The Legend of Zhen Huan: Eps 70-72

Chinese DramasDrama Reviews

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Finally it is time for Zhen Huan & Co. to move on to the final opponent: the Empress!!!!  Considering how the Empress is the final ‘stage’ of Zhen Huan’s takeover, and how the empress is one of the most cunning enemies of all in the harem, I thought her downfall would be much more complex.  I was expecting something super epic but unfortunately it paled in comparison to Hua Fei’s and even Ling Rong’s endings.  I guess part of why the empress is so easily brought down is that her defenses have already been slowly crumbling over time.  Although the empress is K.O.’d in what seems to be one swoop, it is in fact the culmination of many prior events which weakened her position beforehand.  But even with this in mind, I still felt dissatisfied with her downfall.

Zhen Huan & Co. make their move by framing the empress for Zhen Huan’s planned miscarriage.  Yup, yet another miscarriage scheme.  T_T  Especially after Ling Rong’s whole ordeal, the miscarriage tactic is getting old.  Zhen Huan confronts the empress when the two of them are alone in a room, while the emperor and the rest of the concubines are waiting outside.   Hmm, well I guess it’s nice to see Zhen Huan calling out the empress on all her wrongdoings right in front of her face, but of course we know that usually that doesn’t really accomplish anything.  Then Zhen Huan purposely falls against a table and blames her resulting miscarriage on the empress.  (I think Zhen Huan took some sort of medicine right before this confrontation to make the miscarriage happen more easily.)  Jing Fei’s daughter backs up the claim by lying that she witnessed the empress pushing Zhen Huan.  Of course this results in the empress’ utter humiliation in front of the entire harem. 

Ugh, I was cringing throughout this entire scene because it all felt so contrived and forced.  O_O  Everyone was overacting, so much so that things started getting more and more ridiculous especially when Jing Fei and Zhen Huan started turning on the waterworks.  I mean, how did the emperor not catch on that something was incredibly fishy here?

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But don’t worry, to make up for that cringe-worthy scene, the empress has the best scene ever.  It is even the best scene for the emperor as well!  Well I was watching with the sucky subs so I probably missed some of the true beauty in the translations…but this scene is still so incredibly moving and emotional that it is now one of my favorites.  I love how the emperor and the empress actually have a candid talk with no formalities or false pretenses…it is just the two of them, finally honestly talking about the past for the first time.

Emperor: “Why don’t you hate me?”

Empress: “Do you think I didn’t want to?  I wanted to hate you so much.  But I just can’t do it.  I just can’t do it.”

The emperor finds out about all of the empress’ crimes, including how she murdered Empress Chun Yuan.  He confronts her about them all in a very calm and collected way, but eventually he becomes more and more emotionally affected by his anger and his grief over Chun Yuan’s death.  This is one of the few scenes where the emperor actually shows his emotional side and his capacity to love someone else.  Anyways the empress’ response is so heartbreaking, I cannot help but sympathize with her.  She talks about how her son, who was supposed to be the Crown Prince, died of a fever.  She carried her son alone in the rain, wishing she could’ve taken his place.  But the emperor didn’t care at the time because her sister (Empress Chun Yuan) was pregnant.  The empress was forgotten, her son was forgotten.  In her view, she took her rightful place as the empress because technically she was the first one to bear a son.  Ah, now I see why the empress is so determined to keep her status as the empress.

I can’t really pick out a favorite moment in this scene but I really like the part where the emperor asks the empress why she didn’t hate him instead of Chun Yuan.  She tearfully says that she wanted to, but she couldn’t.  She loved him so much, that she just couldn’t.  Part of me wonders if the emperor even fully comprehends what the empress is saying.  He has a great love for Chun Yuan, but can he really comprehend the immense and flawed love that the empress has for him?  My other favorite part is when the empress asks the emperor if he really thinks that Zhen Huan loves him.  (Answer: Zhen Huan doesn’t love him no more!)  OUCH.  This question also hints that maybe it is time that the emperor asks himself this question as well. 

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In the end, the empress still escapes the full brunt of the emperor’s intended punishment, thanks to the empress dowager who wrote an order saying that the emperor must pardon the empress.  However the empress still suffers because the emperor will never see her again as long as she lives.  Although she still has the title of ’empress,’ she no longer has any power nor does she have a place in the emperor’s heart.  What the empress did to the many children of the other concubines is unforgivable, but I still think she is a really sad and pitiful character.  She is the one who knows all too well about the cruelty and the cold-heartedness of the emperor, and yet she loves him with all her heart.  Many of the other concubines realized the true nature of the emperor and then fell out of love with him, (Mei Zhuang, Zhen Huan)  but not the empress.  

