Eastern Palace · Novel Translations

Eastern Palace 《东宫》 – Chapter 3

Disclaimer: This chapter has been translated by sutekii & karma.

Chapter 3

A’Du suddenly jumped up, her jumping also gave me a fright. At this point, bright light suddenly surrounded us, someone had lit a candle, and a group of people holding lanterns rushed in, of course the one leading was Yong Niang. From afar with her eyes brimming with tears, she threw herself down and kneeled, “Crown Princess, please punish this slave with death.”

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I hate people kneeling, I hate Yong Niang, I hate people calling me Crown Princess, I hate bringing up the death punishment at every turn.

“Ayy, have I not returned in one piece.”

Every time I return, Yong Niang will always do this, even if she’s not tired of it, I am. Sure enough, Yong Niang immediately stopped her tears, quickly ordered a palace maid to come forward and help me make myself presentable, took the male garments that I was wearing off with no explanation, changed me into my least favorite clothes, three layers inside and three layers outside, layer after layer of a mixed print, like a thousand layered cake, even after peeling for a long time, you still won’t see the peanut. Yong Niang said to me, “Tomorrow is Zhao Liang Di’s birthday, Crown Princess don’t forget, a little pandering is always good.”

I tiredly swayed side to side, those palace maids were still washing my face, with a large towel wrapped around my dress lapel, my hair in the back was spread open and separated, carefully combed by them, the combing caused me to be even more sleepy. I felt like a doll, completely at their mercy, Yong Niang kept nagging, saying a lot of things to me, I did not hear a word of it, because I had finally fallen asleep.

This nap, I slept very soundly, I had eaten till I was full, and had been chased for most of the night; running around like that was really too exhausting. As I was sleeping soundly, I suddenly heard a loud “bang”, I opened my eyes and woke up, only realizing then that it was already broad daylight, turns out this one nap actually had me sleeping until the sun was three poles high (afternoon). I saw Li Cheng Yin just as he was entering in a rage, Yong Niang and the maids fearfully knelt down in a frenzy to greet him.

I still had my hair down, and hadn’t washed my face or changed my clothes, but I could only climb up from the bed, not because I’m afraid of Li Cheng Yin, but if I quarrel with him lying in bed, I would be too much at a disadvantage, too unimposing.

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He obviously came to attack me with more accusations, coldly looking at me, “You can still sleep?”

I gave a big yawn, and then said, “What did I do that I can’t sleep?”

“You woman, how can you be this vicious?” He furrowed his brows looking at me, his stare was like two frigid arrows, as though wanting to drill two holes in my body, “Don’t put on an act!”

This was not his usual quarrel routine with me, I felt perplexed, “What’s the matter?”

“What’s the matter?” He gnashed his teeth in anger and told me, “After Zhao Liang Di ate the longevity noodles you sent, she threw up and had diarrhea. How can you be so intentionally vicious?”

I exaggeratedly rolled my eyes at him, “I did not send any longevity noodles to anyone, who ate it and had diarrhea is none of my business!”

“You have the guts to do it but not admit it?” His tone was contemptuous, “So girls from Xi Liang, are all this shameless!”

I was furious, Li Cheng Yin has argued with me for three years, he knows best how to infuriate me, I jumped up, “Girls from Xi Liang wouldn’t dare to do something and not admit it, for something I didn’t do, why should I admit? We Xi Liang women always act frankly, not to mention a Zhao Liang Di; if I wanted to harm someone, I only need to take my knife and fight them with all my might, I wouldn’t use such an underhanded method like poison. Unlike you, coming and accusing people without distinguishing between what’s right and wrong, what dignified righteous Shangjing men are you?”

Li Cheng Yin angrily said, “Don’t think I don’t dare depose you! If I didn’t stake everything on this throne, then I wouldn’t tolerate you, vicious woman!!”

I burst out four words, “Do as you please.”

Li Cheng Yin was so furious he flicked his robes, turned and left, I was also so angry I couldn’t sleep, moreover my stomach also began aching, A’Du helped me rub it. Yong Niang was still kneeling there, she had clearly been frightened, her entire body shaking all over. I said, “Let him be, every year he threatens to depose me, he just hadn’t said it this year.”

