Secret of the Linked Cities


Reviewed by: Ian Liew

February 24, 2007

Rating: five

Chinese Title: Lian Cheng Jue

Cast:
Di Yun - Wu Yue
Qi Fang - He Meitian
Shui Sheng - Shu Chang
Ding Dian - Wang Haidi
Ling Shuanghua - Liu Jie
Wan Zhenshan - Du Zhiguo
Yan Daping - Zhang Li
Qi Changfa - Yu Changjiang
Lu Tianshu - Shu Lun
Hua Tiegan - Liuxiao Lingtong
Liu Chengfeng - Meng He
Shui Dai - Guo Jun
Xuedao Laozu (Blood Sabre Ancestor) - Xu Chunhua
Ling Tuisi - Wang Shihuai
Mei Niansheng - Yu Chenghui
Wan Gui - Qian Yongchen
Bao Xiang - Cao Guoxin
Xia Sandao - Ba Tu
Gen Bao - Wu Liping


Lian Cheng Jue (LCJ) is one of the shortest Jin Yong novels, weighing in at only one book. Only the short stories Bai Ma Xiao Xi Feng, Yuan Yang Dao, and Yue Nu Jian, all three of which are appended to other longer novels, and Flying Fox of the Snowy Mountain, which has its own novel but shares space with the former two of the aforementioned three, are shorter (Yue Nu Jian is appended to book two of Xia Ke Xing). This is a short novel about betrayal, deceit, greed, selfishness and the general base nature of man, and to expand this story into a full-blown 36-episode serial was a fairly risky undertaking. It would be all too easy to make the story drag, fill in lots of creative subplots and generally just lose the momentum of the main plot. Thankfully, LCJ manages to avoid these pitfalls (mostly) and throughout the 36 episodes, you never once lose focus on the main story. Underhyped and underpromoted, and appearing in the shadow of Zhang Jizhong's excellent wuxia serials Smiling Proud Wanderer and Legend of the Condor Heroes, LCJ manages to provide a very pleasant surprise to all who have given it a try.


Synopsis (warning: long and full of spoilers)

The Blood Sabre sect is returning to China and causing all kinds of grief for the martial arts world. Mei Niansheng and his three disciples - Wan Zhenshan, Yan Daping and Qi Changfa - challenge the leader of the Blood Sabre sect - Xuedao Laozu - to a duel. Mei wins, and Laozu retreats. Mei is also wounded and retreats to heal his wounds.

Wan, Yan and Qi, having witnessed their teacher's exquisite swordplay against the Blood Sabre, are angry that they have yet to learn such skill and confront their teacher while he is recovering. They threaten to kill him while he is weak if he does not give them the secret to his skills. Mei says that none of the three are of good heart and worthy to learn the skills, upon which they attack him. Mei manages to win, but then his youngest student, Qi, begs mercy. Mei forgives him and turns on the other two, only to be stabbed in the back by Qi. Mei throws his sword manual to his students and leaps into the river while the three brothers are left to fight over the manual.

Mei is rescued by Ding Dian, a passer-by with a good heart, and before he dies, Mei passes Ding his Shenzhaojing, an inner-power cultivating skill (which is the secret behind the power of his swordplay), and recites a series of numbers for Ding to remember. This series of numbers, called the Lianchengjue, carries with it a big secret, and Ding is asked to keep it safe and pass it on to other worthy people before he dies. Mei then passes away.

Wan, Yan and Qi have possession of their teacher's martial arts manual, but as far as they can see, it's no different from what their master had taught them. They realise that they are missing something, and try to decipher the manual, but their distrust of one another makes it hard for them to work together. Finally, the manual is stolen by one of them, leading Wan and Qi to accuse Yan. Yan flees, but Qi is the actual culprit.

Xuedao Laozu exhumes Mei's grave and cannot find what he wants in the corpse. He then tracks down Ding as the man who paid for Mei's burial and demands Mei's manual. Ding refuses, is beaten, and goes on the run from the Blood Sabre sect, while slowly building his own skills over time. Word spreads and the whole martial arts world starts looking for Ding, all hoping to get their hands on the manual.

