Forty episodes. Oh dear. This means that my writings skills better improve or else this thing will get as dry as a raisin. That being said, the quick synopsis is that this is the story of Dou Yun Xi, an empress of the Han Dynasty. This is the story (highly glorified and very beautifully shot version) of how she came to be the Empress and a very interesting retelling of history (some accurate, other parts laughably not)
So now that we know that Shen Er is a prostitute and she fell in love with a very handsome man (where we left off last time) we can continue. In the whorehouse, Shen Er dives off the balcony and the man follows they end up in the river below where he pledges his eternal love (pfffft. this isn’t pretty woman, it’s ancient China. And as much as I want this man to get with Shen Er, I know better than to listen to the words of a overly good looking guy)
So, Shen Er asks if he will take care of her forever, and he says yes. She asks when will he marry her? He says after he goes to meet the girl his parents set up for him. She’s not too happy about that and says that if he doesn’t follow through on the promise, she would kill him. To prove her point, she takes a hair pin and stabs him with it.
He reassures her again and tells her that there is only one woman in his heart. The next day, Yun Xi goes to meet her uncle and shows up with huge freckles on her face. She tells her uncle that the guy she marries must love her for herself and not just her looks. The guy arrives, and we find out that it’s the guy Shen Er likes. As Yun Xi and the Guy sits down to talk, she shows her uglified face to his shock, which is of course when her cousins shows up with a bunch of guys to beat up the man who is trying to marry Yun Xi.
What actually happens is that the Guy kicks Yun Xi cousin’s ass, which from my perspective, was practically begging to be kicked. the Guy grabs Yun Xi and leads her away. While they walk, he turns around and says,”today I came to say this…” as he was saying it, wind blew and rain came down. They run for shelter and Yun Xi’s ugly disguise melts off. He turns around and sees how beautiful she is and says, “today I came to say that I want to marry you.” Yun Xi is shocked (she doesn’t realize that her disguise is melted, and says, “but i’m ugly, you shouldn’t want to marry me” He turns and says that as long as he finds a wife who is kind and loving, he doesn’t care for looks (what a bastard…sigh)
Cut to the wedding day and the Guy is a happy groom, welcoming people into his house, the wedding celebrations well underway. He sees Shen Er, who comes with her own wedding present. She gives him a box, and tells him that it’s their child, the one that she aborted. He freaks out (who wouldn’t after seeing that?!) and drags her into an empty part of the house, asking her if she was crazy (yes, if you haven’t figured that out, the you probably have a rock for a brain). She asks him who the girl was, and he answers her that it was Dou Yun Xi. Shen Er becomes bitter, and pleads with the Guy to hold her just one last time. He does it. But while he holds her, she pulls out the pin and kills him, telling him, “I told you, I would kill the man who lied to me” (Shakespeare must have been describing her when he said that Hell Had no fury….)
The groom is dead and Yun Xi’s aunt blames Yun Xi and says that it’s because of her luck that the boy had died. The uncle runs in and tells her to stop, that they had bigger problems. Apparently, the new emperor was trying to find new concubines and required every province to send in 12 girls. He had 11 and none of the elders would approve any of the other girls, but that was when Yun Xi volunteered herself. She begged her uncle, who is a good guy and tells her that this was the hardest life to follow. She would be among thousands of women, fighting for the attention of one man. The aunt urges Yun Xi to go and finally the uncle reluctantly allows Yun Xi to be the 12th girl. She leaves with a eunuch the next day and 11 other girls. On the boat she finds Shen Er, who is flee from the authorities for the murder. Yun Xi recognizes Shen Er because Shen Er has a red mole on her forehead. Yun Xi gladly helps to hide the other girl.
She hides Shen Er from the authorities, but then a eunuch finds Shen Er. He screams at Yun Xi for bringing a murderess on board, but that was when another Eunuch runs to find them and tell him that one of the 12 girls just committed suicide by jumping into the river. The Eunuch is scared shitless, and thus decides to keep Shen Er, as a replacement for the other girl.