Usually I view the empress & the emperor pairing as a couple that is together out of necessity.  Whenever these two are together, it seems like they have the mutual understanding that they have the duty to fulfill their responsibilities as emperor/empress, but it doesn’t go beyond that.  There may be companionship and mutual respect but there is no romantic love.  But now I realize that the empress views their relationship differently; she serves the emperor out of love and not just to fulfill her duty.  Part of what makes the empress so interesting though, is her fascination with being empress.  Is it only because of her grudge against Empress Chun Yuan?  Is it because of her desire for prestige (she grew up in a lower ranked family)?  Or is it because this is the only way she can get some of the emperor’s favor?  Perhaps it’s a combination of all of these, but I wonder what her exact motivations are.

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There is not much development in Zhen Huan’s story, except that now she is finally going to have to fight the emperor.  You know how usually in period c-dramas, the emperors are often dumb and easily manipulated?  You know how usually you wish that the emperor would man up and get a clue about what’s really going on?  Well, here is the one time where you will probably wish otherwise.  The emperor is freaking smart!!!!!!  He knows what’s going on and he’s catching on to the affair between 17th & Zhen Huan!!!!!!!!!  OMGGGGGGGGGGGGG.  And he even has a secret agent (I kid you not, he’s a SECRET AGENT) spying on Zhen Huan!!!  The emperor is really gonna make you wish that he was not this smart because now there is no turning back.  Things are gonna get bad!

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^bottom right pic: Interesting how the two concubines to the right are using red handkerchiefs, it’s a nice flash of color. 

Lastly let’s talk about some of the beautiful clothes!  I love the empress’ final outfit because it is a really stunning color and it suits her really well.  It is like a really dark plum color (almost looks like grey or black in some shots) along with a pink and red trim.  Usually I don’t like the empress’ color combinations that she wears, but this one is just beautiful.  As for Zhen Huan, I like her light pink vest with a checkered pattern and flowers on it.  There is a nice contrast between the checkered pattern and the soft pink flowers.  Also for Jing Fei, I like her light pink vest as well.  It is a different shade of pink from Zhen Huan’s but it really suits Jing Fei’s skin tone and her gentle composure. 

Overall
Now it’s time for the final stretch.  The next story arc is actually one of my least favorites but I will leave that to talk about in my next post! 

And this is kinda irrelevant to these few episodes but…I found this really good MV for Hua Fei!!  I really miss her! >_<

heisui

I'm heisui, an Asian drama blogger and the creator of My Drama Tea. I love stories and writing, so I watch dramas and blog. I especially have a penchant for Japanese and Chinese dramas, and those hidden gems that are waiting to be discovered. Oh, and I'm Legend of Zhen Huan-obsessed!
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  • I think there are some small things that you might be missing out on because of the English Translation and cultural context.. and other stuff… I never watched this all the way through with English subs so I will try to fill you in… Forgive me if I overstate some stuff that you already know.

    I think the Empresses demise might be more exciting to people who more deeply understand the Chinese cultural context because Chinese actually has a lot of sayings that depict the cruelty of humans, inhumanity of the world, the way power flows in times of change and between people, general types of irritating people, and manipulative tactics that people can use.

    With that in mind, many will acknowledge that the empress is the embodiment of the saying “To borrow somebody else’s dagger to kill another person.” The meaning of this is basically to manipulate other people to do your dirty work for you. Looking back, this is just about the only tactic that we ever see the Empress use. Only exceptions are when she killed her sister, to which she had somebody lined up to take the blame for her anyways. But given that, we get the sense that the empress is never really the kind of person who can act alone. She always has to manipulate others to shoulder the blame with her or take the blame for her. Not too sure about this part and my Chinese isn’t 100% and I didn’t watch this with English Subs but I think it is implied that Duan Fei and Hua Fei used to be friends but grew to hate each other due to misunderstandings and that the Empress may have had a hand in that too… dunno… *shrugs*… but I think it’s pretty much implied that Jing Fei and Duan Fei have figured out by now that the Empress has seriously wronged them in the past before…

    So, without any allies, the Empress basically can’t go on the offensive anymore and decides to go on the defensive due to one major point: she still has the adopted son that she stole from that other concubine-what’s-her-face-that-she-blackmailed-into-committing-suicide.

