Cultural notes :
Wife rank : There is only one primary First Wife called Di Fujin. The next ranked secondary wives are called Ce Fujin. The lowest ranking wives are the concubines with no official titles.
Xiu nu selection : Every three years all the Manchu women between thirteen and sixteen and registered under the banners had to present themselves at the Forbidden City in Beijing for imperial selection. The inspectors would select as many as needed to serve the palace. Those rejected and would then be free to marry with the approval of their parents and banner leaders. Those who passed the initial inspection would stay in the palace. Their family background and birth dates would be researched and matched with the person they were to marry. The purpose of xiunu selection was to guarantee the Qing emperors and princes the best marriage partners.
The Emperor wives are ranked as follows :
– Empress (皇后) – 1
– Imperial Honoured (Consort 皇貴妃) – 1
– Honoured Consort (貴妃) – 2
– Consort (妃) – 4
– Imperial Concubine (嬪) – 6
– Honoured or Worthy Lady (貴人) – unlimited
– Preparative Concubine (秀女) – unlimited
– Female Attendant first rank (常在) – unlimited
– Female Attendant second rank (答應) – unlimited
The phrases recited by Ruo Xi : when Kangxi asked why she thought he is a Sage Ruler come from a poem written Mao Zedong. It is called Snow (沁园春·雪).
Ji Guan : ‘Ji Guan’ refers to the ritual where a boy who has passed 20 would wear an adult hat to show his maturity.
Stones : Stone refers to the black and white stones used for weiqi, a strategy game.
‘Ya Ji’ : A ‘Ji Nu’ is someone who sells themselves to make a living, either thruogh selling their skills or sharing their beds. The widest term would be performer. There are different levels of performers. ‘Ya Ji’ is a high-class performer who accompanies guests, serving food and drink as well as literary arts but almost never her bed. Despite the chastity, women performers of all kinds are considered lower in status than the common folks like farmers.
Banner : All Manchu families were placed into administrative divisions called Banners. There were Eight Banner, each with their own flag. Although all Manchu had to belong to a Banner, other ethnic people could be part of the banner including the the Han Chinese and and the Mongols.
Jin Gang Jing : This is a Buddhist manual that preaches that since everything in the world is just an illusion, a person should not attach too much sentiment to it. I thought it worth explaining because it reveals one aspect of 4th.
Four Books, Five Classics : This refers to the main authoritative Confucian classics : four books namely the Great Learning, the Doctrine of the Mean, Analects, and Mencius (Da Xue, Zhong Yong, Lun Yu and Meng Zi) as well as the Five Classics namely the Classic of Poetry, Classic of History, Classic of Rites, Classic of Changes and the Spring and Autumn Annals ( Shi, Shu, Li, Yi, Chun Qiu).
Jin Chuang Yao 金创药 : This is a generic ointment wound used for cuts and wounds. Jin refers to weaponry which is most often used by a soldier. Chuang refers to wound.
Character Notes :
Ruo Xi / Zhang Xiao – Protaganist. Her surname is Maertai. Addressed as Er Xiao Jie when living in 8th’s household.
Ruo Lan – Ruo Xi’s sister. 8th’s second wife. The primary wife is called Di Fu Jin. The secondary wives are called Ce Fu Jin. The lowest ranking wives are the concubines with no official titles.
Qiao Hui – Maid to Ruo Lan; attending to Ruo Xi
Ming Hui – 8th’s first wife.
Ming Yu – Ming Hui’s younger sister.
Princes (I used title ranks for each prince in the recap. ‘Ye’ means master. )
Da Ye- First surviving son of Kangxi. Yinti
2nd / Taizhi – Crown Prince, Yinreng.
3rd – Yinzhi
4th – Yinzhen. Ruo Xi named him Bing Kuai Lian or “Ice Face”.
8th – Yinsi. Married to Ming Hui and Ruo Lan.
9th – Yintang. Ruo Xi named him “Du She” or “Poisonous Snake”. Supports 8th.
10th -Yin’e. Ruo Xi named him “Cao Bao” or “Wastrel”. Supports 8th.
13th – Yinxiang. Supports 4th.
14th – Yinti. Supports 8th.
Read this link for a deeper introduction to the characters.
Language notes :
Hu Jia Hu Wei – 狐徦虎威 – is a proverb about a fox who made use of the other animals fear of the tiger, borrowing this fear for his own benefit. A person who borrows the someone else’s strength to bully others.
Gou Zhang Ren Shi – 狗仗人势 – refers to a dog threatening people on the strength of its master’s power. That is a person who bullies bully others because of one’s master’s power and position.
Wu Shi Bu Xiao Bai Bu – 五十步笑百步 – A soldier who retreats 50 steps mocks a soldier who has run 100 steps. Similiar to the pot calling the kettle black.
Chu Sheng Niu Du Bu Pa Hu – 初生牛犊不怕虎 – A newborn calf who is unfraid of the tiger. A young inexperienced person who fears nothing.
Lu Tou Bu Dui Ma Zui – 驴头不对马嘴 – A donkey’s head does not match the horse’s mouth. It means the answer does not match the question or irrelevant reasoning.
Xiang Wang You Yi, Xian Nu Wu Qing – 襄王有意，神女无情. A story too long to tell her. Essentially it means unrequited love. Just like 8th with Ruo Lan.
Wo Bu Sha Bo Ren, Bo Ren Que Yin Wo Si – 我不杀伯人，伯人却因我而死. Wang Dao was in danger and asks his friend, Zhou Yi (also known as Bo Ren) to help convince the emperor of his loyalty. Bo Ren did and it saved his friend’s life. However because he did not want Wang Dao feel obligated, Bo Ren chose a different way to achieve the goal. This method infuriated Wang Dao’s cousin and also created a misunderstanding with Wang Dao. So when later the cousin asked Wang Dao how he should deal with Bo Ren, Wang Dao did not say anything to defend his friend. Bo Ren was executed. It was only later that Wang Dao discovered that his friend had written scores of petitions and did much to save him and his family. The quote refers to his silence causing his friend’d death.
Da Hu Qin Xiong Di, Shang Fen Fu Zi Bing – 打虎亲兄弟上阵父子兵. This means that success only comes from everyone working together.
Gan Dan Xiang Zhao – 肝胆相照. Treat each other with sincerity.
Liang Lei Cha Dao – 两肋插刀. Willing to risk or sacrifice because of friendship.