AKAIntroduction Of A Princess
The Glamorous Imperial Concubine
Title Means...Basically, The Drop Dead Gorgeous Imperial Concubine, Qing Shi to describe a woman so gobsmackingly beautiful.
Cast-CharactersRuby Lin as Ma Fu Ya / Pan Yu (Lady Yuan)
Yan Kuan as Meng Qi You (Crown Prince)
Wallace Huo as Liu Lian Cheng
Tony Yang as Liu Lian Xi
Hong Xiao Ling as Ma Xiang Yun
Kara Hui as Du Fei Hong (Empress Du)
Dai Chun Rong as Dowager Gudu
Wang Lin as Han Chao Yi
Wang Yu as as Meng Qi Yun
Liu Tao as Wen Jing Ruo (Lady Jing)
Zheng Kai as Han Ming
Mao Zi Jun as Ma Du Yun
Liu Zi Jiao as Liu Lian Si
Miao Jun Hao as Hua Gong Gong (Eunuch Hua)
Qiu Shuang as Meng Qi Xing
Jiang Kai as Meng Zhi Xiang (Emperor)
Yang Kai Chun as Yun Zhu
Hao Ze Jia as Du Wan
Chen Chen as Su Yao
Kang Qun Zhi as Li Mu Yi (Empress of Chu)
Liu Yong as Ma Yin (King of Chu)
Du Jun Ze as Yi Bing
Hao Luo Fan as Xiao Xin Gan
Zhang Xiao Chen as Shen Zhi
Zhou Yi Wei as Chai Rong
Sun Xi as Mo Chou
Chen Xi as Li Fei
Wu Xin as palace maid
No. Of Episodes44
Based on ...The novel of the same title by Murong Yan Er which apparently does not have any resemblance with this series except for the core characters.
Some more informationI wrote an almost episode per episode review here with lots of pictures.
My post on Wallace Huo which touches a bit on his performance as Liu Liancheng at here (part 1) and here (part 2).
SummaryWhatever you have read about the synopsis, chuck it out because it ain't the same. You could read my post by post in my errr post since if I were to write a recap this review will be too long. I will however attempt a short brief summary, about 6 pages will be it. Are you counting?
Ma Fuya is the beloved daughter of the Emperor of Chu and is someone highly opinionated and intelligent who is also the people's princess, beloved by all except for her jealous cousin, Ma Xiangyun who gets ignored most of the time. One day she meets Liu Liancheng, the crown prince of Northern Han and he fell for her, she however does not wish to marry royalty. Her life is perfect until one coup by her dastardly uncle, father of Xiangyun ended her father's life, supposedly her mother's life, separated her from her younger brother who was then rescued by a weird fellow who abused him for many years and she herself nearly lost her life. Having lost everything except her beloved grandpa Hua, she traveled to Northern Han to seek Liancheng's help to revive her kingdom. What she doesn't know is, Liancheng was forced to marry Xiangyun and Xiangyun pushed Fuya down the cliff. She was then rescused by a mysterious handsome man who wants to train her as a courtesan to seduce someone important who can help her to revive her kingdom and at this point you must suspend your disbelief that this supposedly intelligent girl would consider being a courtesan trained by a guy whom she doesn't even know all on a promise to revive her kingdom. I find that hard to believe. Meanwhile Liancheng searches for her for years and continues to ignore his wife, Xiangyun whom he know pushed Fuya down the cliff and hated her since. Back to Fuya, once in Shu Kingdom she realises that mysterious man is Meng Qiyou, eldest prince in the Kingdom of Shu except he was once a crown prince but pushed off his position by his formidable mother Empress Du Fei Hong who installed instead his own much younger Qixing. Fuya entered the palace as concubine candidate for Qixing and they hit it off instantly. Having been through hardships together for many years, Fuya fell for Qiyou whilst Qiyou too fell for Fuya and decided not to use Fuya for his own political gain whilst Fuya discovers why Qiyou chose her is because of her resemblance to his father's favourite concubine, Concubine Mei. Trouble brews when the emperor wants Fuya for herself whilst Liancheng discovers Fuya is alive and thinking she is held against her will, he wages a war against Shu, resulting in Qiyou being imprisoned and Fuya back in the arms of Liancheng. Fuya must now be Liancheng's concubine whilst think of ways to rescue Qiyou and return to Shu, even if it meant sharing Qiyou with another woman, Liansi.
Will she succeed?
I will spare you the suspense. She succeeds.
For the ending, click the button below.
Emperor of Chu dies from poison. Liancheng dies shielding Fuya from the arrow by Xiangyun. Xiangyun kills herself with the same arrow. Suyao is executed for being a spy. Emperor of Shu dies from same poison as Emperor of Chu. Evil uncle of Fuya dies from being stabbed by Duyun. His evil wife died from.. I can't remember but Duyun killed her. Fuya's unborn child was killed by Duyun who pressed hard onto her stomach when she was semi conscious. Empress of Chu died by falling to her death, accidentally pushed by Yunzhu who was deliberately pushed by...Duyun? Concubine Han? Can't remember. Qixing effectively killed himself when he ran straigh into Qiyou's sword when he was charging at Qiyou. Duwan dies being strangled, so her baby dies in her, by Concubine Han. Du Feihong dies of illness but the way I see it, she probably died more of heartbreak. One loyal minister of Shu died by knocking his head on some stone. Qiyou's faithful eunuch Xiao Xingan dies from drinking poison given by Qixing meant for Qiyou. Yunzhu dies trying to shield Fuya. Qiyou dies when trying to save Fuya by arrows and then falling into the river. Grandpa Hua died from experimenting with poison I think, to save I believe Empress of Chu so that Fuya doesn't need to risk her life and unborn child by trying the same poison so as to find an anecdote. Concubine Han died by poison from Fuya. Liansi's baby died from poison put by Fuya but through bees released by Duyun. Dugu, mother of Liancheng dies from sucking the poisonous blood of Lianxi. And the last one, Duyun dies after Fuya stabbed him on the neck with her hairpin.
I think I have covered all the important deaths. Those who survived;
Han Ming retired to village to wait for Concubine Han to return to him but she never will.
I assume Liansi didn't die and return to Northern Han since no news after that sick doll like scene.
Qiyun becomes emperor of Shu and marries no one we know of. Since this is not his love story.
Lianxi becomes the emperor of Northern Han as he promised Dugu to rule well and marries no one we know of. Since this is not his love story.
The mistress of Qiyou at the beginning is sent away to live as a mistress for someone rich and will give her the protection and comfort she needs, as according to Qiyou but the point is she wants Qiyou but Qiyou doesn't want her. He sends her away out of affection, not wanting her embroiled in the political struggle but as she sees it, she isn't even fit to die for him or with him like Fuya will.
Fuya survives, she doesn't kill herself because since so many died for her, she wants to live in their memory and with the memory of Qiyou entrenched in her mind.
