Characters Introduced So Far
(In Alphabetical Order)
Dong Yun: One of Ruolan’s maids.
Fourteenth-prince (Aisin-Gioro Yinzheng): The fourteenth son of Emperor Kangxi. He is described as being quite handsome. Is currently around fourteen to fifteen years of age.
Fourth-prince (Asin-Gioro Yinzhen): The fourth son of Emperor Kangxi and the future Emperor Yongzheng. Slightly pale and has an impassive demeanour.
Eighth-prince (Aisin-Gioro Yinsi): The eighth son of Emperor Kangxi. Also known as the Eighth Bei’le. Ruolan is his Ce’fujin (Second Wife). Is often seen smiling out of the corners of his mouth as well as conducting himself with a calm and gentle disposition.
Kangxi: The current Emperor of China.
Ninth-prince (Aisin-Gioro Yintang): The ninth son of Emperor Kangxi. Currently not given a peerage title. Seems to have a more taciturn personality. Nicknamed “the venomous snake” by Ruoxi.
Qiao Hui: One of Ruolan’s maids. Qiao Hui used to serve Ruolan even before Ruolan’s marriage. When Ruolan married, Qiaohui accompanied Ruolan to Eighth-prince’s household. Seems to be concerned for her mistress especially regarding Ruolan and Eighth’s relationship.
Ruolan, Maertai: Ruoxi’s older sister. The two are especially close as they are born from the same mother. She is also the Ce’fujin (Second Wife) of the Eighth-prince. Mild and gentle in nature, Ruolan likes to spend a better part of her days reciting Buddhist scriptures. Has a deceased lover who was a soldier in her father’s army. The man was of Han descent and had taught Ruolan how to ride.
Ruoxi, Maertai (Zhang Xiao): Protagonist of the story. Originally a modern day, white collar professional named Zhang Xiao. Under certain unexplainable, supernatural occurrence, Zhang Xiao’s spirit travelled through time upon her death and took over a young Manchurian girl’s body. Now stuck in ancient times, Ruoxi must navigate through an entirely foreign environment armed only with the little historical knowledge she remembers.
Tenth-prince (Aisin-Gioro Yin’e): The tenth son of Emperor Kangxi. Currently not given a peerage title. A bit of a simpleton. Likes to tease and bicker with Ruoxi. Nicknamed “the blockhead” by Ruoxi.
Thirteenth-prince (Aisin-Gioro Yinxiang): The thirteenth son of the Emperor Kangxi. Nicknamed “the Death Challenging Thirteenth” by his brothers. Has a more carefree and unrestrained demeanour.
Glossary of Terms
(In Alphabetical Order)
Bei’le: Shortened from Duo’luo Bei’le. A peerage title that can be bestowed to those within the royal family. It is the third rank in the Qing peerage system for the imperial line.
Ce’fujin: An aristocratic title. Meaning second wife or ‘side’ wife in Manchurian.
Di’fujin: An aristocratic title. Meaning first wife or main wife in Manchurian.
Fu’jin: An aristocratic title. Fu’jin by itself just means wife in Manchurian. Can be further specified to Di’ fujin and Ce’fujin.
Ge’ge: A Manchurian word for young mistress, or lady. It is a title you would call an unmarried noblewoman (or before they are bestowed an official title by the Emperor) above a certain rank or status.
Jie-jie: Older sister in Chinese.
Chapter 3 (Part 3)
The sky is now completely dark. One by one the lanterns are being lit. Although they are not as bright as light bulbs, under their flickering dimness there is instead a beauty that can be likened to appreciating flowers in the mist. Everyone is gathered on the first floor while, Qiaohui and I are sitting on the second floor. I can hear delicate laughter coming from below. As I lean on the window sill, I also casually watch the maids and the manservants run about busily below while trying to make conversation with Qiaohui. Every now and then I would also throw some pieces of cake to the mandarin ducks on the lake.
Qiaohui suddenly says in a low voice, “Ge’ge!”
“Hum?” I reply, turning around to look at her. Qiaohui has her head bowed and is now standing respectfully behind me. Confused by her formality, I turn to look out the window towards the opposite side. From there I see the Fourth-prince and the Eighth-prince standing side by side by a window on the opposite building. Under the flickering candlelight, their features are highlighted by dancing shadows. Without thinking, I stand up from my seat thinking, “Such jade-like, beautiful young men are standing so peacefully today next to each other. Yet one day, they will be on opposing sides, participating in a contest of life and death”. Therefore, although I am now facing a scene of beauty, a trace of sadness begins to surface from my heart.
All of a sudden, Qiaohui tugs on my sleeves from behind. It is then that realized I was staring too fascinatedly towards them. Quickly squeezing out a smile, I lower my body into a ceremonial greeting. The two men on the opposite end lift their hands at the same time in response. I slowly straighten myself and stand right next to Qiaohui.
A manservant walks briskly towards the Eighth-prince and whispers something to him. The Eighth-prince then says a few words to the Fourth-prince to which the Fourth-prince answers by nodding his head. One following the other, the two men disappear into the house. After a little while, a maidservant comes to inform us that the banquet was about to start. I ask her, “I thought the Crown Prince has yet to arrive.”
Smiling, she replies, “The Crown Prince has just sent a message to inform us that he has just finished dealing with some business. He will come after he has gone to change his clothes, so he asks everyone not to wait for him.”
The two girls who are sharing a table with me are around my age. When I arrive, they are both engaged in pleasant conversation. Seeing me, they both give me a curtsey. After settling down, I notice that the table right in the middle at the very front is empty. I guessed that it must have been prepared for the Crown Prince. On the left side, in order, sits the Eighth-prince, the Ninth-prince, the Tenth-prince and then lastly the Fourteenth-prince. On the right side sits the Fourth-prince, the Eleventh-prince, the Twelfth-prince and then the Thirteenth-prince.
