The Moon That Embraces the Sun

Reviewed by: sukting

July 13, 2014

Rating: four

How long
20 episodes

The drama is adapted from the novel of the same name written by Jung Eun-gwol It tells a love story between a King and a female shaman. This is against the rules of the palace. Conflicts and conspiracy of vying political powers goes on too. Can they be together in the end?

Story/Introduction on characters
1. Yeo Jin-goo (15 years old)/Kim Soo-hyun as Crown Prince / King Li Xuan
Destined to be the first Sun, he experiences love for the first time when he meets Yan Yu as he tries to sneak out of the palace. Both are looking forward to their wedding. Unfortunately, she suddenly falls ill and dies after he visits her for the last time after she is thrown out of the palace and he sneaks to her home.

Eight years later, he becomes a solemn King. Her death grieves him to this very day as he goes to the moon palace in silence daily. He gives Bao Jing the cold shoulder and also doesn't give in to the queen dowager. He is often seen either with Cai Yun or Gong Shan.

Xuan likes mingling with the commoners to know their sufferings despite limited chances. Thus, he questions Da Feng in court about the petitions. One day, he encounters a shaman who resembles Yan Yu. She is a shaman sent to heal him by the royal physician. He demands to know how she can touch him in the dark without the candle light but melts upon seeing her face. Naming her Yue, he starts to have doubts on her death and decides to investigate. He gets confused and disallows her to leave the palace.

The truth startles him but he has no choice but to punish his closest kin. Unlike his father who gives leeway to his loved ones, Xuan shows decisiveness and is able carry out the punishment. He marries Yan Yu in the end and both have a son. Brilliant performance from both actors. Jin-goo shows the naughty and reckless side of Xuan while Soo-hyun shows the mature and intelligent side of him. Soo-hyun is marvelous in many scenes. Both of them leave a deep impression.

2. Kim Yoo-jung(13 years old)/ Han Ga-in as Xu Yan Yu/shaman Yue
Destined to be the first Moon, she is born in the interim of Ari's execution. She is the daughter of a noble family who is gaining power in the royal court. She is smart, bright and well-loved. Unlike other maidens, her parents allow her to read the classics and she is well versed in all.

Chosen as the Crown Princess, she mysteriously fell ill and passes away before the royal wedding ceremony. Just when she is believed to be dead, she was saved by Lu Ying, the head shaman upon the request from her late friend A Li. However, Yan Yu loses all her memories.

Eight years later, she returns to the palace as a shaman, who is named Yue by Xuan. Yue is nearly killed as she is accused for seducing Xuan and Xuan saves her life. Still, the court puts her on exile and she leaves, not minding to tend to the sick and the poor. Xuan must decide if he loves Yan Yu or the female shaman Yue. She intends to forgive Bao Jing but Xuan is firm not to let her go through the suffering in vain.

Yoo-jung is outstanding and looks exceptionally sweet but not Ga-in. Ga-in's acting is stagnant since 'Terms of Endearment'. She looks listless most of the time and is only acting demure. Her emotional scenes are just so-so. I still don't understand how she can win an acting award.

3. Lee Min-ho/ Jung Il-woo as / Prince Yang Ming
'Overshadowed by the Sun': The second Sun, he is the elder half brother of Xuan. He always seems to be unfairly treated by his father, King Su Zhong. His father reveals that while Yang Ming is still his beloved son, he is treated harshly to protect Xuan. Seemingly a carefree man while he is fiercely loyal to those he loves, he has to struggle between his long, unrequited love for Yan Yu and his brotherhood with Xuan.

A part of him dies with Yan Yu once she is buried. He regrets not taking her away and stays away from the palace. However, he returns upon knowing how evil the queen dowager is. When he learns that Yan Yu is alive, he comes to help her to heal the sick.

During the rebellion, he kills himself after killing Da Feng so that he will no longer be a threat to Xuan. Xuan is in tears as he has lost a great elder brother – he has never wanted him to die although they are supposed to trick Da Feng. Both actors are good – they show the melodramatic side of Yang Ming well.

