This work is an amateur fan-translation of original work by Tong Hua as available in free online format in Mandarin Chinese at:
The translation is done as good will, so that fellow fans who do not read Mandarin may enjoy this lovely work. We declare that we do not profit monetarily in any way from this work, and also do not pretend to be professional translators. Hence, we apologize in advance for inadvertent translation errors. In addition, reposting of the translation must be done with explicit permission of all translators as contactable via spcnet.
Characters Introduced So Far
(In Alphabetical Order)
Crown Prince (Aisin-Gioro Yinreng): The second son of Emperor Kangxi. Currently the Crown Prince and thus next in line for the throne.
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.
Fourth-prince (Asin-Gioro Yinzhen): The fourth son of Emperor Kangxi and the future Emperor Yongzheng. Slightly pale and has an impassive demeanour. Very close to the Thirteenth-prince
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. Fell in love with Ruolan at first sight but unfortunately she does not return his love.
Kangxi: The current Emperor of China.
Li Dequan: The head eunuch who serves Kangxi directly. Seems to like Ruoxi and often secretly gives sound advices to her on how to survive in the Palace.
Luwu: A courtesan who seem to have an unclear relationship with the Thirteenth-prince. Luwu is one of the higher ranking courtesans who have the right to choose her clients and can “sell their talents but not their bodies”. She befriends Ruoxi through the introduction of the Thirteenth-prince.
Mingyu Ge’ge (Guoluoluo Mingyu): Younger sister of the Eighth-prince’s Di’fujin, Guoluoluo Minghui. Not on good terms with Ruoxi. Most likely the one who caused the original Ruoxi’s accident after an argument. During the Tenth-prince’s Birthday banquet, Ruoxi and Mingyu gets into a fight, resulting in quite a spectacle. Arranged to marry the Tenth-prince by Emperor Kangxi.
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): The protagonist of the story. Originally a modern day, white collared professional named Zhang Xiao. Under certain unexplainable and supernatural occurrence, Zhang Xiao’s spirit travels through time upon her death and take 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. Currently is employed as the head tea serving maid for Emperor Kangxi.
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. Likes Ruoxi, but is forced to marry Mingyu Ge’ge.
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. Due to this, he has developed a great rapport with Ruoxi and they are close friends. Has an unexplained relationship with the beautiful courtesan Luwu. Very close to the Fourth-prince.
Wang Xi: A junior eunuch who is under the tutelage of Li Dequan. One of the eunuch that is quite close to Ruoxi and refers to her as Jie-jie.
Yunxiang: A tea serving maid who works under Ruoxi.
Yutan: A tea serving maid who works under Ruoxi. Very close to Ruoxi and the two have a sister-like relationship.
Glossary of Terms
(In Alphabetical Order)
An’da: The Mongolians term for sworn brothers. Due to the intermarriages between Manchu and Mongolian royalty to preserve relations, this Mongolian term was adopted into the Qing Dynasty. In this case, Ruoxi calling Li Dequan “Brother” indicates her close relationship with the senior eunuch.
Bei’le: Shortened from Duo’luo Bei’le. A peerage title that can be bestowed to those within the imperial family. It is the third rank in the Qing peerage system for the imperial line.
Ce’fujin: A title. Meaning second wife or ‘side’ wife in Manchurian.
Di’fujin: A title. Meaning first wife or main wife in Manchurian.
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.
Imperial Father: What the children of the Emperor refer to their father as.
Jie-jie: Older sister in Chinese.
Ji’xiang: A standard greeting one of lower status uses to greet people with higher status in court. The word literally means auspicious and can be translated as, ‘I wish good fortunes, prosperity and happiness to you”
Shifu – Means Master or teacher. Someone who one is under the tutelage of.
Zha: A response that means “yes”. Used by the eunuchs in reply to instructions or orders made by the Imperial family.
Zhen: A word that the Emperor refers himself as.
Chapter 8 (Part 7)
I give a smile but do not say anything. He continues to ask, “Which palace do you work at?”
My attention still fixed on the butterflies, I counter unmindfully, “And where are you from?”
He protests, “I asked you first.”
I ignore him and continue to watch the butterflies. They are flying, one in front of the other, taking turns catching and overtaking one another as they flutter off until they are far away. How nice it would be if I could fly away like that.
