The enigma of “Apothecary Diaries” is building with the passing episode, as the actual meaning of the hairpin is still unveiled.
In episode 5 of Apothecary Diaries, before the start of the Garden Party, Lady Gyokuyou and Jinshi give Maomao hairpins. After that, the Garden Party commences, as Maomao is unaware of what this hair accessory means.
In episode 6, Lihaku (a rising official of the Imperial Palace) gives Maomao another hairpin. After a while, Lady Lihua also gives Maomao a hairpin, which makes Maomao even more confused about this gesture.
So, Maomao has received four hairpins, with no idea what they signify. But in episode 7, Xiaolin tells her about the meaning of this hairpin.
So, let’s dive deep and see what meaning has been explained and what we can infer from the information available.
The Meaning of the Hairpin
So far, the hairpin can be understood in two contexts under the person giving it:
The first context is “a sign of love interest in that person.”
If a hairpin is gifted from a male worker to a female lady-in-waiting, this means that the male is showing love interest in that particular lady-in-waiting.
As all the respective ladies-in-waiting are not allowed to leave the inner palace, this hairpin can help them leave the palace for a few days with the person who offered it as a recreational outing.
Only the “taking out of the Inner Palace” context has been explained in the anime series.
The second context is “a royal favor for that person.”
If a high-ranking person, such as a high-ranking consort, gives this hairpin to a lower-ranking person, such as a lady-in-waiting, this can be seen as a sign of gratitude.
In simple words, it can be taken as a “thank you and looking forward to your work in the future.”
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Hairpins Received by Maomao
Maomao has received four hairpins throughout the anime series.
The first hairpin she received was from Lady Gyokuyou, thanking her for the service she had provided, and also a sign portraying the fact that she was already ‘taken’ by someone.
The second one was from Jinshi, as he had developed a “love interest” in Maomao.
Similarly, Lihaku gave Maomao the third one, but it was just a complimentary hairpin.
Maomao didn’t know the actual meaning of the hairpin, so she used Lihaku instead of Jinshi to get out of the Inner Palace (if she had used Jinshi’s hairpin, who is of a higher authority, she would have enjoyed more days outside).
The last one was from Lady Lihua, thanking Maomao for healing her from the makeup poison.
Hairpin Received by Jinshi
Although the giver of each hairpin of Maomao is known, the hairpin Jinshi received during the Garden Party is still a mystery.
As Jinshi is of a higher rank, this hairpin is from someone of an even higher rank than him.
Many people speculate that he received this hairpin from Empress Dowager (the mother of the current Emperor), but we still don’t know who gave her that hairpin.
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What are your thoughts on this? Do you think this hair accessory signifies some other meaning? Let us know in the comments below!