Man cheng jin dai huang jin jia (Curse of the Golden Flower) (2006) 

 

 

 

Director:     Yimou Zhang.

Starring:     Yun-Fat Chow (Emperor Ping), Li Gong (Empress Phoenix), Jay Chou (Prince Jai), Ye Liu (Crown Prince Wan), Dahong Ni (Imperial Physician Jiang), Junjie Qin (Prince Yu), Man Li (Jiang Chan), Jin Chen (Mrs. Jiang).

the Empress and Crown Prince Wan, her stepson, have an illicit liaison; 10th century

 

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film.

928 AD, China, Tang Dynasty (618-690, 705-907).  The ruler was Ming Song (personal names Lǐ Sěyuán or Lǐ Dǎn) , ruling from 926-933.   The ruler became the second emperor of ancient China's short-lived Later Tang Dynasty during the Period of Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms (907-960). 

The women of the palace are awakened.  Women work on decorating Empress Phoenix with golden jewelry.  The Empress seems nervous and is sweating.  Prince Yu arrives to see the Empress.  She asks him if everything is ready.  He says Second Brother should be here soon.  He stopped at the Official Inn to await orders. First Brother is going to ask permission from father to leave for Qingzhou as soon as father arrives at the palace. 

The Empress goes to see First Brother.  She is upset because he is leaving after they've being intimate with each other for three years.  He calls her mother, but she says she is not his mother.  The Empress says that things can be changed but First Brother says thing can not be changed. 

She goes to welcome the Emperor.  She is stopped in order to have her medicine.  After that, she starts walking again. 

Everyone awaits the Emperor in silence.  Two men run down the long aisle shouting the news that the Emperor has canceled the welcoming ceremony.  Everyone must return to their chambers.  The Emperor is currently at the Official Inn.  Another of his orders is that Her Majesty and the two princes should greet him on the Chrysanthemum Terrace tomorrow morning. 

The Official Inn.  Prince Jai is told that the Emperor has arrived.  When the Emperor comes in he has a sword fight with Prince Jai.  Father wins and son bows to him saying:  "Father's prowess is unequalled."  Father says his decision to send the Prince to the frontier seems to have done the Prince some good.  He now tells Jai that he is going to go with father to the palace.

Prince Jai comes into the room to greet the Empress.  He says it's been three long years since he's been away at the frontier.  Jai says he has missed his mother every minute of every day.

The Emperor is in the palace and is really pampered by the servants.  The imperial doctor whispers to him that the Empress has been taking her medicine daily as the Emperor ordered.  And the black fungus is now added personally to the medicine by the aide's daughter, Chan.  Nobody else knows about this. 

It is Chrysanthemum Festival soon and the Empress is doing many embroideries of chrysanthemums.  The Empress has her third fainting spell and her aides are worried about her.  She asks Jai to go see his brothers, while she recovers her composure. 

Jai bows to his First Brother, the Crown Prince Wan.  He also greets Third Brother, Prince Yu.  Jai asks First Brother what's wrong with mother?  First Brother says that their father says that she suffers from anemia. 

Chan's father, the imperial doctor, sees her in the kitchen and tells her to see the Crown Prince even more often.  He follows her to the place where the spices are stored.  She pulls out a drawer and father slaps her hand.  He warns her that this ingredient is Persian Black Fungus.  Just a dose of two grams taken daily will, over a few months' time, cause a person to lose all their mental faculties.  He also warns her that if the Empress finds out, the whole clan will be exterminated.  

The entire space of the outside court is covered in yellow chrysanthemums.  The Emperor holds a family  meeting.  A big bone of contention is that the Empress does not want to take the medicine that the Emperor has been making her take for some ten years now.  Father gets angry when she refuses the medicine.  He talks nice, but in reality he's a big bully.

The Emperor scolds the Empress for being difficult.  She objects to all this medicine he prepares for her saying that she's taken it for ten years and she has not gotten any better.  This makes the Emperor very angry and he goes back to scolding her like she is a child.  More medicine is brought for her and she has to drink it.   He kisses her on the lips, but not before wiping the medicine off her lips.  The Empress starts sweating and shaking again.