The MIA is Muo Chou. No idea what happened to her in the end.
That's about it.
COMMENTSHave you ever come across a series where you love the series for some reasons but looking at it wholly, you just hate it because it had the potential to become a beautiful thing but turned out to be an epic failure? It is like 1 story at the start, another story in the middle and in the end it self disintegrated, a series so suicidal it just did itself in at the end. That is basically what Qing Shi Huang Fei is.
It started out rather predictable, sorta campy fun, then it became all serious and sorta good, became better in each and every episode but towards the end, just went on and on for so long, the fun is lost, the drama is gone, the story is nowhere to be seen and the ending is just up to interpretation ONLY IF you haven't paid attention for the past 5 episodes or so. This is a classic example of a story that just couldn't go on logically. I mean some even argued it is illogical in the first place when we have essentially most of the hot guys (young and old) running after Ruby Lin, who essentially is older than the 2 leading actors by a few years. Look, I am no fan of Ruby Lin's acting, but it is understandable she should cast herself as the leading actress since she is the producer. I shall say as a producer, Ruby was exemplary in her taste in costumes, her picks in the actors and the locations. However whilst you can blame her for making a total mess out of the series towards the end, my gut feeling is the director and the person editing fell asleep on the job. Because if not I can't explain how this series just nosedived. Or maybe I can but that will take a whole lot gigabytes for me to explain, which I won't do simply because it hurts to relive those moments. Oh it hurts!
But first, let me say why I love this series.
There are plenty of hot men in this series and when I say hot men, even the old ones are handsome. Ruby definitely populated this series with the good looking ones who surprise surprise, can act very well. Whilst we can all argue who is the handsomest and all, no doubt 2 made the biggest impact in female hearts; one is Prince of Shu that is Meng Qiyou played by the man with the impossibly beautiful eyebrows, Yan Kuan and the other is Prince of Northern Han that is Liu Liancheng (you can call him Durian City if you want) played by the man with the impossibly beautiful long eyelashes, Wallace Huo. Remember, Wallace Huo from Taiwan and not Wallace Chung from HK (TVB fans will remember his sorta debut as Kenny Bee in that autobiography (NOT) of Wynners many many years ago). But since I met Wallace Huo first and fell in love at first sight, my heart has always been with Liu Liancheng, through good or bad times. Wallace Huo is to me the reason why HDTV is created. He looks beautiful at any angle, and mostly at extreme closeups. He cries beautifully but not to divert attention from another gorgeous man that is Yan Kuan, I shall speak more of him later. Just remember, Wallace Huo cries beautifully. Every night I will switch on TV to watch this beautiful man. Whatever stupidity I see on screen, Wallace Huo's beauty blinded me from the obvious flaws and made me think this series is great. Not to say it is that stupid. It isn't, except when the main important characters die, logic went with them. But back to wallace. I have no idea who he is. I was never a Taiwan drama fan so I never knew of his existence although I heard of the tale of 2 Wallaces. So when I saw the preview, I heard about the high ratings for this series and I saw Ruby, I decided to watch for the sake of watching until a few minutes into episode 1, this beautiful man appears and oh how my heart flutters. And then he became the first and foremost reason, until I decided my heart can have 2 men at one go although Wallace (oh how my heart flutters) remains numero uno since then.
In episode 1 this beautiful man, with the most beautiful head gear and a huge fur coat on his shoulder (like some dead purple fox draped over his shoulder) looking rather sad, melancholic and depressed all rolled into one. I was instantly captivated. It was to me one of the most beautiful introduction, everything I ever need to know about Liu Lian Cheng, I knew in that 5 minutes of his intro, from his dislike of the idea of being a crown prince to his disgust at having to be there at Chu Kingdom and his dissatisfaction at his I suppose royal lineage. This was a young man facing a personal crisis; as in being in a position he does not want, in a place he has no interest and in a situation he does not care for. From that moment on, for me Wallace Huo is the THE actor of melancholic sadness. No one does it better than him, the weight of the world on his shoulders and he looks like he doesn't give a damn, which is what makes his Liu Lian Cheng so irresistible. Later on in the series, you will see interactions with his mother, the Empress Dowager and believe me when I say he is the King of Retorts. No one does it better, and he did everything with style. The more you know about Lian Cheng, the more perplexed you're with him. Why he did what he did to the woman he clearly loved? Why can't he give a chance to another who clearly loved him? How a young boy who showed so much character and the appearance of a wise ruler could grow up to be such a wimp in love? Why he hates his mother, and yet protects her and yet feels disgusted at having to do that and yet felt obligated? There are many whys with his actions, why he does this, why he thinks that, why he said this, the entire series was fascinating to me because of Liu Lian Cheng. Wallace Huo was billed as a guest star, my guess is because of the strict ruling of China broadcasting authorities on the issue of Mainland China actors as leading actors. And yes, he appears for the first few episodes, disappeared for a long time, comes back once in a while and then the last few episodes were mostly him. Liu Lian Cheng is not an easy man to like but easy to love. You can love him for so many reasons and you can find very little reason to like him. His character is flawed. For all your questions about his actions, there are no answers. I read in forums a detailed explanation by the screenwriter on what makes Lian Cheng the Lian Cheng we see, plus the fact a few episodes were edited out. But I feel if those episodes were not edited out and we see Lian Cheng as in the book version, I will find him disgusting. I like the fact that he is somewhat a mysterious figure when it comes to his feelings and the way he thinks. I like the fact that he had no reason for his betrayal to Fuya. If he had any, none of it would be justified. Having no reason makes it all the more tragic. Having no reason draws me to him. Because any reasons given will just be an excuse and makes his character even more calculative and devious and will dishonour his love for Fuya. By having no reasons, somehow magnifies his love for Fuya and his sacrifice. It is weird logic but if you watch this series you will understand why there is absolutely no need to justify why he did what he did. The fact he did made him a villain and yet I am sure viewers will be incapable of hating him because by that point he is such a pitiful man you just feel sorry for him. I did have one question throughout; I was wondering "Why won't Ma Fuya love him?" because if she did, problem solved. I know the answer. She met him when she was at her happiest time and she isn't in a rush to marry. So she sees him as her best friend. But she fell for Qiyou because she met him at her worst time and she relied on him emotionally and physically and by that time she gave her heart to him. But poor Lian Cheng, no matter what he does, he may have Fuya's person, but he will never have her heart, the one thing he wants more than anything else. I weep at the thought how he made life so difficult for himself.
In fact everyone in here makes life difficult for themselves.