    (Just some side trivia, did you know that the actress for the concubine that was blackmailed into committing suicide used to go out with the actor for Imperial Physician Wen?!? There’s also rumors now that the actor for Imperial Physician Wen is going out with the actress for Precious Cao now!!)

    But yeah, with that adopted son, as long as she keeps herself relatively clean, retains the title of Empress, and has her adopted son continue to be heir apparent, as soon as the Emperor drops dead, she will be bestowed the title of Empress Dowager according to custom and be able to seek terrible revenge on Zhen Huan and Co.

    So yeah, although the danger is far in the future, with the way things are headed, it is still a definite possibility. Therefore, when Zhen Huan gets pregnant and starts vomiting uncontrollably and finds out from Imperial Physician Wen that the child she is pregnant with is not savable and will be miscarried soon, she asks Imperial Physician Wen to pretend like all is well in order to set things up. I think this is the point where we see some of the humanity that Zhen Huan has left. She drags off aborting the child with the medicine until the very latest that she can and feels really guilty about it afterwards.

    But yeah, Jin Fei, seeing Zhen Huan vomiting so much and her poor health, has a blurb where she tells her adopted daughter about the hardships Zhen Huan went through when she was pregnant with her and how if Zhen Huan should ever need her help in the future, she should help her. This is important since it is the reason the kid makes the move later which, it is implied, wasn’t part of anybody’s calculations. One of the major things that make Zhen Huan and Co. more honorable that the Empress is that they try to minimize involving children as much as possible but telling them to get out of the room when they are plotting or other stuff. It’s just that Zhen Huan’s daughter is really nosy and knows what’s going on.

    This might be why the scene seemed forced. Zhen Huan wasn’t counting on her daughter for help and was trying to bring the Emperor to punish the Empress independently. She was literally trying to milk the Emperor into punishing the Empress with tears and, as we saw, the Emperor was still hesitant to punish the Empress before Zhen Huan’s daughter decided to butt in.

    (Also, it is kinda culturally accepted to Chinese people that women’s tears have power over men so…. meh…. but in defense of the series, all Zhen Huan’s crying did get Hua Fei punished back with her first miscarriage so… yeah… but then there was also firm evidence)

    Also, Jing Fei only started crying when the Empress went ballistic after hearing what Zhen Huan’s adopted daughter said (since it was a lie) and accused Jing Fei of setting everything up.

    But yeah, the Empress gets confined and then hopes her adopted son will be able to weasel her out of confinement and that brings us back to the Empress’s adopted son. As long as he is around and in the position of heir apparent, despite his incapabilities that that the Emperor is grudgingly willing to overlook, the Empress will be able to rise to power again once the Emperor dies. However, while the Empress wants her adopted son to save her, the Empress’s confinement also puts her adopted son out of her protection for the time being.

    This is why Zhen Huan convinced her adopted son to make the empress’s adopted son seriously goof up in front of the Emperor (he asked the Emperor to grant amnesty to some of the Emperor’s old archenemies and release them from prison). This resulted in the empress’s adopted son getting booted from the imperial family. The Empress, hearing this, got upset because without her adopted son to be the Emperor, it will be significantly harder to exercise power once the Emperor is dead. According to protocol, she will still get the title of Empress Dowager as long as she retains the title of Empress up until the Emperor dies but the actual power she is able to exercise will be severely diminished. At this point, she is basically holding onto the shred of hope that, since all children in the palace are required to acknowledge the Empress as their principle mother, regardless of birth mother, she may be able to weasel something out of this.

    This is the point where her zealously loyal (and stupid) servant decides it would be the best idea in the world to poison Zhen Huan and her son to get them out of the picture, which we all know fails and that’s how we get the confessions of the Empress’s past crimes.

    But yeah, one of my favorite scenes was here after the torture scene with Duan Fei and Zhen Huan. Duan Fei worries that the servants will not confess. Zhen Huan says that even if the Empress’s head maid and eunuch don’t confess, there are plenty of servants close the the Empress to drag through the works. Once they get somebody to spill a little bit, the rest will come smoothly. Duan Fei says that hearing this, she is relieved. Zhen Huan replies that now is the time to act and, literally, stick the needle into the Emperor’s old wound to get the Empress sacked because if they don’t act now, if one day the emperor dies, then things could get tough since they will have to follow protocol.

    But yeah, I think at this point, we should all be wondering why it is SOOOOO much easier for the Empress to get away with stuff and not everybody else. If anybody else commits or is even found to possibly have a relation to something, they get punished severely while the Empress’s punishments are relatively tame, in comparison.

