The Water Legend


Reviewed by: sukting

September 02, 2003

Rating: three

Chinese title 湖海争霸录

How long
20 episodes

Foreword
I am not very sure whether this is a Liang Yu Sheng adaptation as I am not very familiar with his work. But this serial does follow his style and is similar to 'The Jade Bow'. A pity that this serial is not seen on television or VCDs anymore. It does offer some entertainment value, testament that ATV doesn’t need to lose out to TVB in period dramas. I doubt many have watched it so this is just to share with those who are interested to know.

Story
Gao Tian Yuan comes from a very well respected family and is engaged to another official’s daughter, Zhou Die Er. However, tragedy strikes them and they are forced to part. Ren Wu Xing is the cause of this. Ren’s family is thrown into jail and is wrongly executed prompting him to seek vengeance.

Do watch out for the duel between him and Tian Yuan. Tian Yuan suffers a very humiliating defeat by the bridge in the storm. Try to imagine the scene, he is suffering from severe injuries yet he has to see his beloved fiancée being led away by Ren in the rain. Why? Because he doesn’t even have the strength to stand up to stop this from happening!

The poor man later faints in the rain and is rescued by his master, Qiu. This man is very arrogant and can’t believe that his disciple had been defeated. But after listening to Tian Yuan’s description of Ren’s strokes, he is very impressed. Die Er is raped by Ren. She pretends to forget Tian Yuan and Tian Yuan is heartbroken. He concentrates on improving his skills instead. Die Er’s sister, Yu Er is displeased with her sister’s change and tries her best to console Tian Yuan.

Si Kong Ao Shi is a wanderer and becomes Tian Yuan’s good friend. Ao Shi gets to know Lie Yan Yan who is an evil sect leader’s daughter. Both are often at loggerheads with each other. Despite this, both are attracted to each other and they soon fall in love.

Tragedy strikes again. Eunuch Mi destroys Lie’s sect. In the end, Lie’s whole family is killed in a night. Before his death, old Lie tells Yan Yan to look for her uncle who is staying on another island to practise evil skills from their clan manual. He wants Yan Yan to become the number one pugilist even though her uncle has failed in his attempt. Ao Shi goes with her and they are reunited. However, Ao Shi dislikes that they are both too eager in seeking vengeance and disagrees to their learning the evil skills. He fails to dissuade them and leaves the island in anger.

In the meantime, Tian Yuan is frustrated for not improving his skills much. He gets to know his junior, Yuan Zi Yi, from his martial aunt, Ye. This is a very sweet lady. Tian Yuan finds it difficult to choose between her and Yu Er when both women fall for him. One day, he is practicing his skills when suddenly he nearly goes berserk. He imagines that Die Er leaves with Ren willingly and that she is jeering at him.

Zi Yi sees that and quickly revives him by playing soothing music from the zither. Tian Yuan finally retains his composure and is surprised to find her nearly fainting by his side. He knows that she had saved him on time and he is so touched that he accepts her. Yu Er is disappointed and becomes a nun.

Yan Yan and her uncle return to the mainland. Lie gets to know a Japanese woman, Li Zi, and both fall in love. Little do they know that she is not as weak as she seems. She is in fact a samurai and an undercover assassin for Eunuch Mi. Eunuch Mi knows of the secret manual and wants her to steal it. He later kills her by mistake as he did not see through her disguise when she was masked. Lie then tries to seek revenge but is later killed by Eunuch Mi.

Eunuch Mi and Ren later join forces and create havoc for the whole pugilistic world. Ye and Qiu decide to resolve their differences and join forces to salvage the situation. Both are actually lovers but are too proud to admit it. However this decision comes too late – both still quarrel when they are practicing their skills. Eunuch Mi catches them unawares and injures them seriously. It is quite sad seeing them both crawl towards each other. Tian Yuan and Zi Yi arrive too late and are very upset to see their dead bodies.

