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First Episode 32: 大明王朝 1566


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A part of the Grand First Episode Project -- See this thread for more info.

Overview - Emule - youku

Language difficulty level: Advanced

A historical show about the 嘉靖 era during the Ming dynasty, which documents the internal struggles and corruption which eventually led to the demise of the dynasty.

I have to say that this show is beautifully filmed and really well-scripted and well-acted. The shots of the palace are majestic, and the tension within the court palace is palpable, and accentuated through interesting camera angles.

It is quite complex, though. Not so much in language terms (though it's not really easy either), but in terms of the numerous characters which are introduced and their complex relation to each other. It is also slow, at least this episode, as a lot of time is spent at a fiscal meeting of the ministers as we watch them blame each other on the state of the economy. It is really good, but a bit heavy. I wonder if the following episodes are more dynamic, and if this one just sets the mood.

I'm not going to describe the events in detail. The emperor is fasting in an attempt to please the heavens and call the snow, a eunuch is executed after he claims that the corruption in the imperial court and the resulting wrath of the heavens is the reason for the drought, there is a long and difficult session of the imperial cabinet in which the ministers are accusing each other of misappropriating money and treason, the situation is dire (Japanese pirates are plundering their ships, the Great Wall needs strengthening, money is short). The emperor gets a grandson and ultimately calls the cabinet to explain the situation to him.

I will give a list of major characters and their positions, though. I'd be thankful for any help in correctly translating the titles, though. This is what I've been able to figure out. 帝 is the emperor, his sons are 王. 太监 are eunuchs, 内阁辅 are cabinet advisors. I believe that 府詹事 is king's personal aide


冯保  东厂提督太监 (local head eunuch)

周运逸 钦天监监正

吕芳  司礼监掌印太监


铜磬  司礼监秉笔太监

陈洪  司礼监秉笔太监

严嵩  内阁首辅 (head cabinet advisor)

徐阶  内阁次辅 (deputy cabinet advisor)

朱厚熜 嘉靖帝 (emperor)

朱载垕 裕王 (king, emperor's son)

高拱  字肃卿

严世蕃 字东楼

谭纶  裕王府詹事

张居正 字太岳

Important vocab (some stuff is missing, I couldn't find all of it):

嘉靖 an era (1522年-1566年) during the Ming Dynasty

39 年腊月 29 -- Dec 29th, year 39 of the 嘉靖 era, so around 1561

朝廷 cháo tíng - court / imperial household / dynasty

开支 kāi zhī - expenditures / pay

无度 wú dù - immoderate / excessive

太监 tài jiàn - court eunuch / palace eunuch

官府 guān fǔ - authorities / feudal official

贪墨 tān mò - corrupt, I'm guessing

横行 héng xíng - rampage / riot


官员 guān yuán - official (in an organization or government) / administrator

质子 zhì zǐ - (the dictionary says 'proton', but that can't be right)

廷杖 tíng zhàng - (scepter ???)

朕 zhèn - I / we (imperial use)

玉熙宫 yù xī gōng - Jade Palace (a palace within the Imperial City in Beijing)

斋戒 zhāi jiè - to fast

祈雪 qí xuě - pray for snow


挨打 ái dǎ - take a beating / get a thrashing / come under attack

人当中 rén dāng zhōng - among the people

少不了 - be unavoidable, be bound to

祥瑞 xiáng ruì - auspicious / propitious

奴婢 nú bì - slave girl

咧咧 liě lie - to grin

议事 yì shì - to discuss official business

时辰 shí chen - time / one of the 12 two-hour periods of the day

吭声 kēng shēng - to utter a sound

干爹 gān diē - godfather

差事 chāi shi - errand / assignment


亏空 kuī kōng - in debt / in the red / in deficit

同舟共济 tóng zhōu gòng jì - cross a river in the same boat (成语 saw); / obliged to collaborate towards common goals

各部 gè bù - each ministry


仰赖 yǎng lài - to rely on


诽谤 fěi bàng - slander / libel


户部 hù bù - feudal Chinese Ministry of Revenue

工部 gōng bù - Ministry of Labour, I guess

吏部 lì bù

帐单 zhàng dān - bill / check

耽误 dān wu - delay / hold-up / to waste time


撤职 chè zhí - to sack

票拟 piào nǐ - (this should be fiscal planning)

念头 niàn tou - thought / idea / intention

臣子 chén zǐ - official in feudal court / subject

其所 qí suǒ - its place / one's appointed place


预算 yù suàn - budget

核对 hé duì - to check (figures) / to audit

明确 míng què - clear-cut / definite

记载 jì zǎi - write down / record / written account


倭寇 Wō kòu - Japanese pirates (in 16th and 17th century)



借用 jiè yòng - to borrow sth for another use / to borrow an idea for one's own use

波斯 Bō sī - Persia

遭 zāo - meet by chance (usually with misfortune) / classifier for events: time, turn, incident

火灾 huǒ zāi - fire (that burns buildings etc)

闽 mǐn - abbr. for Fujian 福建 province

凡事 fán shì - everything



糟糠 zāo kāng - chaff / grain husk

挑唆 tiǎo suō - to incite / to stir up / to instigate

后台 hòu tái - backstage / the area behind a theatrical stage / backstage supporter

如出一辙 rú chū yī zhé - be precisely the same / be no different


透彻 tòu chè - penetrating (analysis) / thorough (understanding of the situation)


Edited by renzhe
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  • 1 year later...

This show knocked my block off langauge-wise, but I still enjoyed it.

I'm not sure where they take the "Twelve Angry Men" vibe in later episodes, but it was compelling for this first episode. Definitely not the show I need right now due to its high level, but I'd curious to try this in the the future and see if this remains tense and interesting, or if it becomes tiresome.

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