Steel Under Silk: A dagger 🗡️hidden behind a smile 😊

This is where you can read the manhwa. But be aware that this manhwa is a mature Yaoi, which means, it is about homosexuality with explicit scenes. If you want to read more essays about other manhwas, here is the link to the table of contents: Here you can read the last analysis about Steel Under Silk:

It would be great if you could make some donations/sponsoring:  That way, you can support me with “coffee” so that I have the energy to keep examining manhwas. Besides, I need to cover up the expenses for this blog.

Anyone reading this manhwa will recognize immediately that the title of this essay is the same than the one selected by the author Snob for season 1. But why did she choose such a title in the end?

1. The identity of the dagger and the smile

One might say that the answer is quite simple. If you read the synopsis, this is what you find:

“Hiding a blade behind his beautiful smile, like silk hiding steel, Yeonjo waits for his moment to strike.”

It looks like the dagger is referring to Lee Yeonjo and his desire to get revenge. The smile is an indication that he is hiding his true intentions. In other words, the title is displaying that the person is a skilled but dangerous actor. The smile is diverting the counterpart’s attention faking emotions. However, I would like to point out that the young protagonist is never seen smiling. He is either angry (chapter 5), stoic (chapter 20), pitiful (chapter 20) or enraged and afraid (chapter 9). The only times we saw him smiling in the present occurred in front of lord Chang and each time, he was making fun of his sponsor: (chapter 5) (chapter 16) In both occasions, he was smirking, criticizing lord Chang for his behavior. He wouldn’t mince his words at all. Here, he was brutally honest. This contradicts the previous statement,

“Hiding a blade behind his beautiful smile, like silk hiding steel, Yeonjo waits for his moment to strike.”

, as the smile serves as a way to hide the future assault. In this story, the smile serves as a mask. It should hide the true thoughts from the character, it is a dishonest facial expression. Yet, with the administrator, he was totally honest, when he smirked. On the other hand, we could say that Yeonjo’s words worked like a dagger, when he made fun of Chang Moonwon. However, the synopsis is actually referring to Kwong Hee-Ryang as the target and not to the administrator of work.

Moreover, when Lee Yeonjo rejected the protagonist for the first time (chapter 9), he let him perceive his true emotions and thoughts. That’s the reason why the noble compared him to a wild kitten showing his claws. (chapter 13) This means that Kwon Hee-Ryang was well aware of Lee Yeonjo’s true intentions. The young slave was trying to seek revenge. But the governor didn’t mind it at all, because in his eyes, the thin and small domestic doesn’t represent a true danger to him. In the worst case, he can get a new scar and that’s it. (chapter 18) On the other hand, Lee Yeonjo would lose his life. To conclude, the dagger hidden behind the smile is not truly referring to the uke in my eyes. We know his intentions and his past. Moreover, he is a poor actor in front of Kwon Hee-Ryang. He is incapable to control his facial expressions,which explains why the official can read him like an open book: (chapter 23) He tells him lies, but the governor doesn’t fall for it at all. (chapter 22) In verity, the main lead uses the statements from the innocent slave to his own advantage. If he was coerced and raped by Chang Moowon, then Kwon Hee-Ryang will treat him differently. The governor takes each confession from Lee Yeonjo at his words. The result is that the young slave is put in a position where he can choose. He has to prove the veracity of his words and as such his willingness that he selected the main lead in order to improve his living conditions. He has no other choice than to act on his own free will. Thus Kwon Hee-Ryang said this: (chapter 20) Yeonjo is forced to turn his lies into a verity. This explicates why the servant admits that he needs to be such a great actor that he has to believe in his own lie. (chapter 20) Note that in this image, the young protagonist is not even smiling, he is acting pitiful hoping to get the lord’s sympathy. However, during the intercourse, he is unable to control his true emotions. On the one hand, he is taking pleasure in this, on the other hand, he rejects sodomy due to social norms. (chapter 23) Yet, his mouth is betraying him once again. (chapter 23) That’s the reason why Kwong Hee-Ryang interrogated Yeonjo, for he had noticed his dissatisfaction. (chapter 23) As a conclusion, so far Lee Yeonjo can not be perceived as the dagger hidden behind a smile! From my perspective, this title is actually hinting to Kwon Hee-Ryang.

2. Kwon Hee-Ryang, the real dagger

First of all, the official is constantly smiling, especially when he is meeting his enemies. (chapter 3) Here, he was complimenting the headman Choi, though he had already perceived his wrongdoings and motivations. Yet, he was still giving the impression that he was in a good mood. Then (chapter 3) when he had organized a huge feast for his new appointment in order to deceive the nobles from the hojok, he continued smiling, though he had been insulted as a host. (chapter 3) And note how he replied to the attack to Kwak Gilsoo. He overlooked the insult and reproach, and showed generosity and leniency. (chapter 3) He acted, as if he only had pure intentions and he was a man of honor. The irony is that he had long selected his target: (chapter 3) The lieutenant colonel Lee. This is no coincidence that he was smiling, when he explained to his assistant his next move (chapter 6) There was a light smile on his lips, when he offered the poisoned wine to his prey. (chapter 6) No one suspected that he would poison the lieutenant colonel Lee, for he had shown no sign of hostility and arrogance in front of the local lords. He had never displayed any mood swings either. In fact, he had acted like a submissive, calm and innocent governor. Once Kwak Gilsoo accused him of murdering the chief of the hojok, Kwon Hee-Ryang returned the situation to his advantage with a smirk on his face. (chapter 15) He had been insulted on many occasions, though he had treated the hojok very respectfully. (chapter 15) He portrayed himself as a benevolent governor seeking support from the hojok, yet they had somehow rejected his good will. This means that he was turning himself into a victim. He even went so far by asking the crowd if they were declaring war against him and as such the king, leaving the nobles speechless. They got defeated, for if they contradicted his words, they could only be perceived as traitors, for the appearances were against them. The man had organized a huge ceremony for them, had even treated the lieutenant colonel Lee with such a great care. Moreover, he had attended to his funeral. He had always been gentle and smiling, thus he had reasons to get upset. Suddenly the governor’s tone changed which caught the aristocrats by surprise! Hwan Hoon described the main lead like this: (chapter 15) As you can detect, we have here a reference to the dagger. To conclude, during the funeral, we have this combination between the smile and the dagger. (chapter 15) No one, not even Kwak Gilsoo, had even anticipated such an attack. But there exist two other reasons why I think that the dagger hidden behind the smile is hinting on the official, especially after associating him to the blade. On the other hand, I am expecting that Kwang Hee-Ryang’s personality will rub off on Yeonjo. The latter will become a better actor. But let’s return our attention to the governor.

I have other reasons to think like this. First, it is related to his past. We don’t know much about him. So far, I could determine that due to his lowly origins he must have fought hard to become very close to the king. However, in chapter 19, the author implied that there was some bad blood between Kwon Hee-Ryang and Lee Yeonjo’s father. (chapter 19) The official had connections to the Lees before the downfall of right-state councilor, yet the nature of their relationship is not quite clear: Ex-what? Ex-benefactor, ex-lover or ex-enemy? And according to the assistant, Yeonjo’s father must have wronged the protagonist. In my eyes, the smile from the official should be interpreted under the different light. It is hiding the scars left by the attacks from the past. That’s the reason why he is now holding a dagger in a figurative way. He was not just stabbed by a blade, he was also wounded by words, for he is just the son of a concubine. Thus he learned to use his tongue as a dagger, which we could witness during the funeral.

Secondly, during their last encounter, Kwon Hee-Ryang kept smiling while listening to the naïve slave. (chapter 20) He could see right through Yeonjo. The readers could sense that he was making fun of him. (chapter 20) There is no ambiguity that the governor was here acting, though I perceive his smile as not entirely fake. (chapter 20) He was definitely happy that the young man would seek him, as he had already voiced regret before. Nonetheless, the manhwaphiles could sense the official’s manipulations. The kiss on the scar is the best evidence. (chapter 20) Here, he was challenging Yeonjo. He should prove his honesty. Like I mentioned above, he was taking the young slave at his words. (chapter 21) That way, the young domestic could never make such reproach about him: he had raped him or coerced him. However, this signifies that the main lead is also obliged to keep his words. He has to ensure Lee Yeonjo’s comfort and safety. So while Lee Yeonjo had the impression that he could deceive his counterpart, he never realized that he had been fooled. And to his surprise, Yeonjo discovered his enemy’s true personality: he was a beast! I am quite certain that my avid readers are already aware of the symbolism of blade: the phallus! Lee Yeonjo never expected his “husband” to have such an appetite. (chapter 23) He was a monster, a beast! He thought that it would end very soon. However, Kwon Hee-Ryang was far from being satisfied. He wished more. (chapter 23) Striking is that in the last panel, the governor is smiling while holding his “dagger” which caught Yeonjo by surprise. To conclude, the dagger is not just a reference to the weapon or words, but also to sex.😉

3. Lee Yeonjo’s face

And this leads me to the following observation: the former aristocrat is very pure, because he lacks experience. Until his downfall, he had lived in a bubble, far away from politics and schemes. Then as a slave, he never discovered how treacherous the world of officials was. He only encountered sexuality through prostitution. This explicates why he loathes sodomy and gets upset that his own body is betraying him. He definitely feels pleasure. It was never his true choice in the beginning, which stands in opposition to his conversation with the official. And slowly, Lee Yeonjo is forced to reveal his orgasms and sensuality. Why? It is because he has to deceive the governor. (chapter 20) At some point, the deception will become a reality.