A eunuch then enters, carrying a wooden plate draped with a piece of red satin. A theatrical programme lies on top. The eunuch first stops by the Fourth-prince’s table. The Fourth-prince does not bother to look at the programme but instead silently gives the eunuch some instructions. It is then when the eunuch promptly takes the plate to the Tenth-prince’s table.
After hearing the eunuch say a few words, the Tenth-prince nods at him and proceeds to take a cursory look at the programme before picking up a brush to place a tick mark on the sheet. He then hands the programme back to the eunuch. The eunuch now returns to the Fourth-prince’s table and there, the Fourth-prince also places a tick mark on the page. The eunuch also takes the plate to the Eighth-prince to let him pick a play, but the Eighth-prince only waves his hand, signaling the eunuch to leave.
Within a short time, a song begins on stage. At this point in time, Beijing opera did not exist. Therefore it was Kunqu Opera that was being performed on stage. It is a pity that in three hundred years’ time Kunqu Opera would no longer be popular. As a result, the ones that I know of are only the few famous ones such as “The Western Mansion” and “The Peony Pavilion”. Well, and “Magu Offering Felicitation” which I had just learned from Dongyun last night.
However, looking at the act being shown on stage, I am able to deduce that the performance being performed is “Wu Song Slays the Tiger”. I think to myself, “This must be the play the Tenth-prince has requested seeing as the play is filled with raw excitement”.
Just as Wu Song raises his fist to beat the tiger as he rides it, a eunuch loudly announces, “The Crown Prince has arrived!”
In a matter of seconds, everyone on and below the stage are prostrating on the ground. I look out from amongst the crowd and see an elegant man wearing a long, yellow damask robe approaching slowly.
It was only when the Crown Prince has settled into his seat did everyone finally rose from their positions. I also follow the crowd and return to my seat. A eunuch once again carries in the theater programme and bows in front of the Crown Prince’s table. The Crown Prince says, “Today is Tenth brother’s birthday. Let the birthday boy decide what to watch first!”
“I’ve already picked a play. We are now just waiting for Second brother to pick one,” the Tenth- prince responds while standing from his seat. Hearing this, the Crown Prince picks up the programme and peruse over it.
This time however, I really don’t know what is being sung on stage. On the other hand, the two girls beside me seem to be very enthralled by it.
The show on stage once again changes to another opera piece, but I still do not understand what they are singing about. Quite satiated, I notice the Tenth-prince is standing from his seat to leave. Turning to see that jie-jie is busy watching the show while conversing with another fujin, I immediately get up to follow him. Qiaohui wants to follow as well but I tell her, “You can wait here. I’ll be back shortly.”
Carrying a lantern, a young eunuch leads the way while the tenth prince stumbles behind “Sure enough, his tolerance for drinks cannot match the Thirteenth-prince’s,” I muse silently. “While Thirteenth is still rather clear-headed he’s already quite inebriated.”
Seeing the building ahead, I realized he is going in to relive himself. Quickly turning around I wait outside for a bit. After a while, he is accompanied out by the young eunuch. Seeing me standing there, the Tenth-prince hastily takes a few steps towards me and asks, “What are you standing here for?”
“I’m here to bring the birthday boy a gift,” I answer.
Observing that I am empty handed he asks, “Where’s the gift then?”
I take a glance at the young eunuch standing next to him. Understanding, he commands the eunuch, “You go on ahead first.” The young eunuch bows and leaves. I lead the way while the Tenth-prince follows behind me.
He inquires again, “Where’s the gift?” I ignore his question and continue onwards towards a waterside pavilion. He follows me in. Since the pavilion is a fair distance from the stage, therefore, even though the stage is well lit, one can only indistinctively see the people standing on top.
Stopping, I point towards a long wooden bench attached to the railing and says, “Birthday boy, please seat yourself in the seat of honour.”
Even though he is puzzled and looks irritated, he walks over to the bench, leans on the railing and sits down.
I position myself in front of him and give him a serious and formal greeting. There are no lanterns in the waterside pavilion and everything is illuminated only by the light of the crescent moon hanging in the sky. It so happens that the Tenth-prince is sitting in the shadows so I couldn’t really see his face clearly. All I hear is him asking, “You gift can’t be just a ceremonial greeting can it?”
 A Chinese idiom referring to the mysterious beauty of a flower shrouded in mist
 During this time period, travelling theatrical troupes are fairly common. They could be hired on a prolonged basis or just for special events like the Tenth-prince’s birthday. Often the performance is not a preset one. These troupes are usually well versed in several different plays and operas. Therefore, a list of plays or operas is given to the patron who may choose which ones they would like to watch on the spot. More often than not, a play would not be performed in its entirety. Often patrons only choses certain acts of popular plays and mix and match that way. For example, if this this was a Shakespeare play troupe, a patron can just request to see the famous balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet and then right after request for the court scene where Portia battle wits with Shylock in the Merchant of Venice.
 Developed in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), Kunqu opera is a very influential form of Chinese opera that gave birth to numerous of other opera types. The famous Beijing opera stems from Kunqu opera. Because of its influence, Kunqu opera is often referred to as the “teacher” or “mother” of a hundred operas.
 Wu Song is a fictional character from the novel “The Water Margin”, one of the 4 great classical Chinese novels of Chinese literature. “Wu Song slays the Tiger” is a specific episode where Wu Song heroically slays a man-eating tiger with only the strength of his bare hands.