General and I: Epic Angst

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Chinese traditional epics usually have the same trajectory: childhood loves, pain and suffering for 2/3 of the drama, and then 1/3 happiness and death. However, depending on how long the drama is and how tightly the story is written makes all the difference. General and I is quite long, a whopping 62 episodes. The drama starts out pretty good with our female heroine, Bai Ping Ting having both the brains and beauty. Her role in society at that point is the maid of a young prince of one of the three warring kingdoms in China. However, she actually functions as a war tactician due to her great knowledge of the battlefield through ancient texts. She attracts the attention of Chu Bei Jie with her knowledge prowess. Her fated soul mate is not the prince with whom she grows up with, but Chu Bei Jie. Bei Jie is a war god/general who is fierce on the battlefield and a brilliant tactician. He is also the half brother of the a king from a different kingdom. When both were younger, Ping Ting’s father had saved his mother. Thus, he remembers her forever and vows to find her. One day, Bai Ping Ting and her Prince He Xia, get trapped in a plot where their entire family is wiped out due to the fight for power. These two become separated and eventually Ping Ting is saved by Chu Bei Jie as she floats half dead down the river. She later finds out that it was Bei Jie who helped annihilate her adopted family due to a deal he had made with the other kingdom. He had thought he was helping achieve peace between both nations, but he was tricked by the other kingdom. While Ping Ting dislikes him at first, eventually she falls for him as he treats her preciously. General Bei Jie loves her for her intelligence and kindness of heart. He thinks she matches him in every way and actually enjoys it when she beats him in battle. However, He Xia is trying every which way to exact revenge on Bei Jie as he blames all his tragedy on him. Because Ping Ting ends up falling in love with Bei Jie, she chooses to leave He Xia’s side to support her husband. Many obstacles stand between Ping Ting and Bei Jie. Each of them makes multiple sacrifices for the benefit of the other.

THE PRETTINESS. Angelabby and Wallace Chung are such a treat for the eyes. I enjoy Wallace’s acting, but unfortunately I can’t say as much for Angelabby. She is serviceable, but I feel like she has one expression for all her feelings. Everything is beautiful, people and costume-wise. However, it just isn’t as engaging as I thought it would be. I must also comment on the awkward CG backgrounds at times. It is clearly very computerized and doesn’t look natural at all. Sometimes I get so distracted by the background, that I miss out on important scenes. While I am about half way through, the drama is definitely starting to drag a little. The beginning was quite interesting as it featured their battle of wits against each other. However, now it is just petty palace intrigue coming from both sides, an Imperial Consort and a Prince turned Prince Consort. I hope that these two lovebirds make it through and have some happiness for all their sufferings.

Empress of China: Wu Zetian

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I told myself I wouldn’t start it many times due to the long length of the drama, but I finally caved. The costumes of the Tang Dynasty are just so gorgeous that I couldn’t resist. Now I haven’t watched any of the actors or actresses in the drama before except for Janine Chang, so I really just came for the costumes. I am in the beginning of the drama at the moment, and so far Wu Ruyi, our main character has captured my heart. She has the makings of all the main lead females that I like. She is smart, witty, gorgeous, and a fighter. Wu Ruyi enters the palace as a “imperial wife”, one of the dozens that comes through each year. All the concubines wait eagerly for their chance to be with the emperor even for one night. However, Ruyi, just wants to eke out a living in the palace. By chance, she is able to meet the emperor one night and he becomes interested in her (not sexually). He thinks she has interesting ideas and a cute personality. Instead of sleeping with his other wives, he ends up spending time with her whether that be just talking or hanging out. Of course, as this is the royal harem, all the women get jealous. Not the regular kind of petty jealousy, but the vicious, I’m going to poison so you will never appear in front of His Majesty again. Poor Ruyi made only a few friends in the palace so far, but has already had some stab her in the back. She is also targeted by the higher up concubines who do not like a young thing usurping their power and the majesty’s attentions. However much torture Ruyi endures, she struggles through it and becomes stronger on the outside. She gives it back as good as she has got. She knows that she can’t rely on the emperor’s fleeting favor and has to fend for herself.

I ended up really liking this drama which is surprising because usually I dislike watching internal harem politics and the viciousness of women who are jealous. However, I enjoy how strong Ruyi is and I really couldn’t care less about romance in the story. I just want her to achieve more power and give it back as good as she got it. She is enduring so much pain and misunderstanding now that she can’t get revenge on. Although later we will know that all this hardship will harden her heart and will affect how she rules in the future. I really also hoping that some of the friendships she has made will last her most of her rule because it will be so lonely for her if at the top of her power, she has no one to share her happiness with. However, in such a dog eat dog world, it may be the just the closest ones to her that stab her the deepest. I don’t know how many episodes I will watch of the drama, but so far it had me watching 10 in one sitting!

