Herald of Good Fortune


Reviewed by: sukting

September 02, 2003

Rating: three-point-five

Chinese title: 吉星报喜

How long:
20 episodes

Foreword
Most of us know how much Wan Shiu Lun detests acting in period dramas. It is so rare to see him shaving his head to prepare for this Qing role. Don’t ever miss this exciting serial!

Story
Meng Ji still doesn’t talk at the age of 10 and thus his fiancée, Yin Feng dislikes him. So her family decides to break their engagement and move to the capital. His parents have no choice as he has gone missing. Later, he returns home after learning how to overcome his fear of thunder from a monk, Chu Cheng Zi. His father sends him to study in a private school. He befriends the village headman’s son, Guan Yi.

Guan Yi is only a man of normal intelligence but he is a very honest man. His cousin, Yue Er is always dreaming of attracting men and is thus reprimanded by her uncle. Their teacher is a greedy man but Meng Ji always outsmarts him in poetry and tricks. You will laugh at a scene when a merchant is so impressed by Meng Ji’s couplet that he looks for him instead of his teacher! Meng Ji discovers that Chu Cheng Zi is an expert in predicting the future. One day, his house is burnt down and Meng Ji is upset, thinking that he is dead.

One day, a new student, Du Yun Feng joins the school. He is very refined and good-looking. Meng Ji is very jealous, as he has always been the centre of attraction all along. He tries to make fun of him but it is always Guan Yi who becomes the victim. Yun Feng is actually Er Mei, the daughter of a female bandit, Da Niang. She has enrolled her in the school for her future.

Yue Er, Guan Yi’s cousin, falls for Yun Feng. Once, Meng Ji places crabs into Yun Feng’s closet. Poor Yue Er opens it out of curiosity and her fingers get snapped! Da Niang misses Er Mei and orders her man to check on her. Yi Dian Hong and others ambush her and find that she has not lost touch with her martial arts skills. They like the way she behaves now – more demure and refined.

Meng Ji suggests visiting the brothel. Yun Feng is afraid that her identity will be exposed. She tells Yi Dian Hong to book the whole brothel. The other customers can only drink wine and not touch the prostitutes. Meng Ji finds it out from a prostitute and devises an evil plot. He adds some medicine that causes Yi Dian Hong and the others to have rashes. The prostitutes think that they have leprosy so they run to Meng Ji and his classmates instead!

He tries to make Yun Feng drunk. But Yun Feng is such a good drinker and he himself gets drunk instead. She even steals all their money and causes all to get punished and write couplets for their teacher. Meng Ji is very furious and tells Yue Er to look for Yun Feng. He then informs the village man, wanting to catch the ‘couple’ together. Yun Feng smells a rat and she meets Yue Er back in her maiden dressing, pretending to be Yun Feng’s sister. Even Meng Ji is fascinated by her beauty.

But he is still angered for having been tricked repeatedly, so he sneaks into Yun Feng’s home. He then discovers that Yun Feng is Er Mei. The next day, Er Mei suspects that he is up to something as he waits outside her home and offers to go to school with her. She walks in front of him and Meng Ji scolds himself quietly for not realising that she is a woman, judging from the way she walks. (This scene is sure classic when Er Mei really sways to and fro.) Er Mei sees that he is always behind her and scolds him. To her surprise, Meng Ji still smiles at her and doesn’t get angry.

His classmates try to set Er Mei up by giving her the wrong homework. Afraid that she might get a scolding, he makes the switch and takes the punishment willingly. Everyone laughs at him for being stupid and Er Mei doesn’t appreciate his help. Meng Ji is disappointed but doesn’t give up.

Er Mei is interested in Guan Yi but she is annoyed that Meng Ji always shadows her. She invites Meng Ji to go fishing. He is overjoyed, but goes there and gets beaten up by Yi Dian Hong and the other bandits instead. This scene is so hilarious that I really laugh non-stop! They box him till he has panda eyes. Meng Ji has to agree meekly when they warn him not to bother Er Mei. But in their anger, they reveal their bandit identities! Meng Ji takes note of it.

Er Mei is troubled when Yue Er pesters her too. Da Niang decides to test Guan Yi’s sincerity. She tells Yi Dian Hong to steal his home’s furniture to sell it. The other bandits pretend to be poor people trying to buy it. Guan Yi has pity on them and offers to pay for them. All like him and discover that Yue Er is a hindrance. So they abduct her and warn her not to come between Er Mei and Guan Yi. Poor Yue Er is too frightened to understand what they are talking about and they nearly tear their hair!