After a few years, Ding has mastered several levels of the Shenzhaojing, making him one of the best fighters in wulin. A great fan of chrysanthemum flowers, Ding attends an exhibition and meets Ling Shuanghua, a beautiful girl who shares his love for the flowers, and they fall in love. Unfortunately for Ding, Ling's father, Ling Tuisi, governor of Jingzhou, also has plans for the manual and asks his daughter to help snare Ding. Shuanghua refuses, after which Ling resorts to trickery. Feigning acceptance of his daughter's decision, Ling invites Ding to visit the family and Ding accepts (knowing that nobody can harm him anyway). Ding shares the Lianchengjue with Shuanghua as he knows she is a girl with principle, and the more people know the better, just in case something happens to him. As Ding and Shuanghua are looking at the flowers in the garden, both are poisoned by the Golden Ripple flower or "Jin Bo Xun Hua", a beautiful but toxic plant that only Ling has the antidote for. Helpless, Ding is captured and chained in the dungeon. The chains go through his shoulders and puncture his clavicles so that he loses his martial arts. He is thus tormented, and his only comfort is Shuanghua's support - every day she would put a new chrysanthemum plant out on the balcony so that he can see it, and be reminded of her love for him, and that she will continue waiting for the day when he can break free and flee together.

A few years pass, and Qi Changfa is teaching his daughter, Qi Fang, and his disciple, Di Yun. In order to ensure that his secrets are safe, he deliberately teaches them wrong strokes, and mispronounces the moves, changing the "Tang Prose Swordplay" into the "Lying Corpse Swordplay" - both using different intonations of "Tang Shi Jian Fa". With this he hopes to fool Wan Zhenshan that he really hasn't a clue, while all the time secretly practising his skills. Wan invites Qi and his family to his house for his birthday celebration and Qi comes. The Wan and Qi families have cordial relations, but Wan's disciples all look down on Di Yun as a peasant (although they like Qi Fang as a beauty). Di Yun is bullied and beaten up, and Yan Daping, in hiding, sees his chance. Disguised as an old beggar, he teaches Di a few real strokes of Tang Prose Swordplay which Di uses to defend himself the next time he is bullied, with spectacular results. Wan, seeing Di's excellent swordplay, is hence cautious of Qi, knowing that he is not as simple and silly as he seems, and suspects him of having taken the master's manual.

Wan's son, Wan Gui, takes a liking to Qi Fang, and together with his father they hatch a plot. Di Yun (who Qi Fang loves) is accused of molesting Wan's concubine and is taken to court where a bribed Ling Tuisi sentences him to jail after puncturing his clavicles as well. Ling has his own agenda, as he knows that Qi Changfa was Mei Niansheng's student, and he hopes to use Di Yun to get the secret from Ding Dian. They are locked in the same cell, but Ding is completely on guard against any tricks. Di goes through hell as Ding abuses and beats him, thinking that he is a plant by Ling.

The Wan family ambush Qi Changfa and bury him alive behind their brick wall. Qi Fang, having no other person to turn to, is tricked by Wan Gui into thinking that Di was a really bad person, and that Wan Gui was a really nice man who was trying to help her get Di out of jail. The Wan family are quick to ensure that Qi never gets to visit Di in jail, though. After time she finally relents and agrees to marry Wan Gui. Di Yun gets the message in jail and weeps his heart out. With nothing to live for anymore, Di hangs himself in the cell.

Di is revived by Ding, who is, finally, convinced that Di is no spy. Di had been dead for a few hours, but Ding used his Shenzhaojing to revive him. Apparently Shen Zhao Jing can heal the wounds caused by punctured clavicles and Ding has recovered a small portion of his power. The two share their stories and become fast friends, swearing brotherhood. Ding also shares his Shenzhaojing with Di and Di slowly recovers his martial arts too. They maintain a charade of hatred against one another so that Ling wouldn't harm Di. Ling tries to speed things up by letting the Blood Sabre sect know that Ding is in jail, but Di saves Ding's life as they attack the jail and together they beat back the sect. They know that time is running out and speed up their training.

One day the chrysanthemum no longer appears and Ding, concerned about Shuanghua, decides to make a break for it. Ding and Di break out and find Shuanghua's coffin in the main hall. Ding is devastated and weeps over the coffin, embracing it, and Ling Tuisi appears. He offers to let Ding live if he will pass Mei's secret over to him. Ding refuses and Ling reveals that he had coated Shuanghua's coffin with the Golden Ripple flower essence and that without his antidote, Ding will die shortly - his hands and face are already turning black. Ding starts to lose strength, but Di is there to help him escape. They make it to a shed where Ding, knowing that he will die, asks that Di find a way to bury him with Shuanghua, and tries to pass on the Lianchengjue to Di. Unfortunately, before he can finish, the soldiers arrive and in the fight, Ding succumbs to the poison and is killed, the secret of the Lianchengjue lost.

