Open Thread: Nirvana In Fire Episodes 10, 11 & 12

Welcome to the Open Thread, everyone! We get some key developments these episodes, and a good helping of poignance to go with. 😭 I hope you guys are ready to dig into it! (Dontcha love it, though, when Mei Changsu steals looks at Nihuang?)

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 10

Ooh, this episode, we learn more about the background of why Mei Changsu got involved in bringing the Lan Mansion case to light, and we also see more of his exceptional strategist skills at work.

As the Emperor chews on the news that the Ministry of State Revenue is being temporarily overseen by Shen Zhui, who hasn’t been submitted as a candidate for Minister Lou’s replacement, even though he is very smart and capable, we see that Mei Changsu has already anticipated Shen Zhui’s importance, and written to Prince Jing, to ensure that Prince Jing would make a connection with him.

Mei Changsu really thinks on a different level than Prince Jing (and everyone else, really). When Prince Jing remarks that Shen Zhui would have difficulty getting promoted because he is neither aligned with the Crown Prince nor Prince Yu, Mei Changsu points out, “When a snipe and a clam fight each other, the fisherman benefits.” Meaning, it would be to the Emperor’s benefit, to promote Shen Zhui to take over Minister Lou’s position, precisely because Shen Zhui doesn’t have specific loyalties to either prince.

..Which is exactly what happens. The next thing we know, Shen Zhui’s the Minister of State Revenue proper. Mei Changsu’s scarily accurate in his predictions, isn’t he?

Although it’s not super obvious, it’s nice to see that Prince Jing is more trusting towards Mei Changsu now, compared to before. When Mei Changsu asks Prince Jing about his selection of his jurors for the Duke of Qing’s case, Prince Jing quite easily asks for and accepts Mei Changsu’s help. That’s pretty significant progress, isn’t it?

It does feel like Mei Changsu is demonstrating consideration for Prince Jing’s values and sensibilities, in that moment when he tells Prince Jing that the list of people he’s given him, are fine to associate with as acquaintances, but there’s no need for Prince Jing to actively take them under his wing. Additionally, the way Mei Changsu is encouraging Prince Jing to help true, hardworking officers with giving them the opportunity to shine, is totally in line with Prince Jing’s own values as well. I feel like Prince Jing is softening towards Mei Changsu as a result, which we can see from the thoughtfulness and relative tentativeness of his gaze.

Even in casual conversation, like when Mei Changsu asks Prince Jing to let him see the strange beast when his men catch it, it feels like things are more relaxed between them now, which is nice.

Fei Liu’s fight with Qimeng, one of Prince Jing’s soldiers, gets rather extended because of Fei Liu’s fascination with Qimeng’s sword. However, Qimeng’s so incensed that he’s getting trashed by what appears to be an insolent little kid, that he sends a flying blade in Mei Changsu’s direction. I think he does it as a desperate attempt to outwit Fei Liu, but neither Mei Changsu nor Prince Jing is amused.

I’m rather surprised that the flying blade doesn’t ruffle Mei Changsu one bit, and he simply stands there and lets it fly past him. It seems that Mei Changsu may have lost his fighting abilities, but his ability to gauge and judge a weapon’s trajectory, is completely intact. It’s so passive-aggressive, the way he responds, when Qimeng tries to apologize.

“Don’t be sorry towards me. His Highness is the one who’s embarrassed, not me. [To Prince Jing] I have always admired your tactics in training your army but I’m disappointed by what I see today. Your army’s discipline is so lax, how can His Majesty think greatly of you? Your Highness’s control over your army can’t even be compared to me, a chief from the pugilist world.”

Ooh. So evenly said, but so full of intent and meaning. It’s no wonder Prince Jing punishes Qimeng thoroughly, ordering not only that Qimeng be given 50 lashes, but also demoted. Somehow, this scenemakes me feel like Prince Jing is standing on Mei Changsu’s side, because he’s punishing Qimeng for daring to threaten Mei Changsu’s safety. Well, for embarrassing him too, but still.

I have to admit, I was a little confused at first, about why Inspector Dong would make things difficult for Cai Quan, the juror that Prince Jing sends to her Investigation Bureau, for the purpose of collecting evidence for the case. It was only after I’d checked in with my mom (who’s seen this show something like six times now), that I realized that this prickly behavior stems from Inspector Dong’s frosty relationship with Prince Jing, which Show shines the quick spotlight on, in episode 2; she’s cold towards Prince Jing because he’s never accepted the official verdict, that the Lin family had killed her husband.

I have to respect Cai Quan, for staying so calm yet firm, the entire time. It’s very shrewd of him, to point out that the reason the Investigation Bureau is so widely respected, is because it is such a law-abiding institution, because that effectively stops Inspector Dong in her tracks.

Next, we are introduced to Tong Lu, who delivers vegetables to Mei Changsu’s manor. He’s clearly part of the Jiangzuo Alliance, since he kneels and addresses Mei Changsu as “Chief.” As it turns out, Tong Lu’s sister had been one of the victims in the Lan Mansion case, and Mei Changsu had gotten involved in pushing that case to court, in order to help Tong Lu get justice for his sister.

That’s such a compassionate thing to do for his follower; I can see why Mei Changsu’s followers are so loyal to him. He is loyal to them too.

I’m also rather amused at how Mei Changsu gets Li Gang involved, in deciding which ministry he will take down next, as part of his grand plan. I’d imagined that Mei Changsu would have everything mapped out, down to the order in which he would deal with the various ministries. Instead, he literally lays out the wooden tablets in a row, and asks Li Gang to pick one. Ha. I am growing very fond of Mei Changsu’s dry sense of humor.

Li Gang happens to pick the tablet for Prince Yu’s Ministry of Personnel, and Mei Changsu gives orders for Mr. Thirteen and Gong Yu to get ready. This is where our next arc begins.

We learn that twins Xinliu and Xinyang have been preparing for this moment for a long time. Their younger brother had been beaten to death at the age of 13, by Qiu Ze, son of a Duke, and they are intent on avenging his death.

Gong Yu makes quick work of this, by riling up Young Master He, Qiu Ze’s regular rival, with an overheard assertion that Young Master He is no match for Qiu Ze whatsoever. With that, and a quick and targeted flick of her wrist, to get Qiu Ze on his knees, Young Master He hits him on the head with a vase, and kills him. Revenge on Qiu Ze, check. Next up, taking down the Ministry of Personnel, via the troubles of Young Master He, it looks like.

Minister He begs Prince Yu to help his son, and Prince Yu’s advisor, Advisor Ji, suggests that Minister He allow his son to surrender for a start, after which they can blur the evidence, such that the case will be submitted to the Ministry of Justice. The Ministry of Justice could then request for a retrial, at which point Prince Yu would be able to step in to assist.

This all sounds rather risky to me, but.. I suppose Minister He doesn’t have many options.

Meanwhile, Prince Jing reports the successful closure of the Duke of Qing’s case to the Emperor, and the Emperor praises Prince Jing for a job well done. However, it’s Prince Yu who receives a reward from the Emperor, basically for not interfering in Prince Jing’s work. Huh. Clearly, Prince Jing is still out of favor with the Emperor.

Prince Yu goes after Prince Jing and makes a show of consoling Prince Jing, that the Emperor plans to reward him after everything’s taken care of, and he even offers to send his own rewards to Prince Jing’s manor. I.. don’t believe Prince Yu is being sincere about that offer.

Prince Yu also makes a show of inviting Prince Jing to a banquet on the 5th day of the Lunar New Year, saying that Prince Jing’s never joined him before. When Prince Jing deadpan asks if Prince Yu’s ever invited him before (ha!), Prince Yu makes as if it’s the fault of his servants, that the invitations never reached Prince Jing. Pfft. As if anyone would believe that. 😏

While this is going on, Mei Changsu asks Yujin if there’s any way for him to cheer up Jingrui, who’s been despondent ever since he realized the truth about his father, and Yujin brightens up when he hits on the idea of taking Jingrui to visit Grand Prince Ji, the Emperor’s youngest brother, who’s said before, that Yujin can bring his friends to enjoy his hot spring facilities at any time.

That’s how Yujin and Jingrui end up enjoying some wine and music with Grand Prince Ji, and it isn’t long before Grand Prince Ji remarks that he’d been there, when Young Master He killed Qiu Ze. Ooh. A witness!