Father speaks to First Brother.  He says his son lost his mother when he was young and he, the Emperor, was away at war much of the time.  Dad admits he has never really taken care of his son, but he wants his son to know that he has always been his favorite son.  The Emperor asks if his telling Jai to take command of the Imperial Guard tonight was disturbing to the First Brother.  First Brother says he thinks father had decided to make Jai the Crown Prince, and not him.  He adds that he himself has few talents and is not fit to be the Crown Prince.

Chan and the Crown Prince meet together.  He tells her that he did not get permission to go to Qingzhou. Chan tells him not to forget to take her with him when he goes. 

Someone informs the Empress that the Crown Prince and Chan are together again.  She goes marching down to the Prince's room  If an aide did not announce the arrival of Her Majesty, Chan and the Crown Prince might have been caught red-handed.  There is just enough time to hide Chan. 

The Crown Prince tries to act like nothing unusual is going on, but the Empress tells him to tell Chan that she can come out now.  The Crown Prince won't do it, so the Empress demands in a loud voice that Chan come out. The Empress asks her aide what is the punishment for seducing the Crown Prince?   It's 20 lashes of the whip, face branding and banishment from the Palace.  The Crown Prince begs for the Empress' leniency.  Mother says she will let her go this time.

Leaving the room the Empress feels as though she might faint.  She excuses her staff in order to be alone. 

The Empress has put a woman Ninja to work on trying to find a secret ingredient added to her medicine.  The woman has found out and now tells the Empress that the new ingredient is the back fungus from Persia.  This ingredient can cause the patient to lose all mental faculties.  The Ninja woman says she does not do this work for the rewards.  She hates the doctor and wants vengeance upon him.  The Empress notices that her face is branded.  The woman doesn't want to talk about this.  She turns and leaves. 

The Ninja follows Prince Wan.  The Prince realizes this and chases her down.  He and his men finally catch her.  And now he finds out that the woman is the wife of the imperial doctor.  He takes her to the Emperor.  When the Emperor sees the woman, he sends all the men out of room except the Crown Prince.  He tells the Crown Prince to never speak of this incident again.  The Crown Prince agrees and now leaves the room.

The Emperor tries to touch her face branding but she knocks his hand out of the way.  He tells her it's been 25 years.  He says he thought he would never see her again.  And then she married the imperial doctor.  The married woman slaps the Emperor and says at the time of their affair he was only a lowly captain.  He flattered the King of Liang into letting him marry the King's daughter.  Then he tries to have her entire family put into prison.   She alone escaped from him.  She says it was the doctor who saved her life.  She says she came to see her son.  The Emperor says he will pay her in full what he owes her. 

The Imperial Doctor and his daughter Chan are send away by making the doctor the Governor of Suzhou.  He is to depart immediately.  The Emperor tells the doctor to take his wife with him. 

Her Majesty watches as the imperial doctor, his wife and daughter, leave the palace. 

Her Majesty tells Prince Jai how his father has been poisoning her with the black fungus of Persia.  He wants to know why his father is doing this to her?  She says she will tell him everything after the Chrysanthemum Festival is over.  She says:  "I shall die exactly as your father intends.  A cretin."  But she is not going to submit without a fight.  On the night of the festival he will put an end to all this.  She says she tells Jai this because she wants him to become the Emperor.  She will force father to abdicate.  Jai tells her he cannot go against his father and Emperor.  So the Empress says he doesn't have to do anything he doesn't want to. 

The medicine is brought to the Empress and she drinks it down immediately.  This upsets Jai and he tells his mother that he will help her. 

The Empress makes a special robe for the Crown Prince.  She has embroidered a large chrysanthemum on the left front of the robe.  She says on the night of the Chrysanthemum Festival, he must wear this robe.  He says he will  not wear the new robe and he starts to rip it apart.  The Empress fights him to stop him from completely ruining the robe.  He wants to know what skullduggery she is up to.  He starts to caress her face, suddenly gets scared and leaves the room. 