Yong Niang’s eyes were gleaming with tears again, “Crown Princess forgive me…… those longevity noodles, your servant had someone send them over……”

I was shocked, Yong Niang said, “But your servant really did not put anything in it, your servant just thought, today is Zhao Liang Di birthday, if Crown Princess did not bestow anything, it seemed a bit…… a bit…… Crown Princess was still sleeping comfortably, had not awakened, your servant just took the liberty, ordered some longevity noodles to be delivered, did not expect Zhao Liang Di would eat it and vomit and have diarrhea…… please Crown Princess punish your servant with death……”

I unconcernedly said, “Since we didn’t rig this up, then her getting diarrhea has nothing to do with us, what is there to be punished with death for. Come on, quickly get up, I’m tired to death of you kneeling there..”

Yong Niang stood up, but remained full of tears, “Crown Princess, that word is taboo, should not be spoken.”

Isn’t it just a word ‘death’? Who in this world will not die? These Eastern palace rules are the most annoying, can’t say this, can’t do that, I’m about to be suffocated.

Because of Zhao Liang Di’s vomit and diarrhea incident, naturally her birthday did not go so well. Li Cheng Yin finally could not take it anymore and made a scene. If he wanted to depose me it was impossible, his Fu Huang [1] doesn’t even need to say anything, even the Tai Fu [2]’s will intervene. But I’m still unlucky, because in front of the Empress Dowager, Li Cheng Yin reported me. Empress Dowager sent me several “Moral Instructions for Women”, “Womanly Conduct” and other books of that nature, punishing me to copy every book ten times. I was shut in the room, crying out to the heavens, but there is no response; I cried out to the earth, but it is ineffective. I copied for many days in a row, copying until my fingers were sore but I still hadn’t finished.

After having copied all the books for a fifth time, Yong Niang told me some news, a maid, Xu Niang, that waited on Li Cheng Yin has met with a joyous event, this time Zhao Liang Di is surely vexed.

I confusedly asked her, “What do you mean, has met with a joyous event?”

Yong Niang almost not taking a breath, spoke to me in circles for a long time, I only then suddenly realized, so meeting with a joyous event is to have a baby.

I excitedly wanted to watch the ruckus, these past few years after arriving in Shangjing, I have yet to see anyone around me give birth to a baby, this kind of rare thing, of course I want to join in. In the end, I was firmly held back by Yong Niang, “Crown Princess, you must not go! It is said that Crown Prince had once promised Zhao Liang Di, that he would never be unfaithful. On that day, it was only because Crown Prince was drunk, that he would favour Xu Niang. Now Zhao Liang Di is in tears weeping, venting that she’s unhappy. If Crown Princess were to visit Xu Niang right now, Zhao Liang Di will think that Crown Princess is deliberately provoking……”

I really don’t understand why Yong Niang would think like that, all the people in Eastern Palace are so strange, when they want things, they will always go around in circles after circles. I sighed, Yong Niang said Zhao Liang Di would behave like that, maybe she really will think that way, I don’t want to fight with Li Cheng Yin again, if he reports me to Empress Dowager again, they might as well have me copy books to death.

At night, the Empress summoned me to the palace.

I rarely see the Empress alone, every time it was always with Li Cheng Yin. The words said to me by the queen were also barely limited to “rise” “be seated” “go rest”. This time she summoned me alone, Yong Niang looked extremely uneasy, she personally accompanied me to see the Empress.

A’Du waited outside Yong An palace for us, because she was unwilling to remove her gold inlaid knife from her waist, and was also unwilling to be too far away from me.

Actually, the Empress is very beautiful, she is not Li Cheng Yin’s birth mother, Li Cheng Yin’s birth mother was Shu Fei [3], legend has it that she was a beauty with incomparable looks, the emperor deeply doted on her, but unfortunately she soon died of illness after giving birth to Li Cheng Yin. The Empress had never had children, so Li Cheng Yin was brought to her palace to be raised, and then became the legitimate Crown Prince.

