I am squarely at 5/10 Of Monks and Masters…a rewatch i knew i should not. I am the cuckoo ahjummabrat totally irresponsible with life, skipping sleep, nor eating and writing up lousy recap. What?!
Out of my mind I am. I have not done this in ages, beyond overwhelmed. The quarter of a BoC fan still lurking: I am horrible, cant terribly enjoy crying eyes out, could not force it. Esp not when i am OWNed by curveball from the left field.
I started this most satisfying enthralling ride stirring things in me in November, it was true beauty in cinematography, worthy to spend time with, even not immediately engaging. To be exact a week before Grandpa’s passing. In my bereavement, i took refuge in this series of TV movies. Chitchatting about the first 4eps with dear likeminds over a drama thrill. Weight off shoulders, what am i and my feelings, so freaking important not, i am not worthy for this little show of pure artistry. There is nothing better than this kind of calming discourse. I am counting my blessings as a part of me is forever void.
As to what this drama is about: Authentic pathos galore Wuxia you have never ever seen. This is what StarWars should do to me if i were of age in the theater witnessing EpIV that May, 1977.
If you grew up lusting over the forever inebriated misogynistic genius’ inventive prose of GuLong like me, when every fiber of his storytelling is against anything comforting, everything you are fond of as a shoujo fiend, aka anti-fluff-rainbow-unicorns, through the DECADES of feeding oneself relentlessly the false hope a passably watchable GL drama adapt might be around the bend, but ended up drinking the misery of utter disappointed rage to the point i talked myself believing i had better chance mass breeding rainbow pooping unicorns for everyone. Here, you fellow GuLong/Wuxia crazy obsessive fans, dry those forever bloodied tears and pinch that throbbing vein of fury and sorrow on forehead to zilch.
This is the definitive. I could rest in peace i have watched a GuLong adaptation masterpiece by a soulmate fan in the form of an evocative lyrical brilliant cinematographer of the finest tasteful artistry i have seen in a C wuxia, EVER, and never forevermore.
This is a story starting out simple enough with an affable sanguine monk/word reader ShaoBai, apprenticing under the revered Shaolin Abbot, dragged/ordered by sifu into investigating murders with a reticent Detective Dee. In due time, like within an episode, he grows a camaraderie/respect for the competent cop, and vice versa. He meets a chirpy young lady LingEr, who seems a bit clingy off the bat as just a platonic friend/traveling buddy, who is heedlessly loudly blossoming a crush for him. He also befriends dearly a slick little thief he enjoys deriding too much. Clichéd construct of chess pieces in wuxia adventure. I first made a mention of drama here.
Like riding on a roller coaster for the first time too young, too unaware, that first slow incline seems innocuous before it turns intimidatingly convoluting with the G forces hitting ferociously in loops, this dramas mingles with my guts, my feelings inside, builds punches with each dramatic turn, at times exhaustive of my fullest attention to plot development, the grander scheme of things, while discussing spirituality in spectacular depth with a line, succinct pondering on religion in the same breath of existentialism, philosophy, in a blink.
This episode, the fifth installment is my drama rubicon. You jump, I jump ShaoBai.
Our hero is a wanted fugitive by EVERYONE in wulin, lit. the ‘forest’ of martial arts, it is also referred self-deprecatingly as lu lin (green forest) in the episode, as revered and masterful they r with their wuxia skills in their pastures, they r outcast of society, outlaws with only the labyrinthine biome of their code of ethics to take root. SB is wanted as the murderer with numerous witnesses of the respected leader of wulin Master 乔上舟/QiaoShangZiao (lit. an ascending bridge aspiring to heaven sans wood…to board the ship) of the beggar sect and many murders of other wuxia sect leaders, all gathering at LuoYang/the City of Peonies for the election of a new leader. SB leaps off the cliff as the loyal disciple of MasterQiao, the one approaching him at monastery last ep, said gravely, ‘If you do not die, I will not live!’
