♫ The sounds from the sheng and xiao die away in the distance, in the sparse, declining light ♫
(T/N reed instrument made of vertical pipes; end-blown flute) ♫ Memories of my past, my companions in youth. ♫ ♫ Over boundless years, old affairs have become difficult to recall. ♫ ♫ I’ve used a lifetime of truth to put up a pretense. ♫ ♫ Parting without opening these cupped hands full of tears. ♫ ♫ Clears my vision and permits me to resist ♫ ♫ Perhaps when targeted by love it is not wise to separate
♫ ♫ The morning wind can not dispel the aftermath. ♫ ♫ Whose hidden tears made the blooming flowers blush, ♫ ♫ And in the desolate and dreary torrential storms to painfully droop low, ♫ ♫ Unwilling to blossom again alone? ♫ ♫ The coming day belongs to the young. ♫ ♫ As the glimmer of dawn becomes again the setting sun. ♫ ♫ Who is this person who does not sleep soundly in the middle of the night? ♫ ♫ Sitting and watching the autumn wind puff out and penetrate the palace curtains. ♫ ♫ One strand held in remembrance, shackling sentiment and concern. ♫ ♫ Always submerged in the fragrant incense of fleeting time ♫ Ruyi’s Royal Love in the Palace Episode 2 Qingying! Why did it take you so long to come? I’ve been waiting for you for a long time. You’re unhappy? I know that being a second wife is an unfair treatment for you. That’s not what’s bothering me. I’m considering right now if I should marry into the royal family or not. Is it because of Imperial Mother? Yes. Before, when I played here, I found it fun. But looking at the palace now, I feel scared. Regarding Imperial Mother, we’ll come up with a idea eventually. I also understand your current feelings. But being born into the Imperial family, there’s not one day that I haven’t felt the coldness and ruthlessness of these palace walls. Qingying, I will try my best to protect you and not let you suffer again. If we ever face any problems again in the future, let’s face it together. Noble Consort Xi will never like me, right? Royal Father has already granted you to me. I believe that Royal Mother will not say anything anymore. Also, I have talked with Royal Mother to not embroil you with Imperial Mother’s matter. I also expressed to her that the person my heart really desires is only you. Brother Hong Li. Do you know that that day right here, when I asked you to join my wife selection, I was so nervous. In Jiangxue Pavilion, when you hadn’t arrived yet, I was so anxious. Good thing you eventually came and even accepted my ruyi. My heart became at ease then. I also understand your personality. No one can force you to do the things that you don’t want to do. Hence, you have me in your heart, right? I just want to ask you…are you willing to be with me? From now on, you don’t need to fear anything. With me around, be at ease. Second Madam is here! Concubine Yue is here! May Second Madam and Concubine Yue enter the manor to pay some respects! Greet His Highness and Madam! (Princess Consort, the first wife) You may rise. Thank you, Your Highness and Madam. You all have met my main wife before. These are dowry items granted to me by His Majesty during my wedding. I heard that they are tributes from Annan. (T/N aka “Annam”, the old name for Vietnam) Hence, I’m gifting them to you to show my desire for an amicable relationship. Thank you, Madam for your grace. From now on, we’re sisters that will be serving our husband together. No need to be so formal. Your lodgings have been prepared. Today is the celebratory day of your entrance to the manor. Go and have some early rest. I’ll take my leave. Your Highness. It’s rare to see you sitting in such a disciplined manner. I’m a bit not used to it. I’m also not used to it. How about I remove your veil, so you can feel more relaxed? Okay. Beautiful. You’re more beautiful that I imagined. You also look good in red. QIngying, you finally are married to me. It seems like a dream. I also feel like I’m just dreaming. Let me whisper some words to you. Isn’t that inappropriate? I chose you. Being just a second wife is already unfair for you. Of course, my first night must be with you. She is my legal main wife. I will love her with respect. Concubine, His Highness went to Second Madam’s place tonight. Although Master slept in Madam’s room last night, they didn’t consummate their marriage.