Episode 11

Banruo receives the intel that Grand Prince Ji had witnessed Young Master He killing Qiu Ze, and, as expected, this new piece of information throws a spanner in Prince Yu’s plan to save Young Master He. Now, with Grand Prince Ji as a potential witness, the fudging of evidence isn’t going to get Prince Yu very far.

Meanwhile, Marquis Xie prods the Crown Prince on the matter of getting his mother Concubine Yue reinstated in the palace, because with her basically under house arrest, their faction loses a pair of eyes and ears in the palace.

The way in which Marquis Xie approaches this, via the rites performed at the end of the year, in preparation for the new year, is so obtuse, that I conclude all over again, that it is very complicated living in the palace. I highly doubt I’d be able to survive in such an environment! 😅

It is very smart of Marquis Xie to choose to move through the Ministry of Rites, because it really does appear to be a legitimate concern of the court, and yet, he can basically stand around pretending to look innocent, and be called upon to provide an “objective take” on the matter, when he’s the one who set this whole thing in motion.

Everyone’s upset to hear the Concubine Yue’s been reinstated as Royal Consort, and it all sounds like a watertight situation, until Commander Meng brings the news to Mei Changsu. I’m impressed that Mei Changsu immediately sees the loophole in the situation, when everyone in the court hasn’t seemed to notice anything amiss for all the years that Noble Consort Yue has been participating in the ceremony.

When Mei Changsu lays it out, suddenly it doesn’t seem like such a conundrum after all; the Crown Prince could just hold the edge of the Empress’s garment during the ceremony, since she is technically his royal mother, and that’s how things have always been done. How interesting, that the exception that was made for Noble Consort Yue, became so entrenched in people’s consciousness, that it became the norm instead of the exception.

I love how undaunted Mei Changsu is, even though the Emperor has already issued his edict. I mean, isn’t it the case, that a word spoken by the Emperor is considered absolute and inviolable? Yet, he works through Prince Yu, to have the Minister of Rites challenged in the royal court, which then gives Prince Yu the opportunity to ask for the Emperor’s endorsement of a scholarly debate on the matter – which the Emperor cannot refuse. Smart!

While Prince Yu gathers his scholars for the events, so does the Crown Prince. I love that Mei Changsu has so much foresight, that he’d arrange to have Prince Mu seek out the very respected Master Zhou Xuanqing, who’s been in seclusion in Lingyin Temple for many years, in order to lend weight to Prince Yu’s side of the debate.

On a tangent, though, I just wanted to talk about how nice it was, to see Mei Changsu and Princess Nihuang take that walk together on the grounds of Mu Palace, to enjoy the plum blossoms. They almost – but not quite – look like a happy couple.

I’m fascinated, really, that someone as sharp and aware as Mei Changsu, would forget himself enough, in Nihuang’s presence, as to pick plum blossoms out of her hair. That’s completely not in line with the decorum of the times, because as Mei Changsu, he’s only known her for a short time, and they are nothing more than pleasant acquaintances. They are definitely not in a relationship where it would be normal or acceptable for him to touch her hair. And, given Mei Changsu’s mission, where he is so set on keeping his identity as Lin Shu a secret, I’m sure that he’s not purposely giving Nihuang hints either.

Whatever the case may be, we see that Nihuang has definitely been entertaining the possibility that Mei Changsu really is Lin Shu. She’s confused and blindsided, when she compares handwriting samples from Mei Changsu, and letters from Lin Shu that she’d kept, and find the two completely different.

Nihuang’s disappointment at the thought that Mei Changsu might not be Lin Shu after all, is palpable. I really feel for her; it’s clear that she’s quietly pined for her Lin Shu all these years. The thought that he might possibly have come back to her as Mei Changsu, must have been such a wondrous thing to entertain. And now, the thought that she must have been wrong after all, must be such a huge blow. 💔

What a rare show of emotion, when Mei Changsu laments to Li Gang, that his hands had used to bend bows and tame horses, and now can only stir the pot while hiding in the dark. It’s so startling to watch, honestly, because Mei Changsu is usually so controlled and calm. With this glimpse into the turmoil that he keeps in his heart, my heart breaks even more for him, for all that he’s gone through, and everything that must weigh on him, even now.

It must be so tough on him, to have to contend with the frailty of his body, even as he seeks to right the injustice done to his family. And, it must be so hard for him, to be so near Nihuang, and yet, so far from her, at the same time.

Meanwhile, Prince Jing finally tells his mother, Concubine Jing, about his decision to vie for the throne. I’m surprised that Concubine Jing has so little to say, in the face of such a dangerous undertaking. However, it says a lot about the trust that she has in her son; she only needs to ascertain that Prince Jing is aware of how difficult the task is, before she accepts and supports his decision.

When Prince Jing expresses hesitation, it’s moving to me, how Concubine Jing says to him, that it doesn’t matter whether he succeeds or fails; that there is nothing to fear, as long as they share the burden together. The exact phrase she uses is 生死共担 (shēngsǐ gòng dān), which literally translates as sharing equally, the burden of life and death. Wow. This means that Concubine Jing is willing to die with Prince Jing, if he fails in his quest for the throne. That’s.. heartbreakingly deep, especially when she offers that support so unequivocally, and so swiftly.

As we close the episode, Mei Changsu shares a brief meeting with Master Zhou on the city’s outskirts, and we learn that the token which had afforded Prince Mu an audience with Master Zhou, had been a gift from Master Li Chong, who had once been Mei Changsu’s teacher. Master Zhou seems intrigued that he’s never met Mei Changsu, when Master Li, an Imperial Tutor, had had so few students that he was proud of, and Master Zhou had met them all. Ooh. Is Mei Changsu’s cover going to be blown..?

Episode 12

Well. Mei Changsu’s cover does get blown, a little bit, this episode, but not by Master Zhou, heh.

As expected of our very shrewd and very prepared Mei Changsu, he finds a way to answer Master Zhou’s question, and impress him, at the same time. Not only does Mei Changsu demonstrate a deep understanding of Master Li, thus allaying Master Zhou’s concern that his involvement in court affairs may not have been in line with Master Li’s wishes, he also demonstrates wisdom, in the way that he reconciles Master Zhou’s foray into the court, with Master Li’s conviction.

“At the time, Teacher knew he was going against the Emperor, but he did not waver from his convictions, remaining outspoken and just. It is the character of a great philosopher. Hence, I believe that there are many paths in the world; secluding oneself in the mountains is one way, to display oneself in Court is another. If you can maintain a pure heart, not giving voice to opinions contrary to your conscience, to immoral thoughts, then why worry about where you stand?”

How poignant is that moment, though, when Master Zhou makes a clear reference to Lin Shu, who had been Master Li’s favorite student, saying that if Mei Changsu could have been there with Lin Shu, they would have made a glorious pair. If only he knew, that the person standing in front of him, is none other than Lin Shu himself.

Augh. Any time Mei Changsu has moments like this, where he’s confronted by the ghost of his identity as Lin Shu, it makes my heart ache for him.

Even more emotional, is the meeting between Mei Changsu and Nihuang, which happens next. As it turns out, Nihuang has no evidence to prove that Mei Changsu is Lin Shu, but her female intuition is absolutely convinced that the person before her, is, in fact, her Lin Shu gege.

The desperation in her tears, and the heartbreak in his eyes, is just heart-in-my-throat emotional to watch, and I’m kind of relieved, actually, that Nihuang just follows her instincts and grabs Mei Changsu in an embrace, breaking his last ounce of resolve, to keep up the pretense. It feels like such catharsis, not only for her to finally have confirmation of his identity, but also, for him to finally be able to be present, as himself: Lin Shu.

Lin Shu asks Nihuang to keep his identity a secret at all costs, and Nihuang readily agrees, saying that she’s willing to wait for him to become her Lin Shu gege again. Ack. She doesn’t know about his health condition, and he’s not telling her. Instead, he changes the subject and tells her not to cry, because Mu Qing is going to return soon, from sending Master Zhou back. This is going to be so heartbreaking for her, when she finds out, isn’t it?

