Friday, November 11, 2016

Six Flying Dragons Summary: Episodes 41-45

Episode 41

Madam Cho and Shin-Jeok are both tortured. She gets him to send out a message through one of the guards who is his friend. It's a ploy by Sambong to find Moomyung; Bang-Ji takes some soldiers and follow the person who picks up the letter. They find a house in the forest, but no one is there. Bang-Ji finds his mother in a nearby cave, however, and she tells him to leave Sambong or he will be fighting her.

Bang-Won asks to be investigated with Madam Cho so he can be cleared. Shin-Jeok figures out that Cho knows he had tricked her, so he strangles her to keep her from telling anyone. Sambong covers it up so it looks like suicide.

The Ming capture Japanese pirates who confess they are Joseon spies, and demand a prince be sent to explain. This would be dangerous, since the Ming have recently killed envoys and a lot of their own people. Sambong offers Bang-Won the choice of a five year exile or going to Ming. He admits Bang-Won is the only one who could convince the Ming Emperor and Bang-Won chooses to go: he will either be killed for his country or come home in glory. He tells Boon-yi to go to Banchon, where she will be safer.

Bang-Won takes Ha Ryun as translator and Moo-Hyul as bodyguard with a caravan of soldiers. They have to pass through Liaodong castle, but it has been closed to Joseon people and they are arrested. An officer in furs comes to call them barbarians and Bang-Won asks, “Do you want to die?” The officer is Zhu Di.

Historical note: Zhu Di was a son of the Ming emperor. He overthrows his nephew, the crown prince, and becomes emperor. Ha Ryun did not go to Ming; the translator was actually Jo Ban, whose lands were taken by Hong In-Bang in Episode 15. 

Episode 42

Zhu Di orders one of Bang-Won's arms cut off so Moo-Hyul breaks free, grabs a spear, and holds it to Zhu-Di's throat. Zhu Di suddenly admits he can speak Korean and calls his men off. But he says Moo-Hyul has to die for threatening him, and his guards have to die for not protecting him. Bang-Won negotiates an arena fight instead. Moo-Hyul wins, and when Zhu Di grants him a request, he asks that the guards not be killed. They will be more loyal after this.

Bang-Won tries to negotiate passage through Liaodong, but gets nowhere. That night there is a second meeting and Bang-Won, realizing that a big table map of Ming indicates that Zhu Di is planning a takeover, connects with him over the idea that they were both passed over as heir. He gets clearance to go if he leaves Moo-Hyul with Zhu-Di

While Bang-Won is gone, Moo-Hyul practices and becomes better at fighting, the poor ex-king gets ex-ecuted, the capital moves to Seoul, and Boon-Yi's people settle in at Banchon and catch a spy from Moomyung. One of the dead king's relatives is there under another name with Sa-Gwang and two of the king's children.

Sambong has a secret meeting in the forest which Boon-Yi overhears. He is starting a clandestine group of scholars. The country is a tree and the king is a flower on the tree. This group is Hidden Root and it is to guide the king and help the people.

Historical note: In 1394 the deposed king was killed as well as many of his clan. Bang-Won went to Ming in June and returned in November. In October the capital was moved to Seoul.

Episode 43

  We resume with Sambong speaking several times to his secret followers. Bang-Won returns from Ming and is allowed to take Moo-Hyul home with him. Sambong tells Yeon-Hee she should return to private life, knowing Bang-Ji likes her.

Sambong plans to unify all the private armies into a national army. He has a ceremony which no one attends, so he tortures the officers. Meanwhile, Da-Kyung has hidden all their soldiers' weapons in a basement storeroom in Banchon. The dead king's children find an arrowhead there, and Sa-Gwang sees it.

Even though Bang-Won was a success in Ming and they granted travel permission, the nobles are angry because Ming thought he was the crown prince. Everyone else who went to Ming is tortured. These people are seriously heartless. The queen asks the king to protect the crown prince because she fears Bang-Won, but then Bang-Won makes a big scene and begs his little brother for forgiveness.
Ming claims that a recent letter from Joseon has insulted them and wants Sambong and the author handed over.

Historical note: The Ming did indeed call Bang-Won the crown prince but his prestige had grown so much that no one got angry about it. Lady Min did hide weapons, but no one knows where. The Ming Emperor demanded Jung Do-Jeon be handed over in June of 1396. The letter must have referred to his early life as a bandit and a monk, which would have infuriated him.

Episode 44

  The king decides against sending Sambong to Ming because he has been planning to invade Liaodong and they might not take it well. Sambong resigns all his offices and leaves town.
Jo Mal-Saeng, the scholar who helped Bang-Won when his father was injured, enters Sungkyunkwan. A follower of Lee Saek, Kwon Geun, decides to switch sides and help, and so does Bang-Won's friend from school days, Shin-Jeok. The queen, very ill, tries before she dies to get Bang-Won to promise to protect the crown prince but he refuses.

Moo-Hyul catches Sa-Gwang looking around a storage shed belonging to his grandmother. It's the place where the children found the arrowhead, but she says nothing. A young girl overhears Boon-Yi and Bang-Won talking and reports to Sambong's brother, Jung Do-Gwang.

The king pretends to visit Biguk temple but secretly meets Sambong in the old parliament building. They plan the invasion; since the Ming Emperor is dying and there might be a civil war, this is their best chance. Yoon-Hee and Bang-Ji seem the friendliest we have ever seen them. Bang-Won looks for his father but meets Moomyung instead (when you hear owls you know it's them) and they tell him about the Emperor dying. He knows that Zhu Di will invade Ming.

Historical note: In January of 1395 Young-Gyu died of an illness, but he is still alive in the drama. The queen died in August of 1396. Jung Do-Gwang is fictional but he and the girl (as town leader) appear in Tree with Deep Roots.

 Episode 45

We begin with Sambong demanding the king start a war and Yeon-Hyang demanding Bang-Won prevent it. On the way back to Seoul, Sambong advises Yoon-Hee and Bang-Ji to get married, and we see Bang-Ji holding her arm and helping her walk because of her hurt ankle.

The king announces to the court that Ming has killed their envoys. This means war, so they will attack Liaodong. Ha Ryun and his aide Lee Seok-Beon are made commanders in two outlying provinces; they decide to raise soldiers for when the king abolishes private troops.

Bang-Won takes gifts to Sambong and Bang-Seok, the crown prince. This is what he had done with the three bullies he had killed in school. And then no one goes to the military training. The king demands the princes and officers show up for pardons, and while this is going on the private soldiers are rounded up and their weapons confiscated.

Young-Gyu goes to the storage shed and a small boy follows him and sees the weapons. It's the dead king's child, and just as Young-Gyu decides he can't kill a child, Sa-Gwang arrives and attacks. Young-Gyu's wild slash accidentally hits the boy fatally so Sa-Gwang kills him and takes the child away. Bang-Won is so distraught that Young-Gyu is dead that he vows to kill Sambong and Bang-Seok.

Historical note: The Ming Emperor killed Joseon envoys in1396.  The scene with Young-Gyu and Sa-Gwang is entirely fictional; this is just a more dramatic way for him to die.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Six Flying Dragons Synopsis: Episodes 36-40

Episode 36 

When it is dark Bang-Won leaves the house with Bang-Ji, Young-Gwa, and some red shirts. I mean guys with red headbands. Moo-Hyul finds out that they are gone, and knowing they will meet up with Cheok Sa-Gwang, chases after them.

Sa-Gwang feels a disturbance in the Force and sends Poeun on to the palace and waits. When Bang-Ji arrives she kills the red shirts right away and then tries to dissuade him. After a first skirmish she tells him she can't hold back because he's too strong, and they wound each other before Moo-Hyul arrives. He sees that she is preparing the strike she used to slice the palanquin and yells at Bang-Ji to avoid the blow. Then it is two against one until Moo-Hyul, dropping his sword, rushes her and they go over a cliff together.

Poeun and his servant proceed unmolested until they reach Seonjuk bridge, where Bang-Won is waiting. He tries to talk Poeun around and then Young-Gyu comes up with the mace and hits Poeun several times. Bang-Won has Sambong let out of jail and tells him Poeun is dead. The General is furious until Sambong convinces him they can only go forward and they have to accuse Poeun as a traitor.

 Moo-Hyul comes to at the foot of the cliff and can't bring himself to kill Sa-Gwang. When she wakes up he is gone but has bandaged her wounds. When he returns later to check on her she comes from behind with a sword to his neck and asks what happened?

