The Young Dowager

Reviewed by: sukting

May 26, 2004

Rating: four

How long/Year produced: 30 episodes done in year 1984 (can't remember the year clearly - will appreciate if someone can enlighten me)

Hui Yu Lan - Lau Suet Wah
Yi Xin - Ng Wai Kok
Xian Feng - Wong Chiu Yi (a well-known drama actor)
Su Xun - Wong Wai (now with TVB)
Su Fen Zi - Xin Yuen Ching
Chi An - Mak Chui Han (as Serina in 'To Where He Belongs')
Gui Liang - See Ma Wah Lung
Gui Wan Ling - Pu Suk Har
Lee Le Tian - Lau Wai Mun (Gun Zhong Lau in Reincarnated)

Introduction :
This is the serial that shot Lau Suet Wah to stardom. Don't ever miss it! She is magnificent as the ambitious and vicious woman craving from power. It is a refreshing change from her present demure and long suffering roles in Taiwanese dramas.

Yu Lan's family is thrown into poverty as her ancestors are the enemies of the Qing dynasty. But she is a person who is very persistent in fame. She tries all means to be the Emperor's concubine. She gets to know a swordsman, Le Tian, and the sixth prince, Yi Xin, who is touring her province. Both are interested in her. Le Tian is a cheeky fellow while Yi Xin is a mild-mannered man who always keeps his troubles to himself.

How did the men befriend her? Le Tian steals her hairpin and throws it on another boat. He never expects Yu Lan to swim to get it. He feels very bad about it but she refuses his apology. However, they make up after a talk. As for Yi Xin, he sees her carrying many things to the market to sell and helps her.

She is attracted to Yi Xin. They part and the next time they meet again, he is crushed to find her in the palace, preparing to be his brother's concubine. The actual throne should be his but his brother Xian Feng changes the verdict in his absence. However, Yi Xin has not been interested in the throne and he is saddened by his father's demise. In despair, he leaves the palace and takes charge of the army.

Yu Lan spends a few months in the palace without seeing the Emperor at all. After seeing how an old concubine dies even without seeing how the past Emperor looks like, she is determined to steal chances for herself. She pretends to catch butterflies in the garden and gets to see him. He is fascinated by her beauty but is disturbed by her background. But being unable to resist, he finally dotes on her, even to the opposition of his favourite court official, Su Shun.

Su Shun always finds fault with her but she smartly avoids all his attacks. She is so capable that Xian Feng makes her in charge of the Western court in the end. Su Shun's daughter, Feng Zi, is interested in Le Tian all along but Le Tian can't forget Yu Lan even after her marriage. He even offers to be her bodyguard to protect her at all times from ambushes.

Chi An gives birth to a daughter while Yu Lan gives birth to a son. Knowing that Su Shun will give her more trouble, she persuades Xian Feng to call Yi Xin back. Xian Feng knows of her past but has no choice as he needs Yi Xin's help. Yi Xin reluctantly returns. He has not been in good health after suffering an arrow wound from his chest in a war. He can't bear the sight of seeing the woman he likes with his brother. However, he has to act as if nothing has happened. Le Tian share his sentiments and both decide to protect her with whatever power they have.

On one day, Yi Xin has a walk outside the palace. He sees a lady being trapped on a tree. He saves her down and sees a bird in her hand. She has wanted to keep it but seeing how the young bird yearns for its mother, she asks Yi Xin to place it back in the nest. Before he can do this, he tears his wound and faints.

He wakes up finding himself in a court official, Gui Liang's home. The lady is his daughter, Wan Ling. Gui Liang chides him for not taking good care of himself. Yi Xin breaks into a bitter smile as the double blows of his father's death and Yu Lan's marriage has affected him so much that he oversees this. He rests a few days at his home and Wan Ling takes care of him. Seeing that she is a nice lady, he decides to marry her and forget about Yu Lan. Yu Lan is enraged upon knowing this.

Xian Feng dies of an illness and his son is made the Emperor. Yi Xin even helps the two Empresses to rule the country 'behind the curtain'. Su Shun is angry with this arrangement and he voices it out. Chi An is disturbed by this as she is all along gentle and sweet. She wants to give in but Yu Lan refuses, saying that they can make decisions for their young son. Chi An listens to her and all the time, Yu Lan makes the decision for her. Su Shun then plans a group of assassins to kill her.