I am under no illusion that Wallace Huo is not the greatest actor ever. In fact if I nitpick I can point out the flaws, many of them and he has a tendency to overact in certain scenes. Maybe overact is wrong word, I will say being way too dramatic in certain gestures or too deliberate in the way he moves around, especially the over shaking of his head. But for a potentially disgusting character, Wallace gave Liu Liancheng layers that he slowly peels and sometimes you see the worst of him and yet sometimes you see the best of him and most often than not, he gave such a layered performance that you will start wondering why Liu Liancheng is the way he is. I am sure Wallace has his background at the back of his mind when acting in certain ways, such background not available to us viewers since the snip snip happy editing and all. But yet somehow you get the feeling of a desperate soul trapped in a desperately unhappy situation and later on in a worser still circumstances; marrying the woman you know hurt the woman you love and so you hate that woman, unable to accept her. Wallace didn't hold back; the scenes he has with the actress Hong Xiaoling as ma Xiangyun were difficult to watch. He is abusive to her, physically when he hits her, mentally when he ignores her and emotionally when he refuses to return her love. But why I love Wallace Huo in those scenes is because whilst he doesn't hold back in his aggression, I can't hate him, mainly because Ma Xiangyun asked for it (oh let me explain that later!) and also because you understand his hurt, his pain and his confusion. He didn't ask for that marriage, he didn't ask for many things in his life, he is one could say left with little choice. Wallace with his beautiful melancholic face certainly fits all those scenes well and gave those difficult scenes justice. In other happier scenes with his beloved Fuya, Wallace shows his tenderness and yet you can see in his little gestures, his eyes, his face that he knows this woman doesn't love him. He deluded himself into taking he could make her love him but yet he doesn't "make her love him" by forcing her. He lets her do whatever she wants as long as she stays with him and it is in those gentle scenes that I feel more sorry for Liu Liancheng because it is a lost cause. This is a man who understands love but doesn't know how to love properly as opposed to Meng Qiyou. For Fuya, she feels suffocated with him, and yet when she tenderly touches him when he doesn't notice it, you will think perhaps if if he had saved her first when she first came to Nothern Han, they could have been a beautiful couple. I enjoyed Wallace's performance when he is alone, when he is with his co-stars except for when he is with Hong Xiaoling because I don't like that actress. It is a credit to Wallace that despite all his character's flaw, the one remaining question I have even after he died was "Why won't Ma Fuya love him back?". And basically half of the series died when he died about 10 episodes before the end. After he died, the series had one more character to rely on but when she died, everything crumbles.
His voice was dubbed, obviously. But the dubber chosen for Wallace has a similar voice as Wallace, except accent is more neutral. Love his dubbed voice because it suits his face. I have seen some BTS with Wallace's original voice. Maybe he knows he will be dubbed so he didn't care about how he sounded accent wise. But I am sure if he knew, he may have a similar accent as his dubber.
Quite a few.
One is when he meets a mask covered Ma Fuya and he was sitting very arrogantly and giving her that "I don't give a damn" look until he heard her voice and he knew it was her and his look, unchanged except for that momentary shift in his eyes that you know, he knows. That to me is subtlety at its best. He does have a face for extreme closeups.
One more is the wedding night kissing scene. Yes he does kiss like he is puffing into her mouth (that is Hong Xiaoling). And yes the look he gave her veiled face before the kiss started was his worst performance in this series, way too much acting there that I cringed but when the kiss started and ended with him shocked and on the floor, what I love is the attention to details. Ever seen kissing scenes? Why the woman with so much lipstick and yet the man after some hot kissing still looks bubblegum pretty on his lips? I don't know but this scene correctly shows us how it is done. His lips was smacked with red lipstick which pretty much shows how intense he was with her. And I love that scene.
Whilst I am not a fan of his death scene since I blame Ma Fuya for it, I do like one line he spoke; "Flowers do bloom in the cold Northern Han, there can be spring in Northern Han" and I will always tear up a bit when he said that as I shall then do a Ma Xiangyun; "MA!!! FU!!!! YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
Crying. His best crying scene has to be when he was by the river, munching on the persimmon cake and left tear down, then right tear down as he wonders why won't Fuya love him. 2nd place would have been Yan Kuan.
Most often asked question by me
"Ma Fuya, why won't you love him back?"
The other man to capture my heart as the series went along is Meng Qiyou. I didn't like him at first, I don't know why I can like that melancholic abusive bastard so easily and yet it took me some time to warm up to Meng Qiyou. Maybe because he looked arrogant, maybe because I felt Ma Fuya should be with Liu Liancheng, seeing Qiyou as a competition. Not that I think highly of Fuya but I just want my Liancheng to be happy. Anyway this character as he goes along shows his heart of gold. He is cold only because he pretends to be. He is emotionless only because he shut his heart. Deep down he is a very sad character. In fact he has my vote as the most pitiful character ever to grace the TV. His heart is hurt so deep, so callously, that to discover that he fell for Fuya is like he realises his heart is actually alive and well. I always thought if under different circumstances, both he and Liancheng can be BFFs. They have similiar backgrounds and rejection but between them, Liancheng is the luckier one. Qiyou had and will continue to have a rough life until his death. When he was born he was snatched away to be taken care by his mean father's favourite concubine, Mei. His mother then rejected him again and again despite everything he does. His stepmother he realises never trusted him. His own father later de-crowned him as the Crown Prince and never loved him. In fact his father never loved anyone but himself. Anyway his one faithful maid turns out to be a traitor. His own blood brother later abandoned him and wished him dead. His ministers also left him. Whilst Fuya loves him, she had to leave him too due to political reasons, twice she had to do so. He had to send his favourite mistress away. He had to marry a woman he did not love. Under his rule, he almost lost his kingdom. When he reconciled with his mom, she dies. And in the end even his death was so meaningless and uneventful; trying to save Fuya, he got struck by arrows and fell into the lake. I actually thought no he is not dead. He is NOT dead because even the maid had a more spectacular death with some monologue. Liancheng had a beautiful death scene with some moving monologue. Even his mom's death too longer. But he just fell into the river without a word, not even "Fuya, RUNNNNNN!!!". I thought no way! NO WAY! Next day I watched the next episode, indeed he is dead. And in that final moment, even the writer, editor, director, producer all have abandoned him. Like I wrote in my recaps, all he needs now is his faithful dog running away and a bird flying by and drop some bird droppings on his head. Therefore is the completion of Meng Qiyou, unloved, unwanted, the unluckiest man, ever. What a tragic character.