Historical note: The killing of Poeun took place in April in 1392, in the daytime. Bang-Won wasn't there at all; he sent Young-Gyu with some men to do it. Poeun was on a horse, Young-Gyu tried to hit him and then hit the horse. Poeun fell off and ran away, but the other men chased him down and actually killed him in the city street.

Episode 37

Bang-Won challanges Sambong that there was never a place for him in the new country. He admits there wasn't until Bang-Won killed Poeun. We revisit Sa-Gwang with her sword to Moo-Hyul's neck, where he tells her that Poeun is dead and the king is still safe and will likely be dethroned. Sambong has Poeun declared a traitor and makes sure the General isn't blamed for his death. Yeon-Hyang tries to get Sambong to change his mind about land reform and gets nowhere.

Then King Gongyang is escorted out of town and General Yi and his wife Lady Kang are crowned as King Taejo and Queen Sindeok. The new king excitedly pushes through the first civil service exams only to be deflated when no one comes. Scholars keep disappearing and are finally traced to a village in the nearby mountains where they are hiding. Prince Bang-Won offers to persuade them to return, but after a short interchange he has the village set on fire.

Historical note: King Taejo was crowned in July 1392. No one knows if this village was real or not. It was a folk tale until it was written down about 350 years after it was supposed to have happened. However King Taejo is supposed to have ordered the fire.

Episode 38

Bang-Won orders his archers to fire the village. Some scholars remain and die in the fire, but the rest run out and are arrested and left in jail without food for three days. When they are fed and let out they quietly go home and accept government jobs. One of them is Hwang Hui, who vows revenge.

King Taejo's oldest son, Bang-Woo, refuses to be crown prince. Jo Joon advises that Bang-Won be chosen instead because he has contributed so much. Sambong counters that he is the one son they should not choose because of his having killed Poeun.

The queen takes her youngest son, Bang-Seok, to have his fortune told by a monk and is told he has a great future only if he becomes king. The Kunoichi, now led by Yoon-Hee, catch one of Boon-Yi's villagers following the queen and beat him up. She complains and is told to send them all home.

Yeon-Hyang has a meeting of Moomyung leaders attended by the monk who did the fortune-telling. She later meets with Bang-Won to sponsor the youngest son as crown prince, which will create problems and then Bang-Won can step in as the obvious best choice.

Historical note: Hwang Hui was a very respected prime minister and shows up later in Tree With Deep Roots. Yi Bang-Woo went to live in a mountain hermitage and died of an illness in 1393.

Episode 39

Sambong becomes prime minister and head of the army. Taejo names Bang-Seok as crown prince and publishes a list of people who contributed to founding the new nation. None of the older princes are on the list, but Moo-Hyul and Young-Gyu are promoted.

Yeon-Hyang tells Bang-Won that Moomyung began during Shilla times with a merchant network and he agrees to work with them. She decides to reactivate a group called Hwado (rice-sword) and sends Yooksan to Kanggye on the north border to meet them.

Sa-Gwang and the deposed king enjoy living in retirement, being friendly with the guards.

Sambong poses as a merchant and goes to the northern border to talk to Jurchen chiefs. He wants them to settle in Liaodong as allies when Joseon takes it back from Ming.  Da-Kyung has Boon-Yi send someone to follow him and report. Waiting for one of the merchants, Sambong sees a red stamp and finds the seal it's from.  Bang-Ji cuts it in half; they stamp the two parts together and it becomes the red stamp of Moomyung. The merchant who comes in is Yuksan.

Historical note: The older princes were actually left off the contributor's list; Bang-Won added them when he became king. Many Jurchens were ethnic Koreans who had moved there when they lost their land or during wars. Liaodong had once belonged to Goryeo and they kept trying to get it back.

Episode 40

 Sambong and Yuksan wonder how much the other knows. Sambong sends a report via Kunoichi but the teenager Boon-Yi sent filches it and hands it off to his companion. He is killed and the companion takes the body and the report home. Madam Cho realizes the seal has been used and she and Yuksan evacuate before they can be caught.

Boon-Yi calls Bang-Won and Sambong together to get them to reconcile, and when it fails, offers to sell the report. Sambong offers to let her people live in Banchan village and serve Sungkyunkwan, so she gives him the report. Bang-Won's school friend who has been working for Sambong all this time asks to work for him instead, but he is suspicious he is a spy.

Madam Cho receives a letter from Bang-Won and rushes to his house, but it wasn't from him; it was a forgery. Before she can leave Sambong arrives and finds them together, proving that Bang-Won is working with Moomyung. The king arrives and orders them arrested.

Historical note: Bang-Won was never arrested. Banchan was a village that provided food, books, and other services to Sungkyunkwan. It was independent and neither police nor army were allowed in.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Six Flying Dragons Synopsis: Episodes 31-35

Episode 31

Sambong explains to Poeun that in the new country the royal family will be figureheads and actual power will belong to the prime minister, who will be Poeun. Bang-Won reports that they captured Madam Cho, but not what he overheard. Meantime Gil Sun-Mi asks if Yooksan should report being tricked by Bang-Won, indicating that Yooksan isn't the top boss.

Poeun decides to remain loyal to Goryeo and tells the king they need the land reform so they can get taxes, and they have to let Lee Saek get impeached and split up General Yi and Sambong. The king is so impressed that he has Sa-Gwang guard Poeun.

Bang-Won lets Madam Cho go, saying that Yeon-Hyang's children are looking for her and that he will work with Moomyung if they release her. He tells Sambong that he is going to pretend to go along with Moomyung. Gil Sun-Mi finds Cho and  admits he had lied that Yeon-Hyang's children were dead.

Bang-Won does his hair into a topknot for the first time, moves into his own house, and starts his own private army - to be trained Master Hong. He meets Ha Ryun, who is being exiled along with Lee Saek, to say he will wait for him to return. Da-Kyung tells Boon-Yi that her villager spies will be paid by the Min family and to take orders from Bang-Won, not Sambong. Then Bang-Won lures Boon-Yi into a snowball fight and tells her play is over now.

Historical note: Bang-Won moved into a house owned by his father, not by his father-in-law. Men usually began wearing their hair in a topknot when they married.

Chapter 32

Bang-Won tells Boon-Yi that he asked Moomyung about her mother. Then he asks her to say his name one more time and to speak formally after that, and kisses her just once.

The lady with the hood takes him to a meeting where he figures out she is the leader. They tell him Moomyung started 700 years before. He asks if they know Yeon-Hyang and repeats that her children are looking for her. He can tell this is a shock.

When Gil Sun-Mi arrives later the leader, who is Yeon-Hyang herself, takes him to task. He says he lied because there was infighting in Moomyung and she united them, and claims that she deserted them first and went back to her home town.

General Yi complains about being able to order the execution of the king  but can't manage the land measurement. The nobles as well as Moomyung are interfering. Eyeliner Monk finds out that King Gongyang's messenger is the woman servant and they waylay her next time she goes out. Moo-Hyul happens along and stops them, but when he leaves they attack again and she beats them with the flat of a sword. Yooksan realizes then that she is Cheok Sa-Gwang.

The nobles mourning for General Choi are distracted by Sambong piling up all the land records in the market and setting fire to it. They burn for several days.

Historical note: General Choi was beheaded in 1388 and Kings U and Chang were forced to take poison in 1389. The land registers were burned in September 1390.

Chapter 33

Sambong is arrested for burning the tax records, but he is happy because it will force the land reform. Yeon-Hyang shows up to talk to Boon-Yi and tell her that she has her own life and not to look for her any more.

Da-Kyung reminds Bang-Won that she is the only person really on his side and asks him why he does nothing. He tells her about the plan for the king to have no power, and that he has been pretending to hunt Moomyung, paying Biguk temple for info, and building his own forces.

Back out of jail, Sambong now attacks Buddhist temples, which have lots of slaves and own a third of the land in Goryeo because nobles donate land to them to evade the law. General Yi, being a Buddhist, objects. No sooner has Sambong talked the General around then Bang-Woo gets in a fight with someone trying to curry favor for when he becomes crown prince. He tells his father that their family has had enough traitors, and it will stop with him. He will always be loyal.

Poeun decides he has to stop Sambong, so he sends someone to Sambong's home town. They come back with proof that Sambong's great-grandmother had been a slave, and he has deceived everyone as to the class he belongs to. The guards take him away in disgrace, pretty similar to the beginning of the episode.