Le Tian dies in the process and Yu Lan is very upset. Feng Zi breaks ties with her father over this. She vows to seek revenge. She finds a reason to accuse Su Shun for being a betrayer and kills him. Feng Zi is very upset over her father's death and leaves the palace. She tells Yi Xin to be on his guard as Yu Lan might kill him any time after he has been made used of. Unknown to them, Yu Lan still loves Yi Xin all along.

Upon seeing how Yu Lan has changed, Yi Xin starts to wonder whether his decision to help her is correct. He has grown to like his wife and she is pregnant. Knowing that she is going to give birth anytime, Yu Lan deliberately calls Yi Xin to stay with her for several days to discuss the court matters. On the day when Wan Ling gives birth to Yi Xin's daughter, Yu Lan even prevents the news from reaching Yi Xin.

Gui Liang is unhappy over his son-in-law's absence during the birth. Wan Ling is even more upset as she knows all along, Yu Lan has always been in Yi Xin's heart and she has been putting up with it. She leaves with the baby to stay with her aunt in a faraway province. Yi Xin is alarmed upon knowing the news when he returns home. He then realises that he has loved his wife then. He writes a letter telling Yu Lan to give him up as they cannot be together again before searching for Wan Ling. Yu Lan then realises that the past can't be retrieved and she sits lonely in her large bedroom, thinking over the past.

All Lau Suet Wah's fans shouldn't miss this serial. She is very elegant and convincing as the young dowager. Beautiful, young, power hungry, and evil, she displays so much charm that the 3 men are willing to do anything for her. Before entering the palace, she is strikingly beautiful in a commoner's costume with plaits tied on her hair. Later, she is very eye-catching in the dowager costume with a demanding look. I must say she calls the shots in this serial -- even surpassing all the actors!

In comparison, Mak Chui Han pales in comparison with the limited scenes of Chi An. This character has nothing to show, just like Feng Zi. Xien has played wilful roles long far and enough till I get sick of her.

The actors are splendid! Wong Chiu Yi resembles Pak Piew (Tsui ting Feng in Tin Long Juet) in looks. And he doesn't carry himself the same exaggerating and irritating way that another stage actor, Cheung Tak Ming always does. As Xian Feng, he is cool -- always covering his real expressions even though he questions about Yu Lan's intentions. He does have the emperor look too.

Lau Wai Mun is usually good in his acting. Many will pity this poor man who doesn't get his love in the end. Why not let him like Feng Zi in the end? The poor woman tries so hard to please him and fails miserably. I feel sad when she still doesn't get his love even before his death.

All must be thinking that there must be a lot of rivalry among Yi Xin and Le Tian. But it is proven wrong in this serial. Both of them are so close to each other. Even when Yi Xin is at war, he often writes to Le Tian. And when he's back home with a serious injury which doesn't recover fast due to poison, Le Tian quickly gets him a Western doctor to treat him. Who says that jealousy in love will make someone vicious and mean? I am really touched by their concern for each other.

Still, Ng Wai Kok is better (I may be biased because he is one of my favourite actors). The many scenes of him with Lau Suet Wah are fantastic. From lovers to rivals, many will feel sorry for the change of events between the two of them. At first, they are so loving. I think Ng is one of those few actors that match Lau well in height and looks. Later, they become bitter enemies and come to a sorry end. Pu Suk Ha matches well with Ng with her beauty and gentleness. And actually, many viewers are glad that they get married as they can't bear to see Yi Xin suffering from loneliness in the end.

Wong Wai shows himself to be an experienced actor. He is very good as the faithful and loyal subject that has a sad end too.

Many like me go crazy over the theme and sub-theme songs by Lau Ying Hung. It's a pity that she only acts now. I really miss her singing. The first tells us how ambitious Yu Lan is - even comparing herself to Empress Wu. While the other song reveals her loneliness in the cold and unfeeling palace. Please enlighten me on where I can find this album as I wish to own it.

You must not miss it! Lau Suet Wah has displayed her good acting skills over Yu Lan's growing stages. It is said that this serial's ratings are close to Fung Bo Bo's 'Empress Wu' when shown in Hong Kong. And indeed, I like her to pair up with Ng Wai Kok. Both look so good in their period drama costumes. No wonder they pair up in another drama 'The Fourth Generation' later.

With a cast that acts well, it is little wonder that it boosts the ratings as the palace struggles between Yu Lan and Su Shun that done so realistically. It is amazing that Lau is not belittled by Ng and Wong as she doesn't have enough acting experience as them. But in conclusion, most of the credit should be given to Lau Shuet Wah for putting up such a powerful performance.

sukting's Ratings:

On acting:* * * * (Scale of 5)

On the story: * * * *(Scale of 5)

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