I initially had no intention to watch this show, until my brother recommended as he said the show is based on the author of the Liao Zhai stories. Besides, it is starring Stephen Ma, so I bought this show to watch.
The show is like a biography of his life. How true it is, I am not sure, but essentially, Po Chung Ling started off as being a rich young master of a printing press. He had a best friend Ko Jit (played by Sunny Chan), and he later met Sum Yu (Linda Chung) whom he fell in love with, and she returned his affections. He also met Siu Tsui (Fala Chen), who was a fox deity that just gained enlightenment to take the form of a human after training for five hundred years.
The series is on how Po Chung Ling encountered the supernatural events that would later become the basis of his stories. He lived in a small house called Liao Zhai, one of his family's properties, where he later wrote all his stories from, hence "Strange Tales From A Chinese Studio".
The first story was on Sum Yu's elder sister, Sum Yin (played by Elaine Yiu), who was murdered by the father of her lover. Po Chung Ling and Sunny Chan recalled her spirit and she appeared to them to tell them her story. With her help, they apprehended the real murderer and she finished her business on Earth and rose up to Heaven.
The fox deity was a big feature of the show. Siu Tsui fell in love with Chung Ling and, goaded by the real fox spirit, wanted to frame Sum Yu so as to get her man. The fox spirit later possessed Chung Ling's sister-in-law and went around creating havoc and seducing men.
Ko Jit was also in love with Sum Yu, but after she rejected him, his split personality surfaced. The bad Ko Jit came out and the good Jo Kit was buried. The bad Ko Jit wanted to seek revenge on Chung Ling and Sum Yu, as well as all those who have hurt him, even making use of Ngan Hung (Charmaine Lee) feelings for him to get what he wanted.
At the end, the bad Ko Jit foiled Sum Yu's plan of getting back to life, and her spirit drifted away. The bad Ko Jit killed Chung Ling and his spirit appeared, but Siu Tsui gave up her life form to save him, and wasted her five hundred years of training and reverted back to a fox. The good Ko Jit finally resurfaced and killed the bad Ko Jit, so essentially Ko Jit killed himself after apologising to Chung Ling.
The end of the show was when Chung Ling's stepmother (Rebecca Chan) taking on the reins of the printing business, while he became a recluse in Liao Zhai and wrote his stories, with the company of his wife Sum Yu, whose spirit remained with him (hence the story "Ghost Wife"), and the fox Siu Tsui.
This is a pretty refreshing show as in TVB hardly make any ghost stories, besides the Liao Zhai stories. Since this is on the author of the Liao Zhai stories, so I guess there should be a supernatural element. Stephen Ma did not do as well in this show as other shows. Throughout the show he was a good guy, standing up for corrupt officers, but essentially he was of a weak mind and although he professed he loved Sum Yu, he could not bring himself to make things clear with Siu Tsui. And even after Sum Yu warned him of what Siu Tsui really was, he refused to believe her, leaving her disappointed and destitute.
Linda Chung is in another too-good-to-be-true character. Although her attempt at playing a spoilt and wilful girl in Gem of Life did not fare that well, her too-good-to-be-true characters are starting to get boring.
I do not like Fala Chen in this show. I never really have any impression on her acting save for her deaf mute role in Moonlight Reasonance, but in this show, she is just plain irritating. Does she not get the message when Chung Link declared her only loved Sum Yu, and still wanted to put her foot in? No wonder women who are third parties are normally labelled as "fox spirits" or "vixens". Even though I wanted to shake Chung Ling and tell him to make up his mind which girl he really wants despite he saying he loves Sum Yu, but Siu Tsui herself isn't helping matters too by being so clingy to him.
The rest of the cast did an ok job. I do not like Sunny Chan in this show. Somehow he never seems to play an evil guy well. I think he is more suited for good guy roles as I like him better in those roles.
Watch this for a refreshing take on a drama plot, instead of the regular "mainstream" plots, but the acting wise is only so-so.