    I think a lot of this has to do with bringing out the perceptions of race and ethnicity during the Qing dynasty. The Qing dynasty, as we all know, was founded by Manchurians and a majority (over 90%) of China is Han. Because of this, it was very hard for the Manchurians to maintain power. Though the Manchurians largely adopted to Han culture such as their designs, architecture, adopting use of Mandarin instead of speaking Manchurian and causing use of Manchurian to decline at such a rate that it was rarely used even in the EARLY Qing dynasty among MANCHURIANS, there were also many times when the Manchurians had to give themselves more power in order to stabilize the country. This extended to only letting Manchurian women into the palace unless you were from a high-ranked government official’s family, forcing Han Chinese men to adopted the horrible queue, forcing all Han men to adopt Manchurian clothes, sometimes giving more credit to or being more lenient with Manchurian officials, etc. As you can imagine, this also further stirred discontent between Han and Manchurian people but that’s another story to be getting into.

    But yeah, back in the day, your ethnicity was determined by who your father was but if we look at it with more of a modern perspective, the imperial family basically became very Han Chinese very quickly due to mixing with lots of Han Chinese women. However, they still had to maintain that they were Manchurian for the sake of stability. Therefore, favoritism for Manchurian women.

    The only Manchurian women that are in the palace are the Empress, the late Empress Dowager, and Qi Pin who is dead now… and possibly that one concubine that got KO-ed by Hua Fei way at the beginning of the series who kept on pestering Ling Rong over spilling tea at the selections ceremony.

    If the series was translated right, there are lines in each of these characters that illustrate some discontent at how hard it is for Manchurians to maintain a hold of power in the palace and even some snotty remarks of pride at being Manchurian and thus “better” than the rest of the women. Also, the Manchurian women in this series all kind of help each other out. The Empress provided gifts to the one concubine who got KO-ed in the beginning and the Empress also initially helped Qi Pin with settling into the palace.

    So, this explains a lot of why sometimes the Empress Dowager and Emperor act the way they do and sometimes turn a blind eye in order to maintain power for the Ulanara clan that the Empress and Empress Dowager both come from and to maintain a Manchurian foothold in the palace.

    • Hi O thanks as always for your explanations, they help a lot. Yeah I do miss a lot from the subs. =_= I totally missed the part about how the empress is planning to become empress dowager. That makes much more sense why she is so fixated on staying the empress. I got the gist of the racial issues way before this, but I didn’t realize that the Manchu concubines were the minority that asserted their authority over the other concubines.

      • No problem. I guess I really like reading your reviews since… well…. this drama’s really powerful and I don’t feel like I’ve talked to enough people about it in sufficient detail. It’s interesting seeing what other people think about the characters and stuff.

      • Since you really like the Empress and Emperor scene, I decided to go through it and see if there are any details I think you may be missing. I think you got it for the most part. Some small details may be that I think it adds the the Empress’s grief that the Emperor actually verbally promised the Empress on their wedding night that if she got pregnant, the title of principle wife and later, Empress, would be hers but went back on his word after meeting her sister. The jade bangles that the Empress wore were also a gift from the Emperor on their wedding night so that is why she shows them to him and kinda says, “remember?”

        Also definitely does not help that people back then were superstitious and, after her child’s death, the Empress developed the notion, in her grief, that, since her sister got pregnant at the same time, her sister’s child must have somehow leached the life out of her own child and was intent on taking the title of heir apparent that was supposed to be her child’s as well.

        Finally, I think the Empress, in the end, was more upset about the Emperor’s treatment of her son than the Emperor’s treatment of her. Her main point seemed to narrow in more on her the Emperor’s treatment of her son during his final moments. If she hadn’t restrained herself and instead, barfed her feelings upon the Emperor, it would probably be something along the lines of, “You KNEW our son was DYING from fever and you STILL had to go spend time with my sister for the lame reason that she just got pregnant instead of coming to see him one last time and pay your respects?!? WHAT KIND OF A @#$## FATHER ARE YOU?!? WHO THE @#$# DID I MARRY and HOW THE @#$# WAS I STUPID ENOUGH TO FALL FOR AND STILL LOVE THIS MAN?!?” Very complicated relationship between the two of them. >.<

        • I got the feeling that the empress felt abandoned and forgotten by the emperor. And perhaps because she couldn’t bear to hate the emperor, she also blamed her sister instead. She was all alone in mourning her son. :'(

    • Just to add on.