Historical note: Sambong was impeached for this reason in September 1391, exiled, and his sons were declared commoners.

Chapter 34

Boon-Yi tells her brother and Yoon-Hee about seeing her mother, and that she deserted them to be in Moomyung. Bang-Ji doesn't want to accept it.

Poeun talks the king into exiling Sambong and they recall Lee Saek and Ha Ryun. Sambong is sent away in a closed palanquin so his followers can't find him. When General Yi can't get Poeun to rescind the order he resigns. The king disallows it and the General leaves town to go hunting.

 Yeon-Hyang decides to support Poeun and sends Gil Sun-Mi to kill the General. But someone else's arrow spooks the general's horse and he is thrown and hurt badly. Poeun has Officer Nam and Jo Joon arrested, and talks the king into executions.

 Bang-Won sends Bang-ji to be with Sambong and goes to find his father. When Poeun's men arrive he sends out two palanquins as red herrings and takes his father away on a cart. The men fight Ji Ran  for one palanquin and Sa-Gwang attacks the other. She amazes Moo-Hyul by slicing hers in half with two swords. They are both empty.

Historical note: Yi Seong-Gye was badly injured by a fall from a horse in March 1392 when hunting. His followers were exiled and Bang-Won sneaked him back home in the middle of the night.

Chapter 35

Pulling his father on the cart, Bang-Won comes across Jo Mal-Saeng, a rural scholar who helps them. They return to town dressed in white as a funeral procession with the General in the coffin.

Bang-Ji tries to talk Sambong into escaping but he refuses. He and the other exiles are sent back to Gaegyong. Moo-Hyul sees Sa-Gwang escorting Poeun and follows. She turns back to talk to him and they make a connection over not liking to kill but being loyal to friends.

Bang-Won keeps the doctor in the house and sends talkative Granny to buy medicine and pretend the General isn't badly hurt. Moomyung finds the doctor who treated the General when he first fell off the horse and discovers the seriousness of the injuries.

Poeun visits the General, who tries to talk him around around; Goryeo didn't protect the people from pirates or even the greedy nobles. Unmoved, Poeun leaves and orders the executions. Bang-Won decides the only way out is to kill Poeun. When night falls Young-Gyu brings a mace and they leaves the house with Bang-Ji and a small group of men. Poeun is escorted only by Sa-Gwang and one servant.

Historical note: Yi Seon-Gye and Jung Mong-Joo (Poeun) met in 1364 when the General was fighting the Jurchens and had been friends for 28 years. Poeun was a diplomat who could keep foreigners from invading. He was known for using his own money to pay Japanese pirates to let captives go free.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Six Flying Dragons Synopsis: Episodes 26-30

Episode 26

We review Kim Nae Pyung bringing the leaf-and-sword message to Minister Lee in Episode 2. He pops up again now, as Monk Ryukjong and Gil Sun-Mi send him to assassinate whoever wins the fight at the banquet. As General Yi passes through the courtyard where the dead soldiers are laid out, Pyung jumps up from among them and attacks. He is captured and everyone is stunned when he kills himself.

The injured are recuperating, there is a lot of making, delivering, and eating medicine. Bang-Won worries who sent that assassin. He takes Boon-Yi and Moo-Hyul to ID the body and decides it's the man who helped Ha Ryun steal Jo Joon's papers. Ha sees the body too and is surprised; Minister Lee had him looking for this person for 10 years.

There is a lot of negotiation as Sambong tries to get Poeun and Lee Saek to cooperate. Lee Saek wants to return the old king and to remeasure the land. Sambong counters that the king live 40 miles away until the reform goes through.

The sword-and-leaf people try the three-letter trick again and follow Boon-Yi and Bang-Won to the secret cave. Sambong realizes they are from an organization of King Gongmin's day called Moomyung (Nameless). Just then Poeun arrives, having received a letter with directions to the cave.

Historical note: Moomyung is a fictional group from an earlier drama by the same writers called Queen Seondeok and set about 650 AD.

Episode 27

Poeun (Jung Mong-Joo) is shocked at the big map naming a new country. Sambong (Jung Do-Jeon) spends the night explaining his plan. Poeun likes the civil service exams replacing nepotism, but not the revolution part. He talk to General Yi about it and then goes to see Prince Wang Yo, thinking he would be a better king than the 8-year-old they have. The prince says he would rather live a happy private life with the woman he loves.

The land surveys get derailed because the people doing them are murdered. Sambong hatches a plan to pretend to do a secret survey, but in reality to lure in the culprit to an ambush. Gil Sun-Mi turns up and escapes during the fight, but one of his men is captured. Bang-Ji trails Gil to a temple in the forest, where he sees an old woman being led by another woman in a hood. He recognizes the younger one as his mother.

Historical note: Prince Wang Yo was descended from King Sinjong, who became king in 1197. The woman with him is fictional.

Chapter 28

 By the time Bang-Ji and Sambong follow the hooded woman she has disappeared. Bang-Ji goes home to tell Boon-Yi their mother isn't dead, but she already knew. When she was a child the man with the sword-leaf tattoo had appeared one night with a code message and their mother had replied with another code and then disappeared the next day.

Deposed King U receives a visit from a nobleman who offers a skilled assassin named Cheok to kill General Yi and put U back on the throne. A serving woman who comes in is the same old lady that we saw with Bang-ji's mother.

The land reform is debated again in parliament and no one is willing to do the surveying because of the murders. Finally Sambong promises Poeun not to revolt and Poeun throws his support for the land reform, with the other nobles following him.

On the orders of Moomyung leader Yooksan, Gil Sun-Mi gives Bang-Ji an appointment to meet his mother. Meantime Gil's man who was captured is refusing to talk, so Bang-Won decides to let him escape and follow him. Cheok follows him and stabs him however, so when he sees Boon-Yi he tells her a message and a date. Cheok overhears and is about to kill her as well, but Boon-Yi repeats the code that the Moomyung agent had said to her mother. He responds with the same reply her mother had given.

Historical note: In November 1389 a nephew of General Choi met with deposed King U and plotted to assassinate General Yi. Unfortunately for them, they asked someone else to help who turned them in and the plot was foiled.

Chapter 29

When the assassin mentions Master Gil, Boon-Yi realizes he means Gil Sun-Mi and is able to send him away. The date she heard matches up with the day the deposed King U is sending a gift for General Yi as well as the day Bang-Ji is to see his mother. They decode the message to mean that General Yi will be killed.

When King U's soldiers come with the gift they attack but are stopped by Yi's men. They kill themselves, which Yooksan had ordered them to do. Cheok breaks out of a cart, fights Bang-Ji and Moo-Hyul and gets away. They track him to the edge of a cliff, which Bang-Ji thinks he might know how to descend safely.

Bang-Ji practices catching a bowl of water on his sword, though Master Hong says he does it wrong. He once worked for the Cheok family and knows their technique. Bang-Gwa finds Cheok's body but Master Hong says it is not the famous Cheok Sa-Gwang who is a girl. This one is her brother.

Poeun again tries to talk Prince Wang Yo into being king. Young-Gyu identifies the prince's servant as the guard who had the leaf-stamp letter back in Episode 1, so Bang-Won sends assassins after him. That night the prince tries to run away but is hit by a poison dart. Yooksan offers him the antidote if he will become king and leaves him to decide. The assassins attack the servant and nearly spill the antidote, but the prince's fiancee turns out to be Cheok Sa-Gwang. She kills the assassins and catches the cup of antidote on her sword.

Historical note: There was a warrior in the 12th century named Cheok who was famous for his exploits. The Cheoks in this story are fictional but supposed to be his descendents.

Chapter 30

Cheok Sa-Gwang promises to protect the prince and he drinks the antidote. She then realizes their servant had betrayed them and kills him too. She explains that she learned to fight from her grandfather but never liked it and renounced the sword. Yooksan returns to see the prince and finds three dead bodies instead.

The 8-year-old is dethroned and Prince Wang Yo is crowned King Gongyang. Cheok Sa-Gwang becomes his bodyguard.

Bang-Won and Ha Ryun talk strategy and decide that either the Biguk temple or the gisaeng house (or both) is Moomyung. Bang-Won knows that they will want to find out about the assassins, so he puts a note mentioning "Maengdo Chilyak" in the ledger kept by the assassin's boss. Whoever knows that phrase will be Moomyung.

