Held in the Lonely Castle (Chp 1 Part 5)

Chapter 1: Autumn Riverside, Esteemed Guests, A Pair of Geese Fly Overhead

Part 5 – Huirou (徽柔)

Translator: Nyamachi
Scribe: [redacted]
English proofreader: JimmyfromIT

Two days later, I obeyed the Empress’s order and delivered several scrolls of Cui Bai’s paintings to the Hall of Gentle Countenance and invited her to take a look. The Empress was in the middle of chatting with the Omniscient Chamberlain of the Interior Department, Zhang Weiji. Upon seeing that I had delivered the paintings, she ordered people to unravel them and appraised them with Zhang Weiji.

I had painstakingly selected these paintings. Their themes were all unique. There were flowers, bamboos, birds and beasts; lotus flowers and wild ducks and geese; there were also Taoist Gods and Spirits; wooded mountains with birds; and so on. Each and every one showed off Cui Bai’s talent. Zhang Weiji’s eyes held a cheerful expression and appeared to appreciate them. When the Empress asked for his opinion, he carefully replied: “This person’s paintings are quite creative.”

The Empress said nothing for a time and continued to carefully examine them again. Her gaze finally fell upon a painting of a lotus flower and two herons [1]鹭 (lù) Herons or more precisely Egrets. The exact species here could be the Little Egret or the Chinese Egret.. The corners of her mouth raised slightly and she turned to me and said: “Huaiji, you spoke truthfully. Cui Bai excels at still life paintings. If we’re talking about capturing form, hardly anyone in the Fine Arts Institute can rival him.”

I hung my head as I lowered my eyes and smiled. Seeing that the Empress was focused on the painting of the two herons, Zhang Weiji approached to take a look, desiring to know what merited such attention.

The Empress tilted her head and asked him: “What does Omniscient Chamberlain think of this painting?”

This painting depicted a lotus pond with two herons playing in the water. The heron on the right was swimming towards the left, seeking to catch the red shrimp up ahead. The other heron was descending from the sky. His long neck was drawn back and his two long legs extended straight behind him.

Zhang Weiji concentrated on the details, and then said: “The white herons in the painting appear agile, their feathers soft and dense like one can reach out and touch them. Indeed… it is an excellent painting that is rare to come by.”

“It’s not only this.” The Empress’ eyes hovered above the heron’s neck as she continued: “A heron will bend its neck when flying, and even the lower part of its neck will be bag-shaped. I have seen paintings of herons made by others before. They often mistakenly painted them with a crane’s flying posture, with the head and neck and feet straightened forward and backward respectively. Now Cui Bai painted them correctly. One can tell that he put a lot of thought into observing and sketching from nature.”

Zhang Weiji and I heard what was said and looked at the painting again. It was true that the neck of the heron in flight was withdrawn, almost into a bag shape, which was shocking.

Zhang Weiji immediately praised: “Your Majesty is wise. It is Cui Bai’s fortune to have received Your Majesty’s praise!”

The Empress shook her head again and sighed: “Still, with his creativity and temperament, continuing to stay in the Fine Arts Institute is actually holding him back…… There are some people who are destined to not enter the Imperial City.”

“Store the painting well and add it in the Secret Repository [2]秘府 (mìfǔ) The palace repository for rare and valuable books..” She also gave me an order saying: “As for Cui Bai, I will ask the Supervisor Official of the Imperial Arts Institute to permit him to leave.”

Her admiration for Cui Bai momentarily gave me the wrong impression, thinking that because of this, she would want him to stay. Therefore, when she reached such a sudden conclusion, I was slightly surprised. But soon after that, I acknowledged that this decision would be agreeable to both the officials in the Imperial Arts Institute and Cui Bai. I admired her.

The servants rolled up the paintings one by one, preparing to give them to me to bring back. While I respectfully stood and waited, I suddenly heard a clamoring sound coming from outside the palace. There was a woman wailing outside: “Empress, us mother and daughter have been harmed! If you are unwilling to take responsibility and punish the evildoers, then so be it, but why won’t you let His Majesty see me?”

Zhang Weiji furrowed his brows in a frown and was about to rush outside to take a look when he was stopped by the Empress, who ordered: “Let her come in.”

