The Virtuous Queen of Han <大漢賢后衛子夫>
Mainland China/ Hong Kong Now TV Drama 2014
Genre: Historical Drama
Number of Episodes: 40
This series reminded me why I liked him before the singing and Karena and all that scandals takeover. Raymond is not a bad actor and he can cry beautifully when he wants to. And when he doesn’t scream as he cries, that’s when he is an elegant actor.
Literally, The Virtuous Empress of the Great Han Dynasty, Wei Zifu.
CAST OF CHARACTERS:
Wang Luo Dan as Wei Zi Fu
Raymond Lam as Liu Che
Niki Chow as Princess Pingyang
Xu Zheng Xi as Duan Hong
Shen Tai as Wei Qing
Chen Sha Li as Grand Empress Dowager Dou
Grace Yu as Empress Dowager Wang
Liu Ying Hong as Princess Guantao
Zheng Miao Zhi as Empress Chen A Jiao
Li Xin Cong as Shen Jia
Liu Yong as Liu An
Peng Guo Liang as Uncle Yi Han
Yang Zi Jiang as Xia Hou Po
Zheng Si Ren as Han Yan
Zhang Ya Xi as Huo Qu Bing
Miao Hao Jun as Ai Shu
Zhang Xu as Bai Hao
Wang Meng Li as Yao Ji
Xu Jing Kun as Wei Chang Jun
Fu Tao as young Chang Jun
Mandarin, all voices dubbed and usually dubbed by someone else. I saw the English subtitled version on TV but if you can understand basic Mandarin, this shouldn’t be too hard as the level of Mandarin in the dialogue isn’t too difficult to understand and the dubbers enunciated each word clearly.
I made some comments about this series in my blog with spoilers.
About the rise of a lowly dancer who became one of the longest serving Empress in Chinese history. Be rest assured as with all dramatisation of a real historical figure, huge liberty taken with the real story. But what is real anyway?
I will be first to state I seriously enjoyed this series. It started out unconvincing and there were many times I fast forwarded all the flashback scenes and repetition scenes and certain characters talking scenes (mostly Duan Hong who always looked drugged, dazed and tortured and of course the ultimate villain whose scenes you can fastforward and still manage to catch up on the story). As it goes on, the story falls into a pattern and yet it is surprisingly entertaining and very emotionally evocative mainly because you follow the characters from they were young and unknown until, for some characters, their untimely deaths and so on and so forth. I became quite emotionally invested, but not as much as I was in Schemes Of A Beauty. There is similar pattern between the two, mostly in depicting the vast powerful Han Dynasty and downsizing it into a family. Now in TVB we often see that and often the Emperor and Empress and concubines are all so downsized, it never felt like a dynasty. Not in this series. Even if the emperor is a father, empress is a mother, etc etc you never forget that father is an emperor in a great dynasty known as Han dynasty. It is an intimate portrayal of a very vast and powerful dynasty. Of course something’s gotta give and it is the actual history that is sacrificed. Certain real facts were changed, endings were altered but who are we to know what happened so many years ago eh? The story begins to build up and in the end into a climax that is both scary and realistic in a familial settings because like I said, the husband is the emperor and anything can happen. The final ending for some characters are bittersweet but what makes this series so enjoyable is in TVB series, the women are marginalised into the concubines who scheme, the men are portrayed as the officials who also scheme and the emperor with the ultimate power never felt like an emperor with the ultimate power. Not in this series. In here, we have strong female characters, even if they do live by the unthinkable code of “husband is always right” and “my husband is my Heaven” and here even if we have decisive men, these men are quite emotional. Most of the time it is the women who have more self control. No doubt this series is more about women than about men and for a series whose title is about the lead character called Wei Zifu, she is a rather bland character most of the time. Luckily she has great supporting characters which makes her character a little more interesting than she should ever be, on paper that is.