As Di is grieving the Blood Sabre eldest student, Bao Xiang, arrives. Di pulls out his hair and pretends to be a dumb-witted man. Bao recognises Ding's corpse, but not Di, and wants to kill Di nevertheless as he is hungry and wants to eat meat. Di desperately offers to cook Bao a meal and finds a dead rat lying on top of Ding. He cooks the rat and serves it to Bao who enjoys it. Di tries to flee and Bao catches him, but before he can kill Di he dies of poisoning. The rat, which was poisoned after it had nibbled on Ding's corpse, poisoned Bao, and Di cremates Ding, carrying his ashes with him until he can find a way to fulfil Ding's last wish. As he is still dressed in prison rags, he takes Bao's robes instead.

Di meets two arrogant warriors - Shui Sheng and her cousin/lover Wang Xiao, and because of his Blood Sabre robes (and bald head) they automatically assume he is Blood Sabre sect and fight. Laozu happens to be passing by and saves his "disciple", and seeing Shui Sheng's beauty, kidnaps her as well, riding away on two horses. Wang reports to Shui Sheng's father, Shui Dai, who is one of the "Strange Four of the South" - Luo Hua Liu Shui. The call goes out to the other three and together they pursue Laozu, Di and Shui Sheng. They finally catch up in a snowy valley where they just get past an avalanche which seals everyone within. Shui Dai is injured in the avalanche and big brother Lu Tianshu stays to help him heal, while second brother Hua Tiegan and third brother Liu Chengfeng search the valley for Shui Sheng. Liu finds Laozu and they begin to fight. Shui Sheng cheers from the sidelines arrogantly believing that the villains are about to die and the forces of good will prevail, and that Liu will kill Laozu and Di will be next. Hua then appears, and seeing the evenly matched fight, sneaks up behind Laozu. Laozu sees him coming though, and sidesteps at the last minute. Hua's thrust kills Liu while Laozu runs away laughing, bringing Di and Shui Sheng with him.

Using guile and trickery, Laozu manages to kill Lu and cripple Shui as well, leaving Hua to face him alone. By now Laozu is completely spent, but he manages to frighten Hua such that Hua, the Shui family's last hope, surrenders. Hua has his pressure points frozen before Laozu finally collapses in fatigue. Shui Dai begs Di to kill him so that he won't have see his daughter get defiled by Laozu, and Di sadly brings a large rock down on his head mercifully. Laozu wants to kill Shui Sheng as well, but Di stops him and they fight. Di's Shenzhaojing kicks in and he accidentally kills Laozu in a fit of rage. Shui Sheng is now completely broken with the death of her father and two uncles, and having seen Di save her, and seen Hua's cowardice, she doesn't know what to believe in anymore.

As the valley is sealed by snow, the three have to wait until spring before the pass melts and they can escape. During the six months, Di's martial arts improve through practice of the Shanzhaojing and Laozu's own sabre skills (Laozu left a manual behind). Hua proves to be a selfish and cowardly man, resorting to cannibalism to satisfy his hunger and eating the corpses of his two sworn brothers Lu and Liu. When he tries to exhume Shui's corpse for food as well Di and Shui Sheng join forces to beat him, and by now, Di's skills have improved to such an extent that he is more than a match for Hua. Shui Sheng also becomes very fond of him as she realises that she has wronged him all this while, and she is so disgusted with Hua that she sees that not all people in the good sects are really good, learning a lot about humility. As Di has known nothing but pain, loss and betrayal all his life, she also helps Di overcome his own self-pity, and slowly wins his trust.

The six months pass and the snow melts. Hua is unable to kill Di, but as the rescue team comes in he accuses Di of being Blood Sabre sect and rallies the people to attack him. He accuses Shui Sheng of having slept with Di and hence being on his side and the people, respecting his position in wulin, have no doubts about his words. Di has no trouble escaping, after making sure Shui Sheng was safe in the hands of her lover. Wang, however, although concerned for Shui, chooses to believe Hua's slander, and Shui is disappointed. She gives up on Wang and pines for Di.