On board and out of danger from being discovered, Shen Er asks why every time Yun Xi has shown up, Shen Er’s life is thrown into turmoil. Yun Xi showed up and her parents died, Yun Xi then left her and she became a prostitute, Yun Xi shows up again and Shen Er’s lover leaves her. Shen Er tells Yun Xi that she killed the Guy and had to abort their child. She collapses, and the doctor who shows up says that Shen Er has an infectious illness. The Eunuch was all for throwing Shen Er overboard, but Yun Xi says that she will take care of Shen Er. Yun Xi says to Shen Er that she owes Shen Er too much, and that she will try to repay Shen Er. Shen Er begs for Yun Xi to never abandon her again.
The girls arrive into the palace. And while the eunuch tells them that the palace is a complex and dangerous place, that their jobs is to behave, the Empress (king’s wife) arrives. The girls all kowtow as is proper and they see a young girl. Apparently this little girl is actually the King’s niece, and that their marriage was arranged by the dowager Empress. Shen Er comments that while there are many strange things in the world, they’ve never heard something as weird as this. Yun Xi tells Shen Er to be careful, it might cost her her life.
The Empress stops her palaquin and gets off. Her servants come and try to get the screaming empress to move along. Yun Xi sees that all that the little girl wanted to do was to free some of the caged birds. Yun Xi gets up and does so, earning a pat and a smile from the empress-child. Later, as Yun Xi and Shen Er settle into their quaters, Shen Er says that living in the palace doesn’t seem too bad, the life is pretty nice. But Yun Xi says that’s all surface, that there are more sinister undercurrents. As she says this, they hear screaming outside. A white hair crazy woman is screaming that she wants to see the emperor, that she wants to meet him. Yun Xi goes and investigates, only to be attacked by the crazy woman. The guards come and pull the woman off of Yun Xi, then skewers her. Yun Xi and Shen Er watches in shock and horror.
The next day, Shen Er and a couple of the other new concubines scheme to bribe some Eunuchs to let them catch a glimpse of the Emperor. They are discovered and beaten serverely. Yun Xi asks if seeing the emperor was really that important. And Shen Er says that of course, if not, then she might end up skewered like the white haired woman from before. While Yun Xi doesn’t care for the Emperor’s attention, she wants to get Shen Er whatever Shen Er wants. Yun Xi comes up with an idea. She heard that the Emperor has recently taken up with rided a sheep drawn cart, and since Yun Xi knows that sheep like salty things, she splashes salt water on the bamboo outside of the girl’s quarters. Its said that where ever the sheep stops, the emperor stops and spends the night at the house the sheep stops at. Yun xi tells Shen Er that if she wanted to draw the emperor, then Shen Er should go and prepare herself.
MEANWHILE…. we go to the dowager Empress, none other than Empress Liu from episode one. She is now older and craftier. She learns from her spies that the Liu Heng, Duke of Dai and his mother Concubine Bo Ji are very quiet, and that everything is well in the Dukedom. Dowager Empress Liu is not convinced and says that Bo Ji is clever, she would ruin her own beauty to save her son. What the Dowager worried about was that the Emperor would not have a son, and that Liu Heng would become Emperor. That is when the princess comes in, telling her mother that the Emperor is up to his philandering ways, and is now playing with a sheep drawn cart to find concubines to sleep with him. The Dowager empress is not amused, and in their conversation, they discuss the relationship between the emperor and his empress (who is his niece…ewww). It’s revealed that the little girl isn’t really his niece, but the adoptive daughter of the Princess. This was done to strengthen the empresses’ own power. The dowager empress wants to try to sheep cart. The sheep goes crazy for the scent of the bamboo with salt which leads the empress to Yun Xi. Yun Xi takes the blame and leaves Shen Er out of it, this gets Yun Xi taken away by the empress….