Princess Returning Pearl III

Reviewed by: meh

November 25, 2003

Rating: three

Huan Zhu Ge Ge 3: Tian Shang Ren Jian
(The Returned-Pearl Princess 3: Heaven and Earth)

Written By Qiong Yao: 40 Episodes

Note: This review will refer a lot to the first two HZGG instalments. If you haven’t seen them, you should watch at least HZGG1, preferably HZGG2 too, before watching this serial.


Xiao Yan Zi (Little Sparrow): Huang Yi
Zi Wei: Ma Yi Li
Yong Qi: Leo Ku(Gu Ju Ji)
Fu Er Kang: Zhou Jie
Qing Er: Wang Yan
Xiao Jian: Huang Xiao Ming

Apparently, Qiong Yao figured she hadn’t milked enough money out of the Huan Zhu Ge Ge (HZGG) franchise just yet. So despite needing an almost brand new core cast, we now have HZGG3: Heaven and Earth.

After watching a mediocre HZGG2, I was very surprised that I actually rented this series. I guess I still carried some feelings from watching the first instalment. And there was just too big a need to “complete” my HZGG viewing experience. Despite my low expectations (or perhaps because of it), I found watching the final story of this trilogy fairly enjoyable. However, I did do a fair bit of fast-forwarding, as many things in this serial got on my nerves.

I. Story

I don’t really want to give away the story. The setting is again set mainly in the Imperial Palace and Er Kang’s family home (Scholar’s Mansion). There are also trips to various southern areas. The story focuses quite a lot on romance and tragedy, much more than the previous two HZGG instalments, and less on light-hearted comedy and familial bonding. Basically, it has become a traditional Qiong Yao story, for those familiar with them. If you don’t like stories where “Love is greater than everything else in the world put together”, you’ll have trouble with this storyline.

II. Acting

Xiao Yan Zi aka Huan Zhu Ge Ge(Little Sparrow/Returned-Pearl Princess): Played by Huang Yi

I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with Little Sparrow. On one hand, she is, as the Emperor put it, “his Happy Fruit”. Little Sparrow has some of the most hilarious scenes in the first two instalments, such as her poem about ‘water’ or her invention ‘Kneel Easy’, which are classics. On the other hand, Little Sparrow can often be an uncompromising, inconsiderate person filled with only emotions and not logic. I absolutely adore the former Little Sparrow, but can’t stand the latter one.

Why do I bring this up? Because HZGG3 has lots of the latter Little Sparrow. So people who liked the funny Little Sparrow should not expect much here. Qiong Yao has turned Little Sparrow into a more traditional character of a romance series. Expect lots of fights with her husband Yong Qi, lots of crying, lots of misunderstandings, lots of vinegar drinking, and of course, lots of making up after the fights. For Qiong Yao fans, this might be a good thing. For the general audience, this probably is a bad thing.

Huang Yi’s acting, given her script, is good. It’s also impossible to compare her to Vicki Zhao, since Little Sparrow is no longer the carefree girl Vicki portrayed.

Zi Wei aka Zi Wei Ge Ge: Played by Ma Yi Li

Zi Wei’s character remains roughly the same throughout the trilogy. She’s still the smart and passionate woman, soft and reserved on the outside, strong and determined on the inside. So you should know what to expect. She shows off less of her literary talents in this series, concentrating more on domestic issues and her romance with Er Kang.

Ma Yi Li played Zi Wei very well. No complaints.

Yong Qi aka Wu A Ge(Fifth Prince): Played by Leo Ku

I never did care much for the character Yong Qi. Coupled with Little Sparrow, Yong Qi always has to play second fiddle in many of his scenes. So as a viewer, I rarely get to see him as the main character of a scene. This is still true to an extent in the third instalment. However, we do see a role expansion of Yong Qi. In addition to his normal stuff, he now has to agonize between his duty as a prince and Little Sparrow. So expect a bunch of emotional, romantic speeches.

Considering how many songs he sang for the series, I’d guess that Leo Ku’s a singer. Well, he really should keep his day job, because he’s damn stiff as an actor. Thankfully, I started to fast-forward many of the scenes where he and Little Sparrow would both be agonizing over each other on and on. This spared me much of his acting. Leo Ku isn’t too bad on the non-emotional scenes though. Not that those scenes required much acting talent...

Fu Er Kang: Played by Zhou Jie

I’ve always liked this character. Er Kang is always the logical, stable influence on the group. He’s very intelligent, examines issues from all sides, and is decisive (especially in love). Er Kang remains the same character in HZGG3.

You can tell Zhou Jie really knows this character. No matter how much you might dislike him in other roles, it’s hard to complain about his acting in this series.