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The Empress said a long string of words to me, to be honest I didn’t quite understand, because the words were too scholarly…… The Empress probably also saw my as-if-I-had-fallen-into-the-middle-of-a-haze expression, she finally heaved a long sighed, “You are, after all, still too young, the affairs of the Eastern Palace, how come you do not take to heart? Forget about it, I have ordered people to prepare a secluded palace, and ordered that Xu Niang to enter the palace to give birth there. As for Zhao Liang Di, you should try your best to pacify her, do not let Yin Er (Li Cheng Yin) worry.”

These few colloquial sentences, I finally understood. The Empress also said a few things to Yong Niang, she still spoke in a genteel and scholarly manner, I guessed it was criticism about Yong Niang not exerting enough effort to teach me, because Yong Niang’s face turned ashen, and she kept kneeling while repeating, “This servant deserves death.”

Seeing the Empress is very boring, the scolding is even more boring. I secretly draw circles on the carpet with the tips of my toes, the carpets here were all gifts from the Tocharians [4], long fur under my foot as soft as snow, I draw a circle, a part of the flowers on the carpet turn white, then again I draw over in the opposite direction, the flowers on the carpets return to their original color…… Then I use the tips of my toes to draw over again, the flowers discolor…. I was just having fun, when I suddenly heard the Empress cough, I looked up at her staring at me.

I hurriedly sat up straight and retracted my feet inside my skirt.

Coming out of Yong An palace, Yong Niang said to me, “Crown Princess, please show some compassion for your servant, if you are to act rashly and cause trouble again, your servant will not regret dying……”

I said impatiently, “Alright, I got it! I have been locked up in the room copying books for so many days, how have I caused trouble ah!”

Yong Niang pacifyingly said to me, “Crown Princess these past few day has indeed been very obedient, but the Empress has implored Crown Princess to console Zhao Liang Di, Crown Princess must go and see her.”

I’m boringly cracked my own fingers, and resentfully said, “Li Cheng Yin won’t allow me near the place where that woman lives, I don’t want to see her, or Li Cheng Yin will start fighting with me again.”

“This time it’s not the same, this time Crown Princess is under the Empress’s orders, and can honorably go and see Zhao Liang Di. Moreover, Crown Princess should take advantage of this opportunity, and express goodwill to Zhao Liang Di, Zhao Liang Di is currently upset with the Xu Niang situation, if Crown Princess slightly reveals the intention of befriending her, Zhao Liang Di will feel very grateful. If Crown Princess at this time can rectify the relationship with Zhao Liang Di, then at that time even if Xu Niang gives birth to a baby boy, nothing will come of it……”

I don’t know what Yong Niang is thinking of all day, but she was once the Empress Dowager’s most trusted female retainer, before I had officially been conferred the title of Crown Princess, she was sent to my side, to accompany me to learn the ceremonial etiquette.

Afterwards she accompanied me through my most difficult period at the Eastern Palace, at that time Li Cheng Yin was not in the least concerned about me, Eastern Palace was full of snobbish eyes, I had just arrived, and was also a Xi Liang person, I was frequently laughed at, even the inner palace grunt workers would dare to bully me. I was extremely homesick, all day I only knew how to hold A’Du and cry, crying and crying until I developed a serious illness, Li Cheng Yin even stubbornly said I was feigning illness, and did not allow anyone to inform the Imperial Academy of Medicine or the palace. It dragged on until I could no longer swallow a single drop of water, it was Yong Niang together with A’Du, who stayed at my bedside, and spoon by spoon fed me medicine, snatching me back from hell.

So, although sometimes the way she thinks is very strange, I would follow along with her, after all, in the Eastern Palace besides A’Du, only Yong Niang sincerely treats me well.

“Alright then, I will go see her.”

“Not only visit, Crown Princess should also send Zhao Liang Di a few valuable and rare gifts, to win her over.”

Rare gift, what would count as a rare gift?

I racked my brains.

Finally, I solemnly chose a pair of Gao Chang [5] tribute bow and arrow, two cases of jade chess pieces, some holding play clutches, and also Bai Yi tribute passion fruit wine. When Yong Niang saw these things, the expression on her face was extremely strange.

