“The Apothecary Diaries”: Who is the Senior Consort (Fourth Lady)? Explaining the Hierarchy and Ranks of the Consorts


In “The Apothecary Diaries”, we introduce the Senior Consort, known as the Fourth Lady, with some spoilers included. The story revolves around the main character Maomao, who was kidnapped and sold to the inner palace. Using her knowledge of medicine and poison, she solves mysteries. This article provides an overview of “The Apothecary Diaries”, including a summary of the plot and a detailed look at the hierarchy and characteristics of the Senior Consorts. Furthermore, we will present a comprehensive profile of the consorts, including the Noble Consort, Virtuous Consort, Consort Yuye, and Consort Lishu.

Who are the Senior Consorts in “The Apothecary Diaries”?

In this article, we delve into the Senior Consort, the Fourth Lady, featured in “The Apothecary Diaries”. The Senior Consorts hold significant power within the inner palace and play a crucial role in the life of the main character, Maomao. We will explore the hierarchy of the Senior Consorts and introduce the voice actors who bring these characters to life in the anime.

About “The Apothecary Diaries”

  • Overview of “The Apothecary Diaries”

Before discussing the profiles and ranks of the Senior Consort/Fourth Lady, let’s start with some basic information about “The Apothecary Diaries”. The series began serialization on the “Shousetsuka ni Narou” website in 2011 and was published in book form starting in 2012. The author, Natsu Hyuuga, hails from Fukuoka Prefecture and has published other works such as “The Dropout of God’s School”, “The Undying King’s Son”, and “The Conditions of a Lost Detective”.

  • Synopsis of “The Apothecary Diaries”

“The Apothecary Diaries” unfolds a story set in the inner palace of a Chinese-style empire. The protagonist, Maomao, worked as an apothecary in the flower district but was kidnapped and sold into the inner palace, where she was recognized for her abilities and became the poison taster for a noble consort. Raised by an apothecary foster father, it is revealed midway through the story that her real father is a high-ranking official. Maomao, with her knowledge of medicine and poison, uses her skills to solve disturbances within the inner palace.

What are the Senior Consorts (Fourth Ladies)?

In “The Apothecary Diaries”, the Emperor, tasked with producing heirs, welcomes many women into the inner palace as his wives. These women are ranked from lower to higher status, with the highest-ranking ones in the series known as the Fourth Ladies. There are also ranks within these Fourth Ladies, and since these ranks are subject to change, the relationships among them are not harmonious. The series depicts the maids of the Fourth Ladies engaging in conflicts.

The Hierarchy and Ranks of the Senior Consorts in “The Apothecary Diaries”

This section introduces the hierarchy and ranks of the Senior Consorts/Fourth Ladies appearing in “The Apothecary Diaries”. The Fourth Ladies hold significant power in the inner palace, and it’s clear that there is a distinct ranking system. We will explain the differences between the Noble Consort, Wise Consort, Virtuous Consort, and Virtuous Lady.

What is the Rank System?

The rank system refers to a status hierarchy, classified into levels such as First Rank, Second Rank, etc. The highest-ranking Senior Consorts are at the First Rank, while women at the Second Rank are known as “Nine Concubines.” During the Tang dynasty, there were 121 women serving as the Emperor’s concubines, but the number varied across different eras. Concubines had the duty of spending nights with the Emperor, although many held the title without fulfilling this role.

Hierarchy of the Senior Consorts

The top rank is the First Rank, occupied by the Fourth Ladies. Even among the Fourth Ladies, there is a hierarchy, with the Noble Consort holding the most power, followed by the Virtuous Lady, Virtuous Consort, and Wise Consort. In “The Apothecary Diaries”, the Wise Consort Li Hua gives birth to a male child, but the child dies due to illness. Also, Consorts Lishu and Aduo have not been chosen for the Emperor’s bed, adding complexity to the relationships among the Senior Consorts.

The title of Noble Consort is second only to the Empress, formally established by Emperor Xiaowu of the Southern Song dynasty. It has been used in Korea and Vietnam as well, and during the Tang dynasty, there were notable figures such as Consort Wei, Consort Yang, and Consort Dugu. In the Jin dynasty, the Virtuous Consort was part of the Nine Concubines, and historical records mention a Consort Li who held this title.

