch of words with Sinitic roots, just by virtue of the gravitational field of Chinese culture and influence over the millennia. My Korean and Japanese both suck, but I can still recognize on occasion words that are clear cognates of the Chinese words that mean the same, or roughly the same, thing.

Anyway, sorry, that got really long, and probably ended up obfuscating as much as it answered…

BE
BE
8 days ago
Reply to  Trent

I plan on reading this about six separate times. And not just at night. Very cool. Complicated, but very cool. Thanks Trent.

BE
BE
7 days ago
Reply to  Trent

2nd reading: I am not clear how Mandarin has no cognates? While it has cognates that show up in another sinitic language. Can you give me an example of how this is so. Are you saying every single word in Mandarin has no phonetic relationship indicating also a relationship in meaning with any other single word–why my original question about Mandarin being THE sinitic root language.

Trent
7 days ago
Reply to  BE

@BE Sorry for not being clearer. I think I was being a bit loose in how I was throwing the term “cognates” around.

All I meant was that Mandarin (and other Chinese languages) are part of one big language family (Sino-Tibetan), while English, and other Romance and Germanic languages, are part of a completely different language family (Indo-European). So far as I’m aware, the two families are so separated in time and space and historical development, that the languages of one family simply don’t share any cognates (i.e. “words with a common etymological origin,” to quote the Wikipedia definition) with languages of the other family. (An example I ran into just a couple days ago: solitude in English is “soledad” in Spanish; I’m going to assume those are cognates. You simply won’t find that sort of correspondence between Chinese and any Western language).

(I am completely setting aside here the modern phenomenon of loan words, as increasing globalization has led to adopting new words wholesale from other languages. That’s different than cognates, words that developed organically from a common ancestor.)

Within the language family is obviously a different story. My understanding is hazy and I’m very clearly not a professional linguist…that said… no, Mandarin is not in any sense THE root sinitic language; it developed in parallel, or even after, other modern Chinese languages. And the languages in that language family definitely share cognates. In fact, as I was thinking about this, I was also poking around, and ran across this really interesting recent paper that is specifically relying on cognate set analysis to explore the origins of the Sino-Tibetan language family (they conclude it originated with north China millet farmers a little over 7,000 years ago). I’m not qualified to judge their conclusions, or even to follow their statistical analysis and methodology, but their introduction and background write-up is both accessible and pretty interesting:

https://www.pnas.org/content/116/21/10317

BE
BE
7 days ago
Reply to  Trent

Got it. Thanks. It does seem that by its emphasis on tone, the root sinitic language like the root indo european languange, sanscrit, might have been sung before it was spoken.

Snow Flower
Snow Flower
11 days ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

Is that the old man in Ep. 6 who was complaining to the Marquis of Ning about about their true allegiance being discovered and plotted to dispose of the lady inspector before she reached the capital?

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
11 days ago
Reply to  Snow Flower

Snow Flower – can you give me a time mark?

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
11 days ago
Reply to  Snow Flower

Snow Flower – he is Prince Yu’s military clout shall we say.

Last edited 11 days ago by phl1rxd
beez
4 days ago

@BE – good lookin’ out. 😉 👍 But while I’m aware of Lee Je hoon’s ahem fitness, he’s not on my list of biases. It will take quite an 8-pack to bump Song Seung-heon off my No. 1 spot.

BE
BE
3 days ago
Reply to  beez

@beez: See Move to Heaven. A good enough show too if a bit uneven from episode to episode. I get how this Song Seung Heon fellow may be more your aesthetic type, and he is older and beefier, but as far as beyond 8 pack, from the pure chisel perspective, I can’t think I have seen anyone that looks like Lee Je Hoon in those fight scenes, almost looks unreal to be honest.

Elaine Phua
Elaine Phua
5 days ago

Just wanted to shout out for complex and very human female characters! They are super smart and have different skill sets, and so far I feel each of them don’t fall easily into tropes. They don’t instantly “side” with any man, they make up their own minds! Very cool. I feel even the Empress and Consort Yue could have become stock tropes of anal-retentive school-mistress and conniving seducer (what Chinese call “hu li jing” or fox demon) respectively, but they are shown to analyse situations, plan behind the scenes and influence the action! Very cool. I’m speaking as an amateur feminist who is still sore about the fact that Black Widow has constantly been shortchanged in the Avengers movies, relegated to sidekick and supporting the interests of her male teammates before herself, ugh. And they left it so late to give her a solo movie! Captain Marvel beat her to the punch. And I refuse to watch Game of Thrones cos of the wanton violence against women. Double ugh.

I can’t remember which video it was, but Avenue X once talked about the different historical periods in China and which were more progressive and egalitarian in terms of gender roles, whereas a certain dynasty – Ming? – was more puritan and women had to be sequestered at home. When I watch her videos I wonder why we didn’t learn more about Chinese history in school here in Singapore! Unless they did teach it and I wasn’t ready to learn back then haha.

beez
7 days ago

@BE – I suppose, Prince Jing doesn’t have a lot to be jolly about. I’ll give him that.

BE
BE
4 days ago
Reply to  beez

@beez: because I am always on the lookout on your behalf, I would recommend to you Le Je Hoon’s fight scenes in Move to Heaven. He is 36, so not that young, and let’s just say, perhaps the most cut and sculpted upper torso in all of K Drama. As I say, just looking out for you.

beez
9 days ago

@CP – of course I’d noticed how cool MCS is that he’s blithely eating during major events but now that you mentioned it as a flag of sorts that something if his making is about to go down, I’ll watch for it! 😉

beez
9 days ago

Me too! I’ve been forcing myself not to go more than one week ahead but I just can’t seem to stop at the current week’s episodes. It’s forcing me not to comment as much for fear I’ll be mistakenly talking about events in episodes beyond the schedule.

I probably need to find something else to watch but nothing’s grabbing my interest.

Last edited 9 days ago by beez
Geo
Geo
8 days ago
Reply to  beez

@beez: ha ha, I’m not surprised you can’t keep to the group watch schedule, NIF is such an engrossing and compelling show. “Fortunately” for me, I’ve been quite busy with some stuff plus the basketball playoffs started about 2 weeks ago and there are so many games in the first round (think 6+ hours most nights if you want to watch all the games), it’s tough to find drama viewing time. I was only able to watch the current week’s episodes after KFG opened the blog and when I went to the comments, there were already 100+!!!