4. Kim So-hyun/Kim Min-seo as Yin Bao Jing The second moon who enters the palace as a playmate for Princess Min Hua. She is used as a tool by the Dowager Queen to achieve more power by trying to make her the Crown Princess, which is successful after Yan Yu's supposed death. She only knows the basics of the literacy texts and is jealous of Yan Yu's wisdom.

Bao Jing is very haughty of her status. Later, she became Xuan's queen. Although she loves him all her life, he loves Yan Yu deep inside. He has told her that she only manages to win his body but not his soul. You will laugh when she tries in vain to seduce him when both are alone. The poor woman is desperate as her mother and in-laws keep asking her to bear an offspring.

Bao Jing feels scared upon seeing Yue's face. She starts to suspect that she is Yan Yu's ghost. She is later jealous to know that Yue keeps getting close to Xuan. Thus, she wants her dead. However, when the truth is known, she knows that Da Feng will never get away and thus hangs herself to death from a tree.

So-hyun is natural in showing her evil nature – so good that Min-seo's performance weakens. It is not crutching the fist or biting the lips alone is being enough to portray the wicked nature.

5. Sunwoo Jae-duk as Xu Ying Zai
He is Yan and Yan Yu's father. He is trusted by King Su Zhong for his loyalty and viewed by Da Feng as an opponent. He doesn't wish to send Yan Yu to the palace but has no choice since Da Feng sends Bao Jing there. He is bitter when Yan Yu is sent home as she is critically ill. Lu Ying passes him the antidote and he thinks that he has killed his daughter after getting her to drink it. He kills himself after that.

6. Yang Mi-kyung as Shen Mei Jing/Madam Xu
She is Yan Yu's mother. She is a very warm person but because of her daughter and husband's death, she is at the edge of losing her vitality. She sees Yue on the street and recognizes her as her own daughter. Princess Min Hua is the one that helps her recover her smile as she becomes her daughter-in-law but she never expects her to be the culprit of her sorrow.

7. Yim Si-wan/Song Jae-hee as Xu Yan He is Yan Yu's older brother and he is the top scholar of the imperial exam. Xuan is indignant that he has a 17 year old tutor but is later won over by his wits. Females swoon when he passes by because of his good looks. He has a close friendship with Xuan whom he mentors. He knows martial arts too but hardly shows his ability.

Later when Xuan become the king, he becomes his loyal subject. Due to tradition, he is only offered a lowly post if he becomes the princess's husband. Xuan opposes to King Su Zhong's decision as he will lose a good subordinate to deal with Da Feng but King Su Zhong insists on that.

After Yan Yu's death, he becomes the husband of Princess Min Hua. He knows that Madam Xu misses Yan Yu and he tries his best to console her. He can't go to the palace as often as he likes in the past but Xuan still encourages him to visit him. After Yan discovers that Min Hua is involved in Yan Yu's death, he finds it hard to forgive her. It takes some time for him to accept her again.

Si-wan is so handsome! It is no wonder he sends heads spinning with his fair looks. The awareness he shows as he deals with the unreasonable Xuan is outstanding. But when Jae-hee takes over, I can't help hiding my disappointment. He is not just plain-looking but also delivers a very plain performance. It is hard for me to accept how two women can fall for him.

8. Seo Ji-hee /Yoon Seung-ah as Xue
She is the maid serving of Xu's family. She was named Xue by Yan and harbors an unrequited love for him. she refuses to leave the family when Yan Yu is selected into the palace as she can stay to take care of Mrs Xu. She witnesses what happens to Yan Yu and follows Lu Ying.
She is a swordswoman who protects Yan Yu during her time as a shaman.

She keeps sneaking back to take peeps at Yan and Cai Yun nearly thinks that she is an assassin to attack her. She dies protecting Yan from being harmed from Da Feng's man. Yan feels sorry for her. The two actresses are good – my colleagues commented that she should sneak back more often to look at the young Yan, not the grown-up Yan as he is already married and no longer that handsome looking.

