Ancient Chinese cargoship

Chinese New Year was approaching and cargo business was booming.

Ancient Chinese whafe

The wharfies complained to the headman that the two boatloads of mandarin packages were unreasonably heavy.

The emperor's wives

The traditional Chinese royal family was a strictly hierarchical community, with the emperor at the top as the absolute ruler and the empress as his deputy sheriff 

Each morning, the Emperor’s lesser wives were required to pay respect to the Empress. Shortly after the heavy than usual orange packages arrived in the capital, the empress – the sister of Marquis Yan – fell ill during her reception of the morning greeting.

A sick Mei Changsu lying on bed

On the other side of the city, the friend of Marquis Yan’s son fell into a coma for a few days after being forced to admit to Princess Nihuang that he was no other but Lin Shu, her fiance.

His doctor was terribly concerned about the chance of a good recovery because his heart was in deep pain.

When in the pavilion, he told Princess Nihuang he returned to the capital for a dangerous mission which must not be compromised by any personal feeling, so he asked his fiancee to keep his true identity secret from everyone else, including Prince Jing, his best friend.

“I will,” the princess promised. “I can wait until the day you become my Lin Shu again.”

Mei Changsu was lost for words since he knew such a day would never come. He was terminally ill.

Mei Changsu meeting his friends in his living room

Hearing Mei Changsu was sick, Jingrui, the son of Marquis Xie, and Yujin, the son of Marquis Yan, paid a visit, and Yujin also brought him a basket of mandarins that were sent to the capital from Guangdong.

“My dad ordered two cargoes of the Guangdong mandarins and distributed them among all our relatives. Now we still have many left. After you’ve finished this basket, I’ll bring you more,” Yujin said to Mei Changsu.

But when Mei Changsu’s dummy teenager bodyguard got a mandarin, he smelled it and then tossed it away.

Mei Changsu frowned.

Yujin greeting his father

Yujin greeted his father at the doorstep as required by the ancient Chinese custom

Mei Changsu decided to meet Yujing’s father in person.

After the bloody political purge 12 years ago, Marquis Yan seemed to have lost his interest in state affairs and became a devoted Daoist follower, spending most of his time in monasteries, even during the Chinese New Year.

But this day Marquis Yan somehow returned home.

Mei Changsu meeting with Marquis Yan

In Marquis Yan’s private meeting room, Mei Changsu confronted the host. “You’ve secretly purchased gunpowder and are planning to blow up the end-of-year prayer ceremony, don’t you?”

Marquis Yan couldn’t figure out how Mei Changsu discovered his plan. “Is it because of the empress’s sudden illness?”

“That’s part of it,” Mei Changsu admitted. “Her symptom and the doctor’s prescription show she was poisoned by a non-life threatening drug that makes her unable to attend the ceremony. Who would have the motivation and capability to poison her? You, her brother.”

Mei Changsu told the marquis he had his men from Left Shore Alliance working as wharfies monitoring the crown prince’s smuggling of gunpowders for years and found this year there were two extra cargo loads of powder that were not collected by the crown prince.

The Marquis was still rather baffled. “How did you know the powder must belong to me?” He worked on this plan for so long and believed his plot was flawless.

“The mandarins,” Mei Changsu replied, “the smell of the gunpowder on the peels.”

Marquis Yan denouncing the emperor

“Do you know what you are doing?” Mei Changsu questioned Marquis Yan.

“Yes, I do. Marshal Lin Xie and me, and that guy, we three grew up together …. and Lin and I helped that guy secure the throne, but look at what the situation in the kingdom is now! This is not the country we dreamed of and fought for?”

Mei Changsu saying goodbye to Marquis Yan

Traditional Chinese way for men to say goodbye to each other

Mei Changsu explained to Marquis Yan the situation could become even worse by killing the emperor, because his successor, either the crown prince or Prince Yu, would be as bad as him, while the internal turmoil might detrimentally weaken the country’s defense capability at a time when the kingdom was surrounded by so many would-be invaders, and in the end it would be ordinary people who suffered.

He convinced the Marquis there would be a better way to make the change.

“But it is too late,” the Marquis said, “My men have got everything in the place.”

“I’ll fix all of them, as long as you promise me you’ll not try it again.”

Jingrui talking about Mei Changsu with Yujin

Days before the New Year break, more senior officials were charged with serious corruption and other criminal conduct.

“Look at these people, what a bunch of rotten bastards they are,” Marquis Yan’s son Yujin scoffed.

“Are there just officials to blame?” Marquis Xie’s son Jingrui retorted. “Who promoted them to the position in the first place? The emperor. Birds of a feather flock together.”

Yujin saluted Jingrui, “Wow, I thought you have lost in your kung fu world ….. didn’t realize you have a such deep understanding of state politics.”

“That’s not my words — I’ve learned from someone else.”