      The Manchurians also saw themselves better as the Han Chinese, to borrow a term from Harry Potter, they saw themselves as pure-blooded while others were of ‘dirty’ blood. And even for the Han Chinese, there were two categories, the Han Chinese bao yi who were under the Manchurian banner system, and then the normal folk out there. Bao yi means domestic slave. Their ancestors probably became slaves to the Manchurians before the Qing dynasty, and over long periods of service, became trusted by the Manchurians and given a certain measure of power and authority. There is also a rule that the Empress must be of Manchurian descent, a Han Chinese (bao yi or not) cannot be the Empress.

      There was a lot of politics at work there. Manchurian versus Han Chinese. And within the Manchurians, there was also the rivalry between the famous Manchurian clans like the Fucha, Nara, Niohuru, Guwalgiya, etc. And then within the clans themselves, there are different branches that fight for supremacy, like within Nara, there’s Ulanara (the Empress’ family clan) and the Yehenara. So they’re all trying to keep power/gain power for their own family clan.

      One point I thought was interesting was that the Empress Dowager was so insistent that the Empresses should be from the Ulanara clan and “keeping it within the family”, but when I paid attention, the Empress Dowager’s family name was Uya. So maybe, the Empress Dowager’s mother was from the Ulanara clan, so she tried to benefit her mother’s family clan, instead of her own family clan.

      Also, part of the reason I think why the Emperor was reluctant to punish the Empress is because of how it would affect his court affairs. The Empress is the mother of the country, and to punish the Empress is a very serious affair that would probably spread through court. (And I’m guessing the Empress had inserted a number of her own family member or trusted allies in important positions in the court.) Although the Emperor supposedly has all the power, if a majority of his court officials oppose his punishing of the Empress, it could have serious effects. Even if the Emperor could prove that the Empress really did harm Zhen Huan, the mindset of the officials would probably be that “Zhen Huan is just a concubine, she is not as important as the Empress”. Whereas later, when it was proven to the Emperor that the Empress had killed the former Empress to steal her position, he then had the necessary motivation to punish the Empress because killing the (Manchurian) Empress is an unforgivable sin as compared to harming a (Han Chinese) concubine.

      Anyways, just my thoughts:)

      • ehhh…. yeah…. all very complicated… DX Lot of people see this as evidence as to why monogamy is better but growing up, you have to accept that everything has flaws.

        Under a monogamous system, the dynasties don’t tend to last as long in true power due to pressures on women to have a male, and general lack of intense competition between offspring to vie for the throne.

        In this system, though things get complicated, there are tonnes of offspring fighting for the throne and competition is intense to succeed and prove you are worthy. This usually, USUALLY, translates to a better ruler. Also, there’s the logic that stupid women usually don’t give birth to stupid kids. If you can’t even defend yourself against all these other women, how can you expect your child to fight for the throne and tackle the dirty complexity of governing the country. The competition might put off the “fu san dai” mentality longer but other people still bear the brunt of the burden.

        Note: “fu san dai” refers to the Chinese saying “fu bu guo san dai.” It’s a reference to the observation that power and fortune usually does not last in a family beyond three generations. People see the first generation as the one who builds up power and toiled all day and bore the brunt of everything to do it. The second generation saw the effort the parents put in and work hard as well, maybe sometimes not as hard as their parents. And the third generation (or “fu san dai”) is where things start falling apart with a general lack of care for hard work, extravagant life style, etc.

    • The part about being Manchurian was actually said by the Empress in the drama.

      Back when Qi Pin entered the palace, the Empress said that as Manchurian they must support each other because the others were Han . The Manchurian were the Empress, Qi Pin and Fucha (the concubine who became crazy because Zhen Huan scared her)

      Even when Zhen Huan returned to the palace, the Emperor gave her fake identity as Manchurian woman from Niuhuru clan. Thus she had back up because she was now Manchurian and that also elevated Hong Li status. Powerful mother = powerful son.

  • Oh yeah, also, the Emperor doesn’t have a “Secret Agent”… just a technicality… he has a Secret Police Department (even worse and I think this is a more accurate translation). That guy is just the head of the Secret Police Department so he is the guy that was behind assassinating the doctors who backed Hua Fei back in the day, snooping on other people, etc. That brightens the picture, now doesn’t it!?! 🙂

  • Hi heisui! Thanks for your review 🙂 Anyway, the Emperor was really smart which was why I felt that he really hesitated in punishing the Empress for causing Zhen Huan’s miscarriage because he did indeed feel that something was fishy. It was only when ZH’s child came out to testify against the Empress that he really believed in ZH’s version of the story, because children are innocent and hardly lie. I think it also helped that he had always known that the Empress was rather antagonistic and had no good feelings for ZH.