In addition, his purity and innocence are perceptible the way he is seeking his revenge. When he dreams of killing his nemesis, he always envisions himself stabbing him. If he truly wanted to hurt Kwon Hee-Ryang, he could have participated in a plot or even poison the governor… but no, his true goal is to wound the official with his own hands. I would like the manhwaworms to keep in their mind that he rejected the offer from headman Choi. He didn’t desire to become a spy. He didn’t consider it as a way to eliminate his nemesis. In my eyes, it is related to that fateful night. Kwon Hee-Ryang defeated Yeonjo’s father personally (chapter 1), he even got a scar. In other words, he was willing to risk his life. Thus I deduce that Yeonjo is copying him. He is facing his enemy directly, similar to a man of honor. In chapter 24, he has even a nightmare because of the stabbing, an indication that he rejects the idea of killing the man in his sleep. Besides, the governor in his own vision is exposing to him how pointless such a plan is. Kwon Hee-Ryang is not an easy target. He is very smart and observant. This can only reinforce my interpretation that Lee Yeonjo is not the dagger hidden behind the smile. However, I am expecting a transformation from Lee Yeonjo influenced by his tutor Kwon Hee-Ryang and his future experiences. Don’t forget that by becoming his lover, the slave can become the target of the hojok. Kwak Gilsoo is well aware of the governor’s sexual preferences (chapter 4) and once he hears how headman Choi got evicted from the court because of Yeonjo, the aristocrat will definitely blame the domestic for his “misery”. The aristocrat with the green hanbok envisioned that he had discovered the governor’s secret and as such vulnerability. But the official has never hidden his sexual orientation. One might accuse the governor of treason, because he has a relationship with the son of a traitor, yet this relationship could be judged differently. Lee Yeonjo could be judged as ruthless and immoral, he is sleeping with the murderer of his own family. Besides, this could be seen as a humiliation… the son has to serve the governor as his night servant. That’s the reason why Kwon Hee-Ryang said this to his assistant. It was not kindly… but indignant. (chapter 19)

What caught my attention is that Kwon Hee-Ryang is paying a lot of attention to Yeonjo’s facial expressions. The manhwalovers could sense the governor’s obsession, when the latter imagined Yeonjo having a climax. (chapter 4) Then he tried to discern the uke’s feelings in this situation and explain his reaction. (chapter 09). Finally, during their last intimacy, he kept looking at him while kissing (chapter 23) or reacted, when he saw Yeonjo’s distance. (chapter 23) Why is he so fascinated by his face? It is because it stands in opposition to his own! Note that the lord enjoys the uke’s tears. Secondly, the servant’s facial expressions are oozing genuineness. The protagonist can not control his emotions and thoughts, while Kwon Hee-Ryang is behaving the opposite. He aims to remain calm the whole time. Thus he often smiles. It is his mask. The latter is always hiding his true thoughts and emotions, while he continues smiling. This means that he can never show his pleasure or his pain to others, for they would reveal his weaknesses. Imagine that though he had been wounded that night, he acted, as if nothing had happened. (chapter 1) Yet, in reality he didn’t have the heart to erase the whole household of the Lees. (chapter 9) To sum up, Lee Yeonjo can expression emotions that the official has long repressed. Even his orgasms are restrained (chapter 23), his mouth is barely letting escape a sound (chapter 4) If I had to associate the official to two notions, I would say, he symbolizes work and control! And the smile contradicts Lee Yeonjo’s tears and moaning. This is no coincidence that he asked his lover to be called “my lord” (chapter 23) In this picture, the aristocrat mentions his blushing, but if the readers look at his facial expression, they are not able to detect his reddening. How do we explain this? It is because the lord had long internalized to control his facial expressions. However deep down, his heart was moved by the uke’s whispers. Many readers could sense his growing attachment to Lee Yeonjo. First, he stated that the protagonist would become his plaything, yet in chapter 22, he called himself the main character’s husband. (chapter 22) Then in chapter 24, Kwon Hee-Ryang was even willing to share his bed with Lee Yeonjo. This reflects the lord’s biggest desire. He wishes to keep the young man by his side. Because the slave is showing facial expressions that Kwon Hee-Ryang can not do, it is not astonishing why the governor is under Lee Yeonjo’s spell. Under this new approach, the manhwaworms can grasp why I perceive the governor as the dagger hidden behind the smile. He is a dangerous but mysterious man, and the author is slowly revealing his thoughts and also his past.

4. The blade and the smile

Before closing this essay, I would like the readers to take a closer look at this image: The lord is smiling while holding the sword in front of Lee Yeonjo indicating that the main lead will do anything to keep the uke by his side. Once again, we have the combination of the smile and the blade. Yet, this time, it is not hidden. Why? It is because their relationship is not a secret. This is the topic in the court.

Simultaneously, the domestic is taking the blade with his own hand which means that he will get hurt, an indication that the main lead will definitely get wounded in this story. This coincides with the result of retaliation. “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.” Confucius (504 BC) However, I don’t think that this is truly going to happen, for the simple reason that Lee Yeonjo is not ruthless like Kwon Hee-Ryang.

On the other hand, the couple is not facing each other, a sign that their union will bring them closer due to their enemies. While seeking his revenge, Lee Yeonjo will get involved in politics, and as such he will be forced to face reality. It is about abuse of the hojok exploiting the local population. Finally, in this scene the protagonists are acting. Why? It is because they are facing adversities. On the other hand, Kwon Hee-Ryang’s hand is grabbing the slave by his throat reflecting his obsession and determination to keep the uke by his side. Once trapped behind the blade, Yeonjo won’t be able to leave. By siding with the governor, the young man never anticipated that he could get wounded because of Kwon Hee-Ryang, like this scene exposes it. (chapter 23)

Due to his pain and suffering, he didn’t pay attention to his surroundings. He has no idea about the tension between the nobles of the hojok, and how the lords are abusing their position in detriment of commoners. Finally, my avid readers can certainly recall that Lee Yeonjo is embodied by the magical purple lotus flower, implying that he is contributing to the purification of the region. It already started with the removal of the headman Choi. (chapter 11) So who is the next? However, we shouldn’t forget the administrator lord Chang who felt that he had been deceived by the governor. (chapter 17) Thus I come to the conclusion that Kwon Hee-Ryang’s plan won’t work so smoothly because of lord Chang’s intervention.

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Steel Under Silk: The Power of the Dog ⚔️

This is where you can read the manhwa. But be aware that this manhwa is a mature Yaoi, which means, it is about homosexuality with explicit scenes. If you want to read more essays about this manhwa and others, here is the link to the table of contents: Here you can read the second analysis about Steel Under Silk:

It would be great if you could make some donations/sponsoring:  That way, you can support me with “coffee” so that I have the energy to keep examining manhwas. Besides, I need to cover up the expenses for this blog.

Anyone reading chapter 12 comes to the conclusion that Kwon Hee-Ryang has the upper hand, and Lee Yeonjo has been defeated. (chapter 12) The governor gives orders to the slave, and the latter can only obey. Secondly, the official only reveals to his counterpart at the end that he knows about his identity. (chapter 12) He is the son of the right state councilor, the man he killed with his own hands 5 years ago. By unveiling the truth, the man shows that Lee Yeonjo won‘t be able to deceive him. He can see through his heart and gaze which are filled with rage. (chapter 12) Thus the uke won’t be able to get his revenge. However, in my eyes, this confrontation in jail outlines the opposite. The dominant is not Kwon Hee-Ryang, but Lee Yeonjo. For me, the governor made a huge mistake in the jail, but it is barely perceptible. It becomes more obvious through a detailed examination. Striking is that in my previous analysis, I had compared the uke to the purple lotus flower due to his name, but the young man is also associated to the dog. (chapter 9) (chapter 10) (chapter 10) And now, you comprehend why I chose such a title. This will be the topic of my essay. I will elaborate why and how Lee Yeonjo is powerful, though he views himself as weak and powerless. (chapter 10) I am quite certain that you are wondering about this. How is it possible that the uke is not in a disadvantageous position? Everything is pointing out the opposite: his condition as a slave, his situation (he is imprisoned for a crime), he is the talk of rumors and Kwon Hee-Ryang has already identified him as an enemy.

