The Legend


Reviewed by: sukting

August 19, 2008

Rating: four

Foreword
This is Bae Yong Jun’s drama after he leaves the small screen for 5 years. How does he fare in this Korean version of ‘Lord of the rings’? It is not easy to be The Su Shen king. The rain god can sense his sorrow, the fire phoenix shares his passion, the white tiger represents his pure bravery while the green dragon is his icy benevolence. He has to touch their hearts in order to get them submit to him to combine forces to subdue the evil. Can he manage to do it?

Story

This drama portrays the life of the 19th king of Gao Ju Li. Huan Xiong, who was sent from the heavens to make the world a better place. He gives her the Zhu Que (phoenix) necklace. It was formed after he grabs the fire power from Jia Zhen and he seals the fire in it. Jia Zhen is the fire goddess from her tiger clan. Huan Xiong teaches Sai Ao on how to control the fire. He falls in love with Sai Ao and Jia Zhen becomes jealous since Sai Ao gives birth to his son.

Jia Zhen takes the baby and throws him off a cliff. Sai Ao, thinking that her son had died, is overcome with grief and turns into the black Zhu Que to destroy the world. Despite Huan Xiong’s enlistment of his 3 subordinates – the water, cloud and wind guardians, they can only subdue her temporary. (Some call this scene fake as the special effects are overused. I feel the same way too.)

Huan Xiong is the only one who could stop her. So he shoots her with the heavenly arrow to death in tears. Jia Zhen vows to rule her own life and jumps off the cliff. The world is in ruins after 7 rainy days. Huan Xiong blames himself for making the wrong decision.

Afterwards, Huan Xiong returns to Heaven and prophesizes that 2000 years later, the true Su Shen king will come to Earth. With the help of the four gods, he will rebuild Su Shen. Huan Xiong’s son becomes the ruler that rebuilds the earth. Huan Xiong seals the four totems into a rock near the sea. His son becomes the future ruler of Gaogouli.

The black water village is the place that awaits Su Shen King’s arrival. The village head is Xuan Wu’s master. He chooses Xuan Gu to be his successor. All deliberately keeps Huan Xiong story from Xiu Zhi Ni so she has to find out from Xuan Gu. He only tells her about it 10 years later. The four gods are the white tiger, green dragon, black turtle (which is him) and also the phoenix.

Xuan Gu is commanded to kill Xiu Zhi Ni if she turns into a fire phoenix. He believes that she is not as he sees a black and not a red dot on her forehead. The black turtle totem is the black pole that he holds. The white tiger’s totem is found in the blacksmith village. The blacksmith goes into hiding to wait for Su Shen king’s arrival. The green dragon totem exists at Bai Ji town while Zhu Que is also at Bai Ji Si town.

The fire clan kills the family while Xuan Gu manages to rescue the younger sister, Xiu Zhi Ni. The elder sister, Qi He is kidnapped by the fire clan and her memory is removed. The fire clan elder manages to restore his youth by transferring the fire flames from her fire necklace to himself.

Hu Kai is born on the day when the star sparkles. His mother is the king’s younger sister. Her husband, Yuan Jia Li also has a thirst for power and decides to combine forces with the fire clan. The king’s younger brother (Yu Zhi Zhi)’s wife also gives birth to Tan De on the same day. He inherits Su Shen heavenly king’s bloodline. Only the king and Zhi Zhi know about it as they retreat to the woods to protect him.

The Yuan family believes that their son, Hu Kai is the ruler so they come up with all odds to forbid Tan De to accede the throne. Hu Kai’s mother tries to deceive all that he is the Su Shen king although she knows that he isn’t. She keeps harping that Zhi Zhi isn’t a Gaogouli native. Who knows if his mother is raped by a Qidan native and he isn’t of pure imperial bloodline? Actually, Zhi Zhi’s mother was already pregnant with him when she became a war hostage. This was an insult to him.

The imperial court rejects her claim. That is why she despises Zhi Zhi to poison him. She desperately wants her son to be the king but her wrong approach ruins her life later. The king knows that his condition is critical and gets his younger brother back before he dies. So Tan De is home with his father. Zhi Zhi becomes King Xiang and advises Tan De to hide his talents. He has to pretend to be timid and weak.

Qi He is sent to the palace to observe Hu Kai – is he the true successor? She becomes a disciple of the spiritual master. Hu Kai saves her froom being crushed by a horse and falls for her. She gets into the imperial library but is caught by Tan De. Both become friends as she guides him in martial arts. Mrs Yuan is angry with Tan De for referring Hu Kai as a warrior. Qi He discovers that King Xiang is poisoned by the fire sect’s poison.

She demands for the antidote but doesn’t get it from the senior. Tan De decides to punish his aunt. The imperial physician has claimed that Hu Kai instigates him to do it. Tan De forbids Hu Kai to see his mother. To prevent implicating her son, Mrs Yuan drinks the poison and wants Hu Kai to be the next Su Shen king before she dies. (She is still deceiving herself to the last moment.) The king is cured.

All grow up - Hu Kai becomes ambitious and revengeful. Tan De enjoys sneaking out of palace to mingle with the commoners. Qi He often helps to keep this secret from his father. She often waits with his clothes at the foot of the palace wall when he climbs back. (This scene is quite sweet as they exchange gentle glances.) His carefree days are over when his father decides to make him the successor.

The official ceremony needs the presence of the clansmen from different tribes. Yuan Jia Li kidnaps the tribes’ leaders’ sons. Tan De decides to delay the ceremony to rescue them but he is later framed for killing them. Qi He brings him away and sleeps with him for a night. She later returns to the palace, wanting to protect King Xiang.

King Xiang kills himself, wanting Tan De’s subordinate to bring the royal Gaogouli sword to Tan De. As Qi He is alone with him, she is suspected of killing him. The fire clan spreads the news that Tan De is the one who kills the king. Tan De can’t believe that this happens when he is away. (How people can get deceived so easily by the pack of lies when the truth is twisted!)