 

Master Devil Do Not Kiss Me

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For the bishounen shouja fanatic in me, how could I resist this quick and cute little drama and it’s sequel? Think of it as a cross between Hana Yori Dango and Playful Kiss. Master Devil is about Chu Xia, a young girl whose family encounters tragedy and she ends up living in rich boy Qi Lu’s house. Yes, I know this trope is used a million times, but how could I resist? Chu Xia came from a poor background and is your typical Candy, but not your usual doormat. She doesn’t take bullying well, but doesn’t use violence at all to fight back. She stands up to Qi Lu, who by all means is your usual handsome jerk. He wasn’t always like this apparently, but it was due to heartbreak when his previous girlfriend left him. She ends up being taken in by his family and starts attending their prestigious school. There, she makes several friends, while not neglecting her old ones. She of course also makes several enemies as well who are jealous of her. She is quite smart and often competes with Qi Lu on every topic. This of course, attracts quite a few suitors. What follows after is your typical slice of life drama about all the hijinks and bickering these two get into with each other.

While I admit, the acting and the story line isn’t stellar, I am still quite addicted to the drama. With each episode only being 20mins long, you just breeze on by. However, I must say that the actress who plays Chu Xia is loads better than her counterpart in Qi Lu. For me, I enjoy the slew of flower boys who adore her and how oblivious she is to them. Unfortunately, every suitor is better than the actual lead. Qi Lu is quite a jerk and he still hasn’t showed much growth development even as he heads into the second season. Poor Chu Xia of course will only fall for the jerk and not even given the other caring guys by her side a chance. If you miss the olden days of F4 and romcom tropes, this is for you! Don’t forget to watch the second season as well!

The Princess Weiyoung

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My tastes in tradition Chinese dramas are very specific. I love the ones where the heroine surpasses her peers in either intelligence or martial arts, or even better, both. Princess Weiyoung hits all of those points and has a perfect cast to match. Tiffany Tang plays Xin Er, the princess of the Northern Dynasty whole is loved by all for her intelligence and kindness.

However, one day, the Jiang Clan of Northern Wei decides to take it upon themselves to overthrow Xin’er’s family so that they can enjoy the power instead. Much blood is spilled and Xin’er’s entire family is completely wiped out except for her and her personal bodyguard. While on the run, Xin Er is saved by the illegitimate daughter of the Imperial Tutor. Weiyoung is shunned by the Jiang family because her mother is of low birth. Her family tries multiple times to assassinate her so that she is unable to go to the main house. Thus, she lives her life in the countryside and ends up dying while defending Xin Er from harm.

As a result, Xin Er decides to take over Weiyoung’s identity and get revenge both for her friend and the deaths of her family. She survives numerous attempts on her life by the Jiang family and eventually moves into the main house under the fake identity. There, she encounters much resistance from the main madam and Chang Le, her rival in love and status.

The Jiang family tries every which way to discredit her and kick her out, but she is able to outsmart them all and even gain praise for the Emperor himself. With her kindness, she manages to gain loyal supporters by her side even in the tiger’s lair. She also manages to catch the eye of Prince Gaoyan and Prince Nanan, potential heirs to the throne. Prince Gaoyan moves her heart as he has saved her from several difficult situations. However, she must keep her distance due to her real identity and her quest of revenge. Of course, Chang Le also has her eyes set on Prince Gaoyan and plots with her mother on how to get rid of her rival. It is a game of cat and mouse where a wrong step could mean one’s life.

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Go Princess Go: The Other Genderbender

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A parody, but also not really. We always see dramas genderbending girls into acting like boys, but not often do we see the other way around. This time, like BuBuJinXin, we have a time traveler who ends up in the era of Chinese dynasties. However, this time, it is a guy who becomes a woman! After suffering an accidental drowning in the pool, Zhang Peng becomes Royal Crown Princess Zhang Peng Peng as he is thrown back several hundred years. He ends up in the body of a very beautiful woman, but still has the mind of his past life as a player whose only goal in life is to eat good food and fool around with beautiful women. At first, he tries to kill himself again in order to go back to the future. However, he ends up lusting after all the beautiful women he encounters in the palace, including his own maid and the crown prince’s concubines. It becomes hilarious since he is still in a women’s body and they are oblivious to his advances. However, she soon becomes sand-whiched between the Crown Prince Qi Sheng that she is married to and his brother, 9th Prince. In the beginning, Qi Sheng had no romantic feeling for his wife, Peng Peng, and was having an affair with another brother’s wife. The past Peng Peng just became embittered and jealous as time went on. However, after Zhang Peng took over, she gave Peng Peng an entire personality change. She was empathetic to the plight of the men and didn’t even mind all the affairs and concubines as she was too busy enjoying herself with all the beauties. At one point, Qi Sheng tried to assassinate Peng Peng when he thought he was unable to control her and thought she was a danger to him. This pushed her into forming an alliance with 9th prince and his friend. She wanted revenge on Qi Sheng and to grab hold of power for 9th prince or even stabilize her own position in the palace. However, as time wore on, Qi Sheng become more and more interested in the new Peng Peng and even fell in love with her. Their intense emotions for each other vacillated daily.  She became more and more entrenched in palace affairs and eventually even bore Qi Sheng a child. However, this vicious cycle of them lying to each other eventually came to a head as they constantly tested each other on their feelings. Peng Peng also became feminized as she fell in love with Qi Sheng.