“Mei Changsu?”

“Yep, he discussed the kingdom’s problems extensively with me when I was staying at Left Shore Alliance headquarters in Langzhou,” Jingrui recalled, then he became rather disturbed. “From what he said to me, I believe he clearly knows Prince Yu and Crown Prince are equally heartless and corrupt, then why he bothers to help Prince Yu in his fight for the crown?”

“Maybe … I say just maybe,” Yujin speculated, “Mei Changsu is not really helping Prince Yu …”

Jingui was rather startled. “How do you know?”

“From … my guts feeling.”

Yujin paying tribute to his late mother on Chinese New Year's eve

Chinese New Year’s Eve in ancient China — paying tribute to deceased family members

Chinese New Year’s Eve eventually arrived.

Yujin, the son of the emperor’s late sister, and his father Marquis Yan lodged their annual report to Yujin’s mother and other deceased family members.

Mei Changsu proposing a toast at New Year's Eve dinner

Mei Changsu, the son of Yujin’s late mother’s sister, proposed a toast to a happy new year at Chinese New Year’s Eve Dinner before enjoying dumplings with his doctor, bodyguards and servants.

New Year's Eve dinner at Marquis Xie's family

Chinese New Year’s Eve dinner in ancient China — junior members paying tribute to senior members before dinner

Jinrui, the son of Yujin’s late mother’s other sister, paid tribute to his parents, Marquis Xie and Princess Liyang, and the head of the kung fu sector Celestial Spring Villa and his wife – the couple he also viewed as his parents – before the extravagant New Year’s Eve dinner began.

Chinese New Year's Eve in royal palace

Chinese New Year’s Eve dinner in the palace: the emperor and his wives and sons and unmarried daughters enjoying a music and dancing performance (equivalent to The CCTV New Year’s Gala in today’s China)

The emperor, Yujin’s late mother’s older brother, was seated on his throne viewing the live entertainment show at the Chinese New Year’s dinner.

Mei Changsu visiting Princess Nihuang's home

Placing a screen wall in front of the entrance gate is a common practice in traditional Chinese building design, based on feng shui principles.

The main function of the screen wall is to filter and reshape the incoming qi, so as to ensure the qi flow entering the premises is orderly and gentle.

During the Festival, Mei Changsu paid New Year’s visit to his fiancee Princess Nihuang, but his brother-in-law thought he was just his sister’s good friend.

The visit was unfortunately cut short by the news that on New Year’s Eve, seven emperor’s messengers delivering New Year’s Eve dishes as a special award to elite families were killed just outside the palace.

The emperor's bedroom

The emperor was outraged. He punished the commander of the palace guard, the secret ally of Mei Changsu, and ordered him to track down the culprits within 30 days.

Yet before the royal commander could find any clue to the killing, a fire broke out in the palace.

A number of palace maidens being expelled

After the fire, investigations and interrogations were carried out, in the end, many palace maidens were expelled from the forbidden city for alleged misconduct, yet the real arsonists were still at large.

The emperor began to doubt the royal commander’s ability to protect his personal safety.

Mei Changsu sitting by a garden pond

Mei Changsu’s spy agency quickly discovered the man behind the killing of the messengers and the fire in the palace. It was plotted by Marquis Xie, and executed by his in-law, the head of Celestial Spring Villa.

The objective of the attacks was clear: to erode the emperor’s trust in the Royal Commander and eventually replace him with a man from Marquis Xie’s military faction.

“Since they’ve activated the force of the kung fu sect, I will let them know who rules the kingdom’s martial land,” Mei Changsu vowed to his assistant.

Kung fu challenge

In Chinese tradition, any reputable kung fu man must take up the challenge from his competitors, otherwise, his martial power would be questioned and his position in the kung fu world would be rendered untenable.

Within days, a man mysteriously appeared in the capital and challenged the kung fu masters from Celestial Spring Villa, and defeated them one by one.

Consequently, none of the Villa guys was able to carry out any assignment handed down by Maquis Xie.

Tomb Sweeping


Having neutralized the martial ability of Celestial Spring Villa, Mei Changsu decided to drop some convenient hints to Lady Xia, a senior royal investigator working on the case of the messengers killing and palace fire.

When Lady Xia went to tidy up her late husband’s grave in a remote mountain area, Mei Changsu appeared, asking permission to pay his tribute to the deceased, which moved Lady Xia dearly.

What Lady Xia didn’t realize was Mei Changsu was Lin Shu, and Lin Shu was her husband’s boss.

Lantern Festival in Marquis Xie residence

The Lantern Festival on lunar January 15 arrived. Marquis Xie’s son-in-law, the young head of the Celestial Spring Villa martial sect, was implementing new action plans against Mei Changsu.