Half a month ago, happier times ShaoBai and LingEr are having at the annual peony fair in town. LE prods on what SB’s case is about this time. SB is here because MasterQiao asked for his help on a mystery he is not yet informed. His sharpest eyes notice a person of interest in the crowd, suspiciously vanishing in a blink.
Masks on stalks, with light piercing through eye pieces, juxtapose MasterQiao giving his check on the combat stage framed with ink, writing: ‘Let us hone our skills competing with wuxia, let us make friends with integrity/德De’ A closeup on Qiao fondly drumming, only the line on integrity in frame.
MasterQiao gathers with the sect elders, discussing on abandoning the tradition of physically fighting for the post, involving inevitable bloodshed, which does not guarantee integrity of the winner. Their hands are tied as only three ‘candidates’ fill the prerequisites completely, MasterQiao himself, Sire of Heavenly Sword of HuaShan sect retired in solitude and Shaolin’s Abbot the reverend HuiRen, has never left monastery nor dipped into any wulin affairs, but MasterQiao can’t break the rule of no reelected leader allowed. SB eavesdrops the meeting with his keenest ears behind a thin veil.
<i> ‘It is not hard to tell the porcelain vase in display is expensive finery, brightest of hue, glossily flawless, we all want to own it, yet when you hold it in your arms, it has no temperature, it is brittle. A lapse, it would fall on the floor and shatters into oblivion.’ </i> MasterQ then abruptly asks for SB’s opinion as a voice of ShaoLin to the dismay of the powerful players, all not containing their zeal for the ‘vase’.
SB new obsession is his eavesdropping pottery invention, put to use on a too chubby pair of masters from different sects. The lady is confused why her secret lover is supporting MasterQiao against their plan… they are threatened by a dark book of names, a scandalous list they are on.
Dawn. We see MasterQ’s back leaving their room, his loyal disciple keeping guard in the hallway, and before long the pair is found dead on the same bed.
The best medicine master Mr Qiu 裘善德 is summoned ( a smartassery play on words, 裘 is made up of characters of ‘asking’ ‘coat’, often referring to a cloak of animal skin, 善德 , kindness, good, integrity…two great virtues. It is as if his character begs for kindness and integrity), who could revive the dead within 5 weeks of last breath, thus his nick Doc 57: 5 counts of 7 days), the sect masters died of poison fr the winning peonies of the year named, ‘Tears beguiling’ and ‘ Begrudged Crimson’ proud creations of King of Flowers Lao7, cultivated with an alchemy of fertilizers. The poison disperses by touching the flower stem, crime of a Peony Ambassador, putting victims in coma, not revived promptly results in death, says Dr 57
LingEr scoffs it is a ruse. The peonies could not be poisonous. She also introduces herself to the important crowd she is the apprentice of Master of Poison Mou. An apprentice not half as skillful as the Master, Dr 57 disses.
‘I am a man of limited skills of healing, often need to exhaust all methods. Should I hone my skills dissecting animals in cages or risk it on a good man while reciting sutras putting all faith in buddha ?! ‘ Dr 57 slaughters on as SB inquires about the empty cages, vexes over taking any lives. ‘My father gifts me the name of ‘goodness and integrity’ in hope of me practicing those virtues. But what is good?! If I had to cut open animals, a good man, in order to have a chance to save him, is it a bad deed?!’
‘Doctor, your act of saving lives is surely a good deed.’
‘Do you know Chen Kui? ‘ The deformed, demonic presence of the begrudged in the banker’s murder. The embodiment of a living Yasha. Dr 57 admits he saved CK, said to be a horrible villain in wulin, but a life he could save in the eyes of a medicine man. That SB concurs, after some hesitation.
‘Do you think you are invisible with a mask on?! An aspiring chameleon, are you?!’ LingEr jeers at LongJiu observing her stewing over Dr 57…pondering on poisoning him, putting his smug and skills to test.
