步步惊心/ Bu Bu Jing Xin
Startling Surprises with Every Step
Written by Tong Hua
Chapter 8 (Part 1)
Translated by Hoju
Brought to you by the Magnolia Translation Team
As of right now, we are unable to contact our translator for chapter 8. Therefore what will happen is that we will have one of our other translators translate a part of chapter 8 for each week until we can get in touch with the original translator or have another translator take over. Hope everyone will be patient and understanding. Thank you.
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This work is an amateur fan-translation of original work by Tong Hua as available in free online format in Mandarin Chinese at:
The translation is done as good will, so that fellow fans who do not read Mandarin may enjoy this lovely work. We declare that we do not profit monetarily in any way from this work, and also do not pretend to be professional translators. Hence, we apologize in advance for inadvertent translation errors. In addition, reposting of the translation must be done with explicit permission of all translators as contactable via spcnet.
Characters Introduced So Far
(In Alphabetical Order)
Crown Prince (Aisin-Gioro Yinreng): The second son of Emperor Kangxi. Currently the Crown Prince and thus next in line for the throne.
Dong Yun: One of Ruolan’s maids.
Fourteenth-prince (Aisin-Gioro Yinzheng): The fourteenth son of Emperor Kangxi. He is described as being quite handsome. Is currently around fourteen to fifteen years of age.
Fourth-prince (Asin-Gioro Yinzhen): The fourth son of Emperor Kangxi and the future Emperor Yongzheng. Slightly pale and has an impassive demeanour.
Eighth-prince (Aisin-Gioro Yinsi): The eighth son of Emperor Kangxi. Also known as the Eighth Bei’le. Ruolan is his Ce’fujin (Second Wife). Is often seen smiling out of the corners of his mouth as well as conducting himself with a calm and gentle disposition.
Kangxi: The current Emperor of China.
Mingyu Ge’ge (Guoluoluo Mingyu): Younger sister of the Eighth-prince’s Di’fujin, Guoluoluo Minghui. Not on good terms with Ruoxi. Most likely the one who caused the original Ruoxi’s accident after an argument. During the Tenth-prince’s Birthday banquet, Ruoxi and Mingyu gets into a fight, resulting in quite a spectacle. Arranged to marry the Tenth-prince by Kangxi.
Ninth-prince (Aisin-Gioro Yintang): The ninth son of Emperor Kangxi. Currently not given a peerage title. Seems to have a more taciturn personality. Nicknamed “the venomous snake” by Ruoxi.
Qiao Hui: One of Ruolan’s maids. Qiao Hui used to serve Ruolan even before Ruolan’s marriage. When Ruolan married, Qiaohui accompanied Ruolan to Eighth-prince’s household. Seems to be concerned for her mistress especially regarding Ruolan and Eighth’s relationship.
Ruolan, Maertai: Ruoxi’s older sister. The two are especially close as they are born from the same mother.She is also the Ce’fujin (Second Wife) of the Eighth-prince. Mild and gentle in nature, Ruolan likes to spend a better part of her days reciting Buddhist scriptures. Has a deceased lover who was a soldier in her father’s army. The man was of Han descent and had taught Ruolan how to ride.
Ruoxi, Maertai (Zhang Xiao): Protagonist of the story. Originally a modern day, white collar professional named Zhang Xiao. Under certain unexplainable, supernatural occurrence, Zhang Xiao’s spirit travelled through time upon her death and took over a young Manchurian girl’s body. Now stuck in ancient times, Ruoxi must navigate through an entirely foreign environment armed only with the little historical knowledge she remembers.
Tenth-prince (Aisin-Gioro Yin’e): The tenth son of Emperor Kangxi. Currently not given a peerage title. A bit of a simpleton. Likes to tease and bicker with Ruoxi. Nicknamed “the blockhead” by Ruoxi. Likes Ruoxi but is forced to marry Mingyu Ge’ge.
Thirteenth-prince (Aisin-Gioro Yinxiang): The thirteenth son of the Emperor Kangxi. Nicknamed “the Death Challenging Thirteenth” by his brothers. Has a more carefree and unrestrained demeanour.
Glossary of Terms
(In Alphabetical Order)
Bei’le: Shortened from Duo’luo Bei’le. A peerage title that can be bestowed to those within the royal family. It is the third rank in the Qing peerage system for the imperial line.
Ce’fujin: A title. Meaning second wife or ‘side’ wife in Manchurian.
Di’fujin: A title. Meaning first wife or main wife in Manchurian.
Ge’ge: A Manchurian word for young mistress, or lady. It is a title you would call an unmarried noblewoman (or before they are bestowed an official title by the Emperor) above a certain rank.
Jie-jie: Older sister in Chinese.
Ji’xiang: A standard greeting one of lower status uses to greet people with higher status in court. The word literally means auspicious and can be translated as, ‘I wish good fortunes, prosperity and happiness to you”
Chapter 8 (Part 1)
It is into early summer, and the flowers have all passed their time of blooming. Only various dark and light shades of green can be seen sprouting amongst one another. Although the weather is starting to get hotter, the nights still have a coolness that seeps into the bone. As I lean against the bridge railing, gazing into the water at the crescent moon that is undulating with the ripples, I murmur, “Having only just welcomed Spring but is now sending Spring off.”
Spring comes, then spring goes. I have been in the palace for three years already.
The concubine selection event had not been as I expected where Kangxi would personally make the selections, but rather, the noble consort who had the highest status at the time, Lady Tunggiya, and other consorts of respected status had first created a shortlist of candidates, which they submitted to Kangxi. Kangxi had made his selections from this list. It was in this stage where I was left off the shortlist.