I’m surprised, actually, that when Nihuang calls after him to ask if she can visit him at his residence, he tells her, “If you really want to see me, then come.” This feels like such a big concession for him, since keeping his identity and mission a secret, and keeping Nihuang out of danger, are equally important to him.

How worrying, that Mei Changsu doesn’t even make it back to his carriage, before he coughs up blood. Gah. Coughing up blood is never good news, in any drama. EVERR. 😬

Clearly, Mei Changsu has overexerted himself, being out in the cold, when his body is so weak. Physician Yan orders strict bed rest, saying that Mei Changsu should decline all guests for at least a couple of days.

In the meantime, Prince Yu has apparently been trying to send expensive gifts to Mei Changsu, to express his gratitude for Mei Changsu’s help in the matter of the scholarly debate, but all the gifts have been returned. It’s smart cookie Banruo that manages to get Mei Changsu to accept a delivery of gifts, by making the gifts a collection of toys for Fei Liu. That is very shrewd. She definitely understands Mei Changsu better than Prince Yu does.

While all this is going on, Prince Jing happens to meet newly appointed Minister of State Revenue Shen Zhui, and joins him in a visit to the ports, to look into the discrepancies that Shen Zhui has found in the canal transport records.

We (but not Prince Jing and Shen Zhui – yet) soon find out that there is a good amount of gunpowder that’s being smuggled as “fruit” and other such cargo, and Mei Changsu has people working undercover on the docks, gathering intel.

Our Jiangzuo gang, led by Mr. Thirteen, pool their intel and conclude that the Crown Prince is using the illegal gunpowder imports, to make illegal fireworks, and is making a huge profit from it. Tong Lu reports their findings to Mei Changsu, who orders that they hand the information to Shen Zhui.

Last but not least, the Empress suddenly collapses while holding court with all the consorts and concubines.

After a flurry of panic and anxiety from everyone, especially Prince Yu, the imperial physicians pronounce that there’s nothing seriously wrong with the Empress. However, the sudden onset of the Empress’s illness, raises not only Mei Changsu’s suspicions, but Concubine Jing’s as well.

In considering the possibility that the illness might be “man-made,” Mei Changsu assesses that this wouldn’t be the doing of the Crown Prince’s camp, since they would have attempted much worse, if they’d orchestrated the illness.

While Mei Changsu orders Li Gang to, 1, ask Nihuang to visit the Empress to get a feel for the situation, and 2, get a copy of the prescription, Concubine Jing herself appears to find a clue, from sniffing the Empress’s teacup. Hmm.. this definitely seems to be a case of sabotage.. But who’s behind it? Or.. might this be a set-up by the Empress herself..?? 🤔

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phl1rxd
phl1rxd
1 month ago

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

Episode 10

  • Qi Meng – one of Prince Jing’s generals in Prince Jing’s army – shot the projectile at MCS 
  • Cai Quan – a very ethical official
  • Tong Lu – a member of the Jiangzuo Alliance, he delivers vegetables and messages from Miaoyin Court’s (Mr. Shisan’s) intel directly to MCS, his sister was killed at Lan Manor
  • He Jingzhong – Prince Yu’s man – Minister of Personnel/Appointments who guarded his appointments from the Crown Prince
  • He Wenxin – son of the above, murderer of Qiu Zhe /Qiu Zhengping
  • Count Wen Yuan –retired government official
  • Qiu Zhe /Qiu Zhengping – son of above who was murdered by He Wenxin
  • Old Maser Ji – an advisor to Prince Yu, has worked for the Yu family over 20 years
  • Prince Ji – brother of the Emperor, music lover and good friend of Yan Yujin

Episode 11

  • Princess Consort Yu – wife of Prince Yu, has familial connections in the court
  • Minister Chen – head of Minister of Rites who was blackmailed by Marquis of Ning to change the rites so that Noble Consort Yue could return to the Palace, was forced into retirement over the Rite event.
  •  Master Zhou Xuanqing – prestigious scholar of the age who lived in seclusion

Episode 12

  • Old Master Li Chong – Tutor for the royal family, former tutor of Lin Shu
  • Minister Shen Zhui – Son of Duchess of Qinghe and Prince Jing’s replacement for Minister Lou Zhijing, a very ethical official
  • Places/Sects Reference Guide (in order of appearance)


Episode 10

  • Huqiu – the holy land of hot springs, and was located deep in the forests of the mountain, and among them, Prince Ji’s courtyard was the largest and the most comfortable (novel)
Last edited 1 month ago by phl1rxd
CP
CP
1 month ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

Lol at the description of Cai Quan and Shen Zhui as “a very ethical offical” – a very apt description indeed! I love those 2 so much – they’re too ethical for this court; I like how throughout the rest of the drama they’re constantly putting their foot in their mouth when they bash the corruptness of the court in front of Prince Jing, but it’s so cute how Prince Jing is always just like “Shush”, but then secretly agreeing with them.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
1 month ago
Reply to  CP

I love them too CP! They really care. Zhen Zhui is quite an intelligent man isn’t he?

beez
1 month ago

I also wonder about the translation for “virtuous” because Prince Yu & Crown Crybaby & the Emperor all refer to Prince Jing as such but the jeering sneer they say it with makes me wonder if it could be more like “naive/self-righteous” or accusing him of seeing things in a simplistic b&w way.

J3ffc
J3ffc
1 month ago

Thanks to all, starting with KFG and phl1rxd and extended to all who lent their insights in the comments, for helping me keep afloat with this intricate but intriguing show. I have little to add but my own minor conundrum: I am still struggling with the fact that hardly anyone recognizes someone so close to them in the past when presented in the beautiful visage of Hu Ge. It is strongly implied that he has suffered a traumatic injury of such magnitude that he has been totally transformed and is nearing death. Minimally, to have come out the other end of such an experience looking like HG is … unusual. While I understand the benefit of such an attractive ML, I almost think the story would be even more compelling if MCG bore the scars of his injury so as to make him unrecognizable for that reason (a sort of Beauty/Beast scenario).

Geo
Geo
1 month ago
Reply to  J3ffc

@j3ffc: Patience and all will be revealed in due course. Remember, while ML is attractive, he is physically weak and unable to do all that he could do when he was young.

Ele Nash
1 month ago

Sorry, bit late playing catch-up. I only want to say three things:
Firstly, ooh, I agree kfangurl, the way Mei Changsu looks at Nihuang – you always ALWAYS chose such brilliant screengrabs 😍
Secondly, Nihuang is literally the most beautiful person – oof, recognising her Lin Shu gege despite him being physically unrecognisable – and her lipstick the precise colour of the plum blossom 😍
And thirdly, Mama Jing selfless, brave and smart 😍
OK, and fourthly, I LOVED the way Mei Changsu hugged Nihuang straight back, no hesitation. It seems a trope in dramas the world over for that hesitating hand, you know? So I am smitten that he just instinctively, lovingly, agonisingly held her shoulder and cradled her closer 😍 😍 😍

Geo
Geo
1 month ago

@KFG; @ phl1xrd: Thank you for the detailed recaps and additional information on these episodes. There’s so much happening all the time, the writer deserves credit for a show with little dead time or fillers.

I missed Gong Yu flicking the dart at the young guy on my first watch, knocking him down so his rival smashes a vase on his head rather than on his torso. Is this a fatal blow? Maybe but I thought on seeing it, the dart may have been poisoned to ensure the fatal result, I think Beez had the same thought as well.

The reason I think the dart is poisoned is to ensure he dies and that his attacker, the son of Prince Yu’s Minister ally, faces grave consequences such that MCS can sweep another of Prince Yu’s Ministers off the chessboard. If the victim was merely injured, there would have been a bit of bother but would have been easily attributed to youthful rashness. The writer justifies this killing noting that the victim killed a 13 year old boy, thus negating any audience sympathy for a potential pawn in MCS’ plan to further weaken Prince Yu. Prince Jing has admonished MCS not to hurt any innocent people in his strategizing.

Phl: Does the novel make any comment on this?

The scene between Nihuang and MCS where she finally realises he is her long lost love is the highlight of these three episodes to me, Nihuang has never looked so beautiful, so emotionally charged, so despairing when all her probing about MCS’ identity seem to lead nowhere yet her heart says MCS is her Lin Shu. The cathartic release of this confirmation in their hug is felt so deeply by the viewer.