Hastily, a woman with a messy cloud bun [3]Read this article for more about Chinese hairstyles. rushed in and threw herself before the Empress, held out the child in her arms for the Empress to see and wept: “Youwu is this sick already! Can’t the Empress let His Majesty see her?”

She was probably anxious about that child’s sickness. This woman had sobbed to the point that her eyes were red and swollen. Her face was so haggard and weary, but anyone could see that her features were beautiful. If she applied makeup and dressed properly, she would surely be amongst the unrivaled beauties. The child she held in her arms was a 3 to 4-year-old little girl. Presently, her eyes were tightly closed and her breathing was labored. Her little face had an abnormal flush like she had a high fever.

The Empress said gently: “I already sent an Imperial Physician to attentively diagnose and treat Youwu. Beautiful Lady Zhang [4]美人 (měirén) Lit. Beautiful Lady. A low-ranked imperial concubine. See my post on ancient ranks and titles for more information. The Song Dynasty had a less complicated Consort ranking system which you can find here. shouldn’t have brought her outside. It wouldn’t be good if she caught a chill. These last few days, His Majesty has been recuperating. Prior to this, he issued a command to not meet with Imperial Concubines.”

However, Beautiful Lady Zhang shook her head and said: “Your Majesty the Empress may not be aware, but this child’s sickness is caused by a curse. The Imperial Physician only alleviated the symptoms, he didn’t address the root cause. For Youwu to fully recover, the villain who harmed her must be punished! This concubine knows that Your Majesty cares little about these trifling matters, and because of this, doesn’t dare to trouble you. Nevertheless, why is Your Majesty the Empress not granting this concubine’s request to have an audience with His Majesty?”

I once heard others mention that the most favoured concubine at present is Beautiful Lady, Madam Zhang. Presumably, this person before me was her. Her words were arrogant and forceful. As expected, her favoured position made her conceited.

Unexpectedly, the Empress did not lose her temper and instead, replied coolly: “Beautiful Lady is over-anxious. Today’s weather is unpredictable. Youwu merely caught a cold by chance. She’ll feel better after she drinks some herbal medicine. It has nothing to do with others.”

“It has nothing to do with others?” Beautiful Lady Zhang smiled coldly. She raised her hand and tossed an item on the ground. “This item was found under a rock in this concubine’s garden yesterday. This concubine already ordered people to report this matter to the Empress, yet the Empress still says that it has nothing to do with others?”

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It was a small cloth person with writing on its body. Several sparkling needles were deeply inserted between its head and chest.

This was witchcraft that had always been strictly forbidden in the palace. Seeing Beautiful Lady Zhang suddenly toss this doll, the servants in the hall were all stricken with panic.

The Empress glanced at the doll and didn’t say anything. Her expression was the same as usual. Beautiful Lady Zhang continued: “In the middle of the night before yesterday, my maid, Miss Feng, witnessed Huirou praying to the moon by the shore of the lake in the Back Garden. What a coincidence that last night someone found this item under a rock in this concubine’s garden. Miss Feng already reported it to the Empress. Why did the Empress pay no mind to it? Just now, I personally asked Huirou if she went to the Back Garden two nights ago and she confessed to everything!”

Huirou? Hearing this name surprised me more than the needle-ridden doll did. I pondered deeply on Beautiful Lady Zhang’s words and quickly understood. She was implying that Huirou – the girl who was praying under the moon – had gone to the Back Garden two nights ago to perform witchcraft to curse her daughter, Youwu.

I hesitated, unsure whether I should interject in these two exalted ladies’ conversation and voice what I had witnessed, given my lowly position.

The Empress hesitated, and neither affirmed nor rebuked this. The servants also held their breath and remained silent. Only Beautiful Lady Zhang’s angry demands that Huirou be severely punished resounded within the hall: “The human testimony and physical evidence are all present, why has the Empress still not given the order to punish her and cleanse the palace of this black magic?”

Finally, my worries for Huirou’s fate were greater than my fear for my own situation. The little girl’s frail figure and her tearful words gave me a different kind of courage. I stepped forward slightly and bowed to the Empress: “Your Majesty, this servant has a matter to confirm with Lady Zhang.”

My sudden interruption somewhat surprised the Empress and everyone else within the hall, however the Empress still nodded and permitted me to speak.

I turned to face Beautiful Lady Zhang, respectfully greeted her and with my head lowered, said: “This servant ventures to ask whether the girl Lady Zhang mentioned is named Huirou?