1. The fight in the bedchamber

Let‘s start with their first sexual encounter. We shouldn’t forget that Kwon Hee-Ryang had already been eyeing Lee Yeonjo (chapter 8), and he was already thinking how to approach him. However, he was caught by surprise, when the servant was sent to his staff. He had the impression that the main lead had been delivered on a silver plate. Imagine this. He didn‘t need to do anything. Due to the bite on his neck, the governor knew that the young man had sex with another man. So in his mind, he was not rejecting sodomy. Secondly, he just had to make the request that Lee Yeonjo should serve him, and that was it. Once in the bedchamber, he could taste him. He envisioned that with his position, the slave wouldn‘t reject his advances. At the same time, we could sense that initially Kwon Hee-Ryang tried to woo him. He asked for his name (chapter 7), then he showed concern for his wounded finger before touching his hand in order to seduce him. Honestly, as the governor, he was in a position where he could have just ordered Lee Yeonjo around, and the latter would have been forced to obey. He only mentioned his power, the moment he sensed the protagonist’s resistance. (chapter 8) As you can see, first the official chose a more delicate approach. Simultaneously, he mentioned that he was aware of the existence of the request from Headman Choi. Lee Yeonjo should spy for Choi. By unveiling this secret, Kwon Hee-Ryang wanted to be perceived as a generous man, even as a savior, for he was giving an opportunity for the slave to escape such a terrible fate: being accused of spying in case something went wrong. He was implying that he knew that Lee Yeonjo was acting here against his will, the governor was believing in his innocence. He just needed to become his lover, and that was it. The reproach of spying would never be brought up against him. But note that his words had the opposite effect, it even scared Lee Yeonjo more. At the end, the lord had to remind the slave of his precarious situation, he was in no position to refuse his advances. (chapter 8) Because he didn’t threaten the servant right away, this indicates that he was not just seeking sensual pleasure, he was hoping to gain the lotus’ attention and trust. But this doesn’t end here. What caught my attention is that Kwon Hee-Ryang decided to restrain himself, he was controlling his sexual desires, a sign that he was very considerate towards Lee Yeonjo. (chapter 9) The usage of the foreplay displays that the noble was not rushing things. He wanted to ensure that this wouldn’t be painful for the uke. Because he thought that with his power, he had been able to tame the “dog”, he got caught by surprise by the man’s sudden rejection. He got slapped so hard that he lost the cover of his topknot with the hairpin. (chapter 9) This scene was full of symbolism. The slap symbolizes humiliation and castration. It was, as if the young boy had disarmed his adversary. (chapter 9), for the hairpin represents the governor’s blade. Lee Yeonjo went so far that he wanted to commit suicide with the main lead’s hairpin. (chapter 9) This signifies that he had defeated Kwon Hee-Ryang by taking his hairpin. He was revealing the governor’s powerlessness. The official couldn’t obtain what he desired, but also his authority had been defied. Neither his advances nor his strength had been able to overcome the man’s defiance and resistance. And now, you comprehend why the “beast” was so furious and sent the servant to jail. (chapter 9) As a powerful man, he had not been able to prevent such a humiliation.

This shows that Kwon Hee-Ryang desired to earn the trust from Yeonjo. He thought that with his gentle gestures, his reassuring and praising words and his position, the slave would accept him right away. So he was not just aiming to have the boy’s body, and that was it. He definitely desired more, he had no problem to make him his official lover, which distinguishes him from lord Chang. Their sex session displays that Kwon Hee-Ryang was considerate towards Lee Yeonjo, but the latter was not realizing it, for his mind was too focused on his own physical reaction. (chapter 9) He is still denying his own sensuality.

2. In jail

Once in prison, he received the visit from headman Choi. And even here, he had no problem to talk back to his superior. He went so far to insult the headman. (chapter 11) He refused to kill himself in order to cover up the man’s sins. He might be a slave, but he was not stupid or desperate enough to give up on his own life. But the bearded man didn’t take the servant’s warning seriously, which had terrible consequences for Choi. He ended up losing his position and life, for he was caught red-handed by the governor. We could say that thanks to Lee Yeonjo, the official could get rid of a nuisance. Headman Choi had served the hojok instead of the governors. (chapter 11) The uke played a huge role in Choi’s demise, which people could detect, as afterwards that night, Yeonjo was blamed for Choi’s vanishing. His resignation happened the same day of Yeonjo’s imprisonment. That way, Kwon Hee-Ryang’s true personality and goal were still kept in the dark.

Though the slave witnessed another bloodbath, the main lead still begged Kwon Hee-Ryang not to send him away. This means that his desire for revenge was stronger than his fear. (chapter 11) In this panel the readers can detect the former noble’s scare due to his trembling. Yet the moment the governor wished to send him outside the court, the main character realized the real consequence of his past action. He wouldn’t be able to approach his enemy again. (chapter 11) Thus he faked obedience and regret. (chapter 11) But Kwon Hee-Ryang was no fool, he could perceive the uke’s hypocrisy. Why? It is because he is also himself an actor, he is the “blade hiding behind the smile”. He can detect when people are acting. Only Lee Yeonjo knows his true nature. No one will ever suspect that as a high ranking official, he would dirty his own hands. This explains why the uke considered their first sex session as a hunt. (chapter 9) Kwon Hee-Ryang was a beast cornering a little puppy. But let’s return to the scene in the prison. What caught my attention is that once the slave pleaded for the lord’s leniency, the latter asked not only for privacy but also for a fire place! (chapter 11) This little detail unveils that the main character has already a soft spot for Lee Yeonjo. I would even go so far to say that the absence of penetration (again) in the prison is an indication that Kwon Hee-Ryang is not controlling the situation at all. He complained that the uke had a climax before him (chapter 12), that he had poor skills… (chapter 12) yet, note that he was the one suggesting the masturbation. It was also his own decision to masturbate Lee Yeonjo too. This shows that he still took the uke’s own sensuality into consideration. Besides, he was totally bothered that the uke was rejecting him. (chapter 12) He was also annoyed that Lee Yeonjo was not paying attention to him. He could even sense that his mind was elsewhere. (chapter 12) Exactly like in the bedchamber, the manhwalovers can sense that the main lead was longing for more, but after realizing the true identity of Lee Yeonjo, he is well aware that he can never obtain the slave’s heart, as he is the one who killed his father. (chapter 12) And now, you comprehend why he is sending away Lee Yeonjo, he is hoping that once out of his sight, he will be able to forget him. But like I had outlined in my introduction, the governor made a huge mistake by confronting Lee Yeonjo. (chapter 12) He divulged that his body language was betraying him. He couldn’t act, as his facial expressions and actions were showing how he hated his touch and presence. This means that if Lee Yeonjo takes the main lead’s reproaches to heart, he can have an advantage. The governor encouraged the uke to become a better actor. He just needs to learn how to control his reactions. One might say that he just needs to learn acting, but there’s more to it. In reality his defiance is strongly connected to his loathing about sodomy. Hence the moment the slave accepts his homosexuality and admits feeling pleasure, it will be more difficult for the counterpart to judge if Lee Yeonjo’s affection and sensuality is genuine or fake, especially if he becomes more proactive in the seduction. So far, the former noble was the one on the receiving hand, when he was with Kwon Hee-Ryang. So if he changes his attitude and becomes an expert how to please Kwon Hee-Ryang, the latter will lose more and more control of the situation.

Notice that in the bedchamber, Lee Yeonjo spoke of attachment (chapter 8), which could be viewed as a vulnerability. This is not surprising that Kwon Hee-Ryang worded his attraction differently: (chapter 8) The slave was just a pet, a plaything, nothing more. But biting was showing that he was claiming him as a his possession. Thus I deduce that Lee Yeonjo will take a different path in order to seek revenge on his father’s murderer. The author already left a clue with this panel: (chapter 9) He dreamed of killing him, but he doesn’t have the strength. Nevertheless, he can torment Kwon Hee-Ryang in a different way. He could use lord Chang for that. Under this new light, the manhwaphiles can comprehend why snob added the tag love triangle. From my point of view, the fact that the governor initiated a kiss with Yeonjo indicates his increasing attraction for the protagonist. (chapter 8) The lord was treating the other ukes differently, they were more indeed sex toys. (chapter 2) (chapter 4), for penetration was in the center of these intercourses. But with Lee Yeonjo, the strategist and warrior behaved in a more seductive way: there were caresses, kisses and embraces. The governor did his best to seduce the slave. Yet the lord didn’t succeed, thereby he was not even able to taste the uke.

3. Yeonjo’s deal

In the second part, I had mentioned that Yeonjo could employ lord Chang to torment the governor, the two persons he loathed the most. First, he has already used him, when he asked him for this favor. (chapter 2) Here he was lying to the administrator.

What caught my attention is that though Yeonjo was just a slave, he didn’t beg lord Chang for a favor in the shed, but he proposed a deal. (chapter 10) The idiom is important, for this term implies that the two sides are equal. This made me laugh, for the simple reason that the slave made this suggestion, though in reality he was in an disadvantageous situation. As a slave, he has no right at all, he can never be the lord’s equal. Striking is that when he said this, he was sitting on his knees, whereas the administrator was standing. Their position reflected their actual social status. On the other hand, a gentle kiss and stroke were strong enough for the ruthless and selfish lord Chang to accept the deal. This shows that here the servant was acting. He faked submission and acceptance. And notice that Yeonjo has been playing passive-aggressive with the administrator. (chapter 1) He could taste his body, but that was it. In truth, lord Chang was longing for more, he hoped to become his lover, when he asked him to send him to the court. As you can detect, Lee Yeonjo was able to control the administrator. Therefore it is no coincidence that he refuses to follow lord Chang who desires to remove him from the court (chapter 15). He hates the man, as much as he loathes the murderer of his family. People are wondering why. This is quite simple. Lee Yeonjo resents the administrator, for he abused his position. In chapter 10, he showed his true face. He portrayed himself as a generous man (chapter 10) The verity is that he never gave everything without expectations. His “kindness” was fake, he desired to have sex with Yeonjo. That’s the reason why the noble was rejected the first time. And note that during this meeting, the administrator felt the need to remind Lee Yeonjo of his superiority. (chapter 10) In my eyes, the official did nothing to change the protagonist’s situation, in fact he used the main lead’s despair. Real kindness is always free which was not the case here. However, he was caught by surprise as well, when the uke took his hand and kissed it. On the surface, Lee Yeonjo was acting as if he was submitting to lord Chang, but the reality was different. He still had the upper hand, which explains why the uke could show him the cold shoulder or even reject him in the beginning of the story. (chapter 1) I believe that the slave will use a similar strategy with the governor, but there will exist a slight nuance. Why? It is because Kwon Hee-Ryang is not hiding his homosexuality. (chapter 10) He doesn’t care about his image. The other reason is that he is still connecting him to the night where he saw him killing his father. He has internalized this fear. That’s the reason why he was reminded of that night during their first sexual interaction. (chapter 9) He knows that Kwon Hee-Ryang is a predator (chapter 10), thus he can not be approached like lord Chang. He is more dangerous and perceptive than lord Chang.(chapter 10) His fear and anger are hindering him to act properly. Due to his trembling and his anxiety, he has not grasped yet that he has already the upper hand: the governor’s attachment.