The three protagonists all have strategic advisers: CP has Marquis Xie, Prince Yu has Banruo and Prince Jing has MCS. Which of the three is the most ruthless or clever is not immediately apparent ; the Marquis hides his true loyalty to the CP and is the most ruthless; MCS plays games with both the CP and Prince Yu so they’re never really sure what his motives are or who he supports though the CP knows it’s not him. Banruo is the most open about her loyalty and no slouch in the strategy department, she is quick on her feet and has an extensive spy network. These are three dangerous individuals.

I was a little puzzled by the Minister of Rites issue. The Marquis devises a clever plan to reinstate Consort Yue which he effects by posing as a neutral observer when the Emperor asks for his advice and by dropping a comment about the Chiyan army, the massive blindspot for the Emperor. However, it seems MCS is able to disrupt the plan by winning the court debate with the help of Master Zhou, yet it seems Consort Yue is still reinstated but maybe not back to her original level? Anyone have insight here?

I didn’t see the projectile from Qi Meng miss MCS, the video doesn’t show anything about where it landed so I just assumed it missed. Is this shown in other versions? I’ve actually looked at different subs for specific parts of the episodes, eg. Qi Meng issue and Nihuang MCS climatic meeting, and I find the different subtitles give a more complete picture.

Finally, who doesn’t admire Consort Jing, so elegant, refined and intelligent and supportive of her son’s ambition though failure would mean her death. The contrast to Consort Yue is like night and day yet the Emperor prefers Consort Yue, for reasons one can only speculate.

BE
BE
1 month ago
Reply to  Geo

Reinstated, but not given the place in the rites.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
1 month ago
Reply to  Geo

Hi Geo – In reference to ‘Phl: Does the novel make any comment on this?’ are you asking if the novel further gives more detail on the dart fired by Gong Yu? If so, go to the bottom of this page where Beez brought this question up on whether or not the dart was poisoned or contained drugs. I have posted a book excerpt there. If not, please specify what you are looking for and I will be more than happy to assist if I can. 😀

BE is correct in that Consort Yue was reinstated only. She is a real piece of work! The difference between Consort Yue/Empress and Nihuang/Consort Jing are miles apart. The good thing is we get to see more of Consort Jing in the future. 🥰

Geo
Geo
1 month ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

: Thanks for the reference to the book excerpt. I’m with Beez in thinking the dart was poisoned.

I found it hard to believe Consort Yue was restored to her original position as the Emperor’s favourite though she did not participate in the New Year rites. I thought she was raised up but not back to her original position. I would count this as a win for CP and the Marquis since their goal was to get Consort Yue reinstated, the rites custom was just the vehicle to do that. So really the court debate was all for naught. Now, she is firmly back in the centre of things in the palace and quite capable of raising more mischief.

beez
1 month ago

@BE – but that’s why I said I believe that dart possibly included a poison to ensure the result.

BE
BE
1 month ago
Reply to  beez

gotcha

beez
1 month ago

– I’m glad you get a chuckle out of it but usually it’s just my inability to remember characters’ names so I remember them by their descriptions. 😆

beez
1 month ago

@BE – I didn’t mean that MCS could not predict these two young frolicking rival males’ reaction – I meant, the victim could very well have survived the blows (vase in this case) since apparently Fairy Yu must make them check their swords at the door.

BE
BE
1 month ago
Reply to  beez

He could have, but first of all the twins might have found a way to exacerbate the injury as plan B in their revenge, and in any case QZ would be the subject of a major scandal just for the assault putting his dad in hot water which would require a Yu intervention nonetheless. But phl1rxd has a better memory of what is to come so perhaps this will be explained later.

beez
1 month ago

– I don’t know why but in this second watch, Prince Yu is a lot more appealing to me. Maybe it’s just in comparison to how disgusting I find the Crown Prince.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
1 month ago
Reply to  beez

@Beez – Same here and I think I know why but I cannot say without a spoiler.

I still crack up over your description of the Crown Prince – “That nasty, sobbing slob of a son”.  

BE
BE
1 month ago
Reply to  beez

I actually thought Victor Huang managed to ultimately give Yu a substantial and tragic cast. At this point, however, is there any doubt that of the two Yu certainly seems like the one with broader vision, not entirely scrupled, but still certainly lacking the petty narcissism of the Eastern Palace.

Geo
Geo
1 month ago
Reply to  beez

@beez: Prince Yu is a much more appealing character than the CP, so much so that in my first watch, I actually assumed for the first few episodes he was the hero, lol.

BE
BE
1 month ago

A wonderful recap K, especially with phl1rxd filling in here and there and adding this wonderful commentary. This series of posts, I predict, will be referred to all over the world as time goes by. Of course there are the pure NIFties that probably rival the Encyclopedia Brittanica of this show, but given the range of the Verdict, I predict this along with the Chuno group watch commentary will attract hits for some time to come, while hopefully keeping these classics alive for years to follow.
I also want to commend you for, while doing the amazing blow by blow recaps, throwing in your own reactions here and there. What makes NIF great in places is the actors’ abilities to let you see inside them and the writer’s ability to provide context so that we can imagine, despite coming from different cultures and certainly living in a different era, them as full blown and human.
That said, reading your summary, I came up with perhaps a different take on a few things.
Is the fisherman in the clam and snipe fable, the Emperor…or is it Prince JIng?
As I noted elsewhere, when MCS advises Prince Jing vis a vis the ministers, isn’t he really saying, why get caught up in that court bs of currying favor, when sticking by who you are and what you believe will accomplish the same thing without anyone else noticing, also appealing to Jing who is not really interested at all in the politicking part? MCS wants Jing, not simply because he is the un underhanded lowlife Crown Prince or the smooth talking and ingratiating Yu, but rather, his old loyal, honorable, ethical friend from youth, with whom he holds the highest regard?
But…in light of that he is correct to upbraid Jing to the nth over his soldier’s mistake. The man could have killed him, and even more to the point, wrecked the entire plan on both MCS and Jing’s behalves. This is a no fooling around business. If Jing cannot hold his own troops to account for such a near fatal error, how in the world are they gonna pull off what MCS is planning to pull off–nothing short of displacing the one-two contender heirs, each in their own way quite formidable, to the throne replacing them with Jing, someone so out of favor with the Emperor that he consistently rewards another prince for his actions. AND finding vindication and justice for the genocide of Chinyan, in a nation where it may be death for anyone who so much whispers the idea of such inadvertently. We can’t have any loose cannons. Jing, my man, get your ducks in row, soldier or we are without a paddle on excrement river.
Reminder: Gong Yu is the likely source of Banruo’s intel to Yu.

A question: the word “arrogant” seems to be applied both in a complementary fashion (Shen Rui) and derogatorily (for JIng)–is the Chinese word used in each case the same word?

Who doesn’t like Consort Jing? And what’s that woman got up her white as snow sleeves?

One of my favorite characters in show, the Emperor’s brother, that delightful bon vivant and gourmand, wine imbibing, art loving Prince Ji, probably the only member of that family I’d like to hang with. Think what it might be like for a dinner after the hot springs on his table, string band plucking away, dancers, the good life.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
1 month ago
Reply to  BE

BE – I enjoyed reading that. I wish I could answer your Mandarin question!

CP
CP
1 month ago
Reply to  BE

@BE Do you have timestamps for the 2 “arrogant” descriptions? I am very curious now too what words were translated to “arrogant”, since I kind of feel like that is an odd description for Shen Zhui.

Last edited 1 month ago by CP
BE
BE
1 month ago
Reply to  CP

Don’t have time stamps, but
first case: when MCS was explaining to Jing why Shen Zhui would be a good candidate/
second case: when Dong was protesting giving evidence up inre Prince Jing, not even coming himself.

CP
CP
1 month ago
Reply to  BE

Found it! The word used by the minister to describe Shen Zhui to the Emperor is 傲慢 (ao man) – context is important here, in that the minister & Emperor are talking about how Shen Zhui is not part of either Crown Prince’s or Prince Yu’s camps; the minister notes that Shen Zhui is of a noble birth, therefore he is more “arrogant” (in that he is ‘above’ this sucking up to the various princes/politicking and just does his own thing and takes his work seriously). Given the context that the Emperor is sick of the CP/Prince Yu’s fighting and wants to assign a neutral party as minister, this is seen as complementary and to Shen Zhui’s merit.