He is in anguish when his men get killed while protecting him. Xuan Gu’s pole can sense his sorrow and shines brightly. (That is a grand sight as if lightning strikes all to see each other under the bright, white light.) This proves that he is the Su Shen king and Xuan Gu’s men seek to protect him.

Yuan Jia Li gets desperate upon knowing the news but keeps it from the commoners. Tan De is fearless of getting killed and returns to seek an explanation. Hu Kai is about to thrust the truthful sword into his chest when Qi He grabs it to do it. She is too upset that he doesn’t trust her and wishes to die together with him.

It is said that whoever is innocent will not get killed by the sword. True enough, not only Tan De escapes unharmed, only the handle of the sword remains as the remaining part vanishes. Since this is destined by heaven as claimed by the spiritual master, Tan De is made the temporary king. What a change of events within a day – Tan De to become a fugitive to a king.

It is decided that whoever finds the last two totems first will be the Su Shen king. Tan De ponders the words by the last two kings so he asks Xuan Gu on how to be a respectable king. Xuan Gu is relieved that he finally believes and listens to him now. Yuan Gu checks the royal records and sees that the leftover sword’s handle fits the description perfectly. They now have to look for the remaining two totems.

Yuan Jia Li is angry that this is the end result. He protests that Tan De has brought a replica of the sword to blind the rest. But his own general, Zhao Zhou Dao, finds it strange. If it isn’t the real sword, how can Qi He not know it? Yuan Jia Li shuts up as he can’t find an answer. (Oh my – never have I enjoyed this scene that much to see how a general going against his own master!)

Tan De decides that it is time to conquer the other states to combine into one. He leaves the palace on the context that he is going hunting but he and his 1000 men manage to conquer 10 cities in 3 weeks. As for Hu Kai, he with his 40,000 men has no sense of direction to do anything without Qi He’s instruction.

Tan De and his men reach the Guan Mi town. The young governor, Chu Lao wears a mask as he is ghastly looking. His hands are also showing monster-like veins but he is very skilful to hold Xiu Zhi Ni as his hostage. Xiu Zhi Ni feels sorry to see him in pain. Chu Lao has never known what pain is till the arrival of Tan De and Xiu Zhi Ni.

She doesn’t tell him who she is. Tan De offers to exchange 10 cities for her release by going to Guan Mi town alone. (This shows how he cares for her to use everything that he has to exchange for her.) Chu Lao seriously injures Zhu Wu Chi. Zhu Wu Chi is delighted when Da Fei tends to him in tears.

Chu Lao’s servant, Ke Gen asks Zhu Wu Chi and Xuan Gu who sneak in if Tan De is the Su Shen king. Only the Su Shen king will not injure his young master when taking the totem out from his body. He reveals that his young master is normal when young. His old master gets the green dragon totem. Before he is killed by the fire clan, he plants the totem right into his chest. He is more powerful after that.

Chu Lao tries to kill Tan De but can’t get close to him. He then begs Tan De to remove the totem from him. Tan De shoots him with his heavenly arrow (just like how Huan Xiong does) and removes the totem from his body. But Tan De is still clueless on how to use the two totems now.

Even though Chu Lao doesn’t have the totem now, he is still a skilful warrior. Chu Lao doesn’t want to see Tan De and Xiu Zhi Ni when they go to see him. They promise to wait for him in the palace. Xiu Zhi Ni itches to spar with him if they meet again.

Chu Lao is now a young and handsome lad who restores his looks. Only Ke Gen recognises him. He decides to slip into the army secretly to observe Tan De before deciding if he should become his follower. Tan De gives Xiu Zhi Ni his late mother’s token to request her to take good care of it when she ties his armour on his body.

After knowing that the elder brother of the army goldsmith, Ba Xun has the white dragon totem, Hu Kai kidnaps Ba Xun to force her to reveal his whereabouts. Strange as it is that Ba Xun doesn’t reveal to Tan De about this beforehand to invite trouble to her doorstep.

Qi He discovers that she is pregnant and tries to kill herself in vain as the baby stops her. She then decides to conquer the country for the sake of her unborn child. Tan De is sleeping then but suddenly feels an unbearable pain striking at his chest. It is so painful that he clutches at it. Xiu Zhi Ni comes over to hug him, hoping to make him feel better. (That is surely a romantic moment!)

Qi He kills the spiritual master to take over her position. She puts the officials at house arrest in Yuan’s residence. Tan De gets alert when no one receives him as he is approaching the city. He discovers that the city’s doors are all closed. His army is now considered the Su Shen army and all hold them in high regard. He doesn’t feel that they should be insulted. (Gentle as he seems, he shows authority that none can deny.)

Upon knowing that Qi He is the new spiritual master, he recalls the old spiritual master’s words. She has shown him her palm. By right, she should have a long line. If her position is taken over by another person, he has to be careful as this person is his enemy.

The spiritual messenger wants him to go alone to the palace without his army so that he can cleanse his blood. The messenger has refused to reveal anything initially but soon spills all the beans when he puts his hand on her shoulder. (She is won by flattery and also intimidated by his stern tone as he is the king.)

His men protest but Tan De leaves them outside the gate, wanting them to be alert and getting more men from the other cities to surround the city. He meets Qi He and is bitter that she has changed so much. Mistakening that Qi He wants Hu Kai to take over the country; he gives up on her and uses his sword to cut the imperial rope into two, indicating the end between them.

He goes to rescue his officials but is only able to find an empty house although his men manage to kill many fire clan followers. They then surround the Yuan residence. Chu Lao is among them all along to witness the happenings. The fire clan elder threatens to harm the officials if Tan De doesn’t hand over the totems.

Tan De throws all the three totems on the floor and tells Yuan Jia Li off for colluding with the veil clan to make Hu Kai the king. When one chief confirms that Tan De isn’t his son’s killer, he commits suicide so that Tan De needs not save him. Tan De attacks the elder when the other officials contemplate killing themselves as well. He is no match for the elder. At this crucial moment, Chu Lao emerges to protect him.