From SB’s observation the duo of dead masters could not be as careless as both of them not noticing the poisoning, nor to allow the scandal of them dying in the same bed. They must be murdered then transported to provoke feuding between their influential sects. Very few is capable of committing said crime, that is the purpose of SB’s visit, to consult the doctor. Dr 57 leads him on the sound deduction only MasterQiao’s special wuxia, the one finger zen, employed after the numbing effect of the drugged peonies, could kill both the masters.
Before long, fighting between the two sects is happening in broad daylight, halted in one blow by MasterQ with his one finger zen, a forbidden wuxia banned by the Northern Shaolin sect as SB knows it, but not in the south, says Dr 57.
It is apparent MasterQ has deep roots in Shaolin to the point of allowed to practice its most sacrosanct wuxia before entering the Beggar Sect. Dr 57 knows it all because he has saved many, yet more died under his care and could not bear bringing their darkest secrets to grave. He was their only last ears. SB says pensively, behind the thin gauze of veil, he hopes Dr 57 won’t save him on his deathbed,
SB shares a ride with LJ, hopping on as he pleases. He just got rid of a stalker in black for him, to little gratitude from SB. LJ then updates SB of the wulin scandal of the day, the fight between 2 prominent sects, wounding many, but kept in order by literally a flick of finger by MasterQ. That is to no surprise of SB. His last attempt to impress, LJ flaunts a mask he stole, this grabs SB’s attention, he has noticed a slick guy in mask following him since arriving in town. Off they go investigate at the shop the mask is made, and find a body with face skinned off. A suspicious figure creeps at the door and SB discernibly recognizes her as lady LingYan of the HangShan sect, the leader of her sect just murdered.
The sect masters are brainstorming, the murderer must be as good as the five Greats: Shaolin’s Abbot is living in seclusion at SL monastery; Heaven Sword Sire of the HuaShan Sect is also retired; Laughing Scholar hates wulin, never interacts with a soul; Yin 13, so obsessed with wuxia a lunatic, he even neglects his wife, a renowned beauty, unlikely to have any interest in some election; General Pong, so prominent a figure it is absurd he would dirty his hands committing murders. That leaves Master Q as the most logical deduction.
MasterQ is waxing on poetry in his room as SB greets him:
It is in Autumn that we appreciate the clear moon the most, in Spring, the gentle breeze. If the woods and waters has a soul, it should be pleasantly surprised being praised by someone appreciating its beauty.
That is, it is nice to be in company of like minds, as SB is here about to interrogate the suspicion of many: MasterQ is their prime suspect.
The poetry is tranquil, yet the camera lens shivers slightly, precariously on scene, denoting feelings stirring in unease. SB could agree upon the beauty of poetry, but this is not the right time and place in context. MasterQ does not shy from the elephant in room, he knows those outside hold the opinion he is the murderer, but he will never stoop that low just for a second term, he insists.
Without a word more, SB trusts MasterQ, moving on what actually is the mystery he is invited to investigate in the first place.
SB is to find the mastermind behind a dark scheme holding many sect leaders in hostage. Who is so resourceful?, SB asks almost rhetorically.
SB is also correct in guessing MasterQ invites him to town to keep a close eye on him, the stalker in black is under MasterQ’s command, no beating around the bush. SB has palpable connection with the Yasha Sect, beguiling to SB, MasterQ is putting it plainly.
Whether you trust me or not, I will definitely not be the next leader of wulin
You will never see clearly through the wulin.
That smog of human vices a la Red Dust.
Combats for the ‘crown’ carry on, often unfair when prominent masters shamelessly squish opponents leagues below them, disgracing their own integrity which LE never hesitates belittling. Those sitting on the sidelines are not out for self-preservation. It is too early to show a hand, no pretense they all are desiring the prize too much.
Just as the brash sect leader proclaims himself the winner, lady LingYan of the HangShan sect, speaks up in protest. SB recognizes her right away gushing out her name to the dismay of LingEr, ‘ Are you very close!?’