The word Xia Dong uses to describe Prince Jing is 托大 (tuo da) – literally translated to “drag big” LOL. I would say the connotation is closer to that of the English word “arrogant” (which leans negative) – i.e., thinking of himself as better than/too good for everyone else. I don’t think this phrase has much room for interpretation and would be seen as negative pretty much in any context, which is definitely the way Xia Dong intended it.

Last edited 1 month ago by CP
BE
BE
1 month ago
Reply to  CP

Thanks, I had the feeling they were different words.

Snow Flower
Snow Flower
1 month ago

I like how new story arcs are introduced, but they all serve to advance the main story. I kept thinking that if a different wooden tabled got flipped, MCS would have a different strategy planned, but it would still achieve his goals. Masterful indeed.
The scene of Nihuang and MCS in Episode 12 was beautiful and heartbreaking. I knew that she would be the one to recognize him first!
Prince Jing’s resolve is another highlight of this week’s episodes. He realizes that with a strategist like MCS on his side everything is possible…

Natalia
Natalia
1 month ago

Excellent recaps, and many thanks to phl1rxd for completing them.

My own takes/impressions:

Ep. 10:
My faith in the show was restored! As others, I was kind of irritated that the horrible case of Lan Mansion was taken so lightly – I mean, that noone cared about the victims but focused exclusively on bringing down Minister Lu. Well, it seems that by bringing Lu down, Mei ChangSu also avenged the victims, with (some of) which he had a personal connection (well, with their family). I also liked that the two girls that help setting up young Master He and his father, Mei ChangSu’s next target, do this to avenge their brother. How very clever of MCS, though, to be able to advance his schemes and at the same time help his people find some kind of justice. Though I have to rewatch the scene, I think, because I didn’t quite notice Gong Yu’s exact role in the brothel brawl (other than her riling up He Wenxin).
I still wonder why MCS seems to dislike/avoid her. I guess this is something we’ll just wait to see in the future episodes.
I also wonder why MCS spoke so harshly after the attack (?) on this person by Prince Jing’s man. I understand this man was in the wrong, but I still felt that MCS was way to hard on Prince Jing. I wonder if there was a reason, he doesn’t seam like someone who gets that angry so easily.
And I still find Inspector Dong way too prickly. I wonder if she will grow on me.

Ep. 11:
Did I say that I love Marquis Xie? As I said, if I were an actress, I would surely choose to play the villain(ness) like all the time.
I admit that the whole debate plot was hard to follow for me. Maybe I wasn’t paying attention but it was only now, reading your notes, that I finally understood what the debate was about!
Also, Concubine Jing. I love Concubine Jing. I really don’t understand how a woman so kind, clever, beautiful, elegant does not have more favour with the Emperor. Unless there’s some explanation in the novel, could this be bad casting? Don’t get me wrong, I love the actress, I just wonder whether Concubine Jing should have been a little less attractive so as to give an excuse on why the Emperor does not favour her.
I so feel for Nihuang desperately looking for signs that MCS is indeed her long lost fiance.

Ep. 12:
Ok, I kind of thought that MCS was faking being ill. I guess he isn’t. I am really saddened by this, because I cannot help feeling that the show’s ending will be bittersweet, if we’re lucky, that is. Too bad because the romantic in me really appreciated the reunion scene. Very well acted, and how beautiful is the actress playing Nihuang, by the way. To my eyes, she’s one of the most beautiful people I have ever seen.
I am also sad for her not knowing that her Lin Shu is very, very ill and probably only came back now to have his revenge before he dies.
I’m intrigued by the gunpowder plot. How will MCS use the intel?
So, did I say that I love Concubine Jing? I did, but I will say it again!

See you next time!

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
1 month ago
Reply to  Natalia

Natalie – Gong Yu is super fast and I missed the finger flick the first watch. There is a backstory to why MCS and Prince Jing got so angry and it is at the bottom of my thoughts on E10. This may not make sense right now but file it for future reference. Xia Dong will work her way into your heart – I promise you.

Marquis Xie is a very complex character and he gets more interesting. He is quite the strategist. Concubine Jing is a wonderful character and she is as you describe. Why hasn’t she gained more favor with the Emperor over the years? I think there are a number of reasons. First, the Emperor prefered the Crown Prince’s mother Consort Yue’s bag of tricks shall we say. Also, being the smart cookie that she is she laid low to avoid palace intrigues. Not that she is not perfectly capable of handling such a situation but I think she abhors these tricks. More understanding on this comes in future episodes.Her hands and delicate fingers are a marvel to watch.

The actress who plays Nihuang also sang that beautiful background song played in that heart wrenching scene. Yes, she is so very beautiful.

Natalia
Natalia
1 month ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

Thank you! Now it (sort of) makes sense, but does that mean that MCS wants Prince Jing to slowly catch up on his real identity? Anyway, I will, as you say, file it for future reference.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
1 month ago
Reply to  Natalia

Hi Natalie – MCS truly does not want Prince Jing to know who he is until he feels it is safe to do so. The less Prince Jing knows, the better for everyone involved.

That is hard to understand as, initially, we all want these two best friends to reconnect especially after we see how much reverence Prince Jing had for Lin Shu’s bow.

But MCS knows that Prince Jing loved Lin Shu (him) so much that it could adversely affect MCS’ projected plans if Prince Jing reacts emotionally to any upcoming situations. MCS must stay on track or they could run into dangerous territory. I hope I answered the question.

BE
BE
1 month ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

As with Hu Ge, it seems, Tamia Liu has a more resonant singing than speaking voice.

Leslie
1 month ago
Reply to  Natalia

I am totally with you, Natalia, on Concubine Jing. Her elegance, grace, and intelligence makes everyone/everything fade into the background when she appears on screen (for me.) She’s a safe haven in a dangerous Court – for her contemporaries and for viewers. 😍

BE
BE
1 month ago
Reply to  Natalia

Marquis Xie is everything we wish the Crown Prince might be, though, for me, I like the Marquis’ wife a whole bunch more.
But without giving too much away, there are even bigger villains to come.

GuruGulabKhatri
GuruGulabKhatri
1 month ago

I am sooo invested.. i think its unhealthy!! but one thing that I found intriguing is the relationship between Prince Yu and Banruo. He seemed be more affectionate towards her, than his own wife. Am I reading to much into a friendly relationship?

Also, damn you Hu Ge for making me feel so many things. I am all emotions because of this man!

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
1 month ago

Prince Yu truly loves his wife. The relationship with Banruo is quite close due to its nature. Also, Prince Yu really respects Banruo’s skills. Hu Ge is so good in this drama!

jisaab
jisaab
1 month ago

Great recap as always! I totally missed that the reason Mei Changsu didn’t flinch when Qi Meng shot that missile at him was because he had experience as Lin Shu to know whether or not it would hurt him. When I first watched it I was so confused and wondered why he was so over-confident when the missile was shot at him. But your explanation makes a lot of sense!

And I agree with you on Nihuang and Mei Changsu scenes. Man, my heart hurts for these two so much. It’s so clear that the emotions between the two run so deep. She’s been waiting for him for 12 years and he’s been looking out for her for 12 years. Gah, just so beautiful. It’s too sad that they likely won’t get their happy ending. I hope they reveal Mei Changsu’s illness soon – not just to Nihuang, but also to us!

Also, the whole brothel (?) scene. I thought it was also a really good look at how Mei Changsu amassed his ‘army’ so to speak. They’re almost all people who have been wronged, just like he presumably was. That said, I feel like the show is doing a really good job at building up the whole Chiyan Army, Consort Chen, Prince Qi mystery. I’m so curious what happened! I hope we also get shown how Lin Shu really became Mei Changsu.

Also, I love the little scenes we get of Concubine Jing. She’s just such a lovely woman! So smart too! I love watching the actress on screen – she’s really good! I hope she continues to have a bigger role in the show.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
1 month ago

 “Time flows like water, and what has gone cannot come again.”… Mei Chang Su

E11 – I felt a little smug when Banruo tells Prince Yu that his Uncle Prince Yi was a witness to the murder case.