9. Kim Young-ae as Queen Dowager Yin
She is the mother of King Su Zhong and Grandmother of Xuan. She has political relationship with Da Feng. She wants the legacy of her bloodline to continue. The tradition has her having the full power to choose the crown princess. So the death of the crown princess is manipulated by her. Yan Yu is killed as Min Hua is the catalyst. She has betted that Xuan will not punish anyone from the royal family. How wrong she is! She is selfish and claims all the evils she has committed is to secure the throne of Xuan.

Xuan is tired of listening to her repeated demands to consummate with Bao Jing that he prefers to go to the inner palace to avoid her. Lu Ying knows that the queen dowager will not let Yan Yu go so she tries to hide her. After he knows what she has done, he banishes her to the cold palace. Da Feng is aware that this old woman is of no use to him now so he poisons her to death.

10. Ahn Nae-sang as King Su Zhong
He is the father of Xuan. He is the king is with both intellect and military ability. The involvement of his beloved brother Prince Yu Song, in conspiracy which brought the latter death, is a faded memory that can make him shed tears. He knows that his mother is responsible for that and is thus insistent to break the rules to choose a suitable wife for Xuan.

He tests the two girls and admires Yan Yu's ability to choose her. At the same time, he loves his son Yang Ming deeply, but never shows it. He is afraid that history will repeat itself. He is startled to know that Min Hua kills Yan Yu indirectly. He allows her to marry Yan but warns her not to tell Xuan the truth. Xuan is bitter that his father knows this all along but chooses to keep silent to protect Min Hua.

11. Kim Sun-kyung as Queen Su Ai
She is mother of Xuan, not of noble birth. That is why she speaks softly in front of the queen dowager. She is also eager to be a grandmother and wishes Bao Jing to work hard.

12. Kim Ye-ryung as Lady Piao
She is the mother of Yang Ming and is the concubine of great King Song Zhong. Similar to Great Queen Han, she has no political ambition and has a quiet and gentle nature. After the death of King Song Zhong, she retires to live a quiet life in a nunnery. She is made concubine by the King Song Zhong because he pities her. She tells Yang Ming to give up but he doesn't want to give up his love. Her world shatters when he dies.

13. Jin Ji-hee/Nam Bo-ra as Princess Min Hua
She is Xuan's younger sister. As a child, she falls in love with Yan at first sight and always wanted to marry him. King Su Zhong tells him that she can't since Yan Yu is going to be the Crown Princess. She throws tantrums and believes the queen dowager to help her in her plot. After seeing how Lu Ying performs black magic, she becomes frightened and feels guilty after Yan Yu's death.

Still, she is too happy after getting engaged to Yan to forget this completely. She is pregnant when the truth is uncovered. Xuan nearly bursts when she tells him that she has no regrets and will do it again if given the choice as her love for Yan is too great. Xuan stripes her of her princess title and demoted her to a slave. She is only allowed to reunite with Yan and her son five years later.

Ji-hee is wonderful but not Bo-ra. Ji-hee displays Min Hua's innocence so well that you can forgive her for what she has done but Bo-ra makes Min Hua turn out to be a brainless person. How can a princess be so uncultured like her unlike the two princes? I practically shake my head.

14. Lee Won-geun/Song Jae-rim as Jin Cai Yun
He is a 23 year old young warrior. He is the top swordsman in Joseon and is the loyal bodyguard of Xuan. He does many secret missions for him in protecting the innocent. Many have even thought that Xuan is uninterested in Bao Jing due to him. He is blessed with the looks of his courtesan mother and the swords skill of his noble father. Though talented, he obtains a lowly status as he was born by a concubine to a noble man.
He receives care from the official wife of his father. He has deep friendship with the princes. His loyalty to Xuan causes trouble for his friendship with Yang Ming. He is tormented when he has to send Yang Ming's body back to Lady Piao after his death.