“Uh … … I think these are all quite rare and good treasures” I looked at Yong Niang’s expression, “Do you think these are not good?”

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Yong Niang sighed and said, “It would be better to let your servant choose some gifts in place of the Crown Princess.”

The gifts Yong Niang ultimately chose, I have also seen, what He Tian jade inlaid bracelet, pure gold brooches studded with jade, red moon coral hairpin, Chi Long necklace embedded with pearls…… and then some Yan Jasmine cream powder, it was either something dazzling or delicious. I really didn’t think these things are good rare treasures, but Yong Niang confidently said, “Zhao Liang Di will surely see Crown Princess painstaking efforts.”

However, this meeting with Zhao Liang Di, I was actually rather looking forward to it. I only met Zhao Liang Di once, it was the second day after I was crowned Crown Princess, and she was elevated to Niang Di, and had come according to etiquette to pay homage to me. The only impression I have of her is a woman wearing clothes, surrounded by people bowing to me, because we were separated too far away, I couldn’t clearly see what she looked like.

But Li Cheng Yin really loves her. I heard he had originally refused to marry me, it was the Empress who promised him, that after I was coronated Crown Princess, he could elevate Zhao Liang Di to Liang Di, thus, I became that most hated person. Li Cheng Yin always worried I would bully Zhao Liang Di, so he usually would not let her into my palace, and even more so, did not allow me to enter her palace either. I do not know who he heard it from, said that Xi Liang woman are inclined to be jealous by nature, and can use sorcery and cast poisonous spells to harm people, so usually when I quarrel with him, the minute I mention Zhao Liang Di, he will jump like a cat whose tail had been stepped on, for fear that I really will go and hurt Zhao Liang Di.

Sometimes I really am a little jealous of Zhao Liang Di, it’s not anything else, but just jealous she has someone who will treat her like that. Here in Shangjing I am without friends, alone and with no one to rely on, although Yong Niang treats me very well, but I don’t love speaking with her, there are some things that even if spoken, she would not understand.

For example our Xi Liang nights, we release the horses running into the depths of the desert with the wind blowing past the leaves of the Elder tree, producing a “Shala Shala” sound. And the blue-tinted purple night sky hanging that low, so clear, so moist like a grape jelly, cool and tart, after sipping a bit, you can sip it into the corner of your mouth. Yong Niang has never even seen grapes, so how would she know what grape jelly is. Although A’Du understands my words, but no matter how enthusiastically I speak, at most she will just look at me quietly. Every time around this time, I will become especially homesick, and I start to think of my bustling Xi Liang. The more I think of Xi Liang, the more I hate the desolate and cheerless Eastern Palace.


[1] 父皇 Fu Huang; imperial father

[2] 太傅 Tai Fu; Grand Tutor. I think were officials who assisted with managing the country/state/etc. 《太子太傅》也包括在内. So the grand tutor is just one job of the 太傅s.

[3] 淑妃 Shu Fei; ‘The Decent Consort’ is the generally accepted term; though the word Shu means ‘warm and virtuous’. Concubines are given titles according to their ranks. During the Sixteen States period, Shu Fei was the highest ranking imperial concubine out of nine ranks.

[4] The Tocharians or Tokharians were inhabitants of medieval oasis city-states on the northern edge of the Tarim Basin (modern Xinjiang, China)

[5] 高昌 Gāo Chāng is the site of an ancient oasis city built on the northern rim of the inhospitable Taklamakan Desert in Xinjiang, China. A busy trading center, it was a stopping point for merchant traders traveling on the Silk Road.

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12 thoughts on “Eastern Palace 《东宫》 – Chapter 3

  1. Thank you for this chapter. I really like our spunky heroine. Her candidness is definitely not suited for palace politics. Luckily, she has guidance from her maids.

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  2. Xiao Feng is really likable. I like the way she thinks, naive yet endearing. I’m already sad over where the story is going to bring us.

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    1. Prepare yourself a box of tissue… and Li Cheng Yin isn’t the most loveable male in c-novels world. I have a love – hate relationship with him. I love the novel because of Xiao Feng, her carefree nature is capaviting.

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