Is There a Change in the Hierarchy of the Senior Consorts?

Although Senior Consorts hold significant power, their primary duty is to bear heirs. If they become unable to bear children, they may be expelled from the inner palace. In “The Apothecary Diaries”, women from the Nine Concubines also appear, suggesting that if a vacancy occurs among the Fourth Ladies, a woman from the Nine Concubines may be promoted. Even though the Virtuous Consort, Virtuous Lady, and Wise Consort rank lower than the Noble Consort, they receive the Emperor’s favor if they give birth to a male child.

Consort Lishu became a consort of the previous Emperor at the age of nine but has not been with the current Emperor since the former passed away before the story begins. She faces bullying from her maids. Consort Aduo, unable to bear children, remains in the inner palace by the Emperor’s will. Thus, the situation of the Senior Consorts in “The Apothecary Diaries” is always precarious and subject to change.

Character List of the Senior Consorts in “The Apothecary Diaries”

After learning about the characteristics and dynamics of the ranks, we will introduce the Senior Consorts/Fourth Ladies featured in “The Apothary Diaries”. These high-ranking consorts are chosen for their exceptional qualities, and are often regarded as beautiful by readers and viewers. We will compile a list of their profiles and distinctive features.

Senior Consort Character #1: Noble Consort Yuye

In “The Apothecary Diaries”, Yuye is a character holding the rank of Noble Consort. She is distinguished by her red hair and green eyes, and has a calm and intelligent personality. Her mother was a Caucasian dancer, and Yuye was born as the child of the powerful Yang Yuyuan, thus becoming a Senior Consort through Ren’s recommendation. As Senior Consorts are at risk of assassination, Yuye is highly vigilant.

Noble Consort Yuye is 19 years old. At the beginning of the story, she was using toxic makeup, which affected the health of her newborn daughter. However, after heeding Maomao’s advice, she stopped using the makeup. Consequently, she took a liking to Maomao and made her a poison taster and maid. Yuye is the Emperor’s favorite Senior Consort and has mentioned struggling with sleep deprivation.

Despite most Senior Consorts having numerous maids, Yuye only has four due to her caution. Her head maid, Hongnyang, is one of the few sensible people and is often troubled by Maomao’s independent nature. Other maids, Sakurahana, Guiren, and Ailan, have bright personalities and mistakenly believe Maomao was abused by her parents as they are unaware that she experiments with poisons on herself.

Noble Consort Yuye is the youngest of 13 siblings. During her childhood, she was bullied by her half-brother Yuying, who despised her for being of mixed ethnicity, but Yuye always maintained a cheerful demeanor. Her father, impressed by this, promised to prioritize her, leading to her becoming a Senior Consort. Yuying’s harassment continues, as revealed when he allowed his niece to enter the palace.

Senior Consort Character #2: Virtuous Consort Aduo

In “The Apothecary Diaries”, Aduo holds the rank of Virtuous Consort. She is known for her long black hair and androgynous appearance, usually dressed in black-themed attire. Her fearless attitude towards the Emperor has led people to say she could have been his right-hand if born male. She bore the current Emperor’s first male child, but after overlapping with the birth of the former Emperor’s second son, she became infertile.

Virtuous Consort Aduo is a well-balanced person, both intellectually and emotionally. Although she was the Emperor’s most beloved consort, it is revealed that she was reluctant to become a consort. Midway through the story, her head maid orchestrates a poisoning incident involving Consort Lishu, after which Aduo withdraws from her position as a Senior Consort. Following this, she is depicted as disguising herself as Ren and sheltering a refugee priestess from Sha Ou.

Aduo’s withdrawal from her position led to Loulan becoming the new Virtuous Consort. Loulan’s father is a high-ranking official, and her mother was a former consort of the previous Emperor. Known for her flamboyant makeup and attire, she has around 50 attendants, becoming a topic of discussion in the inner palace. Maomao initially meets Loulan disguised as a maid named “Zicui,” whose true identity as Loulan is later revealed.