Chu Lao pierces his spear into the elder’s body. The elder is defeated and escapes. (All should not miss this highlight where he is thrown out of the window and has to run for his dear life.) Peace is restored. As all officials wait for their punishment, Tan De meets the foreign envoys instead. Hei Gai suggests taking Xiu Zhi Ni as his foster daughter so that Tan De can marry her as his queen. She can take charge when he is away.

Tan De is reminded of Qi He so Xiu Zhi Ni is against the idea. (This is so sad as Tan De is really torn between two women and Xiu Zhi Ni has to sacrifice herself.) So is Xuan Gu as he reveals to Hei Gai that she might be the phoenix to destroy the earth if she gives birth. The elder loses his youth and becomes old again after being injured.

Xiu Zhi Ni assures him that nothing will happen as Tan De has never loved her. She drowns her sorrows in wine. Tan De drinks with her and reveals that he will only feel apologetic towards her if Hei Gai proposes the marriage plan too. Yuan Jia Li is willing to accept punishment but is still firm to support his son to be the king.

Tan De wants his officials to maintain peace with the other states to become their ally. Chu Lao is sitting under a tree when Xuan Gu wants to return him his totem. He promises to stay by Tan De’s side. He recalls always dreaming of Xiu Zhi Ni in the past and senses that she is the reincarnation of the protector of the earth. He is beside her when she keeps drinking. Unlike her who enjoys alcohol, he frowns when after tasting a drop of wine! (This is sure a funny sight!)

Zhu Wu Chi leads his men to look for Ba Xun and Da Fei. He warns Hu Kai’s troops to withdraw from Qi Dan or they will be considered as traitors of Gao Gou Li. Hu Kai is still looking for the white tiger totem. The fire clan elder warns Shi Liang not to tell Tan De that Qi He is carrying his child. He doesn’t want their love to rekindle as he wants to use the child to regain power.

Xuan Gu is unhappy with Tan De for letting Qi He off even after knowing that she works for the fire clan. Tan De can’t punish her as she is the spiritual master now. Xiu Zhi Ni and Chu Lao turn up. Xiu Zhi Ni wants to revenge her family’s deaths and attacks Qi He. Qi He wounds her and Chu Lao. She sets fire on Chu Lao and Xiu Zhi Ni demands her to put out the fire. But Qi He doesn’t know how to do it. (This is another fascinating sight.)

Strangely, Xiu Zhi Ni manages to extinguish the fire and her sword emits fire. She tries to kill Qi He but she pleads with her to let her off because of her child. Xiu Zhi Ni falls to the ground and faints. The unborn child protects her and Qi He regains her memory. She realizes that Xiu Zhi Ni is her sister. Xiu Zhi Ni also regains her memory of the past and is shattered. She is most probably the black phoenix. (This is so sad for both women.)

Tan De tells his officials that he will use trade to establish ties with Qi Dan. The other officials support the idea as it will bring them a lot of money. Tan De is sure that they will welcome him with open arms and assist him to attack Hu Kai’s troops if Hu Kai defies him. Yuan Jia Li tips off Hu Kai. Seeing that Xiu Zhi Ni often drinks, Tan De describes her as his confidante as he often suffers from insomnia so they can chat throughout the night. His subjects refuse to sleep unless he does and he is touched.

Chu Lao is in a coma after sustaining burns during the attack. The physician is appalled on how his internal organs are burned. Xiu Zhi Ni tells Xuan Gu how she loses her control and he urges her to show him in vain for him to make the judgment. She tells him sadly that she can never repay his kindness to make him cry.

Qi He wants to kill the elder to avenge her parents and unwittingly discloses that she has a sister. (I really wish to beat sense out of her head now to put Xiu Zhi Ni in danger.) As the elder possesses powers from the sacred fire of 2000 years, she fails to destroy him. Since she has regained her memory for 20 years ago, he will help her to regain her memory which was 2000 years ago.

Xuan Gu and the others can’t bear to harm Xiu Zhi Ni so she decides to leave after seeing Tan De the last time. Tan De is amused when she comes in a dress and suddenly hugs him from behind as she helps him to put on the armor. How can she do that to a king?

She returns him his late mother’s token and lies that she gets emotional as she is drunk. Although Tan De senses something amiss, he comments that she is pretty. She wants him to remember her. She also describes his warm back which gives off a nice smell that she likes. Tan De is puzzled why she is in tears.

Xiu Zhi Ni also implores Xuan Gu to save Chu Lao. Bao Xun’s brother refuses to hand over the white tiger totem to Hu Kai as he only wants to give to the real owner. He is killed as the un-awakened totem is taken from him.

Tan De gets along well with his troops. He wonders why he doesn’t see Xiu Zhi Ni for the whole day – is she hiding from him? He learns the truth from Xuan Gu and stomps into a rage. How can they not know where she is now since they want to kill her?

Chu Lao recovers with help from the green dragon totem. Tan De needs to set off for Qi Dan so he requests Chu Lao to look for Xiu Zhi Ni in gambling dens and inns. He knows well that she can never live in seclusion but will probably stay drunk all her life to escape from misery. He asks Chu Lao if he also gets him as well as Guan Mi city.

Chu Lao gives a faint smile – he never expects this question from the king. Still, he promises to bring her back to Tan De. Tan De gives him his royal token. As long as he shows it, anyone from Gaogouli must help him. The journey is smooth but Tan De’s insomnia problem worsens as he often stays up at night to read war strategy books. After working with Tan De for some time, the below are his subjects’ comments.

Xuan Gu finds him not talking aloud but he always works single-handed. He is the only person in history to charge into Guang Mi city alone. He Gai finds him a rebel without listening to his subjects. Yu Chong agrees as he often wishes to tie him with a rope to keep him still. When He Gai suggests him doing that, Yu Chong stares back at him. That is only a claim – who will dare to do that to a king? (The exchange between them is funny indeed. Hei Gai nearly beats his chest when Tan De doesn’t listen to him.)