Anyway, first the women…
From the very start I feel this character is seriously bland. Some will term her as Mary Sue which is not incorrect. She is not perfect as a person as she has her stubborness and her flaws. She seems perfect as a wife when in reality she is actually a wife who has to hide her own feelings because she married the emperor. She seems like the best sister there is and no doubt she loves her family, especially her half brother Wei Qing more than she could ever love anyone, including herself. She is like the best possible empress ever because she believes wholeheartedly in harmony within the royal harem, she strives to keep everyone in check not by force (she will have you killed if she really had to and the fact she had to means you must be the scum of all scums), she hardly is ever angry, she is very very careful with what she says, what she does and how she conduct herself (due to advice given by Uncle Yi when she was a little girl) and she makes sure the emperor is worry free so basically she doesn’t tell him everything. In other words, she is close to perfection as a person or maybe someone who is so good at playing mind games and politics. Her character captured the emperor’s attention by her beauty but mostly for her political opinion which she will rarely express after she goes into the palace as a concubine. This series made it perfectly clear she is innocent of all charges, so whatever bad things that happen to her or because of her or due to her, she is the most innocent party of them all because she doesn’t know what happened and why her. Now most of the time this will make for a very irritating and so easy to hate character but surprisingly I don’t hate her. For all her perfection, the few times she lost control of herself were the times that is really the most interesting; like how she was poisoned and lost her senses and for once screamed at the emperor and her stupid mother (yeah! best moment!), how she squared off with Empress Chen over the disappearance of her brother Wei Qing, how she lost her patience with a concubine and tried to defend herself against the emperor’s stupid suspiscion (come one Mr Emperor, don’t you know, she is always blameless and it is not sarcasm on my part, she is truly blameless!) and how in the end she marched out of the palace with style and into the prison to free her best friend in life, Duan Hong and then walked back into the palace to square off with the emperor who was becoming very emotional, almost like a girl which of course is stereotyping but you know what I mean. But can you see it? You can actually count how many of such great moments for this Zifu to act out of character because when she is in character, she is basically so in control I am sure she times how much oxygen she breaths in before she exhales. She is not a control freak but she lives in dangerous time so she has to be in control if not she will die. All these adds up to her being the virtous queen and you may scoff at the word virtous and all but the scene where she faced the guards and talked her way to the prison to face Duan Hong and many times the emperor sided her are purely because of her virtousness. She is a woman who proves she walks the walk and talks the talk and don’t judge her by what she says but judge her by her actions. So basically the character is on point even if at times I just wish she is more woman than virtous perfection.
I WAS THINKING …
Sex with her must be quite a non-event! But he finds her desirable enough to have at least 3 daughters and 1 son. Of course virtous means conduct, not her womanly appeal. I just wish at some point she stops being so understanding to the emperor and just show him her temper, which she did in her own spectacularly underwhelming fashion in the end where she is clear minded although the best was when she was poisoned but that doesn’t count. And like I blogged before, everybody just love to hate her, including her husband until his common sense came back to him.
A few, such as how she reasoned with the guards who let her walk past them despite the emperor saying she can’t leave her chamber which explains why for so long in the series she is so virtous, all culminating in these series of scenes or her outbursts when she was poisoned but most memorable had to be towards the end when she cried “Since my husband does not believe me, what have I to live for?” and she ran towards the sword drawn by Liu Che and next we see blood spilt! Very dramatic stuff and at least, a change of character for this bland character.
Wang Luodan. She isn’t the prettiest but she does have a kind gentle ancient beauty face that fits the title character. Just don’t talk about aging because aging in this series is represented by moustaches and redder lipstick. I thought she gave a fine performance to which I can’t complain much. If I find her bland, that is because her character is bland.
If you watched Schemes Of A Beauty, you will be introduced to this character at the end of the series. If you’re watching Sound Of The Desert, I believe she is played by Maggie Cheung Hor Yee. In real life, she existed. This series changed her fate in the end. She had a happy ending in TV but in real life, her ending was very sad. She was the 2nd longest serving Empress I think but her end was, she sided with her only son who chose to revolt against his father the emperor and in consequence, she was about to be stripped from her title when she killed herself. Her son was cornered and murdered and most of her clan was too. This series doesn’t show all that but it does show a theory why she ended up in such a sorry state. In the series the bad guys could get to her by planting seeds of doubt in the emperor’s mind about her love for him only when Wei Qing died, her nephew Huo Qubing died, the princess Ping Yang and her entourage of friends all left the palace and Zifu was all alone. In real life, perhaps the emperor could get to her because all her support and ally in the form of family died and she outlived her usefulness and the emperor’s love. Sad, very sad. If you’re in such a position of power, better to die early and remembered fondly by the emperor because that is the only way to preserve your clan’s survival. An early death will preserve all those perfection or rather memories of them that was never there. Unfortunately she outlived two of her most powerful allies, her brother and her nephew, both who were great generals that the emperor depended heavily on.