Lantern Festival in Mei Changsu's residence

In the meanwhile, Mei Changsu was inspecting the lantern decoration in front of his living quarter while waiting for his horse-drawn carriage to attend a solo concert. A well-crafted operation against Marquis Xie was also about to be formally launched.

Stalls selling lanterns during Chinese New Year

Stalls selling lanterns were everywhere during the days leading up to the annual Lantern Festival — a tradition that can be traced back to the early East Han Dynasty more than 2,000 years ago

When the sky grew dark, the annual lantern show in the capital was staged.

Mei Changsu, his bodyguard and his friends — Jingrui (Mei Changsu’s archrival Marquis Xie’s son) and Yujin (Mei Changsu’s potential ally Marquis Yan’s son) — arrived for the concert.

Lantern Festival on the first full moon night in the lunar year is one of the two “Valentine’s Days” in China.

Traditionally, on the night of the lantern show, everybody would go out onto the streets viewing the lanterns as well as dragon and lion dances, hence it was a perfect time for the young people to get together and, if lucky enough, to fall in love with each other.

The other “Valentine’s Day” is on the seventh day in the seventh lunar month when, allegedly, a married couple forced to live separate lives at the two sides of the Milky Way have a chance to meet each other, along with their children, on a celestial bridge formed by magpies.

Ancient Chinese solo concert

Mei Changsu and his friends attended the three-audience solo concert at Wonderful Tune Studio.

The audience enjoyed the show tremendously. Yujin fell in love with the musician, and Jingrui invited the artist to perform at his birthday party in April.

Aftermath of explosion

Shortly after the Lantern Festival, which marks the end of the Chinese New Year festival season, the crown prince’s illegal gunpowder mill exploded. An entire street was wiped out, with casualties numbered at hundreds.

Mei Changsu and his medicine stores (also acting as his spy agencies), Princess Nihuang and her guardian forces, and Prince Jing’s armies all rushed to the scene.

Earlier, Mei Changsu tipped both Prince Jing and Prince Yu about the crown prince’s underground firecracker factory. The proposal to shut down the mill had already been submitted to the throne and a royal decree was about to be issued the next day.

“If only it happened one day later, what bad luck!” Prince Jing lamented.

“Do you really think this is just bad luck?” Mei Changsu questioned.

Nirvana in Fire (1): A Popular Genius

Nirvana in Fire (2): A Wanted Man

Nirvana in Fire (3): Chinese New Year

Nirvana in Fire (4): A Birthday Party 

Nirvana in Fire (5): A Plot

Nirvana in Fire (6): A Rescue Operation

Nirvana in Fire (7): A Hunting Excursion 

Nirvana in Fire (8): A Military Coup 

Nirvana in Fire (9): A True Identity Exposed

Nirvana in Fire (10): A Delayed Justice

Nirvana in Fire (11): Theme Song 

6 thought on “Nirvana in Fire (3): A Chinese New Year Festival”
  1. What a beautiful site and your images are breathtaking. I am becoming more and more affiliated and interested with chinese culture as I just feel inspired when I am surrounded with the environment. What religion is chinese culture affiliated with? Are there continuing parts or is part 3 the last chapter?

    1. Hi Jazzy, part 3 is not the last chapter, I shall update more frequently. Sorry for the delay.

      With regard to Chinese religion, that is a good question.

      Common opinion is that there are three dominant religions in China historically: Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism.

      However, I think this is a misconception by both Western scholars who didn’t truly know Chinese culture and Chinese scholars who didn’t fully understand the implication behind the word “religion” in the early days of the interaction between Chinese and Western cultures.

      Confucianism is actually a social science. Chinese people would build a temple as tribute to any nobel figures, so the fact that there are so many Confucius temples in China doesn’t mean Confucianism was once a religion.

      Taoism is appreciated by many philosophers and scientists in the West, because it is more a natural science than religion.

      As for Buddhism, it depends on which school we are talking about. Some schools place an absolute faith in the power of external forces, which is more like religion (whether the force in question is a single almighty or a set of deities); others, including zen Buddhism, seek to work on one’s own consciousness, which is in fact the science of mind.

      While the foundation of Chinese culture is rooted in Taoism, for the recent 2,000 years, all three serve as the theoretical pillars of Chinese culture.

  2. Ive always been interest with the chinese culture, Its amazing what a people have gone through to get to todays China.
    I read through all 3 part and your site is good, I liked it alot, pictures where beautiful, placement and scenes where spot on, great owrk, im interested in part 4,,=)

  3. Very interesting story. This is such a beautiful site. Arre these stories that you come up with. I’m fascinated with Chinese history and culture. What is the focal point of your stories? I need to bookmark this site so I can come back to it. These pictures are very beautiful.

    1. This popular Chinese TV drama has faithfully presented a classic China, which is a wonderful visual introduction to Chinese culture and custom.

      This is the third part in the series, about the one third of the total length of the drama. Welcome to come back for more, and thanks for your kind review.

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