Senior Consort Character #3: Virtuous Consort Lishu

In “The Apothecary Diaries”, Lishu holds the rank of Virtuous Consort. She is characterized by her chestnut-colored hair and is self-conscious about her petite stature. She entered the inner palace at the age of 9 due to the former Emperor’s preference for young girls and became a consort of the current Emperor following the former’s death. Born into the prestigious Mao clan, Lishu’s family has been declining in influence as the Empress shifted from prioritizing lineage to merit.

Initially, Lishu appears assertive, but in reality, she is timid and faint-hearted. As she entered the palace to marry the deceased husband’s son, she is often disrespected by her maids. When the former Emperor died, there was a plan to marry her off to an elderly governor from the south, highlighting her unfortunate nature.

Lishu, in “The Apothecary Diaries”, is bullied by her maids. During a garden party, she was supposed to wear white but was tricked by her maids into wearing peach, which clashed with Noble Consort

Yuye’s outfit, embarrassing her unknowingly. She was also served food she was allergic to, leading to hives shortly after eating. Maomao, realizing the allergy, warned that it could be life-threatening, prompting the repentance of the maid responsible for tasting her food.

Although Lishu was bullied by her maids, her poison taster came to realize the gravity of her actions and began to support Lishu. Moreover, Lishu entered the inner palace under the care of Aduo, making Aduo a guardian-like figure for her. While technically a consort to the Emperor, Lishu is at an age where she yearns for romantic love and develops feelings for Mashan, who saved her at one point in the story.

Senior Consort Character #4: Wise Consort Lihua

In “The Apothecary Diaries”, Lihua is a character holding the rank of Wise Consort. She is distinguished by her blue-tinted hair and is considered the most stylish among the Senior Consorts. Initially, Lihua was depicted lashing out at Noble Consort Yuye due to suffering from an illness caused by toxic makeup, leading to perceptions of her as arrogant. However, it is later revealed that she possesses the dignity befitting a Senior Consort.

Wise Consort Lihua deeply loves the Emperor. She was overjoyed at giving birth to a male heir, but the child unfortunately died due to the toxicity of the makeup. She was also severely weakened but regained her strength under Maomao’s care. Grateful for saving her life, Lihua gifted Maomao a hairpin, a symbol of her favor. After Yuye gave birth to a male child, it was revealed that Lihua had also given birth to a son.

The head maid of Wise Consort Lihua is a person named Xing. Xing was raised to be a consort candidate but loved the idea of being a queen mother more than the Emperor himself, leading to Lihua being chosen by the Emperor instead. Xing, harboring resentment towards Lihua, brought abortion drugs into the palace, but her misdeeds were exposed by Maomao. Although it was a crime worthy of death, Lihua’s mercy reduced her sentence to exile from the palace for speaking against a consort.

Do Senior Consorts Become Empresses When They Give Birth to a Male Child?

After understanding the ranks and differences between the Noble Consort, Wise Consort, Virtuous Consort, and Virtuous Lady, we will summarize information about the children of the Senior Consorts/Fourth Ladies. It is speculated that there are conditions for a Senior Consort to become an Empress. We will also address the question, “Who is the Empress in ‘The Apothecary Diaries’?”

Do Senior Consorts Become Empresses When They Give Birth to a Male Child?

Senior Consorts have the duty of bearing the Emperor’s heirs, so those who give birth to a male child become Empresses. However, it’s not a guarantee, and the consort’s family background also plays a role. Lihua, for instance, gave birth to a male child, but since the child died due to the toxic makeup, she was unable to become the Empress.

Did Yuye Eventually Give Birth to a Male Child and Become the Empress?

Yuye, as the Emperor’s favored consort, received the most affection at the start of the story. Initially giving birth to a daughter, she later bore a son, which led to her formal selection as the Empress. However, there is also the risk of her children being assassinated in the struggle for succession, meaning Yuye could potentially be demoted from her position as the Empress.