Won-geum is better looking that Jae-rim too but Jae-rim doesn't look as scholar-like as Won-geum so he is more convincing as the swordsman.

15.Jung Eun-pyo as Gong Shan
He is Chief of Neasi eunuch. He is by the side of Xuan since he is crown prince and has very close friendship with Xuan as he is his aid. He watches the growth of him and understands his feelings. Still, he knows his position and will face the wall when Xuan is angry with him. He is often used by him in his many antics in the palace. The character is also used as comic relief during intense scenes.

16. Kim Min-kyung as Court Lady Min
She is from Yin family in Bukcheon and is lady-in-waiting to Princess Min Hua. She often arranges the girls to keep her company. It is revealed she dies later.

17. Chu Gwi-jung as Court Lady Jo
She is Queen Bao Jing's lady-in-waiting since entering the palace as a Crown princess. She helps her to look for the shaman to want to kill Yue but Lu Ying is alerted to cause her plan to backfire and this shaman dies instead. This shaman is the very same shaman whom Da Feng looks for to cast a spell on Xuan to fall sick often so that he can control him in court.

18. Jeon Mi-seon as Zhang Lu Ying
She is State female shaman of Seongsucheong and is the top shaman of Joseon. She has all the information about the incident of crown princess death. The queen dowager tells her to look at the girls. Lu Ying is amazed that Bao Jing has no queen qualities but will be the queen although Yan Yu has the looks. Although unwilling to do kill Yan Yu, she has to due to the queen dowager's insistence. She causes Yan Yu to die and later revive later. Still, she feels guilty as Yan Yu's father dies of guilt.

She has strong strength in cursing that nobody dares to stare at her. Because of constant opposition from scholars, Seongsucheong is in danger. In order to save Seongsucheong she decides to help the Great Empress Queen Dowager. In order to hide Yan Yu's existence, she brings up the three girls in a quiet town. She has no choice but to bring them back to the palace when she is summoned. Nothing can be hidden from Xuan when he demands to know the truth. She performs the last rites to rest Yang Ming's soul and dies.

19. Kim Ik-tae as He Jia
He is Guru of Sogyeokseo who helped Lu Ying to escape with Yan Yu. He helps to dig Yan Yu out from her tomb to send them away.

20. .Jo Min-ah /Bae Noo-ri as Chan Shi
She is a Slave shaman the successor of Lu Ying. She has constant fear of her own divine power. Bao Jing deliberately causes Can Shi to suffer a beating by accusing her of stealing her money. If not for Yan Yu, Can Shi could have died.

She is saved by Yang Ming from being ill-treated by kidnappers wanting to make use of her powers to make money when young and is grateful to him to treat him as her elder brother. Her stare penetrates a person's thoughts. She has the ability to foresee the future unknowingly. She loves food and Lu Ying is once angry with her to throw her out for disobeying her. Still, she treats her like a daughter to take her back. Chan Shi is very upset over Lu Ying's death.

21. Jang Young-nam as A Li (cameo, ep 1)
A shaman who is friends with Lu Ying. She has strong divine powers, and can be seen having visions of the future. She is saved by a pregnant Yan Yu's mother. Her instinct tells her that she is a daughter and the future moon. In gratitude, she vows to protect Yan Yu in life or death as payment. She is killed by the queen dowager and before she dies, she tells Lu Ying to take care of Yan Yu.

22. Kim Eung-soo as Yin Da Feng
He is the father in-law of Xuan as he is the Father of Bao Jing and the leader of consort clan. He is an experienced politician and would stop at nothing to gain money and power, even if it means he would lose his family. He is the main reason why Bao Jing consistently opposes Yan Yu and Xuan's relationship. He finds that the puppet emperor is becoming difficult to control.

He gets a shaman to keep him under control. Strangely, he should have gotten Bao Jing to consummate their marriage but it is amusing to see Xuan always fainting at the most critical moment. He tempts Yang Ming to stage a rebellion with him. Yang Ming pretends to listen to him but betrays him to kill him in the end.

