The Female Official (Nu Xun An)


Reviewed by: CMU_Wasabi

December 06, 2003

Rating: four

51 episodes total.

Cast:
Sun Cui Feng - Bao Xiu Xiu
Chen Dao Ming - Liu Fei
Ewong Yung Hung - Meng Ru Yi
Xie Bing Yu - Wen Xiao Bao
Ge Lei - Feng Si Niang

1st Story:
Li Li Qun - Lu Wang
Zhang Tie Lin - Wen Bi Zheng

2nd Story:
Michael Hwang Chong Kun - Zhang Xie
Chen Sha Sha - Ma Tian Tian

3rd Story:
Chamder Tsai Chan De - Princess An Le (Le Le)
Liu Zhi - Hong Ping An (Fake Princess An An)
Chen Bao Guo - Zhao Wen
Liu Li Li - Hung Dai Niang

4th Story:
Sandra Ng Kwan Yu - Lu Ruo Nan
Eddie Kwan Lai Kit - Li Liang

5th Story:
Unidentifiable Characters

6th Story:
Coco Suen Hing: Duan Yu
Li Bing Bing - Sun Xiao Hong
Yue Yue Li - Liu Shi


Introduction

I came across information on this series about two years ago while surfing the Web blindly due to boredom. I was immediately captivated by the storyline that I read but I was not able to track down the series until now when I stumbled across a copy on the Web during Chinese New Year. I don't think a lot of people have seen this series in the US since it wasn't released on tape officially and has been only played on certain cable channels once or twice. It's a pity because this is one of the better series from Yang Pei Pei I have seen besides Fa Mulan. She should definitely go with this kind of series and not remake Jin Yong series. So I thought I would introduce this rare series because it is one of my favorites.

So what is this story about? A woman named Bao Xiu Xiu and her child Wen Xiao Bao make a living as street performers and to make things easy, Xiu Xiu dresses as a man. One day, they see the newly-named scholar and "Roaming Official" pass by and they hear that the name of the official is "Wen Bi Zheng." It turns out that Bao Xiu Xiu's husband is also by that name, but she has not heard from him since he left eight years ago for the Civil Service Examination. To find out if this new Justice is her husband, Xiu Xiu takes Xiao Bao and creeps into the place where Justice Wen is staying. Xiu Xiu thought she was in the clear, but her every single move is seen by Wen's witty assistant, Liu Fei. Well it turns out that after Justice Wen left home, he married another wife - a former prostitute named Meng Ru Yi. Well of course, Xiu Xiu gets to reunite with her husband but both wives are not exactly happy about each other's existence. Xiu Xiu joins Justice Wen and his entourage, but an enemy appears - Lu Wang, the Emperor's Uncle. Because of Henan's floods, the citizens there are in dire need of food. Lu Wang however refuses to open up the supply of food to the people at the request of Justice Wen and is willing to kill Wen to prevent him from doing so. Thus, Xiu Xiu comes up with a plan and once again dresses up as a guy to lure Lu Wang away from her husband. But tragedy strikes and Wen is killed when protecting Xiu Xiu. Yet, it must not be known that the newly-named official iss killed. To seek revenge on Lu Wang and to save the people of Henan, Liu Fei asks Xiu Xiu to take her husband's place as the official. Only one problem - Xiu Xiu is illiterate! As the Justice's assistant, Liu Fei must teach Xiu Xiu the art of being an official (and to read, of course), which leads to many hilarious consequences.

So basically the whole series consists of different cases that Xiu Xiu and Liu Fei encounter while trying to conceal the fact that - a) Xiu Xiu is a woman, b) the real Justice Wen is dead, c) Xiu Xiu is still learning how to read.

Pretending to be an official and aiding in the act are considered great offences and can result in the death of the whole family. All the while, Liu Fei and Xiu Xiu go through a great deal of misunderstandings and while trying to understand each other, they develop feelings for each other. There are also many laugh-your-heads-off scenes. But of course eventually, Xiu Xiu does become the Female Justice Bao (how ironic, her surname is also Bao).

Characters

Sun Cui Feng as Bao Xiu Xiu - Sun Cui Feng is a well known Taiwanese Opera singer. She mainly does the male leads in the operas so dressing up and acting as a man comes naturally to her. The really funny thing about her character is that once in a while, she blurts out her lines in Taiwanese. Thank goodness for Cantonese nicam on the version I saw, or else I would not have understood what she was saying. But it really was worked in well to add to the comedic effect of the whole series. Bao Xiu Xiu's character is very hotheaded, illiterate, a bit manly, and sometimes a bit naive and dumb. But she is very determined, strong, and tries to do her best at upholding her deceased husband's name. She is not the best-looking woman, but when she dresses up as one, there is something captivating about her (or at least enough to make Liu Fei fall head over heels for her). She may not be the best mother on earth, but she is very devoted to her child and to her family. She knows that Liu Fei is in love with her, and she has a little bit of feelings for him, but she cannot fall for him because she is a widow and it is taboo that widows remarry or fall in love with another person (in the olden times). Sun Cui Feng does a superb job of playing this character and her handling of all aspects of the character really makes Bao Xiu Xiu come alive. Her chemistry with Chen Dao Ming is phenomenal, considering their styles of acting are complete polar opposites. I really wish that she appears in more TV series because she is a really good comedic actress.

