Held in the Lonely Castle (Chp 2 Part 5)
Chapter 2: Noticing You Since That Time We Met
Part 5 – Candied Plums (酿梅)
Translation assistant: Petrified
English proofreaders: 247Reader & JimmyfromIT
When we returned to the Pavilion, the two concubines were still inside drinking tea. Seeing the Emperor come inside, they quickly rose to welcome him.
The Emperor inquired about the Princess’ situation. Zhao’rong Miao replied saying: “She was napping a moment ago. Now she has probably woken up but she is still lying in bed unwilling to get up.”
The Princess was still young, and the Emperor had always been close with her. They had not had many arguments together. Hearing Zhao’rong Miao’s words, he conveniently picked up a plate of fragrant candied plums, recently created by the Imperial Kitchen for the Dragon Boat Festival, and said: “I’ll go and talk to her.”
Lady Miao agreed and called over me and a maid named Jiaqing Plums, ordering us to wait on standby outside the Princess’ room.
“Jiaqing Plums [Jiaqingzi]” originally referred to plums grown in the workshop on Jiaqing Lane in Luoyang during the Tang Dynasty. The fruit had a flourishing reputation for being sweet and delicious, hence the name Jiaqing Plums spread until the current dynasty. Jiaqing Plums became the fancy name for candied plums, plums preserved in sugar or honey. PR Jimmy: The author must want to the world to know about these glorious plums…
The Princess had four maids. They were all seven to eight years old and each of their names had been bestowed to them by the Princess. They were all named after her favourite foods. The last three had different names and were called Smiling Dimples [Xiaoye’er], 笑靥儿 (xiàoyè’ér) is a sweet, mini-cake-like pastry made with molasses that is threaded with a red string into a loop – hence the resemblance to a smile. The red string represents the red string of fate. The dish symbolizes the wish for all to find their destined partner and have a happy marriage. Here is a video showing you how to make it! Sugar Charm [Yunguo’er], 韵果儿 (yùnguó’ér) is short for 饧糖韵果 or what it’s called nowadays: 糖画. You often see it in dramas where someone sells a piece of sugar art on a stick. Here’s a video example of sugar painting in the shape of a dragon! and Grapefruit [Xiangyuanzi]. 香橼子 (xiāngyuánzi) A type of citrusy fruit. It’s not the typical round grapefruit you might see but one that’s very bumpy, resembling a bunch of grapes. If you can read Chinese, this article explains the names in detail. There are pictures for those who are interested!
Jiaqing Plums was the newcomer who had arrived just this year. The first time she entered the Pavilion, the Princess was eating congee. Miss Han asked the Princess to bestow her a name. The Princess looked at her and asked what her family name was. The little girl replied that her surname was Jiang [The same character as ginger]. At the time, the Princess was just in the middle of chewing a piece of spicy pickled ginger. Hearing this, she said cheerfully: “Then your name will be Spicy Pickles [Lajiaozi]!” 辣脚子 (làjiǎozi) Literally meaning, “spicy feet”, 辣脚子 refers to spicy pickled mustard root which are fermented for a month. My guess is that any vegetable can be called 辣脚子 if they are pickled, like the ginger above.
Zhao’rong Miao heard this and smiled, rebuking her: “If she really changes her name to this, how will she be able to face others in the future?”
The Princess didn’t insist on the matter and said: “Then I’ll think some more.”
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I saw her gaze circle around the table full of dishes. There was lettuce, sesame, and ginger flavored beans, spicy radish, spicy mustard melons, raw papaya in water, and so on. Finally her gaze landed on the fish steamed buns. Worried that she would pick another gaudy name for the girl, Similar to the idiom, 语惊四座 (yǔjīngsìzuò), meaning “to make a startling remark,” 艳惊四座 (yànjīngsìzuò) means something that’s so colourful or flashy that it’s surprising. In the context of names, it refers to outlandish, unique names where the person might be made fun of. You might know them as キラキラ names in Japanese (“shiny” “sparkly” unique names that stand out like Pikachu) or Celebrity baby names (i.e. X Æ A-12, Sir, Thunder, Khaleesi etc.). These seem to be more and more common these days, though! and seizing the opportunity to exchange her empty plates for new dishes, I placed a plate of Jiaqing plums in front of the Princess.