Seeing that Tan De wants to lead the army personally, Yu Chong asks if he doesn’t trust his men. Tan De replies that he only doesn’t trust himself as he is afraid of making the wrong judgment because of his impulsivity. Yu Chong has been on the battlefield since 15 years old and is always the first person to charge out. But he confesses that he is afraid each time. But his thought changes after knowing Tan De. He believes the other soldiers will have no regrets like him. Tan De is relieved by his words.

Hu Kai learns about the situation in the city. He pretends to let Zhu Wu Chi take the women away but later sends his men to want to finish them off. The Qi Dan people are furious with Hu Kai. Tan De and his men are appalled by Hu Kai’s merciless killings. Despite objections from his officials, Tan De insists of giving the dead parties a proper cremation. The Qi Dan people learn about it. Tan De’s men are attacked so Tan De decides to attack Qi Dan personally.

Tan De wants Yuan Jia Li to manage all inner affairs when he is at battle. He is indifferent when Yuan Jia Li insists that he still supports his own son to be the Su Shen king. Seeing that Tan De has come up with new posts and Qi He hinting that she is having Hu Kai’s child, he tips Hu Kai off again.

Chu Lao finds a moody Xiu Zhi Ni in the midst of dying due to agony. He gets worried when all physicians claim that it is hard to cure her as she has given up on herself. He takes good care of her by laying her on the ground near a tree and she recovers. She recalls the past as Sai Ao. She doesn’t want history to repeat itself and hides among Hu Kai’s army. Yuan Jia Li steals the two totems for Qi He. He feels remorseful for betraying Tan De’s trust and kills himself.

The Qi Dan clans are agreeable to work with Tan De only if he gets Hu Kai’s head. Hu Kai’s army spirit is shaken upon knowing that they are being treated as rebels. Tan De consoles Ba Xun who loses her brother. Ba Xun regrets not telling Tan De earlier to find the white tiger totem or it will not land in Hu Kai’s hands now. Tan De reassures her that he doesn’t blame her and knows that she is upset over her brother’s loss.

Many of Hu Kai’s soldiers return to Tan De’s camp as they miss their homeland. Tan De knows that Hu Kai will fight back upon knowing Yuan Jia Li’s death so he starts to plan his strategy. Tan De feels sad that Gaogouli loses a good minister. Qi He reaches Hu Kai’s camp with the totems but he chases her away as he is upset over his father’s death. (This is the first time he treats the woman he loves harshly as Qi He has overestimated that she can control him.)

Chu Lao follows Xiu Zhi Ni into Hu Kai’s camp. He wants her to return to Tan De as his woman but she thinks this can only happen in the next life. She wants him to lie to Tan De that he can’t find her to take care of Tan De. Shi Liang brings Qi He away and she is in difficult labor. The senior also arrives to want the child’s heart.

Tan De suddenly faints when Qi He is in labor. All do not know the reason as he becomes very ill. Upon knowing that the rebel troops are arriving, Tan De insists of going to the battlefield despite feeling unwell. But Hu Kai chooses to abandon his camp. The senior commands Shi Liang to bring the heart to him once he is born.

Shi Liang passes the baby to Xiu Zhi Ni and reveals the truth to her. She is shocked but brings her away. Qi He wakes up to find her son missing and kills Shi Liang by mistake. He has taken a false heart to the senior. He tells her the truth before dying. The senior attempts to open the heaven’s seal with the heart without success to know that he is tricked. He vows to find the real heart.

Tan De arrives at Hu Kai’s camp and Chu Lao informs him that Hu Kai is surrounded by the Qi Dan soldiers. Tan De only brings a few soldiers with him to save him. The Qi Dan soldiers refuse to release Hu Kai. Tan De is forced to kill a few Qi Dan soldiers to save him but Hu Kai doesn’t appreciate his help.

Both men fight and Tan De wins. Tan De wants him to call him the king but Hu Kai refuses as he has killed his parents and won his woman. Tan De only strips him of his power and banishes him to Bian Jiang. He must never return to Gaogouli. When he turns around, Hu Kai attacks him. Zhu Wu Chi shields him and he dies.

Suddenly the white tiger totem on Hu Kai awakens and saves Zhu Wu Chi’s life. Hu Kai escapes. Xuan Gu understands that the totem represents pure bravery and since it saves Zhu Wu Chi, it has chosen him to be its master. Ba Xun feels gross when seeing the white tiger totem with Zhu Wu Chi as he seems to be a glutton and not behaving like a warrior. Tan De asks Chu Lao about Xiu Zhi Ni’s whereabouts and is disappointed to know that she isn’t returning to him.

The senior has told Qi He that everything starts from Afolan temple. That is the place to kill Tan De or control the world. Once all the items are there, the heaven’s seal will be removed. So she decides to go there with Hu Kai. Tan De deliberately shows his troops’ size on the way home. He manages to unite all the troops from the tribes. The power all falls under him now.

The two reach the temple and the senior welcomes Jia Zhen’s arrival. He passes the two totems to Qi He and she learns that Xiu Zhi Ni has taken her son away. She has to bring the other totems and Tan De’s heart in order to save her son.

Tan De is managing the court affairs when he gets a letter from the Yan province to request to save their crown prince. The letter has Xiu Zhi Ni’s style of writing. Upon reading it, Tan De can’t even wait to pass the authority to Yu Chong to rule the country. He disguises as a commoner to set off with Xuan Gu, Chu Lao and Zhu Wu Chi.

Zhu Wu Chi is delighted to know that Da Fei accepts him. Xiu Zhi Ni becomes the crown prince’s official, Gao Yun’s tutor. Gao Yun is disappointed that Gaogouli doesn’t send help here. He doesn’t know that Tan De is the king. Tan De is disappointed to know that Xiu Zhi Ni has left. Gao Yun questions about their ability. Tan De agrees to save the prince but he doesn’t know him so Gao Yun must let him know.