Back in civilisation, Hua tries to discredit Shui Sheng as she tried to tell people about his cowardice and clear Di's name. The people believe Hua and Shui Sheng, having nobody else to turn to, hangs herself. Hua is happy that nobody will ever know of his shame. Wang advocates Hua as the Head of Wulin (qualified by virtue of his alleged slaying of Laozu) and Hua accepts. During the ceremony, however, Shui Sheng appears and Hua freaks out, believing it's her ghost. She cleverly goads him into apologising for all the bad he has done, much to the horror of all present. She then reveals herself to be alive, and revived by Di Yun's Shenzhaojing in time. Hua fights Di and is killed humiliatingly in public.

Di tries to find his old sect sister Qi Fang, and realises that she was tricked all this while. Together they stop the Wan family's plots, and seal both Wan Zhenshan and Wan Gui in the brick wall which they had prepared for Qi and Di. However, Qi, seeing her daughter (she bore a daughter with Wan Gui), feels pity for her husband and goes back to let him out. Upon escaping from the trap, Wan stabs Qi, saying that she never loved him, and that all this while she still loved Di Yun. Father and son escape while Qi Fang leaves her daughter in Di's care before dying.

Di leaves the daughter in Shui Sheng's care, and promises to meet them later as he has to take care of unfinished business. He finally gets the chance to visit Shuanghua's tomb and exhumes her coffin with the intention of laying Ding's ashes within. To his horror he opens the coffin to see two hands reaching out - Ling Tuisi had buried his daughter alive to set the trap for Ding! Di places Ding's ashes within the coffin and notices writing on the inside of the coffin lid. Shuanghua had left a message for anybody kind enough to reunite her with Ding, and had written down the entire Lianchengjue on the inside of the lid. Di takes it all down and erases it from the lid.

Di then writes the Lianchengjue on the walls of Jingzhou for all to see, and in doing so manages to lure Wan Gui out. He manages to kill Wan Gui, but Wan Zhenshan escapes, so Di returns to watching the writing on the city walls. He notices Yan Daping and follows him. Yan takes the Tang Prose swordplay and recites the proses as he practises. He then takes the Lianchengjue and extracts the word in the prose for each stroke which corresponds to each number, and finally deciphers the entire code. It says to pray at the Buddha in Tian Ning temple for a reward in paradise. Yan can't believe that the secret was purely to pray, but goes to the temple nevertheless, Di following secretly. In his anger at having wasted so many years searching for something so meaningless, he hacks at the buddha statue and reveals that beneath the outer paint is a statue of pure gold. Qi ambushes Yan and kills him, and is in turn ambushed by Wan who seals his pressure points. Qi reveals that he had escaped from the sealed wall by feigning death and finding his way out, and he had watched his daughter fall into the trap without caring. Di appears and wounds Wan, and Qi kills him before he can flee. Unexpectedly, Qi then ambushes Di but his backstabbing blade fails to harm him. Di, in tears, asks what he had done wrong, and Qi accuses him of wanting to steal the treasure for himself. Di finally realises that his master was also one of the villains, not caring for anything other than the riches carried by the Lianchengjue secret. Di leaves sadly, leaving Qi to pillage the statue and the riches stored beneath it.

At this point, everybody who knew the Tang Prose swordplay had deciphered the secret and a whole horde of treasure hunters led by Wan's disciples and Ling and his soldiers descend upon Tian Ning Temple. Everybody goes mad and wild and start hacking each other to get a share of the treasure and as some try to pillage the golden pillars, the whole temple falls apart and everybody, including Ling Tuisi and Qi Changfa, is killed either by falling debris, by other treasure hunters' blades, or by the poison which was coated on all the treasure. The treasure was really merely a "reward in paradise". Di then rides off into the sunset to meet up with Shui Sheng and Qi Fang's daughter.


Characters

The main characters of LCJ are Di Yun, Qi Fang and Shui Sheng. Ding Dian and Ling Shuanghua have a lot of screen time the first half, but sadly die halfway through the serial.

Wu Yue was a very effective Di Yun. Not the most handsome of actors, and certainly not very charcharismatic nevertheless fits the character perfectly. Di Yun is fairly slow-witted, plain and quite bitter, and Wu's acting portrayed the character really well. Wu also seems to have some martial arts background, and his Blood Sabre skill looks very convincing. His chemistry with Shui Sheng was also excellent given the circumstances. They were never really a romantic couple, more like him enjoying the company of a fangfan girlt it was portrayed very realistically. The way he slowly started to accept her as a friend in the snow valley was well done, and after he returns to civilisation he looks much more like a daxia, but while cool-looking, falls back into his gentle nature whenever confronted with old friends.