Chen Dao Ming as Liu Fei - I really really admire Chen Dao Ming as an actor. He has always given me the impression that he is stuck on the dramatic track of acting and works. I never realized that he had such comedic talent until I saw him in this series. Also, his performance in this series shows that he is very serious about his acting even in a not-so-serious piece of work. His professionalism is admirable. His character, Liu Fei, is a smart-aleck. He is very witty and is calm, cool, handsome, and sometimes very arrogant. Basically, he is Xiu Xiu's brains on official matters. But when it comes to matters of romance, he is basically clueless on how to handle Xiu Xiu. Never in a million years would he ever think that the "oh so smart and oh so handsome" man that he is would fall in love with a woman like her - but he does.

He is honest with his feelings, knows that it is impossible between the both of them. He also can't handle the mixed signals that Xiu Xiu often gives him. Xiu Xiu is Ah Fei's ray of light and cause of migraines. This often led to many trips to the local wine shops for Ah Fei. He really likes to drink when he is confused or upset! But that's ok for the audience as some of the better scenes come when he is drunk. I feel Chen Dao Ming handled Ah Fei's character with such charisma; he brings Ah Fei very much alive. He also looks much younger than he is in other series. The really funny thing in the series is that he and Sun Cui Feng like to imitate each other a lot. For example, Chen Dao Ming likes to imitate Sun Cui Feng's Taiwanese every now and then and it was so unexpected that I just sat there and laughed my head off as a result. I just wish that he would make more satirical/comedic performances. Overall, I feel that Liu Fei is probably one of the most real characters I have seen Chen Dao Ming play so far.

Ewong Yung as Meng Ru Yi - Ok, the only purpose of this character is so that the fake official could have a "wife figure." I am basically apathetic towards Ewong's character. Meng Ru Yi sometimes just does nothing but cause trouble and get into fights with Xiu Xiu. But nonetheless she is a good second mother to Xiao Bao.

Xie Bing Yu as Wen Xiao Bao - This boy is as cute as button. I simply love his interactions with his mother and Ah Fei. He sometimes throws out lines that are really witty and make even more sense than what the adults around him are saying. If Xie Bing Yu continues acting, I think he would become a very good actor when he grows older.

The Cases:

Case #1 - Nu Xun An : It is described above in the introduction.

Opinion on the case: Thank god Zhang Tie Lin is only making a cameo.

Case#2 - Save the Prostitutes : Woah! What's with the title? Yes, it is translated as "Save the Prostitutes." The case starts out with Xiu Xiu leading her entourage to a town called "Happy Town", where the presiding official is a guy named Zhang Xie who speaks Mandarin with a heavy Cantonese accent. Xiao Bao meets the madame of a brothel called Feng Si Niang and seeing how the people are so happy in a brothel, he goes home to his parents to exclaim that he wants to be a gigolo. Xiu Xiu gets so angry that she decides to ban prostitution. This makes Si Niang extremely unhappy and she tries to seek revenge on Xiu Xiu which leads to misunderstandings between Xiu Xiu, Ah Fei and Ru Yi. Meanwhile, Zhang Xie returns one night with a wound and he begs everyone to not let his mother know about it. It turns out that it was his wife who did it. One catch - his wife was supposed to be dead. She had committed adultery which led to her son's death because of her neglect and was supposedly drowned by the villagers as a punishment. She did not die and was found by her husband, yet she has gone insane. Zhang Xie, who still loved her, kept her in a secret place and visited her every once in a while. After this little incident, Zhang Xie and Xiu Xiu return to his wife's place, only to find her dead from what appears to be suicide. At the same time, prostitutes are being killed off. It is Xiu Xiu's job to find the killer and ironically save the prostitutes.

