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译者:黄倩霞 & 高泽

校对:张力文 & 张松


Stressed-out Chinese love melodrama about courtly life


本文选自 The Economist | 取经号原创翻译

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A BIT surprisingly, one of the best things  about the “Story of Yanxi Palace”, a television drama about an 18th-century emperor that has broken Chinese viewing records this year, is watching concubines being rude to eunuchs. Even less predictably, the particular rudeness—combining scorn, resentment and a dash of fear—offers insights into how Chinese people cope with life in today’s ruthless and unequal society. An early scene shows the Qianlong emperor’s chief eunuch, a tubby, squeaky dimwit, bustling into a silk-draped waiting-room with an order for the harem. Return to your quarters, he announces, the emperor is working late. “What? His majesty is sleeping alone again?” grumbles Noble Consort Gao, a boo-hiss villain. “Let’s go,” she tells her fellow concubines, stalking past the eunuch without a glance. “What else is there to wait for?”

《延禧攻略》讲述了18世纪一个皇帝的故事,打破了中国今年的收视纪录。嫔妃们对太监粗鲁的态度是该剧的看点之一,这着实有些令人惊讶。更夸张的是,这种粗鲁结合了蔑视、怨恨和一丝恐惧,映射出中国人对应对当今社会无情和不平等的见解。在前几集中有一个关于乾隆皇帝的主管太监的镜头,这个太监身形矮胖,嗓音尖细,看起来像一个蠢蛋。他匆忙走进一间丝绸垂褶的屋子,替皇帝向屋内等候的嫔妃们传话。他说:“各位娘娘回宫吧,皇上今夜有公务要忙。” “什么?皇上今夜又不召寝?”高贵抱怨道: “我们走吧,”她对身边嫔妃们说着,看都没看太监一眼,阔步从他身边走过 。 “还有什么可等的?”高贵妃在剧中是个嘘声一片的反面人物。

concubines / ˈkɔŋkjubaɪn; ˋkɑŋkjʊˏbaɪn/ n (in countries where a man can legally have more than one wife) woman who lives with a man but is of lower status than a wife (一夫多妻制国家中的)妾, 姨太太, 小老婆.

eunuchs / ˈjuːnək; ˋjunək/ n castrated man, esp one formerly employed in the women’s quarters of some oriental courts 阉人; (尤指)宦官, 太监.

harem / ˈhɑːriːm; US ˈhærəm; ˋhɛrəm/ n 闺房里的妻妾群.

consort / ˈkɔnsɔːt; ˋkɑnsɔrt/ n husband or wife, esp of a ruler 配偶(尤指君主的夫或妻)

cope with 处理,应付

“Yanxi Palace” is a gorgeously costumed fantasy, filled with poisonings, betrayals and young women competing for the Forbidden City’s great prize: being bedded by the emperor. “Join the army, you might as well become a general,” as one ambitious recruit to the harem chirps. The show is driven by female characters, including a kind but sickly empress, murderous concubines and—at the heart of the 70-episode epic—Wei Yingluo, a quick-witted, justice-seeking maid, who rises to become Qianlong’s beloved consort. The formula is wildly popular, drawing 700m live-streaming views on the drama’s best single day, in August.

“延禧宫”是一部华丽的幻想戏剧,充满了下毒、背叛和年轻女性为给皇上侍寝——这一紫禁城的最高荣耀而相互争斗的情节。 正如一个新入宫的、野心勃勃的妃子所说:“既然从军,不妨去当个将军。”这部剧由女性角色主导,包括一个善良但疾病缠身的皇后,阴狠毒辣的嫔妃们,以及这部70集电视剧的核心人物魏璎珞。魏璎珞是一个机智、寻求正义的宫女,最终成为乾隆心爱的女人。这样的套路非常受欢迎,8月最高单日在线播放量高达七亿。

might as well 不妨,何妨;还是……的好

murderous /‘mɜ:.dər.əs] adj extremely dangerous and likely to commit murder 杀人的;凶恶的,凶残的

Yet that night-time scene in the harem reflects some bleak realities of court life. The eunuch is ridiculous, and obsequious to high-ranking concubines. But he is also terrifying. For the concubines live only to please his master, the emperor, an absolute ruler in whose name the guilty and innocent alike are shown being jailed, executed or exiled without hope of appeal. The Forbidden City is a crimson-walled tyranny, filled with spies. Noble Consort Gao’s drawling insolence in the face of rejection is, in the end, bravado. She is privileged, cosseted and ready to hurt those below her in the pecking order. But in this system she has no individual rights. And she does not challenge its rules.