Yan Yan finally masters the evil skill, much to Ao Shi’s displeasure. She finally kills Eunuch Mi. She is actually inferior to him in skill but she pushes her inner strength to the highest level, causing internal injury to herself. Her hunger for power doesn’t stop there though. Ao Shi knows that she could die any moment but he is still unable to accept that the woman he loves has become a demoness.

Tian Yuan masters his skills finally and challenges Ren to a duel. Ren has lost his interest to live since Die Er killed herself after their son’s birth. He agrees to it as he has lost control over the pugilistic world without Eunuch Mi’s support anyway. Both pit their skills and Ren dies.

The scene is a tragic one – they duel at the same spot as before while the rain beats down. Ren recalls the past and smiles bitterly. He then requests Tian Yuan to take care of his young son. Tian Yuan agrees so he and Zi Yi decide to bring him up as their own.

Now, Tian Yuan is considered the top pugilist since Eunuch Mi and Ren are dead. Yan Yan challenges him. Ao Shi tries in vain to stop them from sparring. And…Tian Yuan loses miserably in the end. The poor man doesn’t wish to admit defeat so easily as he knows that Yan Yan will cause more harm than good to the pugilistic world. He is adamant to continue sparring although he is injured (even worse than the first time when he sparred with Ren.)

Zi Yi tries to help him by playing the zither. Yan Yan sneers at him for seeking help while she is on her own. Tian Yuan is furious and he snatches the zither and throws it away. Alas he still loses and all have to address her as supreme master unwillingly. Yan Yan suddenly proposes marriage to Ao Shi on that very same day. Ao Shi is taken aback but he is a very unhappy bridegroom, and tries very hard to help her mend her ways. He feels very bad for having done Tian Yuan injustice and wishes to make up to him.

That is why he appears solemnly in the bridal chamber and tells Yan Yan sarcastically that she should be happy since all her wishes have come true. But instead, he finds her dying. Yan Yan is contented now for having fulfilled her late father’s death wish and for being Ao Shi’s wife. She dies in his arms peacefully. Ao Shi is upset and becomes a monk. Tian Yuan and Zi Yi are sad and shake their head upon seeing how Ren’s son is interested in martial arts. They wonder whether he will become like his father in future.


Introduction of the characters

  1. Gao Tian Yuan – Tsang Kong
    I never expected him to be the lead in this serial because he was not the pugilistic expert I had in mind. My jaw nearly dropped when I saw him – his face was really unexpected. He looked so uneasy in the headdress. I have been so used to see either Man Tse Leung, Ng Wai Kok or Tsui Siu Keung. His acting was only satisfactory. He had neither the looks or charisma. Moreover, his character was so dependent on women. I didn't see why the 3 pretty women had to fuss over him. He was very proud and stubborn, always rejecting help from others. The only plus point was that he was a righteous man.

  2. Ren Wo Xing – Tsui Siu Keung
    He was good in his role, testament to why he was so popular in ATV during the 70s. He definitely deserved it, playing his part well as the tragic villian. What a difference from his good guy role of Wan Da Hup in ‘Reincarnated’! He was as cool and heartless as Wong Yuen Sang’s ‘Sai Moon Chui Suet’ in ‘Luk Siu Fung’. When he smiled, he looked so evil and cold. In the two duel scenes, he overshadowed Tsang completely regardless whether he was the winner or the loser. He was so cool – don't miss his performance!

  3. Si Kong Ao Shi – Leung Siu Lung
    This is a fine example of how a person can gain so much weight in just a few years. Leung was very slim then. It was said that Leung was the lead but I didn't find it that way. It seemed that the 3 men shared equal time throughout the story. He simply didn't fit the lead even though he has a strong martial arts background. However, his scenes with Mai Shuet were memorable as they both match each other well in looks and acting skills. I didn't really like his character too because he was so unsuccessful in changing the woman he loves. He was a jovial and intelligent guy but why couldn't he have thought of a solution???

  4. Qiu – Ko Hung
    This actor was superb! Although his scenes were limited, he managed to leave a deep impression as the proud man who refused to admit his true feelings.