4. Conclusion

Lee Yeonjo has more power than it looks like. He could defeat headman Choi who had threatened him. He could escape punishments on two occasions thanks to the official’s leniency, and he was able to deceive and control lord Chang. And by revealing his cards to Lee Yeonjo, the latter can use his gained insight to change his plan for revenge. The noble might have played with him, but unconsciously his words and actions were betraying him. He is already losing control over his heart. This is particularly perceptible, when he said this to the main lead. (chapter 13) He had envisioned for one moment to share his bed with Lee Yeonjo. The presence of Lee Yeonjo in the court will be a constant reminder for Kwon Hee-Ryang that he committed a sin. (chapter 13) Like pointed above, the uke could change his attitude. So how will the governor react, when the slave’s gushing antipathy disappears? Will the lord truly believe that the resent disappeared for good? In my opinion, the young man will come to change his approach. He could deceive the official by appealing to his pity exactly like with lord Chang. (chapter 13) This exposes that the “dog” or kitten is much more powerful. He can torment him with his guilty conscience.

Here, I would like to outline the similarities between this work and the Western movie “The Power of The Dog” which was made by Jane Campion in 2021. In that story, the strong, very masculine and bullying main character Phil Burbank got defeated by the very thin and feminine Peter. In reality, the latter was the stronger one, he was confident, thus he could resist peers pressure. The latter gave the impression that he was connecting to Phil, and they had something in common, while in truth, Peter just sought his closeness to discover his vulnerability. Phil was a repressed homosexual, who hid his sexual orientation, though it is also implied that Phil had been sexually abused by his mentor Bronco. At the end, Peter was able to kill Phil who had been harassing his mother. He viewed himself as a man, for he could protect his mother. My point is that both works are showing that masculinity and power have nothing to do with sexuality or a certain body shape. Lee Yeonjo might be thin, shaking, unable to repress his hatred, but at least he is strong-willed and honest to himself, while Kwon Hee-Ryang is already in denial about his growing attachment towards the main lead. He is definitely underestimating Lee Yeonjo’s determination and deceptive skills. The young man uses his poor condition and weak appearance to move the semes’ heart. (chapter 13) Kwon Hee-Ryang can imagine his thirst for revenge, but the problem is that he is underestimating the effect Lee Yeonjo has on him and his heart.

Feel free to comment. If you have any suggestion for topics or manhwas, feel free to ask. If you enjoyed reading it, retweet it or push the button like. My Reddit-Instagram-Tumblr-Twitter account is: @bebebisous33. Thanks for reading and for the support, particularly, I would like to thank all the new followers and people recommending my blog.

Steel Under Silk / Painter Of The night: The lotus 🌸 and the snake🐍

This is where you can read these manhwas. But be aware that these manhwa are mature Yaoi, which means, it is about homosexuality with explicit scenes. If you want to read more essays, here is the link to the table of contents concerning Painter Of The Night:  Steel Under Silk:  If you want to read more essays about this manhwa or others, here is the link to the table of contents:

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The chapter 7 confirmed my previous interpretation concerning the signification of the Korean title: Blade and flower. The main lead Lee Yeonjo is indeed the flower. However, since I am not speaking Korean, I had no idea about the meaning of his name. (chapter 7) The young man is associated to the lotus flower.

1. Purity and corruption

This is very important for two reasons. First, the lotus is associated to purity and beauty indicating Lee Yeonjo’s function in the story. He will catch the attention of many characters, especially of lord Chang and Kwon Hee-Ryang so that he will be constantly on their mind. Striking is that after seeing him, the governor couldn‘t forget his face. (chapter 7) After their first meeting, the governor was already dreaming of having sex with the slave. Secondly, since the lotus flower emerges from murky water, the latter could be perceived as the symbol of the court in Hamheung-castle. Therefore the court is portrayed as a place full of corruption. Because of the darkness of the place, Yeonjo’s purity can only outshine and captivate the semes’ attention. One might say that he is far from pure, for the former noble is selling his body. On the other hand, his soul and heart have remained intact. He did it for selfless reasons. It was for his brother’s sake. It demonstrates his humbleness and dedication. He was willing to give up on his pride, if it meant to save his brother. Even later, he only accepts the order from headman Choi, once he recognizes that it is his only possibility to approach his enemy. He showed great reluctance in the beginning, for he despises homosexuality. He had never imagined that Kwon Hee-Ryang liked having sex with men. (chapter 7) This truly displays his innocence and purity. But there’s more to it. The particularity of the lotus flower is that it blossoms during the day, but once the moon appears, the lotus flower closes, but re-blooms the next morning entirely dirt-free! This can be perceived as a metaphor for Yeonjo’s future development. In my eyes, the sex sessions during the night will represent the main lead’s fights. During the night he will be far from pure and innocent, this can only be judged as an allusion to sensuality. However, this means that Lee Yeonjo will never lose his “beauty and purity“ despite these sex fights, for the next morning, he will come out as pure and innocent.

2. The scholars and the flower

At the same time, his name Yeonjo (“lotus shines”) betrays his origins. (Chapter 7) He comes from a former noble family. How so? First, the lotus is strongly intertwined with Confucianism and Buddhism.

In both Confucianism and Buddhism, the lotus flower is seen as a symbol of honest poverty and virtue associated with an aloofness. Poverty and virtue come from the fact that lotus flowers grow in muddy and dirty waters, yet it still has such beauty.” Quoted from,it%20still%20has%20such%20beauty.

Consequently, the plant came to represent the upright and faithful scholar. This new meaning was based on Chinese wordplay—lotus (lian) and uprightness (lian) which are homonyms. This explicates why during the Joseon period, Korean neo-Confucian scholars loved having quadrangular ponds with lotus flowers in their propriety. Under this new light, the manhwaphiles can comprehend why in the Painter Of The Night, all the domains from the nobles (the Lees (Painter Of The night, chapter 3), the Yoons (chapter 10) and the Mins (chapter 33) have a square pond with a pavilion and lotus flowers. The pond was supposed to represent the owner: a upright and faithful scholar. 🙄 And this made me laugh, because this was the place where crimes and sins were committed. Jung In-Hun asked Baek Na-Kyum to disrespect his sponsor, to become disobedient and as such disloyal. Besides, he lied, manipulated and wounded the main lead (chapter 10), whereas Min, Yoon Seungho and Lee Jihwa had sex there. (chapter 25) All of them were far from righteous and humble scholars. That’s how I realized why the pavilion in Painter Of The Night symbolized emancipation. It was where the main protagonists got purified thanks to the lotus flower. Why? The answer is simple. The lotus flower embodies rebirth, regeneration and enlightenment. (Chapter 3) This coincides with the main lead‘s enlightenment. In the pavilion, he could perceive his sex appeal and attraction. Let’s not forget that Yoon Seungho had discovered sex through sexual abuse, and was blamed for the sexual desires from the pedophiles. Furthermore, with this new discovery, the manhwaphiles can grasp why Lee Jihwa sent his friend there. (Chapter 3) That way, the second lead could appear as an integer and down-to-earth noble. 😂 But no, it had the opposite effect: the lotus flower revealed the true nature of the relationship between the red-haired master and his friend: it was purely sexual. He loved having sex with Yoon Seungho. Furthermore, it also exposed Jihwa‘s true reflection: he was a homosexual. This signifies that the pavilion and the lotus flowers exposed the decadency of the aristocracy in this story, while they cleaned the protagonists. In my eyes, only Yoon Seungho among the aristocrats has the disposition of becoming a true scholar. Finally, it explains why the video had such a scene: Here, the lord is portrayed as a humble and righteous scholar. Because of this new discovery, I felt the need to examine the color of the lotus flower in the main lead‘s pond. What caught my attention is the following: the reflection of the patio. It gives the impression that the water is clean! However, the lotus flower needs dirt to grow. Furthermore, since the painter embodies water, I am questioning if the lotus flowers had enough water. Notice the huge gap between the level of water and the bridge. This explicates why the flowers are just raising above the water contrary to this picture. The manhwaphiles can notice the presence of the long stems. I would even say that now the number of pink lotus flowers has increased, for now they are visible on the right side of the bridge which contradicts to the picture from episode 10. Another important detail caught my attention: the color of the flower. It is a pink lotus flower.

