This serial caused a storm or rather a typhoon when it was shown in Hong Kong. It received 50% of the ratings that TVB lost.
Mei Niang is unwillingly betrothed to Prince Li Zhi at the age of 14 years. Before she enters the palace, the current Emperor Li Shi Min has a nightmare and dreams of his empire coming to an end because of this future daughter-in-law. He consults a fortune teller and indeed, he finds out that her birth date really causes the end of his dynasty. Moreover, his son will not live long when he is with her. He then decides to find someone to kill her (how ruthless he can be!)
But alas, Mei Niang is destined to have a looooong life. She is saved by 2 swordsmen, Yuwen Jun and Ming Chong Yan. Both men carry a torch for her due to her pleasant and naïve personality. But when they find out her identity, both have to hide their disappointment. The following scene shouldnt be missed. She enters through the palace gates and they reluctantly watch her as the gates close.
Shi Min is annoyed that Mei Niang isnt killed. He treats her with hostility but he is alarmed that Li Zhi is attracted to her. Mei Niang is later sent to the nunnery to be a nun because Shi Min cooks up an excuse that his Empress is dead and he needs someone to chant sultras for her for 3 years. He hopes that Li Zhi will forget her after 3 years. Mei Niang is unhappy over this.
Li Zhi is a forgetful man and sure enough he forgets about Mei Niang. Shi Min sets high hopes for this youngest son because his two other sons are too power hungry and aren't filial to him at all. But Li Zhi proves to be incapable in both martial arts and the ruling of the country. This scene is memorable Shi Min has a duel with Li Zhi and his son loses to him in just 3 strokes. Shi Min is so upset that he throws his sword away, wondering what will happen when he dies.
In the meantime, Mei Niang grows prettier despite being bald. She secretly plans her revenge. Actually Chong Yan knows about her plight and offers to take her away. However, she refuses as she wants to wait her chance. Chong Yan is disappointed to see her change and discusses this with Jun. Sigh Jun is a stick-in-the-mud and believes that Mei Niang should remain loyal to the Emperor. He loves her but doesnt dare go against traditional customs. He even chides Chong Yan for going against Shi Mins wishes.
Chong Yan is very annoyed with Jun. He even has a spar with him but the duel turns to be a draw because both are very highly skilled. Chong Yan knows that Mei Niang loves Jun and she has actually requested for Jun to elope with her. But she loses all hope when Jun refuses to take her away. Whats the point of leaving with Chong Yan when Jun has no guts to accept her and marry her? So she decides to change her fate so that she can be a successful ruler in the future to spite him. This shows that when a woman is offended, she can take drastic measures!
When Li Zhi visits the nunnery one day to pay respects to his late mother, he sees her and his memory is rekindled. He proposes marriage to Mei Niang but Shi Min turns him down. But well, later she becomes his wife anyway (so sorry I forgot the process). Both are at loggerheads with each other and she refuses to see Shi Min even before he dies due to an illness. Shi Min dies with his eyes open a belief that he is reluctant to part with this world because things are not yet settled.
The two old officials, Shang Guan Yi and Zhang Sun Wu Ji try to persuade Li Zhi to choose another empress but he declines. Both old men are shocked when Empress Wu starts to take charge of court affairs as Li Zhi always seeks her opinion. Both oppose to all suggestions that she makes. Empress Wu is annoyed when both get assassins to try to kill her. Luckily Chong Yan saves her in time when he visits her. She later sentences both men to death.
Juns martial arts junior, Wan Er is Shang Guan Yis granddaughter so she decides to seek revenge. She fails in her assassination attempt. Wan Er looks at Empress Wu with vengeful eyes but she softens when Empress Wu tells her about her plans to rule the country. In fact, so impressed is she that she drops the idea and starts to think that her grandfather was too stringent in the rules. Empress Wu also admires her talents and decides to give her an official post.
Li Zhi finds out that Mei Niang doesnt love him at all and that she is only interested in power. He later dies miserably of old age. Empress Wu later becomes the emperor. Chong Yan, although impressed with Empress Wus talents, could never accept her iron fist methods in ruling a country. Thus he declines any official post and retreats with his junior, Xia Fei Yan. Fei Yan is secretly in love with him but still stays by his side upon knowing that he loves Mei Niang all along. She only manages to win his heart when she dies for him after having shielded him from attacks by her fathers enemies. Chong Yan becomes miserable and single to the end.
