Rong Lu is standing at the gate LAN ‘er uses to enter the Forbidden City.Dressed in the uniform of the Manchurian guard, he looked tall and proud.The expression on his face was hopeful and disappointed. It was a real emotional duel.He was proud of LAN because he loved her.He wanted her to be chosen, because then all the glory would go to her;But if she had been chosen, he would have lost her forever.If she is not chosen, she will be unhappy all day.However, if she is indeed chosen, she may also be unhappy.All this, Rong Lu knew, even so, when LAN ‘er entered the Forbidden City and saw him standing at the gate of the task, he still stood very straight and very proud.His eyes were fixed on LAN’s, and his hard, quivering lips said, “LAN, you look magnificent today!”She smiled.She understands Rongrok’s feelings, but she is extremely ambitious.She had disappointed Rong Lu, but she comforted herself with these reasons;Her name was the emperor’s first edict, and no matter how much resistance she might meet, she was forced to enter the Forbidden City.But she had prepared for this interview seriously.She was dressed in her best clothes, and was not a woman if she did not attain what Roh called “magnificence.”She does not conceal from herself, nor does she conceal from prosperity;She would be really sad if she wasn’t chosen.As for the question of loving and being loved, there was no consideration.When she passed Rong Lu, she did not look back, dispelling her love for Rong Lu in the past.By the time LAN arrived, the sixteen had already entered the reception hall.This is a group of laughing maidens, excited, with fervent expectation that one of them will be chosen as a concubine.The room was a double room, separated by a row of shelves laden with priceless treasures.There was a clucking sound on the flagstones as the Manchurian girls came in on their high heels to show the emperor and empress their dress and charm.They went about by themselves, looking at strange treasures they had never seen before, and casting charming glances at emperor Xianfeng.Eunuchs, servants, and ladies-in-waiting were everywhere.The reception hall is a busy place.One by one, the young girls came to be inspected, with Emperor Xianfeng sitting on his left and the empress on his right.The queen had been frowning disapprovingly all the time, carefully turning from one young face to another, and examining them again and again.Xianfeng was impatient.Then, Rong Lu’s sweetheart LAN er came in.LAN made no pretence at being agreeable.After she left her father’s house, she was still LAN, exactly as she had always been.The real LAN er, who was completely true to herself, walked into the presence of two of the most important men in China.She is poised and displays no charm that is not her own.She did not give xianfeng a seductive look, she did not try to pretend to be happy.She seemed as impatient as Xianfeng.She was clearly the most beautiful of the seventeen.The other sixteen realized this at once.So, hostile eyes, jealous eyes are turned to LAN er, but she did not mind.Then Anderhai, the eunuch in charge, began to give the names and ages of the seventeen in a monotonous voice: “Bao Yu,” “LAN er.”The eunuch, Andrea, read the list all the way through in a monotonous voice.The queen has a say in the choice of concubines.When the list was finished and all seventeen of them knocked their heads together, Xianfeng turned to the queen again and again and asked, “What do you think of this one?”The one mentioned was called to the queen, who took her by the hand and examined her.’She must not. Her hands are too rough for noble hands!’All this was spoken in the courtly language, so the seventeen girls could not understand it.”Nor can she. She tries to pretend to walk properly, but she can’t.””Which of the seventeen do you think is best?””I mean the one named Baoyu.”The emperor almost forgot his regal dignity and laughed.In terms of beauty, Baoyu was a real misfortune. Her features were marred by small spots left by smallpox, her eyes were cross-eyed, and she walked awkwardly.She wished very much to be chosen, for she had looked at the queen many times in an attempt to impress her, and her cross-eyes made her look ridiculous.So when baoyu was mentioned, the emperor just shook his head slightly.”I like this girl LAN,” he said finally. “She’s dignified, elegant, unpretentious, and very beautiful.””For all the reasons you mentioned, I don’t think she is suitable, because if she is too beautiful, she may not be virtuous.”Gan Feng shook his head again.Of course, it doesn’t mean the same as the previous shake.LAN was bored by the whole process, but she was not at all negligent.Clever, clever LAN ‘er, she noticed the emperor’s eyes turning to her again and again.In the course of the presentation, the shadow of Rong Lu did not enter her heart.She expected that the man next to the empress, who sat on the kang, would choose her out of seventeen.At the same time, she immediately realized that the queen would become her mortal enemy.At every opportunity, when he was not looking at her, she studied her face, recalling the foreboding of the clouds of smoke that swirled up from the censer, and how the smoke formed the face of the man who now sat before him on the dragon stove, beside whom sat her arch-enemy, the Empress.LAN was so excited that her heart beat violently, but she didn’t show it at all.She did not seem to notice the expressions the other sixteen gave her.Being women, after all, they