CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER
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
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