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
8 days ago
Reply to  Geo

@Geo – All I can say it thank goodness it is not football season or I would be in the same boat. 🏈🏀😏

beez
9 days ago

@BE – you only think that Prince Jing was “cracking up” because

spoiler
you’ve seen the series before so in comparison to how you know he is for the remaining 48 episodes so him laughing at all equates to a crack up
I crack me up! 😆

BE
BE
9 days ago
Reply to  beez

@beez: yeah I guess even once gives you a sense of humor. Yuk. Still he did look dashing while laughing.

learjet1
learjet1
10 days ago

I have nothing profound to add but to say thank you for doing this group watch. This has been on my to watch list for a while but I felt too intimidated to start. The recaps and character lists in the comments are very helpful, and I’m already hooked on the drama despite it being very different to my usual dramas.

j3ffc
7 days ago
Reply to  learjet1

Hear, hear, learjet1. I am watching along and enjoying the company, but the only thing that I am sure of after watching the show and reading the expert recaps and comments by the community is that I am not smart enough to watch this drama. 😳

BE
BE
10 days ago

Reiterating Qin Banruo’s pov–doesn’t it seem like she thinks MCS whether on Yu’s side or not is primarily convinced he is into taking down CP, and thus might effect more on Yu’s behalf with the Duke (Mandarin for Duke? Marquis?)

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
8 days ago
Reply to  BE

I am confused BE. Are you referring to the Duke Qing (Land Encroachment Case) or Marquis of Ning ( CP’s Strategist)?

BE
BE
7 days ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

For Yu with regard to Duke and against Marquis also with regard to Duke trying to shut down the report. I was asking for the Mandarin words for Duke and Marquis (and what they signified in that court–relative to rank). Qi Banruo seems more hip than Yu that MCS is working for himself than he is simply enabling Yu.

beez
10 days ago

haha! I didn’t notice! True wait woman fashion unlike a modern female character who would’ve admonished her little brother for violence. 😆

beez
10 days ago

Consort Yu – yes, she is a mess! As to killing Prince Jing she told the Crown Prince they’d figure out how to get away with it later. But I peeped her mess back when the family was visiting Great Grandmother and the Empress (I think or one of the other consorts) informed GG that Lin shu was dead and Consort Yu says matter of factly without trying to muffle her voice “Why’d you tell her? She would’ve forgotten about it in a minute anyway!🙄” Something along those lines. 😆 So mean even if it’s true. 😆

beez
10 days ago

– the more I hear the more relieved I am that I wasn’t born into ancient times. Whew!

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
10 days ago
Reply to  beez

You and me both Beez! Whew is right.

BE
BE
10 days ago
Reply to  beez

Part of why older sisters back in the day are happy for baby brother physical assisstance. I think too why Nihuang and Xia Dong are both so compelling characters is in this court world we appreciate that both women, albeit on the basis of their respective physical prowess rather than their smarts necessarily. We can see in some ways many of the women are smarter than their male counterparts but wholly vulnerable to them.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
8 days ago
Reply to  BE

You know BE, I am glad that you noticed that. I am going to bring this issue up later down the line in regards to Nihuang where I feel your case is made quite clearly.

Geo
Geo
10 days ago

The show really steams ahead and MCS’ strategic thinking plus his ability to think on his feet are highlighted. Not only can he plan (the Baili Qi development), he can also respond effectively and quickly to unexpected situations (Nihuang’s drugging) so as to not only save the situation but to also gain benefit from it. I haven’t read all the comments so please excuse any repetition, just don’t have enough time these days.

It’s interesting that the very first reference to MCS in episode 1 “He really did it” referring to him making the weak 6th prince of Northern Yan the Crown Prince bears fruit here when Baili Qi from Northern Yan returns the favour and loses to the boys. This is a reference, the significance of which is almost impossible to pick up on a first view.

Nihuang is fast figuring out that there is a lot more to MCS than is apparent. She thinks he must have a secret strategy for Baili Qi since she can see as a martial arts expert the boys can’t really defeat Baili Qi. She is more perceptive than Prince Jing or General Meng in seeing the many hidden strands in the drug/attempted rape and subsequent court confrontation before the Emperor and how the benefits have played out to the different players. One can sense her respect for MCS, whom she becomes increasingly intrigued with.

The Crown Prince (CP) is so markedly inferior to Prince Yu in temperament, ability and courage that one wonders why he is the CP. I think it’s because he’s the oldest and to designate a younger Prince as the CP would invite almost open warfare if the older Prince is ambitious. This way, the natural order is preserved and while there is a cold war going on, it would have been a lot worse if the younger Prince Yu were made CP. In addition, the Emperor likes to have the rival princes compete with each other so they don’t conspire against him, he is the most paranoid and suspicious character in the show. If he made Prince Yu the CP, there would not be a competitive situation since with the additional status of CP, Prince Yu would just steam-roll the existing CP. There’s also another reason which will surface later.

In my first viewing, I totally missed the allusion to Princess Liyang and her experience with the Empress Dowager and the Marquis of Xie which made her more sensitive to the plot against Nihuang. I feel for Princess Liyang having to marry her attacker and bear his children. It’s not clear how she felt about him, maybe he was one of her suitors and she was interested to some extent but to be assaulted and then not have a choice but to marry your attacker must be devastating.

Consort Yue overplays her hand but I think she felt she had to, given the weak character of her son, the CP, and the demonstrated abilities of Prince Yu. But she knows how to do the best in a hopeless situation, she tries to take all the blame to try and protect the CP from severe punishment, a mother’s love or the gut instinct of a survivor or a bit of both?

Needless to say, I’m enjoying the re-watch, While I had the main storyline down, I’ve picked up several small meaningful details and learnt a lot from other viewers. Hope to learn a lot more when I have the time to read all the comments below.

