What a surprise. The most pleasant kind.
Yes, sadly I think a lot of peacocks met a sad demise for their feathers being used. Even the horses wear these pineapple peacock feathers helmets! I want one too, just to wear when I am dusting things with my head. The drama is 舞乐传奇/ Legend of Dance and Music. There is an obscene amount of gold that must be fake but still glittering sparkling everywhere and peeps are dipped in it like Smaug. It has a boring off-putting typical Cdrama poster that makes you cringe a little and forget about it the next second:
The true star of the show is writer 王倦. I will remember his name, forever, keeping him in my go-to pile. What a lovely piece of drama writing in a SinoBurmese historical wuxia mystery adventure travelogue road drama deemed Journey to the North by the fans, a loving homage to Journey to the West with a virtually hole-less plot, steadily, progressively paced, and laden with such glorious details to authenticity I have been abusing my baidu/chinese wiki, pausing and reading up on the history and its colorful characters, true historical player of the same name in the drama and does not deviate blasphemously.
This is Lin Geng Xin’s best work to date, not that he has done an awesome job in it. I apologize to his fans, I just do not see much talent, imo he is overrated, serviceable, but delivering same performances for his varied, colorful characters under his belt. He has opportunities his peers would mass murder puppies for, but has not been showing me he deserves all of it. He is very young though, I won’t count him out if he can see the dire need to work very hard, that is before fame gets too much into his head. He needs tonnes of work on his diction which is grating on my nerves even watching his line-reading with dubbing. He is not exactly in control of his facial features when emoting, wincing is not expressing a myriad of feelings. He is the weak link of the entire cast, but he is a great fit for the character with his height giving him enough princely stature plus a bit of wooden clumsy cuteness in his charm. His just alright performance suits the ‘useless’ prince character who is actually Sherlock without all the antisocial affluenza, the sociopathic smug, mashing with a Detective Conan, inserted into the real historical prince of ~9th century AD Burma, then the empire of Pyu, with a deeply religious Buddhist culture. The story is loosely based on the true account of Prince Shwenandaw bringing his famed dance troop for a visit to Tang in 802 AD for diplomacy/religion missionary in the form of lyrical musical spreading Buddhist scriptures and teachings. Tang dynasty was when spiritual enlightenment was in its fullest vigor in the entire continent, rulers have been criticized in social commentaries of the time for too lavishly spending on religious artifacts and ceremonies rather than defense and infrastructure. Think real deal Journey to the West in reverse and not fictionalized and popularized by a most well known classic literature. Read more of the history and the making of the drama here.
The acting is solid to very charismatic, but more importantly all of the characters have a highly functional brain I do not mind exchanging with mine and stay true to themselves and their agenda…and the writing is tight. Each time I spot a possible tiny plot hole, it actually serves as a veiled clue for future arc seamlessly. What I was sure it is a booboo, turns out to be a brilliant twist, ALL THE TIME. The characters would sit down and explain all that is left out in the narrative, weaved into the storyline. If you are looking for snerking, no luck here. This little kitschy silly looking beast is very possibly the best written original Cdrama I have witnessed last few years. I would rank it higher than the standard of Cdrama preciousness Zhen Huan Zhuan myself if solely on the writing. It is an understatement that it is not everyday I can sit through a C wuxiaperiod not being insulted intellectually and mentally. This drama is not perfect but every second of it is decent and sensible to the story it is telling. The writer never takes a breather, nor dozes off cruising by an episode here or there. This is a 42 episode goodness, I’ve heard in every comment. I feel respected as an audience, as if I am truly an honored guest invited to a warm, heartfelt little show put together with care and soul, within his means by Producer/Director Yu in front of my screen, constantly. I have been loling nonstop at peeps commenting on the streaming hollering why by the same surname of Yu, yuma is a putrid toad of a producer whereas Mr Ringo Yu is truly knight in shining armor saving the industry. They even go as far as chatting up with yuma in forums he visits nudging him to study this drama as mantra and learn and repent his sins.
If you are a fan of the hopelessly romanticized wuxia of yore GuLong, have you ever witnessed anything capturing his essence? I have not, satisfactorily. Here I am, seriously not joking this captures the core, the values, the romantic heroic essence, the wu/武and the xia/俠 (and our protagonist is an uncle of the surname Xia/夏!) especially from the world of GuLong, no GL drama adaptation has ever come close. Every element is nicely balanced, a part of the whole. This is a show that can be an entertaining road drama with mystery case solving and on location exotic scenery and funny costumes to appease the eyes and engage casually, yet you can abuse your baidu/wikipedia and type in any of the character’s name, locale, vocabulary, make yourself some tea, pause the episode and read your hearts out on that slice of history, its culture and the poetry and prose writer sweetly worked into every detail. It was not trying too hard, nothing is pretentious, just a nice touch here and there befitting, but when every tiny thing fits, it adds up to rainbows and unicorns. This is rainbows and gold and unicorns. Our protagonist’s name 夏云仙(ie our Friar Sand equivalent, and nope from this writer this is not coincidence XiaYunXian sounds like Fri-ar Sand.) and 《云仙》 is the title of a Song poetry, giving a vivid visual of the character:
Leaves barren, raindrops destining from afterlife…Ordained umbrella swaying in the wind as he gazes the clouds of dusk.