Yan Kuan is a weaker actor than Wallace Huo, in the sense he is less big movements, less emotional on his face. But weaker doesn't mean bad. It just means he is a weaker actor. But the one thing he does best is his very expressive eyes. I don't know about these Mainland China actors, they have such expressive eyes. He has epic eyebrows, beautifully shaved I suppose you can say that. But his eyes is like synced with his eyebrows. Anger, pain, happiness, doubt, everything. His eyes is just gorgeous. However his face can be puffy and tired looking. HDTV is not for him in those scenes. He is tall, well built and looks like a man should. Whilst Wallace has a sense of fragile weakness to him, Yan Kuan looks like he is strong but yet he can play a weak man as well. His best scenes are with Kara Hui, and every scene he is with Kara Hui is his best performance of that episode. You can see the way he looks at her that he is eager to please her, when he knows she is not pleased, his shoulder slumped, like the entire weight of disappointment on his shoulder. Like he is a crushed man. Whilst Wallace's Liancheng also has issues with his own mother, you can see Liancheng is more in control whilst for Qiyou, he is not in control of anything at all. He is unwanted, unloved, unappreciated and Yan Kuan epitomises all that whenever he shares a scene with Kara Hui. It is such a pity the writer just doesn't know what to do with Qiyou after a while.
Hated the voice at first. I thought if this was his real voice, it sounded like someone 5 inches shorter than Yan Kuan. But the accent is again neutral. I wouldn't mind Yan Kuan's accent be used.
All his scenes with Kara Hui. The heartbreaking reconciliation on her death bed, the pain every time he thinks in her eyes he is never good enough. But the single best scene of his and THE ENTIRE SERIES has to be the scene where he is alone in his study, having drawn a picture of Concubine Mei and his mother saw what he did, rushes him and went on to scream at him, made him kneel down and vent her anger at him by repeatedly flogging him as he winced in pain. She screamed "Why won't you love me like you love her?!" and he answers back as he again I believe vomits blood "Because you were never a mother to me" and it was such a heartbreaking scene. You know the mother loves him and yet couldn't show him and he loves her but feels he didn't earn her love with whatever he does. It was a fantastically acted scene and a great scene as well.
Another notable scene is the moving death monologue by his faithful eunuch to Qiyou where he urged Qiyou to be emperor and to save himself.
Vomiting blood. 2nd place is Wallace Huo. Only Yan Kuan of all the actors I have seen can vomit blood so elegantly, so beautifully, so effectively. And he vomits blood a lot of time in here. He can vomit blood, cry and be angry all at the same time.
Most often asked question by me
"Empress Du, why won't you love Qiyou back?"
AN OBSERVATION ON THE 2 MENLike I said, there is similarity between Qiyou and Liancheng. They have quite about the same start with mothers who love them but in different way. However whilst Qiyou is billed as a compassionate talented would-be ruler, even Liancheng thinks highly of him, the problem with this series is what happened after Qiyou becomes Emperor shows to me he does not have the strength in character to be an emperor. He is a cunning intelligent good man. Operative word is good because when he became emperor, he fell into the same trap like his father did, by overly preferring one woman over the other causing the other to feel hurt and resentment, inability to make good decisions. Liancheng on the other hand became an emperor earlier, whilst he is officially advised by his mother, he never quite listen to her. Yes he had to marry the woman she wanted him to marry but the initial wedding was a trick, if he had known he would have rejected her outright. But apart from marriage, Liancheng seems to have a stronger footing when governing his country, he is more strong in his opinion and expressing his opinion. That makes Liancheng a better Emperor. But when it comes to personal lives, Liancheng is a luckier man except on his wedding night he should have asked his mom "Exactly which princess of Chu am I marrying?" because if he had, no drama.
THE BROTHERS OF LIAN CHENG AND QIYOUCharacters
Liu Lianxi is Liancheng's half brother but he loves this half brother like blood brother. And Lianxi loves Liancheng and would do anything for him. Compare this to Meng Qixing, Qiyou's full blood brother who in the most important time abandoned Qiyou and even wanted Qiyou dead. Such a coward. I actually liked Qixing but towards the end he so feared death he was such a coward, I am sure you will hate him too. Anyway Lianxi is one character I grew to like towards the end. He hated Lian Cheng's mother who killed his own mother years before. This was also the reason why Liancheng hated his own mother. And yet he never once attempted to kill Empress Dowage Gudu. Never once, which is something Liancheng realises as well. He studies the art of poison and did many things to help Liancheng. He seems cold and evil but you can't deny these brothers are very very close. Even when he felt disappointed with Liancheng, he always came back and to help Liancheng. He is also probably the one man immuned to Fuya's charm and tried to kill her several times. Lianxi became my favourite character when Liancheng died because everything he does after that was for Liancheng, and he I suppose became a better ruler.
Qixing is stupid. What more can I say? When he died, I didn't feel sorry for him. The entire death scene made it out as if he was being pushed as a pawn in the struggle for power. By then his father is dead, his mother is sick, his mother wants him to save Qiyou but it was Qixing himself who refuses to listen to reason. I didn't feel sorry for him at all. In fact I feel like slapping him.
Qiyun is Qiyou's half brother whose mother is Mei. They were close as children since they grew up together but at some point Qiyou became cold towards him but that was after he found out Mei whom he loved very much on her deathbed asked her husband to make Qiyun Emperor and not Qiyou. I always thought Qiyou loved Mei more than as a mother; there were plenty of suggestions he was in love with her but the series never took up that suggestion which is to me such a pity. What better than some huge crush on your own mom eh? Anyway Qiyun is a good guy, a better brother who in the end became emperor when Qiyou died. But there was some problem with the script; one scene Qiyun told his dad he wants to be emperor. After that no more such scene, so I was like why Qiyun suddenly want to become emperor and then promptly forgot about his own suggestion? Why waste time on such unconnected scene? And there were plenty of suggestion of a budding romance between him and Suyao but it went nowhere. There were no romance between him and Fuya because quite obviously, that would be very very wrong.
Generally, pretty good supporting performances by all 3, even if Tony Yang looks weird as some poison sect chieftain look. But of the 3, Qiu Shuang being the youngest and playing the youngest that is Qixing is the best. I thought he gave an amazing performance as the cowardly Qixing.
For Tony Yang, when he held his hated enemy in his arms as she died and he cried for her not to die so soon. In his anguish there is a bit of reluctance, a certain sense of affection. He hated her but for his brother, he put up with her and in the end when he realised she died for him, all hatred forgiven. After all these 2 were bound by their love for Liancheng.
For the others, no particular scene stood out for me.
Lianxi and his trademark furrowed look. Qixing and his trademark running away like some stray chicken whenever he feels threatened. For Wang Yu, frankly I feel his character is like an addition that can be taken away.
THE FATHERS OF THE MAIN CHARACTERSFathers shall include surrogate father.
First, Miao Hao Jun, the ,loving eunuch named Hua Gong Gong to Ma Fuya. I always remember him as that despicable 9th prince in Yongzheng Wang Chao. He actually looks better as he is older and he seems taller too! A pity his real voice is not used or if used, he certainly sounded higher pitched. He is a fantastic actor but his problem is his death scene is too long. From inside room to outside garden, it seems his death took him around the palace and still he can carry on about 10 minutes monologue before dying. And poor Qiyou, not even "Fuya, RUNNN!!!!!". However I did not like this character at first when he seems overly concerned over Fuya. In fact everyone loves Fuya except for 3 or 4 people. Those who loves her protects her till death. I couldn't believe an eunuch dared scold the Emperor but we are to suppose this emperor is a family oriented guy and treats this eunuch as his brother. Unbelievable even in this context.