Natalia
Natalia
11 days ago

So, 6 episodes in, I can confidently say that Prince Jing is my favourite character. Such a noble person. Straightforward, honest, brave, and he’s not putting up with any kind of schemes that he morally opposes, even if they serve him.
My second favourite, the Grand Princess Liyang. I just loved how she did all she could to save Nihuang from a horrible experence and a sad future. And she was able to see that Mei Changsu was the way to go to achieve what she wanted. By the way, is it certain that the late Empress, the one who plotted against her forcing ther to marry the Evil Marquis was her own mother? It seems such an improbable thing for a mother to do. Maybe her mother was a different consort/concubine?
Third favourite, of course, Imperial Concubine Jing. Coming to think of it, this is a show with so many positive female characters, it is refreshing to watch.
Excluding, of course, the now Concubine Yue, which I would gladly slap. It was good to see that she sort-of got what she deserved (I would punish her more severely) and that the Emperor is, generally speaking, a smart and just man. Although I cannot understand why he favours the Crown Prince who is obviously an idiot. Between him and Prince Yu, I would certaily pick the second one, even though he’s quite the weasel.
A last question: in episode 6, Viki suddenly started referring to Nihuang as “Duchess” (she was a Princess so far). I take this is a mistake and she is indeed a princess?

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
11 days ago
Reply to  Natalia

I noticed that Viki Duchess reference myself. Nihuang is a princess. Maybe some of the mandarin speakers can help.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
11 days ago
Reply to  kfangurl

Big thanks 😍😍 Fangurl for that clarification. I couldn’t spell it in English (let alone Mandarin) to even google it. It makes sense that it may be a mistake on the translator’s part. You almost have to be part historian to understand all the titles and terms. More notes for my folder! 😊

Natalia
Natalia
10 days ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

Ha ha yes, all I could get is what they say sounds similar yer different from the word “konju” which is what I think the Koreans for princess (or rather, what I hear) and which apparently is quite similar to the second word you mention K, the one referring to a “real” princess.

BE
BE
10 days ago
Reply to  kfangurl

Jun Zhu Nihuang and Gongzhu Nihuang sound so cool in the first place and awesome in the latter. Better than either princess of dutchess. But I am having some problem with European court titles like Marquis and Duke, of which I hardly know the distinction in feudal France.

Trent
10 days ago
Reply to  BE

You’re not alone there, wondering how these quintessentially European nobility titles got imported into translations from the Chinese…

The convention has been around for a long time, though, and I strongly suspect that when early translators were starting to take stabs at translating the Chinese classics, they tried to figure out what these noble, quasi-feudal titles in the text corresponded most closely to in their cultural experience, and then translated them that way.

So for instance, the character 侯 (hou) has been translated as “Marquis,” and 公 (gong) has been translated as “Duke” (in this context–it much more commonly also means “public,” among other things) at least since I was encountering translated versions of the Analects and the Zhuangzi and so forth back in my university days.

Now, to actually get what they mean as far as the actual position they’re describing, we’d have to do a socio-historical deep dive into the social/economic/political structure of whatever particular dynasty or period we’re looking at, and…that’s beyond my paygrade, sorry …

BE
BE
10 days ago
Reply to  Trent

A tangent, but while I find the Analects (in translation) pithy at times, I tend to like the more expansive Mencius better.

BE
BE
10 days ago
Reply to  Natalia

i like Jing too. Substantial fella. Easy to see why he is MCS’ choice.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
11 days ago

Episode 6

Poor Prince Jing finds Prince Yu’s explanation disturbing. Nihuang’s mind is going a mile a minute because again, Meng Zhi is again connected to MCS and she is doing her best to figure out how. Remember Meng Zhi’s position. Yes FG – Meng Zhi is not a good ad-libber. I guess it is possible to feel sorry for someone while getting a little laugh out of the situation.

Prince Jing’s heart is a little shaken over the discussion between himself, Nihuang and Meng Zhi and calls a pow-wow. What he says to MCS and how he says it – sigh, sigh, and sigh. What must MCS be feeling during this conversation? I love this scene because I can see how MCS heart is deeply moved by Prince Jing’s words of loyalty. I also see that flicker in his eyes when this is mentioned. I have to sit back and admire how MCS’ control.

Note in Chapter 31 of the novel Prince Jing becomes so angry with MCS at the beginning of this conversation that he grabs his collar and yanks MCS so hard that Fei Liu jumped in to attack Prince Jing. Even though MCS stopped Fei Liu in time, the intention of Fei Liu’s attack was so fierce it released a wave of icy pain in both MCS and Prince Jing.

Xia Dong is as good as her reputation and has the dirt on the Duke of Qing. Yes FG, the Marquis of Ning is truly insidious and a horrid human being.

Jingrui is such a good guy. 💖💖💖. I believe that all of things that are happening in his home are really troubling his soul.

I believe the fight scene by the lake was filmed in the Zhexi Grand Grasslands. Xia Dong thankfully meets the Dynamic Duo besties, Jingrui and Yujin there. Check out Yujin’s palpable fear of Xia Dong.

There is a backstory to poor Yujin’s fear of Xia Dong – Book Excerpt Chapter 33 – Seventeen years ago, the Emperor had suddenly felt that the noble sons were pampered and spoiled, and not fit to bring prosperity to his kingdom, and so he had opened a corner of the palace called the Shuren Courtyard and ordered all male children aged five to eleven of third-rank officials or higher to be sent there for physical training by the Xuanjing officers. […}the twenty-year-old Xia Dong, then newly made officer and brimming with eagerness to serve the royal family, took the training she had received from her own master and implemented it directly into the training of these tender young puppies, and every day, loud wailing and miserable shrieks were heard from Shuren Courtyard. The poor Yan Yujin had just turned five, a little pearl of a boy in his powdered make up, and though he was originally a proud, flamboyant little sapling, after a few days of training, he had been transformed into a shaking little leaf that spontaneously curled up as if struck by frost whenever he so much as caught a glimpse of Xia Dong jiejie.

Fangurl – whew, these people are ruthless! I think that is a truly bold and brazen move for the Marquis of Ning to try to kill Xia Dong. The Xuanjing Bureau is highly regarded by the Emperor – these are his personal people who answer only to him.

E6 Thoughts

  • Marquis of Ning is no slouch in the intrigue department and he is one bold, mean and nasty article to boot
  • Prince Yu and The Empress made out like bandits in that fiasco

DID YOU KNOW…

  • In the novel Xia Dong is described as having a prominent white streak in the front of her hair
  • By Chapter 35 the novel explains that the Royal Court rumor mill was buzzing with speculation on MCS
phl1rxd
phl1rxd
11 days ago
Reply to  kfangurl

Fangurl – It explains a lot of his terror. Can you imagine being 5 years old and having Xia Dong as your instructor? I would be scared to death as well. 🥺

BE
BE
10 days ago
Reply to  kfangurl

I agree, and just a little aging with her complexion.