    Anyway, I agree with O that the reason why the Empress was so keen on maintaining her position was because she hoped to become Empress Dowager and regain power in the future. In the Chinese custom, the Empress and the birth mother (or concubine who raised the future Emperor) would both become Empress Dowagers when the future Emperor ascends the throne. Even then, the Empress would still have more power as Empress Dowager than the birth mother. So, the Empress was definitely biding her time to come out and cause trouble and mayhem once more.

    Why the Empress wanted her adopted son to ascend the throne and not any other princes was simply because she did not want to dilute her power by splitting the “Empress Dowager” title with anyone else. She wanted absolute power, which was why she kept striving for her adopted son to be heir apparent.

    I agree that the Empress’ love for the Emperor is really immense and flawed, but she isn’t the only one who loved the Emperor after seeing him for who he really was. If I understand correctly, another such concubine would be Duan Fei. It may not be accurately portrayed here, but in the book it was clear that Duan Fei knew that her discord with Hua Fei was orchestrated entirely by the Emperor AND the Empress, and even then for many many years after the incident, when she was ill and sickly, the Emperor hardly came to visit. However even knowing all this, she still loved the Emperor till the very end, and so she’s another character who is to be pitied.

    Also, I love that the Empress planted the seed of doubt about ZH’s love for the Emperor in his mind, because even though it bodes ill for ZH, it just makes it so much more tense and interesting. 😉

    • Waiiit. So Hua Fei’s blaming Duan Fei was planned by BOTH the emperor and the empress? O_O Ok I knew that the emperor planned Hua Fei’s miscarriage/infertility but I didn’t think he deliberately framed Duan Fei for it. OMGGGGG.

      Yeah I remember Duan Fei is one of the only ones who stays true to the emperor with her love. I guess Duan Fei’s love is one of silent endurance whereas the empress’ love is more passionate/zealous.

      • Hua Fei’s blaming Duan Fei was a response that both the Emperor and Empress expected, because they served Hua Fei the miscarriage medicine through Duan Fei. They purposely picked Duan Fei because they knew that she had no allies/enemies and at that point of time Duan Fei was the only concubine Hua Fei trusted (and therefore would consume the medicine given by Duan Fei.)

        Given that the Emperor and Empress knew Hua Fei’s personality, I would say that their actions were entirely deliberate and their inaction to clear up the misunderstanding or even help Duan Fei is also indicative that they purposely set up Duan Fei to take the fall for them. 🙂

        • This makes me dislike the emperor even more. The least he could’ve done was visit Duan Fei more often, I don’t get why he had to isolate her and just make her suffer even more. URGH.

          • I thought you knew… since that was implied relatively early on and maybe just around the time they stopped with the subs… DX Oh wells…. now you knows…

          • btw… not to shoot you down or anything, J, but I would have to argue that though there is a difference in level in title between the Empress and birth mother after the new emperor ascends, actual power exercised is another factor altogether.

            If you are talking about power you are able to exercise, the birth mother usually ranks higher than the Empress, unless the Empress has serious backing with the officials or clan power. I mean, it’s the child you brought up as opposed to son-only-in-name relationship. The birth mother will have the backing of the Emperor (where real power rests) and the old Empress only has what is written on paper, pretty much. The best women who were the Empress can expect in this kind of situation is to live out your life in luxury and largely alone, only respected for what you once were but held on a leash really. If you step out of bounds, there are cases where it ends badly… See link below about Empress Dowager Guo’s death…

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empress_Dowager_Guo_(Muzong)

            Also, as is usually the case, the new Emperor will jilt you of your proper burial by the side of the Emperor… usually demoting your burial to that of a concubine or consort rank…

            And this kinda brings us back to why it was so taboo for women to take power in the imperial system. The most famous examples are Empresses Lu Zhi, Wu Zetian, and Cixi.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empress_Dowager_Lu
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wu_Zetian
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empress_Dowager_Cixi

            Their reigns with power were seen as disastrous by Traditional Chinese Scholars of the time which is why the Northern Wei Dynasty and other Emperors executed the mothers of the crown prince once it became apparent who would take the thrown next to eliminate the possibility of a “tiger mother” exercising power over her weak or immature son. On the other hand, this usually resulted in officials taking over this role.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_Wei

            Personally, I don’t blame these women too badly. It’s gotta be hard detaching from your past life in the imperial harem and accepting your new life and the power and position it comes with.

