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 dramabeans.com if you would like the detailed version. Most of the historical notes are from a tumblr blog called Six Flying Dragons at bodashiri.tumbler.com.

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.

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