Next is Fuya's father whose name I didn't catch and the actor I can't identify. I swear every time I see his arms around Ruby Lin, it just felt weird. It was beyond that of a father to daughter thing. The actor is ok but it is the character I can't stand. He would do ANYTHING for Fuya, including throwing away his kingdom. If he had forced his daughter to marry someone for the sake of strengthening his rule, he wouldn't have suffered his end. I can't believe how 1000% he is into making sure his only daughter is ok, whilst he too love his only son, but not more than his Fuya.
Then there's Xiangyun's father who never loved his own daughter. For me he uses her for his own gain.
The best of all characters of father, with the best actor and the worst character has to be Qiyou's father, the Emperor of Shu. The single most despicable character in this entire series who supposedly loves Concubine Mei so much and so loves Qiyun the most but in the end you will realise he only loves himself. When Fuya refused his advances, he threatened her that he will kill Qiyou if she refuses him. Imagine that! He has no regrets or decency when it comes to pitting mother (Empress Du) against son (Qiyou). A very despicable man. His death scene was funny though. He died by being way too cunning and not trusting himself. Disgusting man. And the actor was fantastic. He hardly has any lines, he hardly has any actions. Most of the time you see the same expressions, the same looks but it is the way he is not expressive that makes this character so scary.
THE MOTHERS OF THE MAIN CHARACTERSOnly 3.
Fuya's mother is forgettable but the actress is elegant. In fact when she died I was like good riddance. This is one mother who should have killed herself rather than burden her daughter by her very existence.
The competition of best mother is between 2 women;
Empress Dowager Dugu of Northern Han. Poor woman. If she says A, son will say B. If she advises C, he will do D. Basically everything she says or does, he will do opposite and say opposite. How can these pair become such? No doubt Empress Dowager Dugu loves Liancheng. All the murders she did, all the political marriage she arranged, her turning away Fuya, etc all for the sake of giving her son a stable kingdom. But the problem is Liancheng loves his brother and therefore does not see the point why she had to kill off his brother's mother and family, he hated that woman he married and he felt rightfully cheated into the marriage, he loved Fuya and would have done anything for her and in the end he doesn't want to be emperor in the first place so all those acts she did was pointless in his eyes. He hates her, but in the end she is his mother and so there is still that bond there. However that big reconciliation scene I was hoping for never materialise. He understood her but he can never accept her actions. I actually thought she died before him but in actual fact she was just sick. She died much later, and even then by poison. Performance wise, Dai Chunrong is an often seen veteran and remember she was the evil empress in Huan Zhu Gege? I see her so often I just got used to seeing her. She is in demand. Her performance was fantastic. Her pain, her hurt, her anger, her frustration, all at her son and his obsession over Ma Fuya was all on her face. I don't think that is her real voice because her real voice is beautiful. You can hear that in Huan Zhu Gege which gave her performance an edge over others. In here we have her expressions and she is very expressive. My favourite scenes of hers is every time she has an argument with Liancheng, that look of utter disbelief her son would defy her for no good reason was classic.
Empress Du Fei Hong is, I am willing to admit why this series rocks. It took some time for her to appear but when she does, her character kept getting better and better and she filled the void Liancheng left behind and when she died, basically this series died along because the other characters were not interesting enough to dominate or sustain a scene. She is a conflicted woman. She seems such a terrible woman, such a bad mother but as you watched along, you will realise what drove her to be the way she is. She is not a bad mother but she had to be one to safeguard her sons and the one son she wanted desperately for him to love her is Qiyou who also desperately want her to love him until at one point he just gave up. These are 2 individuals who care about one another but somehow just couldn't say it. Too much hurt between them, too much disappointment, too much unspoken issues. No mother and child have such magnified problems than this pair. From the little we know, Du Fei Hong must have been the general's daughter, a capable woman who fought alongside her husband whom to her is a love marriage but to him a marriage of convenience. He must have loved her once because she keeps holding onto her love for him but when Concubine Mei her own maid appeared whatever love he had for her went to the maid. And so starts her bitterness. But she still had Qiyou until her husband cruelly took him away from her, and her bitterness also spill over to Qiyou because Qiyou unknowingly whilst trying to win her favours also grew close to Mei and she hated Mei. She never killed Mei I think, I am not sure. But if she loved Qiyou so much why she avoided him all her life? Showed little affection? Maybe she hated him? The series in the end explains it is because she wanted to divert her husband's attention away from Qiyou. If she showed him too much love, her husband knowing she is from powerful family, and Qiyou being very bright, will threaten him and he also want to put Qiyun as emperor. He made Qiyou crown prince to bid his time to later remove him and install Qiyun and she made sure he de-crowned him so to speak because she knew sooner or later her husband will dispose of Qiyou. She spent her life protecting her and there was some pride when she saw him become emperor. Between her 2 sons, no doubt she loved Qiyou more because his love was one she craved and never gotten until the end. The success of this character is due to one factor and one factor only; the amazing brilliant performance of Kara Hui who became the driving force of this series for the story in Shu. She has always been a capable actress but in here, she shows you all her expertise when it comes to acting. Her voice has always been her biggest weakness, shrilly and high so when her voice got dubbed by a formidable voice dubber, it became a perfect merger. Usually I do not like dubbing but in her case, it enhances her performance, to let us enjoy her every expression, her every emotion without being distracted by her original voice. The dubbing was so perfect that even till today I would think of that voice as Kara Hui's inner voice. She plays Du Fei Hong as someone so powerful in looks and yet so fragile in emotions. She plays her as someone who loves her husband so much and yet is so disappointed in him. She plays her as someone who craves her son's love so much and yet did more to hurt him because of such huge bitterness in her. If there is one reason why you must watch this complete mess of a series, one reason is the melancholic gentle beauty that is Wallace Huo and the other for the powerful bitter woman that is Kara Hui. I can still remember her scene flogging Yan Kuan and it looked so real that it hurts but you can also feel her anger that her son would love the other woman more than he loves her. Her best scene throughout the series but another best scene to me has to be the one where after her husband died, she went to a room where there was his armour and it was there we learnt how important her contribution to Shu as she poured out her bitterness and her anger and finally her confession that despite all that he did, she still loved him. Her tears, her forcefulness in delivering those lines, every wrinkle, every crow feet on her face, Kara Hui was quite simply magnificent. This is Kara Hui as you have probably seen before but not given much thought. I never knew she was so brilliant until this performance. And she exemplifies the need for dubbing to enhance a performance rather than to just hide a flaw and give a false perception. I am sure she will sound shrilly in her real voice but you can't take away the effectiveness of the visuals you see. Best performance of the year and definitely the best performance in this series.