This scene is another classic. Er Mei drops hints to Guan Yi, saying that they are like Liang Shan Bo and Zhu Ying Tai. Guan Yi says that they are different as they are men. Suddenly, his expression changes thinking that ‘he’ is a homosexual and tries to get away from her! She is mad at him for being so stupid.

Er Mei is unhappy and Meng Ji confesses that he knows that she is a woman. She is shocked and angry. She scolds him for taking liberties as she now realizes why he sits so close to her in class! Meng Ji pretends that he will help her woo Guan Yi. Guan Yi finally knows that she is a woman and falls for her. Meng Ji wants to seek revenge. He brings them out and this causes Guan Yi to have little preparation for the exams. He works hard, hoping to be a scholar so that Er Mei will be a scholar’s wife.

Guan Yi is nervous when he can’t remember the facts. I laugh at this scene – Meng Ji is so proud to answer all the questions correctly so he produces his best handwriting. Guan Yi answers all wrongly with untidy handwriting and with spilt ink. Both don’t remember to add their names and the teacher adds the wrong names for the wrong scripts. Poor Meng Ji is mad that no one believes that he is the scholar!

Guan Yi feels bad for letting Meng Ji down. Guan Yi’s father decides to hold an engagement for Er Mei and his son. The bandits pretend to be rich people. Meng Ji is angered and reveals their identities to Guan Yi’s father. He reports them to the officials and they get caught. Only Er Mei manages to escape and Meng Ji keeps her at home, thinking that she might love him. But she still likes Guan Yi.

However, she is heart-broken when Guan Yi decides to break off with her. At this time, the constables come and both become fugitives. The bandits escape from jail and meet them. All decide to settle in the capital. Er Mei and Meng Ji save a child from being knocked down by a car and they have an argument with the car owner, Yin Feng.

She tells her foreign friend, Smith to beat Meng Ji but angers the crowd instead. Yin Feng vows not to let the two off. Da Niang’s friend, Zhang Biao loses his riches to his servant Da Yue in a power struggle, so Meng Ji decides to help him out. Da Yue has a smart advisor, Hua Dong.

Smith and Yin Feng find that Meng Ji works as a fortune teller. Yin Feng gives him an English word. He doesn’t know it but pretends to explain it. Smith is furious for being made fun of and beats him up. The magistrate doesn’t wish to offend Smith so he gives Meng Ji 20 strokes. Actually Meng Ji has planned this move to escape from Da Yue’s killing but he never expected to be beaten up so badly.

Er Mei is angry with Da Yue and tries to assassinate him at night. Hua Yue predicts it and hides Da Yue. She is caught. Meng Ji is troubled and receives a letter from home that his fiancée is staying in the capital. He looks for them, pretending to be rich and hoping to get their help to save her. Yin Feng returns with Smith at this time and he is chased away after his cover is blown. Da Yue wants to rape Er Mei. Hua Dong stops him.

Meng Ji abducts Smith and Yin Feng to frame Da Yue for the act. Da Yue has no choice but to give up Er Mei in exchange. Smith complains to the magistrate about the incident but he is helpless since Da Yue is powerful. He gets his advisor, Huang Tang Jing to settle the case.

Huang Tang Jing is just like his name – cunning and sometimes does things that are unacceptable in tradition. He bargains to pay a low price for a mirror only to break it on his way back home! He thinks the best way to pacify both men is to make Hua Dong the scapegoat. Hua Dong pretends to be beaten badly in court and be banished to Yunnan. Er Mei thinks he is a nice man and saves him.

The group does not know that Hua Dong is working as Tang Jing’s spy. He persuades all to attack Da Yue. Er Mei enlists Da Niang’s help. She tells the bandits not to steal, drink and fight. All suspect whether they are still bandits??? Er Mei takes care of Hua Dong and makes Meng Ji jealous.

One day, Er Mei asks Zhang Biao whether Meng Ji is handsome. He laughs and says that he is Pan An if Meng Ji is considered handsome. Meng Ji then asks him who is more handsome. Zhang Biao says Hua Dong is better-looking but Meng Ji is smarter. But women will still go for handsome men (小白脸)! I really laugh nonstop upon seeing how furious Meng Ji looks!

Meng Ji and Er Mei meet Yin Feng and her mother at the temple. They quarrel over the prediction lots. Er Mei makes use of her skills to throw her to the roof. Upon knowing their past, Er Mei gets jealous but after Meng Ji’s explanation, both fall in love. Meng Ji gets to meet Chu Cheng Zi and is overjoyed.

