Synopsis by Eleanor Mannikka
Somewhat convoluted and with a touch of low comedy, this spoof of the foibles of a "last emperor" is set just before the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127) when the last ruler of the preceding dynasty was struggling with the problem of epilepsy and how to treat it without letting anyone know he was sick. Traditionally, the last emperor of any Chinese dynasty is painted as seriously flawed, and so he loses the "mandate of heaven" to rule. When the exalted Emperor Zhou sneaks around like the lowest commoner, trying to get a renowned acupuncturist to treat his epilepsy without publicity, that is hardly conduct becoming a monarch. The simple task of procuring a doctor becomes increasingly complex, as the devious emperor has to supply an artist with a model from among the court princesses in order to grease the wheels that will bring him the doctor. His antics may provide the reason for his downfall, but they also reveal something about cultural attitudes that are passed on intact, century after century.