[ Rongxin ] Really? Absolutely true. Then it means that Madam is also unhappy about this. Concubine, if you’re able to get Madam’s help, you won’t be afraid to have no backer here in the manor. Go get my pipa. (T/N Chinese four-stringed lute) Yes. I don’t believe that I’ll be a concubine forever. Maybe tomorrow night, Husband will come to my room. Concubine is multi-talented. Master will surely like you. Husband went to Second Wife’s room? How is that possible? Did you not see it wrong? Madam, I didn’t make a mistake. Master indeed is resting in Second Madam’s room.
[ Lianxin ] The candle light has already been extinguished. Leave now. Yes. Madam, although Master rested in your room last night, he used the excuse of being too tired and didn’t consummate your marriage. Tonight, he went to Second Madam’s place. This… Today is the day that Second Wife entered the manor. It’s just right that Husband goes there. But no matter what, Old Madam said it right. You should use some methods. You should guard against Second Madam and the other concubines. The more Husband likes her, the more I should show the bearing of a main wife. I must do it better. Act more like a main wife than anyone else. If Husband can’t find any lapses, he will feel that I’m the best choice to be the main wife. [ Six Years Later – Thirteenth Year of Yongzheng’s Reign ]
[ Thirteenth Day of the Ninth Lunar Month – October 8, 1735 ]
Greetings to Madam. Everyone sit. Thank you, Madam. Decree to promote Sister Xiyue to Second Madam came out. (T/N up to two second wives permitted) Congratulations, Madam Yue. Back when you and Qingying married into this manor at the same time, I gifted you each a golden lotus jade bracelet. It was my hope that you could be close sisters without regarding to your status. Now you’ve become a Second Madam too, and I’m so happy. Thank you, Madam. The bracelet you gifted me,
[ Concubine Su Lüyun ] Madam Qing and I myself both wear it daily.
[ Concubine Jin Yuyan ] It is all thanks to Madam’s teaching that I have this day today. Your father has been unwavering in his devotion to His Majesty.
[ Concubine Keliyete Hailan ] Lately with His Majesty’s health unwell and the Prince helping with state governing, your father has been of great assistance. His Majesty wanting to reward you is only natural. Lüyun, you’ve just given birth to Yongzhang, so you must be diligent in looking after your health. Thank you, Madam, for your care. Talking about it, Qingying, Xiyue, and I married in around the same time. It’s been quite some time since Yuyan came from House of Yu. Even Qiying, Hailan and Wanyin have served the Prince for long.
[ Concubine Huang Qiying; Concubine Chen Wanyin ] When will you all have children, so you can help the Prince spread abundance to his branch? Yes. We do not possess the fortune you have, Madam, to have both a daughter and a son. No need to rush. Take it slow, and you will all have too. It’s getting late. You all should return now. We take our leave of Madam. Madam! Second Madams! Concubines! Bad news! Speak clearly. What happened? His Majesty. His Majesty has passed away. Your Majesty! What about His Highness? As soon as His Highness heard of the news, he entered the palace. Kneel.
[ A.D. 1735. Qing’s Emperor Yongzheng has died.
The Fourth Prince, Hongli, ascends to the throne. First bow. Second bow. Third bow. Rise. Kneel. First bow. Second bow. Third bow. Rise. Kneel. First bow. Second bow. Third bow. Lament. Your Majesty. How could you just leave? You wouldn’t allow me to see you. I can’t even attend your funeral. Your Majesty. You abandoned me. But I’m your sole Empress. And I’m not allowed to go to the funeral, Your Majesty! Your Highness. Please don’t be so upset, Your Highness. Your Highness. The late Emperor’s death. Actually, I think… the only chance you can leave this place has come. According to ceremonial conveyance, for Your Majesty’s enthronement, should regard Empress in Jingren Palace as your Imperial Mother, the Dowager Empress. (Empress Ula-Nara Yixiu) What? Empress Jingren is Your Majesty’s First Mother, therefore she should be the Dowager Empress, your Imperial Mother. Royal Consort Xi is Your Majesty’s birth mother and she can be titled Empress Dowager, Sage Mother.