Pink Lotus Flowers are said to be the true flower of the Buddha. A budding pink Lotus Flower symbolises a person whose awareness is beginning to expand, while one that has reached full bloom represents a full sense of enlightenment.“ quoted from

The color pink is made by combining red with white. The color red contributes to the need for action while white brings the potential for success to the table. The combination of passion and power (Red) with purity and completeness (White) results in some of the most beautiful hues of pink. With this in mind, think about the various shades of pink. Psychologists often associate the color Pink as a sign of hope, positivity, warmth, comfort, and a sense of security. Pink is often used to diminish (or at least reduce) feelings related to anger, neglect, aggression, or even a sense of abandonment. quoted from

Under this new approach, the manhwaphiles can grasp the painter’s function in Painter Of The Night. He is the pink lotus flower too. During the night, he cleansed the lord and showed his true nature (a huge libido), but the next morning, he was still as pure and innocent as before. Don‘t forget that the two main leads reflect each other. This means that the artist should be perceived as the sun too. Baek Na-Kyum could bring out Yoon Seungho from the darkness, the muddy water! Without any sun, the lotus flower can not emerge and shine. I conclude that the two protagonists have a dual nature: the lotus flower and the sun.

As a lotus flower is born in water, grows in water and rises out of water to stand above it unsoiled, s​​​​o, I, born in the world, raised in the world, having overcome the world, live unsoiled by the world.”-Buddha quoted from

Because of the strong connection between the lotus flower and Buddha, I come to the conclusion that Yoon Seungho‘s fateful encounter with the painter will bring him closer to religion, and make him drop his nihilistic vision he adopted from his surrogate father Kim. In my eyes, he will become truly enlightened.

3. Lotus and revenge

And now, it is time to return our attention to Steel under Silk. When Lee Yeonjo revealed his name, the praise from the sharp and intelligent Kwon Hee-Ryang lets transpire the true thought from the governor. (chapter 7) He knows that the young boy was never born as a slave! But he is masking his new gained insight behind his compliment. Therefore it is not surprising in episode 12, the governor confronts the slave with the truth. He is well aware about Lee Yeonjo’s identity. The official killed his father in the past!! By mentioning his father’s death, Kwon Hee-Ryang is showing to Yeonjo that he won’t succeed with his revenge. The governor is no fool. Let’s not forget that the young man had planned to approach the official during his sleep in order to kill him. (chapter 6)

Some might think that the lord is a real snake, for he is tormenting the young man with his harsh words! On the other hand, the serpent is associated to seduction and deception due to his role in the bible: the animal lied to Eva and Adam which led them to be banished from the garden of Eden. Nevertheless, as you can recognize it, Kwon Hee-Ryang is doing the opposite. He is telling the servant the uncomfortable truth. He knows very well the hatred and resent from Lee Yeonjo. Besides, the readers should keep in their mind that Yeonjo’s desire for retribution was strongly intertwined with his suicide. He knew that with such a goal, he would never escape death. He might be still alive, but he is not truly living. This explicates why the young man didn’t protest, when the governor’s assistant announced that the staff should get punished for their misbehavior (bullying the main lead). Lee Yeonjo didn’t ask for justice. Thus Kwon Hee-Ryang had to step in and defend the victim from the injustice. (chapter 2) In fact, he got upset because of the official’s benevolence. (Chapter 2). Anyone in his place would have been happy and thankful. This signifies that he would have preferred getting flogged and even being hurt over true justice! This shows how deep his resent is, but also how much he is neglecting his own body. All his thoughts are revolving around payback and as such his imminent death. Then, when he cut his finger, he showed indifference again. He didn’t treat the wound, indicating that he was not treasuring his own body. This attitude could only catch the official’s notice. That’s why I believe that the confrontation in the jail should be perceived as a wake-up call for the young man, similar to the “words“ from that fateful night. (Chapter 1) Here by saying this, he was encouraging the boy to fight back and not accept his fate.

Another important detail is the lord‘s attitude during that night. First, he was wearing a white hanbok. (Chapter 1) In Joseon, the color white was traditionally used for funeral. He was dressed for the occasion: there would be death during that night. Secondly, he walked through the courtyard searching for father Lee. This means that he had chosen to kill the scholar himself. He had not sent his guards or minions to do it. In other words, he was showing a certain respect towards Lee Yeongjo‘s father. (Chapter 1) This exposed the main lead‘s true personality. He doesn‘t mind dirtying his own hands, he is taking responsibility for his own decisions. Finally, Lee Yeonjo was just a young boy back then. He had no idea about the political context and circumstances of this purge. He perceives the king and his governor as the villains (chapter 7), for he lost everything during that night. Yet, he has no idea what kind of official his father was and why this massacre took place. Lee Yeonjo needs to distinguish the difference between the father and the official. Besides, observe that the slave is seeking revenge, and not justice. From my point of view, this second confrontation with cruel reality is necessary to put this tragedy in the bigger picture. In my eyes, it is related to the hojok. (chapter 2) If not, the king would not have mentioned the service done from 5 years ago. As a conclusion, the lotus is about to discover the reality of the murky water, while Kwon Hee-Ryang doesn’t appear to be a snake.

At the same time, I started wondering which color Yeonjo was associated: white, pink, blue or purple? From my point of view, the slave is connected to the purple lotus flower. Why? First, it is because of his white skin and blue eyes. Combined together, we have violet. (Chapter 8) In addition, he is wearing a purple shirt. (Chapter 8) He is surrounded by rats, a metaphor for the dirty water and as such the corruption in the palace. And what is the meaning of the purple lotus flower?

A lotus flower, in general, symbolizes fertility, compassion, spiritual enlightenment, impurity. The purple lotus flower has a unique existence because it represents the Noble Eightfold Path of Mysticism. It is represented by the eight petals and how the lotus flower grows from first the deep mud to the sunlight, and then blooming for three days is a beautiful fragrant purple flowers. The purple lotus, in particular, is unique, and the color changes according to the sunlight, the moonlight, and the temperature. This gives it a glowing and magical effect of transformation. Quoted from

This means that this flower is even more powerful than the pink lotus flower. This signifies that Lee Yeonjo will rediscover his original personality, he will metamorphose and give up on his suicidal thoughts. Simultaneously, the presence of the purple lotus flower indicates that it will clean the whole place and bring destruction to the hojok and others. As a conclusion, the lotus flower implies the main lead’s transformation (like for example acceptance of his sexual orientation), just like it will change others. He will find a new purpose in his life: fight for justice. So far, his thirst of revenge is connected to suicide and despair. Since his father is judged as a traitor, it is also possible that Kwon Hee-Ryang proposes him a deal. He could clean his father‘s name. But we will see.

4. Lord Chang’s true nature

In the third part, I had compared Kwon Hee-Ryang to a snake, and concluded that on the surface, he was not behaving like the animal from the bible in front of the slave: lies and deception. On the other hand, what did lord Chang do, when the young man got bullied? He blamed the main lead! Why? Notice that when the administrator arrived, he caught Yeonjo fighting. (chapter 1) This could only reinforce such a prejudice. Another reason for this misjudgment is his assistant’s report. (chapter 1) The protagonist was portrayed as the one causing trouble, while in truth it was the opposite. The source for the ruckus was the noble’s favoritism towards the main lead. To sum up, lord Chang was viewing the main lead in a negative way. This interpretation is even corroborated in chapter 7:

“I hope no trouble finds him for these few days I’m away”.

His words are implying that the main lead is somehow responsible for trouble. However, the noble never realized that his indecisiveness is one of the main issues in his relationship with the main character. Since he used the brother’s sickness for his own advantage, and could obtain the slave’s body so easily, he never tried to understand Yeonjo. He knew about his hatred(chapter 7), yet he didn’t attempt to ease the main lead’s heart and mind by removing the source of his negative emotions: the injustice he felt for the loss of his family and name. But why does he resent lord Chang? Simply because as the administrator for the construction, he represents the king‘s authority. The huge gap between Lee Yeonjo and the official becomes more visible, when the protagonist changes his attitude so suddenly. The lord never tried to seek the real reason behind the sudden change of heart. Why should he, since he was gaining something? (chapter 7) He had a reason to believe in his lies so easily. (chapter 2) He imagined that since the young man was accepting him as his sponsor and benefactor after the brother’s death, he was getting closer to obtain Yeonjo’s heart. Because of Lee Yeonjo’s attitude towards sodomy (chapter 1)(chapter 7), it is quite obvious that the idea of prostitution was brought up by lord Chang. In exchange for medicine and special treatment, Lee Yeonjo could help his brother. So this offer was a temptation which could only lead to issues. The young boy’s reputation suffered. That’s the reason why we shouldn’t underestimate lord Chang’s personality. He might act gentle and caring, but behind his kindness hides real selfishness. On the other hand, the submissive slave was acting in front of the administrator, so that we should question ourselves if with this suggestion, Lee Yeonjo was not acting as the snake.

When the protagonist announced that he had a change of heart, the administrator had no inclination to doubt his words. He hoped that the main lead would come to fall in love with him. It was just a matter of time. Yet it was clearly a delusion, for the simple reason that lord Chang is not assuming his own sexuality. First, the readers should pay attention to the location of their sexual encounter: a library!! (chapter 5) It was not in his own place. The noble was not becoming responsible for his sexuality and their relationship. This explicates why the lord said that he was hurting the servant. (chapter 7) Thus I come to the conclusion that lord Chang is behaving similarly to Lee Jihwa. He is yearning for Lee Yeonjo’s love without risking anything, he prefers maintaining his good reputation.