Afterwards, I had heard that when the various niangniang were selecting their female attendants, there were actually two niangniang who specifically requested me – First prince’s mother, Consort Hui of the Nara clan, and Fourth and Fourteenth prince’s mother, Consort De of the Wuya clan. Caught in a dilemma, the head eunuch reported this to Noble Consort Lady Tunggiya, who, after much thought, assigned me to the Palace of Heavenly Purity with the specific responsibility of serving tea to the emperor.
Serving tea appears to be very simple work, but anything that involves the emperor in any way, even if very simple, will become very complicated. Even though I have known all along that tea drinking is an art in itself, I had never thought there would be so many rules. I had to learn everything one by one from the very top: distinguishing the different types of teas, discerning water quality, controlling water temperature, testing for poisons, using proper hand technique when pouring tea, using proper form when walking while carrying tea, as well as learning Kangxi’s own particular preferences and habits. Every one of these must be committed to memory. There is absolutely no room for error. It took me three entire months before the master in charge of teaching finally gave his nod of approval.
Since my placement in the Palace of Heavenly Purity was quite mysterious, all the eunuchs and palace maids, high or low position, dared not cross me and were amicable towards me. Furthermore, I have indeed been very cautious with everything I do and say and have carried myself in a humble and amiable manner, so the people around me accepted me very quickly. Now, I am already the head of the twelve palace maids in charge of serving tea and taking care of daily needs in the Palace of Heavenly Purity.
As I reflect on the last three years, I cannot help sighing at the moon’s reflection in the water. I turn around and slowly head back to my dwelling. I still have to be on duty tomorrow!
I am in the side room directing Yunxiang and Yutan on the tea selection when the young eunuch, Wang Xi sprints in and hastily performs a ceremonial bow before hurriedly announcing, “His Imperial Majesty is done court now.”
I laugh, “So court is done! Why are you flustered like a monkey? Be careful your shifu doesn’t see you and reprimand you.”
Catching his breath, he pants, “But this time, it is shifu who sent me over. He said to warn jie-jie to be careful as you wait on His Imperial Majesty. In the court session today, someone brought forward allegations against the Crown Prince.”
When I hear this, I quickly pull my laughter back in. “Thank your shifu for me.” He hurriedly gives another customary bow and rushes off again.
Turning around, I instruct Yunxiang and Yutan, “You heard that? Today, be especially focused and careful while serving.”
The two of them hurriedly answer yes.
I mull silently, since Crown Prince Yinreng’s great uncle, Songgotu was jailed and had all his possessions confiscated by the state for plotting rebellion against the throne, while on the surface the Crown Prince was not affected by this, his position was no longer as secure as before. He is Kangxi’s favourite son, taught personally by Kangxi since he was young. However, perhaps for the very reason that he has been doted on since he was a child, in comparison to the other princes, Crown Prince does not have any outstanding qualities. Add on to that the fact that the other princes have been eyeing his position like a tiger its prey, his position as heir apparent to the throne is in jeopardy.
Kangxi is caught in a struggle between his rational and emotional sides. On one hand, he already sees that Yinreng is not the appropriate person to succeed the throne. On the other hand, Yinreng was the only one of his children he had personally raised, and coupled with his love for his first wife, Empress Xiaochengren of the Heseri clan, Kangxi is now caught in the decision of whether to take away his status as Crown Prince or not. As I reach this thought, I cannot hold back a sigh. Kangxi is going to have to face this painful issue again today.
I suddenly hear the voices giving the customary welcome for the imperial arrival and know that Kangxi has returned. Hastily, I say to Yunxiang, “Brew the tea.” The two of them quickly busy themselves in their work. As I go about readying the tea ware, I think silently, Kangxi’s mood is not very good today and probably does not want to see any bright colors, so I select a blue glazed tea set embellished with chrysanthemum petals. According to modern psychology, blue has the property of being calming and peaceful.
Carrying the tea tray, I walk slowly into the room. The chairs throughout the room are occupied, but all around, it is quiet. Looking straight ahead, I walk to the table, lightly set down the tea bowl, and then slowly back out with head lowered.
 Orig.佟佳氏. The text states the name as ‘woman of the Tunggiya clan.’ (In pinyin, the Tongjia clan.) In ancient China, women were often referred to in this way, only by their surname or clan name.
 Orig. 娘娘. In the Qing court, this is how one would address the empress or imperial consorts. Often, it is preceded by the formal title of the person.
 Orig. 乾清宫. A palace within the Forbidden City. During the Ming and early Qing dynasty (including during the reign of Kangxi), this was the residence of the emperor. Emperor Yongzheng did not wish to inhabit this palace and hence, it became the emperor’s audience hall henceforth. During Kangxi’s reign, those assigned to work in the Palace of Heavenly Purity would be attending to the emperor personally.
 Orig. 师傅. Teacher.
 ‘Older sister.’ This is the same as what Ruoxi calls Ruolan. However, in the context here, where there is no blood relation, it is a familiar address to someone older or of higher position.
 Orig. 索额图 (pinyin: Suoetu). A minister during Kangxi’s reign. Uncle to Kangxi’s official wife, Empress Xiaochengren, mother of Yinreng.
 Orig. 孝诚仁皇后赫舍里氏. Kangxi’s first empress and official wife. She died at the young age of 20 while giving birth to Yinreng. Kangxi loved her very much and greatly missed her after she died.