BE
BE
10 days ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

Almost universally women are casted as older than their actual ages. Xang Lin Xin (Xio Dong) was 35 during filming but her character was certainly older. The question of course is: does the startling charismatic beauty of these actors always work for projecting the kind of charismatic characters they are playing.

Ele Nash
11 days ago

I’ve literally just spent half my morning watching the sixth episode, reading your excellent boiled-down plot review, and everyone’s insightful comments – was this a waste of my time? Of course not!! I’m hugely invested. Loving Mei Changsu and his smarts and absolutely adore Nihuang 😍 Managing not to swoon under that perfectly evil wine-drug but fight to get out – I was beyond impressed. She is my new favourite hero. I also rather like her jewelled headdress – is there a name for it?
I also really like how unfriendly and suspicious Prince Jing is. It’s kind of refreshing and also poignant, given his complete blindness to who Mei Changsu really is. I think the show plays this very well, as our sympathy is firmly with them both, despite Jing being stiff as a board.
Anyway, I will spend the rest of my day working (honest) whilst also humming the theme tune (which strikes me as particularly OTT in a way I like) and pointlessly hoping Mei Changsu isn’t actually as gravely ill as he seems…

PS Why was Consort Yue reckless enough to almost have Prince Jing shot with arrows?? It seemed a step way bigger than even the nasty plot she had concerning Nihuang. Is she so much the Emperor’s favourite, she could get away with killing one of his sons? Even an ill-favoured one? I got the impression in other dramas, that to kill a royal son was in effect an act of treason against the Emperor?

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
11 days ago
Reply to  Ele Nash

Ele –

IMHO, I believe that she thought that she would really get away with drugging Nihuang. You can see her shock when she realizes she is caught and her relief when the Crown Prince is only sent to the Eastern Palace to study instead of losing his position entirely.

As far as shooting Prince Jing with arrows, in the novel Prince JIng told the Emperor that she wanted to kill him to silence him.

(Now) Consort Yue is a right hot mess, isn’t she?

Last edited 11 days ago by phl1rxd
jisaab
jisaab
11 days ago

Great review!

Man the show picks up so fast!! I thought episodes 1-3 were interesting but episodes 4 – onwards are insane!! I had planned to follow your watching schedule but my anticipation and excitement got the best of me and I’m up to episode 20 now LOL.

Also, on another note, I actually really like how everyone is smart in this show. Maybe it’s because I haven’t seen other Chinese royalty shows, but I like how this show has everyone using their brains. Like even Commander Meng – the way he answers the Emperor shows such tact. And it feels realistic too – like you cannot survive in that kind of atmosphere without having some smarts to manoeuvre around.

Similarly, I also really liked how Mei Changsu tends to *sort of* slip up around Nihuang. It would be unrealistic for him to be perfect all the time. But also, the show does a FANTASTIC job of showing just how incredibly smart Mei Changsu is. The Baili Qi reveal dropped my jaw! I did not see that coming at all! It just makes for such a wonderful watching experience!

I’m also really enjoying the dynamic between Mei Changsu and Prince Jing. Although it’s kind of hard to watch how much Prince Jing distrusts him currently without knowing that it’s actually his best friend (I’m assuming) he’s meeting with, I love how Prince Jing is so suspicious of him. He’s asking all the right questions and showing the right about of skepticism. Again, showing how he is also smart (like everyone else)!

That said, I’m reeeaally disliking Marquis Xie. Like I got bad vibes from the character from the beginning but that whole reveal with Princess Liyang and the rape just soured me on him completely. I guess it’s safe to say that he’s one of the main villains.

Man this show is just so interesting to follow!! Thank you for the recommendation and these open threads!

Alaskan
Alaskan
10 days ago
Reply to  kfangurl

Oops, I did the same thing as your mom. This is my second time watching so I thought I would have no problem following the group watch schedule. I am now on (cough cough) Episode 44.

BE
BE
11 days ago

First thoughts:
I liked that mysterious fighting style the whatever it was “mirage.” Every once in a while show is funny.
Contrary to beez perspective last week, I loved when Prince Jing cracked up at the suggestion that Mei Chang Su was backing him. He isn’t entirely humorless.
The back story of the marriage between the Marquis and the Princess Liyang seems like it is bound, given both characters’ apparent importance, the former in the Game of Thrones scenarios going on between the Princes, and as Emperor’s sister, the latter given her status among the court women ) to have implications beyond being the plot device by which the attempt to nullify Princess Nihuang and the early defeat of Consort Yue. And her character seems to be a bit more interesting than the other court women.
Plot: the long game–bringing Jing to becoming the heir. Initial step appears to clear Princess Nihuang of relevance, and engaging Jing, plotted a priori with N. Yan pugilist fighter Bailli Qi, set up and the use of prison boy Tingsheng, thus rescuing him, in the bout. Then really jumping on the opportunity presented by plot of Yue against Nihuang, so both long term prep and rapid fire improvisation when events arise both part of Mei’s repertoire, playing Yu at the end of last very cool, quick on his feet thinking. So it seems after getting Nihuang free from being forced into taking one side or other, the next step has been to bring CP down a peg via Yue’s shameful downfall, while simultaneously convincing Yu that he is working for him, when in fact Mei Chang Su is only doing so as part of taking CP down and gaining Yu’s trust for purposes we will discover more as we go along.

I am feeling the innuendos of the relationship between Mei Chang Su, Nihaung, and Jing, some by how Tamia Liu (Ni Huang) and Hu Ge are enacting their parts when each are with one another. But I am certain we will find that itch scratched down the line.

It strikes me that Qin Banruo is a bit more to be contended with than Yu, a bit more hip to just how wily Mei Cheng Su is.

I love the negotiations between Jing and Mei Chang Su. How good is show when nuts and bolts of ethics between them along with big picture planning is actually fascinating to watch.

As we enter the Xia Dong, Duke of Quing-Yu, CP-Marquis incident, which appears to be the next phase, you gotta love Jingrui, not only a perennially good guy, but very quite the martial artist. Gotta love when he is spinning horizontal in midair bouncing off one masked sword wielding assassin after another putting them all down. Also dug Xio Dong’s possum move lying on the ground as good flyer mediocre sword guy goes to pounce on her, and that smile on her face as he does so.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
11 days ago
Reply to  BE

BE – Jingrui is just the best. Jingrui and Yujin together are even better. My dynamic duo. I wish I knew the name for that move Xia Dong did but yes, it was impressive.