Beautiful Lady Zhang had yet to reply when Zhang Weiji admonished me: “How impudent……”

The Empress raised her hand to stop him from continuing, and her gentle demeanor signaled me to continue.

Beautiful Lady Zhang glared at me with cold eyes, and her unnerving smile seemed to have a hidden meaning: “That’s right, the girl is named Huirou.”

I asked her again: “When Maid Feng witnessed her praying to the moon by the lake, was this two nights ago?”

Beautiful Lady Zhang thought about it and affirmed.

I turned again to face the Empress and said: “Two nights ago, this servant delivered paintings to the Hall of Gentle Countenance. When this servant departed, night had already fallen, and since this servant was not familiar with the layout of the place, this servant accidentally wandered into the Back Garden and unintentionally witnessed a white-robed and barefooted little girl praying to the moon. She called herself Huirou…… this servant faintly heard the night watch [5]In ancient China from the Han to the Ming Dynasty, the Gēng-diǎn (更 – 點) system was used to keep track of time during the night. Part of its name, 更 (gēng) comes from the sound a drum or gong makes. That’s why in dramas you might see night watchmen hitting a drum or small gong and calling out the time at night. See my post about ancient timekeeping for the Shí-kè (時 – 刻) system used during the day. saying it was midnight [6]子时 (zíshí) Between 11pm and 1am..”

“Oh?” the Empress asked, “What did she say when she was praying?”

I replied truthfully: “She said that her father was sick, and for this reason, she repeatedly prayed to the Heavens to allow her to take her father’s place.”

The Empress showed a slight smile: “There was not any witchcraft to curse others?”

I shook my head and replied with certainty: “There was not. Because once she realized that someone had caught a glimpse of her praying, she immediately left the Back Garden. This servant did not hear her put a curse on others.” Considering the cloth doll that Beautiful Lady Zhang had thrown on the ground, I added: “This servant also did not see her carry this item as she was leaving. It is unlikely that she was the one who put it under the rock in the Back Garden.”

“What a crock of rubbish!” The fury that Beautiful Lady Zhang had barely withheld had just now erupted from my words. “If it wasn’t her, who was it? Who else would be as worried as her about sharing His Majesty’s love and attention with Youwu?”

Her words threw my thoughts into disarray, and I vaguely felt that Huirou’s identity was likely not as simple as I had previously thought.

“Someone clearly put you up to this, for you to disregard Heaven’s wrath and dare to give false testimony!” Beautiful Lady Zhang stared at me as she closed in. She raised her hand, and her slender fingertip nearly jabbed into my face, but she restrained herself and gave a dark chuckle. Her gaze unconsciously swept past the Empress: “Speak! Who put you up to this? Was it Huirou, or maybe someone else?”

Her forcefulness made me a little unsettled. I took two steps back, but still insisted: “This servant doesn’t dare to speak falsely. Every sentence is true.”

A slap cracked against my cheek like lightning, and the sound was as sharp as her voice. She retracted her hand and tightened her arms around her daughter. She raised her chin at me arrogantly and gave a contemptuous smile: “And now? Is everything still true?”

I bowed my head indifferently. This type of humiliation was not uncommon in my years in the palace. Quietly letting go of the shame and anger when it happened was part of our education. As far as tolerance was concerned, I was not the best student. If the master slaps the left cheek, I couldn’t offer the right cheek with a smile, but at least I could maintain a calm expression and a silent posture.

“Enough.” At that moment the Empress spoke up, “It’s beneath your station to exchange blows with a eunuch.”

The corners of Beautiful Lady Zhang’s lips curled into a scowl.

The Empress looked towards me and told Beautiful Lady Zhang: “He is Liang Huaiji, a eunuch from the Exterior Department. Two days ago was his first time entering the Inner Palace. He does not even know that Huirou is Princess Fukang’s given name, how could he be put up to this by someone else?

Princess Fukang was the Emperor’s eldest daughter. Other than the Empress, she was the most revered lady in the palace. [7]The characters in Huirou’s title are 福 (fú) prosperity and 康 (kāng) meaning health.