Voice Actor List of the Senior Consorts in “The Apothecary Diaries”

After learning about the ranks and characters of the Noble Consort, Wise Consort, Virtuous Consort, and Virtuous Lady, let’s introduce the voice actors who portray the Senior Consorts/Fourth Ladies in “The Apothecary Diaries”. The anime has been airing since 2023, with character design by Yuki Nakatani, known for her work on series like “Pretty Cure” and “Talentless Nana”. Here, we provide a list of the voice actors’ profiles and their notable works.

Yuye (Noble Consort) Voiced by Atsumi Tanezaki

Atsumi Tanezaki voices Yuye, the Noble Consort, in “The Apothecary Diaries”. Born in Ōita Prefecture, Tanezaki is affiliated with the Tokyo Actor’s Consumer’s Cooperative Society. She was inspired to become a voice actor after watching episode 45 of “Sailor Moon”, and funded her training with money she saved from working. In her private life, she enjoys watching Japanese movies and announced her marriage in October 2023.

Atsumi Tanezaki has voiced characters in anime such as “My Little Monster,” “SPY×FAMILY,” “Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai,” and “Under Ninja”. Known for her versatile acting skills, ranging from mature women to young girls, she has been described as a “genius voice actor who can fully embody her characters.” In 2023, she won the Best Lead Actress and Best Supporting Actress awards at the Seiyu Awards, citing Miyuki Sawashiro and Mayumi Tanaka as her admired voice actors.

Aduo (Virtuous Consort) Voiced by Yuko Kaida

Yuko Kaida voices Aduo, the Virtuous Consort, in “The Apothecary Diaries”. Born in Kanagawa Prefecture, Kaida is affiliated with Ken Production. She became interested in voice acting through her involvement in drama clubs in junior high and high school. She debuted in dubbing for foreign dramas and is married to stage actor Tomoyuki Hirasawa.

Yuko Kaida has voiced characters in anime such as “The Promised Neverland,” “Mobile Suit Gundam UC,” “Ikki Tousen,” and “Dances with the Dragons”. Initially aspiring to work in dubbing, she has voiced Anne Hathaway, Emily Blunt, and Gal Gadot in Japanese. In 2019, she received the Foreign Film Award at the Seiyu Awards and enjoys walking in her private time.

Lishu (Virtuous Consort) Voiced by Hina Kino

Hina Kino voices Lishu, the Virtuous Consort, in “The Apothary Diaries”. Originally from Saitama Prefecture, Kino is affiliated with Amuleto. She became aware of her distinctive voice in middle school and was inspired by the anime “One Piece”. She started attending a training school from her second year of high school while working part-time at FamilyMart.

Hina Kino has voiced characters in anime such as “Tsuki to Laika to Nosferatu,” “She Professed Herself Pupil of the Wise Man,” “Heaven’s Design Team,” and “African Office Worker”. She played minor roles for about two years after her debut, landing her first main character role in “Masou Gakuen HxH” in 2016. She enjoys watching movies in her private time and announced her marriage to a non-celebrity in 2023.

Lihua (Wise Consort) Voiced by Yui Ishikawa

Yui Ishikawa voices Lihua, the Wise Consort, in “The Apothecary Diaries”. Born in Hyogo Prefecture, Ishikawa is affiliated with mitt management. She joined a theater troupe in her childhood and started appearing in anime during high school. To refine her stable acting skills, she has been regularly holding reading plays since 2015.

Yui Ishikawa has voiced characters in anime such as “Qualidea Code,” “Tropical-Rouge! Pretty Cure,” “The Misfit of Demon King Academy,” and “Ashita-chan no Sailor-fuku”. She gained recognition for her role as Mikasa in “Attack on Titan”, winning the Best Supporting Actress award at the Seiyu Awards in 2014. She opened her official Twitter in 2019 and announced her marriage to a non-celebrity in 2021.

Summary of the Senior Consorts in “The Apothecary Diaries”

In this article, we introduced the hierarchy and ranks of the Senior Consorts/Fourth Ladies featured in “The Apothary Diaries”. While Senior Consorts hold significant power, they face the risk of being expelled from the inner palace if they are unable to bear children. Additionally, the threat of assassination looms over them, making their lives in the palace harsh and perilous, as many have noted. For those who haven’t seen “The Apothecary Diaries” yet, this article can serve as a guide to understanding the complex world of the Senior Consorts.

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