GRAND EMPRESS DOWAGER DOU
I remember this character from 2 versions; Han Wu Da Di and mostly Ruby Lin’s Schemes Of A Beauty. This Grand Empress Dowager Dou is however neither of the two. She is shown as a formidably scary blind woman who is smart, sassy, forceful, respectable and yet clear minded. She has her mistakes but in the end everything she did was to preserve Han Dynasty so that in the end she can give this dynasty to her grandson, our hero Liu Che. She is not without her faults. She loves her granddaughter too much because she loves her daughter too much and because of that she spoilt both of them which ended with I suppose tragic circumstances. She steps on Liu Che to ensure he doesn’t rise above her, not because she was malicious as we are made to believe in the beginning but because she felt he was not ready. If he can’t handle her alone, what more of those corrupted conspiring politicians. Basically she gave him good training. Her death left a void in this series for a little while because this character was so all encompassing in all aspects of this series. Even in the end her influence is there when Zifu begged the emperor to spare the Empress Chen’s life and later to see Empress Chen for one last time. It is also realistic as she cried very hard as she realised her end is near. Nothing graceful but not ugly either. She may look like the villain but as the series goes on, it shows she is not a villain but a woman burdened with a difficult task; to keep the dynasty from the hands of invaders and dirty politicians and to hand it to her grandson who she hopes is not corrupted by ideologies of others but have his own opinion that must first and foremost work for the dynasty and not for himself.
For me it was when she curtly reminded Liu Che Empress Chen’s title as empress is not for him to strip. The power, the authority and all that from a woman who is also old and blind. Who says in ancient times women were meek eh? Not in Chinese history!
Also her last scene with Zifu where she begged Zifu; “I want you to promise me, no matter the wrong did to you, you will do all you can to ensure Empress Chen lives. I know after my death, Empress Chen will be in danger, but more so from the one person I know who will be the one to kill her; Che er (the emperor). I know this is too much to ask of you, but I can see you are kind and generous and with your benevolent attitude you will soon be an empress. Will you promise me?” and of course Zifu did and it took a few more years I believe before she had to carry out her promise.
Chen Shali. I was complaining about the ultra red lipstick at first but when she was sick and dying and without the red lipstick, I really missed it because the red lipstick represents her vitality and the fact she is dying means I am gonna miss this mecurial character. It is not the best ever performance, she is not very convincing as a blind woman but I truly enjoyed her authority, her power, her assertiveness which this actress very convincingly portrayed. You can understand why Liu Che loved, respected and dreaded her all at the same time.
This woman existed and she was indeed blind for a better part of her tenure as the most powerful woman in the dynasty and she outlived her husband and her son. She was I suppose the defacto ruler and if history is to be believed, she is akin to Kangxi’s grandma but more forceful; meaning she assisted, she guided, she raised the children, she sorta ruled but she didn’t try to usurp unlike Wu Zetian. I quite admire her, blind, a woman, widow and all and still she managed to live I believe into her 70s (?)(really old wayyyy back then) and keep the dynasty together whilst I am sure fending off hungry wolves. What is there not to admire about her? Maybe she was as scary as the actress who interpreted her in this series, she has to be, she can’t be meek like how Zifu is portrayed and still survive. After all Zifu had her powerful scary husband and who this Dou had?
EMPRESS DOWAGER WANG
This is the meek mother of Liu Che whose best moment was after the death of Grand Empress Dowager Dou, she sat alone and began to cry, not with sadness but with relief and happiness. At last, at long last she was free from the clutches of the powerful and domineering mother in law. Life must have been very hard for her. Well, once she was free, you will expect her to be a bit wiser, no? Like poor people who suddenly get very rich, what do you do? Spend! Same with this woman, once she is free from domineering mother in law, she herself chose to be the domineering mother in law, acting unjustly towards poor Zifu like taking away Zifu’s children, imposing her will on how to manage officials on her son and insisting on the death of loyal subjects like Duan Hong. Of course she was misled but it does show the huge difference between her and Dou. Dou was harsh, she was domineering but she exercised her power with wise discretion although at times her hands are tied. This mother however with so much power tend to not only misuse but totally and carelessly misuse them on the wrong people! Exciting moments in this series. Luckily she realised she was an idiot and her death scene was one of the hardest to watch because it was a death filled with regret. Basically she died a very sad and regretful woman thanks to her decision which destroyed Princess Pingyang’s happiness for quite some time.
That moment where she threatened her son to either kill Duan Hong or she kills herself to avenge the death of her brother, the corrupt Prime Minister who basically died of fright. Emperor, famous for being filial basically said to his mother he will make sure she will be buried with all the rites and grandness!! So funny! Yeah she deserved that wake up call.
Grace Yu. Fantastic. The actress looked the part of a meek mother turned crazy mother in law.
She existed. And quite an interesting woman as well.