Both Madam Cho and Eyeliner Monk send for the ledger and give it to Yooksan. Looking for spies, Cho sends Yoon-Hye to check on Sambong, but follows to overhear their conversation about meeting Poeun. When Yoon-Hye lies that she doesn't know where they will meet, Cho has the kunoichi hold her and goes to spy on the meeting. But she mentions Maengdo Chilyak, so Yoon-Hye is able to get the kunoichi to side with her against Moomyung. Bang-Won arrests Cho quietly at the meeting and listens in himself. He is shocked to hear their plan that the king will be powerless.

Historical note: King Gongyang was crowned in 1389, the last of the kings of Goryeo. The rumor that King U may not have been a son of King Gongmin was really used as an excuse to overthow him and his son. Maengdo Chilyak is something made up for the drama. It means fierce-drawing-laquer-throw.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Six Flying Dragons Synopsis: Episodes 21-25

Episode 21

General Yi, having decideed to refuse the kings' order to cross the Yalu, gets General Jo to go along with him. Jo will agree to return home only if they depose the king, or they will be killed as traitors.

One of Lady Kang's (wife of General Yi)  sons has asthma. Boon-Yi and Da-Kyung send for his medicine, to give Bang-Won a hint of where they are. He thinks of the same thing, and watches doctors to see who orders the walnut medicine.

Ji Ran sends Young-Gyu to warn Bang-Won to evacuate the family, and Moo-Hyul to retrieve the two older brothers. Moo-Hyul arrives just as the brothers are fighting the guards and helps them escape. Bang-Won follows the medicine lead to finds his family gone; they were moved to Minister Lee's empty mansion. Sambong remembers a secret passage about the time Boon-Yi finds it by watching smoke in a draft from the hidden door. Bang-Ji fights off the soldiers as they escape, and Young-Gyu gets them to the General outside the city.

Historical note: May 22: the retreat began; May 24: Bang-Woo and Bang-Gwa escaped the king's camp; May 29: the king arrived at Gaegyung and ordered the Yi family captured, but Bang-Won had already taken them to Hamju and joined his father. Walnuts are used for asthma in Chinese traditional medicine.

Episode 22

Generals Yi and Jo surround Gaegyong while Bang-Won visits nobles to convince them to keep out of the battle. Boon-yi sends up lanterns to signal the army that the gate is clear. Yi's horns blowing, the rush to the city wall, the horsemen breaking in, to the fighting on the balconies, all are reminiscent of the attack on Helm's Deep. General Choi meets Yi and surrenders.

Cue townspeople cheering the soldiers. Choi in jail tells Poeun he worries about revolution but Poeun says it won't happen. Yi and Jo divvy out government positions and agree on Prince Jungchang as the next king. Poeun calls in senior scholar Lee Saek for advice and offers assistance to General Yi.

Everyone is shocked by a folksong circulating in town that hints at Yi becoming king. Bang-Won tracks it to a peddler who claims an elderly man asked him to teach it. Thinking it was Minister Lee, Officer Nam is sent to arrest him only to find he had already died 15 days before.

General Jo, Lee Saek, and the Dowager Queen all receive letters from Minister Lee to meet in secret, only to find a message that "Chang reaches Yi." They propose to the government that King U's 8-year-old son Chang be the new king. We see the peddler, now dressed as a nobleman, remembering teaching the song and leaving the letters. He is Ha Ryun, who had been exiled for opposing the attack on Ming.

Historical note: June 1: Generals Yi and Jo reach Gaegyong, June 3: the battle and deposing of King U. The scenes of Bang-won persuading the nobles was fiction. The folksong had been used as an excuse for revolts in the 12th century.

Chapter 23

General Yi confronts General Jo over tricking him about the new king, and Poeun and Sambong question Lee Saek about the same thing. General Jo and pals go to see Minister Lee but meet Ha Ryun instead, who tries to do a deal with them.  Bang-Won looks for whoever masqueraded as the peddler. Sambong figures it out, finds Ha Ryun, and the two trade barbs. Da-Kyung pays Monk Eyeliner to find out about Ha Ryun for her.

All this time Jo Joon has been going around the country measuring land and counting citizens. Sambong goes to a lot of trouble to recruit him as an ally for land reform and get him to work with General Yi. Ha Ryun hears about it too (he found out while looking into the leaf-and-sword seal for Minister Lee), interests Jo in the whole thing, and hires Madam Cho's ninjas to help.

Boon-yi explains the land reform to her brother and admits that she wants to go back to their hometown and farm their own land. He tells Yoon-Hee and asks if she would like to go too; she says no. When he leaves, disappointed, she whispers, "But thank you."

When Bang-Won goes for Jo Joon's research it's already been stolen by Ha's thugs. Tracking them down, Bang-Won makes off with the box of research papers while Bang-Ji and Moo-Hyul fight the thugs and a patrol of soldiers. They do pretty well against greater numbers until Gil Son-Mi (Gil Tae-Mi's twin) joins in. The Kunoichi ninjas catch Bang-Won; the leader says she's not authorized to kill him and takes him to Ha Ryun.

Historical note: Ha Ryun was a real person; he had married Minister Lee's niece, was an ally of Poeun and an adversary of Sambong.

Chapter 24

Ha Ryun calls in a kunoichi to open the wooden box and she turns out to be Boon-Yi. She and Bang-Won tie him up and escape - he to lead the kunoichi away, she to take Jo Joon's papers. Gil Sun-Mi's fight ends when he finds out that Bang-Ji is the kid he left with Master Jung, and is Yeon Hyang's son.

In parliament Sambong sets the nobles against each other by only targeting people who own more than 2,000 acres for land reform. But he puts off telling Poeun about his full plans.

Yoon-Hee discovers General Jo's plan to pull a coup. She recognizes his servant Dae Geun as the man who raped her and faints from the shock. Moo-Hyul sees her, takes her to Bang-ji, and overhears the story when she comes to.

General Yi goes to talk down General Jo and is invited to a reconciliation banquet that night. The first sign of trouble is being asked to leave weapons outside. The second is Bang-Ji recognizing Dae Geun. What they don't know is that the room behind the banquet hall is full of assassins.

Historical note: Most of the land in Goryeo was owned by nobles and farmed by tenants, with several people levying tax on the same farm. Under reform the land could only be taxed once. Sambang wants to distribute land to people who will farm it; no big landowners. Jo Joon wants the king to distribute the land to the nobles but it can't be inherited.

Episode 25

General Yi, Bang-Woo, and Yi Ran enter the banquet hall while their guards eat in the courtyard. Bang-Ji is increasingly disturbed by Dae Geun. We see the villagers hoping for their own land, Poeun arguing with Lee Saek about supporting reform, Poeun and Ha Ryun about trusting people, and Sambong and Jo Joon about postponing the reform.

Ha Ryun takes Sambong out for drinks, bragging about advising General Jo. When he says he didn't request the party, Sambong realizes it's a trap and hurries to warn Bang-Won. He takes off alone while Da-Kyung runs to get Bang-Gwa.

Moo-Hyul sees Dae Geun and remembers Yoon-Hee fainting when she saw him. He links it to Bang-Ji's unrest and tries to get him to leave, but when Dae Geun starts on the rape story, it's Moo-Hyul who overturns the table. Bang-Ji burns an attacker to get his sword, which was tied on. Moo-Hyul catches another one he throws to him.

Bang-Woo is holding an axe to Jo's neck to keep the assassins off his father when Bang-Won bursts in through the secret passage shooting arrows. The General takes the bow and shoots with three arrows at a time. Moo-Hyul arrives wielding two swords. Just as they are are leaving, archers on the roof nearly attack but are foiled by Bang-Gwa's soldiers coming up behind them.

Bang-Ji sees Dae Geun sneaking away and follows with difficulty because of a stomach wound. Yoon-Hee comes around the corner and freezes when she sees her attacker but then grabs him and stabs him in the neck with a hairpin. He strangles her but Bang-Ji manages to stab him. "You ok?" he asks with his arm around her, "It's over."

Historical note: the whole banquet sequence is fiction. Yi Seong-Gye is recorded as having been able to shoot accurately using three arrows at once.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Six Flying Dragons Synopsis: Episodes 16-20

Episode 16

Minister Hong puts off his own impeachement by using a forged letter to accuse Jo Ban of planning to attack the palace. Bang-Won figures that it has been Hong's plan to attack the Haedonggap clans all along, but Sambong thinks he's after the General. Sure enough, Hong threatens Min Je to have his clan members sign a paper accusing Yi Seung-Gye instead.