THE OTHERSMa Xiangyun is one character I never liked from the 1st time I see her. Selfish, vain and as bitter as anyone else, she hated Ma Fuya. I mean I hate Ma Fuya too but Ma Xiangyun is just one nasty woman. You may pity her, for years she married Liancheng and he never touched her except for twice and twice also never completed the deed. She lived not like a widow; worse, she lived like she was all alone. Her husband makes it a point to ignore her. So she did many things. You can say she did good things for him but the truth is if Liancheng understands love but doesn't know how to love properly, Xiangyun is someone who thinks she understands love but in the end her sort of love is those that you don't want. She could have sincerely treated those around her but she chose to manipulate, to cheat, to lie, to pretend. Yes, she did all that to gain Liancheng's attention but the thing is Liancheng's attention, already shifted to Fuya is only attracted to those who are genuinely good to him without any hidden agenda. He has good taste in women and brothers. He is attracted to Fuya because she is honest to him without asking anything in return (although I will disagree on that). Xiangyun is so busy plotting and all, she just forgot that to get to Liancheng's heart, just be nice, play nice, play fair. I hated this character and I didn't feel sad at all when she died. The joke is she killed the man she loved. And even in death he looked at Fuya. Even in her death, she wanted to follow him for eternity. Just imagine you're Liancheng; at last you think you're free from her but in actual fact, her spirit will follow you to eternity. At that moment I really pitied Liancheng. Performance wise, I hated Hong Xiaoling. Maybe in part it is Ruby Lin's fault. To make herself the prettiest of all, she cast those lesser in beauty although from what Xiangyun said, on paper she is supposed to be the most beautiful woman in the land of Chu. I was like seriously? Not only do I hate her face, I hate her performance. The voice dubbing was terrible, with this woman screaming almost every episode and plus the fact the character is so terrible. But seriously, the worst has to be her face and the way she delivers her lines. You don't hear her real voice, but you will see the way her lips bite her tongue and I suspect she must have gone for perfect diction sort of delivering her lines. I really don't know why I hated her so. It is not because she got to kiss Wallace. It is just her face; I don't find her appealing at all. But I suppose that suits her character; if she is so likeable how can you go YEAH! when Liancheng hit her? And yes, to the hitting point. Yes Liancheng is abusive but this woman, she so craves contact with his skin that she provokes him into hitting her. It is the only time he ever talked to her, only time he ever touched her. The scene where he tore her clothes and forced himself on him, she protesting and yet you know she wants it. It is terrible to write this but that is how I see the scene. All the pretense, the fakery, all is her need to provoke him to do something. She wanted at first to have his gentleness but when she didn't get it, she so crave for him, she will accept his roughness. I do not pity her at all.
Her favourite line
MA!!!..... FU!!!... YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Suyao is a spy sent by prime minister of Northern Han to Shu and it is a suicidal mission. No comment on this character which is sorta pointless and no comment on the actress whom I feel looks rather weird but gave a credible performance. I was in fact rather shocked with her looks when she was in prison, about to be executed. Quite a huge reality check to see her so messy, so dirty and bloodied as well.
Wang Lin is normally a good actress but here as Han Chao Yi, she is one note. Her "hee hee hee" laughter got old very quick and it was annoying to the point every time she appeared I know when she will "hee hee hee" and I just pushed the mute button. She is too old for her character and I find her performance as like her character, just pretty one dimensional.
Zheng Kai is seriously hot. He is the eagle prince in Bu Bu Jing Xin. Here he has more role. He has this beautiful looking face and his acting as Han Ming is... ok. Basically he doesn't have much to do. He is supposed to be a few years younger than Wang Lin's Concubine Han but when they're together he looks like he is at least 2 decades younger. Lucky her because she got to caress him, touch him, all sorts of things.
Liu Zi Jiao as Liansi is... competent. She does display all the necessary traits of Liansi the character. Her problem is her character was like an afterthought. She just appears to be an obstacle for Qiyou and Fuya and by which time the series have already gone one circle over beloved woman vs not beloved woman that is in Nothern Han. It felt like a repeat for whatever she would do next. However Liansi's end is scary and that is because of the next character I will comment on.
Hao Ze Jia as Du Wan (Finished Gambling! and indeed that was the fate of her character) is competent. She is terribly annoying and she plays her part well. However her character is supposed to illicit sympathy with her tragic end but I feel rather cold towards her because she made things so difficult that would have to be her end.
Yang Kai Chun as the annoying maid Yun Zhu was effective if annoying is what she is meant to be. I saw this actress again in Empresses In The Palace and she looked so different which shows a good actress than morph their face. She is not ugly but as Yun Zhu she is supposed to be plain and eats way too much. I am however perplexed how such a character can survive in a palace with her talkative nature and the fact she talks back, no matter who that person is. Maybe because she knows she has Concubine Han and her brother Han Ming behind her back but for a maid she is really 100% fail. Her end though is rather sad and pointless except for one point; she has one of the more moving monologues before her death, something which poor unloved, unwanted, uncared for Qiyou does not have. How unfair it is for poor Qiyou. Oh how I so wanted this Yun Zhu to die. I said DIE DIE DIE for the entire series and when she does die I was like "Oh, she's dead". At that point I was numbed by how many Ma Fuya killed by not really killing them with her own bare hands but rather with her love. Her love is deadly.
Sun Xi as Muo Chou is kind of a pointless character. She is just the weird white haired extra faithful servant of Empress Du. But in the end I don't get the point of her character. I suppose if you must have a weird guy that is Lianxi, then you must have weird girl, Muo Chou. I like to think at the end they married one another. Of course I do not know what happened to Muo Chou.
Liu Tao I believe is the actress who plays Qiyou's courtesan/mistress. I read in many forums that she should have been Fuya. I checked her filmography and she is the Guan Yin in the 2011 Journey To The West and may I say the worst portrayal of Guan Yin on a Chinese TV series thus far. She is pretty and rather seductive and so she suits her role in this series but not as Guan Yin. But if she is Fuya, she is to me pretty but too dark. After all Chinese measure of beauty is sorry to say, fairness. Quite an elegant performance even if rather.. underused. It is like she appears just so to be Qiyou's confidant companion and of course she is quickly forgotten when Fuya appears.
Mao Zijun as Ma Duyun is actually quite a competent actor. He is cowardly as he is scheming as he is scary as he is not very bright. A pointless villain. I clapped at his ending; never before there has been a more justified ending for a character than that for Ma Duyun. Of course you could say Lianxi was at fault for turning an innocent boy into a monster but you know, he has a choice.. and he chose to be the monster he is. However there is one very memorable scene with this character and that is Fuya discovering Duyun hiding Liansi on his bed, beautifully dolled up, I believe naked and she was like drugged as she calls gently for her dead child and Qiyou and the entire scene shows quite scarily what a monster Duyun is. This is one character who doesn't know love at all, worse than Liancheng, he just want to possess and so we can assume he rapes the conscious but drugged out Liansi. My surprise for that scene is why didn't Fuya slap him and drag Liansi out? She actually left her that way. So you can imagine what the creep does next.