How does Jun react? He could NEVER accept women as officials although he himself becomes an official later. He has no choice but to marry Wan Er because the marriage is already set by her grandfather. Imagine his displeasure every time he has to face Empress Wu in court and also having his wife accompany him all the time! He starts to question whether this is Empress Wus revenge plot to spite him back. But later, he can see that she really puts in an effort in the court affairs, not losing to Shi Min.
However, this traditional man is still unhappy that he is working under a woman. One day, he and Empress Wu are drunk in the garden. Empress Wu boasts that she can make the flowers in the garden blossom the next day despite the fact that it was snowing then. Imagine her shock when she wakes up and her maids tell her about the promise! She quickly gets the best gardeners and they manage to make this promise come true.. Jun finally accepts her to be the Empress in the end.
Introduction on characters
Poon is satisfactory in this role. You really hate him whenever he appears always talking about traditional rules that must be followed and cannot be broken. No wonder Wan Er always quarrels with him because both just can't see eye to eye with each others views.
Later, he returned to act in Emperor Qin when the case was over surprised that he wasnt imprisoned or fined? Thats because he didnt commit the crime in Hong Kong and he didnt step into Taiwan so he was spared. He only returned to Taiwan after the 15-year ban.
Okay enough of his sad history. How was his acting? I was very impressed! Despite his troubles in real life, he still gave a strong performance unlike Fung in Emperor Qin. Many of us liked him so much when he portrayed this Da Hup. He was very open minded and was receptive to new ideas. He was very kind to Fei Yan but you could feel him trying so hard to avoid her loving eyes. Plus his stunning outlook - always in those white clothes and high martial arts skills, this swordsman definitely had presence.
In fact, he was so good that I couldn't accept Tsang as his replacement at first. Tsang always appeared in a dark green gown that made him look so old. Moreover, he had just started out and his acting was still raw then. He had no chemistry with Wong Siu Fung, unlike Lau Wing who could create sparks. With Fung, the acting gap was even larger. But we can't blame this man for he did try very hard.
Most favourite character
Ming Chong Yan for being a righteous man and for daring to do whatever he thinks is right.
Most hated character
Yuwen Jun he is so rigid on rules that no one will like him in here. If we had more of these men in the modern world, many womens futures would be ruined by him.
Battle of wits between Mei Niang and Shi Min
Battle of wits between Mei Niang and the two old officials
Duel between Chong Yan and Jun they really fight till both fall into a big heap of hay!
How Empress Wu manages to keep her promise to make all the flowers blossom
TVB sneered upon knowing that Fung Bo Bo was chosen to be the lead. Although she had done serials for TVB, ratings weren't that outstanding so they thought that it would be the same for ATV. How much more could she achieve?
But Fung was determined to prove them wrong. She gave her best and won over half the population. TVB lost lots of advertising contracts. They even got Wong Min Kuens Bo Lien Lamp (if I remembered correctly please let me know if I make a mistake) to pit against her. But the serial already had such a strong following that its foundation could not be rocked.
It later sparked off the making of many historical dramas as the previous ATV owner, Mr Yau Tak Gan, was a history lover. Other successful examples were Emperor Qin and The Young Dowager. There were also unavoidable disasters like Zhu Ge Liang.
Yu Chan Shun did get popular but for only a while and many forgot him. This is so sad - he even committed suicide once by slashing his wrist. Luckily he was saved. I still find that he shines in supporting roles.
It is sung by Cheung Lam Yan un unknown. Surprisingly, the song is more famous than the singer. She actually sings very well so well that I can still remember the lyrics all these years! Ths lyrics really fit the story very well.
But the subtheme songs were a letdown. They were too modern. Thanks to a friend, Shan, who sent me a cassette all the way from London to Singapore so I could listen to them.
Those interested to listen to the songs may wish to download from
This is a must watch for all television viewers. I am sorry that this review is so short. I had wished to write it longer but my memory really failed me and no tapes/vcds are available for me to rewatch it. You won't be disappointed with the great acting and closely-knitted plots. Dont miss it if you have the chance!
Sukting's Ratings :
On acting : **** (Scale of 5)
On story : **** (Scale of 5)