Xiu Zhi Ni returns to see the four secretly. Chu Lao senses her presence. Xuan Gu also learns about it. Tan De saves the prince and Gao Yuan gives him an ancient scroll. It is the second half of the ‘tian gong’ scroll that the black water village has kept. Both combine to be one. It shows how to use the royal sword’s bow.

By destroying the bow, the king and the totems’ owners will also be dead. The black water village members decide to keep it a secret from the others and want Tan De to destroy the whole book. Tan De finds this strange – why does heaven bestow such power but Huan Xiong chooses to seal it and keeps the heavenly bow to destroy everything?

8 years pass and Tan De controls all the states now. Chu Lao is by his side and surprisingly, he doesn’t age as like the others. Although he offers Tan De wine whenever he is down, he still refuses to take a sip. (He must be very frightened of the odor although he is courageous in other areas.) Da Fei is now pregnant with Zhu Wu Chi’s child and she is going to give birth next month.

Tan De doesn’t execute the ruthless Qi Dan king but lets him off, wanting him to rule the state for him. Hei Gai and the rest do not know why he does this. Tan De is sick of wars and hates the pressure on himself as the Su Shen king.

He loses so many things – his parents and his love. He doesn’t hope to use any strength from heaven to build his own country. But Xuan Gu believes that he can’t have achievement without it.

Hu Kai gets hold of the Yan state and Qi He demands the two totems from the fire senior. Gao Yun meets Xiu Zhi Ni on the way and reports to Tan De. Tan De knows the senior wants to lure him to Afolan temple for his heart. Tan De hurries to the harbor to see her there with her nephew, Ah Zhi.

She wants him to pretend not to see him to let her leave. Tan De wants to follow her. Any place with her is his palace. (Are you touched by his words?) He hugs her close to his chest and both weep together. Even though she is the fire phoenix, he vows to keep her by his side. (This scene is sure romantic indeed.)

Tan De finds Ah Zhi intelligent and is astonished to know that Xiu Zhi Ni kicks her drinking habit because of him. Xiu Zhi Ni doesn’t tell him Ah Zhi’s identity but confesses that he is his sister’s son. Tan De passes her the bow and arrows that he has kept all along for her. All are excited when he returns with her. Zhu Wu Chi laughs to comment that he has never seen this feminine woman before.

She rejoins the army and her soldiers also joke that they miss her although they are married with children now. The usually cold Chu Lao also has a faint smile near his lips. Who isn’t amused to see Chu Lao guarding her door continuously to prevent her from running away again?!

The fire senior wipes out the whole black water village to seize the two totems to have the complete set. Xuan Gu tries to dissuade Tan De from going to Afolan temple. The senior controls a general to seize Ah Zhi away. Tan De is confused when reading the letter left for him to say that they have taken away his son. Xiu Zhi Ni then confirms Ah Zhi’s identity. (Good grief – she commits the same mistake as Ba Xun – how stupid the women are in here!)

Tan De feels remorseful and shocked. So she has been protecting his son all along alone. What should he do or say to her now. All search the whole city and can’t find Ah Zhi. Tan De decides to bring his 40,000 men to have a battle against Hu Kai’s 100,000 men troops. Qi De wants Hu Kai to get Tan De’s heart faster than the senior to clear the heaven’s seal. Hu Kai is upset to know that she intends to die with Tan De. (I can never understand this woman – why does she want to die with Tan De TWICE?)

What can he do to make her continue living? She wants him to wait for her in the other world in the next life. Tan De’s soldiers get the upper hand. Qi He is stunned to find her son with the senior. Xiu Zhi Ni is injured while trying to prevent this. Gao Gei and Yu Chong die in the battlefield so Tan De kills Hu Kai to get his revenge.

The senior can’t kill Ah Zhi by himself so he possesses Qi He, wanting to do it. (This is another part which I don’t understand – there is no explanation why he can’t touch the sacred stone where the 4 totems are placed.) Qi He struggles hard to prevent this from happening but Ah Zhi’s finger still suffers a cut. Qi He can’t withstand the shock to become the black phoenix.

Tan De sees that the totems are stained with Ah Zhi’s blood to become alive. He kills the senior and seeing the the seal is going to be opened; he gets his scared bow ready. But he still can’t bear to kill Qi He. He finally knows what he should do. Heaven asks him if he can survive on his own or depend on it. The person who can answer is Su Shen king. This is also his task. His answer is he trusts men.

Despite Xiu Zhi He urging him to kill Qi He since there is time, he breaks the bow. Xuan Gu, Zhu Wu Chi and Chu Lao clutch their chests. Tan De walks into the white light to perish with Qi He. (This is stupidity. How can Tan De make such an imprudent decision? How can he makes his 3 innocent generals die with him?! Moreover, Zhu Wu Chi doesn’t get to see his unborn child and this is so unfair to him. What an unwise ending!)

The Sushen king quotes (it's up to viewers to decide if the lines are touching or overly mushy)

1. I am here not to kill but to save people

2. People must learn how to turn the impossible to something possible

3. I am not her friend. She is my lover. She is someone whom I will never forget even in death.

4. It is up to you. Since you are unwilling to come to me, I shall move over. I only wish to have you by my side.

5. Anywhere with your presence will be my palace from now on.

6. I will block all dangers away from you. So you don't have to leave now.

Introduction on characters

Cast

1. Bae Yong Jun as Huan Xiong/Tan De/Zhu Mong

Huan Xiong is gentle and also has the deity air. Many said that he looks like LOTR’s Ganduff. Others feel that he is more like Yeung Guo from ‘Return of the condor heroes.’ Tan De is wise, impartial and capable to be the leader. When he is forced to make a painful decision, he doesn’t hesitate to kill his own wife but he does it in tears.

As Tan De, he is jovial, approachable but also intelligent. He can master martial arts within a short period of time. Since taking over the temporary emperor position, he becomes a formidable king that all look up to him. Going through thick and thin with them wins their respect.

Yong Jun seldom disappoints me in his drama works. There is no exception for this one. He looks every inch the king – having the nobility and airs.