In addition, note that he used the festivities as a justification to switch his shift (chapter 4), while he could leave the banquet by saying that he had an office duty. No one would ever question his disappearance. That way, he wouldn’t be caught with the main lead. Naturally, the staff has ears and eyes, so that they can not be fooled. That’s the reason why he got bullied by the workers. However, lord Chang will never be confronted with the rumors, for he is a noble. (chapter 7) Due to their social status, the servants are not allowed to show their disapproval. This explicates why Yeonjo became the target of the grapevines. (chapter 6) Only him will be judged and looked down. The last comment lets transpire that if the “lotus” had not been there, lord Chang wouldn’t have asked to have him as a boy toy. Note that he is portrayed as the seducer. In their eyes, he is the snake.

5. The true nature of the snake

As you can see, the introduction in the bedchamber was the starting point for the governor to investigate the servant’s origins. (chapter 7) He knew, he was a fallen noble, and he had been hired to spy on him. (chapter 7) This shows that the lord is never taking anything for granted. In my eyes, he is always questioning the intentions of his counterparts. That’s the reason why he can anticipate his enemies’ moves. He is always asking why. Therefore I perceive this scene as an important turning point in the protagonists’ relationship. (chapter 7)

5. 1 Yoon Seungho a snake?

One of my followers even pointed out that Kwon Hee-Ryang was so cunning and perceptive that he appears as scary. Compared to him, Yoon Seungho looks so naive and even stupid for not being able to detect his acquaintances’ lies and anticipate their moves. But this is totally normal. We have to envision that Yoon Seungho was held captive for 10 years, and he was brainwashed. He lived for 10 years as a male kisaeng. He was never confronted with politics. Therefore he is lacking experiences, and has no knowledge of the “real world”. Kwon Hee-Ryang had to fight to climb the social ladders and get close to the monarch. The scars on his body and face are the evidence of his dedication and strong will. Since Yoon Seungho was portrayed as an innocent and simple-minded man, I realized that he must not have been the real author of the fake promise to Jung In-Hun. (chapter 7) Kim must have suggested him this scheme. But he had no idea that he was inviting a snake into his realm. We imagined that the butler didn’t know the learned sir, for the main lead had no idea about the man. Nevertheless, their path had crossed in the past: in the gibang. (chapter 68) How could the protagonist have paid attention to the learned sir, when he got caught by the black guard? (chapter 68) Kim represents knowledge from the past. He must have remembered Baek Na-Kyum and Jung In-Hun in the past. And what did he see? A caring and gentle man… so he thought that if the scholar met the infamous Yoon Seungho, he would worry for the painter and take him away. But no… he accepted the invitation. He imagined that he had not heard the rumors, thus he spread rumors about the lord. (chapter 10) He envisioned that this would upset the righteous learned sir. However, this was used to scare the low-born… When the incident with the ruined painting occurred, and the scholar didn’t intervene, the butler imagined that Jung In-Hun was protecting himself, and the painter would resent him for his passivity. Yet, the painter remained in the mansion. The assistant sensed the strong bound between these two men, so he thought that Jung had indeed feelings for Baek Na-Kyum, but he was just powerless. He projected his own thoughts onto the learned sir: “He couldn’t do anything”. That’s the reason why he let him see the rape. Everything was done to scare the teacher who had such a good reputation. Then he suggested that he should see a shaman, he hoped that the man would ask about Yoon Seungho so that the shaman would tell him that the main lead was a bird of misfortune… but Jung asked for something else: digging up the past. Notice that on the day, he was supposed to meet the former servant, the main character was given the sword (chapter 35). Striking is that he let his master see the artist with Jung In-Hun in the courtyard. Here, the scholar was again coming back from the pond! So he was not learning. However, the stroke and the gentle words from the learned sir had one purpose: they were to remind to Yoon Seungho that the artist would only listen to Jung. He was the real master. Yes, this was the reflection from episode 30! (chapter 30) And in both situations, the learned sir had escaped the noble’s wrath. In my eyes, the real target in episode 35 was the scholar. The latter was supposed to die along with the painter, but it failed. Under this new perspective, it becomes so understandable why Yoon Seungho couldn’t detect the schemes. As a lotus flower, he was still pure and innocent. He could never be the snake.

And now, we know how Kim could trick Yoon Chang-Hyeon and earn his trust: he could compliment him while laughing behind his back. (chapter 6) Here, the lord was actually imitating the butler. And this shows the stupidity of Kim’s move. Why? (chapter 7) It offered indirectly a comeback for the Yoons to the palace. Furthermore, Jung In-hun seems to have succeeded the first round of the civil service examination. This is important, because this means that if Jung In-Hun is indeed dead, his disappearance will definitely involve the intervention of the authorities. Because Yoon Seungho was so innocent to plan great schemes, I can only assume that the readers were witnessing the scheming nature from the butler. And this leads me to the following observation. If the butler Kim is indeed a “snake”, this doesn’t mean that he was evil right from the start. He had a rebirth as well, but he just chose a different path. He decided to ensure that he would live in peace, and if his peace is in danger, then he can bite! And now, you comprehend why Kim felt threatened by Baek Na-Kyum. His presence could lead to the following discovery: Yoon Seungho was not a bird of misfortune, but a beautiful lotus flower! And once this lie was detected, his power based on deceptions and half-truths would get ruined.

Thanks to the painter as the lotus flower, the lord could slowly regain his freedom. But like mentioned above, the main lead is the lotus flower as well, thus Byeonduck created such a picture. This explicates why Baek Na-Kyum got purified first!!

5. 2 The snake: an evil animal?

So far, I have been describing the serpent as something negative. It is connected to the Fall of Man: lies and seduction. Nevertheless, the snake shouldn’t be perceived as something negative entirely. He embodies knowledge. Moreover, this animal has something in common with the lotus flower: it symbolizes “rebirth”.

“Snakes represent life, renewal, and rebirth. Over a period of time, snakes accumulate dirt and grime on their skin but they have the unique ability to shed their skin to get rid of the filth. Due to this quality of the snake, many people use it as a symbol of self-renewal. Just like the snake, if we are ready to shed off the past, we can rid ourselves of what was holding us back and be born again. Additionally, in many ancient cultures the snake has represented a rebirth of the physical body.  For instance, in ancient Greek mythology, god Asclepius, who has a snake on his staff, is believed to remove diseases and restore the body.” quoted from

This is relevant, because this means that the meeting between Kwon Hee-Ryang and Lee Yeonjo is announcing a rebirth. When the warrior entered his life for the first time, he brought death and destruction (chapter 1), now I believe that we are about to witness the opposite. The young slave needs to get a new goal in his life. the revenge was associated to death.

What caught my attention is the official’s comment. (chapter 8) He has the intention to treat him as his boy toy, to keep him by his side. Anyone reading this can only get upset. He is viewing the protagonist as a plaything. But the manhwaphiles should recall that contrary to lord Chang, the governor is planning not to hide their relationship. He will improve his situation, whereas it was not the case with lord Chang. Besides, I don’t think that in the bedchamber, the official was aware that the young man rejects homosexuality. Secondly, the manhwalovers should keep in their mind that the boy was sent there to spy for headman Choi. So with such an offer, Kwon Hee-Ryang hoped to deceive his enemies, letting them think that their plan had succeeded and the governor was blinded by his lust.

As for lord Chang, the latter might have given Yeonjo medicine or excuse him from work for the brother’s funeral (chapter 1), but he was still working for the bureau of construction. Lord Chang as his superior never sent him to another department. He only used his connection, when the young man asked for this favor. This shows that the administrator never had the intention to change anything. He imagined that with the brother’s death, the young man would still have sex with him. This explicates why the main lead rejected the sweets from the noble. (chapter 4) This was not real kindness, for the food would never contribute to improve his living conditions. Yeonjo was still treated like a prostitute. (chapter 7) The administrator might be acting, as if the slave was his lover (chapter 5), but this was behind closed doors. These words were just more or less lip service: (chapter 5) He still had leave him behind because of his work. Besides, the main lead was now acting, as if he was accepting his work as a “prostitute”. In exchange for the help, he had now to serve his benefactor. In the open, I doubt that the lord would like to be seen together having sex. Moreover, don’t forget that Yeonjo is called the son of a traitor, which could be another reason for lord Chang not to make their relationship official.

