Zu Mountain Saga


Reviewed by: PJ

December 30, 2004

Rating: three-point-five


Number of episodes: 20

Cast:
Ekin Cheng - Shi Sheng
Nadia Chan - Yu Ying Nan
Jimmy Au - Sheng Tu Hong
Lily Chung Shuk Wai - Cui Ying
Tsang Kong Sen - Sun Nan
Law Lok Lam - Supreme Wizard

A battle between good and evil is about to unleash in this special effects-driven fantasy series. While the effects are not groundbreaking, they do, for the most part, serve their purpose. This show is part II in the Zu Mountain series -- the first being "Gods and Demons from Zu Mountains". Here you will find out just how a child born of none other than a huge rock becomes the target of evil masters, how that child later gets to sit on top of the evil world, and all the adventures and romance he encounters. Let us walk through the entire show in detail.

Plot: (Spoilers!)
The show can be divided into three parts. The first focuses on Shi Sheng (Ekin Cheng) -- his fate and his early romance with Yu Ying Nan (Nadia Chan); the second part is mainly about "White Hero" Sun Nan's adventures; and the last 7 or 8 episodes are primarily about how an innocent maiden Cui Ying (Lily Cheung) and her lover Shen Tu Hong (Jimmy Au) became evil, and whether the the disciples from E Mei can overcome evil.

In the first episode, we are introduced to the Blood Demon (Eddie Kwan) from the previous series of Zu. He has come back for revenge, but fortunately the masters from the E Mei Mountain captures his inner spirit (known as Yuen Shen in Chinese) inside a rock. Unfortunately, the spirit escaped to earth, and a child with the spirit was born. The child is Shi Sheng, who has been raised by an ethnic tribe that treat him as if he "were a monster."

Knowing Shi Sheng possesses the inner spirit of the Blood Demon, the evil Half-Faced Scholar, who is working for the Supreme Wizard, intends to get the spirit for himself. So he continually tries to get Shi sheng to murder, so that Sheng would turn into the Blood Demon and he can have his spirit. Sheng of course refuses to murder; however, he gets tricked a few times and eventually commits murder, including that of his most dear uncle.

E Mei disciple Yu Ying Nan follows her master Yuan Yuan's order to obtain some evil spirits, and on an occasion, she obtains that of a fox demon, who happens to be Half-Faced Scholar's lover. So Scholar rushes to E Mei only to be defeated. Later, when Yu and her E Mei sister and brother meet Scholar without their master, trouble comes about. Yu falls down a mountain, and that's when he first meets Shi Sheng.

The two befriend each other, but soon the tribe (who misunderstood Sheng's identity) finds Sheng and captures Yu and him. In the cell, Sheng pushes Yu far away and receives all the abusing, which makes Yu think highly of him. Later, they are able to escape and be together for a short time. Soon, though, Sheng's true identity comes forth to the E Mei and Qing Cheng disciples. They decide to bring him to their masters, but Scholar kidnaps Sheng and tricks him into becoming the Blood Demon. Yu and others come to prevent this, but too late.

Now they've done it. Sheng rises from the Pool of Blood, his whole body blood-red. He is now the all powerful Blood Demon. Of course, Scholar did not stand a chance stealing the spirit. Instead, Supreme Wizard nails him and kills his spirit for his betrayal. Still in love with Sheng, Yu cannot bear the thought of looking at his savior, now a demon. But there is nothing anyone could do to save Sheng... or is there?

Next, we are introduced to the character of "White Hero" Sun Nan, a former disciple of E Mei who was driven out by the masters for starting an affair with Peach Woman. He has now returned and intends to do something great for E Mei, so that he may be accepted as a disciple again. In fact, he truly regrets having met the evil Peach Woman, and has only done good things all these years. Upon learning of the Blood Demon's rise, Sun Nan decides to go at him. However, he is no match for the demon (still Sheng) either, and in fact gets hurt the same way the E Mei and Qing Cheng masters have. They have been hurt in a special way by the Blood Demon, and now they are completely under the demon's control. In order to save his ex-sister and brother, Sun Nan and 3 Zu Mountain disciples, Ah Jing, Lai Guo, and Li Hong, pay a visit to Peach Woman's fairyland, where the only curing herb exists.

Peach Woman, after all these years, still wants Sun Nan back. Although resistant, Sun Nan's skills have been shattered by the demon's inner force. So he agrees that if he goes to above to steal an umbrella-like treasure, Peach would release the captured Zu disciples and provide the herb. Upon arriving at the divine palace, Sun Nan is immediately attracted to the divine angel there. And what luck has it that they are both excellent with the zither. So they spend some time playing zither and talking about music, but when it is time to leave, Sun Nan remembers the deal and steals the treasure. Then the whole palace fell apart. Sun Nan finally comes to rescue, just in time to save the angel, who is in fact Peach Woman's sister in school. Peach wants to see her suffer because Angel was better than she.