Bang-Won finds out from his wife what Hong had said to her father. His father goes for help to General Choi while he confronts the Min clan. He and his brothers playing with a little gunpowder has given him an idea. He fills a small box with gunpowder and another with rocks and has Boon-Yi bring him one - he doesn't know which.

When the Min clan convene to discuss Hong's paper, Bang-Won shows up with his guards and the box. He lights the fuse and tells them to sign a different paper, this one charging Prime Minister Lee, Hong, and Gil with stealing land, taking bribes, and falsely accusing Jo Ban. They sign reluctantly and the box turns out to be filled with rocks. He knows they will never admit they were frightened into it.

Historical note: Hong In-Bang stealing land and accusing Jo Ban really happened, but Bang-Won did not really have the Min clan sign anything.

Episode 17

General Choi gets an order from the king to arrest the Evil Three and heads to the tribunal to get soldiers. Minister Hong gets there first however, and takes the soldiers to arrest General Yi. When they get to Yi's house everyone is gone, so he goes to the palace next. There he has a standoff with General Choi, but in the end the soldiers side with General Choi and arrest him.

Prime Minister Lee gets the news and calls for his generals to meet him in his secret room behind the bookcase. He tells General Jo Min-Soo to support Choi and Jo says he has already bought off one of Hong's servants.

Meantime General Yi has surrounded Gil Tae-Mi's house. There is a fight but Gil goes missing. He resurfaces to rescue Hong from about ten soldiers who run off. Hong decides to escape and Gil to stay. Boon-Yi's villagers are bringing in reports and they discover Hong's plan to escape in a small smuggler's boat. There he is met by his servant Dae Geun and arrested by General Jo and Officer Nam.

The tribunal soldiers find Gil in the giseang house. He is exhausted from killing about thirty of them, saying, "This is why you should never skip breakfast!" haha. Next we see him eating at a marketplace surrounded by about fifteen dead bodies. Soldiers collect around him, waiting for greater numbers, when Yi Bang-Ji arrives and challenges him.

Historical note: Jo Min-Soo was a general who supported General Yi at the Yalu River and General Choi in enthroning King U's son.

Episode 18

We pick up with Yi Bang-Ji's challenge and the epic sword fight with sweeping leaps on wires and twirls and kicks in the air. Bang-Ji knocks Gil's sword out of his hand but he pulls a couple of  longknives out of his robe. In the end Bang-Ji wins and the townspeople laugh and cheer.

Prime Minister Lee gets house arrest and Minister Hong and a few others get executed. In the crowd Boon-Yi recognizes Hong's servant Dae Geun as the man who raped Yoon-Hee and follows him to General Jo's house. Bang-Won goes home and chops down the tree he planted for Minister Hong.

Moo-Hyul tells Bang-Won that he wants to protect him for making the people smile. Ah what a puppy...enjoy it, it won't last forever.

Sambong asks General Yi to accept Lee's followers so he can oppose General Choi, who has a lot of land and will not like their reform ideas. Meantime Lee is telling General Choi that Yi will attack him in the end.
Eyeliner Monk Jukryeong, in jail for helping Hong, gets a visit from an old lady claiming to be his mother who brings him orders with the red leaf-and-sword stamp. Then he asks to see General Choi and sells him his logbook telling about things like the conspiracy to pass the border plan. Choi is furious and demands General Yi choose Sambong or him. Yi stands with Sambong.

Historical note: Gil Tae-Mi was a military officer before he was a government minister, but he was not a noted swordfighter. Choi and Yi had fought pirates together but Sambong and Yi were pretty tight friends.

Chapter 19

General Choi has a meeting at the gisaeng house with a Yuan merchant who has a very skilled bodyguard, and everyone else is refused entry.

Prime Minister Lee is exiled to his hometown and taken away in a jail cart. A man who looks like the one who brought him the note about King Gongmin's death drops him another one with the same leaf-and-sword stamp.

We get to meet King U, who is a complete jerk, terrorizing some palace ladies trying to play music. General Choi tries to moderate him, and then asks for help in a plan to increase power. The Ming have demanded the return of the land that Gongmin had gotten back from them. General Choi and the king go on a hunting trip with a ton of soldiers.

Sambong tricks Madam Cho into telling them that Eyeliner Monk was the person who set up the meeting with Choi and the Yuan merchant and that something is happening on the seventh day. Meantime, Bang-Won traces a cart of gold from Hong's house to Biguk temple, where they are caught and Boon-Yi has an expression. Monk Jukryong tells them the gold was traded for water buffalo horns, which are used in making bows, and the king is going to the Yalu River. They realize the king is going to attack Ming.

Historical note: Soldiers were really gathered on the excuse of going on a hunt. King U is supposed to have tried to be a good king at first, but gave up and fell into delinquincy when he couldn't counter the nobles who ran the government.

Chapter 20

General Yi argues against the king's ruinous plan to attack Liaodong, the closest part of Ming. The king and General Choi are unswayed; in fact, Choi has already killed the Ming envoys. He orders 50,000 men conscripted for the campaign.

Yi asks Sambong for advice and is told: revolution. They will arrest Choi and get the king to sign a retraction. Bang-Ji's men are posted near Choi's house, Bang-Won's and Officer Nam's near his allies, Young-Gyu will open the palace gate to Yi Ji-Ran's men, and the villagers watch to report any movement to Boon-Yi. The whole thing will depend on General Yi's decision; if he says Go, a black horse will run. If it is No Go, it will be a white horse. They are disappointed when Shin-Jeok rides the white horse.

We get an amazing scene of the  army cheering General Choi as Generals Yi and Jo look on. Choi ends up staying with the king however, and the other two head north. Choi orders the Yi family held as hostages and Bang-Woo and Bang-Gwa to stay with the king.

The army gets bogged down at the Yalu river because of the rains and flooding. Many soldiers die trying to construct a bridge, some getting sick and others running away. A group of deserters is brought to General Yi for execution, but one of the officers refuses to do it. He had been one of the fake Japanese pirates captured back in Episode 8 who had joined Yi's army for a chance to protect his people from invaders. He would rather get killed himself than rob 100,000 parents of their sons. The General decides to protect the citizens from the king.

Historical note: The Liaodong expedition was in the summer of 1388 during the monsoon season, but it was filmed in the winter. General Choi didn't go because King Gongmin had been killed when Choi was away, and King U was afraid of the same thing. The white/black horse plot was fiction.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Six Flying Dragons Synopsis: Episodes 11-15

Episode 11:

 Prime Minister Lee gets back at Ministers Hong and Gil with some nicely placed forgeries and ends up arresting Bang-Won for secretly meeting with Hong. They torture him and he holds up mainly because he doesn't want to be like Minister Hong, who caved immediately.

Bang-Gwa is sent to the capital with their father's refutation of the border plan, but Bang-Woo doesn't use it. He decides that arresting one of them is an act of war against their family.

Boon-Yi asks Minister Hong for help and he lets her visit Bang-Won after the first day of torture. She takes food. Minister Lee plants another forgery on Bang-Won but Sambong sends Yoon-Hee to replace it with the one Ddang-Sae wrote about killing Baek-Yoon. Now all the ministers worry that General Yi will be down on them with his army.

Speaking of whom, he is busy at the moment turning back an invasion, but the next thing on his agenda is getting his kid back.

Historical note: In August 1383 the Jurchen chief Hibaldo, allied with Ming, invaded Goryeo and was winning until General Yi arrived. Hibaldo escaped but most of his men were killed.

Episode 12

While the ministers plot against each other, Officer Nam Eun is assigned to conduct the investigation (read: torture) of Bang-Won. Everyone thinks Nam will be fair because he hates the Prime Minister, but they are secretly accomplices.

Madam Cho sends her head ninja kunoichi to kill Yak San, the man who planted the letter in Bang-Won's room. She fights Eyeliner Monk's men and then Bang-Woo. He arrests Yak San and sends him to be interrogated by Officer Nam as well. Nam hears the confession and reports to PM Lee.

Moo-Hyul brings his family to live in town, including ex-swordmaster Hong who is now the family servant, paying back all he swindled from them.