[ Zhang Tingyu ] That is according to rules set by the ancestors. Having two Empresses Dowager side by side is in accordance.
[ Liu Tongxun ] Your Majesty, the funeral has closed. The six palaces east and west are for Your Majesty’s consorts and concubines to live in. Having the previous Empress of the late Emperor still residing in Jingren Palace, it is truly not customary. But Royal Father had said before that he would never see the Jingren Palace Empress again. Thus it was plausible that the Jingren Palace Empress could be absent from the late Emperor’s funeral. However the late Emperor never deposed the Empress. After the funeral, she should still hold her proper title. Your Majesty, set clear rank and status among the wife and concubines and it will allow you to govern the world.
[ Gao Bin ] I shall think it over. Then I shall take my leave. Your wife greets you, Your Majesty. You’re here. I saw at the funeral these last couple of days how dried Your Majesty’s lips and spirit looked. And your eyes were red-tinted, so I made Your Majesty a bowl of almond soup. To moisten up your lungs. Come here. Sit. Your Majesty. I said to sit, so sit. Delicious. Last time the two of us chatted so quietly was still at the manor. Now, it seems everything’s changed. Yes. Back then, how could we have known the late Emperor would pass away. Your Majesty is now carrying a thousand weights upon your shoulders. Royal Father’s funeral and the court affairs are all alright. It’s just that there is a difficult situation before me and I’m not sure what to do. What is it? In court, someone suggested that I should release your aunt from Jingren Palace, and entitle her as Imperial Mother, Empress Dowager. It’s been so many years, and you must wish for your aunt’s release. Naturally I do wish for my aunt to be released from her imprisonment, so she can live her late life in peace, and I’ll be able to look after her. However, it was the late Emperor who ordered for her confinement. Nomination for Imperial Mother and Empress Dowager is a state affair, so as your wife… I’m not in convenient position to say anything. I thought of how Royal Father once said when he was alive, that we would never see the Empress in Jingren Palace in this life or the afterlife. So it is quite the emotional agony for me. But then I thought if I could release your aunt and restore her dignity, you would have someone you can lean on and your life could be more smooth. Your Majesty, I am very grateful you are mindful of me and my aunt. But you needn’t worry too much, Your Majesty. There will be a way to resolve this matter somehow. If it’s hard, Your Majesty needn’t compromise yourself too much. I understand. Is it true that this is what’s been said? Yes. As soon as Minister Naquin heard of it, he sent word in to let you be aware. The late Emperor left no instructions on what to do with the Jingren Palace Empress. So now the trouble has arrived. It was said that it was Councilor Zhang Tingyu who first suggested it to His Majesty, and a few grand ministers seconded it. That old rascal Zhang Tingyu. Always putting old traditions and rules and order of concubinage as more important than life! His wanting to put her in as the Empress Dowager is to slight me. Lord Zhang only cares about proper rules and he may not be intentionally going against you. Wouldn’t I know about that bunch of old rascals? To weaken the power of the Imperial harem would allow the old subjects from the previous dynasty to be that much more influential to His Majesty. But Zhang Tingyu is not the only one who can speak in court. Fujia, send word back to Naquin. He will know what to do. Yes. Empress Dowager, isn’t this a matter that His Majesty has all the say in? You should just go tell His Majesty you don’t want that. Back during his wife selection, the Emperor was never in agreement with me. So in this matter now, let’s not say anything first. I need to see how the Emperor feels. And keep a tally on how many hold regard for that one inside Jingren Palace. First bow. Second bow. Third bow. Rise. Royal Mother, the dishes today were all contributed by us. May Royal Mother try them. Empress Dowager, are you going to drink the soup first? Empress Dowager, this is a ham and chicken soup made by Mistress Qing.