BE
BE
11 days ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

Do you remember the whole name of the “? mirage” fighting strategy Meng suggests might be used against Bailli Qi? As I noted earlier the double entendre of it being a mirage cracked me up.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
11 days ago
Reply to  BE

BE – No but I am sufficiently intrigued to look that up. 😂 I only remember that it was a sword formation.

BE
BE
11 days ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

Well, especially as we find out after the fact that Bailli Qi threw the fight, I found it was a joke that had echoes to it.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
10 days ago
Reply to  BE

BE – try as I might I cannot find that scene. That fight was an illusion – a mirage. In fact in the novel MCS made a show of spilling his cup of tea during the fight to attract everyone’s attention to his clumsiness instead of the actual fight. I really enjoyed the fight scenes in this drama. The choreography must have taken hours to perfect.

BE
BE
10 days ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

I think scene was when Emperor asked Meng if the boys had a chance and Meng said “yeah, there is this strategy called the “(?) Linxiang Mirage” or something like that.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
8 days ago
Reply to  BE

Aha BE! It is E4 at 9:45:00 but the translation on V is different. It is not translated as a type of Sword Formation. I thought I was going nuts. I went to the site which must not be named and their translation is te same as V’s. Where are you watching so I can take a peek. I am intrigued.

BE
BE
7 days ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

viki

BE
BE
7 days ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

Found it by your time counter. MCS is with the dangerous duo and Jingrui asks MCS about it to which MCS tells him about the Linxu Mirage (I wonder if there is a hotel/casino there with that name).
Looking it up it appears Linxu is near today’s Nanchang, significantly north and west of show’s action, rendering title of such a sword strategy even more preposterous.

Last edited 7 days ago by BE
beez
11 days ago

I really like Prince Mu. During my first watch, I was greatly annoyed by his overly friendly, bubbly, intrusive nature. He reminded me if how we Americans probably seem to most Asian cultures. But he grew on me. I’m not sure when it happened but it might’ve been when he kicked Rapist Semi’s azz for trying that mess on his sister!

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
11 days ago
Reply to  beez

@Beez – he was so proud of himself for doing that. 😆 Did you happen to pick up the look on NiHuang’s face when Meng Zhi came in and reported that Sima Lei’s leg was broken? She looked really proud for a few seconds there. 😁

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
11 days ago

EPISODE 5

On the big battle day MCS when gives Nihuang the warning to not eat or drink anything from the Palace ladies he has that rare slip. Fangurl, I think that (rare) slip about the maid is because he feels so comfortable around her.  That is rare for MCS to slip like that isn’t it?  However I liked it because it adds just a little more tension in their relationship dynamics.

I loved how MCS changed the course of the post battle talk with that misdirection of arguing over where the boys would go! I 100% agree with you FG that they had to put the Emperor in a good mood.  In the novel the Emperor wanted to castrate the three boys and have them work as eunuchs.

MCS pre-planned use of Baili Qi gives all of us first glimpse of his large scope of contacts and influence and his knowledge of the Emperor. Nihuang, our smart girl, also realizes that Meng Zhi did not raise alarms over the moves (she knows that he is capable of seeing right through these) and this could bring up a whole new level of concern regarding Meng Zhi’s standing with the Emperor. No doubt she is going to analyze this. Thank you FG for the info on the personal favor phrase – it is getting filed for future reference.

Snakes in the Plane…ugh Palace. Here is how darn sharp MCS is – a simple statement verifying the preferred Prince Yu’s selection was going to be at a polo match is enough for MCS to predict what is to happen next. How intricately fine-tuned his whip-smart mind is – he had to think up all those moves in a split second.

Check out how bold Consort Yue is! Woah is right Fangurl. Surely she has to know what she is risking right now but I am of the opinion that she thought she would never get caught. I loved how Prince Jing gave no thought to how this would affect him politically and I also love how the Empress handled the scene in the courtyard. Prince Mu Qing finally has somebody to beat up over his sister.

I love how Prince Jing acts during the attack and afterwards, before his father. He just does the right thing. I am firmly in the Prince Jing fan club if only to cheer him on after Consort Yue thought low enough of him to kill him.  Look at how good and honest he and Nihuang are compared to the rest of them. 

So you may ask – Is MCS really that smart? Yes folks. Yes, he is.
 
E5 Thoughts

  • When MCS asks Meng Zhi about Neigong to help him breathe – MCS wants Meng Zhi to transfer his chi energy to him
  • MCS’ illness is affected by his emotional state

DID YOU KNOW…

  • This role was Wang Kai’s (Prince Jing) breakout role. He had been acting for 10 years before NIF. Once it aired his star status went through the roof.  
BE
BE
11 days ago
Reply to  kfangurl

Yikes!

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
11 days ago
Reply to  kfangurl

Yes Fangurl – The Emperor could not understand why they did not want to castrate them and use them as working eunuchs. MCS who had broken out in a cold sweat had to give Prince Jing a hard look to keep him from protesting against this. In the end it was Jingrui who saved the boys by stating that the Emperor had already promised to free them and he could not go back on his word.

Leslie
11 days ago

Question: Why does the Empress hesitate – and in fact, not respond – when the Emperor asks her opinion of the punishment he’s decided for Noble Consort Yue?

Another question: was the Emperor throwing a little shade at Prince Yu when he responded to Prince Yu’s yammering about how he knew where the Crown Prince was because he’s always admired him and followed his actions, etc. (🤮) with “Alright. You don’t need to say this. I know you well, but your words are reasonable. Nothing happened today and it was all due to your cleverness.” Or was he being sincere? Trying to gage how well the Emperor knows his sons.