This stands in opposition to the governor’s attitude. Kwon Hee-Ryang feels no shame and embarrassment for his sexual orientation. Therefore he has sex outdoors. (chapter 4) He didn’t even mind being seen. He even made fun of Gisook, one of the men supporting the hojok. (chapter 4) That’s the reason why I believe that Kwon Hee-Ryang’s promise was honest. (chapter 8) If he became his boy toy, he would be “protected”. No one would dare to bully the slave. And now, you comprehend why Lee Yeonjo got badmouthed and bullied. (chapter 1) (chapter 6) People knew the nature of the relationship between lord Chang and Lee Yeonjo, but since the lord had never made an official statement, people could only conclude that the young man was selling himself for favors. However, the reality was the exact opposite. Lord Chang had been using his social status and wealth to obtain what he desired the most: sex. (chapter 4) He hoped to obtain the lotus’ love. Another important contradiction is the mark bite. While the noble with the dark circle did it without Yeonjo’s knowledge (chapter 5), Kwon Hee-Ryang did the exact opposite. (chapter 8) He was marking the slave as his possession, but he was making sure that the slave was well aware of this. (chapter 8) Since the governor is the son of the concubine, he came to resent social norms. This explicates why he doesn’t follow social norms. Consequently, it is not surprising that he doesn’t hide his sexual orientation. That’s the reason why I believe that the official will play a huge role as the uke’s mentor. He might be a snake in Yeonjo’s eyes, yet he is totally misjudging the man. He is not relying on his status and power, he knows that he needs to be prudent and observant in this hostile environment. That’s the reason why he can perceive people’s personality quite well. It looks like he is looking into their eyes so that he can detect their thoughts and emotions. That’s the reason why I come to the conclusion that the governor and the administrator are both snakes, but they stand for different values. Brutal honesty versus gentle hypocrisy.

Kwon Hee-Ryang is very seductive, but also gentle (chapter 7), for he pays attention to his counterpart’s well-being. He noticed the wound, he kissed Yeonjo before the sexual encounter in order to set the mood (chapter 8), while lord Chang did the exact opposite. First rough sex (chapter 5), then after the climax he showered the main lead with tenderness. (chapter 5) But don’t get me wrong. The governor can be rough in sex as well. Moreover, the latter is indeed a dangerous man, and he shouldn’t be underestimated. As you can detect, I fell under the spell of Kwon Hee-Ryang, and I am looking forward for the evolution of the couple’s relationship.

Feel free to comment. If you have any suggestion for topics or manhwas, feel free to ask. If you enjoyed reading it, retweet it or push the button like. My Reddit-Instagram-Tumblr-Twitter account is: @bebebisous33. Thanks for reading and for the support, particularly, I would like to thank all the new followers and people recommending my blog.

Steel Under Silk: Lost in translation

This is where you can read the manhwa. But be aware that this manhwa is a mature Yaoi, which means, it is about homosexuality with explicit scenes. If you want to read more essays about other manhwas, here is the link to the table of contents: Here you can read a second analysis about Steel Under Silk:

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When Lezhin US announced the release of snob’s new manhwa, many readers were surprised by the English title: Steel under Silk. They were all expecting the following title: “Blade and flower”, because this is the actual title in Korean. The blogger @Theprocrastinatingredkitty even questioned the reasons behind the change. How did the original title get lost in translation? Naturally, it was done on purpose, and I can’t tell exactly how this choice came to the surface. Nevertheless, I would like to give a possible answer why the English title fits perfectly to this story. But for that, I need to explain the meaning of the original title first. Then I will elaborate the signification behind the new title by including an examination of the story and characters.

1. Blade and Flower

Like mentioned above, it is important to elaborate the symbolism behind the original title. The blade is a synonym for the knife which embodies severance, death, sacrifice, division or even liberation. Striking is that the first chapter reflects these notions. It started when Kwon Hee-Ryang entered Lee Yeonjo’s life and killed his father in front of his eyes. (chapter 1) From that moment on, the main character lost everything. In one single night, he became the son of a traitor, while in reality we have to imagine that the king had made a coup d’état and got rid of his opponents. This explicates why Yeonjo made the following statement: A new king!! (chapter 1) In other words, Lee Yeonjo’s father was sacrificed. However, this is just the beginning, because now the king is determined to strengthen his authority and power by eliminating the hojok in Hamgil-do. This means that Kwon Hee-Ryang will have to use his blade for the monarch one more time. Simultaneously, Lee Yeonjo as a slave is seeking revenge. He plans to kill the person whom he views as responsible for his family’s death: Kwon Hee-Ryang. But the real mastermind behind this is actually the new king. (chapter 2) The reference of the “blade” in the title implies that the relationships between the characters in the story will get affected: severance, sacrifice, liberation and death. There’s no ambiguity that lord Chang won’t be able to use Yeonjo as his boy toy like in the past, or even claim him as his lover due to Yeonjo’s closeness to the new governor Kwon Hee-Ryang. (chapter 6)

On the other hand, if I take into consideration that the main lead is carrying a sword in his hand, the blade could be a reference to this weapon. Thus I should add the signification of the sword as well. The sword symbolizes not only power, protection, authority, strength, courage, but also righteousness and justice. This explicates why the sword Excalibur was given to the king Arthur or the goddess of Justice with her covered eyes is carrying one. With her sword, she is giving justice. Therefore it is not surprising that the main lead is seeing carrying a sword. He is not just protecting the new king, he is making sure that the hojok (chapter 2) are removed, for they represent a threat to the royal authority. The monarch is supposed to represent “justice”, but if there exist warlords, the latter can do whatever they please. This means, they can escape any punishment, the king can not control them. Finally, the sword should be perceived as a metaphor for the phallus (penis). As the manhwaphiles can sense, the blade is referring to the main lead Kwon Hee-Ryang. That’s the reason why I believe that when Snob chose the title, she was thinking of the two protagonists, Hee-Ryang was the blade, and the flower was the uke Lee Yeonjo.

But if the sword represents justice, why did Lee Yeonjo‘s father get removed? Let’s not forget that this story took place in 1448. (chapter 1) That’s the reason why I looked into that historical period. This is what I found:

King Sejo of Joseon (hangul: 세조; hanja: 世祖; 1417-1468, r. 1455-1468) was the seventh king of the Joseon Dynasty of Korea. Born in 1417 as Yi Yu, he was better known as Grand Prince Suyang. The second of King Sejong the Great’s many sons, he showed great ability at archery, horse riding, and martial arts. Suyang was also a brilliant military commander, though he never went to the battlefront himself. Although his ascent to the throne was stained with ruthless bloodshed and the forced removal of his nephew from the throne, he went on to prove himself one of the most able rulers and administrators in Korean history. […] First, he strengthened the monarchy established by Taejong, by weakening the power of the prime minister and bringing staff directly under the king’s control. The Uijongbu, the board of counselors who helped the king rule that had been established by Taejo and Taejong had been intended to give the king support and collective wisdom to assist him in running the country, but in practice, the members of the aristocracy on the board had become too influential, and held too much of the power, so Sejo restructured the government to return more power to the king. […] He restructured the military system, stationing large military garrisons in each province.” quoted from

From 1456 on, Sejo’s power was not again questioned. He had his way in virtually everything, and it can be said in his favor that, once established, he was a remarkably effective king. Among his achievements were lavish support of Buddhist writings and their publication, effective frontier defense, suppression of a major rebellion, and institution of the “secret censor” system, by which royal spies circulated covertly through the provinces ferreting out and summarily punishing corruption. In time these posts became themselves major focuses of graft, but the original idea of incorruptible censors had a long life in popular fiction.” quoted from

Though the dates don’t correspond perfectly, we can perceive strong parallels between the ruling of Sejo and this faceless king, for their policy is very similar. (chapter 2) Hence I am assuming that the author was inspired by Sejo. Kwon Hee-Ryang’s biography indicates that the monarch values more merits than lineage. (chapter 1)The main protagonist is the son of a concubine, therefore according to social norms, he should have never expected to raise the ranks and become a governor. He is not the official son. This explains why the main lead has so many scars, and why he is willing to do the dirty work. He had to work hard to reach the top of the hierarchy. This exposes the strong will from the new governor. He never accepted his fate as the son of a concubine, who was supposed to live in the shadow. The manhwalovers should keep in their mind that in Joseon the son was supposed to inherit the mother’s social status. That’s the reason why I don’t believe that Kwon Hee-Ryang truly meant this, when he spoke to Lee Yeonjo. (chapter 1) The man could sense the main lead’s resent in his eyes and even provoked him with this statement. He didn’t want him to give up on his life. In truth he was encouraging him to fight back and not to resign. Why? It is because the noble had been put through the same experience. He had not accepted his fate as the son of a concubine. And now, you comprehend why Yeonsuk and his brother’s life were spared. Actually, they should have been killed, since the father had been labelled as a traitor. They would usually eradicate a whole household due to this principle: “guilty by association”. To conclude, the governor embodies the sword, for he is a representative of the new ruler. He was sent as a spy to eradicate corruption and eliminate the powerful lords close to the border. As you can imagine, I came to the conclusion that Lee Yeonjo represents the flower.

And now, it is time to examine the different significations of a flower. Contrary to the blade, the flower embodies life and emotions, for it is not cold. The beautiful face from Yeonjo is arousing many emotions in Kwon Hee-Ryang and lord Chang. Both feel attracted. (chapter 5) Besides, it symbolizes tenderness and temporality as well. Therefore a beholder will want to protect it. Kwon Hee-Ryang (chapter 2) and lord Chang (chapter 1) intervened and stopped the bullying from other slaves. That’s how the two semes perceive the slave due to his frail silhouette. He is small and thin, therefore he reminds them of a fragile flower which could be trampled on so easily by others. However, this is just an illusion, as we can view it in the last image. Lee Yeonjo is not afraid of fights, he will never allow others to look down on him. He can fight back, if he desires it. And this leads me to the English title.