observed her carefully, and, realizing that she was the emperor’s favourite, they all cast hostile glances at her.Although the sixteen knew who the emperor had in mind, they still tried to attract his attention by playing coquette.They giggled, ran to and fro with affected dignity, kowtowed, and laughed in the presence of the emperor, whose eyes were fixed on them and he paid no attention to them.Tea is served.Then the emperor and the queen could look at the girls more closely, and find out what kind of upbringing they had received.The girls still giggled from time to time, looking each other in the eye.But any of the sixteen stopped smiling when they saw LAN.The queen and the emperor became bored long before their presentation was over.But the edict prescribes the time of the meeting.When it’s time, the girls leave whether they like it or not.Boredom was obvious, and since Xianfeng had made up his mind, there was no need for them to wait.LAN ‘er no longer looked at emperor Xianfeng, she already knew all she wanted to know.When the time came for the end of his presentation, the emperor shifted his seat on the kang.For a split second, his eyes turned to LAN again.One of the most beautiful of the seventeen, apparently, paused for a moment, and the chamberlain, glancing at one of the many ornamental clocks, announced: “Your presentation is over, and you may all retire.”No one was chosen?But that’s not the case.Sixteen were not selected and one was selected.They were all sent away, so that the lucky one might not attract the envy of the other sixteen, or embarrass the unsuccessful ones.One of the seventeen who left together was to return by another edict.One of the seventeen beautiful Manchurian girls, Baoyu, who was only slightly inferior to the other sixteen, bowed her head very politely to the Emperor and empress and retired.LAN ‘er’s sedan chair was parked outside the gate. As she passed through the gate, she glanced at Rong Lu, but she did not see him.She thought it would not be long before another decree commanded one of the seventeen to return to the palace, and then she would never leave it again.Seventeen little girls, the oldest under seventeen and the youngest under fourteen, left the Forbidden City.Sixteen of them would not return, but one of them would, and LAN was sure she had the luck.When she left the Forbidden City, she did not see Rong Lu, nor did she see the scowl on his face, but carried her sedan chair straight into the city of Beijing.Is she sure she’s been chosen?Many years later she said, “I went away with the others, but I knew I would come back, and not for long!”There are many small shops along Hardgate Street.She stopped to buy odds and ends in a small shop.Perhaps because of the bad business days, the shopkeeper’s attitude to LAN ‘er is very impolite.LAN answered her rudeness by letting the shopkeeper know that she would get back at him.”When I am emperor Xianfeng’s concubine, I will behead you!””She told him.The shopkeeper laughed scornfully.But he should remember her words just as she remembered them.He should look back on it with a smile, as she would tell the story many years later.After that, if she had ever thought of rong Lok, she would not have told anyone except rong Lok, but even if she had thought of rong Lok, rong Lok, who was loyal to her, would never have known about it.So LAN returned to her father’s house and waited.But while she waited, she quietly prepared for herself the elaborate headdresses worn by married Manchurian women.Miss LAN waited at her father’s house for the summons, which she believed would come.All her life she had felt that some kind of miracle would happen to her.She was always ambitious, always dreaming big dreams.Though it had exceeded her wildest hopes, it was not entirely unexpected, for she dared to dream.So she waited in her father’s house.How different was the attitude of the messenger from the first time!The eunuch who first sent the edict was haughty and supercilious, as if he were a benefactress, or he were planting flowers in cow dung.This time many eunuchs came, they brought many very precious gifts to LAN er’s parents, the eunuchs also carried a very expensive empty sedan chair.LAN er is waiting for the call, is expected to arrive at this moment, he will be very excited.But when the great moment did come, when she saw a group of eunuchs in imperial robes approaching her room, she was as calm as if she had expected it.She looked forward to prosperity, and now it had come to her.It all happened because she was pretty.The parents were ecstatic over the gift, which was worth thousands of taels of silver.They couldn’t be happier for their daughter LAN’s good fortune.When the eunuchs were invited and entered their quarters, LAN ‘er’s parents gathered up the gifts and handed LAN ‘er over to them.The Forbidden City was a hive of activity and wild celebrations.It was an important day in Xianfeng’s life.LAN was carried into the palace, Xianfeng is waiting for her arrival, he with a cold expression to cover up his eager mood.As he waited, he recalled every line of her figure, for it was so impressed upon his memory.Of the seventeen girls who had made their first fateful presentation, there was not one whose face or name he could remember except LAN.LAN ‘er was dignified and calmly proud of her surroundings.What a pretty girl it is to make men turn to her — to be put into the depository of salt, to be his plaything, and to be cast aside as soon as he becomes bored.