The Crown Prince rides hard to get to Chan.  He asks Chan if her mother was at the palace?  She says her mother came to visit her.  He asks why is the Empress embroidering so many chrysanthemums?  Her eunuch made 10,000 flowers for her and the Empress has given them to General Wu. 

The doctor's wife gets suspicious and bursts into the room with Chan and the Crown Prince.  She is shocked at seeing the sister and brother together and demands that the Crown Prince leave.  The Crown Prince rides back to the palace afraid that something is going to happen there. 

Mother tells Chan that she must never be together with the Crown Prince again, but she won't tell Chan why.  Father comes in and wants to know what is going on here?  He tells his daughter to go outside.  She goes outside, but she is soon riding to the palace.  The doctor asks his wife what is she hiding from him? 

Ninjas throw down ropes from the mountain to get onto the roofs of the doctor's residence.  The Ninjas land and start hacking up everybody they can find.  The doctor and his wife and some of their men get away and start heading to the palace.  The Ninas jump on the group and kill the doctor and his men.  Only his wife gets away to get to the palace.  The Ninjas try to follow her, but they run into soldiers who are archers.  The archers kill most of the Ninjas. 

The Crown Prince arrives and asks the Empress when is she going to make her move?  She answers on the night of the Chrysanthemum Festival.  The Crown Prince is very afraid saying that everyone will believe he was behind the plot.  He says she's trying to get him killed.  The Empress says yes, she wants him to die.  He is so scared that he picks up a knife and stabs himself in the chest.  The Empress is shocked and calls for help. 

The new doctor says the wound is not fatal.  He will recover.  The Crown Prince begs her to call her plans off, but she tells him she cannot do as he says.  She leaves. 

Father comes to check on his son's wound.  He tells his son that he knows about the relationship between the Crown Prince and the Empress. 

Jai goes in to check on mother and asks what happened to Wan?  She says he knows all about their plans, but she doesn't think he will intervene. 

Mother now goes down to the ceremony.  Then the  family goes together as a unit to the ceremony.

Chan arrives at the palace.  A band of Ninjas attack her and it looks bad for her, but her mother arrives and saves her daughter.  Mom says that the Emperor wants to kill their entire family.  The Empress sends the women help and the Ninjas have to fight the Palace Guard.  The appearance of the Imperial Doctor's family is announced to the royal family.  The Empress says to send the family in.  The Emperor says now he knows that it was the Empress who protected the doctor's family.  He tells everyone to leave the royal family. 

The mother and Chan come into the room.  The pair look very beat up.  Mother calls the Emperor a coward and a hypocrite.  The family wants to know who this mother is?  She is their father's first wife and mother to the Crown Prince.  The Crown Prince and Chan are both shocked to their inner core.  Chan starts screaming and runs out the door.  Her mother runs after her.  Chan is killed by the Ninjas.  Mother arrives and she is killed by the Ninjas. 

Now the Chrysanthemum army arrives all dressed out in gold.  They race to get to the royal family.

The Empress throws off her crown and robes and reveals her scarf with a huge chrysanthemum flower embroidered on it.  Now the younger prince, Yu, kills the Crown Prince.  He says he is acting first because he knows mother and Jai are plotting together.  He shouts at his father to abdicate immediately and give him the throne!  He says he hates the whole family because none of them ever really loved him.  Soldiers come in support of Yu.  But then Ninjas drop down from the ceiling and kill Yu's backup men.  Dad sends the Ninjas away and comes after Yu.  Yu tries to kill his father with a sword, but dad just evades the blade.  He then stops Yu with his crown hat pin, sticking it into the boy's chest.  While Yu is on the ground, father takes off his huge gold belt and starts whacking Yu in the head with it.  The army comes closer and close to the building with the royal family, but they are attacked by the Ninjas.  It takes awhile, but all the Ninjas are killed.