23. Jang Hee-soo as Mrs Yin
She is the wife of Da Feng who is unaware of the evils behind him. Bao Jing knows her father better than her. Bao Jing feels insecure when Da Feng plans to get another woman to seduce Xuan since she is unsuccessful.

24. Seo Hyun-chul as Shen San
From deputy minister of personnel elected to Chief Royal Secretary. He is Da Feng's henchman.

25. Lee Seung-hyung as Han Zai Shi
Elected from mayor to Minister of Defense. He thinks that he is the most handsome man but the maidens in the palace only have their eyes either for Cai Yun or Yan.

26. Yoon Hee-suk as Hong He Tai
He is a Guru at Uigeumbu (royal guard and secret police). He is formerly President of the student body at Sungkyunkwan. He is favored by Xuan and becomes the king's secret investigator. Xuan has him to thank when he uncovers the secret of Yan Yu's death.

Interesting facts – from wikipedia
This production marks Han Ga-in's first historial drama and return to television since Bad Guy in 2010. It also marks the second historial drama for Jung Il-woo following The Return of Iljimae in 2009. Viewership was highest at 46 %. Many grumbled that the cast who took over did not act as well as the youngsters. I feel totally shortchanged too upon watching them. They paled a lot in comparison.

Soo-hyun did not like to read the mushy lines and he trembled when he told Min-seo that he was going to disrobe her in front of the camera. All cracked up and laughed. He took some time to overcome this barrier. All were captivated by his crying scenes. The director described that he had never thought that such a young actor could handle such heart-breaking scenes.

There were other scenes that showed Xuan's authority and tenderness towards Yan Yu also won the filming cast's admiration. They praised him for the hugging scene when he affirms Yan Yu's identity and also how stern he was as the ladies-in-waiting wanted him to wait for the right moment on his wedding night with Yan Yu. His tone was excellent to them - how dare you want to touch my body – the body of a royal king! He is impatient with them sticking around him as he doesn't want to waste any time to be with Yan Yu alone.

Awards won:
48th Baeksang Arts Awards – best director, drama, best actor – Kim Soo Hyun
18th Shanghai Television Festival, Magnolia Awards – best drama
1st DramaFever Awards – drama of the year, Breakthrough Performance - Yeo Jin Goo
4th Pierson Movie Festival : Best Child Actor Yeo Jin-goo
Best Child Actress Kim Yoo-jung

MBC drama awards :
Drama of the Year
Top Excellence Award, Actor in a Miniseries Kim Soo-hyun Top Excellence Award, Actress in a Miniseries Han Ga-in
Popularity Award Kim Soo-hyun
Golden Acting Award, Actress Yang Mi-kyung
Best Child Actor Yeo Jin-goo
Best Child Actress Kim Yoo-jung Kim So-hyun

Most favourite character
Xuan, despite facing lots of danger and opposition, he manages to clear the obstacles to be with his beloved.
Most hated character
Da Feng, he makes use of anyone who can help him in his greed. Even Bao Jing is nothing in his eyes.

I also prefer the teenage cast like many others. How did the director get so many geniuses? It is not just one but the entire group! They are not just nice looking. Their starlit performances simply threaten the older cast who take over. Many are let down by their results. Luckily, Soo-hyun and Il-woo hold their ground firmly. Their presence stands out from the rest. Their loyalty look is undeniable.

Soo-hyun is fabulous – he is young but who can say that he doesn't act like a king? It has been long since I am moved by crying scenes by an actor. The last Korean drama was 'Stairway to Heaven' by Kwon Sang Woo. He practically throws out all painful emotions in the scenes.

I can't say the same from the others. The glamour has faded as they deliver uneven performances. In comparison, Ga-in's crying scenes are too subdued. She looks good and young but acting wise, I have higher expectations of her being the most senior among them and feel short-changed.
So are the rest - how can there be such a big gap between them and the teenagers? If not for the strong storyline, I might have discontinued watching as this can be considered an average drama as there is a balance of love and also politics.

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

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