2. Lee Ji Ah as Sai Ao/Xiu Zhi Ni – the black phoenix
Sai Ao is demure and is loyal to her sect. She vows to protect her clan till her death. She learns how to control fire with Huan Xiong’s help. She falls for him during the process and both get married. His forced killing of her is unavoidable and she dies after touching his face fondly for the last time.

As Xiu Zhi Ni, She is adopted by her master. All in the clan suspect that she is the rebirth of the fire phoenix so they are wary of her. However, Xuan Gu finds it questionable as she has a black and not a red spot on her forehead. She is witty, funny and cheerful. She is a good archer (like Legolas in LOTR), a professional gambler and a talented thief. She becomes a warrior in the palace.

She loves Tan De to help him every now and then. To the extent of nearly getting killed. Seeing how close both are will make all believe that both will be a happy couple.

Both often drink wine together. He gives her his late mother’s token and even asks her to put on his armor on him. Although there isn’t any formal indication, I choose to believe that Tan De loves her after his disappointment with Qi He.

Ji Ah does well as a newcomer. She fits her tomboyish role convincingly and is also feminine when she appears towards the end. I find her having a lot of chemistry with Yong Jun although both work together for the first time.

3. Moon So Ri as Jia Zhen/Xiu Ji He - the phoenix

Jia Zhen doesn’t blame Huan Xiong for destroying her powers. She loves him and forsakes her tiger clan to be with him in the bear clan. However, he doesn’t reciprocate her love.

As Qi He,the Fire Clan kills her parents. Ji He loses her memory and forgets that she has a younger sister, Zhi Ni. She enters the palace when she is 15 years old and sets her goal to work for the clan since she is the priestess. She becomes a bait to hook the future king, Tan De. She is disillusioned in him when he doesn’t trust her. Love turns to hatred and she starts to go against him.

It is strange that her face looks a bit fat when she let her hair down but she is slim-looking with her hair tied up. She is an experienced actress but this is the first time I see her act. I am very impressed by her acting.

4. Oh Kwang Rok as Xuan Gu – the water guardian
He is one of the four gods – the lead among the four - the water god’s rebirth. Unlike his other clansmen, he doesn’t bear to kill the baby Xiu Zhi Ni. He accepts Xiu Zhi Ni as his disciple as he has the water power to sudue her fire. His late master reminds him to show no mercy to Xiu Zhi Ni if she becomes the fire phoenix. Xiu Zhi Ni enjoys making fun of him.

He tries his best to help her and Tan De. He has the Xuan Wu pole so he becomes the Black Village’s head. Since he has the task to rebuild Su Shen province, he promises to do his best. It is a laughing sight to see him scratching his head to wonder how to use his role to help Tan De. He gives in to Xiu Zhi Ni easily. He isn’t treating her as his disciple but as his daughter.

5. Choi Min Soo as the elder – Da Zhang Lao
He is the evil ruler of the fire clan. He absorbs her powers to become younger. He wants to get hold of the 4 sacred totems to rule the world. By brainwashing away Qi He’s memory, he regains his youth as he is formally an old man. He plants a scar on her so that she can never betray him. That scar can’t be removed till death. He takes pains to try to know who the Su Zhen ruler is. He is scheming to plant Ji He as his spy. He ruins everyone’s life with his disastrous decisions and acts.

Oh – how this man acts! Definitely a powerhouse. He is so hideous looking with his evil-looking eyes. With his long and dark fingers, he looks no different from a vampire.

6. Yoon Tae Young as Yuan Hu Kai
He is an aristocrat. He is also a skilled warrior since young and is close to his cousin, Tan De. He teaches him martial arts and being upright, he doesn’t like his mother to go against the imperial family. He even dissuades Tan De from doing research on poisons. But he changes after his mother’s death to hold Tan De responsible and vows to seek revenge. His unrequited love for Qi He inspires him to be Tan De’s enemy.

Tae Young also puts in his best as Tan De’s rival in love and war. He improved heaps and bounds from ‘A joyful girl’s successes.

7. Park Sang Won as Yuan Jia Li
He has set eyes on the throne for his son all along. He poisons the previous ruler to death. He has more soldiers than the king. He is ruthless – even his wife’s death doesn’t affect him. He wants his son to be the ruler so he is with cahoots with Da Zhang Lao. He often lands Tan De in danger but also lands himself into trouble when he realizes that the senior is only making use of him. He is touched when Tan De forgives him but he still chooses to support his son to be the next Su Shen king.

8. Park Sang Woong as Zhu Wu Chi - the white tiger
He is the leader for the Shi Yu clan who only works for money. He gets money from the fire sect to save the black water villagers out. Later, Tan De seeks his help to join his army. He demands to get paid but he promises him 10 cities. Still, he finds himself working for him as he admires his guts. He looks serious but is actually a child at heart. He is easily satisfied whenever food and money are provided.

With his big axe, he can become a terror. Yet, he can be so shy and childish when coming to like De Fei. He doesn’t know how to express himself and the others have to show him the way. He is the white tiger – the rebirth of the wind guardian. He has no weapon but he can use his fists to fend for himself. He loves Da Fei but doesn’t dare to let her know. Still, she knows him and reciprocates his love. He isn’t willing to acknowledge Tan De as the ruler initially but is later won over by his wisdom overtime.

9. Lee Philip as Chu Lao – the green dragon
He is the young Guan Mi city governor. He is young and talented. But being a careful person, he takes time to examine his future master before deciding if he should support him. When his handsome looks are restored, no one can recognize him but he is still as brave as ever.

He is a loner but after joining the army, he mingles with the rest. Although he still preserves his quiet personality, all knows his likes and dislikes immediately. They know that he will forever be sitting under a tree when they look for him. As unfeeling as he seems to be, he preserves his warmth for Xiu Zhi Ni. Although he says nothing, he will never hesitate to protect her.