PM Lee's people pretend to let Yak San escape and then shoot him. But surprise: he has armor and Moo-Hyul helps him get away. Meantime Officer Nam tells Bang-Won his father died, which makes him nearly hopeless. Until Nam says it was a siege. Bang-Won isn't fooled because his father never holds out in a fort but always attacks.

Yi Seong-gye shows up to first, order PM Lee to let his kid go; second, to appear at the not-so-secret cave and tell Sambong that he's ready to work together; and third, spring Yak-San on the parliament to prove his kid is innocent.

Bang-Won is taken from prison with a bag over his head and released to find Officer Nam and Sambong  together. Surprise again: the man who tortured him is on their side and they have to work together.

Historical note:  Nam Eun was a real person who helped found the Joseon dyansty.

Episode 13

Searching for the mystery fighter who rescued Boon-Yi from Eyeliner Monk, Gil Tae-Mi visits the acting troupe. Gab-Boon recognizes him though, so another actor meets him as Ddang-Sae watches.

Boon-Yi takes Bang-Won to a doctor. When he hugs her she says she hasn't got feeings for him. In reality she knows their class status is too far apart.

General Yi breaks ties with Minister Hong, feeling that he no longer owes him for helping pass the border plan. Prime Minister Lee is deposed, which Sambong thinks was a big mistake for Hong. Hong then asks the wealthy Haedonggap clan to be allies.

 At this point we meet Min Je (pen name Eoeun), the head of that clan, and his daughter Da-Kyung. She tells her father Hong blew it because PM Lee protected him from General Choi. Ooh...she's as smart as Sambong!

Ddang-Sae and Gab-Boon try to leave the city but Eyeliner Monk's men find them and use a paralyzing dart. Ddang-Sae hides in the gibang, where he overhears Madam Cho instructing her kunoichi. He recognizes Yoon-Hee there and when the drug wears off, trails her to a meeting with Sambong. He confronts her with being a double spy and she confronts him with being Venomous Magpie.

Historical note: It was considered disrespectful to call a high noble by his real name so pen names were often used. Da-Kyung is Lady Min, who will become queen of Joseon. No one kept records of women's names in those days, so the writers made one up.

Episode 14

Sambong decides he needs the support of Haedonggap clan and sends Poeun to talk them over. But while he is there, Madam Cho arrives with a marriage offer from Minister Hong.

Ddang-Sae and Gap-Boon argue because it's dangerous to stay in town and he's decided to stay and help Yoon-Hee.

Bang-Won visits the Min family to offer an alliance. When Da-Kyung refuses, he asks if they are afraid of Hong, and suggests a way to get out of the marriage. The next time Minister Hong comes, Min Je is busy yelling at his daughter for seeing a man secretly, and the marriage is called off.

Yoon-Hee reports to Madam Cho that she's joined Sambong's spy group. Officer Nam catches her and takes her to Sambong, where Ddang-Sae overhears them talking. He urges Yoon-Hee to go away from it all and is stunned to hear his sister is a spy too. He leaves a letter for her, but Bang-Won intercepts and is amazed that Venomous Magpie is Boon-Yi's brother.

Yoon-Hee sees a famous assassin in town and is afraid he's after Sambong, at a secret meeting with General Yi. She sends out an alarm. Ddang-Sae shows up and tells Sambong to leave his sister alone, but as he is leaving he feels the aura of the assassin. Bang-Won and Moo-Hyul race to the scene as the General calls out his men.

Historical note: Haedong is an old name for Korea. Gap means noble. They are the oldest noble clans, who have been around for about 700 years, ever since the Silla kingdom.

Episode 15

The assassin kills the guards but Yoon-Hee arrives to throw chalk in his face and pull Sambong away. When the assassin finds them she fights back with a sword and then Ddang-Sae engages him. A second assassin attacks, Yoon-Hee breaks a stale-mate with a hair-pin, and Moo-Hyul joins the fray. He plants himself in the earth and slices a third attacker out of the air. They kill two assassins and the General arrives in time to shoot the other in the foot. It's great to have a fight in the daytime so you can see what's going on.

We get a tearful brother-sister-childhood friend reunion. The General accepts Ddong-Sae as his son, gives him the name Yi Bang-Ji, and assigns him as Sambong's bodyguard.

Bang-Won and Da-Kyung marry. She tells him she won't sleep with him until his family proves successful. General Choi warns that it will be hard to get that clan to help with politics, which proves true.

Yi Bang-Ji practices his moves, remembering his teacher saying that if you are fast enough blood doesn't stay on the sword, and that he will improve to match anyone he fights against. Well, he fought Gil Tae-Mi. He sends Moo-Hyul to get Gab-Boon and all his stuff. Gil Tae-Mi sees Moo-Hyul strutting around in the Venemous Magpie outfit and takes him on in a little fight. He knows immediately he's not the real Magpie and wonders if this is a new fashion trend? Haha.

Minister Hong confiscates some of the Min family land and breaks ancestral tablets. But it's a trap. When the owner, Jo Ban, retaliates, he is captured and falsely accused of treason.

Historical note: The General gives Ddang-Sae the family name (Yi), the generation name for brothers and cousins (Bang), and a given name with the same meaning (land). Jo Ban is a real person who became a diplomat and a translator for Bang-Won.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Six Flying Dragons Summary: Episodes 6-10

Episode 6

Bang-Won tries to get Boon-Yi to escape before the guards catch her for setting fire to the granary. But Sambong told her if she ever needed to find him, to go to a man who sells wooden plates in the market. (in Episode 2 he tied up Ddang-Sae in the cabin.)  Bang-Won recognizes her little wooden figurine and follows her to find out who owns that secret cave.

Moo-Hyul confronts Master Hong with lying in order to continue being paid for teaching. He admits it and Grandma tells Moo-Hyul to go out and get a reputation so he can earn money. He goes to the market and sees Boon-Yi. Who he has a crush on.

Gab-Boon asks her old beggar leader how to find Sambong. He says ask the guy who sells wooden plates. Hong In-Bang asks Eyeliner Monk how to find Sambong and gets the same answer.

Everyone converges on the poor guy who is attacked but gets away. Boon-Yi walks into his shop and is bagged up and delivered to Biguk Temple. Seen by Bang-Wan and Ddang-Sae.  Eyeliner Monk asks her about a coded message on a leather strip. Minister Hong comes to question her but gets sidetracked reminding Bang-Won about tormenting him when he was a student. There is a pretty good fight when Ddang-Sae arrives, highlighted by his jump from a pagoda shrine 15 feet in the air to attack Eyeliner. While all this is going on Moo-Hyul makes off with Boon-Yi as slick as you please.

Bang-Won goes back to the market where the wooden plate guy sees that he has a wooden figurine and gives him another coded message strip before expiring. We watch as Bang-Won and Boon-Yi separately pull a core out of the figurine and wrap the leather strip around it. The letters line up down the stick and tell them to go to Hamju and follow Yi Seong-Gye.

Historical note: Matching rods made to use with coded messages strips were called scytale (rhymes with Italy) and used in ancient Greece.

Episode 7

Boon-Yi brings Moo-Hul to Hamju, tells the all too common tale of losing her home to rich officials, and gets admitted to the camp. Bang-Won comes a little later and finds that a letter advocating protecting the border and gathering people is circulating there. He runs across his old school friend Hao Kang, now called Lee Shin-Jeok, and knows he's behind the letter.

Shin-Jeok kidnaps Boon-Yi (how many times is this?) pulls out her wooden figurine and accuses her as a spy. She just asks to see Sambong pronto and shows that Shin-Jeok has a figurine hanging around his neck too. This is all watched by Bang-Won and spies of Minister Hong who followed her here.

Madam Cho of the gisaeng house pools information with Monk Eyeliner to realize there is a new secret organization somewhere and sends out her lady ninjas. Minister Hong and Gil Tae-Mi plot against Prime Minister Lee.  Lee listens to a fortuneteller who tells him his path is in the northeast (where Hamju is).

Shin-Jeok agrees to bring the secret leader if Bang-Won brings his father. They both come alone however, and get kidnapped by Minister Hong's spies. Moo-Hyul rescues Bang-Won again and piggybacks him (he's wounded) home in time to see Sambong show up and stop the General from executing Boon-Yi.

Historical note: Women ninjas called kunoichi existed in Japan in the 16th and 17th centuries. They were primarily used in espionage, including posing as maids and geishas.