She will have my vote as the strongest female character in this series and perhaps one of the strongest in any series ever. She has her moments of jealousy, stupidity, unreasonableness and all those imperfection but for me, she is the wisest of them all and the most human. Zifu for all her down to earth qualities is hardly human in my book, Dou was larger than life, the mother was just silly, those concubines stupid but Pingyang could have existed and I would have wanted to be her best friend. At the time when there is chaos and stupidity, she was the voice of reason and luckily her brother, that is Liu Che listens to her counsel. Sure she blamed Zifu for destroying her happiness, but who wouldn’t, in a way resent Zifu for the fact that her brother gave up his love for the princess to protect his sister? She should know and she does know she is always 2nd to Zifu in Wei Qing’s heart. As years go by she lived with the fact that she and Wei Qing would never be together and when she found out why Wei Qing let her go, she reconciled with him and was gracious enough to honour his wife with very kind words when the wife died. She was classy, she was smart, she was sassy and if she had been a man, she would have been a wise emperor. She doesn’t let her heart rule her mind and yet she doesn’t forgo her conscience and what her heart tells her despite the facts to the contrary. She was the first to speak up for Zifu and when the emperor said he has evidence, she said “I don’t care about the evidence, I believe her with all my heart”. She married 3 times; 1st out of duty and she ended up in her way loving her husband who wasn’t ambitious and wasn’t smart but doted on her and let her have her way, the 2nd out of necessity since she has to remarry but it ended up being her biggest mistake which she quickly corrected by telling her brother the truth about her useless husband which may sound heartless but this is a woman who doesn’t dwell in small talks and her 3rd husband was her true love whom she spent the happiest of days but tragically for a very short time. Her ending was bittersweet, and I feel for her but in her own way, she is a survivor. She needs to live to protect her husband’s memory, her husband’s children, her husband’s mother in law and her husband’s biggest worry, his sister. A very purposeful life and I am very happy to watch that never once did she ever consider killing herself to be with her husband. In her own way, Princess Pingyang is as selfless as Zifu, at times I feel even more selfless. My only problem with her is her lack of emotion when her adopted son died but I suppose like Zifu, women back in those days can control their emotions very very well when in public.
Many. One of the best and most entertaining character, her best moment was with her brother. I love the scene where she explained why she believes Zifu despite the gossips. I love the scene where she advised her brother on whose son should be crown prince despite the fact that at that time she was having cold war with Zifu (as usual Zifu doesn’t understand why the princess hated her). I love how she warned Li Furen who was basically boasting about her own position in the palace and Princess Pingyang warned her “Do remember when my royal brother the emperor wanted advice, he did not seek the counsel of his ministers first, her came to me, his royal sister. If I can make you into who you are today, I will have no problem pulling you down to the gutter”. Clap everyone! Clap hard!! I definitely love the very sad scene as she cried very hard when her 1st husband died in her embrace. What I don’t get is why she introduced that Li Furen to her brother, that makes no sense.
Niki Chow, who obviously delivered her dialogue in Cantonese. The first great fortune is her voice was dubbed because I don’t think it would have worked with her original lazy tone voice. This voice was strong, regal and really suited her face. I did not quite like how unsteady she was; like most HK actresses in China ancient series portraying someone powerful or daughter of someone powerful, their heads tend to move too much. Case in point is Myolie Wu who by moving her head too much fails to show the elegance of a character. Niki at first moved too much, her body bend over too much. Just look at the actress who played Zifu; still and steady. Niki’s Pingyang was a highly trained princess so it was disorienting at first. However her movement became lesser, maybe because her headgear was too heavy for her. Anyhow that was when she got better. Firstly, her character is great so it will be hard to screw up such a strong character. Secondly, whenever she is not required to be too emotional and be a little bit mischievous, Niki more than filled the description. I think this is one of her best performance to date and she has a lot to thank for in terms of the voice dubber and the writing. But credit goes to her for her emotion on her face and the way she manages to seem so intelligent and 10 steps ahead of everyone. However my problem with her is she doesn’t give me an impression that she is a princess, I find her lack of regalness that is not helping her. It took me a while to see her as a princess of high birth.
She existed, was the emperor’s favourite sister. She did marry Wei Qing (I wonder was she older than her former stableboy?), she did marry a few times, she did adopt a son (and openly doing so for a woman of her background is admirable), I don’t think she had any children of her own and whilst I don’t believe she would force her opinion on her royal brother, I believe in some ways her relationship with the emperor was truly one of loving siblings. Other than that I don’t know much about her.
Sometimes I wonder why this woman is so jealous. I got very tired of watching her jealous and temper tantrum and so when she was deposed, it was good news. Her end was near anyway when Grand Empress Dowager Dou died. In a way this series depicts her downfall is thanks to her mother. The emperor may not love her anymore but he never gave any indication he will strip her off her title even if he doesn’t go visit her sexually or otherwise. Sometimes I do pity her. She craves for the emperor’s full attention. She doesn’t mind the other concubines much but with Zifu she minded because she knew the emperor was in love with Zifu, hence all the things she did. She wasn’t right and her ending was lenient for all that she did but yes I do feel the emperor was unfair to her as a husband to a wife. She later died in the arms of Zifu when the emperor refused to see her one last time and she laughed a little as she thought the irony of it all; that she should die in the arms of the woman whom she had hated and yet who has shown her kindness when no one bothered to.