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Mu Gui Ying Gua Shuai: A Different Kind of Power

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An oldie, but a goodie. In the same of vein as Mulan, Mu Gui Ying Gua Shuai tells the story of young girl who has the smarts, beauty, and physical prowess as much as or even more than any guy during her time. Born the daughter of a rich bandit, she has lived her life to the fullest doing as she pleased, but also gaining skills that surpassed most men. When her father tried to marry her off, she proposed that she will marry any suitor that can best her in martial arts. Of course, no man in town could even match her level until she managed to offend the heir of a family of generals. It then becomes a vicious cycle of Gui Ying provoking the heir, Zhang Bao, while he tries to take a valuable wood sculpture from her. They are well-matched in martial art’s prowess, but Gui Ying exceeds him in intelligence and craftiness. As they duel back and forth, they slowly fall for each other. At first, Zhang Bao hates her for besting him at each encounter, but slowly he becomes enamored and impressed by her. The line is thin between love and hate. Even though his family opposed the relationship, he can’t help but go to her and she has similar intense emotions for him. Eventually, they end up marrying each other, but end up encountering just as many obstacles against them even after their marriage. She had to endure many competitions against family or friends just to prove that she was good enough to be part of the famous Zhang family. However, it seemed like Gui Ying had a way to solve each one of their problems and continued to impress all her family and friends. She even became involved in the royal palace after placating the Royal Princess who had been pursing Zhang Bao before he married Gui Ying. Eventually, she even managed to lead the royal army in defending the Emperor’s territory from the Khitan nomads.

Mu Gui Ying is actually a legendary and real figure in Chinese history. She was famous for being a woman beyond her times and playing a big part in defending her country. While I haven’t seen the lead actress, Miao Pu, in any other drama before, I am very impressed with her acting. She was very natural and endearing. Her martial arts choreography was also on point. She also had such an addicting laugh paired with her country accent. As for Zhang Bao, played by Jin Luo, I really enjoyed his acting of intense emotions. He played the angsty role brilliantly and had a great comedic side to him as well. However, unlike traditional dramas now, the supporting characters of the drama did not have as big of a role as I would have expected. They felt more like add-ons and I would have liked to see more of their story and interactions with the main leads. Furthermore, as this drama is more obscure, to the point where it doesn’t even have a wiki page, it is not subtitled at all. So watchers beware, with the accents and royal speak, it was a struggle even for me at times. However, it is an amazing drama that really spoke to me as it featured a strong female lead which I love. Hopefully it will be subbed one day and more people can enjoy this drama!

Legend of Lu Zhen: Let Us Be Equal

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Since I like my drama heroines to be strong-willed and smart, I decided to check out Legend of Lu Zhen. This drama tells the journey of the first female prime minister of China. Lu Zhen, played by Zhanilia Zhao of Shan Shan Comes to eat, comes from a wealthy merchant family. However, her birth is of mysterious circumstances and she is heavily bullied by her stepmother who wants the family fortune. Luckily, her stepsister stands on her side and tries to help her out of difficult circumstances often.

Lu Zhen has a modern woman mentality where she doesn’t just want to be married, but prefers to pursue a career and she has the smart to accomplish that. However, due to her stepmother’s evil trap, she is accused of murdering her own father whom she loves deeply. While is able to escape being sold off as a concubine to an elderly neighbor, she accidents kills a man who tries to sexually assault her. She had asked the man to help her make a fake birth status certification, but the confrontation had turned ugly. Lu Zhen decides that she wants to enter the palace to avoid being arrested by the police, but was unable to stay there due to her fake certification being exposed.