Episode 8

Sambong tells General Yi that he has been sending people to him to secure the border and to show  how cruelly the government treats the commoners. Shin-Jeok (Hao Kang) and several others corroborate this. In a flashback we see that the General captured fake Japanese pirates, and when they told him that the government  had taken everything from them, he added them to his own army.

Sambong says he can tell the General's prime concern is to protect the people, and that can't happen as long as the three corrupt ministers are running things. They need a new government and General Yi needs to be the new king.

Bang-Won has overheard the whole thing and tries to encourage his father. When that goes nowhere he finds the paper about stabilizing the border, stamps it with his father's seal, and sends Shin-Jeok to Gaegyeong with it. Boon-Yi had caught Bang-Won with the stamp and he ties her up until she promises to not give him away.

General Choi Young orders Prime Minister Lee to lower the taxes, but he can't get the Evil Three to do it until he suggests bringing General Yi into the government. Since that worked so well, the prime minister rewards his fortuneteller. Minister Hong has Eyeliner Monk question this fortuneteller, and she tells them she is an actress hired by Sambong. She has a badly scarred face, but when she leaves she pulls off her latex appliance and we see she is Yoon-Hee. Sambong meets with Minister Hong and gets him to conspire against the prime minister.

Historical note: Pirates from outlying Japanese islands like Tsushima attacked Korea many times beginning about 1350, 175 raids being recorded from 1376 to 1385.

Episode 9 

After Yoon-Hee reports to Sambong she reports to her other boss, Madam Cho. She has a fake name here and doesn't tell Madam Cho everything.

Flashback to that meeting between Sambong and Minister Hong. He told Hong to side with Gil Tae-Mi and General Yi and drop Prime Minister Lee and General Choi.  General Yi would go along if the border stabilization plan passes parliament.

Sambong visits Boon-yi's people and has them complain to General Choi that their land had been taken away and registered to Hong's servant instead of the government. A furious General Choi arrests the servants. Hong realizes he's in trouble.

Now Sambong sends Yoon-Hee to pose as a noblewoman and hire Ddang-Sae's acting troupe to put on a a play about Gil Tae-Mi killing Baek Yoon. This happened back in Episode 4 but it was Ddang-Sae who'd done it. He recognizes her but she tells him to pretend he doesn't.

Minister Hong sends Eyeliner Monk to Hamju to ask what reward he will get if the border stabilization plan passes. When the General realizes what happened with the seal he arrests the monk and sends son #2 to Gaegyeong with a note that he did not send in the border proposal. Bang-Won chases down Bang-gwa and ties him to a tree.

The play starts such rumors that General Choi decides to push Hong and Gil out of power, but Prime Minister Lee wants to save his longtime friend Gil. He tells Gil to join them against Hong, but Gil decides they will give up half their assets instead and lie low for a while.

Meantime Ddang-Sae has seen his desolate home town and come for revenge against Hong. Gil Tae-Mi duels him and it's not till Madam Cho's ninja girls pitch in that Ddang-Sae runs off. But Hong and Gil think Prime Minister Lee had sent the assassin, and they vote against Lee and for the border plan.

Historical note: In 1383 General Yi defeated the Mongol invaders (Hobaldo in Episode 11), met Sambong, and submitted the border plan. Bang-Won using the seal was fiction.

Episode 10

Now that the border plan has passed, Bang-Won hopes that reform will come soon. Prime Minister Lee goes to Madam Cho to figure out why it passed. He yells at Gil Tae-Mi for voting for it, and Gil just growls back that he shouldn't have sent an assassin.

The General is determined to revoke the border plan even though Ji-Ran, his second in command, wants to let it stand. He knows it means he is indebted to Hong now. Boon-Yi's villagers and Moo-Hyul's family are admitted to the camp.

Yoon-Hee finds another letter from Ddang-Sae in the not-so-secret cave. Sambong is very worried about who this unknown assassin is and who is behind him. Then we get the scene from the first of the drama where Bang-Won waits in the cave for Sambong to show up and Ddang-Sae turns out to be there as well. Dang-Sae states his opposition to a plan that will get a lot of commoners killed, and stalks out. Yoon-Hee follows him and realizes that he is the assassin.

Sambong berates Bong-Won for forging the stamp because it destroyed the trust he wanted to build with the General. He relates how destructive it was once when a traitor forged an order from the king. He kicks Bang-Won out, but Bang-Won vows to do better and to return.

Historical note: Yi Ji-Ran was originally a Jurchen warrior named Kurun Turan Timur. Yi Seung-Gye gave him a new name when they became "sworn brothers."

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Six Flying Dragons Summary Episodes 1-5

We recently started watching the 50-episode saguk Six Flying Dragons. It is so good, and also so complicated, that it needs an episode summary to keep track of events. The complete recaps can be found at if you would like the detailed version. Most of the historical notes are from a tumblr blog called Six Flying Dragons at

The basic story is that General Yi (pronounced ee) overthrows Goryeo (medieval Korea) to become the first king of Joseon in 1392 AD. It is a prequel to Tree With Deep Roots, which is about Joseon's most famous king, the grandson of General Yi.

The Six Dragons:

General Yi Seong-Gye (lower row, far right): a respected general with a dark secret. Northern Goryeo had been taken over by the Mongols. His family, ethnic Koreans, remained there as minor officials serving the Mongols, but were turncoats who helped Goryeo recapture the territory.

Yi Bang-Won (upper left): the ambitious fifth son of the general, a prime mover who helps his father become king and then fights his brothers for the throne.

Jung Do-Jeon (upper right): a noted scholar with the pen name Sambong, the mastermind behind the revolution and the form the new government would take.

Moo-Hyul (lower left): a fictional character who becomes Yi Bang-Won's bodyguard and then the bodyguard of his son in Tree With Deep Roots.

Boon-Yi (lower row, second from left): fictional character; a peasant woman whose family was destroyed by corrupt Goryeo officials; she is in Jung Do Jeon's secret group plotting revolution.

Ddang-Sae (lower row, third from left): fictional character; Boon-yi's brother, he becomes the fastest swordsman in the country. General Yi gives him the name of Yi Bang-Ji. He is also seen in TWDR.

Episode 1

We begin with a peek at Episode 10 which introduces three of the dragons. Sambong steals food from a peasant (that tells us a lot about him right there) and then enters his secret cave to find Bang-Won and Ddang-Sae already there.

We then go back in time to begin the story with 12-year-old Bang-Won, his older brother Bang-Gwa, and the General chasing down a spy. The spy had a letter bearing a stamp with a pattern like leaves with a sword, which they think is from Prime Minister Lee. Bang-Won grows up fast when he sees how his idolized father punishes the prisoner.

Next we meet the main villains. Prime Minister Lee In-Gyeom is at a bathhouse with his crony Baek Yoon when Gil Tae-Mi (eyeshadow guy) brings news that General Yi is being made a chancellor and coming to the capital city of Gaegyeong. Prime Minister Lee decides to prevent it.

Then we skip to Sungkyunkwan University where two teachers, Jung Mong-Joo (pen name Poeun) and Hong In-Bang cheer to hear that the general is coming. Prime Minister Lee supports the Mongols against the Ming Chinese, but that would cause the Ming to attack Goryeo. The General could prevent a war.

Bang-Won comes to Gaegyeong and falls afoul of some beggar kids, including Boon-Yi and Ddang-Sae. They are searching for their mother, who was kidnapped by a man with a leaf-and-sword tattoo. Their only other clue is a song she used to sing which nobody else seems to know. Ddang-Sae sees one of Bang-Won's guards with a letter having that stamp and they accuse him. With another friend, Gap-Boon, they help Bang-Won break into the Prime Minister's house to get that letter. They get locked into a storage room, but Bang-Won gets caught and thrown out.

The letter turns out to be an account of how the Yi's turned on their Mongol friends. When Prime Minister Lee gives a dinner for General Yi, he has some actors portray this story and then is able to blackmail the General into refusing the appointment and going home.

Historical note: Yi Seong-Gye (born 1335), Bang-Gwa (born 1357), and Bang-Won (born1367) became the first three kings of Joseon.  Poeun and Baek Yoon are historical figures, and Lee In-Gyeom, Gil Tae-Mi, and Hong In-Bang are based on real officials Lee In-Im, Im Gyeon-Mi, and Yeom Heung-Bang. General Yi opened the gate but did not really shoot the Mongol friend.

Episode 2

We find out that the leaf stamp does not belong to Prime Minister Lee. He has seen that stamp before though, on a letter warning him that King Gongmin had been killed.