[ Cheng Han ] Using a ham to pair with a nice chicken soup, the voice of the guest overwhelms that of the host. (T/N minor flavor upstaging the main attraction) I only wanted to use the fresh flavor to open up the Empress Dowager’s appetite. Never thought that it instead disturbed the Empress Dowager. It’s my fault. If two things are going to be cooked together, it should be clear which is the main attraction, which is just a side. If both are strong, it will destroy the taste. I admit my mistake. Looks like these two things can’t be merged. Empress Dowager, I’ll just cook you a clear chicken soup next time. Call someone to remove all these dishes! I don’t have the appetite. Royal Mother, you are grieving for the former Emperor, hence, not feeling well to begin with. If you still not take any food, you will not be able to take it.
[ Suoxin ] It’s better that you take in a bit of food. It’s not easy for Empress Dowager to finally decide to have dinner, yet her appetite got destroyed by Sister Qingying. This afternoon, there are even several hours of mourning ceremony. Sister Qingying, do you want the Empress Dowager to endure that starving? I committed a mistake and am willing to receive punishment. Hope Empress Dowager will consider your precious health and take in some food. Royal Mother, the citizens treat food as their heaven, rice as the master of all food. It is because rice is the most nourishing food. When the past Emperor was still alive, he loved eating congee the most. Have some too. Fine. In terms of food, how great of a principle can there be? It’s just judging the hour and sizing up the situation. Stop presuming to be clever. I understand. You may rise. Thank you, Empress Dowager. Royal Mother really treated Qingying like that? Yes. I’ve caused her to suffer. Deliver some scald burn medicine to her chambers and tell her to not be sad.
[ Eunuch in Yangxin Palace Hall, Li Yu ] Yes. It has become red from the heat. Empress Dowager was too heartless. It was just one bowl of soup. How did you serve your mistress? It is I who carelessly hurt myself when serving Empress Dowager. It’s not Suoxin’s fault. It’s still Suoxin’s fault for not protecting her mistress well. You, go outside and reflect. Yes. A’ruo, you need to understand that in her mind, you are the senior maidservant. You should be a bit tactful when you talk. Stop ordering her by pointing at her chin. (T/N being arrogant and bossy) I just feel that Suoxin isn’t a maid that was married with you from our manor. (T/N as part of the dowry) She’s not that close to us. You and Suoxin are serving me. If you two can’t harmoniously get along here in the palace, how are we going to live our days? You should change your attitude. But I just have this kind of straightforward personality. Empress Dowager was such a bully today. But, His Majesty really dotes on you. Didn’t he immediately ask Eunuch Li to deliver some burn medicine for you? In my opinion, once we enter the palace or if old Mistress gets to come out, His Majesty surely will confer you a title as noble consort or imperial noble consort. By then, Empress Dowager won’t dare to bully you anymore. I just told you to be more tactful when speaking, but you instead are becoming more unruly. Is Empress Dowager a person that you can just discuss so casually? If others hear it, even if you have ten lives, it won’t help. I just feel sorry for you. Yes…I admit my mistake. I won’t dare do it again. – Is it still painful?