          • some last-moment sympathy for the Emperor, though. Maybe he wanted to go see Duan Fei and felt guilt about what he did. He states at times in the series that he felt that the inability of his concubines to have children was a sign of heaven punishing him for all the evil he had done. This explains why he didn’t look into all this crap that was going down sooner and why the Empress could go to town taking people and babies out.

            However, the Emperor also had to balance how he felt with how Hua Fei felt, since he needed Hua Fei’s brother. If he went to see Duan Fei, Hua Fei would probably torment Duan Fei more or find some other way to vent her dissatisfaction. The most he could do was shove Duan Fei in a corner and leave her be. Also, by the time Hua Fei died, Duan Fei was old and the Emperor probably didn’t want to see her anymore and preferred somebody young. His guilt was probably wearing thin at that point as well with the passage of time. I mean, I love Hua Fei and all but can you imagine her having a kid and what her kid would be like and what it would be like if her kid ran the country?!? Hua Fei’s clan would eventually probably eventually start their own dynasty or bring so much disorder that the Qing dynasty would collapse.

  • Thanks for the all the comments. I read them with great joy. I watched the entire series (76 eps) twice. My feelings about the women in the harem is that of the beautiful birds in the golden cage. To share a love of one man, the emperor, is not an easy task for any woman regardless of social status, culture, and otherwise. To say that Hua Fei, Duan Fei, the Empress were all in love with the Emperor may be true; but they all knew that the emperor would never love them for themselves especially in this case the emperor was still in love with his dead-wife, empress Shun Yuan. Life in the harem for the concubines & consorts must be very boring. Just seeing these women got prettily dressed up everyday so that they “might be” visited by the emperor.
    It is normal for the women to compete for the emperor’s love and attention because with the emperor’s attention, the woman would get all kinds of favors and good treatments from the servants. It is a primordial instinct for a woman to compete for love, affection, etc. After they are no longer the object of the emperor’s affection, what else could they do. They could not divorce the emperor. The only way out of the harem would be becoming a nun. I do not think that Hua Fei, Duan Fei, and others loved the emperor for the sake of love but rather for power (Hua Fei) for a leisure life (Duan Fei) and for the ultimate power (the empress).
    I would have enjoyed this series more if there were good English subs.

    • Hehe I still haven’t rewatched LZH straight through in all its entirety. But I go back and watch random episodes when I get the craving for it!

      Hmm I think maybe Duan Fei loved the emperor for the sake of love because she really seemed to enjoy his company. I got this feeling especially in ep76.

      • Perhaps Duan Fei did love the emperor. But to say that she is still in love with him toward the end would be a little stretch. Duan Fei was married to the emperor while he was still the 4th prince probably somewhere the same time as Yi-Xiu (Shen Yuan’s sister). After she was asked to give the abortion medicine to Hua Fei and subsequently suffered at Hua Fei’s hand, she knew it was the work of the emperor and the Empress Dowager. How could she still be in love with the emperor. After the situation with Hua Fei, she resigned to the fact that she must survive and hope for the demise of Hua Fei as she let on in one of the earlier episode when she came to the rescue of Zhen Huan regarding the poisoning of princess Wen-yi. I do not remember the emperor visited with Duan Fei in ealier episodes. There was one later episode that the emperor was bedded at her chamber (she was already promoted to Huang Qui Fei). Toward the end, Duan Fei showed certain affection, not love, toward the sickly emperor. Afterall, she is now second only to the empress in rank thanks to Zhen Huan. Remember, life in the Back Palace (Hou Gong) is full of intrigues, conspiracies at all levels for the sole purpose of getting the love of one man namely the emperor. Love is a prerequisite requirement that the consorts and concubines must show the emperor but to actually love him is another story e.g. Concubine Ning (horse-trainer) and Zhen Huan when she returned to the palace.

        • I dunno… I thought Duan Fei was just about the only one in the trio that actually cares a bit for the Emperor at the end… Based on what I recall, she was the only one truly looking after him without harboring ill intentions when he was dying and actually worried about the little affair incident of the other concubine and how it would impact the Emperor’s health if he found out… The others were all more like “well… he’s going down…. herp derp… sitting on the wall about pushing him on his way…”

          Also, it is implied at the end kinda that Duan Fei keeps getting ill out of grief after the death of the Emperor :/ I agree she doesn’t love him as much as she did in the past but I think she has a hard time detaching completely… Whether or not this kind of lingering emotion counts as “love” still is up to you, I guess…

  • Hey!! Hey!! Everybody!! The singer for Zhen Huan Zhuan, the opening song and some of the in between songs, Yao Bei Na is on The Voice of China!! Poor girl… Apparently, she got cancer… >.< She's AMAZING!!!! O_O

    • btw… some Zhen Huan-related trivia. As wen stated, withing the Nara clan, there was Ulanara and Yehenara which were subsections of the clan. The singer and judge in The Voice of China, Na Ying (she’s the woman in the black and white blazer), is an ethnic Manchurian from the Yehenara clan.