The troops are now told to attack. They trample right through the enormous chrysanthemum displays.  They are stopped by an immense wall of shields that the Emperor's army is pushing forward across the court.  General Wu again gives the command to attack, but also yells for the men not to harm Prince Jai. 

Archers inflict a lot of casualties on the Chrysanthemum army. 

The Emperor finishes over-killing Prince Yu with his belt.  He cries over what has happened.  Now the Emperor's army rushes out from behind he shields and stop near the one man still standing:  General Wu.  The order is given to capture General Wu.  General Wu fights  and kills a lof of the soldiers.  The soldiers pull back from General Wu, who now drops his weapon after checking with the Empress. 

The Emperor and Empress stand before the soldiers.  He criticizes his wife for killing his favorite son.  The Emperor rips off her chrysanthemum embroidered scarf while giving his men permission to kill all the chrysanthemum prisoners.  The Emperor leaves the court and the big clean up begins.  Fresh chrysanthemums are brought out to replace the destroyed ones. 

Jia and the Empress now sit with the Emperor at the giant chrysanthemum square table.  Dad says he was going to make Jai the Crown Prince.  Jail tells father that he did this not because he is a rebel.  He did it for his mother. 

The Chrysanthemum Festival begins with lots of fireworks, music and singing. 

Father says he will forgive Jai if he gives his mother her medicine every day. Jai goes over to his mother and begs her to forgive him for failing her.  He then grabs a sword and commits suicide.  Now all three sons are dead.  It's now just the Empress and the Emperor left.  The Empress knocks her medicine off a tray and way up into the air.  The medicine drops all over the floor.

 

Interesting story about how a family falls apart when a husband totally bullies his family, leaving everyone upset and restless for something different.  They are also fearful because dad is trying to get rid of stepmother/mother of the three princes.  This leads to steps being taken to get rid of the King before he gets rid of the mother and harms the futures of the princes.  Who will win out?  I was rooting for the mother and kids.  Dad was just a bad, bad father and husband. 

But what about how the movie relates to history?  Here's what Wikipedia says:  "It should be noted that the story in the film is entirely fictional and has essentially no relation to real history. There are also a number of other inconsistencies with established Chinese history."  Even the period the action takes place is disputed. 

Loved the beautiful Li Gong in the film.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 


Historical Background:

 

Khitan people::   ancient nomadic people located in Mongolia and modern Manchuria.

Khitan Empire or Liao Dynasty (916–1125).

Kara Khitan (1124–1218), or Western Liao  --   Khitan empire in Central Asia.

 

Emperor Ping =  Li Siyuan.

 

Li Siyuan became a trusted general under both Li Keyong and Li Keyong's successor Li Cunxu, the 1st Later Tang emperor.

926   --  Li Siyuan seized power by a coup d'état when a mutiny killed Li Cunxu, and he ruled with both discipline and compassion for the next 7 years. Despite an abundance of natural disasters, his reign was markedly more peaceful than the half-century preceding it.

926-933  --  the ruler was Ming Song (personal names Lǐ Sěyuán or Lǐ Dǎn), who became the second emperor of ancient China's short-lived Later Tang Dynasty during the Period of Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms (907-960). 

By the time Li Siyuan had assumed the throne of the Later Tang Dynasty, relations with the powerful Khitan to the north had deteriorated.

The death knell of the dynasty would come from within with Khitan help.

933 (5 December)  --  Emperor Li Siyuan fell seriously ill after a trip in the snow.

933 (15 December)  --  death of Emperor Li Siyuan. 

934-936  --  reign of Li Congke the last emperor of the Later Tang Dynasty - the second of the Five Dynasties following the fall of the Tang Dynasty.

936-947  --  reign of Later Jin Dynasty. 

936  --  Shi Jingtang, the son-in-law of Li Siyuan himself, launched a rebellion against his rule. With Khitan help, he overthrew the last Later Tang Emperor and established his own dynasty, the Later Jin.

936-942  --reign of Jing Dynasty ruler Shi Jingtang.

 

 

 

 

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