The Marquis of Ning is such an evil dude. While Minister Chen is discussing the upcoming rites, the crafty Marquis brings up the Emperor’s Achilles heel – the Chiyan Army. He is now working that paranoia the Emperor has. What a dirty trick and it works.

In the Garden – I love how Nihuang’s lipstick and blush match the peach blossoms 🍑 . It is hard to outshine Mother Nature but she does so easily.

Minister Chen bites the dust. Here is an interesting excerpt from the book: The Ministry of Rites had been neglectful of its duties, and Chen Yuancheng was to be relieved of his position, but because of his age, he would be allowed to retire from the court without further investigation. The Crown Prince, whose identity as a concubine’s son had been emphasized by Prince Yu repeatedly during the debate, couldn’t control his fury and actually slapped Prince Yu across the face, which earned him a severe scolding by the Emperor in front of the entire court. In all the chaos, only Prince Jing stood quietly, watching coolly from the sidelines, and with his tranquil expression and unflappable nature, he left a very good impression in the minds of many court ministers who had not noticed him before. Source

When Nihuang compares the letters that Lin Shu sent her from the battlefield and MCS’ writing, I personally believe she still trusts her heart and what she felt that day they visited MCS’ old home.

Hu Ge does a marvelous job of transmitting the pain and frustration he feels between his now ravaged physical body and his old life as Lin Shu, the golden youth so intelligent, so brilliant in the art of war, so fierce that he was called Young Marshall.

Special thanks Fangurl for that translation of what Concubine Jing said to Prince Jung. The Palace is like a wasp 🦟nest isn’t it?

E11 Recap

  • MCS’ nickname was the Qilin Prodigy
  • The Emperor reacts strongly anytime the Chiyan Army is brought up.
  • Being a court official is a dangerous job. First qualification – you must be able to weep and moan and gnash your teeth

DID YOU KNOW…

  • That the novel uses a different Cicada poem from the one in the drama. Do yourself a BIG favor and check it out here. This is calling your name BE!
  • A few of the actors were credited with Assisted Directing on this drama: Wang Yong Quan (Xia Jiang), Hang Wong (Li Gang 💓), Zhao Yi Long (my 🥰 Pingie!) and Liu Hong Xing (can be seen in E9 and 10 as Minister Zhu and in E21) and more to come on that later on
  • If you like the casting done in this drama you can thank our loyal vegetable and information man Tong Lu. ⭐ He is the actual casting director and bravo on job well done!

…………………………………………………………………………………

E12 – I appreciated getting some story on Lin Shu and the Chiyan Army in MCS and Nihuang’s conversation. Looks like we have to wait on his illness explanation though and I am scared to hear it.

Nihuang checks him for distinguishable marks, but the gig is up. Here he is, the love of her life, her Young Marshall, her intended spouse and someone she has waited for all these 12 years and she can only get so close to him. Imagine all the things she wants to talk about, but instead he leaves her standing there. You can see a flash of pain and surprise in her eyes when she realizes that MCS is going to walk away from her. Yet still her first thought is how can she assist him and can she visit him. That is unselfish love. 💖

I really love how Consort Jing asks her ‘Sister Chen’ (Consort Chen) in spirit to help her get Prince Jing on the throne.

I so love how newly appointed Minister Shen Zhui is already honestly earning his pay! His character continually impressed me throughout this drama.     

Poor Yujin, the happiest of fellows, can’t hide his disappointment 😞 when he discovers that his father has returned and will be leaving again shortly for the Daoist temple where he sends most of his time.

I 💖 how MCS cannot deny Fei Liu the happiness of receiving toys.  

Fairy Gong Yu is sprouting 🌹🌹🌹 Of all the ladies in this drama I loved her styling the most.

Don’t you just love how the wheels start rolling as soon as MCS hears the Empress is not well? Here is an example of how MCS works. He pays attention to detail and takes nothing for granted. You can tell that mind is going – look at his fingers. He is already looking for an explanation. Love 💖 how you ended this Fangurl! Love the picture of Concubine Jing – how beautiful are her fingers!

E12 Recap

  • All reunions are not the happy kind 😥

 
DID YOU KNOW…

  • Hu Ge and Tao-jie were being interviewed and were talking about the Pavilion scene and how there was snot coming out of Hu Ge’s nose because he was crying so hard. She wiped it off real quick with her hand and they kept filming. She said that as a Mom she has done that many times. Source
Sean
1 month ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

I thought I would make a quick comment – you are a marvel regarding the information you are providing here, phl

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
1 month ago
Reply to  Sean

Thank you Sean.I think this group watch may finally cure my addiction. So grateful that Fangurl has not banned me yet and is graciously allowing me to ‘fangirl’ on my favorite drama. I know this drama is not quite your cup of tea so I am glad to see you over here.

The ladies who translated this novel are my heroes. So glad they allow others to share their translations as long as a link is provided. They deserve the lion’s share of backstory credit.

Quick aside – I am really enjoying Kyouen Ng. BIG thanks!

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
1 month ago
Reply to  kfangurl

LOL! My emojis have not had their coffee yet and are refusing to work or I would have thrown in a smiley face after the word banned. Thanks FG! I wish I could send emojis hugs right now LOL!

Sean
1 month ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

Lol, phl 😂 If only we all (and by that I mean, me) your passion! What I find interesting at the moment is that I am watching way more cdramas. They are certainly closing the gap with kdramas.

Those ladies who translated the novel sound awesome and they are so generous in allowing others to share their information.

I am so glad you are enjoying Kyouen Ng. It would be nice to see the leads do another show together 😊

Natalia
Natalia
1 month ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

I asked you last time, I can now concur: fairy Gong Yu, indeed.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
1 month ago
Reply to  Natalia

Natalie – her hair! I love it.

Leslie
1 month ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

Not to focus too much on snot, but I did notice it in the scene, and thought it was a vulnerable way for such a handsome actor and actress to underscore the intensity of their emotions. They were all in.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
1 month ago
Reply to  Leslie

Yes Leslie – they were hyper focused and were pouring their hearts and souls 100% into that scene. We can see and feel all of that intensity when we watch it. It was so very moving.

BE
BE
1 month ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

https://www.poetrynook.com/poem/member/luo-bingwang%E2%80%99s-%E2%80%9C-prison%E2%80%94-singing-cicadas%E2%80%9D-300-tang-poems-93

It is a poem from the early T’ang period, thus after the action in NIF.
Working from the literal translation at the bottom of linked page, I quickly came up with this:

White Horse with Black Mane, The Northern King’s Imprisoned Guest Luo Binwang Rhapsodizes with Cicadas
 
Where the Western Road disappears into autumn, cicadas whine;
My old cap slants south, homesickness invading my mind.
My hair black as cicadas’ wings, how can I bear being so unworthy,
Or face the slanders and cares of the old White Hair folk song?
Dew falls so heavily, impossible to lift myself up from the grasslands;
Wind echoing all around keeps me too down to the ground.
No one trusts such a man or can believe in his elevated purity;
Who then will listen to the unwinding all my heart and mind?

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
1 month ago
Reply to  BE

BE – beautiful! I prefer your version over the one listed on the link. There are also a few instances where I have taken note of songs used that were written post-Tang era. I will make note of these when we come to them.

From Wikipedia: Although it was not intended for any historical backstory corresponding to a certain dynasty, for the sake of the costumes, props and set designs, Nirvana in Fire was set during the Northern and Southern dynasties.

While the drama uses the poetry of *Cao Zhi’s 192 – 232 Ode to the Cicada, the novel uses the poetry of Luo Binwang 619–684? Cicadas Singing in Prison. I have not found any sources in English to explain why the author wrote this change into the script.

Having read both poems BE, I prefer Luo Binwang’s Cicadas Singing in Prison. Even though it is not chronologically in step with the time period, there is the similarity of angering those in power by use of the written word. Both Master Li Chong and Luo Binwang were stripped of their positions for speaking out against those in power.

Mei Changsu’s gaze was calm as he said quietly, “That year, the crime of my teacher [Li Chong] lay in his blunt words, which became his downfall. Although he knew his words would offend the imperial countenance, he persisted in speaking his mind and expressed his views without regret, acting in accordance with the conduct of great scholars. Therefore, it is my belief that there is dao to be followed in everything in this world. There is dao in the hidden places of mountains and forests, and there is dao in the lofty palaces and courts. As long as one’s heart is pure, and one does not betray his convictions or speak contrary to his beliefs, what does it matter where one stands?” Source

*Note – Cao Zhi has an interesting lineage.