THE LEADING LADYAt last, leading lady, the producer, the main girl, Ma Fuya played by Ruby Lin. Like I said, I heard grumblings why Ruby Lin is the leading lady. She is at lest 3 years older than her 2 main leads, she is probably 2 decades older than her character at the start of the series, she is not even pretty to be called "Qing shi". Fair comments?
First, she is the producer, of course she would cast herself and she is sorta famous on TV. Yes she is too old for I assume a young character but unlike some actresses who look their age, she looks much younger than her actual age. She is pretty; she was Zhiwei in Huan Zhu Ge Ge, damn it!! She has the grace, the elegance to play a princess. I suspect she deliberately cast all the hot guys for ratings purposes and the less than pretty ones so that she shines more. In fact everybody's costume whilst lovely, their hair is a problem, especially Xiang Yun's Marge Simpson hairstyle and yet Fuya, her hairstyle is the sanest, except for the testicles hairstyle. I will commend Ruby on being a good producer by the looks of the costumes and all. She works hard and the results is all there. I remember watching an interview of how she had to ask Wallace 3 times before he said yes on principle. Her casting decision, if it is all her own is nothing short of impeccable and accurate for all the veterans and male actors, although she falters as to the younger female, probably because she doesn't want attention to be taken away from her. I can't fault her in all that.
However her acting is another matter altogether.
She has never been a good actress. Competent on a good day, terribly inadequate in most and absolutely horrid on her worst day. I don't really watch a lot of her series. I thought she was lovely though new in Huan Zhu Ge Ge, she was absolutely horrid in Qing Sheng Sheng Yu Mong Mong/Romance In The Rain and can't remember the rest. In this series, she is at times ok, at times competent but mostly seriously inadequate. She improved some in her acting, in fact compared to her out of tune singing, she should stick to acting but as compared to producing, maybe she should move on to behind the camera. Her acting is like so on the surface, so simplistic, so... how should I put it? So...what's that word.. so.. amateur! Yes, amateur! All the years of acting and she still acts so stiffly. Half the time I am not sure what she is thinking, no body language, no emotions, no expression. Her voice is dubbed, thank god, and her voice dubber gave her more emotion than she showed on screen. But the real problem with Ruby is she is a likeable person off screen, she seems like those great friends you must have and all that with her constant laughter and jovial personality and she is beautiful. In fact I think I would love her to be a friend of mine because she seems rather forthright as a person with a great big personality. But on screen, somehow her personality is dimmed, sometimes she seems like a total airhead when I know she isn't, giving me an impression she is not terribly bright and she almost always manages to make you hate the character she plays, save for Zhiwei which you will hate in part 2 later on. Ma Fuya sounds like a nice girl by the way Ruby plays her, I find Fuya to be such a manipulative bitch even if she isn't, not intentionally. It boils down to one problem, to me at least; I find no sincerity in Ruby's performance. Her characters almost always come off as pretentious or rather to be exact, meant well but destroys things in the end. I find Fuya's treatment of Liancheng like as if she is using him. He treats her with sincerity but she remains unmoved; she in fact plotted to free her beloved behind his back all along. He allowed her to visit Qiyou and guess what? She walks in and out like it is some hotel and even had sex with him. And let me talk about that sex scene later on because it is a must to talk about. She seems to make promises she never keeps; in fact she promised to leave Qiyou, she didn't, she promised to let Liansi have Qiyou, yeah but there is a proviso and that is her, she promised to deliver a message to Suyao's father and she did, like towards the end and because it is to her advantage. She makes decision for Qiyou without first asking him. Towards the end she suddenly becomes crazy and murderous (though she snapped out of it in 1 episode) that I find totally out of character and I was in disbelief; I thought she is just pretending. No she is not. She didn't kill anyone; but many died for her. Her mother, her father, her husband, everyone and still she manages to keep her hands clean. The only murder she did, which she rightfully did was killing her no good brother of hers when she should also kill herself because she let this evil bastard into her life and thus doomed Qiyou and Liansi. Liancheng may have died at Xiangyun's hands but it was because he had to protect Fuya. Qiyou died protecting her.
My theory of this series is almost everyone is killed by Ma Fuya, whether by her actions or by her hands and the rest are either killed by Ma Xiangyun or Ma Duyun. In other words, almost everyone in some ways die because of the Mas, the 3 unluckiest stars in the skies or as we say "sou pa sing".
I feel no love for Fuya, feel no pity. In the end she alone alive and she didn't kill herself because as she says so many died for her, she must live her life for those who died for her. I will say she should have killed herself by episode 2, that way Qiyou can happily marry Liansi and strengthen his rule, Liancheng might love Xiangyun back and her creepy brother would not have lived to do the evil things he did.
Ruby's performance in itself is a travesty for the most part. She just looks wide eyed, innocent, etc. She doesn't go beyond that. I am not sure if she loved this guy or hated that guy. I find her sudden cheerfulness after Qiyou died so alarming that I was thinking he didn't die! Also Fuya is supposed to be so damn nice that it all came across as unfeeling, unpretentious. She is also inconsistent. Of all the female characters in this series, I hated Fuya the most because she is the cause of everyone's misery. And her "I want to revive Chu Kingdom" comes and goes as and when she finds convenient. If there is a reason to watch this series, Ruby Lin the actress is not the reason.
She has a best scene which is the only part I feel Ruby Lin displayed some resemblance of an acting performance and that was when she discovered Liancheng's was the cause of her kingdom's downfall and she screams and cries as he held her and she looked at him with hatred and anger.
OTHER NOTABLE STUFFI must commend Ruby on the costumes. You may like the earthy colours of Chu (more Han), or the burst of colour of Shu (more Ming) or like me, the blue tones of Northern Han (more Korean). You can see more in my post here (23.03.2012). She must like blue; so much blue. Whilst I may joke about the fur on the Northern Han royal family, it does enhance the looks of the actors except why do they still wear the fur in Shu?! It is to me the same complex problem as posed by TVB male characters wearing jackets even in the house or the fact that female characters never let go of their handbags, ever. No explanation but I like the big fur. Look soft and cozy and also hot and heavy. I didn't like the hairstyle for most though I like the ornaments. The silliest hairstyles has to be the Northern Han with the high tail hair or testicles hair. The sets seem familiar. Problem with this series is it is either at some hill side or that one beautiful lakeside or most at Hengdian. Which is after a while boring. The makeup is beautiful though and Ruby seems to pay more attention to her male leads' costumes than anyone else, in particular Wallace's.