Take the names of the 2 pretty servant maids/entourage/bodyguard 小腰 ( Little Waist) and 红泥 (Red Earth) of the seemingly debaucherous debonair smartass playboy guy2: characters are never just what they present themselves as, with their stories and secrets…but I swear, every single one of them stay smart or smarter than most wuxia heroes and villains, no dumbo, no lobotomy is allowed, none. This guy2 is exactly the dude who would call his lovely maid/buddywithbenefits/bodyguard his Little Waist, and her twinie 红泥 must be a name he has taken from a down to earth poem of 白居易, a poem about a guy asking for warm wine and company from a buddy:
Freshly brewed rice wine, fragrant with greenness, tiny fire pit made of red earth, warm and toasty.
Night is falling, snow may fall……can you drink with me?
Our Prince, the piece of sweet white meat all want a bite, a la Tang Zeng. He is based on the true Prince Shwenandaw.
The source of my rawring guffaws and boundless joy these days:
Any Pretty! Ladies! here to rescue me, yo~!
Mr richboy spoiled brat Guy2 (ie our Journey to the North Mr. Pig ) is played by 胡海锋/Hu HaiFeng to perfection. I LURVE HIM! He says the darnest wittiest things and is deliciously evil, the best wicked prankster kind of a sick bastard with the heart of a sweet but pervie 5 year old whose DaddyDearest is the controlling malevolent Chief of Staff of the kingdom belonging to Prince’s wimpy DaddyEmperor.
This is how he takes a ….
A typical little quip will ask and answer our pondering itself as they go back and forth EVERY FREAKEN TIME. This one is between our bromance OTP, the Playboy BFF /James Bond of 9th Century AD Burma and Prince:
Burmese James Bond: I want her!
Le Prince: You said so EVERYTIME.
BJB: No, no. This time I am serious. She scolded me, I must marry her!
P: Oh. She yells at you thus you have to marry her!?
BJB: You do not understand. I have never been yelled at like so since the day I was born. She is special like no one else! She said the truest truth: Other than the son of MightyDaddyDearestGeneral, I am actually a useless piece of silly little ruffian’s ass. What she sees is only me, the person. Do you get it?
(Next grab not shown) P: Sure. You are (a silly little ruffian’s ass of) a masochist.
Sample quip #2:
Burmese James Bond *concerned*: You really have to meet that murderess tonight?!
Prince: What if she has the very important Clue?
StreetSmartSlickLadyThief: What if she has laid down a webbing of traps for you?
P: The truth can only be known if I am there.
TeddyBearWuxiaMasterUncle: Excuse me, can I interrupt? Your Highness, are you a wuxia master?
P: (I am) Weaker than the weakest weaksauce.
And smartypants fangirl points out one of the key figure 伽罗那 (JiaLuoNa) is not far from Garuda. Needless to say the symbolism of Garuda being enemy to Nagas and Buddha has to mitigate harps back to the story. This is JiaLuoNa, we met him as the big bad wolfie (but nothing is as it seems in this drama so I am not sure if he stays bigbadwolfie) or this is symbolic:
We can only describe them as cute white rabbit ears, reminding me of lamb hat towel do in MNIKSS:
Producer/director Ringo Yu is a familiar face in HK cinema in the 90s (I have always thought he is a HKer, but he is actually born and bred Beijing-er), appearing in many action movies usually as the formidable antagonist. His background is a classically trained 武生/wusheng following his Peking Opera maestro dad’s footstep. That is why the wuxia sequences in the drama, in which Mr Yu did the bulk of, are dazzlingly solid acrobatic martial art performances in the flesh, no CGIs. The action scenes tend to be a tad too long, but are never boring, good stuff is good, not really a complaint of mine.
Our no nonsense, dependable brawny wuxia master 夏云仙 is played by PD Yu himself saying things like: This world is filled to the hilt with too many evils and scums to obliterate. Buddha has ragey moments, capice?!(Bite ME!)
PD Yu loves Zhen Huan Zhuan, perhaps more than us. He steals that brooding evil schemes are hatching in the air theme, a lot, to my delight. The music cues are nicely used. Theme song and ending song are both music to my ears.
I am TOTALLY nuts about this Cdrama. Nuts. Savoring it an episode at a time in rapturous AWE, lest I do not do it justice gobbling it up too hastily. When is the last time I am so scrupulous at being a spoilerphobe over a C.D.R.A.M.A.?! I am never as guarded to stay unspoiled whatsoever, making this drama experience hardest. I almost need to cut my nosyfingers off from clicking, hording up the massive cult-like frenzy this little drama is getting from fanarts and fanvids…always the barometer if this is hitting the sweetest demography of the flailing obsessive coolest talented babies. I will attach it to the post after I’ve finished my watch.