Meng Ji finds that Hua Dong meets Tang Jing so he discovers their plan to capture Da Niang. Yin Feng practices shooting with Smith to get back at Er Mei. Meng Ji brings Hua Dong to his home to weaken Da Yue’s forces instead. He uncovers his identity and Hua Dong is caught. All submit to Zhang Biao. Zhang Biao makes Meng Ji his advisor.

Tang Jing loses his job when the court dismisses the magistrate and works for Smith at half of his pay. Meng Ji buys a house for Chu Cheng Zi. Hua Dong realizes his mistakes after knowing Meng Ji and helps Zhang Biao to take care of his band. Guan Yi becomes the new magistrate. Smith wants to get into his good books and performs a magic act with Yin Feng. Something goes wrong and she is trapped in the trunk. Guan Yi saves her and likes her.

Her parents decide to bring them together. She takes Guan Yi to a tailor to make a suit. They meet Meng Ji and Er Mei there. The four start to feel jealous. Guan Yi can’t put up with the different tasks and decides to engage an advisor. Guan Yi wants to arrest all the beggars but Zhang Biao teaches him a lesson for trying to destroy his clan. His dagger nearly hits him, leaving him in cold sweat.

Er Mei sees that Guan Yi has not changed all these years – still the stick in the mud so all her feelings for him end. Meng Ji is happy to hear that. Chu Cheng Zi tells Meng Ji that he will have problems with women in future. Hua Dong tells Tang Jing that Meng Ji is a forgiving and smart man. Tang Jing doesn’t believe him and still wants to give him hell. He warns Hua Dong not to stop him.

Many start to imitate Meng Ji’s dressing by wearing dark shades. Yin Feng’s father says that he gets riches through sheer luck. Guan Yi has no choice but to engage Meng Ji as his advisor. His price rises by 10 times for being popular with both the underworld and the court. Tang Jing and Yin Feng come to seek Guan Yi’s help to open a shop. Guan Yi refers them to Meng Ji. Tang Ji nearly bursts upon seeing Meng Ji in his previous position and earning much more than him!

Meng Ji’s parents are disturbed when they come to visit Meng Ji and find that he has connections with the underworld. His mother likes Er Mei but his father says that Yin Feng is more educated. Both quarrel over it. Yin Feng starts to neglect Smith when with Guan Yi. She even refuses to take lifts from him. Meng Ji’s parents find that Yin Feng is still willful and impolite so they have a bad impression of her.

Tang Jing plans to place a bathtub with soap bubbles to attract Yin Feng to bathe in the middle of Smith’s living room. Smith likes the idea. At the same time, Tang Jing brings people to report to Meng Ji that there is a rapist around. Meng Ji is troubled on how to capture him. Er Mei offers to be the bait since she is skilled. He is hesitant but she is persistent.

Tang Jing lies to Yin Feng that Smith is out on an assignment and tells her to enjoy her bath. He gives her the key to lock the door. He then lures Meng Ji to fall into the trap, thinking that the rapist is there. Meng Ji sees Yin Feng nude. She screams and he pretends to cover his eyes but still peeps at her when she hurries to get a towel!

Er Mei doesn’t forgive Meng Ji and his parents are furious. Tang Jing bribes 3 women to point that Meng Ji is the culprit. The poor man is given 50 strokes. Guan Yi’s impression of Yin Feng changes upon knowing the incident. She has to eat the humble pie to get Meng Ji’s favour. Meng Ji vows to seek revenge upon knowing that Tang Jing is the culprit.

Tang Jing is jealous upon knowing that Hua Dong handles Meng Ji’s 3 shops. Smith’s opium is bought over by Meng Ji and he tricks Tang Jing into using the wrong formula to produce the batch for replacement. Smith tries to kill Tang Jing for ruining his business and Meng Ji saves him. Meng Ji uses his wits to buy over Smith’s shop. Tang Jing is finally impressed and wants to write the Chinese word ‘submit’ on his shop tablet to prove it. Meng Ji stops him and he is touched. The three are compatible in wits and are then known as the "Three Advisors of Canton".