He Meitian's Qi Fang was very sweet and innocent, and she carries the character very well. Qi basically starts off happy, then as she loses her martial brother and father, she gets tricked by the Wan family into believing that they were good people, and once she finds out the truth she does all she can to stop them. The character was nevertheless weak, naive and rather annoying, and in the end when everything is done she still goes back to try and save her husband knowing full well how evil he was. She pays for it with her life, but it just shows how naive, gentle and good-natured she was. He Meitian has always been sweet in serials especially when she played Yilin and Zhong Ling in TVB's Smiling Proud Wanderer and Demi-God Semi-Devils, but here she shows that she can play sad, miserable, oppressed and tragic roles as well. I don't like the character at all, but it's a top performance by He.

Shu Chang is arguably the star of the series. Shui Sheng starts off being really cocky and arrogant, believing that as she is orthodox sect that gives her the right to enjoy inflicting pain on evil people. Shui and her cousin/lover are the Twin Heroes of the Bell Swords, both starting to build a reputation for themselves, and this gets to their heads, even when cautioned by her father to be more careful and not look for trouble. Her lesson begins as she is captured by Laozu and Di, and watches helplessly as her father and uncles are killed off one by one, then finally faces the reality of the great hero Uncle Hua's selfishness and complete baseness. She also learns that Di Yun wasn't evil, and that she had misjudged him. Finally, as they escape and Hua slanders her, she realises that even her lover would not believe her, choosing to believe (like she would have in the past) the words of Hua simply because he had a reputation as an orthodox hero. Shu carries the spoiled brat character transformation to mature, wise and humble lady extremely well, and throws in a lot of humour, cuteness and Huang-Rong type of wit and resourcefulness for good measure. The way she tries everything to cheer Di Yun up was delightful, and my favourite part of the entire series was the early part of the snow valley where she, Di and Hua learn to get along. She's also very beautiful in this series, which makes it all the more happy when all her hard work pays off and she gets Di in the end. After all they've been through, you cannot be anything other than happy for them.

Wang Haidi's Ding Dian is very classy and cultured in the beginning, and certainly much better looking than Di Yun. A kind-hearted man, he takes on the burden of the Lianchengjue and is persecuted for it. Despite his hardships, he always carries a welcoming and gentle smile with him, and is always polite and kind (one could say almost too good to be true). When he meets Ling Shuanghua, played by Liu Jie, you actually feel happy that he is no longer alone and has found a kindred spirit, somebody he can confide in and tell his whole story and get nothing but firm support. Good people are hard to find in this serial and watching these two come together gives you encouragement even as a viewer. Shuanghua is classy, intelligent, gentle, sweet, genuine and caring - everything you can ask for in a woman, and together with the martial arts of Ding Dian you feel that they have the makings of the main couple for the series. Sadly he falls into Ling Tuisi's trap and even then you can see Ding's pride and dignity as he is tortured in the dungeon. When he and Di become friends, he becomes an ideal big brother, caring and wise. You also see Shuanghua's dignity as she resists all attempts by her father to coerce her into betraying Ding, finally even scarring herself when her father decides to marry her off to somebody else so that she will forget Ding. It's tragic that he was just one day late to save Shuanghua, or actually if he had smashed open the coffin there and then he would most likely have found her alive anyway. The tragedy of Ding Dian and Ling Shuanghua requires two very likeable actors and actresses to play the roles, and Wang Haidi and Liu Jie are so likeable you will shed a tear for them as their story ends.


Supporting cast

The other supporting cast were all handled very convincingly. Yu Chenghui's Mei Niansheng looked suitably wizened and respected, while the three disciples Wan, Yan and Qi were so despicable it was miserable just watching them appear on screen. Ling Tuisi had more class than the three, but was still a completely ruthless villain - his only redeeming grace was that he seemed to genuinely care for his henchman Xia Sandao (and Xia seemed to return the favour), but both were absolutely detestable. The Strange Four were excellent, although only Hua Tiegan gets significant screen time. The other three have a real daxia feel to them and you really feel sad when they die, even though you barely know them. Hua Tiegan was a complete lowlife scum, though, and Liuxiao Lingtong portrays the role excellently. Hua is so pathetic that it makes you laugh, if the circumstances weren't quite so tragic. Hua's hypocrisy, swaying with the wind butter-up comments, selfish attitude and cowardice are all so wonderfully done that it's virtual comic relief, especially as he can't beat Di Yun and has to beg for his life on more than one occasion.