She learned humility when she begged, with genuine sincerity for Zifu to help persuade the emperor to spare her scheming mother’s life and to take hers instead. Rather moving. I was also hoping the emperor will see her one last time but that would be a sell out to the usual stubborness of the emperor who has always been slow to forgive his enemies so I do think whatever portrayed was consistent.
Zheng Miao Zhi. Very pretty, love the headgear (sort of) but the hair a bit too Korean for me. Hers looks especially Korean. Minimal wardrobe change, what a shame. Performance is rather good but I feel she is too young for this role because she never ages. In real life the empress was I read 8 years older than the emperor and was childless. This actress however looks far too young for this role even if she is not 8 years older.
She existed. Apparently she was every bit as scary as she was depicted in this series. She was the “kiu” in the “Kam Oak Chong Kiu” where story has it Liu Che built her a chamber of gold for her to stay (which you will see to great effect in this series). But that saying in modern times now mean a man keeping a mistress. Not sure how it evolved into this modern saying. I think she was probably luckier than Zifu in the sense she lived out her life in seclusion, she wasn’t killed or anything with all the luxuries befitting an empress, or so it was noted. Maybe she was denied the extra coal or two once in a while.
The mother of Empress Chen and the most favourite daughter of Grand Empress Dowager Dou, this woman is haughty, arrogant, trouble maker and above all else, loves her daughter very much. Unfortunately she did all the wrong things and taught her daughter all the wrong methods in winning the emperor’s heart. A sad end but she planted the seed of disdain in the emperor for to empress and in the end nurtured the hatred that caused Empress Chen to die deep with regret. Basically she really is something, this woman.
One of the best if not the best scene in this series that I will choose also for the Emperor Liu Che which is the confrontation scene between Emperor and his aunt with the empress in tow. The princess knew she got caught and instead of displaying humility and being very truly sorry for what she did, she argued with the emperor about merit, about how she helped him, etc etc. The emperor grew increasingly angrier as the princess became increasingly fearful. Stuck in between are the historians tasked as the emperor put it, to write what happened and to put the records straight. So we have the princess shouting “Historians!! Write all these down!” and the emperor screaming “Historians! You shall all do as I say! WRITE! WRITE ALL THAT DOWN!!”. It became a battle of wits, wills and authority where the emperor finally displayed his emperor like behaviour that basically forced the terrified and humbled princess into submission. Excellent scene.
Liu Ying Hong. I remember her as a Hong Kong actress but I can’t pinpoint which series. I am often distracted by her silly Marge Simpson hairstyle but frankly nothing silly about her performance. She is well dubbed and the voice suited her even if she definitely spoke cantonese. She played the mean spirited mother of the empress with panache and her performance deserves a praise even if her character goes nowhere but to the abyss of the emperor’s hatred. Seriously after a while it gets a bit tedious with her scheming non stop and teaching her daughter all the wrong things.
She existed (but can’t find an individual page for her) and from what I can understand, wielded considerable authority. Named Liu Piao, she was the older sister of the previous emperor. Not sure what happened to her though.
The faithful friend turned maid turned sister in law of Zifu. Not much to say except her ending was sad and admirable.
Li Xin Cong. Not much to say. She was effective. And I was waiting for her to die so that Wei Qing could marry the princess and she didn’t die until much much later.
WANG FUREN AND LI FUREN
Both concubines managed to capture the emperor’s heart and both died for different reasons and different method. Both as stupid and both were means to an end by the ultimate villain.
Both existed, one more celebrated than the other. History was changed for Li Furen (Consort Li) who was poisoned whilst pregnant in the series. In real life she didn’t die, her grandson became the emperor. I believe the same Li Furen is in Sound of the Desert portrayed by Fala Chen.
Two of the worst female performances in this series.
Next, the men …
Emperor of China, the emperor famous for his defeat of Xiong Nu and known as the military emperor so to speak because he spent a lot of years in war. Of course this series shows he delegates the war thing to his trusted generals and aides and rules from his palace and he is a very busy emperor. He is not perfect. He is young and handsome and also lusty and easily falls for tricks and lies. But the good thing about this emperor is he is also not stupid. Given a bit of quiet moment he will figure things out and he will seek the counsel of people he trusts, such as his grandmother the powerful grand empress dowager Dou and his sister, Princess Pingyang, arguably the wisest people in this series who are both wiser than him at times. He is also smart enough to not seek his mother’s counsel who proves herself to be rather stupid. He wants to be filial and often times almost makes decisions that would have been very wrong even if he was filial. He is a fighter that is ready to fight for his loyal aides but most of the times will fail not because he didn’t try but his loyal aides would think of ways to assist the emperor even if it means their death. He has good taste in who should be Empress and even if at times they argued like any couple would, for better or for worse as depicted in this series, he is a caring father, a loving husband and a good son. He is also a good leader who will listen but when he has had enough of listening, he will not hesitate to be very harsh to protect the people he loves. He gets jealous too and this would prove to be his weakest point but in the end, he is lucky he still has the counsel of his beloved and wise big sister who will not hesitate to tell him, tactfully where he gone wrong.