That feeling of uncertainty disappeared and I felt at a loss. Like a gust of wind, the Empress’ words suddenly blew forth the mental image of the girl, her white form floating up into the clouds outside of the Imperial Palace [8]This sentence was trippy AF. Here’s the original Chinese: 皇后一语如风,把那人间小女孩的白色身影忽然从我记忆中吹起,让她悠悠飘至了云霄九重外..

After coming back to my senses, I bowed to the ground, asking the Empress to forgive me for my ignorance and disrespect.

Beautiful Lady Zhang’s expression remained cold. She clenched her teeth tightly and said: “What a great act, indeed!”

The Empress said that those who were ignorant were not at fault. She ordered me to rise and gave instructions to Zhang Weiji: “Invite Princess Fukang here.”

A short while later, the sound of someone offering respects could be heard in the distance. Two women walked into the hall with hurried steps. Both wore their hair in a high bun and wore short-sleeved robe-jackets [9]小袖对襟旋袄 Here are a few images I found that seem to be close to what this is describing: [Image 1] [Image 2] [Image 3]. A 对襟 (duìjīn) is a Chinese-style jacket with buttons down the front; A 旋袄 (xuánáo) is the thigh-length overcoat/robe in the pictures. made with high-quality material. One wore a robe-jacket made with blue crepe fabric from the Qiao Prefecture while the other wore a robe-jacket made with hazy peony-embroidered gauze [10]Something like this [Embroidered gauze] without the sequins. from Xiang Prefecture. They were different from ordinary Female Officials or maids and were likely Imperial Concubines or members of the imperial clan.

They hurriedly saluted the Empress and immediately began to defend Princess Fukang, saying that the Princess could not have possibly done something like this. Among them, the one wearing the robe-jacket made out of blue crepe fabric looked particularly anxious and sad. She did not rise after paying her respects and continued pleading with tears in her eyes: “Huirou is so young. How would she understand something like witchcraft? Moreover, she has always loved her younger sister dearly and would never do something like this. Beseeching Your Majesty, the Empress to give her justice and clear her name.”

The Empress ordered a maid to support her to rise and comforted her in a soft voice: “Zhaorong Miao [11]昭容 (zhāoróng) is one of the sub-ranks for an imperial concubine. It literally translates to ‘Lady of Bright Countenance’. For context, Zhaorong Miao ranks higher than Beautiful Lady Zhang as the latter has one of the Scattered Positions. Please see the list of characters for a full list of power rankings for Held in the Lonely Castle. clearly believes in Huirou and has no need to worry.” She scanned the room and ordered, “Bestow Beautiful Lady Zhang, Zhaorong Miao, and Jieyu Yu a seat.” [12]婕妤 (jiéyú) is another rank. It literally translates to ‘Lady of Handsome Fairness’ and is conferred upon an accomplished imperial concubine. Power rankings so far: The Empress > Zhaorong Miao > Jieyu Yu > Beautiful Lady Zhang.

The two ladies who entered could be considered to be quite favoured by his Majesty. Both had also given birth to princes and princesses hence I had heard of their names and titles before. Zhaorong Miao was the daughter of the Emperor’s wet nurse, was Princess Fukang’s birth mother, and had a close friendship with Jieyu Yu. It was a pity that the princes that Zhaorong Miao and Jieyu Yu had given birth to had successively died young. Up until now, the Emperor had not had any male descendants. Even the little princesses successively passed away.

Presently, the Emperor only had two daughters: the eldest, Princess Fukang, and the eighth daughter by Beautiful Lady Zhang, the Master of Protection, Kindness, Honour and Blessings [13]保慈崇祐大师 is Youwu’s 法号 (fǎhào) or Dharma name. It is a name given to a newly ordained monk, nun or layperson after they complete the initiation ritual for Buddhism. The names are considered aspirational, not descriptive. Perhaps Emperor Renzhong wanted to give Youwu this name in the hopes that she would survive, given the trend here., Youwu.

Zhaorong Miao’s sorrowful expression lightened somewhat and took a seat beside Jieyu Yu. Beautiful Lady Zhang grudgingly sat as well after being entreated by the maids, but she remained unwilling to compromise. She looked over at Zhaorong Miao and merely sneered.

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At this time, the eunuchs called out that Princess Fukang had arrived. Shortly after, the princess strolled in. Her eyes were slightly red and her face was tear-stained, but her outfit and appearance were neat and tidy. Her braids did not have one hair out of place. Under everyone’s gaze, she approached with slightly lowered lashes. She did not lower her head. In particular, when she passed in front of Beautiful Lady Zhang, the angle of her small head was even slightly raised. She did not look to either side and her focused expression showed indifference.