Sure enough, she had a burst of inspiration: “Your name will be Jiaqing Plums. I love to eat them.”
The Princess loved to eat preserved sweets, but nowadays, since she was in the middle of growing in her adult teeth, Zhao’rong Miao rarely gave her any sweets. The plate of candied plums that His Majesty took with him was for the purpose of cheering her up.
The Princess lay on her bed. It was clear that she was awake. Upon hearing her father come in, she immediately turned to face the inner part of her bed Ancient Chinese beds were like a box with one side removed and replaced with bed curtains. Here is an image. Here is an article about the evolution of ancient Chinese beds as well. and pretended to sleep.
The Emperor sat down on the edge of her bed and held the plate of candied plums under her nose. He smiled and called her: “Huirou, look at what Daddy brought you.”
The Princess stayed still and didn’t reply. Once more the Emperor smiled and said: “They are newly made candied plums for the Dragon Boat Festival, the honey is even dripping out of the skin of the plum. If you don’t eat it, the taste won’t be as good after leaving it for a while.”
Candied plums were the most popular candy of the season. Before the Dragon Boat Festival, everyone grated sweet flag, 菖蒲 (chāngpú) Acorus calamus aka. sweet flag or muscat root. fresh ginger, apricots, plums, pears, and Chinese basil 紫苏 (zǐsū) aka. Perilla mint, purple mint, or beefsteak plant. and would shred all of these things and soak them in honey, incorporating the plum skin in the manufacturing process so that the flavour became fragrant, sweet, and sour. The Princess had always loved them and moreover, you could only get them around the time of the yearly Dragon Boat Festival. Unfortunately, Lady Miao did not give them to her often therefore the Emperor’s gift for her was extremely enticing for her.
The Princess’ shoulder moved slightly. She must have been having a painful internal struggle, but in the end, she finally controlled herself and actually didn’t react.
The Emperor heaved a sigh, and thought out loud: “She’s sleeping so comfortably…” Following this, he turned his head and called over Jiaqing Plums and passed the plate to her, saying: “I’m bestowing the candied plums to you, eat them yourself or share them with Smiling Dimples and the rest.”
Jiaqing Plums was very cheerful as she took the preferred plate, and then remembered to bow and offer her thanks. The Emperor smiled and waved a hand saying: “It’s okay, It’s okay, hurry and go eat.”
Looking over at the Princess again, seeing that she didn’t intend to open her eyes, the Emperor stood up and said: “Since the Princess is still sleeping, I’ll return first.”
As he was speaking, he also lightly stepped behind a heavy curtain to the side and hid himself.
The Princess didn’t hear any signs of movement for a long while and slightly turned over. Her right eye opened a crack, and not seeing the Emperor, she proceeded to open her eyes and sit up. Confirming that her father wasn’t present, she cast off her blanket and jumped out of bed. She hadn’t even put on her shoes as she ran to the door and poked her head out.
Not seeing the Emperor’s figure, she turned her head and asked me: “Is Daddy gone?”
I smiled faintly and lowered my head.
“Oh…” She had thought that I had nodded and the light in her eyes immediately dimmed. She seemed very disappointed.
At this moment the Emperor gave a hearty laugh and showed himself. After seeing him, the Princess cried out in surprise and ran back. She jumped on her bed and pulled her blanket tightly over her head until you could only see her slightly trembling under her blanket and it was hard to tell if Her Highness was crying or laughing.
The Emperor walked over and forcefully pulled her blanket away. The Princess was forced to show her small face, but still tightly closed her eyes. Her lips were also tightly pursed, clearly indicating she didn’t want to speak with her father.
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“Mm, I won’t laugh. I promise to not laugh.” The Emperor hid his smile and made a serious face, saying to the Princess: “Otherwise my teeth will fall out.”
The Princess was unable to bear it anymore. Laughter slipped out, and she finally opened her eyes and looked at the Emperor, refuting: “Daddy, your teeth will only fall out when you’re a kid!”
The Emperor smiled and asked her: “You’re not angry at Daddy anymore?”