The fighting with his mom where he declared “Mother, it is the tradition of the Hans to be filial but I will refuse to be filial if it will cause the death of my most loyal subject. Please forgive me but if you insist to threaten my authority with your death and demand for the death of Duan Hong, I will promise you I will bury you will all the rites and honours as shall befit you after your suicide”
Another was his fighting with his aunt, with the increasing shouting match of “HISTORIANS!! RECORD ALL THAT DOWN! EVERY WORD! WRITE! WRITE!!!!”
Also that scene where he was fuming about the so called affair between Zifu and Duan Hong and he was angry and alone in the hall sitting on his throne when someone announced “Generalissimo Wei Qing seeks the Emperor’s counsel” and by that time Wei Qing was dead and it was repeated and the emperor in anger shouted “WHAT UTTER NONSENSE! WEI QING IS DEAD!!!” and well it was Princess Pingyang carrying Wei Qing’s armour into the hall to square off with the emperor. He looked taken aback.He truly respected We Qing and Qubing, treating them as family and had them buried near his future burial ground, a great honour.
And many smaller scenes such as when he laid a trap for the stupid Wang Furen and his very stern decision which sounds cruel but I feel is wise; he definitely sides his empress more because as he said it many times; “The Empress has proven herself to be kind and virtous”.
Raymond Lam. He spoke mandarin and the guy who dubbed his voice sounded like Raymond except Raymond doesn’t speak such fluent Mandarin. Perfect voice and compliments Raymond. But how was he you asked? Raymond these days have a lot of bad habits; bulging eyes, dramatic movement of his head, overacting, chok all the way, those you can see in Line Walker. But in these settings, it works but it also helps he kept things to the minimum. At first you can see the chok stuff but as the series went on as he gain a moustache then a goatee, he lessened his movements and kept them to a minimum. He lets his eyes do the talking and he has got very expressive eyes. This series reminded me why I liked him so before the singing and Karena and all that scandals took over. Raymond is not a bad actor and he can cry beautifully when he wants to. And when he doesn’t scream as he cries, that’s when he is an elegant actor. In this series, he also has to be authoritative. I didn’t believe his emperor aura at first until he had his mustache and many scenes he had to display this complete authority over someone and he did remarkably well. There was no hesitation, there was no wavering but just pure power radiated from this man that at times you wonder, will he kill that person on the spot or will he spare them? He is almost believable as a loving father, almost believable as a loving husband but he did better as the lusty emperor and the jealous husband eager for assurances that his wife, Zifu loves him and only him. His best was his display as a reasonable man. He didn’t do so well as a young emperor but he did much better as an older emperor who wants to have control, who has control and who at all times remain in control even if there were some scenes you wonder, has he lost his mind. What is great about Raymond’s performance in here is his ability to convince me that people could fear him, loath him, love him and bow to him. I feel this is one of Raymond’s best performance to date and it takes a great voice dubber and Mainland China to remind us all how much potential he had when he was much younger. You can forget about the substandard and OTT Line Walker. Any Raymond fan must watch this series even if his character is at times hard to like.
He existed and quite a bastard to his wives. He came from a prolific line of emperors, where his grandpa was known to be a benevolent Emperor, so was his father whilst he was quite scary. You can google Liu Che or Emperor Wu of Han. He ruled for 5 decades and as with long rules, in the end he became quite mad. So before you believe whatever is said in this series, do keep in mind in the end he forced Zifu to kill herself. I do think Raymond portrayed a much gentler version of this not so gentle emperor.I went to his father’s tomb in Xian, China and it was an experience I never forget. Everyone must go to Shih Huangdi’s tomb, no doubt but if you are there do drop by at Emperor Jing’s mausoleum. It is much quieter, fully air conditioned, some very interractive stuff but the best was you walk on top of the burial chamber and you can see the excavation and creepy dolls. Creepy because the place is literally empty, it is chilly because air cond on at full blast and you are reminded this is a burial chamber! You can also see cute looking pigs and cows and what nots. I feel the museum is one of the best organised museum and you can see the curator must be very proud of it. Still excavating though so if you go now maybe more things to see.