obsequious / əbˈsiːkwɪəs; əbˋsikwɪəs/ adj (derog 贬) ~ (to sb) too willing to obey or serve; too respectful (esp in the hope of getting a reward or favour from sb) 逢迎的; 巴结的; 卑躬的

drawl / drɔːl; drɔl/ v [I, Tn, Tn.p] speak or say (sth) in a slow lazy manner, with drawn-out vowels 拖长腔调慢吞吞地说(话): drawl (out) one’s words 拉长调说话. 

insolence /’insələns/ n. 傲慢;傲慢无礼的行为

bravado / brəˈvɑːdəu; brəˋvɑdo/ n [U] (usu unnecessary or false) display of boldness (通常指无必要的或虚伪的)逞能, 虚张声势

cosset / ˈkɔsɪt; ˋkɑsɪt/ v [Tn] (derog 贬) protect (sb/sth) too carefully; pamper 宠爱, 溺爱, 纵容(某人[某事物])

pecking order 群体中的尊卑秩序,权势等级

Many Chinese might mock attempts to extract political lessons from “Yanxi Palace” or other recent Qing dramas drawing huge audiences, such as “Ruyi’s Royal Love in the Palace”. Yet Chaguan quizzed visitors to a museum in the city of Changchun, housed in a palace built by Japanese occupiers when they installed the last Qing emperor as the puppet ruler of north-east China from 1932-45. Such dramas just use history as a backdrop, scoffed two students, Taylor Wu and Linda Zhang. They are really stories about “modern life”, they added, whether that means love stories or concubines seeking promotions.


Chaguan/茶馆:The Economist于2018年9月起在China板块中增加的一个栏目。可参考:

The students are on to something. Watching bored, paranoid concubines waiting for the emperor’s summons, the penny drops: this is a workplace drama, and these employees are failing a performance review. Young maids in a palace dormitory, torn between small acts of kindness and infighting, could be teenage workers at an electronics plant. Even bejewelled dowagers sound like scolding parents from 2018, with one calling a daughter “gutless” for failing to ask Qianlong for a promotion.


be on to something 认识到重要意义,会产生重要结果

the penny drops 恍然大悟

tear between 左右为难

dowagers / ˈdauədʒə(r); ˋdaʊədʒɚ/ n woman who holds a title or property because of her dead husband’s position 因亡夫之地位而持有称号或财产的寡妇。古代中国称为太妃,“是王太妃、皇太妃、太尊太妃甚至是太皇太妃的简称或总称,是尊封给君主生母、前任君主配偶或已故王爵正室的位号。”

Imperial dramas have reflected the politics of their time since they first hit Chinese TV screens in the 1980s. Film-makers study what Communist Party ideologues call the “main melody”, a musical term they have borrowed to describe the core political ideas upon which creative sorts are encouraged to riff. “TV Drama in China”, a study published by the Hong Kong University Press, elegantly catalogues permitted themes. Historical dramas from the 1980s stressed the weakness of the last Qing rulers… “Yongzheng Dynasty”, a drama from 1999, recast the unpopular Yongzheng emperor as a flinty corruption-fighter. That reminded contemporary viewers of Zhu Rongji, a crusty reformer who was prime minister at the time, Ying Zhu of the City University of New York has noted. By 2007 viewers were glued to “The Great Ming Dynasty 1566”, a cynical drama about rampant corruption.


be glued to 目不转睛的看

As years passed market forces joined Communist propaganda chiefs as a second boss. Early shows were dominated by male characters and mostly watched by men. Today’s TV drama audience is 70-80% female and mainly from smaller cities, says Lei Ming of ABD Entertainment, an audience-analysis firm. Viewers typically watch on smartphones, he adds. Their favourite part about the show is talking it over afterwards with friends.


The leading man in “Yanxi Palace”, Qianlong, is something of a cipher: a stern autocrat who finds his harem a chore. Chinese pundits have debated whether the show is a feminist tale about strong women, or a retrograde saga about women who survive by obeying and pleasing bossy men. It is both. It is a reflection of the country today, a chauvinist place full of strong women.


Just trying to make a living


In a fast-rising China, life is hard and filled with obstacles and anxiety, says Wang Xiaohui, chief content officer at iQiyi, the Netflix-like entertainment company behind “Yanxi Palace”. Mr Wang describes today’s main melody. The masses (and the party) like stories in which subordinates are loyal, kindness is rewarded and wickedness punished, and in which young people who work hard can succeed. Mr Wang hails the women in his drama for an “independent spirit” that resonates with viewers. Outsiders may note that such spirits do not always seek to reform or change a society. Getting ahead can be enough.


subordinates / səˈbɔːdɪnət; US -dənət; səˋbɔrdnɪt/ n person who is subordinate tosb else 下级; 部属

A recurring theme of “Yanxi Palace” is that the Forbidden City is a place of harsh rules, but that rules keep chaos at bay. With 15bn cumulative downloads, this will not be the last of its kind.


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