Last edited 1 month ago by phl1rxd
BE
BE
1 month ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

Of course, in the late T’ang period, poetry came to its greatest flower. There are probably more renown poets from that time and place than can be found anywhere else in history. During that period there were many great, great poets who as concurrently part of the aristocratic and ministerial class found themselves undervalued, imprisoned, or exiled far from the spheres of influence and wrote poem after poem addressing this theme, Tu Fu, “China”s Shakespeare,” the greatest of them, and a man who could write heartbreaking poems concerned with the corruption of court life (not to mention great impressionist poem/paintings about the beauty of women at court celebrations) along with breathtakingly gorgeous landscape pieces.

There are too many great poets of the era to mention, but a couple poets who have recently come to light for readers in English because of the fine work of translator Red Pine, I would mention are Wei Ying-Wu (In Such Hard Times, Red Pine, trans. and Introduction) and Liu Tsung-Yuan (Written in Exile. trans. and introduction).

Liu Tsung-Yuan, while famous as an essayist, was not so well known even during his life as a poet. But he wrote a number of spectacular poems detailing his work in landscape design and engineering–quite marvelous in conception and execution–at estates where he lived out his exile. When MCS was in his house buying phase and thinking of how to renovate those estates, I thought of Liu Tsung-Yuan. What struck me as strange about him was he took so much delight in his landscaping projects I could not help but wonder why he so longed, and he so longed, to get back to the life of a government minister. Even after more than a decade in exile, some of his poems reflect with no small amount of sorrow a sincere desire to return to court life, thinking his ministerial talents had been going to waste.

Wei Ting-Wu was just a bit later and part of a family who fell into disfavor. He often took shelter at Buddhist monasteries and worked in the provinces where at times, he was assigned magistrate positions in difficult, sometimes poverty stricken locales. Many of his most beautiful poems were written with heartbreaking nostalgic and comradely feeling to specific old friends or colleagues–indeed if there were ever a poet who celebrated friendship, certainly Wei Ting-Wu was an exemplar, and his poems in the wake of his wife’s passing so touching.

Red Pine, a real treasure for those of us who love Chinese poetry but cannot read it in the original, has lived and traveled for years in China and his scholarship goes so far as to have included pilgrimages to many of the great poets of that era’s home and grave sites. Both books of Red Pine’s translations contain the originals in Chinese orthography, wonderful intros to the poet, the context of the poet’s place and time, as well as interesting biographical information.

Last edited 1 month ago by BE
phl1rxd
phl1rxd
1 month ago
Reply to  BE

BE – I listened to a podcast where Red Pine was interviewed. What an interesting man and what an interesting life he has led. Fascinating!

BE
BE
1 month ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

Edit:

White Horse with a Black Mane, The King’s Imprisoned Guest Luo Bin Wang Rhapsodizes with Cicadas

Where the Western Road disappears into autumn, cicadas whine;
My cap slants south; homesickness invades my mind.
How can I wear hair black as cicada’s wings being undeserving,
Or face the slanders, cares, the old ode “White Hair” sing?
Dew falls so, impossible to lift myself out from grass;
Winds echo thunder pressing me down to ground.
No one trusts a man like me or can believe his purity;
Who will hear my heart’s unwinding song drone on?

BE

Geo
Geo
1 month ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

@phl1xrd: Thank you for all your work on this show, the additional information and background you provide really enhances the viewing experience.

Like you, I was struck by Nihuang’s beauty, her costume and make-up among the peach blossoms; she seems like one with her surroundings. Who can resist that face with its amazing make-up and spectacular lipstick? No mortal man and as it turns out, not MCS either.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
1 month ago

This is a stellar 3 episode review Fangurl! I also love that picture of the Emperor pointing his finger.

E10 – *The incident at Prince Jing’s house – in the novel Prince Jing caught that projection in his fingers inches away from MCS’ throat.  Book Excerpt Chapter 50: This kind of scene was not rare in armies, and shows of strength were common against newcomers, against outsiders who had been transferred into the army, or simply against a person you didn’t like, and if they performed well in the test, they could gain the beginnings of respect and acknowledgement.

I love Cai Quan! What a character and he really cracks me up. He pushes right back at Xia Dong doesn’t he? He has some cojones here because most of Jinling would be too afraid to even enter Xuanjing Bureau. It is that formidable a place.

Duke Qing Land Infringement Case is closed – because of this high profile case some peasants suddenly found themselves with money in their pockets standing back on their land. Excerpt Chapter 51: The case had been essentially concluded, and the number of the convicted among the Duke of Qing and his relatives and close friends came to seventeen in total, and they were sentenced to imprisonment pending execution, with all their property seized, the males of their households sent away to serve penal sentences, and the females sent to service in the palace.

Fangurl – I also love how loyal MCS is to his people.

The murder in the entertainment house – this is the beauty of MCS schemes – he kills several birds with only one stone. First – the twins get their revenge as the man who killed their brother with a beating gets beaten to death himself, the He father is in trouble due to his son’s actions and the He son gets his come-uppance for all his cruel acts of the past.  

Poor Magistrate Gao Sheng! He sends his Constable Zhang to pick up the evil doer. (Ok – just butting in to say the Neimoidians pulled a quick hat steal).  

Fangurl – as I do not understand Mandarin I am unsure of what Yujin actually says at 33:41. I think the translator may have used the wrong term here as this does not appear (or sound) to be a zither/guzheng, but a guqin? If you have anything to help clarify the actual word used I would be grateful. Also, is zither a broad term for stringed instrument in Mandarin?

Jingrui has been depressed lately so MCS leads Yujin’s thought process to Prince Ji. MCS encourages the Dynamic Duo to take a break at Prince Ji’s vacation home at the Hot Springs at Huqiu. Again – MCS is killing two birds with one stone.  

Now we come to my one pet peeve in this entire drama – the musicians. For all the high quality of 99% of the production elements in the show, I feel very sad that they dropped the ball on the scenes where music is played. This is because a kindergarten child will realize that the musician’s fingers do not match the music. While this particular scene is not as bad as others (I believe these are real musicians), I really expected more attention to detail.

E10 Recap

  • Never underestimate the power of the finger flick 

DID YOU KNOW…

  • Why MCS and Prince Jing were so angry – *In the novel this very same situation ( acting arrogant on military grounds) occurred to Lin Shu when he was young:

Lin Shu had come across a similar episode before too. That year, Father had taken a weak, frail scholar in his forties who had been serving in the Ministry of War without any real power, and brought him into the Chiyan Army into an important position, and the young and hot-blooded Young Marshal [Lin Shu’s title] had purposefully shattered his sword, letting a fragment fly towards that thin figure in order to test his courage.

That time, the rod of Father’s punishment had fallen especially heavily, and he had been beaten so badly he could hardly rise out of bed for three days afterwards.

Mei Chang Su knew that Prince Jing remembered the incident, and remembered too the words his father had spoken to him in rebuke.

At the scene of the punishment, the target himself, Nie Zhen, had not stepped forward to plead for mercy on his behalf, because he knew that the reason for Lin Shu’s harsh punishment was not that he had sought to provoke Nie Zhen, but because, when he had let the fragments of his sword fly at Nie Zhen, His Highness Prince Qi had been standing beside Nie Zhen.”

CP
CP
1 month ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

– Hope you don’t mind if I answer the question about the qin. Yes, you are correct, Yu jin says “琴” (qin) here, which refers to a 古琴 (guqin). This is indeed a different instrument than a 古筝 (guzheng). Generally in wuxia dramas, the characters will be playing guqin (if you watched The Untamed, this is Lan Wangji’s instrument, as one of many examples) – the easiest way to tell them apart is the guqin normally sits on the table while the guzheng rests on a stand, and you have to tape the fake nails on to play guzheng, while you would just play the guqin with you fingers.

I also think you are correct that zither is just used to describe the class of stringed instruments, including both 琴 and 筝.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
1 month ago
Reply to  CP

CP – thanks so much for explaining that. I just could not understand why they used the term zither.