GENERALISSIMO WEI QING
Half brother of Zifu from a different father and they love each other the most. Whatever either party do they do it for the other party. Wei Qing spent his entire life protecting his sister, even on his deathbed. Started out as a servant then a stable boy and because I don’t know how but he knew Kung Fu thanks to Duan Hong, and because he was smart and a capable leader, he rose ranks quickly as he won wars after wars. He remained humble and well liked. He fell for the Princess Pingyang but decided to let the love go because the gossips surrounding them was destroying the princess’ credibility much to the annoyance of the princess who spent I think the next decade thinking he did it for his sister, he married Shen Jia not out of love but grew to love her over the years. Her sad death caused him to lose himself for awhile until he recovered and in his later years he married the princess but died of his internal injuries he suffered in war which was aggravated when he was attacked by masked assassins. He never saw his sister for the last time before his death.
Not much but the best was his last where he begged the emperor that no matter what his sister did wrong or is accused of doing wrong, “please treat the merits I have earned from my faithful and loyal service to you as your repayment to me on my sister” and the emperor promised until of course he forgot about that not much later. Also a scene where he vommitted blood but he had to go to war for the emperor and his wife Shen Jia begged him not to but he said something very true; “I am who I am today thanks to my sister but the higher I climb, the more I need to cling on because now I have to remain where I am for my sister. I need to earn this merit to ensure her position, her son’s position is secure”.
I didn’t notice him in the beginning but age and moustache suits him perfectly and he does look honourable. However he was too small to be convincing as a powerful general. No complaints about the acting but the looks is rather unremarkable with that perpetual squinting of eyes.
Definitely existed and very prolific. Not sure how he died though or what age he was when he died.
Major character in history, if he had lived long enough maybe as or more prolific than his uncle but died young as depicted in this series. I didn’t find him remarkable at first and he had very few scenes but as the series went on, you see Qubing as someone very young but very capable. He is rash and at times acts before thinking but he is a passionate, playful and mischevious guy that walks around with a glint in his eyes like he is up to something. Noble, helpful and caring, he protects his aunt and he has no problem going straight to the emperor to tell him as it is. In this series he was a sickly child and he died from an undiagnosed heart ailment all of a sudden. It was quite shocking because one minute ago he was so full of life and playing pranks on his aunt Zifu and the next he was dead and took them quite some time to realise this time it was no prank.
I can’t speficy one since I like the character but he isn’t given much time to truly develop.
Zhang Yaxi. Not Eddie Peng for sure, no sex appeal like Eddie Peng and I suspect no six packs like Eddie Peng but he has the same mischevious look as Eddie Peng. This actor may be small in stature but he has a face that is perpetually up to something mischievous and playful. So for me the performance is on point.
Existed, very prolific and died very young, like early 20s, before his uncle from some illness. Whether he looks like Eddie Peng or not is debatable. Anyway this is the same character you will see in Sound Of The Desert but more prominent (one of the 2 male leads) but name is changed thanks to party spoiler that is China’s censorship board.
Childhood friend and love of Zifu, he was in love with her all his life and he almost had both of them killed because of that. Loyal to the Emperor, loyal to his friends and all in all a really nice guy except for that face you wanna punch. I mean he is a good looking guy but why wanna punch him? Because this guy does not understand the meaning of moving on with life, forever wallowing in his unrequited love for Zifu which is really irritating because he always looks so sad, so morose, forever in mourning over something. Other than that, he is a really nice guy.
I suppose his almost last scene where he was dying of poison and he asked Zifu tearfully I think whether she had ever loved him and she admitted if she had never entered the palace, she would have married him and had a simple but happy life and he tearfully cried “Thank you” because he thinks she is lying for his sake but I think she is telling the truth and the emperor was nearby listening but he wasn’t jealous or anything; after all Duan Hong was dying.
But no, he didn’t die. His hand got chopped off, he left the palace finally and in the forest at night, in the middle of nowhere he met a girl that is a very panda looking (aka tired) Michelle Ye in a guest starring role as some creepy keeper of an inn who resembles his Zifu in some ways and who invited him in. If there is a sequel, she probably drugged him, robbed him, chopped him up and served his meat in cha siew bao. Yes, the entire setting was just creepy. Anyway at least he found his big dipper star which is what he sees Zifu as.
Xu Zhengxi aka Jeremy Tsui aka Niki Chow’s boyfriend and they had like 3 scenes at most and never any dialogue with one another. Good looking guy, tall, supremely thin with such a morose face that I wanna punch and an exaggerated way of speaking his lines whilst his lips is pursed, something like a Japanese animated series. Not a bad actor, just the character is yeah yeah someone I wanna punch.
Don’t think he existed but maybe an embodiment of someone the real Zifu might have known as a child or when she was a dancer.