He waits for a little while, but seeing that I am not paying attention to him, he has no choice but to respond first, “I am Aisin-Gioro Hongshi.” Startled, I quickly turn back and look him over carefully, thinking in my mind, this is Yongzheng’s son whom he later demotes to commoner status. After looking him over a few times, I lazily turn away again.
“You’re not going to pay respect to me?” he asks.
I turn my head back to look at him again as I muse, not even that old yet and you already make clear distinction between master and servant. I give a laugh. “I am not going to pay respect to you right now. I will wait until later, when you have grown up, and then I will pay respect to you.”
He gawks at me and remarks, “Other palace maids all pay respect to me now. When I ask you questions, you also don’t reply. You don’t act like a palace maid.”
I smile, my eyes still on him, and ask him, “Who brought you into the palace? How come you are by yourself?”
He does not answer me and only continues his questioning. “Who are you?” Taken aback for a moment, I do not immediately reply. In his ringing, clear voice, he repeats, “Who are you?”
I turn to look back at the lonely cluster of flowers in the glow of the setting sun and whisper to myself, “Who am I?” Maertai Ruoxi? Zhang Xiao? A palace maid in the Qing dynasty? A white-collar woman of modern times? For a while, my thoughts are in a chaotic tangle. “Indeed! Who am I? Even I do not know who I am.” With a lost smile, I look at him again and state, “I do not know who I am.”
He seems slightly startled by my smile as he gapes at me.
I am struck with alarm as I see his reaction, and I quickly pull myself together and put on a warm, friendly smile. Not wanting to scare a child because of my momentary lapse, I move to comfort him. A eunuch comes rushing over. “Oh! Good master, your servant has been looking for you. How did you run so far in just the blink of an eye?”
My gaze turns in his direction, and I see the Fourth-prince is following behind, approaching us with quick strides. I hurriedly rise and pay the ceremonial respects.
Fourth prince’s eyes look at Hongshi as he asks coolly, “What is going on?”
Hongshi seems very afraid of him and answers meekly, “I talked to her for a little while.” He suddenly appears to remember something and loudly complains, “Father, she won’t pay respect to me, and when I ask her questions, she doesn’t answer. And she says she doesn’t know who she is.”
When I hear this, I wish I could pass out in a coma on the spot. You little Hongshi! You just love tattling so much! No wonder people hate you! I do not know how I should respond, so in the end, I can only choose to not respond and stand there silently.
The Fourth-prince orders the eunuch beside him, “Take Hongshi back over to where Niangniang is.” The eunuch answers submissively and quickly squats down and piggybacks Hongshi. Before Hongshi leaves, he looks at me as if he wants to say something, but seeing the cold expression on his father’s face, he does not dare make a sound and obediently leaves with the eunuch.
I had thought the Fourth-prince would leave with Hongshi, but he actually continues standing there motionless. Thinking that I probably will not be able to withdraw from here anyway, I decide to just stay and hear what he has to say. And so, I stand quietly with my head lowered, watching the setting sun stretch and pull the willow tree’s shadow.
He was silent for a while before he says indifferently, “Next time, if you want to know more about my personal matters, you may simply ask me directly.”
My heart leaps, and I start to grumble silently about the Thirteenth-prince. I inquired with him about the Fourth-prince’s private matters, but he was not able to answer more than a few questions. Somehow, though, he still managed to make the Fourth-prince aware of everything. If I had known, I would not have asked him. Now what should I do?
Seeing that I do not show even the slightest reaction, he straightens the hem of his gown and seats himself on the rock I had been sitting on not long ago. Squinting his eyes slightly as he looks at the flowerbed ahead, he states in a flat tone, “My favourite tea is Taiping Houkui tea, favourite dessert is yu’kou pastry, favourite colour is the blue of the sky after the rain, favourite style of chinaware is white porcelain embellished with flowers and butterflies that have been color-washed in paint. I like dogs, hate cats, hate eating spicy foods, dislike drinking too much wine…” He pauses briefly and thinks before continuing, “Thirteenth Brother has likely already told you all this. You had too many questions, though, and that is all I can recall at this moment. If there is anything else you want to know, ask now.”
Completely numb, I stand there dumbly in the spot. I really do not how to react to this. What was the meaning of this attitude of his? Should I fall onto my knees, declaring my crime and pleading for mercy? Or should I take advantage of this opportunity to get all my questions answered clearly?