The Angel tells Sun Nan that if she ever leaves the palace, there would be bad luck for he and she. Still, they come to rescue the Zu disciples, only to find Peach threatening to kill them. Left with no choice, Sun Nan has to agree that he would stay by Peach's side forever, which imaginably hurts Angel very much. She tries to kill herself but fortunately is saved by Yu Ying Nan, who is returning from a mission. Meanwhile, the 3 Zu disciples sneak back into the fairyland to try to steal the herb. Unluckily, Li Hong lost his life preserving the herb, and now both the Supreme Wizard and Peach want his inner spirit, for he is an unusual spiritual child. So Wizard takes the spirit after defeating Peach, who escapes for now.

Meanwhile, Sun Nan has been caught by Wizard. Yu attempts to rescue him but gets caught herself. Wizard decides to "eat" Yu's inner spirit in front of a meeting he is holding, in which he plans to make himself the one leader of the evil world. News get reported to Shi sheng, and he immediately comes to halt the meeting. Wizard and Sheng combat, and guess who wins? Sheng easily defeats Wizard, dictating himself as the supreme leader. On the other hand, he is not all ruthless. His feelings for Yu have not changed, as he expresses to her, "No matter what I become, my feelings for you will never change." Although possessing the same feelings, Yu would only recognize Sheng unless he is good again. So Sheng commands his pawn -- Yu's master -- to get her to change her mind. Supreme Wizard learns of this and intends to use this opportunity to escape.

At the same time, Sun Nan and Angel have been preparing to hunt for Peach once again, for she had taken Angel's treasure. What luck, they find him on an unexpected occasion. Surprisingly, they see that she has changed for good, or has she? No, oh no, Peach has not changed a bit. She first put the lovers to sleep and then takes them to a forbidden place, where he drugs Sun Nan with a sex-needing poison. Fortunately, Angel uses the treasure to drive out Peach, but later when they find her, she puts a heavy curse on the treasure so that whoever uses it will die for sure (hint hint).

Back to the demon, he has begun "exercising" his strength when Supreme Wizard decide it is time to break through. Also at this time, Ah Jing, Lai Gu and her brother Shen Tu Hong come to rescue Yu. In addition, Zu Mountain's eldest priest also arrives to help defeat the demon. Moreover, Sun Nan and Angel pass by and stop to help. However, Sheng's power has gotten so great now that even everyone together is not up to his measure. At this point, Sun Nan takes the treasure from Angel's hand and opens it... The result? Shi Sheng has been rid of his demon power, but Sun Nan is the victim of the curse on the treasure. He is slowly turning to stone. His last request is that he be reaccepted into E Mei. Master Yuan is first reluctant to accept him, but she knows it is the right thing to do; so she grants his wish. Happy at last, Sun Nan turns into 100% stone after Angel plays the zither for him one last time. Ah Jing watches Angel carry Sun Nan back to the divine palace, feeling empty, for she has liked his uncle Sun Nan from the beginning. But she is happy that the lovers are together at last.

Shi Sheng still has not awaken when Yuan Yuan and others debate what to do with him. Yuan is determined to kill him, but Yu and others are against it. Finally, they all agree to give Sheng a chance. He finally wakes up after Yu goes to see him, but he has lost most of his memory. Yu remembers that her father was once evil too, and she wonders what he is up to now. So they secretly leave E Mei to find her father. Master Yuan sends Shen Tu Hong, Ah Jing and Lai Gu after them.

Sheng and Yu come to a monument, where demons and human separate. The person sitting on the seat is in fact Yu's father. He used to be the Dark Agent of the Evil Sect, but now he is completely good. At this time, Wizard shows up and duels with Yu's father. Luckily, Shi Sheng turns into the old Blood Demon and drives Wizard away. However, he now needs to be turned back to human. Yu's father manages to secure the demonship to Sheng's one arm, and Yu finally agrees to chop it off. Although armless, Sheng is completely free of demon spirit. However, that means the spirit is now wandering around to find a new body (big hint)...

By now, the 3 Zu disciples have had no luck of finding Sheng and Yu. Shen Tu Hong decides to keep searching, but on the way encounters a saintly maiden named Cui Ying. They fall in love immediately, and Hong keeps following her. Cui Ying is in fact a disciple of a Saint, who possesses another treasure. Supreme Wizard learns of this treasure and wants it badly. So he attacks Cui Ying several times, and her mentor finally comes to rescue. However, Cui is not supposed to talk to men, so Mentor grants her to leave and be with Hong. In addition, she attaches Shi Sheng's arm back to his body.

Guess whose body has just been possessed by the demon spirit? No, not Shen Tu Hong, it's Cui Ying's body. Yes, the demon spirit has chosen a female body. Not to put any female down, but this time around the demon just isn't nearly as powerful as Shi Sheng's demon. She drives away Wizard once, but then decides that she needs to improve her inner force by practicing for several years. In addition, she tells Hong that things are over between then. A desperate Hong remembers that the herb from Peach Woman's fairyland can cure the demonship, but it is no use. Nothing can save Cui from the demonship.