Opinion on this case: God How I hate it when Michael Hwang opens his mouth! Oh my god, the Cantonese accent he was doing was just oh so annoying! But he did pull off a good job doing it, it was believable because I have heard so much bad Mandarin from my uncle who speaks exactly like Michael Hwang did. Ge Lei joins the troupe in this story as Feng Si Niang, and she has the fiery madame down to a T. Xiu Xiu and Ah Fei have the biggest fights and misunderstandings in this case. This actually sets up how they start to understand how each other works and their chemistry with each other. There was one scene that stuck in my mind as classic from this story: it was when Xiu Xiu mistook Ah Fei for "groping" her while teaching her how to write properly and Ah Fei got drunk. He returned home and Xiu Xiu thought he was committing suicide because of her. Ah Fei told her off by pointing out all her weaknesses (ie illiterate, not very good-looking, etc and keep in mind he was really really hung over) as points why he would not seduce her. This just shows that Ah Fei is not quite a gentleman sometimes.

Case #3 - The Real and Fake Princess: As the troupe heads on, Xiu Xiu meets this "beggar girl" called Le Le, who reminds her so greatly of herself when she was younger. Of course, Le Le falls for the fake Justice Wen without knowing that Xiu Xiu is a woman. Le Le is really annoying and annoys just about everyone in the household. Even Ah Fei is baffled as to why she is living to this day with that mouth of hers. When Ru Yi and Si Niang try to get rid of her, Le Le exclaims that she is the runaway Princess. Of course, everyone doubted her, but Ah Fei and Xiu Xiu decide to take her to the official at the next town to deal with her. When they meet that official, Zhao Wen, it turns out that there is another girl named An An there who claims that she is the princess as well. When the two princesses see each other, they immediately go into an all-out cat fight. This incident leads to the visit from the Dowager Empress. Xiu Xiu and Ah Fei must find out who the real princess is before the Empress arrives, but uncover a plot dealing with the Empress's past.

Opinion on this case: Eh... this was an ok story. As much as I love Chamder Tsai in other series, I found her character real annoying. Just wanted to to strangle Le Le and pry her away from Xiu Xiu. In this story, it is evident that Ah Fei's feelings for Xiu Xiu are brewing somewhat. They have become better "partners in crime" and are better friends.

Case #4 - Romance in the Wine Country: Xiu Xiu and Ah Fei come to a town known for its wine. Upon entering the town, they are almost hit by an oncoming cart. Xiu Xiu, being very hot-headed, chases after the cart and gets into a fight with the woman who was driving it. It turns out that this woman is Lu Ruo Nan, the head of the premier wine making family. Her family is so influential that even the official of the town could not have become one without their money. Meanwhile, it is Ah Fei's birthday and the family treats him to dinner and finds out that he has a high tolerance for alcohol (and the fact that he is 35 years old). On their way out, they see Ruo Nan holding a drinking contest. Ah Fei, who is peeved at Ruo Nan's attitude, decides to enter the drinking contest. Of course, our witty Mr. Liu wins, but there is a catch - he must marry Ruo Nan. It turned out it is a contest for marriage. Ah Fei, realizing that he has fallen for Xiu Xiu, will not marry Ruo Nan even if they hold a sword to his neck. Xiu Xiu tells him that she worries that one day when their cover is blown, he might be affected. The only way to ease her worry is if he stays here and gets married.

Ah Fei, being a little drunk, tries to tell Xiu Xiu his feelings, only to have Xiu Xiu stop him. He runs away, only to be found drunk (again) by Xiu Xiu who requests that he return to marry Ruo Nan (a lot of "groping" in this scene, Ah Fei literally falls into Xiu Xiu's "embrace"). It turns out that Ruo Nan's 9 previous fiances were killed or went missing. Xiu Xiu believe that there was something suspicious and Ah Fei reluctantly goes back to help with the case by pretending to marry Ruo Nan. Ruo Nan, of course is mad when Ah Fei tells her that he is only marrying her for the case, but agrees to play along. Ruo Nan's servant Li Liang is in love with Ruo Nan and threatens to kill Ah Fei. He immediately becomes a suspect, but he was not there when the other fiances were killed. In the end, Li Liang is cleared of the charges. Ruo Nan gets married, but at the wedding Ah Fei suddenly appears in the crowd. It turns out that he had switched the groom and Li Liang got his wish to marry Ruo Nan.

Opinion on this case: I felt so sorry for Ah Fei in this story. He tried to express his feelings to Xiu Xiu and got turned away - twice. Ah but I guess it all works out because he gets to hug Xiu Xiu twice while being drunk. I haven't seen Sandra Ng in a series in a long long time. Ruo Nan is so different from the other characters that I have seen her as - no funny stuff, just a strong head of the household. I kind of felt sorry for her character. I mean really, losing nine of your fiances? That hurts, but luckily Ruo Nan found Li Liang in the end.