One example will be tailing her when she is drunk. Another occasion will be guarding her against Qi He in the spiritual shrine to get burned of his internal organs. Although he just recovers from the attack, he volunteers to look for Xiu Zhi Ni when he learns that she is missing. He looks distant but can also be endearing. Seeing how he follows Xiu Zhi Ni’s instruction to prevent Tan De from feeling bored really sends me laugh – to the extent of passing him wine even though he detests it!

Not many guys look appropriate or manly with their long tresses but Philip makes all accept him at first glance. His elegant looks and strong build makes him suitable as the governor. As a newcomer, he is also outstanding. Any scene with his presence keeps us highly entertaining. I must commend the producer for making him a wonderful choice. He leaves a lasting impression although his scenes are limited.

10. Jang Hang Sun as Hei Gai (Jue Nu clan chief)
He is a warrior so he doesn’t want Tan De to be soft. How can a man be a king without landing his men in wars? He doesn’t mind sacrificing for his country and wants his men to do the same. He loses his older son in war but doesn’t blame Tan De. The poor man often gets into a rage when Tan De doesn’t listen to him.

You will laugh at a scene – he claims to Tan De that he will marry a daughter to him to be his queen. Tan De remembers very clearly that his only and youngest daughter is already married! He then promises to find a daughter within a day – who is Xiu Zhi Ni. Actually he adores this child and feels that she is a suitable queen. Afraid that her status is too low to match with Tan De, he offers to make her his goddaughter. The harsh truth of her of being a possible black phoenix makes him abort his plan.

11. Kim Suk as Da Jiu (Hei Gai's son)
He is a young and courageous warrior like his father. His is upset when his elder brother dies while protecting Tan De. He obeys his father and is also a loyal follower of Tan De. Sending him to check out the enemy is the best task for him as he will get it accomplished smoothly. Like Hei Gai, he is actually delighted whenever Tan De gives him assignments.

12. Park Seong Min as Shi Liang
He is Ji He’s master in the fire clan to teach her martial arts. He is disfigured and wears a mask that covers half of his face. He will use his hair to cover it. He is like her shadow and he also holds a guardian post to be submissive to the senior. He is not exactly evil as he has a soft spot for Qi He to take good care of her continually. He doesn’t deserve to be killed by her in the end as he protects her baby.

13. Shin Eun Jung as Da Fei
She is an ex-servant of the Yuan family. She leaves them and becomes the royal army’s logistic officer. All soldiers complain that the food is terrible when she is captured by Hu Kai as her cooking is good. She is direct to tell Zhu Wu Chi that she likes him and both become a married couple.

14. Kim Mi Kyung as Ba Xun
She is a talented goldsmith to distinguish bad metal from bad ones. She behaves like a man but she suppresses her urge to meet her elder brother, keeping it from the rest.

15. Lee Da Hee as Gao Yu Chong
He is also Tan De’s loyal right hand man to serve two emperors. He gives him advice and courage.

16. Yoo Seung Ho as young Tan De
This boy is charming as the bright mature successor. He is brought up by a cautious father to hide his abilities from the rest. This is to save his own life. But he is like Ji He to sneak into the imperial library at night to check on the books to learn martial arts. Seeing him so eager, she shows him some pointers.

He trusts her and gets her to treat his father. After knowing that his aunt plans to kill his father, he has no choice but to trap her.

17. Oh Seung Yoon as Zhao Zhou Dao
He is a loyal and upright person. It is a pity that he has chosen the wrong masters. He stands by Hu Kai even though he is defeated by Tan De repeatedly.

18. Shim Eun Kyung as young Suzini
She is very cheerful, playful and talkative. Her master always loses out to her in arguments. All will not know that she is the fire phoenix judging from her appearance.

19. Kim Ho Young as young Hu Kai
He is a very gentle and kind person despite his background. Unlike Tan De who looks weak, he is sunny and athletic. He is often encouraged by his ambitious mother to show off. He saves Ji He when she nearly gets knocked down by a horse. He tries all ways to know her, not knowing that the fire sect actually plants her as the spy to check on him to make sure that he is the real Su Shen king.

Knowing that Tan De is in a very awkward situation when facing his mother, he tries very hard to save him from embarrassment. Although they are cousins in name, they are as close as brothers.

20. Yu Zhi Zhi
He is Tan De’s father who tries planning the best for his son. He rules the country temporary to secure his position. He doesn’t want conflicts openly with his sister but Tan De kindles the war.

Most favourite character
I have wanted to choose Tan De initially. But because of his foolish decision, I switch camps to root for Chu Lao instead. Tan De turns in second while Shi Liang is third.

Most hated character
The fire clan senior. He deprives pleasure of erasing memories from others. Qi He and Tan De could have lived happily ever after if not for him. A close second will be Hu Kai’s mother who brags about his significant parentage which turns out to be a hoax. This totally costs his life to be shortened.

Song
It is ‘Love of a thousand years’by Donghoshinki. It is well sung and it became an instant hit. The song was written by the famous Japanese writer, Jiu Shi Rang. The subtheme ‘beautiful you’ is a slow, sentimental song which is equally enchanting too. It is amazing as they are young and many of them have not been through the love process deeply but they sing it well.

Interesting facts

Who is Philip Lee? He is 186cm tall, weighs 72kg and born in 1981. He is a completely unknown to all till his drama was out. Seeing how he removes the mask in the drama to face the world is like how he walks out from the fortress to tell all that this is his start. His presence made this drama majestic although Chu Lao is unrealistic to suit 3D games. It is not easy to act in this role as it is perfect.

Initially, there were no lines for this role but the producer started to add more and more. Philip felt the pressure initially but took pains to re-design Chu Lao’s image. Philip was born and grew up in the U.S. He returned to Korea in 2005 without knowing how to speak Korean well. Many looked down on him for that but still worried for him. He spent 2.5 years learning how to act and speak the language.

All thought he was mad – why did he want to return to his country which was unfamiliar to him? He wanted to act. Philip’s father is a successful businessman. Philip also has a business administration masters’ from George Washington University. That became his dream when a relative asked him if he wanted to act in Korea. He set his mind – business management could be done anytime but acting could not.