In 7 moves of her sword within a swipe, sect leader is slaughtered. MasterQ closes his eyes, stupefied.
He warns his son never to step onto the combat ring in the privacy of his room.
Why can’t I take your place? I am your son!
As if a father would watch his son die a certain death.
SB brushes by LingYan, he tells her about a friend, the mask craftsman, died 2 days ago. His name…is Mask Zhang. She walks on without qualm.
SB is lured out of his room by a stalker in the shadows. There is a parcel for him, which LingEr accepts. When SB returns next morning, she has passed out, he rushes her to Dr 57, who jokes he has given her a capsule of youth, and her MasterPoison sifu owes him a favor. She does not snap back at him, too busy basking in the bliss of resting in SB’s lap.
She is using herself as a litmus proving it is not peonies but the box that is laden with poison. SB is not missing that fact, he is looking feverishly for the box. It is exactly the Peony Ambassador’s fear of SB that box has disappeared before he is back. SB grumbles at her taking the unworthy risk but LingEr gloats she is a walking antidote, that poison can harm her 30% max, she just wants to test if he cares about her. And no, SB, this is not stupid/愚蠢, LingEr reads the character the SB way, shielding her blush behind the pink bead blind:
愚 is 从心, doing blindly as the heart says; 蠢,
虫动, even worms will wriggle out prompted by spring, call of nature, looking for food. I will take it as you did not talk down on me.
A worm looking for food…is a bait in the food chain. IOW, as blatantly as any young lady is saying in plain words she has eyes for you. SB shies away, but not completely turning her affections down, asking for a bowl of her weird chicken soup.
Ominous peony chests are traveling through the inn as briskly as the gossip there is a wulin blacklist, perhaps penned by MasterQ of his naysayers. At the end of the day, Dr 57 could only save 8 out of the 11 victims. Shame on me, he laments.
LingEr’s hypothesis is the ladies of the HangShan sect is behind the latest murders. They suffer no casualties, whereas another sect they are feuding with suffered the most deaths.
Victims poisoned might not be innocent, those poisoning others might not be murderers. Only the dead could not commit fault.
To LingEr, SB is defending lady LingYan too eagerly, more jealous when SB is rousing her to run an errand for him, a letter to the Shaolin Monastery MasterQ has liaisons with, compelling LingEr to skip town asap. SB reassures her he has numerous rules and codes of honor to abide by as a Shaolin monk and hankering for a lady’s affection is definitely out of question, not to LingEr, not if he is a phony monk who enjoys earthly pleasures like her chicken soup. He has no leisure nor mood to talk about her chicken soup for his soul, he cuts her off. LE has the choice of either leave for the monastery… or never seeing him again. Yes, he is threatening her, can he?!
She snaps, hastily leaves the room, bursting in tears.
LJ conveniently enters after LE left, SB caught his whiff for a while, asking him why bother with the window, use the door.
I am used to the windows. Yet, it is not everyday a monk falls in love.
SB would not say out loud to LJ he is not worried of her journey of 2 thousand plus miles,
but it is more dangerous for her to stay.
SB asks LJ to investigate a certain someone for him, who vanishes without a trace, substantiating SB’s guess. Only thing is certain, the dead with his face skinned is not the real Mask Zhang.
More savage poisoning and murders took place overnight, MasterQ pays a visit taking in the message on the wall, ‘Save a life, kill a pair.’ MasterQ calls for Dr 57, timely rescuing him from hanging himself in guilt. His hands are tied when he could save some, yet could do nothing with the threat his healing triggers even more murders.
MasterQ, ‘Doctor, you are a kind man with integrity. I bow to you. But if you kill yourself, who can battle the poisonous peonies?’