My thinking is actually very simple. I only know that, in the entire palace, there are only two people that I absolutely cannot offend: one is Kangxi, the other is the Fourth-prince. The old shifus had told me hundreds and thousands of times what Kangxi’s preferences and aversions are, but there is no way to find out the Fourth-prince’s likes and dislikes. I thought that since the Thirteenth-prince is close to him, he should know, so I had asked him. However, the Thirteenth-prince had replied to me in shock, “I’m a man. Why would I know stuff like that?” I had no choice but to shamelessly pout, “I don’t care! You are going to find these out for me no matter what.” And I had painstakingly instructed over and over again that he could only secretly go about finding these things out and must not let anyone know about it. The result? The result is that the Thirteenth-prince managed to help me create this situation now. Alas!
As my thoughts reach this point, I suddenly feel that since the situation is already as it is, I might as well just throw caution to the wind and let it be. Things cannot get any worse anyway. So, in a wooden voice, I ask, “What is the color you hate the most?”
He is taken aback briefly, likely because he had not thought I would actually ask. He tilts his head and looks me over for a moment, as if trying to see whether I had eaten a bear’s heart or a leopard’s gallbladder, but then he turns his head back and gazes ahead. His voice flat as before, he answers, “Black.”
I nod and continue, “What incense do you hate the most?”
His answer comes rapidly, “Cape jasmine.”
“Your favourite flower?”
“Your favourite fruit?”
“What weather makes you the happiest?”
“Light sprinkling rain.”
“What weather do you dislike the most?”
I do not know what I am thinking. Probably I had read too many profiles or “stats” of modern idol actors and singers. The more I ask, the more naturally the questions come until I actually start asking questions like, the place he wants to visit the most, the happiest memory from his childhood, the most embarrassing situation he has been in, and so on. And he actually answers each question, one by one, as I ask them.
My brain feels as if it is stuffed, and I am not sure whether I have memorized it all or not. Finally, with nothing left to ask, I smack my lips together lightly and stop.
By now, the sky is dusky. The two of us remained there in silence for a little while until I lower myself in ceremonial respect and say, “Maidservant has asked all that she wishes to know. If Lord Bei’le does not have any other matters, maidservant shall take her leave.”
He rises, gazing down at me standing there with bent knees, and deliberates for a moment before saying in a calm voice, “Go then.” My mind feels numb as I straighten myself back up, turn around, and go.
 Third son of Emperor Yongzheng. Born in the 43rd year of Kangxi (the year Zhang Xiao arrives in the Qing dynasty). In the 3rd year of Yongzheng, he was banished from the palace and became the adopted son of his uncle, the Eighth-prince. In the 4th year of Yongzheng, Emperor Yongzheng removed his name from the Imperial family records for “improper conduct and undisciplined behavior as a young person,” therefore removing his status as a member of the Imperial family. Hongshi died in the 5th year of Yongzheng. There is debate regarding whether his death was ordered by Emperor Yongzheng or was a result of depression in imprisonment.
 Orig, 娘娘- A word of respect that is used when referring to an imperial concubine, or the Empress. In this case, the Fourth-prince is referring to his own wife.
 Orig. 玉蔻糕. I have searched long and hard for what exactly is this pastry but unfortunately, have not turned up any specifics. Nutmeg is known in Chinese as rou’kou 肉蔻 or玉果 yu’guo, or, infrequently, yu’kou玉蔻 (the name of the pastry). Yu’kou could also be a combination of玉桂 (Chinese cinnamon) and肉蔻 (nutmeg). [Or, I could be completely off. J]
 Idiom that means one is extremely daring.
 Orig. 水泽木兰 (pinyin: shui’ze mu’lan). The flower name the Fourth-prince gives in the novel is “shui’ze magnolia” where “shui’ze” means “marshy land.” However, there is no such flower as “shui’ze magnolia” in reality. Tong Hua wrote this in her Weibo: “Since 2005, there have been people who have asked what flower is the “shui’ze magnolia” that the Fourth-prince likes, but I never answered. In reality, there is no such flower in the world. It is a flower that I fabricated. The use of the magnolia flower [in the story] was taken from the poem, Sorrow at Parting [in pinyin, Li Sao; by Qu Yuan], but at the time, it still felt as if a certain mood was missing. Therefore, I embellished it by calling it ‘shui’ze magnolia,’ adding a cold, solitary feeling. It is when one merely says ‘orchid,’ it does not conjure up much in terms of love songs or deeper meanings, but if one says ‘a hidden orchid in a deep, peaceful valley,’ it immediately brings out the gracefulness of the recluse flower.”