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Historical Notes
The brief Later Tang Dynasty (923-936 AD) stands in sharp contrast to the Tang Dynasty of earlier centuries (618-907 AD). The Later Tang was a period of corruption, warfare, and political tumult, while the long Tang Dynasty was a golden age of relative stability, prosperity, and peace. But the latter days of the Tang Dynasty were marked by court intrigue and misrule, leading to the downfall of centralized Tang power and setting the stage for a half-century of fragmented and warring kingdoms, vulnerable to attack from Mongols to the north and Turks to the west. (When we first meet Prince Jai, he is returning from war with Mongol invaders on the northern border.) Regional governors and frontier military leaders seized parts of the empire, breaking up China into smaller fiefdoms. The thirteen-year period known as the Later Tang is considered part of the "Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms" period (907-960 AD), which aptly describes the division across China.

While The Emperor and Empress in Curse of the Golden Flower are fictional characters, the Emperor can be seen as one of the military men who seizes power; he was a governor when married to his first wife. The Empress was the daughter of another regional king, so by marrying her the Emperor made a powerful alliance. The Emperor's rigid insistence on following ritual and ceremony can be seen as a mark of his hypocrisy; he aspires to the glory days of the Tang Dynasty, but he is really a latter-day usurper.

The Chong Yang Festival has been celebrated in China since ancient times, and continues to be a happy holiday today. It is known as the Festival of Double Nines, because it falls on September 9th, the ninth day of the ninth month. In the tradition of yin and yang, these nines are doubly yang, which connotes positive energy and masculinity. Chong Yang is celebrated by feasting with the family, honoring ancestors and the elderly, and often by hiking to a mountaintop or ascending to a high place-such as the Chrysanthemum Terrace in CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER-to appreciate nature and to escape from evil spirits. The festival is also associated with chysanthemums, chrysanthemum wine, and chrysanthemum cakes. In Chinese herbal medicine, chrysanthemums were used to detoxify and to drive off evil.

The Chong Yang symbolism of mountains and chrysanthemums derives from a legend about villagers escaping disaster by climbing a mountain on the 9th day of the 9th month and dispelling evil forces with chrysanthemum wine.


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