Arriving before the Empress, the Princess solemnly raised her arms, lifted her eyebrows and kowtowed respectfully before the Empress. Then, she faced her mother and Jieyu Yu and bowed at the waist, wishing good fortune upon them. Soon after, she finished by lowering her hands and rising. She did not give any greeting to Beautiful Lady Zhang, completely ignoring her.

The Empress smiled slightly and told her: “Huirou, greet Beautiful Lady Zhang.”

The princess lightly said, “Yes,” but remained motionless, without the slightest intention of paying her respects. Beautiful Lady Zhang glared at her and said coldly: “It’s fine. It isn’t like this is the first time either……. A lowly person like me couldn’t possibly receive a bow from the Princess.”

The princess showed no reaction upon hearing Beautiful Lady Zhang’s words. The Empress asked her: “Huirou, two nights ago, did you go to the Back Garden in the middle of the night?”

She nodded and acknowledged: “Yes, I went.”

“What did you go there to do?”

The princess hesitated and did not reply. The Empress asked again and she remained silent for a while. When she spoke again, it was actually to ask softly: “Is Daddy……. feeling a bit better?”

The Empress turned to look at Zhang Weiji with eyes of relief. Zhang Weiji smiled and bowed. It was probably due to the fact that the Princess’s words agreed with my testimony, which could prove her innocence.

Therefore, the Empress kindly asked the Princess again: “You went to the Back Garden and prayed to the moon to wish for your father’s good fortune, didn’t you?”

The Princess was surprised and blurted out: “How do you know, Mother?”

Our dynasty’s princes and princesses called their Imperial Father the same way a soldier or commoner’s family would. They called him, “Daddy [14]爹爹 (diēdiē) Father, Daddy, Dad. I change the form of address in English depending on who’s speaking and their age, but the Chinese characters remain the same.” and called their legal mother [15]The Empress, “Mother [16]孃孃 (niángniáng) Mother..” According to the rules, they would call their imperial concubine-ranked birth mothers, “Elder Sister.”

Other than Beautiful Lady Zhang, everyone in the hall who heard my words just now smiled. Zhang Weiji proceeded to explain the reason from before to everyone. After hearing it, Zhaorong Miao turned to me with eyes full of gratitude. Jieyu Yu also let out a breath of relief and turned towards Zhaorong Miao smiling.

Beautiful Lady Zhang couldn’t control herself and rose out of her seat again. She pointed at the curse doll on the floor and asked sternly: “How do you explain this needle-ridden doll then? Why would it appear right after you went to the Back Garden?”

The Princess frowned and slightly turned away, ignoring her.

Beautiful Lady Zhang stopped talking and simply picked up the doll. She brought it before the Princess: “I’m simply asking whether or not the Princess has the courage to take responsibility for her actions. Why are you so silent today?”

The Princess’s lips tightened. This whole time, she pretended that the other woman was invisible. Beautiful Lady Zhang continued to press on in her questioning. Upon seeing this, the Empress advised the Princess saying: “If this matter has nothing to do with you, just explain it to Beautiful Lady Zhang.”

The Princess bit her lip and lowered her eyes. After a long time, she spat out four words: “I wouldn’t do this.”

“Wouldn’t do this?” The Empress spoke gently with the intention to guide her to elaborate, “Wouldn’t do what?”

This time the Princess wasn’t willing to speak again. Zhaorong Miao looked at her anxiously. From the side, she repeatedly tried to persuade her to reply, but the Princess remained silent.

The Empress said nothing and Beautiful Lady Zhang boiled with anger. Zhaorong Miao continued to entreat her for a while but seeing as everyone in the hall was silent, it seemed that her words were especially clear. She hastily stopped speaking. An intolerable silence befell the hall once more.

Finally, the one to break this silence, surprisingly, was me.

“Your Ladyship, the Princess already replied.” When this voice sounded, I was just as surprised as everyone else: An insignificant little eunuch actually dared to interject twice, without permission, during a discussion about a case in the Inner Palace? Where did he get the courage?