“Um…” The Princess hesitated and responded, “I need to think about it…”
“Hehe,” The Emperor gently brushed aside the hair in front of the Princess’ forehead and said warmly: “Today Huirou was not in the wrong. Daddy spoke to you a bit loudly but absolutely wasn’t scolding you. Your eighth younger sister is gone and Lady Zhang is feeling very sad, it’s very easy for her to vent her anger on others. She said that she didn’t want to see you, so follow her wishes for the time being and return first. When people lose someone close to them it’s like when they suffer from a serious illness and can’t be exposed to any unhappy things. In these times, she won’t listen to your explanation and if you say anything more, you might make her feel even sadder. Therefore, it would be best if you didn’t go against her wishes. Taking a step back is always a good thing.”
The Princess then asked: “Since she doesn’t want to see me, then why did Daddy want me to wear hemp and linen mourning clothes and go over?”
The Emperor helplessly smiled and said: “As a member of royalty, people are watching your every move. When confronted with weddings and funerals, ordinary commoners may hide their emotions and not necessarily express them verbally, but we’re not allowed. We must act according to our subjects’ wishes, to be sad or to be happy, and moreover, to show these feelings to the world. Regardless of whether Lady Zhang wants you to go, you must attend the memorial.
“Wearing hemp and linen mourning clothes is to show the people that the Eldest Imperial Daughter is deeply grieving for her younger sister. Although Lady Zhang says that she doesn’t want to see you, if you didn’t go she would be even more suspicious of past events and would say that you have a guilty conscience or that you’re impulsive and violent. Besides, you originally wanted to attend, didn’t you?”
The Princess nodded and sadly said: “Yes, Youwu is gone and I’m also very heartbroken…” She looked at her father again and extended a hand to rub his eyebrows, she asked: “Daddy are you feeling a bit better? These last few days there have been shadows under your eyes.”
The Emperor sighed: “Daddy is okay. The most heartbroken one is naturally Lady Zhang, crying endlessly… It turns out that a person’s eyes can store so many tears… Therefore in the near future don’t provoke her anger even if she says mean things to you. Endure it for now – if it’s really unbearable, take a deep breath and think about whether or not you would act the same way if you were in her place. The more you think in this way, then you won’t be upset anymore.”
The Princess agreed, and suddenly asked her father: “Daddy, those ministers often scold you but you don’t seem to get angry, is it because you also take a deep breath, think about it, and then endure it?”
The Emperor stared blankly at her, and shortly after his face broke into laughter: “That’s right, I constantly do that… However, there are also times when I can’t stand it anymore and I’m still very angry, wishing that I could bang my head into the Dragon Pillar.”
Hearing what was said the Princess also laughed. The Emperor pinched her nose and asked: “Now you’re not angry anymore, right?”
The Princess smiled and sat in a kneeling position. She wrapped her arms around her father’s neck and clearly said close to his ear: “Daddy, actually I stopped being angry at you a long time ago, just now I was only too embarrassed to talk to you… Even if Daddy really scolded me it doesn’t matter… If Daddy scolded me I would be very sad, but if Daddy feels better after scolding me then I’m willing to be scolded by Daddy… If one person has to feel sad between Daddy and me, then let me be the sad one.”
These made the Emperor feel quite moved. He couldn’t help but hug the Princess tightly and say to her: “Daddy won’t let Huirou feel sad… You’re Daddy’s good daughter, Daddy will give you whatever you want as long as Daddy can give it to you…”
“Then… I want candied plums! This is definitely something that Daddy can give.” The Princess’ face lit up with delight as she seized the opportunity to make a request, “One plate is not enough, it has to be at least two plates!”
The Emperor shook his head and smiled. He immediately instructed me to go and bring over two plates of candied plums.
The Princess took a plate of candied plums from my hands, holding it close with both hands. She gobbled them up in an instant, occasionally shooting a glance at her father. After seeing him smiling all along, she then said: “Daddy, I want you to promise me one more thing.”
“Okay, what is it?”
“In the future when I’m angry, if you bring something delicious over again, if I ignore you or tell you that I don’t want any, please don’t give up. You have to make sure that I eat it.”
Here is our second chapter of HLC for the month! Hope you enjoyed the chapter!
There are many interesting food names in this chapter :3 Some of the links have pictures in case anyone is interested in what ancient Song Dynasty food might look like, especially Smiling Dimples.
Until next time,
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