BE
BE
11 days ago
Reply to  Leslie

Emperor as we have already seen is quite aware of the rivalry between the princes, and it is also not hard to see how much court conversation uses politeness and false flattery to mask, but not entirely hide, truer sentiments. It seems like a way of life.
Inre Empress, why say anything? Yue is truly already being hung on her own petard, no need to appear petty.

laos7
10 days ago
Reply to  Leslie

I assume similarly like others before me – if the Empress spoke on the punishment, it could’ve been used against her and Prince Yu. What’s more, Noble Consort Yue’s explanation that it was all a trap set up by the Empress and Prince Yu might have resonated with the Emperor as in – why is she trying so hard to punish the Noble Consort if she’s not involved? So in this way remaining silent was a smart move from the Empress.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
11 days ago

EPISODE 4

Fangurl – you are right on the money when you say that MCS is playing everyone like a fiddle. He really is – those tangerines! You are also correct that he played on the Emperor’s suspicions by whispering to Nihuang. MCS is like the snake charmer in the market and notice Prince Yu’s eyes are only on him. I just need to say right here that the actor who plays the Emperor, Ding Yong Dai, does a brilliant job in this role. Big YES to Meng Zhi pacifying the Emperor.

Yes, Concubine Jing is a sharp and shrewd cookie. When she visits Great Grandmother it is interesting to note that GG mentions Consort Chen and Prince Qi/Jingyu and that the Lin Family sent Concubine Jing into the Palace. I so love GG. 

That conversation was Grand Princess Liyang and her flashbacks were pretty gutting. Consort Jing (a former traveling physician before she entered the Palace) is clearly someone who cares for those in pain whether it is emotional or physical.

Novel Excerpt Chapter 26: “There is a type of wine in the Palace called ‘Coils of Passion’. It has the effect of inducing hallucination and sexual desire with just one cup. If a woman drinks it, she will mistake the man next to her as the person she dearly loves and longs for. Urged by the effects of the drug, she will take the initiative and beg to be embraced. She does not know about the existence of such a wine, so even when she sobers afterwards, she will believe that it was her weak will that led to her misconduct while being intoxicated. She furthermore cannot be angry at the man since she was the one who took the initiative. Ashamed and in despair, that feeling really is worse than death. But death had always been the most difficult affair throughout the ages. If she dies then, she will die without dignity. From then on, no matter how many unspoken words are hidden in her heart, it would be impossible for her to say them. If a trusted person comes forward then to advise her while she is feeling at loss, how could she have any energy to struggle or to refuse? She is only able to have others manipulate her as they wish”…Princess Liyang

When Mei Chang Su lays the boom on Prince Jing and lets him know that he, Prince Jing, is his pick for future Emperor it is such a moving scene for, sigh, sigh, sigh, so many reasons. I think Prince Jing comes across a bit obnoxious, but I love that he has a lot of backbone, has morals, does not sway easily and rates his friends high. I also feel that MCS’ stance is on higher ground. The way he stresses Prince Jing’s morals really stuck with me. Thank you Fangurl for that reference to the use of jiànmiànlǐ. That is going in my notes for sure. 

When MCS and Meng Zhi discuss the annihilation of Noble Prince Qi’s household it is pretty chilling. MCS has surmised that Tingsheng is the son of Noble Prince Qi (he also calls him by his first name – Jingyu).

E4 Thoughts:

  • Meng Zhi has MCS’s back. The Emperor trusts Meng Zhi so Meng Zhi really has to be careful to appear neutral.
  • There is no love lost between Princess Liyang’s maidservant (Qi-momo) and the Marquis. I personally loved that she laid a guilt trip on him because he deserves it. Don’t mess with the Momo!
  • Something really bad happened to Prince Qi and his mom Consort Chen
  • MCS and Nihuang work together well. She has a natural trust in him.
  • Already there are folks who trust in MCS’s ability to get things done. 
  • Consort Hui is bullied by the Empress. Novel Note – The Empress is still angry at her because they both had their first sons at the same time but due to an epidemic the Empress’ child died.

DID YOU KNOW…

  • The ending song is called When the Wind Blows (composed by Meng Ke with lyrics written by Hai Yan) and is actually sung by Hu Ge who plays MCS. Wang Kai (Kai-Kai to his fans and stalwart Prince Jing in the drama) sings Heather and Liu Tao (Princess Nihuang) sings ‘Aging of a Beauty’. The entire OST is very good. I was overjoyed that the opening song for NIF2 is almost identical to NIF1 with a slight change of a few notes.
Last edited 11 days ago by phl1rxd
phl1rxd
phl1rxd
11 days ago
Reply to  kfangurl

Thanks FG – I think the link you provided for the levels of harem members was especially useful.

Ele Nash
11 days ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

I’m loving all your novel ‘extras’ 😍 The show seems to tie in neatly with the book so it’s like your extracts are thickening the plot rather than changing or contradicting it – unlike The Rise of Phoenixes which seems so contrary to the book, I wonder why they bothered referencing it at all and didn’t just make up an original screenplay. Anyway, if not too horribly time-consuming, keep them coming!!

I LOVE the music. Have been humming the songs the past couple of days – especially the intro, which seems to me to be sweeping and epic and ever so slightly over-the-top in a good way 😊

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
11 days ago
Reply to  Ele Nash

Hi Ele –

If I really like a drama I will search for the novel to read because I love to read. I have been disappointed when there are stark differences. Fans do pay attention to these kinds of things. @CP left a great comment on the author last week. Check it out of you have not read it.

The casting was brilliant and one of the actors in the drama is actually the casting director. I will bring it up again after he appears so we can all give him a round of applause.

Besides being beautiful, Hu Ge (MCS) sings very well indeed!

CP
CP
10 days ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

Ooh yes I like Casting Director’s character! You probably mentioned this already but 2 of the Assistant Director’s are also in the cast too – one of them playing a rather major role too. I was super impressed by their acting – I wonder if they were actors at some point before being crew members?

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
8 days ago
Reply to  CP

@CP – MDL has 4 Assistant Directors listed. Out of those, all four were actors first.

For one of those four – I will have a DID YOU KNOW… snapshot of his roles side by side.

For another one of those four – he is my absolute favorite (he has his own special nickname – I 💖 him) and once he pops up I will drop the backstory on these dual-utilized pros.

P.S. one of the two main directors Kong Sheng has a part in the drama but I have yet to find him so I am not sure if they cut it. It is like ‘Where’s Waldo’ – I have looked for him on every one of my watches and I cannot ID him. It is a mystery…

Elaine Phua
Elaine Phua
5 days ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

Apparently fans of the novel campaigned hard for Hu Ge to be cast as Mei Changsu!!

