The Eloquent Ji XiaoLan

Reviewed by: Moinllieon

October 27, 2007

Rating: five

The Eloquent Ji XiaoLan, or TieChi TongYa Ji XiaoLan (Literally, Iron-Toothed Ji XiaoLan)

Zhang GuoLi as Ji XiaoLan
Zhang TieLin as Qian Long
Wang Gang as He Shen
Yuan Li as Du Xiao Yue
Zhang LiJuan as Mo Chou
Xiang Neng as Fu KangAn

Ji XiaoLan is widely regarded as the greatest Chinese scholar during the Ching Dynasty. He lived during the reign of Qian Long and was held responsible for the biggest literary project in the history of China at that time, the Encyclopedia of the 5 Categories, which took decades in the making and millions of books. He Shen is known as the most corrupt official in the history of China, taking money under the table and having his own taxes. It was rumored that when he was finally brought down, the money that the Ching government confiscated from his estate was more than double the national treasury. Qian Long is the most talked about Emperor in the history of China, his travels south is legendary, as is stories about his many consorts and daughters. Stories about the Consort Fragrance and adopted daughters fill many writers' imagination and books, including that of Jin Yong and Qiong Yao. What were these 3 men like in person? What was the relationship among these 3 legends? Did they get along? How many untold stories are there about them?

The Eloquent Ji XiaoLan was about these 3 legendary characters and the relationship they had among them.

The premises for the show is that Ji XiaoLan, besides being a genius scholar, was also trying to bust He Shen and his corrupt ways while He Shen tried to stop him. Zhang GuoLi starred as Ji XiaoLan, the namesake of the show and Zhang TieLin played the same role he did in Huan Zhu Ge Ge, Qian Long. While both were great, the man that stole the show, was Wang Gang, the actor who played He Shen. He was just absolutely magnetic and won me over within the first couple of episodes, and even though I know he was not the good guy, I could not help but pull for him. And despite all of the wrong things he does in the series, I somehow came out with a feeling that He Shen was a better human being than Ji XiaoLan. This is because while Ji XiaoLan was an honest official, he was still quite a bastard and was very stubborn. He Shen, on the other hand, despite being corrupted, was loyal, was a friend, was helpful to those in need, etc. Wang Gang's performance as He Shen in this series was as brilliant as Barbara Yung's performance in Legend of the Condor Heroes 83, if not more so.

The story revolves around a series of inter-connected mysteries involving corrupted officials and crimes that Ji XiaoLan, Qian Long, and He Shen tried to bust. During their adventures, the 3 of them met many beautiful women and eventually 2 more girls were added among the main group of characters: Du XiaoYue, a Xiao Yan-Zi like character that somehow won the favor of the mother of Qian Long (who was also played by the same actress who played the part in HZGG2), and Mou Chou, a Zi Wei like girl who fell in love with Qian Long and vice versa. The 3 of them also met many other famous historical characters such as Cao XueQing, the author of the Dreams of the Red Mansion, and many others like him. However, it was the marriages of Du XiaoYue and Mou Chou that finally brought the show to a satisfying and appropriate end.

Although the story revolves around the many small, short mysteries and adventures, it is driven by the relationship among the 3 men. Despite fighting all the time, none of the 3 characters can live without one another and are the best of friends despite their positions as master, servants, and enemies. The series eventually covers about such things as love, righteousness, responsibility, loyalty, patriotism, and honor. It makes the viewers think as well as laugh as it is one of the funniest shows I have seen in quite a long time. Better than the slapstick humor of Taiwan and HK series, the humor in this series is smart humor, it doesn't come from people acting stupid, it comes from people acting smart. This type of humor is about 10 times harder to write and 100 times funnier to watch, and somehow this series is just full of it, I laughed harder and more often while watching this series than watching any other series.

As for other things such as costume and music, they are both great too. I really liked the ending theme even though the opening theme is a little disappointing. The costumes are your standard Ching Dynasty costumes. While the other parts of the series is not spectacular, I hardly noticed them. The main selling points in this series are the story, the characters, and the relationship among them.

As I watched it, I felt that there was a storyline underneath all the connected mysteries, and that is what does it take to be a man, to be a good human being. In the end, the series concludes that what makes a man is not in whether or not he does the right things, but in how he does things and how he handles the wrong things he has done. As I watched the series, the characters that stood up for friends, the ones that held their head high, the ones that put everything on the line for what they think are right came out on top while the ones that was lured by the trappings of riches and power fell, even though the ones that did the right things might not be the good guys and the ones that lost might not be the bad guys. Another thing that was so great about this series was that there was no bad guy really, everyone was multidimensional. The beautifully woven storyline and complicated characters are definitely among the best I have ever seen in a TV series and is better than almost anything I have seen produced in the last 5 years. This is definitely one of my favorite stories and I recommended it to anyone and everyone that can get their hands on it.

In the end, what best sums up the series was a phrase from the back of the box, the show is about the men and "their understanding of the sweetness and bitterness of life, and their seeking for destination of their life voyage. One after another, love's melodies are woven. In humor and fun, it reflects the connotation of Chinese classical culture. In gripping movements, it flickers the splendor of philosophy. This play is full of passion and humor. It is a song of justice and goodness, it is an ode to brilliant humanity."

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