2. Steel Under Silk

One might reject the English title, for steel appeared during the Industrial revolution which took place in the 19th Century. Yet, the story is set in the 15th Century. Therefore we would have an anachronism. On the other hand, the readers shouldn’t overlook the alliteration, the figure of style in which a series of words, usually two or more neighboring words, have the same first consonant sound. In our case, it would be the “S”. This letter and sound is associated to the snake. (chapter 2) As you already know, the serpent embodies cunningness, knowledge and seduction. This is important, for “silk” is a reference to the bed. As you can see, the English title gives us a totally different approach. It implies sex. Furthermore, steel symbolizes strength and invulnerability. I would even add: determination and calculation, for a metal is cold and hard. Thus I come to the deduction, steel represents strategy and power. Since steel is used in weapon, I conclude that the author desired to include the notion of a fight in the bed. Yes, here I detect some similarities to Yoon Seungho’s following doctrine: “Sex is like a battle”. The one surrendering to his feelings should be judged as the loser. Though the story has just started, the manhwalovers could sense the presence of struggle during a sex session. (chapter 5) No one is allowed to reveal his emotions: neither passion nor pleasure.

In addition, the readers can detect another difference from the Korean title: the vanishing of “and”. Since I had pointed out that for me, the blade and the flower represented the 2 protagonists, I came to the conclusion that Steel and Silk can not be referring to two different characters. For me, Steel under Silk represents all the main characters in this story: Lee Yeonjo, Kwon Hee-Ryang and lord Chang.

2. 1. Lee Yeonjo

What caught my attention is Lee Yeonjo’s strength. In verity, he is not a flower. I would even say that he is as strong as Kwon Hee-Ryang. This was particularly visible in this panel. (chapter 1) He watched how the main lead killed the protagonist’s father. He never closed his eyes and looked straight into his enemy’s eyes. Note how he is clenching his jaw, a sign for hatred and strong-will. He didn’t hide his true thoughts and emotions. Furthermore, there’s blood on his face, which is quite similar to the scars from the governor. Despite the blood and the violence, the young boy never closed his eyes, while the older brother was turning his back on Kwon. And now, you comprehend why the governor feels that he has already met Lee Yeonjo. He could never forget this gaze full of resent and determination. In that scene, Lee Yeonjo showed courage. (chapter 1) He didn’t mind provoking his enemy with his daring gaze. Observe the huge contrast to the brother. The latter closed his eyes, and later turned his back on the official. This is not surprising that at the end, Yeonjuk died. He could never bear the cruelty of this world and resigned. I would say, the scene in the first episode revealed the brother’s weakness. Yeonjo might have been trembling, yet the latter was in reality the one comforting his brother. In other words, Yeonjo is a fighter. Therefore it is no coincidence that we could see him imaging how he would attack his enemy. (chapter 6) But he doesn’t let his emotions cloud his judgement. This explicates why in his second meeting with the governor, he didn’t try to take his revenge on the main lead immediately. The uke is calculating, developing how he should approach the official. (chapter 6) The bed is the place where the man is totally vulnerable, for he is sleeping. But the main lead is far from stupid, he doesn‘t trust many people.

We could see how determined Lee Yeonjo was in a different area: Prostitution. Since he chose to prostitute himself for his brother’s sake, he never considered himself as a homosexual. (chapter 1) Hence it is not surprising that he rejects sodomy. For him, selling his body was just a duty, and not really a job. Therefore he forces himself to think that he shouldn’t feel any pleasure. This explicates why he is resisting and not admitting that he is aroused while having sex with lord Chang. (chapter 5) Yet, his hands and his curled toes are betraying him. This means that Lee Yeonjo’s inner struggle about pleasure will keep increasing, the more time passes on. Note that his position changed, the moment he requested from the administrator of public works his assistance and protection. Here, the main lead lied saying that he desired to live a better life. (chapter 2) Lee Yeonjo was implying that he was willing to rely on someone. Hence it is not surprising that lord Chang started treating him more like his lover in episode 5. On the other hand, since headman Choi asked the protagonist to seduce the governor, this means that the slave will be forced to use his body differently. Even if he fails in the beginning, there’s no ambiguity that the young man will be cornered at some point. How can he “seduce” his enemy, if he is as cold as steel? This will force Yeonjo to act, even to fake pleasure. Thus I am expecting that Kwon Hee-Ryang will play a huge role in the slave’s transformation, his acceptance of his sexual orientation. And this leads me to the following observation. Steel under Silk is revealing the presence of a disguise and as such of acting. Note that Lee Yeonjo has been acting tough or respectful in front of the two other main characters. He never shared his suicidal thoughts to lord Chang. He is never honest to his counterparts.

Another important aspect is that Kwon Hee-Ryang truly views the slave as weak and frail, for he caught him in two situations, where he showed vulnerability. This incited the governor to show great care towards the young man. (chapter 3) Yet, the latter doesn’t want to be judged like that. Imagine his rage, when he had to thank the governor for his help and benevolence. (chapter 2) How could be thankful towards the man who had brought misfortune to his family? He is in truth steel behind his thin body.

2. 2. Kwon Hee-Ryang

And this is not something that the governor is expecting from the slave. He wished to see the young man in tears, as the latter would feel extreme pleasure. But this will represent a immense hurdle for Kwon Hee-Ryang. Not only the slave resents him, but also he rejects homosexuality. Thus I am expecting that the battles in the bed won’t be easy. For the first time, the governor will meet a strong-willed opponent.

On the other hand, the governor is also represented by steel. Behind his title as an official, he hides his true function: a fighter. (chapter 2) As a warrior, he was tasked to eliminate the hojok. And he will use every possible mean: poisoning for example. He is a strategist exactly like Yeonjo. The only difference is that he has more experiences than the slave. The noble could perceive the betrayal from headman Choi right away and even anticipate his moves: planting spies through the kisaengs. Since the man is nominated as a governor for 2 years, the warlords are underestimating their opponent’s authority. And this observation leads me to the following conclusion. The slave was the only one who could detect Kwon Hee-Ryang’s true personality. He is a warrior and he is cunning as a snake. Why? It is because he witnessed himself that the man wouldn’t mind to dirty his hands himself. (Chapter 1) He killed the traitor himself. However, due to his “robe” as a governor, his enemies are underestimating his intelligence, ruthlessness and his strength. He can do it without any trouble, since he is backed up by the monarch himself. As a conclusion, the silk can be also a reference to the hanbok and the official robe as the governor. I have to admit that I couldn’t help myself thinking of this scene from Painter Of The Night: (chapter 88) The removing of the jacket made of silk… Behind the silk hides a chest made of steel… 😉

On the other hand, I have the impression that Yeonjo doesn’t know his enemy either. He is overlooking him as a governor. The slave is driven by his revenge, yet he is forgetting the importance of politics and the problems concerning the country. From my point of view, Yeonjo needs to see Kwon Hee-Ryang acting as a governor. He never saw his sense of justice, when the noble said this. (chapter 2) He was fair, as he never asked for a punishment for Yeonjo. He could perceive that he was a victim, and he didn’t condemn him because of his social status. Later he never asked for a punishment, when the domestic broke the vase as well. In fact, he valued more the slave than the broken item. (chapter 6) Yes, Yeonjo is not paying attention to this. But it is only a matter of time, until he discovers the main lead under a different light. Notice that both are standing behind the sword, an indication that they will come to stand on the same side.

2. 3. Lord Chang

There’s no doubt that this man is in love with the slave Lee Yeonjo. This was truly perceptible in episode 5, where he kissed the main lead so tenderly. (chapter 5) Striking is that he even bit him. (chapter 5) It was, as if he was marking Yeonjo as his lover. He thought, he had finally the main lead in his hand. The latter was no longer rejecting him, (chapter 2), he was even requesting his help and protection. Thanks to him, he would have an easier life. This explicates why the next time they met, lord Chang was particularly gentle. (chapter 5) He could even sense that Yeonjo was feeling pleasure, and it was no longer prostitution.

But lord Chang has no idea about Lee Yeonjo’s revenge. This is important, because so far, the man doesn’t have a high position in the administration. He doesn’t seem to have a lot of power. But what will he do, when he sees that Yeonjo is getting closer to the governor? Let’s not forget that he brought him to the castle himself. He will have to find a way to get back Yeonjo… either by supporting him in his request for a revenge or by getting more power, because he believed in his lies: (chapter 2) Here, he believed that the main character had moved on and overcome the brother’s loss. That’s the reason why we should expect a transformation of lord Chang. He might raise the rank as well… So far, the administrator seems quite caring and gentle, but I have the impression that he is only showing this side towards the main lead. He showed favoritism which stands in opposition to justice. The manhwaphiles should keep in their mind that lord Chang is responsible for the construction of streets or protection walls. This means that he is in charge of many slaves. He could definitely let the workers work to exhaustion so that he could finish his projects on time. Thus I deduce that he is a man of steel as well. He could be as coldhearted as Kwon Hee-Ryang. In other words, I believe that Yeonjo will discover a new side from lord Chang. As the administrator of public work (behind his silk), he could be quite demanding and cold.

As the manhwaphiles could see, I do think that the title of “Steel Under Silk” is quite a good choice. It offers more aspects, and thanks to the metaphors, I could get new insight.

Feel free to comment. If you have any suggestion for topics or manhwas, feel free to ask. If you enjoyed reading it, retweet it or push the button like. My Reddit-Instagram-Tumblr-Twitter account is: @bebebisous33. Thanks for reading and for the support, particularly, I would like to thank all the new followers and people recommending my blog.