The other supporting character who was done exceptionally well and merits mention was Xu Chunhua's Xuedao Laozu. Laozu is the head of the Blood Sabre sect, and is an evil, cruel, lecherous adversary. The way he survived against all four Luo Hua Liu Shui was just wonderful (even if he was the villain) and the way he tortured the arrogant Shui Sheng was, in its own way, delightful. He was also one of the few people who showed kindness to Di Yun (even though it was just because he thought he was his disciple's student) and was a master of psychological warfare. Unlike Wan Zhenshan, Qi Changfa, Ling Tuisi and Hua Tiegan, Laozu was a villain both inside and outside, and completely proud of it. This made him less despicable than the others (even likeable), even if he was much more powerful than they were. Laozu was wise, cunning and funny, and Xu made the role very real.

All in all, the casting was pretty excellent, no complaints about them at all. Hua Tiegan and Xuedao Laozu were particularly good and showed a lot of depth for villain characterisation.


Cinematography

The scenery was as good as you would expect from a China production, although it wasn't quite as lavish as what you would expect from Zhang Jizhong or Zhang Yimou (not saying that it's a bad thing, of course). There were bits when they had to superimpose characters over an outdoor backdrop, mostly when they were filming Di Yun in the snowy valley. It was quite obvious that the beautiful scenery in the background wasn't quite where Wu Yue was practising his martial arts, but it's not a big thing - the director probably just wanted to save some money on outdoor shots.

Choreography is where this series stands out. A lot of brutal hand-to-hand combat was evident, mostly in the fights between Laozu/the Strange Four and Hua Tiegan/Di Yun in the snow valley. The Liancheng swordplay (basically just Tang Prose swordplay backed up by Shenzhaojing) utilised some Matrix effects, but it wasn't overdone. Some scenes involving qinggong also looked rather fake (and silly) but then those are rare and do not take away the fact that for the bulk of the fighting, a lot of work was put into it. Fighting CGI was kept to a minimum, and virtually all the actors needed to have some kind of martial arts training. It was very refreshing and brought back memories of Smiling Proud Wanderer 01, although that one was more sword-centric. In LCJ you get to see Laozu's sabre skills, hand-to-hand skills, Hua Tiegan's spear skills, a delightful fight in which Di Yun uses the rope tied to his leg as a weapon against Hua, Wan Zhenshan's ball and chain skills and most spectacularly, Liu Chengfeng's guisarme/halberd skill. Who cares if he used taijijian in the book.. that halberd fight was wonderful!


Music

LCJ has two very nice themes for opening and closing. The opening theme is sung a couple of times during the series as well (when Di Yun is carrying Ding Dian's corpse and when he practises the Blood Sabre in the cave) - the song is fairly catchy and has good scenes chosen to fill the video. It does have a bit of a sad feel to it, but it is undeniably wuxia. The ending theme is less sad, more exciting and has more of a pounding beat - hence the name "Unending horsehooves". It suffers from some sponsor adverts in the middle like ROCH 06 had, but they don't dominate the whole song.


Conclusion

This is a relatively low-profile production compared to Zhang Jizhong's epics, but that works in its favour. Not having much expectation about it in the first place, and with a cast which I would hardly call star-studded, LCJ manages to carry itself extremely well, surpassing all my expectations and every character was done convincingly and with a lot of effort. The series manages to take a short book and expand it into 36 epic episodes, adding a lot of character depth and development without taking the viewer off tangent from the main plot. Music is of a good quality, while a lot of effort and tender loving care was put into the fighting choreography (and it shows). Of Zhang Jizhong's much touted serials up to Return of Condor Heroes 06, only Smiling Proud Wanderer 01 seems to be able to match this one (although Legend of the Condor Heroes 03 comes close, but has nowhere as solid a supporting cast as this) and that is saying a lot. LCJ comes strongly recommended, and is a must watch for any wuxia fan. It also helps that the story isn't quite as famous as other Jin Yong works, and as such several deviations from the novel won't be apparent. In fact, in several cases they add much needed closure which I felt the novel didn't give. LCJ 2004 is deep, engaging, sad, real and done with a lot of care and pride, and hence this production deserves nothing less than five stars.

Sina site: http://ent.sina.com.cn/v/f/liancj/index.html


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