We hereby pay respect to you, Ancient Buddha. Rise at once. Thanks, Ancient Buddha. I’ve heard that His Majesty was angry at new salt officer Yi Ming during an audience, because you’ve kept inciting him at his bedside. My Ancient Buddha, this is not true. They say there’s no wave without wind, no smoke without fire. Why don’t all the accusations mention the empress consort or Concubine Jin, but they specifically name you? My Ancient Buddha, this is because of His Majesty. Why doesn’t he visit any other mansion, but only comes to the Great Benevolence Mansion of mine? Listen! How sharp-tongued she is. Don’t be incensed, My Ancient Buddha. You mean His Majesty favours you, people then envy you and accuse you of those things? Never have I thought so. But I just want to know who dare accuse me before you, Ancient Buddha. This is because of His Majesty too. Why doesn’t he visit any other mansion, but only comes to the Great Benevolence Mansion of yours? I understand not. When Salt Officer Yi Ming met His Majesty, His Majesty scolded him for acquiring his post through money. Angrily he shouted: “Even a concubine in my palace knows that you have bought your post!” Lianying, tell me the result of your investigation. Ma’am. According to the palace records, on the 16th day of the previous month, His Majesty visited the Eternal Spring Mansion. On the 3rd day of the previous month, he visited the Peaceful Harmony Mansion. As for the remaining days up to yesterday, he stayed at the Great Benevolence Mansion. The empress consort and Concubine Jin haven’t met the emperor for over a month. Then whom could the culprit be? Answer me. You were so eloquent a moment ago, weren’t you? Ancient Buddha… During a talk with His Majesty, I made a slip of the tongue, saying a few words: “Nowadays, even an illiterate man like Yi Ming can become a public officer. But no one cares, as long as he can pay. How foolish!” But I never thought that His Majesty would remember my words. Once meeting Yi Ming, His Majesty tested him and found that he couldn’t even write his own name. His Majesty thus became angry. Do you know the duties of the salt officer? He controls the manufacturing and pricing of salt. Moreover, he controls the carriage of salt by sea. This post requires skills, not literacy. If a Brush Wood scholar is sent to assume the post; he won’t be able to do those duties, though you force him to do. I also found that although Yi Ming isn’t a scholar, he’s highly experienced in commerce. The personnel ministry gave him the post, probably because they saw this good point of him. If men are actually employed due to their skills, Yi Ming would then be the best choice for this post. And he wouldn’t have paid a hundred thousand taels for the post. You said he bought the post. Do you have evidence? My Ancient Buddha, I’m not the one who received his money. Where could I get evidence from? Even historical records contain various groundless stories. As these rumours occur, it is appropriate to check them, isn’t it? Indeed, it is appropriate. But inappropriate is it when said by you! Your act is nothing but an intervention in politics, don’t you know that? The Palace Law of Great Qing provides that no member of the harem may interfere with political affairs. Don’t you ever know? Today, I just understand this provision of the Palace Law. The harem of Great Qing cannot interfere with political affairs, but can rule the empire from behind the curtain. Ancient Buddha, I just blabbed. I have no intention to insult you. Please forgive me. I have lived for ages, but never once have I seen an insolent like you. Excellent! Pretty excellent! Your son hereby pays respect to you. Longevity I wish you. Yet I haven’t been blown to bits by my anger. All of you shall wait a little longer. Mother, your words shame me that I feel unable to stand anymore. Isn’t it me who should ask you for a place to stand? Ancient Buddha, it’s me who insulted you, not His Majesty. My Ancient Buddha is a benevolent adult. Please don’t mind my speech. Ma’am, Concubine Zhen is a stubborn and careless child. Just treat her like a kitten or puppy, and forgive her. Emperor, I think you have heard what Concubine Zhen said a while ago. Tell me what her punishment should be. The harem’s internal affairs are left to your discretion. Left to my discretion? Lianying. Here. Draw up a decree in His Majesty’s name: Concubines Jin and Zhen have violated the legal code.
To the rank of noble lady shall they be demoted. Ma’am. Do you agree? Yes. – Lianying, a rod.
– Ma’am. Ancient Buddha, I’m begging you on behalf of my mansion keeper, Dai Enru. Last time, he almost died because of twenty beatings imposed on him. This time, it’s completely my own fault. Please don’t beat him again. Ancient Buddha, please have mercy. Today, it won’t be too many strokes. Just ten. But the one to be beaten today is not Dai Enru. It is you. – Lianying.
– Here. – What are you waiting for?
– Ma’am. My Ancient Buddha, I’ve repented. I’ve repented. I won’t do like that again. Ancient Buddha… In the harem since the founding of Great Qing, only eunuchs and maids have been beaten. No royal concubine has been so punished. Today, I grant you a chance to be remembered in the history. Mother, I beg your mercy. Please think of Concubine Zhen’s dignity. It’s her who tore down and trampled upon my dignity first. Your son is begging you. Please be kind. Please think of my dignity too. A mother should think of her son’s dignity. Then tell me whether she should be beaten. Tell me. Tell me! Beating her or not beating her?! Beat. Your Majesty… Why treat me like this? Why don’t you help me? Then you better slay me! – Death is even better than disgrace!
– Silence! Stop talking nonsense! Now the emperor has refused my mercy himself. Officers. Concubine Zhen is not just beaten here. Emperor, empress consort, eunuchs, and maids – none of these is allowed to leave too. I will have you all stay here to witness the end of an insolent! Your Highness, why don’t you thank Her Majesty? I hereby thank you, My Ancient Buddha. Pronounce a decree. The Empress Dowager hereby decrees that when a concubine violates the law against political intervention, an inquiry shall be held by the empress consort, and severe penalties shall be given without mercy. We hereby receive your decree. Copy and frame this decree, before hanging it in front of the Great Benevolence Mansion. Whenever you, Noble Lady Zhen, visit the empress consort, you must recite this decree before her. If you are still mulish and relapse into bad habits, violate the law, interfere with politics, or behave insolently, severer will your punishment be. Forget not my words.