Meng Ji is troubled to see both women quarrelling over him. He is in love with Er Mei but also interested in Yin Feng. The 3 men go out for a walk and both pester him to meet Chu Cheng Zi upon knowing his past. The two men are very impressed with his wisdom. News of his presence spreads. Guan Yi believes that he is smarter than Meng Ji but why is he so unsuccessful in life? Meng Ji relays his teacher’s message that he doesn’t wish to take in any more disciples. Guan Yi thinks that Meng Ji was the obstacle and leaves angrily.

A high official, Weng Wen Xiang wants to capture Chu Cheng Zi who escaped from the palace many years ago. He offends the emperor by telling him his sad future. Tang Jing works as Meng Ji’s spy and gets wind of the news. All are implicated and seek refuge at Yin Feng’s home. Her parents try to chase them away upon knowing their predicament. Yin Feng detests their ways and leaves with them. Meng Ji is touched.

Chu Cheng Zi surrenders himself in order not to implicate them. The 3 advisors find it difficult to bribe Wen Xiang as he is a righteous man who is uninterested in vices. Yue Er comes to look for Guan Yi and mistakens Wen Xiang as a thief. She is embarrassed upon knowing the truth. Guan Yi is unhappy when his father arranges a marriage for him.

The women are jealous when Meng Ji shows more concern towards his teacher than them. Both leave angrily but he doesn’t stop them. Both say bad things about him on the way but later both return to him as they miss him. Prepare to laugh when both deliberately spite at each other to get back to their parents but end up to be with him instead! At first, both refuse to cook. Meng Ji manages to persuade Yin Feng to do the job. Hua Dong is impressed and says that he really has a way with women.

The 3 advisors have a discussion and conclude that having Wen Xiang’s seal to write a verdict claiming that Chu Cheng Zi is dead is the only solution. But the problem is none of them know martial arts so they seek Er Mei’s help. Er Mei is at first delighted when Meng Ji looks for her but is displeased when he only wants her help. She softens in the end upon seeing how he misses his teacher.

Er Mei is unable to steal it as Wen Xiang stays up late at night. Luckily Tang Jing bribes the time announcer. He sounds the gong so he finally goes to bed! She then gets the seal together with a piece of paper. Yue Er sees her coming out from there and thinks that she is there to seduce him. She tells Wen Xiang about it the next day. Da Niang blames Meng Ji for putting Er Mei’s life in danger.

Da Niang is relieved when she returns and is shocked to find the paper. She is pregnant with Du’s child when Weng abducts her. When Wen Xiang is born, he thinks that he is his child. She reunites with Du who becomes a bandit but they fail to get their son when the Wengs go to the capital.

Er Mei returns the seal but gets caught. Guan Yi manages to get her to reveal Meng Ji’s whereabouts. Tang Jing suggests uses her as a bait to return to look for Meng Ji. Wen Xiang agrees and finally reconciles with his family. Wen Xiang doesn’t dare to agree to let Chu Cheng Zi off but upon knowing their plot, he is still amused by it.

The two women start to quarrel again. Da Niang wonders whether Wen Xiang will finally acknowledge her, as she is now a bandit. Wen Xiang is won over by Chu Cheng Zi’s wisdom and decides to help him. Er Mei deliberately gets him a 3-legged stool to trip him, saying that she must punish him for giving her 20 strokes. He smiles and says that they are even now.

Guan Yi apologies to Meng Ji and he forgives him. Yin Feng’s parents come to see Meng Ji when he is in power again. Tang Jing is sarcastic to say that they should have gone into the shipping trade, since they know how to control the sails in the direction of the wind.

Meng Ji is troubled by the two women and lies that he wants to be a monk. He forces them to agree to his condition. This time they quarrel over as to who should be the first wife. Tang Jing suggests them to have a poetry competition. Both have completed the couplets well. When it comes to duels, Yin Feng’s shooting skills are as impressive as Er Mei’s marital arts. Finally Meng Ji decides to make Er Mei the first wife. Yin Feng screams and protests that it is unfair to her.

The emperor closes the case since Chu Cheng Zi is ’dead’. Chu Cheng Zi predicts that the court is collapsing and encourages Wen Xiang to resign his post. Wen Xiang agrees and returns for Er Mei’s wedding. Yin Feng’s parents demand a lot for the dowry. Tang Jing says that she is more expensive than gold while Hua Dong feels that this is unfair as this is daylight robbery.

Meng Ji changes all gambling dens to godowns and brothels to restaurants. Meng Ji and Guan Yi return to their hometown to get married. The village man is unhappy that Meng Ji gets more attention than his son. He wants him to donate 10,000 taels of silver to build a school. Many scream as the amount is enough to build a town. But Meng Ji still agrees to it.