BE
BE
8 days ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

I like Hu Ge’s singing voice, then, better than his speaking voice in this. It is so round and sonorous.

manukajoe
manukajoe
11 days ago

Hi everyone. I have some thoughts:

  1. Why does Consort Yue want to drug Princess Nihuang and marry er to Sia Lei? What does she have to gain?
  2. The emperor seems pretty smart.
  3. They’re starting to distrust Mei Changsu after he advised Prince Yu. I’m interested to see the range of tactics he uses, sometimes he is very direct, sometimes very indirect.
phl1rxd
phl1rxd
11 days ago
Reply to  manukajoe

Hi Joe

Noble Consort Yue wants to force a marriage between Sima Lei and Nihuang as Sima Lei is the Crown Prince’s selection to marry the princess. He is in his camp of allies so to speak. What she and her son gain is Nihuang’s military power and influence. They already know Sima Lei cannot win fair and square in the competition.

Snow Flower
Snow Flower
11 days ago

I can’t believe that someone as shrewd as the Emperor would pick someone so incompetent as Crown Prince.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
11 days ago
Reply to  kfangurl

Snow Flower and FG – Yes ma’ams, Noble Consort Yue has some skillz, shall we say?

I also feel that the Emperor puts up with the Crown prince for two reasons – first, because he has more control over a weak Crown Prince who is less likely to rebel and therefore safer, and the second reason will have to wait.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
11 days ago
Reply to  kfangurl

FG – That suspicious mind is the Emperor’s Achilles heel and one which MCS utilizes to the max here. He is boldly and carefully playing this man like a fiddle! There is moment at the banquet when The Emperor is looking at MCS (at 5:27:00 into E1). That look is so revealing. It always sent a chill down my spine.

Natalia
Natalia
10 days ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

I hadn’t thought of that, indeed, the emperor may feel more at ease with such an idiot for Crown Prince – could he be planning to change him when he feels he’s nearing the end of his rein?

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
10 days ago
Reply to  Natalia

@Natalie – He is a complicated man. I want to say more but I don’t want to post a spoiler. Please hold onto that thought and you will understand as the drama gets further along. There is a ton more good stuff ahead that will help you understand a lot more about him. 🙂

BE
BE
8 days ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

NO SPOILERS, but I would advise, also, for the jury to be out on CP; it may well be that he behaves one way with Emperor and in other contexts…

BE
BE
11 days ago
Reply to  kfangurl

She is the youngest of the noble consorts. Also it may have to do with who supports whom in the royal court. As we can see the Marquis is a backer of the Crown Prince, for example. But also age.

Also while CP does seem weak, and Yu more wily, Mei is quite able to play him in the Princess Nihuang incident to believe he is acting on his behalf, when in fact, he is saving his Prince and making sure Princess Nihuang is left to her own devices with regard to both CP and Yu.

beez
11 days ago
Reply to  Snow Flower

@Snow Flower – The actor playing the Crown Prince is the only one I feel is hugely miscast, mostly due to his age. As a lot of people commented last week, he looks older than his mother, but also when he was sniveling on the Emperor’s knee – that would’ve played better if he didn’t look almost as old as his dad!

BE
BE
11 days ago
Reply to  beez

The actor playing the Marquis seems like he is the real power behind the CP.

CP
CP
11 days ago

Yay finally on week 2! Tuesday nights (my time) are quickly becoming my favourite day of the week haha.

I was puzzled by your point about ep. 6, when Prince Yu was explaining why it makes sense to have Prince Jing go into Zhaoren palace but not himself, so I went back to take a look. What he actually says is that at least Prince Jing is a prince, therefore it is more appropriate for him to barge into the palace than Prince Yu’s troops. I presume the logic here is that Prince Jing himself would be able to fight the guards to get in, whereas Prince Yu would have to get his troops to fight the guards, and prince-barging seems to be more forgivable than troops-barging…? Again seems a slightly weak argument but I agree with you that even if he wasn’t 100% sold the emperor seems to be inclined to let Prince Jing off the hook since he obviously was trying to save Princess Nihuang.

CP
CP
11 days ago
Reply to  kfangurl

I think you’re probably right that all the princes likely had to train in martial arts as part of their education, but I’m under the impression that Prince Jing is pretty much the only prince who currently still fights / is actively leading troops in battle etc. I think a big part of it is that he is unfavoured, therefore the Emperor sends him out to the do the dangerous work (like fighting in battles), whereas he wouldn’t send out the Crown Prince or Prince Yu. Crown Prince & Prince Yu are “娇生惯养惯了” (used to being pampered) so to speak, therefore are probably too soft to do much fighting these days.

Last edited 11 days ago by CP
CP
CP
11 days ago
Reply to  kfangurl

Haha don’t need that when you can lounge around with your personal troops & military allegiances at your disposal!

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
11 days ago
Reply to  CP

CP – Poor Prince Jing is like the black sheep in the family. He is definitely unfavoured and even scorned and was purposely sent on all those military excursions.

I feel part of that is because the Emperor and the Princes know that he is an upright and moral human being. Prince Jing is also secure in his approach to right and wrong and I think he makes them nervous. They are forced to see themselves as they really are when he is in front of them.

You are correct in that all the princes had martial arts training but only Prince Jing is still capable of using it. That being said, did you catch the way Prince Yu caught that knife in E1? He still has some fast reflexes. However, I think the only thing that the Crown Prince can catch is a cold.

Last edited 11 days ago by phl1rxd
beez
11 days ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

– I get that Prince Jing is not favored but I don’t understand why he is ridiculed when they all admit that he’s moral, righteous and virtuous. Am I missing something in translation? Could it be they’re actually calling him self-righteous or something of that nature? I get that the two snakes in the crowns would sneer at a do-gooder, but why the Emperor? Again, I’m not saying Prince Jing’s virtue should make him favored, but how it can be considered a bad attribute…?

CP
CP
11 days ago
Reply to  beez

@beez In terms of why the Emperor hates him so much…. the Emperor himself is a bit more “grey” than he seems too. But we might need to wait a bit for that answer to be revealed (and along with it some more insight into the Emperor’s personality). It definitely has something to do with the whole recurring nightmare (the flames/bloody army/falling off cliff scene) and the foreshadowed bad things that have happened to Prince Qi & his mother, but it will be revealed in good time 🙂

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
11 days ago
Reply to  beez

@Beez – He is the whipping boy because they get perverse pleasure out of putting him down to make themselves look better.