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Singing All Along: Rebel Chants

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Another period drama for me to marathon! The one thing that Mainland dramas does well is traditional epics. With birth secrets, warring factions, and angsty romance, it is enough to keep me watching 5 episodes at a time. Singing All Along tells the story of LiHua, daughter of royalty whose parents were killed during an overthrow of a dynasty. However, due to the trauma of watching her parents die, she does not remember her past. She ends up growing up happily in the rich Yin family. LiHua is of strong mind and body. Even though she is female, she enjoys martial arts and is well versed in the ancient teachings, including military warfare. She hates being cooped up in her family home and even cross-dresses as a boy in order to attend school. Meanwhile, LiuXiu is also descendant of royalty whose ancestors were part of the proud Han Dynasty. However, because their family was overthrown by the Mang dynasty, they were made commoners and stripped of their wealth. LiuXiu, as children who had went to the same school as LiHua had not only fallen in love with her, but also had taken care of her during her traumatic past. These two friends were separated for many years due to LiuXiu’s elder brother not wanting her to remember her tragic past. However, LiuXiu always had LiHua in his heart and yearned to ask for her hand in marriage one day despite his poor current circumstances. Things come to a head when LiuXiu’s brother decides to plan a revolt against the Mang dynasty. While LiuXiu is hesitant at first at such a rash action, he is soon convinced this is the right way to go as the current dynasty is bringing about chaos and hunger for the commoners. LiHua, who is starting to remember snippets of her past due to a kidnapping incident where LiuXiu saved her, decides to join forces with the Liu family. She also believes the current emperor is corrupt and wants to help overthrow it. Her ambition pushes her to cross-dress as a man in order to join the growing revolt army. LiuXiu admires her tenacity and intelligence which leads him to want to keep her by his side even though it is risky if she is found out to be a female or the dangers of battle. LiHua not only proves herself to be an able soldier, but a smart tactician as well.

I absolutely love strong female leads, especially those who can participate in battle alongside of their life partners. This is my first time watching Ruby Lin, and she gives off an air of the roles Liu Shi Shi used to play for her Tong Hua dramas. Ruby is not only the producer, but also one of the main leads. She plays strong-willed, playful, and angsty all very well. As for Yuan Hong, I’ve always liked him since he played 13th prince in Scarlet Heart. He plays a gentle scholar who gradually becomes war-hardened. His eyes are so expressive! I really enjoy the chemistry they have together. The side romances are also quite moving, especially the early one between LiHua’s eldest brother and her cousin-in-law. Singing All Along is beautifully filmed and the characters are given appropriate depth.

Precious Youth: Youth Lost

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I love anything with Liu Shi Shi in it! Furthermore, it is refreshing to see her in a non-period role and in modern garb for once. Precious Youth tells the love story of Liu Ting and Xiao Jun, two young adults who fell in love during high school. Liu Shi Shi plays Liu Ting, an academically driven and the good pure daughter of a teacher at the school. Meanwhile, Xiao Jun is the troublemaker and “gangster” of the school who always gets into trouble because he is too mischievous. One day, after literally falling head over heels for her while getting into detention, he decides to pursue her. Liu Ting found Xiao Jun very fun and a large contrast to her “goody two-shoes” type of lifestyle. However, as a beauty at the school, Liu Ting also attracted other suitors. She also becomes the love interest of Hai Bing, whose father was the boss of Liu Ting’s father. In order to network, her mom pushed her to tutor Hai Bing, who was also a “gangster” type and “brothers” with Xiao Jun. It is because of this fight over one girl that broke the deep brotherhood between Hai Bing and Xiao Jun. Unfortunately, things come to a head as families disagree and Xiao Jun broke up with Liu Ting. Liu Ting was devastated and you could tell Xiao Jun just wanted her to have a better future. On the second female lead front you have Xiao Lu, ex-best friend of Liu Ting who was in love with Xiao Jun as well and pursued him to the ends of the earth. As they all grow up, Xiao Lu and Liu Ting enter an arts school. Xiao Jun does not go to college and decides to do the dirty work of society and tries to make connections to start up his own company. Hai Bing attends college so that he can better match up to Liu Ting. Even in college, Liu Ting is still attracting many suitors, but deep in her heart, she is still in love with Xiao Jun.

Giving hints of the Korean reply series, Precious Youth feels like a slice of life drama. I find the chemistry between Liu Ting and Xiao Jun palpable, but with Xiao Jun’s nasty attitude, I’m finding it harder and harder to root for this couple. Meanwhile, I admire Liu Ting’s persistency and consistency of her love to Xiao Jun. She does not care about their class differences. However, I’m not sure if this is naiveté on her front. I am interested in seeing how these relationships untangle as their are love triangles and squares everywhere! Plus, what a lovely way to see Zheng Kai act, as I’ve previously watched him only on the Hurry Up Brother variety show.