Got a question for you – in E1 when MCS is talking with Li Gang (25:45 in) they are discussing that Li Gang has arranged for “Qiu Zhen to go to Qunzhou”. The murdered man’s name is Qiu Zhe /Qiu Zhengping. I do not want to make assumptions that this is the same person not knowing the technicalities of Mandarin name spelling. That E1 statement does not quite pan out moving forward so I had some doubts as to whether there was a link or not. Any thoughts on this?

CP
CP
1 month ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

Where are you watching on? I watch on Youtube and I’ve noticed the English subs there are pretty lacking.

Wow, I am so impressed at how closely you are watching – I have no recollection at all of that line from E1 haha, since like you said the statement doesn’t really come back later. The 2 scenes are not related as they are talking about different people. In that E1 scene, Li Gang is reporting to MCS on the Jiangzuo Alliance business, saying that he sent someone named Qiu Zhen (丘真) – presumedly a suboordinate within Jiangzuo Aliliance – to the place Qin Zhou (秦州). In E10, the guy that got murdered is Qiu Ze (邱泽) – the Chinese characters (and the pinyin/sound for the second word) is different. I can totally see how this would be phenomenally confusing haha, especially if you don’t know mandarin, but good on you for even picking this up!

Now I’m curious to know if Qin Zhou (秦州)comes back somewhere such that they were sending people there. I can’t remember this place being important in our story, but perhaps you remember some detail that I don’t?

manukajoe
manukajoe
1 month ago
Reply to  CP

Qin (秦) is the ancient name for present day Xi’an (西安). Maybe it’s referring to that area.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
1 month ago
Reply to  manukajoe

Besides trying to understand the Mandarin I am also trying to grasp a little geography so every little bit helps – thanks Joe!

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
1 month ago
Reply to  CP

Thanks so much CP! I caught that and always wondered about it. At least now I know that the names are for 2 different people. I was so confused and I really appreciate your help.

As for Qin Zhou – great question. I do not have anything significant in my drama/novel notes on this moving forward. I think that is why I was so curious about why this would be mentioned. We know that there are many of these little references that mean something down the line. Hence, my assumption above about the names.

I have dug into my notes up to E30 and so far I have not seen anything but I am going to keep an eagle eye on this moving forward. Who knows CP – it might pop up again. Thanks again!

CP
CP
1 month ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

No problem! I’m glad my years of Chinese are finally coming in useful for something….
Lol that is a very fair assumption – we’re clearly so used to these tiny throwaway details coming back over and over that it’s hard not to overthink and believe that sometimes the characters can just have a conversation about unimportant things too.

Ahh okay .There are a couple scenes later on where the originally dialogue was particularly spectacular / the subtitles were especially egregious on Youtube that I was thinking of translating it myself for fun. Maybe I’ll check out the Viki subs and see if they’re any better first!

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
1 month ago
Reply to  CP

CP – I forgot to mention that I am watching on Viki.

Geo
Geo
1 month ago
Reply to  CP

@CP: I started to watch two different sets of subs for specific parts of the episodes and found I got a more complete picture and better understanding of the show. You could try that.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
1 month ago
Reply to  Geo

Geo – I may just do that. What two vehicles are you using to watch?

Geo
Geo
1 month ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

YouTube and the “Dark Side”

Geo
Geo
1 month ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

@phlixrd: Thanks, you’ve answered my question (raised above) about the projectile aimed at MCS by Qi Meng.

manukajoe
manukajoe
1 month ago

Ep 10 Yawn a brawl in a brothel. Was interesting to see Gong Yu in action.
Ep 11 Yawn A debate on rites
Ep 12 Finally some electricity! Ha ha Nihuang tricked Lin Shu into giving himself away! But he’s so cold!

I do like to see the court ladies scheming but the men are a bit boring.

beez
1 month ago
Reply to  manukajoe

– there’s lots of excitement to come so I hope you don’t give up on this series just yet!

manukajoe
manukajoe
1 month ago
Reply to  beez

I heard it gets better around Ep 15, so I’ll hang in a little longer. At least it’s well written and acted and shot, and I can kinda practice my Chinese. And occasionally admire the clothes.

BE
BE
1 month ago
Reply to  manukajoe

Hmmmn the petty, two faced middle aged court lady conniving is more fascinating than Marquis Xie’s malevolent but game savvy don’t fuss the small potatoes counsel to the Crown Prince–forget about some individual minister and let’s get your mama reinstated where she can wrap that Big Daddy around her fingers once again and we can do some real damage? Ah well, aren’t we all suckers for pretty faces, even the Emperor is at time putty in some woman’s hands. Yuk. Of course, like everyone else I like Consort Jing, a tour de force in close to the vest, but from Empress to most consorts to ladies in waiting, those women…well I never wanted to met anyone much like them in my life.

Rites–the letter and the spirit are the heart of Confucianism. For all what appears in our world as total anachronism, after living for a year in a world where scholarship was disdained with the upshot in one nation after another of hundreds of thousands if not millions dead as as a result, and I live in a state in the US where teaching about racism in public schools has just been legislated against the law, this aspect of Confucianism, policy based on reasoned debate among the nation’s most accomplished scholars seems quite civilized. Tree with Deep Roots, the Korean historical drama, did a far better job than NIF in bringing the debates to life, however, and indeed made them far more riveting than even the well choreographed fight scenes therein. Show is about wit, reason, philosophy, and part of MCS’ power is that in all of these arenas, he is a step ahead of the others, no matter how wily his various opposition is. He wins because he is not only an excellent strategist but because in a society, however brutal, ultimately runing on Confucian ideals, his point of view is more sound. We can see this in the advice he gives Prince Jing in an earlier episode–to hire quality people, support and encourage them at their work, without cultivating their following, and thus avoiding calling attention to himself, let alone the mission of superseding the Eastern Palace or the ingratiating Yu. Letting the chips fall then where they may, when the time comes being able to sweep the chips of his rivals right off the table.

Finally, we must have been watching a different scene between MCS and Nihuang, as the man is so powerfully overcome moment after moment that as emotional and perfect as Nihuang is one cannot take one’s eyes off Meng Chang Su. Every word, gesture, tear, and embrace she throws at him hit him visibly blow after blow after blow, so much so in fact that he is convulsed and spits blood in the immediate aftermath. To ask more of him given all but one other of his entire people were wiped out, that is as thorough a genocide as one can possibly imagine, he himself utterly altered in appearance and weakened, having spent years in exile planning this elaborate strategy for justice, and the overwhelming complexity of the plan with even one misstep having fatal consequences not only for himself but all aligned with him, not to mention Princess Nihuang. I dunno Manukajoe; I’d have a hard time calling Mei Chang Su cold, in anything other than the physical sense, in that scene.

Trent
1 month ago

That scene between MCS–Lin Shu 哥哥–and Nihuang in episode 12 was the good stuff…that’s what we’re here for. And that brief flashback to the two of them as teenagers, practicing their sword forms together! So cool, want more plz & thnx.

beez
1 month ago

@kfg The two men fighting in the brothel – MCS could not be 100% positive that Master Qiu Ze would actually kill Master He. That makes me think that dart to the leg may have contained poison to help along the crack on the head???

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
1 month ago
Reply to  beez

@Beez – I did find this:

“Master Qiu immediately twisted towards the left, but suddenly his right leg grew numb and he lost his balance, and, in a flash, his vision darkened, and he only felt a tremendous pain in his forehead before he toppled to the ground.” Source

This particular scene was in a different sequence in the book but even so I have no other notes on that. I think that you have an interesting point and if I find something on that I will re-attach to this thread.

BE
BE
1 month ago
Reply to  beez

@beez: If men in the 20 th C remain stupidly proud, subject to a consequential lack of self control, all the way up to the highest places in nations, it sure seems possible that someone like Q-Z (a twenty point letter score that fellow) was pretty darn easy for Gong Yu (the woman who so far as we know is “using” even the super smart Banruo for MCS’ devices) to play, especially setting him so, can you imagine, walking in on that foul mouthed, second rate trash talking Hey! You! in the arms of not one but two slender beauties. If not kill the fellow he was certain to eff him up badly enough to rock all the capital scandal mongers!

Last edited 1 month ago by BE
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