– It is. When does Hong Li plan to let me out of here and address me as Imperial Mother and Empress Dowager? Must you become the Imperial Mother and Empress Dowager? The rules of the palace already exist! The past Emperor never deposed me from being an Empress. I’m the legal Imperial Mother and Empress Dowager. (T/N officially the Empress is mother of all offspring, as the “legal wife”) I should be living in Cining Palace! What then after you live in Cining Palace? Fight again with that Lady Niuhuru to determine who the victor is. Unending fights will eventually hurt you. Even if I’ll end up badly battered, I’m going to fight with her until the very end. Qingying, you must be of one heart with me. You must let Hong Li release me as soon as possible. His Majesty is already being put in a very difficult spot. Is your surname Ula-Nala or Aisin-Gioro ? (T/N Qing Dynasty Imperial Clan name) I’m worried about you. If you truly worry about me, you should know that my only wish in this life is to live and die with the past Emperor. Past Emperor has abandoned you, he personally said that he doesn’t want to see you whether in life or in death. (T/N not attend funeral or buried together) If he won’t see me, I’ll go see him. He abandoned me… but I will never leave him. Qingying, only by becoming the Imperial Mother and Empress Dowager can I be connected with the Past Emperor in life and death. I must fight for this status. Get up. For everything I’ve told you today, do you understand what you should do? I understand. Your Majesty, Mistress Qing is here. Your Majesty. Sit. Why did you come this late? I know that my aunt’s matter is still troubling Your Majesty. I also hope that this matter can have a resolution soon. But it’s hard to fulfill both etiquette and filial piety. Your Majesty, I want to beg you for a favor. Say it. Can you allow Auntie to live the rest of her life in a temporary imperial residence? That’s what you want? If you are going to support Auntie to live in a temporary imperial residence as an Empress Dowager, even if you temporarily don’t give her any official title, you can give some response to those who support respecting the main wife. And those who are against conferring Auntie to be the Imperial Mother and Empress Dowager, if they see that Auntie has left the Imperial Forbidden City without being conferred an official title, they probably will not say anything anymore. As for Empress Dowager, I also have thought of it. If two Empresses Dowager are here in the Forbidden City, these two elders have fought all their lives, it can’t be helped for them to continue being hostile in the future. If the Imperial harem isn’t tranquil, Your Majesty also will get affected. Why not just let Auntie go to a temporary imperial residence to live the rest of her life? Letting her avoid Empress Dowager will also be a good thing. You’re saying that His Majesty has already secretly sent people to the temporary imperial residence to do the preparations? Yes. After Second Madam Qing left the Yangxin Palace Hall, His Majesty then sent people to clean up the temporary imperial residence and set it up to make it suitable to care for an empress dowager. Absurd! Could it be His Majesty will really confer that Lady Ula-Nara as a Imperial Mother and Empress Dowager? Even if she’s going to move to another place, leaving the Imperial Forbidden City, and not staying with you here, being the Imperial Mother and Empress Dowager will still set her above you. It must be that Qingying brat that came up with such an idea. Jingren Palace colluding with Second Madam Qing like this, it can’t be helped for a young Emperor to get convinced by her. If I had known this would happen, I wouldn’t have allowed Qingying to stay. After the mourning ceremony tomorrow, tell her to come see me. Greetings to the Empress Dowager. Did you get scared when Fujia told you to come here? What I fear when I’m being called by the Empress Dowager is I might not be able to serve you properly and not practice filial duties on behalf of His Majesty. Your filial duties probably have all been done in Jingren Palace. Empress Dowager, please forgive me for being bold. The person in Jingren Palace is my loved one. I must go visit her. Just to visit? I also asked His Majesty to allow Auntie to live the rest of her life in a temporary imperial residence. You’re being delusional! Do you feel that you can use that small affection that His Majesty has for you to oppress me? Empress Dowager, I don’t have such intentions. I just hope that Auntie can continue living in a peaceful manner. Peaceful manner? Without any official title, will your Auntie peacefully walk out of Jingren Palace and go to a temporary imperial residence? With you as Ula-Nara Yixiu’s hope, you think your Auntie will be able to live the rest of her life in peace? You want your aunt to live? Sure. If she loses a backer like you, I can give her this chance to live. We are amid the late Emperor’s mourning ceremony. After the ceremony, you are to commit