Cui remembers that her mentor has the treasure, so she returns to the palace in order to trick her mentor into giving it to her. Luckily, Sheng Tu Hong also enters the palace in hope of finding a cured Cui. Cui wanted to finish him off, but he was not meant to die yet (in my opinion he would have been better off to have died here, but we will see what the story has in store for him). He notifies Mentor that Cui has become the Blood Demon, and Mentor agrees to help cure her. She sends Hong to get the treasure, but Cui also arrives. They combat for the treasure, and a strange thing happens: a electric connection happened between Cui and Hong just as they are struggling to take the treasure, and both of them now share the demon spirit. Mentor uses her last breath to command the treasure to force on Cui, and the Blood demon is dead.

Hong, now equally as evil, carries Cui's dead body to a cave, where he discovers that blood will awake her again. So he carries her to the Pool of Blood, but it is dry. He then kills the guardians and feed their blood to Cui, making the demon alive again. Supreme Wizard learns of another trick to apprehend the Blood demon. If only he could get the Dark Agent of the Evil Sect to enter Cui's body, he could control her and make her suffer. So Wizard kidnaps Yu and forces her father, the Dark Agent, to perform as he commands. When Cui arrives, Agent really enters her body, and Shen Tu Hong and she have no choice but to serve Wizard, who decides to sleep with Cui (I know, eew, he has just had sex with the blood demon!). Wizard now has two more pawns, and they all go to E Mei to wipe everyone out. Luckily, the sacred stones prevented Wizard from destroying everything.

On the day that Cui Ying is supposed to die of Agent's presence in her body, Shen Tu Hong sticks a sword into her stomach and releases Dark Agent, who soon dies. Wizard knows that he must get rid of Cui and Tu, who have escaped. He swallows a very dangerous ball, which will strength his inner force but would destroy him if something goes wrong. Wizard and the two demons meet one day and Wizard buries them under a cave, where Cui and Tu find ancient sacred manuscripts with the ability to morph into birds and insects. They morph into insects and crawl out of the cave, and in the ultimate battle among evil, Wizard is defeated and commits suicide. However, Cui Ying did swallow the ball that Wizard took in, and not soon after, she feels great pain inside her body. She wants to use Shi Sheng's body to make the pain go away, but Shi Sheng refuses. In anger, Cui turns Yu Ying Nan into a peacock. Sheng takes her to a lady magician in hopes to bring her back to human, with no luck.

Later, Shen Tu Hong dies in his master's hand, Cui Ying finally finds a way to spit out the painstaking ball. Yu Ying Nan does return to human form, and Shi Sheng dies in the last battle fighting Cui Ying. However, the ending shows that Yu and Sheng's reincarnated bodies do meet in next life.

My opinions

This series is good in general, but it is not great. The plot, acting, character development, story telling, and execution are all flawed, and the special effects are rather cheesy. Still, it will remain a personal favorite, if only because I loved it when I first saw it in the early 90s.

Characters

Most people, if not everyone, have their favorite characters in Shi Sheng and Yu Ying Nan. They are indeed typical tragic heroes, but that is exactly why I don't particularly care for them. I prefer someone who has more defined qualities and who possesses deeper "inner forces." That is why my favorite is Sun Nan. I have always thought he was a man of honor and chivalry. He could very well have obtained Peach's herb by just telling her what she wanted to hear. If only he said "I do still like you," or "I have nothing against you," he could have avoided many tragic events. But he would not betray his heart and say these things.

There are two more characters I would like to bring to attention here, and they are Cui Ying and Shen Tu Hong. After finishing the show, one cannot but feel sorry for those two. The fact is that they have no sin at all. They are completely innocent, and yet they are treated as the most evil people. Before demons possessed them, they were the nicest characters. It is not as if they had a choice. Especially Shen Tu Hong -- he fought for Cui Ying's cure for so long. All he wanted was to find the old Cui Ying again. It is unfortunate that he had to turn evil, but it was not his wish or his choice. It simply just happened. I have to wonder why none of the characters tried to cure Cui Ying or Shen Tu Hong. Keep in mind that when Shi Sheng was the Blood Demon, everyone was on their feet trying to cure him.

As the show got into the end, things just got darker and darker. The last few episodes are almost freaky in a way. Cui Ying's demonship is so much more haunting than Shi Sheng's, and she brings out the most vicious and cold demon in the series. Shen Tu Hong is equally freaky as the demon. His appearance changed completely from the disciple to the demon, with long hair and even some lipsticks.

On a brighter note, Ekin Cheng's performance as the Blood Demon (not when he played the innocent Shi Sheng) here was outstanding. He acted out perfectly, showing the evil side of the demon. This is the best performance of his career, in my opinion. An even better performance came from Lily Cheung, who magnificently portrayed both the innocent maiden and the later vicious Blood Demon. She truly convinces the viewer that she is a versatile actress. Overall, the cast is quite good, but a few could have improved.

Screenshots
http://www.bluecrys.com/rev_zumtsaga.html

SkyAngel


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