As for the Emperor – he has his own reason for his treatment of Prince Jing. Prince Jing makes him really nervous and it has to do with something Prince Jing stands up for. As CP says – to say any more would be to put up a spoiler.

BE
BE
10 days ago
Reply to  beez

@beez: I think this also has to do with stuff we will have detailed later on in terms of Jing’s allegiances from days gone by (including a particular someone) and his mother’s relationship with a particular former consort, but NO SPOILERS.

BE
BE
11 days ago
Reply to  kfangurl

I think there is also the whole subplot of the two princes vying for power, whereas Jing is a prince but in terms of the court not a threat to CP’s status, and thus if Yu goes barging into the palace with his men, it does not look so much like a rescue of Nihuang but a power play, with civil war kind of implications.

CP
CP
11 days ago
Reply to  BE

Ooh that’s a good point, I didn’t think of that angle!

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
11 days ago
Reply to  BE

Yes BE – great point!

Natalia
Natalia
10 days ago
Reply to  BE

That’s my understanding of it too. If Prince Yu confronts the CP it may be perceived as a sort of coup d’etat. Whereas noone gives too much attention to what a practical nobody like Prince Jing does, and all on his own at that (I mean no personal guards, since he apparently has none).

laos7
10 days ago
Reply to  CP

For me it’s Wednesday mornings, but I probably enjoy it as much as you (if not more!) – reading the musings and comments is the best way to spend time while commuting to work.

I was also surprised by that comment because it’d never crossed my mind until this point that it Prince Yu’s explanation was illogical – to me it sounded reasonable. Although the fact the the Emperor rewarded him and no Prince Jing made me, maybe not buffled, but for sure angry!

Snow Flower
Snow Flower
11 days ago

I thoroughly enjoyed watching MCS snacking casually while Baili Qi and the 3 servant boys were displaying their skills in martial arts.

BE
BE
10 days ago
Reply to  Snow Flower

Because the wit in this show is so dry (as opposed to K Drama’s affection for pure corn) show, as I noted elsewhere, has some wonderfully unexpected bits of humor. The closest we get to broad humor are at Fei Liu and General Meng’s expense.

Elaine Phua
Elaine Phua
5 days ago
Reply to  BE

Yujin is also game for laughs! There was a funny moment at the river when Xia Dong swears and either Yujin or Jingrui, can’t remember which one, says “Dong Jie, you shouldn’t swear”, and Xia Dong says in a very sharp voice “What’s wrong with that” and the two boys are like “don’t kill me” with their body language!

CP
CP
10 days ago
Reply to  Snow Flower

Haha MCS’ inappropriate snacktimes is one of the best recurring jokes in this drama…. he’s just so ahead of the game that he doesn’t even need to watch the outcome, since it’ll turn out exactly as he planned. Everytime it happens it’s like a signal to the audience that MCS is about to take a huge win and I love it.

Elaine Phua
Elaine Phua
10 days ago
Reply to  CP

Hey you’re right! Tangerines do make a recurring appearance.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
8 days ago
Reply to  Elaine Phua

Hi Elaine – Methinks someone owns a tangerine farm…..🍊 (the closest to a tangerine I could find)

Snow Flower
Snow Flower
11 days ago

Oh wow…in just 6 episodes I went from confused to curious to intrigued and addicted, and that’s saying a lot. Some of the details still escape me, but I understand enough to appreciate the masterful strategy of MCS.

BE
BE
10 days ago
Reply to  Snow Flower

I think on second watch up to this point, I have been most struck by how MCS had to know and plot out for Nihuang being forced to come to the capital to be married off before he even came to the capital himself, thus the Bailli Qi gambit in play.

Elaine Phua
Elaine Phua
5 days ago
Reply to  BE

Actually, it sounds like a call was made far and wide for contenders to vie for Princess Nihuang’s hand, MCS wouldn’t have needed intel. Once he saw the open call, and with him being so concerned for Nihuang, I can easily believe he would have sent for a strong fighter from Jiangzuo to enter the fray. What I wonder is whether the “ambassador” for Northern Yan was really the actual ambassador or also a plant, since he was very concerned for Baili Qi’s success in upping the political capital for his kingdom with Daliang.

Trent
11 days ago

Wow, I can’t believe we’re thrust deep into a heinous drug-and-rape plot these episodes. I mean…I can believe it, in that it makes a certain twisted, totally evil sense, given the conventions around high-ranking unmarried women’s chastity and personal purity, but it’s super yucky.

It’s also an indication, I think, of how far the sides are willing to go in these factional battles: Nihuang is a valuable enough piece on the board, so to speak, that “winning” her by tying her down to your team’s candidate is worth the depraved, underhanded tactics–which almost succeeded. And to defend her, the opposing side had to expend significant energy and strategic acumen to defeat the scheme–Prince Jing basically had to be prepared to fight to the death, and if it had turned out a bit differently, or the timing was off, he might actually have been killed. High stakes already!

Also, I knew Tingsheng was going to be someone important…

Elaine Phua
Elaine Phua
11 days ago
Reply to  kfangurl

This episode really showed MCS’ quick thinking. The Nihuang situation was not something he had planned on, yet even in a dizzy state he had the brains to instruct General Meng with 3 plans – Plan 1 Prince Jing, Plan 2 reinforce with Empress, Plan 3 capture Sima Lei. Shows how he thinks through all the second and third order consequences and knows that the brute force (Avengers/superhero-type solution) i.e. sending Prince Jing in to save the day, would not be enough to resolve the situation.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
10 days ago
Reply to  Elaine Phua

Hi Elaine!

His brain was clicking on all cylinders.

Some fans said that they felt that ‘luck’ played too much of a part in MCS’ success. I always think back to this moment where his plans were ‘unlucky’ so to speak and yet he successfully recovered and regrouped in seconds. Impressive.

BE
BE
10 days ago
Reply to  Elaine Phua

Yeah, a Divine Talent that MCS, longterm, shortterm, improvisational strategist wizard. So far, and we can only hardly tell, it only seems like Qin Banruo is even close to his category.

Last edited 10 days ago by BE
phl1rxd
phl1rxd
8 days ago
Reply to  BE

You know BE, I think once we complete this group watch we should debate who is ranked behind MCS in strategic thinking.

I also put together a few questions and what if situations for when we finish.

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