UNCLE YI HAN
Gifted fortune teller turned murderer turned fugitive turned chef turned Elder of Han turned charity worker. He was saved by the young Zifu as he laid dying from starvation and later met her again as a chef and quietly helped her to gain favour of the emperor. As for his ability as astronomer and fortune teller, they have no correlation with his duties in the palace. He is more like a friend and to provide some comic relief.
Can’t think of any. Enjoyable character but nothing worth remembering.
Peng Guo Liang. I recognise him as a ke-le-fe HK actor who is suddenly given this very prominent role and he did very well. No complaints.
Figment of storytelling.
Many characters come and go and some around for a long time. Such as the ultimate villain whose name I can’t remember but the actor is 9th prince from Yong Zheng Wang Chao and the kindly eunuch in The Glamorous Imperial Concubine who took a long time to die. He was good even if his character is just illogical. Then there was the deceitful uncle of Liu Che whom I remember was the father of Ruby Lin in The Glamorous Imperial Concubine and my god, a very passionate performance spit and all. Also got this weird man dressed as a woman who is the “sister” of the same sect with the ultimate villain’s girlfriend who has a passion for belly dancing. Serious! And many more. Some were more competent than the others. None too terrible.
OTHER NOTABLE STUFF
I do love the costumes. Nothing so amazing that jumped out like in Sound Of The Desert where royalty really looks like they dressed like royalties but for what it is worth, the costumes were very nice, especially those on the emperor.
The hairstyle is a different matter. Not as cumbersome as Beyond The Realm Of Conscience which most looked like helmets. In this series, some do looked too made up and too korean style. Zifu’s pearls for jades crown were overkill. Quite like Princess Pingyang’s headgear towards the end but still look rather clumsy. But the shiny gold must be complimented, like the mega OTT crown for Empress Chen which was so shiny. But I feel it is too much for that dynasty. I don’t know, I just thought they aren’t accurate and most aren’t very Han like to me.
PASSAGE OF TIME
You won’t see the passage of time in women but for the men, I was most impressed with the men’s moustaches and beards. They all look good with it and as there were flashbacks from the past, suddenly you see the difference in the passage of time.
Probably due to budget contraints we never get to see how mammoth was the funeral for Qubing or Wei Qing and the series does confine itself to the palace whilst the war scenes were bare minimum. It doesn’t feel limited though; it does feel like a palace like I said at the beginning because we have an Emperor who acts like an Emperor who happens to be a family man with many wives.
There were times I just fast forwarded a whole chunk because it was repetition and it concerned characters I didn’t want to watch. I missed nothing. The main stars are the Empress, her Emperor and perhaps Princess Pingyang, the 3 most worthy characters to watch. The Empress by herself is terribly boring, nothing much ever eminates from her, she is like the little rabbit that everyone protects, and yet the hawks keep attacking and she never knew why she was target, why she is so hated, etc etc. You can say she is wide eyed most of the time but towards the end she wise up and made some tough decisions even if it goes against her Emperor. No doubt this series took pain in explaining the virtous part but it never fully explained how a starving young girl ended up at the Pingyang mansion, how she knew how to dance so well although we can assume Princess Pingyang trained her. The start of the love affair with the emperor was cold and calculating and purely sexual. I never got the feeling she loved him at first but she had to since she is virtous and he is her husband. As for the emperor, I believe he grew to love her over the years. There are a lot of jumps in time and suddenly she has nephews like Qubing etc etc. Too much time is spent on Empress Chen and her deceitful ways and Duan Hong and his unrequited love. But luckily this series balances all those unnecessary in excess with some fine performances that grabs you. The passage of time, although unmarked except for deaths and moustaches and some costume changes is felt in the sense that you see the characters grow old and die one after another. History is changed but for once, I like that it is changed for a happier or bittersweet end. In real life, Zifu had it worst.
Watch this for the costumes, watch it for Raymond, watch it for Niki Chow who grows in confidence as the series goes on and on and watch it for the fairytale ending which we know in real life never happened that way.
You can see Raymond looked exhausted towards the end of the series with his red eyes. I don’t think Niki Chow ever spoke Mandarin for her lines. Hers very consistent with Cantonese dialogue. For such a rich dynasty as with all the gold, Empress Chen hardly had any costume changes. And you will see the same black/white flag meant to announce death of someone important quite a lot of times towards the end, always the same shot. And you will see the same shot with the guards standing guard on the stairs, like the exact same shot. For a series so much about politics, it rarely shows the emperor ever in discussion with his ministers (apart from Duan Hong and Wei Qing) about politics. And don’t hope for war scenes. Budget all gone to clothings!
This review is written by Funn Lim, a Contributor at JayneStars.com and was originally posted at www.point2e.com.