With strained pleasantry, an old friend of MasterQ suggests they all head home and name MasterQ as the deserving wulin leader. Afterall, the wuxia battles have turned into a losing war of poisons and antidotes. MasterQ senses the fear and sarcasm. Another sect master just rescued by Dr57 insists the wuxia battle must go on, the Peony Ambassador can not obliterate the entire wulin.
Huh. Even Sire Heavenly Sword is forced out of retirement I have heard, his disciples are all murdered. Is there a wulin left after this calamity?!
SB is immediately asked to leave by master gardener, King of Flower Lao7 he is paying a visit. Come back next year… All his prized peonies are sold. Exactly what SB wants to question about, who did he sell his flowers to, many has fallen victims to the poisons on the flowers. He must recall the special clientele, guarding his creation.
Flowers are not poisons. It is the human hearts spilling venom. You should leave the inn and head back to Shaolin.
A decomposing head is in the flower bed, along with a black ornate mask. Who are you really? A split second later, he is inches away from SB whose fingers are ready to attack with Shaolin’s One Finger Zen, but shock spreads on SB’s face as he is slapped by masked man instead. He realizes this masked man knows the sacred Shaolin wuxia Golden Bell Cloak masterfully well.
Trapped in cages, physical, invisible. Freed from the trapping…to meet a certain death, for a greater good. The life of the birds and beasts ShaoBai is pondering gaining consciousness… along with his own fate.
Black gauzy veils sway as SB recoups.
Why am I here?
-Hit by Yin Hand One Finger Zen (MasterQ’s specialty), lucky you survived.
That is not what hurt me.
-Perhaps it was not literally a strike from a finger, could be the slap by a hand.
Dr 57 sneers at SB’s wuxia skills, or incompetence of. He is the second person urging SB to leave the inn, not a place SB should linger.
Yet it does not make sense to SB sending him to Dr57’s care if MasterQ wants him dead. I did not say it was MasterQ.
Crowds thicken around the inn, wayward sects are prowling.
…not good nor evil, no crime thus no punishment. I can never see through. We later learn this is SB’s read on what is wulin.
MasterQ hits his own heart with a fatal stroke, the crowd gathering outside rushes in as if on cue, piecing together how SB is definitely the serial murderer.
With her swiftest sword dance, lady LingYan directs her weapon at SB, who could only hinders the blow with his bare hands. They pierce through the revengeful mop, disappearing into the woods.
Do you know what wulin is? The imperial court is to its south, Yasha at its north. A good versus a bad, it is evil yet righteous. Wulin is the forest in between.
Everyone in wulin meets either one of two ends. One could become a sage, or a monster.
– You are the one striking such balance all these years?
We all are, all the past wulin leaders.
-Someone is jeopardizing the stasis?
Dr 5 7.
With a newfound clarity, unobstructed by the sensory overload being underwater, SB rethinks all the questions swirling within. Dr 57 works for the imperial court, his task is to control wulin, but why is he saving me?! Why is BigYasha not killing me? Why is MaskZhang faking his death, in hiding for what? Why did LingYan appear at the Mask shop? Who is she working for? Where is Qiao’s son (the stalker at the fair)? Who is threatening sect leader Yiu (first victim)?
Could it be…
*Cliche is rotten wulin scoundrels will toy with maidens, I have never seen harassing of an old man’s beard. O__O*
The stately stage for the highest level wuxia combat without MasterQ is like a seedy bazaar. The sect masters are unanimous voting for Dr 57 to be their new leader.
Dr 57 is an exemplarily virtuous, righteous man, though he does not practice martial arts, he could rule with his integrity. From now on, there will be no chaos in wulin!
Who could give you your reveal if I am dead?! I want to learn a lesson or two from you, the new leader of wulin. Why yes, Dr 57 is as skilled in wuxia with his fingers as he is a surgeon of resurrection.
All martial arts take root from Shaolin. Dr 57 explains it is normal for any commoner, especially the health conscious, to practice the martial arts with the broadest scope of influence in the land. How can my martial skills compare to…MasterQ?