This one is a teaser, unfinished, and it is also meshing 2 lesser deserving period cult fluffy hits LanLingWang and Chinese Paladin 3 but it is to Jay Chou’s 伽蓝雨 aka 烟花易冷 which just slays me no matter if I have heard it 99 million times. I do love Jay’s music, but the magic of poet Vincent Fang’s lushly melancholic lyrics is my kryptonite. Lovely English subbed cover of song by Terry Lin here. The title of 伽蓝雨 is pure love, referencing 洛陽伽藍記/A Record of Buddhist Temples in LuoYang (if you are interested in the cn/eng pdf, dl here). Visual of rain on a congregation of monks (ie 伽蓝)…perhaps the pattering disturbs a forgotten chord in one of them, an old self before the austerity… is too hauntingly beautiful. A fangirl wrote a beautiful prose of the heartbreaking romance possibly inspiring the song here.
In the tumultuous warring years of the Southern and Northern Dynasties, a general has to leave his beloved for battle. Badly injured he takes refuge in the Temple of 伽蓝, in hope of one day he is well enough to be back home to his love, but fate interferes. The fighting worsen and to keep his promise of going back to her alive, he becomes a monk at the temple to wade certain death. A widespread story of a lady in LuoYang trickles to his ears, waiting by a stone slab by the city wall, day by day, asking every soldier passing by of her betrothed till the day she dies. The monk eventually makes it back to the fallen wall of the city, a dreary rainy in search of her, touching every stone slab as if her warmth is still there.
Monk beats the wooden fish in a soothing drone, the same rhythm as rain starts splattering on the stone slab just outside the temple…
The drama is opposite of the devastatingly melancholy mood of the song, I am sure it will have angst and tears and heart-tugging moments in store. I have caught fans sniffling and quickly not read another word in fear of spoilers. It starts with a steady pace, nothing addictive for a few eps of exposition and character introduction, but by the teens, it is hard to not click the next, yet fear brain would explode from the processing needed to catch up with the wavelength of these smartypants. We have strong vivid intelligent females, 3 of them, playing Burmese Charlie’s Angels with more brains combined and no see-through tank tops we girls could all approve.
One of them have 2/3 the cunningly hilarious wicked lines as the petty ladythief (probably the MonkeyKing parallel), the role of the self-serving rascal in female form with a gooey shoujo heart:
Next we have the typical socially awkward cold prince personified by the gorgeous primadona dancing queen in a breathtaking vision of white and gold bells, perhaps our goddess GuanYin? Geez, as the drama progresses, she looks more and more enticing and breathtakingly beautiful. Her name is 宣璐/XuanLu. Sigh, why can’t we have her as our New Xiao LongNu?!?!?!?
Her name is 兰玛珊蒂/Lan Ma Shan Di, and the cute fans are nudging Mr writer at weibo if her name comes from his love for maserati and lamborghini
Best Ladydancer of the Land. The young actress/dancer is a 90er and ROCKS!
Then we have the hotheaded good agent in a young maknae, our Lestrade. The less I describe the characters the more fun it is to find out who they are a layer at a time as the drama progress. In all seriousness the detective work here pwns the BestestSmuggestTVEver Sherlock S3E1. This unknown little funny looking thing with not even a B-lister Cdrama based on ancient Burma.
There is this red mystery man I have not yet see face whom I only know is some big boss but I have no idea what side he is on and is creepy but OH I WANNA KNOW. NOW! *DO NOT SPOIL. AS I AM TRYING DARN HARD NOT TO SPOIL TOO!*
Love letters of the bros:
In short: if you want glorious Bollywood musical reinvented in good fun Cdrama form + side splitting snarky witty standup comedy that is…side-splittingly hilarious + GOOD shoujo fluffy OTP (and other very shippable pairings) + shameless bromance + angsty misty eyed family makjang + political intrigue + Mystery! WHO DID IT!?HOW?!?!?! +detective procedural by Burmese Sherlock who is tender white meat sweet and nice and moral and cuddly but every bit very sharp and know his deduction and mind palaces and ungodly observation deal with the demon madskills + infernal affairs thriller + travel channel documentary + RPG fantasy getting helpers spells voodoos magical dusts/powers/powess + Kick!Ass! martial art that deserves the word art + adventurous road movie.
These are 2 fluffy OTP MVs not very spoilerish. I dare not tread the other pairings.
The fanart is so fking CUTE and…..Gorgeous.
Our main ladies: icequeen dancer and slick petty thief
The lovely duo Miss Little Waist and Miss Red Earth:
Minor characters are all interesting and some are very hot uncles! YAY for me!
I have never said this: if anyone reading has affiliation with fansubbing groups working on Cdramas, this is da bomb. The dialogue is straight forward and never too archaic, there is no lazy episode, nothing close to a chore to suck it up for fansubbers.