The one factor I love most is the male's headgear which I wrote about here (19.03.2012) . I love them all but most favourite has to be the transparent white one by Liancheng followed closely by Emperor of Shu's fiery red one. Suits their personality and such careful attention given that for once I wasn't sorry for paying attention to nitty gritty details.
One factor I don't like is the dancing. Fuya and Xiangyun are supposed to be great dancers but there is nothing graceful.
The other factor I don't like is the editing of the story. It feels jumpy later on, some scenes unconnected to the other and some scenes comes and go unexplained. I feel the series is left down as much as by the story as it is by the shoddy editing.
Themesong wise, it is like a whole new level of out of tune singing by Ruby Lin. It was awful. Both songs, theme and end songs are sung by Ruby and from the moment she sang the 1st note until the very last, she was off key. So off was her key it would have been galaxies away before you can find the correct key. The songs are nice but she should have let someone better to sing those songs rather than monopolise the songs and in effect made a fool of herself as a singer. But Ruby Lin is no singer so you can say this decision to sing all the songs are for PR sake and maybe a bit of vanity involved. The only song I like, sang very well by Wallace Huo although could have had more emotion is Qingshi. However the lyrics to all songs are meaningful and well written with memorable melody. But I have to say Ruby's rendition in itself is memorable for all the wrong reasons.
Download Qingshi here [3MB][MP3][Wallace Huo](right click and choose save as or save target as]. Watch the English subbed video here. Poetic lyrics, does sound like Lian Cheng singing to Fuya.
One point I do like to point out which is notable but not logical (and you may say so many men fall for Ruby is not logical, but for me that is perfectly logical) is the sex scene between Qiyou and Fuya at Northern Han. The doors are opened, guards are outside, he is in chains and still they can manage to have sex without alerting anyone. Poor Liancheng cuckolded. Also the fact that I know Northern Han is very cold hence the fur coat. But at Chu which is not that cold or Shu which is spring, why do Lian Cheng and Liansi respectively wear the same thick fur coat? Won't they die from "overheating"?
OTHER NOT SO NOTABLE STUFFThese people in these palace shows rarely eat don't they? Anyway just an observation or rather my failed attempt in prolonging this review.
VERDICTFor Kara Hui alone, this series is worth your time because she was sensational. How come she doesn't have such a challenging role in TVB, always playing the wife, the mother, the auntie but not someone like Du Fei Hong? A lot of TVB actors and actresses have to go to China to be challenged as an actor and most live up to that challenge because they're already rather good actors before they left TVB. And Kara Hui proves to me I shouldn't be biased to dubbed voices. Her dubbed voice enhanced her performance when her real voice might irritate me and make me hate Du Fei Hong. However only in rare circumstances should dubbed voice be used and with Kara Hui, it magnified her excellent performance. I bet anyone who watches this series will feel pity for Kara Hui and that is why she alone will be the reason why I highly recommend this series.
Another would of course be the hot guys. For me Wallace Huo made my day. Never have I ever looked upon a Chinese man and go "What a beautiful creature". He would have been Legolas if he was younger. He is that beautiful and his performance whilst not spectacular and perfect, it is great enough to leave a lasting impression. For one, Liu Lian Cheng is a conflicted character that will seize and demand your attention and make you love and hate him and to Wallace's credit, he did not hold back. I would have cringed if another lesser actor portrayed this role and to see him crawl to that hated she-devil Ma Fuya begging for forgiveness, my blood boiled. Maybe because I am biased. Liancheng is not easy person to like at all and what he did to Fuya is wrong without any reason at all. But don't know why, I just feel terrible for him. Maybe because he has done a lot to atone for his sins and also because Ma Fuya's father would have thrown away his kingdom sooner or later with his almost incestuous fixation over his only daughter which I find annoying to say the least. But for any Wallace's fans or would be fans, no doubt you will agree he looks great in here. He will be the 2nd reason why I highly recommend this series.
Another reason is of course Yan Kuan. I know of Wallace's fans or other fans who skipped all parts except for Liancheng's scenes. If you do that you will miss out Yan Kuan and the amazing Kara Hui, where when they're together, there is so much tension, so much pain, so much regret, I could have write on and on about those scenes. Yan Kuan is a beautiful man, but prone to imperfection as in bloated face and all. He is not ethereally beautiful like Wallace but he has this manly quality that I am sure fans will be divided into 2 camps; Liancheng the beautiful or Yan Kuan the handsome. Such words are interchangeable between the 2. Performance wise, yes Yan Kuan does seem to have a bad deal with his awful ending and less focus on him as opposed to when we see Wallace, he is almost the main focus. But I must say whenever I don't see Liancheng but I see Qiyou, Qiyou was always interesting, and this was when Du Fei Hong was alive. Of course when Du Fei Hong died, Qiyou became bland, because he was only concerned with Ma Fuya and the love aspect. But I feel why his character suffer is because the writer didn't seem interested in giving him a prominent presence. I feel if Qiyou had been better written post Du Fei Hong, he would have been an enjoyable character to watch because he would be most tragic of all heroes. However the writer seems obsessed with Ma Fuya and since she is the least interesting character, the entire series went belly up after Du Fei Hong died. However even if the series went nonsensical after her death, prior to that, Yan Kuan was a joy to watch. And for that he is the 3rd reason why I highly recommend this series.
The last reason is simply because this series for the most part has memorable characters which are almost well written but because it is also rather long, the momentum is lost towards the end. I would recommend that you watch this series from start to finish just so you know what I am talking about but if you must skip, skip the last 5 episodes or so. Because Mao Zijun as Ma Duyun is simply not interesting enough to hold my attention. Yes he is creepy, this series has the distinction of having the most creepy villain which makes this series sorta unique and I bet you will be shocked at the Liansi scene I have mentioned. But I feel by that time the series was about to end and whatever character development, it just didn't matter anymore. This series suffers from character development because a better part of this series is used to develop the characters of Liancheng, Qiyou and Du Feihong. Even Ma Fuya seem more like an observer than a participant. The other characters seem like truly supporting for some, for others merely walk on roles.
But despite my criticisms on many critical points, I was entertained. This series stirs up emotion that TVB can't. It involves you, it engages you, it makes you wonder and it makes you feel for certain core characters which is what it is meant to do. The story may suck after a while, Ruby Lin an eyesore when it comes to acting, many actors simply will not do such as Hong Xiaoling who is an even worse eyesore than Ruby Lin, it is still a commendable effort by 1st time producer Ruby Lin who gave us some interesting casting decision that is what drives this series in the end. She does have good taste in men by the way.
And for all the reasons above, I highly recommend this series to you. Watch it with an open mind, a bit patience and throw out logic and I am sure you too will enjoy this series, generally speaking.