Case #5 - The Impartial: In this story, we meet Ah Fei's teacher, Official Bao, who is one of the most impartial judges out there. So impartial that it cost him his family. In the meantime, Ah Fei wished to visit Mrs. Bao's grave and stayed at a monastery overnight from the trip. There was a fire in the monastery and Ah Fei was saved by worker called Sha Er who was badly burned as a result. Ah Fei takes him back into town for treatment and Ru Yi recognizes Sha Er as Long Tian, the guy who went after Wen Bi Zheng when Ru Yi met Wen. Ru Yi is afraid that Sha Er (Long Tian) would recognize that Xiu Xiu was not the real Wen Bi Zheng. And of course, the appearance of Sha Er does cause Official Bao to suspect Xiu Xiu's identity and he does eventually find out. Ah Fei tells his teacher the reason behind the deceit, and Official Bao understands their intentions. But being the impartial judge that he is, he really must report this to the Emperor. But Official Bao dies before he has a chance to, his heart was just simply too old and too tired for the line of work.

Opinion of the case: I have no idea why Yang Pei Pei stuck this story in here. Maybe that's why when the series first aired in Taiwan, it was cut out from the airing. One of the few dull points of the whole series.

Case #6 - A serial rapist on death row named Duan Yu was rescued from prison the night before his execution. Guess who rescued him? It's our old friend Lu Wang. Duan Yu's job is to seduce Ru Yi and we find out that they were once acquaintances when Ru Yi was a prostitute. Meanwhile, Xiu Xiu and Ah Fei are re-investigating a case in the town that they arrived at. In the process, Ah Fei finds his brother, Liu Shi, whom he hasn't seen in years. But Ah Fei is sad to find that his brother, once a well-known guardsman in the Capital, has become an angry alcoholic who now guards the local morgue. Liu Shi is mad at Ah Fei for some reason, which baffles Ah Fei because he has no clue what upset his brother. After a few beatings from his brother and a misunderstanding with Xiu Xiu, Ah Fei and Xiu Xiu find out that Liu Shi blames Ah Fei for causing the death of a girl named Xiao Hong, whom he liked. Xiao Hong however, was interested in Ah Fei. Yet Fei and Xiu still do not know why Liu Shi thinks Ah Fei caused the death of this girl. All the while, the plot against Xiu Xiu is beginning to take shape. Xiao Bao becomes the student of the puppeteer Ha Ha Er, who is also hired by Lu Wang. Duan Yu seduces Ru Yi into confessing about Xiu Xiu taking her husband's place. After knowing this, Xiu Xiu is infuriated with Ru Yi and escapes to a monastery outside of town with Liu Fei, but has left Xiao Bao behind.

Liu Fei goes back into town to look for Xiao Bao, only to find out from Liu Shi that Ru Yi has killed Duan Yu when she tried to take the confession letter back. Ah Fei notifies Xiu Xiu of this matter, but Xiu Xiu refuses to help and decides to take Xiao Bao away to lead a peaceful life. At the monastery, she meets an old nun who is dying. This nun turns out to be a servant at Ah Fei's residence. She saw how Xiao Hong loved Ah Fei, but Liu Shi loved Xiao Hong so she asked Liu Fei to write a poem for her son to turn away a girl only to give the letter to Xiao Hong instead. Her intentions were to let Xiao Hong forget Ah Fei, but never imagined that Xiao Hong would die from being too heartbroken. With the help of Xiu Xiu, Ah Fei and Liu Shi eventually find out and clear up their misunderstanding. Xiu Xiu then decides to go back to rescue Ru Yi, only to find that the Emperor has arrived. With Lu Wang there, Ah Fei and Xiu Xiu make efforts to conceal Xiu Xiu's real identity while investigating Ru Yi's case. Liu Shi and Ah Fei find that Ru Yi might have been poisoned, which caused her to have illusions that led her to kill Duan Yu. At the trial, Lu Wang gets a taste of his own medicine as his own illusions cause him to confess his plot to overthrow the Emperor. The Emperor of course finds out about Xiu Xiu and her story. He sentences Ah Fei to place first in the Civil Service Examinations in three years or else he will have to be punished for real. As for Xiu Xiu, she is "sentenced" to be the first ever "Female Official" and is in charge of dealing with the matters of all women.

Opinion on the case: The ending chapter of the series leaves room for a sequel, as the ending for Xiu Xiu and Ah Fei ends with the two exchanging subtle hints of their feelings for each other over writing. Nothing much, just writing that both understand in their hearts. Sadly, relatively poor ratings in Taiwan axed plans for a sequel, which is quite a shame. On to the actors in this chapter... I never liked Coco Suen Hing nor have I hated him. From this chapter, I saw how similar his acting was to Li Li Qun, who played Lu Wang - overdoing it on some parts. I guess it was because they had worked with each other so much. Li Li Qun is not evil enough to play the antagonist here. In fact, I think he makes for one of the funniest bad guys in any series I saw. Then again, this was a comedic series.


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The Female Official (Nu Xun An)

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