However, since I had already opened my mouth, I could only force myself to continue speaking: “In days gone by, Zhao Feiyan accused Jieyu Ban of placing a curse. Emperor Cheng of the Han Dynasty questioned Jieyu Ban and she replied: ‘This concubine has heard that life and death are fated while wealth and honour depend on Heaven’s will [17]死生有命,富贵在天 (shēngsǐ yǒu mìng, fùguì zài tiān) is a phrase from the Analects of Confucius. The full text is: 死生有命,富貴在天。君子敬而無失,與人恭而有禮。四海之內,皆兄弟也。 This translates to: Life and death are fated while wealth and honour depend on Heaven’s will. The superior man never fails to be honourable in his conduct, respectful to others and observant of propriety. Thus, all within the four seas will be his brothers.. If one cultivates kindness but is not blessed with fortune, what would one desire with impure thoughts? If spirits were knowledgeable, they would not be tempted by corrupting flattery; If they were ignorant, then what would be the benefit in making an accusation? Hence, they would not.’ This servant ventures to guess that the meaning behind what the Princess said just now, ‘I wouldn’t do this,’ is the same as Jieyu Ban’s ‘Hence, they would not.’” [18]I really tried my best with Jieyu Ban’s words…It’s very philosophical ^^; Here is the Chinese in case someone has a better translation: 妾闻死生有命,富贵在天。修善尚不蒙福,为邪欲以何望?若鬼神有知,不受邪佞之诉;若其无知,诉之何益?故不为也。

I finished speaking but I felt the Princess’s peripheral gaze fixed on me. Our eyes met for a split second, but I sensed that her eyes sparkled with happiness. In that instant, my cheeks became hot and I hung my head.

No one spoke for a time. The next moment, one could hear Jieyu Yu laugh as she added her support: “What a clever little eunuch. His words are truly reasonable. It must be this.”

The Empress nodded smilingly. Zhaorong Miao and Zhang Weiji also looked at me with kindly expressions. Only Beautiful Lady Zhang became more and more furious. She stared straight at me and berated: “You liken me to Zhao Feiyan?”

I was dumbfounded. Originally, I only wanted to help Princess Fukang defend herself, thus I quoted the matter with Jieyu Ban. I hadn’t intended to compare Beautiful Lady Zhang to Zhao Feiyan, but considering the current situation, it was difficult to explain clearly.

Fortunately, at this moment, the news delivered by a eunuch from outside the room saved me: “His Majesty has awoken and asks to see Princess Fukang!”

The imperial women within the hall rose to their feet. The Empress held Princess Fukang’s hand and said: “Come, let’s go and see your father.” The two of them immediately left the hall with Zhaorong Miao and Jieyu Yu following on their heels. Beautiful Lady Zhang was stricken with terror and hastily rushed over while carrying her daughter.

Everyone else in the hall gradually dispersed. I stood in the same place for a long time. It wasn’t until I saw that there was no one to observe me that I walked out of the hall, following the path I came from back to the Fine Arts Institute.

 


TL Thoughts:

Hello everyone,

I hope you enjoyed the chapter! It was fun translating the drama :3 Yay our MCs know each others’ identities! \(^o^)/

Sorry about the volume of TL Notes… I hope they’re helpful! I learned a lot! If you’d like to read more about women’s clothing throughout the dynasties, I found this article with pictures of a typical outfit for the period. It’s in Chinese but you can kind of get a feel for how fashion/style evolved.

This novel incorporates a lot of actual history. For example, the royals mentioned are all historical figures. The incident with Zhao Feiyan and Jieyu Ban in the Han Dynasty actually happened too. Jieyu Ban was accused of witchcraft along with Empress Xu. She pleaded her case and the Emperor let her stay in the Palace as a lady in waiting to the Empress Dowager.

~✽ꕥ✽~

Thank you knowledgeable Nuffians, LaDyViL, nonononononono, and Guan Zhong, for helping me understand Youwu’s Dharma name!

~✽ꕥ✽~

Some Updates: 

  • Like I mentioned in my October TL Goals post, my wrist pain has unfortunately returned in full force and the doctor says it’s tendonitis. 🙁 This chapter was translated via a combination of typing, scribing and voice to text software with lots of editing. Special thanks to [redacted] and JimmyfromIT
  • To keep translating going, I’ve recruited Silverylazes and [redacted] to help me translate Why Harem Intrigue When You Can Raise A Dog Instead? and help with the translation process, respectively. Please check out their bios on the about page!
  • In December, I’ll be focusing on my reader event for Why Harem Intrigue to celebrate my first year translating. Please sign up for email updates if you’d like to know my translation goals month to month along with any future updates and reader events!
  • I’ll be back with another chapter of Held in the Lonely Castle in January/Early February 2021. Thank you for your continued patience and support!!