This change was a major one – just like he suddenly had nothing now after building a house to find all the bricks missing. How was he going to rebuild it? His only weapon was the trust in himself. When he thinks about it now, he finds the past him very rash. He had never attended acting classes before and came abruptly to Korea. Now he gets more than he loses.

The starting was about 22%. It was better than ‘Money War’ starting at 17% or ‘Coffee shop Prince’ at 15%. Some were not used to see Yong Jun in period costume although they agreed that he had improved in his acting. Many were impressed that the special effects were added with a ‘kung fu’ ambience but other claimed that the standard was lower than computer games.

It was wrongly said that Yong Jun was a fantastic drinker who drank wine like water. Actually they were referring to another actor. Yong Jun only loved producing grape wine although he didn’t love drinking. All were happy for Park Sang Woong and Shin Eun Jung who got married because of this drama. He had love for her through the kissing scenes in this drama.

It reached highest at 37% viewership. The ending was 36%. Kim Ha Neul, Kim Tae Hee and Ha Ji Won were among the selection for the role of Sujini but the role eventually went to newcomer Lee Ji Ah. No one knew much about her except that she was back from the U.S. and was into modeling. It rumored that she was Yong Jun’s girlfriend but both denied.

All injured themselves as they fell from horseback. Park Sang Woong needed to rest for a longer period as he injured his backbone. Yong Jun’s injuries were sustained on his leg, neck, shoulder and finger. But he insisted to stay on to complete filming till the last day.

Whenever he was not involved in acting, he could be seen walking on crutches. He only had his leg operation after that. He needed a long time to nurse back to health so he only went to Japan to promote this drama in 2008.

The director, Kim Jong Hak apologized for delaying the showing the drama 4 times as he kept changing the script. It was also caused by the cast’s injury and budget increase. Yong Jun could not even fling the weapon in the air after hurting his arm. His doctor had warned him that he needed immediate treatment but he delayed it due to his persistence. Now his operation was finally a success as he recovered completely.

Which female character did the director like? He liked Xiu Zhi Ni better. She was like a man to do anything she pleases. Even though she was hurt by love and went through a lot of hardship, she didn’t conceal her thoughts and feelings. Qi He was too bothered by others’ impression of her so she was too careful with whatever she was doing.

The teenager cast was praised for doing well. All received more acting offers after this. Christian Koreans complained that this drama was too close to the story in the bible. Still, they loved the special effects which were close to any hollywood movie.

In MBC 2007 awards, Yong Jun won best actor, defeating his strong contender, Choi Min Soo and Daesang (Grand Prize) awards. He went on stage with crutches repeatedly and many teased him that he should stay on the stage since this drama garnered 8 awards. Yong Jun joked that he hoped to get married soon – sending shock waves continuously that night.

The female newcomer award went to Lee Ji Ah. The two also garnered the male popularity and female popularity chosen by the netizens. Both also obtained the best couple award. It was also selected as the TV drama of the year. It also helped the director to get the best director’s award. Choi Min Soo also seized the best acting award for the ancient drama category. I strongly feel that So Ri also deserved an award since she also played her parts close to perfection.

The production cost was estimated to be around 45 billion won – the most expensive Korean drama done so far. The drama started filming in March of 2006. The filming ended on December 3rd, 2007. This drama production lasted 1 year and 9 months. Yong Jun could have stayed in a 5 star hotel.

Unlike other stars that put on airs, Yong Jun chose to stay with the cast throughout in the holiday resort. He also ate with them, citing that it was easier to work with them this way as he disliked being alone.

Many grumbled about the ending. Many even went to MBC website, demanding a reshoot on the ending which they hardly understood. Why was the ending so different from the one as claimed by the scriptwriter, Song Ji Na? Song explained that she came up with a few endings. The one shown was one she prepared. She was apologetic that she could not please everyone. It seems that she was incompetent.

The version on her website was that Tan De’s battle with Hu Kai was long. The 4 messengers did not die. Tan De also has a blissful and quiet life with Xiu Zhi Ni. But the television version has Tan De returning the power to the sky besides destroying the 4 totems. It doesn’t explain what happens to Tan De and Xiu Zhi Ni too. To make a legend into a period drama but doesn’t give a clear ending like Jumong caused the viewership to be unable to reach 40%.

Bae Yong Jun’s price for the drama is S$15,000 per episode to be number 1 expensive in 2007. Park Shin Yang was no. 2 at $74000 for ‘Money War’ while Kim Jung Eun is $37,000 for ‘Lovers’. Many joked that Bae Yong Jun was far too expensive than Song Ik Kok who charged $27000. ‘Ju Mong’ had 47.3% viewership while ‘The Legend’ had an average of 29%. His charge was about 4 times as more so they said IK Kok was cheap but yet delivered the goods well.

Conclusion

You either love it or hate it. Those who are unsuitable to watch period dramas might not even start watching. But Mou Hap fanatics like me will love it. I can’t swallow old historical dramas like ‘Jewel to the palace’ as I am completely uninterested to know Korean history but I welcome fantasy dramas like this one. This drama retells the saga of Gaogouli King with big battle scenes and LOTR special effects.

Trouble begins when two cousins born on the same enchanted Su Shen starlit night to the same royal family. This reminds me of a real life political contest of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. It is a surprise that the two orphaned and long-lost sisters are reincarnations of the phoenix.

Although it is a very serious drama, the different generals create lots of comical moments with their joking comments. The addition of Chu Lao is a bonus who behaves so differently from the others. I simply do not get enough of him. A smart pick of him to be part of the cast!

The story is complex and confusing initially but I appreciate the narrative details. It shows how the seeds of the love triangles are sown. It later moves swiftly and low-key moments grow into an elaborate romantic subplot. But this drama gives the most unsatisfied ending with no explanation. So I decided to give cut half a star from it.

Sukting’s ratings :

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

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

On songs : ****1/2 (Scale of 5)

Overall : **** (Scale of 5)


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