Boon-Yi and Ddang-Sae escape the storage room and hide in a cart. Unfortunately it belongs to the acting troupe, which leaves with the two kids still inside. During the night the actors are run off by a masked swordsman. Surprise, it's Sambong! He searches for something inside one of the carts until teacher Hong In-Bang shows up. Dang-Sae overhears the plan to kill Baek Yoon so that other corrupt ministers would suspect each other and fight it out. Ddang-Sae follows Sambong to his secret cave, but when he returns to get his sister he is captured and tied up in a forest cabin.

Hong-In Bang gathers the other scholars to protest the Yuan alliance. He thinks Sambong's plan is to kill the envoy.  Prime Minister Lee's plan is for Eyeshadow Guy to impersonate the envoy and not have any Yuans there at all. Sambong gets tied up and left in the same cabin Ddang-Sae is in.

Boon-Yi has waked up and followed her brother to the cabin, and then gone for help. Bang-Won's bodyguard Jo Young-Gyoo makes short work of a couple of men at the door and sets Sambang free when he promises to stop the war.

At the city gate, scholars are protesting alliance with Yuan. A group of riders comes up the road and one with a large veil dismounts and goes in through the gate. Sambong walks up as the greeter, seems to stab the envoy and is knocked down. But another surprise! When Eyeshadow Guy takes off his veil to say he knew of this plot and has foiled it, Sambong reveals that his weapon is really a stick of taffy. The guards try to round up the protesters, the protesters resist, and Sambong starts singing a song that makes Ddang-Sae perk up. It's the one sung by his mother that no one else knows.

Historical note: King Gongmin was killed in 1374 and his 11-year-old son was made king by Minister Lee. Sambong was appointed greeter in 1375, threatened to kill the envoy, and was exiled for four years.

Episode 3

Sambong gets beat up a little and then Eyeshadow Guy tortures him with wet paper on his face.

Bang-Woo enrolls at Sungkyunkwan, but the very day he shows up the teachers are arrested. Hong In-Bang tells the students to not give up and to study their Mencius, which however gets banned.

Sambong is exiled, and as a group of guards are taking him through the forest in a jail wagon, Boon-Yi and Ddang-Sae run up calling him daddy and asking about the song. Sambong says it was written by King Gongmin and only he, Queen Noguk, and a few others would know it. He recognizes their mother's name (Yeon-Hyang), but says a maid of the queen by that name died 18 years ago. It doesn't seem to fit. Boon-yi goes home in case their mother returns, but Ddang-Sae stays.

Bang-Won plants a tree for Prime Minister Lee that he can chop down when he defeats him. He becomes friends with an older student named Heo Kang, but students start dropping out.  Eyeshadow's son Gil Yoo is part of a gang that  threatens other students with burning their Mencius books or getting their forehead tattooed. Bang-Won is one of the victims.

Teacher Hong In-Bang returns; he was tortured and caved immediately. To make sure he's on the powerful side after this, he helps Gil Tae-Mi chouse other people out of their land. When Heo Kang puts up a poster protesting the bullies,  Hong sends an assassin to kill three of them. The assassin finds them already dead, but Heo Kang is arrested and his father has to give half his land to Gil Tae-Mi to get him out of jail. Hong and Gil become in-laws.

Bang-Won had come home late and bloody that night, but told his bodyguard, Young-Gyoo, that it wasn't his own blood. You wonder how that kid could account for three older boys, but after that Young-Gyoo found three more trees that had been planted and destroyed.  In a confrontation with Hong, Bang-Won asserts, "I may not be good, but at least I am just."

Historical note: Sungkyunkwan was founded in 992 in Gaegyong and relocated to Seoul in 1398. The song was not historical; just in the drama. Heo Kang was a real person and became a civil servant.

Episode 4

Ddang-Sae discovers that Queen Noguk had a bodyguard as well as the maid Yeon-Hyang that were always with her. He was Gil Seon-Mi, the twin brother of Gil Tae-Mi. When found, Gil Seon-Mi warns Ddang-Sae that his mother had made a mistake which had cost the life of Queen Noguk so he should forget about her and never mention her name again.

A white-haired Chinese-speaking swordmaster  (Jang Sam-Bong) with a quarterstaff appears and trades blows with Gil Seon-Mi. He is looking for an expert who killed a student of his. Gil Seon-Mi tells him his best guess (Cheok Sa-Kwang) in exchange for taking care of Ddong-Sae. Master Jang agrees but Ddong-Sae disappears on him.

We take time out to meet Moo-Hyul killing a wild boar. He is one of nine kids his grandmother is raising, and she takes the boar to bribe Master Hong to teach him. Though not very good himself, he has taught many famous swordsmen.

Ddang-Sae makes it home to enjoy a brief happy time with his sister and the cutest girl of the village, Yoon-Hee, but it is cut short by a gang of thugs who arrive to take over. Hong In-Bang has become a government minister and is raising money to fight Japanese pirates by increasing taxes and confiscating land. The villagers fight back and Yoon-Hee is raped.  Boon-Yi blames her brother for not resisting, and he runs off to throw himself over a cliff. Master Jang sees him from a distance and reaching the cliff miraculously fast, keeps him from falling and promises to make him strong.

Six years pass. We see Bang-Won, now an adult, sitting morosely on a rooftop. He witnesses a miraculously fast swordsman in black with patterned white trim killing first a guard and then Baek Yoon. Bang-Won trails him up a canyon, where he leaves a message on a door hidden by vines. He is Ddang-Sae, and his note is for Sambang informing him that he has killed Baek Yoon as per plan and  who should he kill next? Presently Bang-Won opens the door, stepping on a small wooden soldier, and finds a cave full of bookshelves and a window with a view of the capital city in the valley below.

Historical note: Queen Noguk died in childbirth in 1356. The government did indeed confiscate commoners' land to give to the nobles in exchange for fighting off the pirates.

Episode 5

In the cave Bang-won finds a map renaming the country and papers outlining reform and plotting peaceful revolution.

The murder of Baek Yoon creates a furor, which Hong In-Bang remembers had been Sambong's plot. He goes to Monk Yuk-Ryeong (Eyeliner Monk) for information, and General Choi Young goes to the madam of the giseang house, Cho Young, but no one knows who the culprit is. Hong In-Bang comes out of it very well, as the leader of Baek Yoon's old faction.

Gil Tae-Mi, investigating the murder, hears that there were three sword hits. His son guesses that it might be Venomous Magpie, who is rumored to kill dozens of Japanese pirates all by himself.

A girl sitting on the stairs in the marketplace begins to sing. She is Gap-Boon, who helped break into Minister Lee's house back in episode 1. A fascinated Moo-Hyul stops to listen, and Bang-Won and his bodyguard Young-Gyoo show up next. A masked actor tells the story of the Magpie, who wears black with white trim. When the show is over and Gap-Boon leaves, some thugs take her money. She appeals to Moo-Hyul for help and he defeats all of them, including a sword fighter who comes out, keeping his wooden name tag. Young-Goo asks the actor about the Magpie and though he claims to only know rumor, when he washes his face we see he is Ddang-Sae.

Meanwhile Sambong has returned from exile and visited Boon-Yi. He advises her to clear forested land in the hills and farm it secretly and gives her one of the little wooden soldiers. Just as the villagers are harvesting their first crop the thugs arrive, taking all the produce and killing half the people. And to make matters worse, Japanese pirates arrive and kidnap the rest. The next day Moo-Hyul is practicing his moves when he sees the pirates go by with people in gunny sacks over their shoulders.

That night as Bang-Won and Young-Gyoo are looking for pirates (to try and meet the Magpie) they come across the kidnappers with Moo-Hyul sneaking around behind. Bang-Won gives his sword to Moo-Hul, and at one point when he finds himself greatly outnumbered he cleverly tries to turn the pirates against each other. This makes me wonder if that is what he did with the three bullies when he was 12. The pirates turn out to be Koreans disguised as Japanese, and Moo-Hyul and Young-Gyu beat them handily. One of them exclaims that Moo-Hyul's name tag indicates an elite warrior group, so he knows that his teacher, who had been telling him he wasn't good enough yet, has been lying to him. The next day, after burying their dead, Boon-Yi goes into town and burns the government storehouse where all the peasants' grain is stored.

Historical note: When Taejong became king he reformed land taxation and discovered there was a lot of this hidden land.