I wish everyone Happy Holidays in advance! Please be safe! If you’re in the U.S., Happy Thanksgiving!

Until next time,

Nyamachi

 

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Translator Notes

1鹭 (lù) Herons or more precisely Egrets. The exact species here could be the Little Egret or the Chinese Egret.
2秘府 (mìfǔ) The palace repository for rare and valuable books.
3Read this article for more about Chinese hairstyles.
4美人 (měirén) Lit. Beautiful Lady. A low-ranked imperial concubine. See my post on ancient ranks and titles for more information. The Song Dynasty had a less complicated Consort ranking system which you can find here.
5In ancient China from the Han to the Ming Dynasty, the Gēng-diǎn (更 – 點) system was used to keep track of time during the night. Part of its name, 更 (gēng) comes from the sound a drum or gong makes. That’s why in dramas you might see night watchmen hitting a drum or small gong and calling out the time at night. See my post about ancient timekeeping for the Shí-kè (時 – 刻) system used during the day.
6子时 (zíshí) Between 11pm and 1am.
7The characters in Huirou’s title are 福 (fú) prosperity and 康 (kāng) meaning health.
8This sentence was trippy AF. Here’s the original Chinese: 皇后一语如风,把那人间小女孩的白色身影忽然从我记忆中吹起,让她悠悠飘至了云霄九重外.
9小袖对襟旋袄 Here are a few images I found that seem to be close to what this is describing: [Image 1] [Image 2] [Image 3]. A 对襟 (duìjīn) is a Chinese-style jacket with buttons down the front; A 旋袄 (xuánáo) is the thigh-length overcoat/robe in the pictures.
10Something like this [Embroidered gauze] without the sequins.
11昭容 (zhāoróng) is one of the sub-ranks for an imperial concubine. It literally translates to ‘Lady of Bright Countenance’. For context, Zhaorong Miao ranks higher than Beautiful Lady Zhang as the latter has one of the Scattered Positions. Please see the list of characters for a full list of power rankings for Held in the Lonely Castle.
12婕妤 (jiéyú) is another rank. It literally translates to ‘Lady of Handsome Fairness’ and is conferred upon an accomplished imperial concubine. Power rankings so far: The Empress > Zhaorong Miao > Jieyu Yu > Beautiful Lady Zhang.
13保慈崇祐大师 is Youwu’s 法号 (fǎhào) or Dharma name. It is a name given to a newly ordained monk, nun or layperson after they complete the initiation ritual for Buddhism. The names are considered aspirational, not descriptive. Perhaps Emperor Renzhong wanted to give Youwu this name in the hopes that she would survive, given the trend here.
14爹爹 (diēdiē) Father, Daddy, Dad. I change the form of address in English depending on who’s speaking and their age, but the Chinese characters remain the same.
15The Empress
16孃孃 (niángniáng) Mother.
17死生有命,富贵在天 (shēngsǐ yǒu mìng, fùguì zài tiān) is a phrase from the Analects of Confucius. The full text is: 死生有命,富貴在天。君子敬而無失,與人恭而有禮。四海之內,皆兄弟也。 This translates to: Life and death are fated while wealth and honour depend on Heaven’s will. The superior man never fails to be honourable in his conduct, respectful to others and observant of propriety. Thus, all within the four seas will be his brothers.
18I really tried my best with Jieyu Ban’s words…It’s very philosophical ^^; Here is the Chinese in case someone has a better translation: 妾闻死生有命,富贵在天。修善尚不蒙福,为邪欲以何望?若鬼神有知,不受邪佞之诉;若其无知,诉之何益?故不为也。

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  • The novel is really a great read. I usually don’t comment but you and Silverylazes have done a wonderful job translating. Best of luck with your tendinitis

    • Thanks for commenting Lucas!! Silvery-chan is actually working on WHI but [redacted]-chan and Jimmy did a lot of work for this chapter ^ ^ Thanks for your patience as well between chapters!

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