suicide. You will not beg me to be merciful and spare you? Empress Dowager, you’ve granted me my death. Hence, your mind must be set. I know begging will be useless. If you don’t want to die, that’s not impossible either. I can give you a choice. The clan of Ula-Nara. It can have your aunt only without you. It can have you only without your aunt. If I am to die, will you be willing to allow my aunt her wish of being buried together with the late Emperor? How devoted you are. As long as she will be docile in her retirement in Shengjing Palace, I’ll allow her to be buried with the late Emperor. Just without a title. Thank you, Empress Dowager. However, if His Majesty were to find out what you and I said today, your aunt will be like you, unable to live. I understand. Thank you, Empress Dowager. [ Star Mount ] Empress Dowager, it seems Mistress Qing might have gone to Yangxin Palace. She wouldn’t have said something, right? Regarding Jingren Palace, I’ve made most of the arrangements. I just didn’t expect that the word would get out, and I need to be mindful of Royal Mother’s sentiment. In order to pacify Royal Mother and for your aunt’s sake, for her to be able to enjoy a peaceful late life, as far as having her looked after as Empress Dowager, I need to make the arrangements slowly. I understand all about Your Majesty’s difficult stance. I am just sad for my aunt. Don’t worry. I will see to it that the Jingren Palace Empress is moved to old Shengjing Palace to rest well. On this matter, she lacks only the title. Being in disharmony with the Emperor only harms the women. May Your Majesty take pity on my aunt and not allow her to suffer in the old Shengjing Palace. Listen to yourself! Don’t worry. Every time I go to Shengjing, I will be sure to bring you with me to visit her. And I will dispatch servants often to look after her. I thank you, Your Majesty. If you want to thank me, don’t do so only with words. I miss your subtly-fragranced soup. When will you make me another bowl? But the peach blossoms haven’t bloomed. How could I make this soup? I know you like peach blossoms. After fall leaves, it will be winter and lots of peach blossoms will bloom. At that time, make me a few extra bowls. You won’t consent to it? I consent. What’s wrong? I just remembered the time we first met. That day, we met as “wall-heads” on horses together. Each upon a horse and with head over the wall, gazing from afar. Once I saw you, my heart was broken. I remember. Qingying. You and I loved each other ever since we were young. Though you were not able to become the main wife, our love is not something anyone can compare to. Do you know that? I understand. Your Majesty. If in the future I am unable to come greet you daily, I will still pray for Your Majesty’s royal health always and all things fair to come your way. What are you doing? Hurry and rise. Rise up quickly. What’s wrong with you today? I understand about your aunt. A woman, for a title, a lifelong lament. I understand you. I am like you. I pity your aunt equally. Mistress. Is there really no hope for Old Mistress? Could we be blamed too? You shouldn’t go. What if the other Empress Dowager finds out? That will be trouble. Why do you still make those, Empress Dowager? Late Emperor’s mourning ceremony is about to finish. We don’t need to burn more paper ingots. All the ones before Late Emperor’s memorial were made by me. Now my hands won’t be idle. Tell me. Shall I burn these for Jingren Palace’s Empress, or for her niece? Mistress Qing is a subordinate generation to you. She isn’t deserving of items made by your hand. Mistress Qing is here. You must be quick. Mistress. You wait here. ♫ Intoxicated by the falling flower petals in the plum garden ♫ ♫ as if this life were our first time we have met. ♫ ♫ Black silken hair reflecting the frosty moonlight, ♫ ♫ Hands joined together, for our innumerable mortal lives. ♫ ♫ The burden of concern on my mind has paled rose-kissed cheeks, ♫ ♫ Yearning now turns into confusion. ♫ ♫ Glistening teardrops cover the pledge, ♫ ♫ joining hands for a lifetime, when in the past did he change it? ♫ ♫ Flowers start out blossoming in splendor, but are easily destroyed ♫ ♫ Who is that plucking on qin (zither) strings? ♫ ♫ When love becomes deep, people are prone to separate. ♫ ♫ Alone, I sing the sad song of parting. ♫ ♫ Twilight is tardy, spring is late. ♫ ♫ With graceful reasoning, like it had been empty dream, with sighs. ♫ ♫ Let it flow away with the river of time. ♫ ♫ Vast years apart, with no clear date of return or hope, ♫ ♫ Regretfully not admitting the care held deep within my heart. ♫ ♫ Moonlight flows like water, washing away the pretentiousness of the past affairs. ♫ ♫ Sincerity now is the only thing left to depend upon. ♫ ♫ In the endless night, I cannot put down the gray hairs to pursue youth. ♫ ♫ Nor dare to look at you quietly from afar. ♫ ♫ If we can have another lifetime together, may we both be commoners. ♫ ♫ Reunited, and again pledging faithfully to stand by each other. ♫