Qing Er/Qing Ge Ge: Played by Wang Yan

Qing Er was one of the bright spots in the otherwise mediocre HZGG2 for me. She was extremely likeable as the sophisticated, clever smooth-talker by the side of the Empress Dowager. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective), she gets a complete makeover for HZGG3. Qing Er is now a love-starved girl who thinks day and night of Xiao Jian, whom she fell in love with. So for much of the series she basically agonizes over whether to be faithful to the Empress Dowager, or to leave her for Xiao Jian.

Wang Yan played Qing Er very well. I just wished she would have more scenes as the witty Qing Er and not the romantic Qing Er.

Xiao Jian: Played by Huang Xiao Ming

Basically the same character as the one in HZGG2, plus a romantic aspect. He seems more fitting of a martial arts series than a romantic one, in my opinion. And I’ve never been a fan of the cold, reserved kung fu expert myself. Don’t care much about him.

Huang Xiao Ming is okay here. Not outstanding, not unwatchable.

Chen Zhi Hua: Played by Qin Lan

WARNING: there are story and character SPOILERS in this portion of the review. Skip down to the “Other Actors” section if you don’t want any spoilers.
Zhi Hua is the second wife of Yong Qi, who married her very grudgingly under extreme circumstances. She became the third person in the Little Sparrow/Yong Qi relationship, so you can probably figure out how that’s going to end. I originally didn’t find this character worthy of her own section. But I’ve noticed a lot of hatred towards her character (and unfortunately, the actress too) on the message boards, especially many of the Chinese ones. When I watched this serial, I never thought anything bad of her. If anything, I really pitied her throughout her story. And I do want to mention this in the review, because I think she’s getting a bad rep.

Zhi Hua is guilty of exactly one thing in the series, which is to look at things logically and realistically based on the teachings of women of the time. The only problem is, she’s in a romance story where realism doesn’t exist. Her story started when the Empress Dowager wasn’t sure how to resolve a dilemma that might ruin the lives of Yong Qi, Little Sparrow and Xiao Jian. Zhi Hua solved it by having herself arranged to marry Yong Qi, under the Empress Dowager’s orders. Now, whether she did this mainly out of love or power isn’t truly certain. But either way, it’s quite understandable for a woman in her position.

Lots of problems arose after the marriage. Yong Qi only loved Little Sparrow, and quickly kicked Zhi Hua to the side. So through manipulations and threats, she tried to take Yong Qi from Little Sparrow. This is why people don’t like her. But seriously, which woman on Earth, in her right mind, would rather stay alone forever in the ‘Cold Palace’, than try to gain the favor of her husband? Some might feel her tactics too dirty. But what other alternative does she have? She’s going against a seemingly unbreakable romance with nothing to lose(you can’t lose when you have nothing to begin with). I also thought Little Sparrow’s whining, which is certainly also a form of manipulation, was a lot more annoying.

My point is, Zhi Hua is vilified only because she has the galls to compete with Little Sparrow in love. And unfortunately, we can’t see her side of the story because she is the supposed villain and can’t have friends (and therefore the audience) to share her side of the story with. Sad character, in my opinion.


Other Actors

Emperor: The actor of the Emperor has changed. The new Emperor has a much smaller role than his predecessor. So despite the drop in acting quality, it didn’t matter much.

Empress Dowager: Same actress as HZGG2, who delivered a solid performance. Makes the audience understand her troubles despite her ‘villain’ role. On a side note, I tend to love matriarchal characters in serials. Mainly because the actresses for these roles tend to be veteran actresses who can actually act, instead of just being a pretty face.

Xia Ying Ying: This is a special character created just for Shui Ling. She only has a small role. But I just want to say that Shui Ling is very stunning. :)

None of the other characters are really noteworthy. Overall, a very good performance by the supporting actors.

III. Costumes, Setting, and Music.

This serial has really great costumes, even for the minor characters. They’re very colorful and let the viewers see the grandeur of palace life. The settings are also extravagant. Not sure if the outside shots are on location, but they are definitely very beautiful. The music is fairly apt, and there are plenty of songs (2 opening themes, 4 ending themes, and many more during the serial).

IV. Opinion.

HZGG3 really is more a traditional Qiong Yao story than HZGG1/2. This likely going to turn of the general audience. But someone who likes romance should love this. There’s crying by the gallons.

The production itself is definitely first-rate. Even if you don’t find the story itself engaging, the peripheral things might keep you from tuning away. Also of note is the abundance of theme songs. 2 Opening themes (each for 20 episodes) and 4 ending themes(each for 10 episodes). More big-budget serials should do this, as it makes the opening/ending credits more enjoyable.

I give the series three stars, or average. Very high marks for production value. High marks for overall acting. Low marks for the overly romantic script. But if you like romance, feel free to add another star or two. If you can't stand changes in the cast, then you should probably take away a star or two.

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