      So for some historical context, a distant relative of the Empress and Empress Dowager in this series. Apparently, since MOST Han Chinese have only one character for their last names, after the fall of the Qing dynasty, lots of Manchurians decided to conform to Han custom and shorten their names… since in chaotic times, it’s best not to stick out… and lots of the views and disorders of the times which are very complicated… In this case, shortening “Yehe (subsection) Nara (Clan name)” to the surname “Na.”

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Na_ying

      • I guess The Voice of China is more open to anybody who wants to come… since you see people who attended other competitions in the past and people who have followings on the internet showing up and stuff… still largely amateur but the goal seems to be more to develop mainland China’s mainstream music culture and have an answer to Taiwan. I mean, in the first season, you saw people who were music majors and people who specialized in singing and professional Chinese singing schools show up… I believe a teacher at one of these schools even turned up too…

        She said her professional career wasn’t the kind she really wanted and getting cancer 2 years ago forced her to realize that. She would always have to dress up for performances and stuff and sing songs she didn’t particularly like or feel an affinity for. She said what she really wanted was to wear jeans, a t-shirt, and flat-bottom shoes and sing more mainstream music that appealed more to her life and emotions so this is kinda her attempt at pushing into something mainstream I guess…

        Note: I think there might be a slight cultural difference here. Mainstream Mandarin Music, for the most part,… well semi-historically speaking and harking back to Taiwan… is usually more trying to find a balance between flowery, artistic, literary Chinese and modern Chinese as well as strongly depicting emotions and stages of somebody’s life… think back like A-mei and JJ Lin and stuff… a little bit different from today’s mainstream music from the U.S. and idol groups from Korea that have taken a turn towards… well… bling and fashion

        Which is kinda why people more from my mom’s generation really get peeved with the amount of attention that bling, fashion, and beautiful people get in today’s industry since they feel there is a lack of actual singing talent and ability to sympathize with the stages of normal life and emotions. *shrugs*

  • For those who may be interested, Singapore’s MediaCorp is going to broadcast this show next Tue 23 Jul 2013 on Channel U at 11pm on weeknights and there’ll be Eng subs….

      • hmmm…. maybe this is the second run? That brings about a question… the website I linked above only mentions through the first 25 episodes… on this page

        http://www.bsfuji.tv/isakaime/story/story24.html

        I wonder if the whole thing has been aired or only part of it… I can’t read Japanese but based on what I can infer from Chinese characters and guesswork, I’m guessing they MAY have broken it into 3 parts or something… and only the first 25 episodes have aired so far… *shrugs* again… can’t be 100% sure… dunno >.<

        • never mind… re-read the article on jaynestars… it was broken into three parts >.< As for how many of the parts have aired I guess that's still up in the air since the website only lists the first 25 episodes…

          • Everything has a good and bad side. The bad side would be if they wait too long to release the other two parts, interest may die down… especially if a better show comes around…

            • Whoa I can’t believe they even made a wax figure of ZH! It does look good but it doesn’t look life-like enough to me. I think the expression looks too stiff.

          • yeah… wax Zhen Huan looks kinda stiff… and imo it looks too thin… gaunt?…. best word I can come up with to describe it… Zhen Huan in the drama had a fuller look in her figure and face to me in the drama and that was part of her appeal since it was balanced just right… this looks like slightly malnourished Zhen Huan or something :/

            • Perhaps the proportions are a bit off? I’m not sure what it is. I also think the wax figure doesn’t have the sparkle of ZH’s eyes. I do wish I could see it in real life though, it would be the next best thing to being next to ZH, haha. Actually, I just wish I could just see all the costumes!!!!

      • Just wld like to know, since i was watching it without d sbtitle, why did the emperor get angry with zhenhuan’s attire that caused her being ignored by him.

          • More importantly, the Empress conspired … where the clothes that Zhen Huan was going to wear, was mysteriously torn. So, after the Imperial tailors suggested wearing a used dress that came in for cleaning ( which happened to be the previous Empress dress) and you can guess the rest that happened.

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