How about the murder of MasterQ we all witnessed you committing? Dr 57 defends.
Back to the darker room of MasterQ:
Is death inevitable?
-The imperial court…would not allow me to live. Only my death, would allow you to gather the evidence on Dr57’s crimes. Only my death, could instigate a fury in wulin to fight for its honor. And only with my death, could I save the life of my son.
‘MasterQ died of a suicide. Your box of ‘antidote’ giving him no choice.
‘The antidote is the pair of eyeballs you tore from MasterQ’s son.. MasterQ could not bear his son any more torture, he left a death note, stating you also kidnapped MaskZhang, the father of lady LingYan, thus controlling her to be your assassin.
You also forced MaskZhang to make a mask of MasterQ’s face you wore murdering the pair of sect leaders, allowing MasterQ’s loyal disciple to be witness. You kill… then resurrect, framing the respected opponent, building up own esteem. The heart of a beast donning a man’s mask, an evil incarnate…do not begin to describe you!’
That is not enough concrete evidence Dr57 would confess to his crimes.
LongJiu, with intelligence from lady LingYan, found MaskZhang and MasterQ’s son in hiding, leading them onto the arena. MaskZhang was almost murdered by Dr57 after the maskmaking, guilt-ridden, he is indebted to MasterQ’s kindness, made it his mission to rescue MasterQ’s son in the most tragic means necessary: his most trusted apprentice wore the skin mask pretending to be him and had face skinned sacrificing. This is the unknown guy SB asks LJ to hunt for right after he sent off LE.
-…The force behind is from the court, people truly in power.
How can you be sure?
-Because…you are here. And BigYasha is here. The equilibrium of the wulin is attained again.
I do not understand.
-You will, in due time.
At ear’s reach, SB accuses Dr57 of taking bribes with connections with secret gang, disturbing the orders of wulin among other crimes, and all for being a devoted henchman?!
You have spoiled the Big Plan!… Knowing so much, why don’t you spell it all out?
-Telling all… will wulin still be wulin? SB’s own hesitation being too close to the darkest thickening grand plot at work, without control of his own involvement…is too much to handle.
Then, bring it on!
Dr57 hits SB off the ring, MasterQ’s loyal disciple, lady LingYan and LongJiu waste no time on the attack, they are no match for Dr57. Dr57 takes the first chance to flee, but meets Sire Heavenly Sword as he leaps in air, cutting him to size, literally.
I ask you to be present tonight because of a few (last) wishes:
My son is still with MaskZhang, after everything ends, send him to Shaolin for me. LingYan will lead the way to Zhang, ask him to reveal Dr57’s crimes.
Big Yasha has already seek Sire Heavenly Sword’s help (containing 57)… he is outside of the power triumvirate (Imperial court, Wulin, Yasha), he would not disrupt the balance. What a brilliant move by Yasha.
Last, I will die immediately after this speech. Please find the chance to tell Lin Chi (loyal disciple) everything.
SB’s endless questions are answered. He completed everything he promised MasterQ, whose ashes would be sent to the Shaolin monastery of the Master’s formative years, says his apprentice Lin Chi.
LinChi reassures SB MasterQ had it all laid out prior to the election battles. This confuses SB, why is it necessity to stage the bloody election then?!
MasterQ wants to hand off a cleaner, purer wulin to his successor.
-He uses his life, to gain back the honor for wulin, and sacrifice garnering the deserving respect from all.
Till we meet again.
LJ is waiting for SB on their ride, grumbling. With the time invested, at least they should earn a cart full of whitegold in return. SB snickers, all along he thought LJ has more noble aspirations. (not really joking). Do not call yourself Long9, call yourself LongRat. Bickering aside, LJ is curious if Lin Chi told SB who is the next wulin leader.
I do not know. I dare not ask. The more I know, the more trouble there will be.
There is no need to ask. It is a choice of only one between 3 masters, none of them attended the election, but not hard to guess.