  5. Eunuch Mi – Tien Fung (Elder But Lo in ‘Tien Lung Jiet’)
    Another veteran actor who made this villain come alive! His outlook was the same as Elder But Lo in ‘Tien Lung Jiet’ but he was completely evil here! Thumbs up to his acting!

  6. Lie Yan Yan – Mai Shuet
    We needn't doubt her acting. She has never disappointed and played this playful and willful role very well. And especially later when her character undergoes a change after her family’s ordeal. I have to confess that I became her faithful fan after watching this serial!

  7. Yuan Zi Yi – Yong Wai Mun (Ji Xiao Fu in TVB’s HSDS86)
    She was young and pretty. Moreover she showed good composure due to her Chinese dance background. Her character was so likeable. You would never have expected her to cheat in the end for success! That was a big surprise!

  8. Zhuo Die Er – Chan Mun Nah (Henry’s mother in HH2)
    She wasn't the exact ancient beauty I had in mind...but who cares as Tian Yuan was ugly too! Just a joke – but I must compliment her acting as she carried off a tragic role well.

  9. Zhuo Yu Er – Yu On On
    I didn't understand why On On was only given a guest appearance here? What a waste as she looked really good in period costume. Her acting was also natural but many would dislike this character for being so faithfully in love with Tian Yuan. Was he so great that he was worth her becoming a nun in the end?

  10. Ye – Miu Kam Fung (now with TVB)
    Also gave her best as the proud woman who never gave in easily.

  11. Old Lie – Yeung Chak Lam (Yang Liu Lang in Heroine of The Yang)
    This was a very vicious old man. He couldn't achieve much in life and yet he expected his daughter to do everything for him. Yeung was good but the poor actor was actually young. How did he end up playing someone’s father? Because of his mature looks?

  12. Lie – Ma Chung Tak (with ATV again after switching to TVB)
    Only gave a satisfactory performance as he was only a guest star. He didn't act that well when it came to revealing sad feelings.

  13. Gong Ben Li Zi – Mun Shuet Yee
    She was also a guest star but she sure shined here! She was so pretty in the kimono. Torn between her lover and her master, she chose to die in the end. How sad it was when she died willingly in Lie’s arms! She shouldn’t have done it – didn't she know how much anguish she was going to cause?

Most favourite character
Ren Wo Xing – I pitied him instead of hating him. He had his reasons for turning evil and surprisingly I didn't hate him for having snatched Die Er away. Was it because the actor was Tsui Siu Keung????

A close second was Yan Yan. She was so adorable from the start – playing tricks on Ao Shi. But she became serious towards the later part and you will find a big change in her character. Mai Shuet was simply too hard to resist.

Most hated character
Gao Tian Yuan – this man was really annoying. He didn't really deserve the love of 3 women.

Conclusion
This serial is watchable if you are not too fussy. You may not be familiar with most of the artistes but you will soon be won over by their natural acting. Especially if you are a die-hard fan of Mai Shuet, it is very interesting to see and compare how she looked when she was younger. Many will notice that she got playful and cheeky roles in her younger days. In her older years, she only gets to play more mature and serious roles.

This was the first serial that Leung Siu Lung and Mai Shuet act together as a couple. It was said that because of their good chemistry, the same producer later paired them up again in ‘The Four Constables’. But…how much they have changed in there although their acting was still good! This shows that age plays a major part too.

Personally I didn't like this story that much as it involves too many deaths and tragedies. If not for the good acting, I wouldn’t have continued watching it. And despite the name – the whole serial had nothing to do with water! Maybe because Yan Yan practiced the evil skills on another island and had to travel by boat there???

Sometimes I feel that ATV is stupid for producing VCDs of their more recent dramas. I wonder why they don’t do the same for old serials. Because they are outdated or they can’t find the tapes? Or they don’t deem it necessary because many of their actors have already left ATV? Many are quite good – if not, how is it possible that I can still remember the names of these old serials after so many years even though I have forgotten most of their plot?

Sukting's Ratings :
On acting : ***1/2 (Scale of 5)
On story : ***(Scale of 5)


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