Tang Jing is sour over it. How can the 3 well-known advisors of Canton be bullied to this extent? This is going to ruin their reputation. In Chinese, it is like removing the whole eyebrow from one side! Tang Jing pretends to observe the fengshui and buys a piece of land from the village man for 2000 taels. Later Hua Dong comes and wants to buy at 16000 taels. He immediately buys it back from Tang Jing at 9000 taels. But when he returns to Hua Dong, he says that he has found a flaw and doesn’t want to buy it anymore. The poor man really pinches his heart. This scene sure shows their wits well.

Meng Ji and Guan Yi get married on the same day. Both women try to drug each other to be the first to get into the bridal chamber. In the end, both get drunk. I really laugh hard at this scene – which bridegroom will look for friends on his wedding night? He looks for the two advisors and complains to them on how troublesome his wives are. Later, they are surprised when Guan Yi joins them. They question him how a woman can also be a problem. He replies that his wife is considered as two because she is fat. Both men are happily drinking with the friends when their wives come to look for them!

Introduction on characters


  1. Chen Meng Ji – Wan Shiu Lun
    Meng Ji is a playful, wise and forgiving man. He also knows how to repay kindness and respect the elders. His only shortcoming is dealing with women. Many will laugh at how he tames the shrews with an iron hand. Be prepared to see him in shades but dressed in a Qing costume. A very refreshing change!
    I never knew that he could portray a comical role so well. He provides so many laughs in here. I always see him in serious, evil or cool roles. Yet I welcome the change.

  2. Chen Guan Yi – Pang Mun Kin (Chen Jia Luo in The Book and the Sword ‘87)
    This man is really of low intelligence. He gets his magistrate post through sheer luck. At first, I don’t detest him so much for being so rigid. But later, my blood boils upon seeing how he tries to save his own skin and being so jealous of Meng Ji’s success. Serves him right for having an unhappy marriage.
    This actor is sure wooden in his acting. No wonder he never stays long in showbiz.

  3. Liu Hua Dong – Ng Doi Yung
    He only appears in the latter part of the story as a wise and cunning man. I like this character – he is flexible to discover his mistake and becomes a righteous man. Ng’s acting is impressive in the battling of wits scenes. But what a waste of his perfect poise in martial arts to arrange him to be a scholar in here.

  4. Huang Tang Jing – Chun Pui
    He is a cunning and stingy man. He is also proud and does not admit defeat easily. But after repeated failures in crossing swords with Meng Ji, he becomes friends with him and gives him whatever help he needs. Needless to doubt his performance since he is so experienced.

  5. Chu Cheng Zi – Chan Tik Hak
    He is blind but can still tell predictions. That is why the emperor is so wary of him when he predicts the downfall of the dynasty and wants to kill him. He meets Meng Ji through sheer chance but treats him like his own son.

  6. Yi Dian Hong – Tou Dai Yu
    Prepare to roar with laughter to see how Tou appears in here. He has a big red mole and thus becomes his name. He is a boorish fellow who does things without using his brain. Thus he often gets himself into trouble. Tou is also comical in here – the part where he teaches Meng Ji a lesson to back off from his mistress is hilarious – throwing him in the river, nearly drowning him and really hitting him hard!

  7. Zhang Biao – Kong Yik (now with ATV)
    He becomes the underdog when he is betrayed by Da Yue. But Meng Ji and Yi Dian Hong manage to help him regain his power. Equally comical in his words of wisdom.

  8. The teacher – Tien Ching (passed away)
    He is a snob and is annoyed when Meng Ji shows more talent than him. Being biased, he treats Guan Yi better than Meng Ji, resulting Guan Yi obtaining an official post instead.

  9. Smith – Lien Kok Wing
    Snobbish and thinks very highly of himself but is often made a laughing stock because of Meng Ji.

  10. Weng Wen Xiang – Lo Kar Leung
    A very rigid official who sticks by the rules. That is why the 3 advisors are helpless when they try to bribe him through normal means. They can only make use of his old habits to outsmart him. Very wooden acting from him but still watchable for audience who are interested to see how young he looks.

  11. Hong Da Yue – Kiu Hung
    An evil man who betrays his own master for the riches. He doesn’t repent till the end and always pounces on chances to seek his revenge.

  12. Du Da Niang – Lo Yuen Yan
    Although she is a bandit, she still cares for her daughter’s future and wants the best for her. Still, she is a righteous person who believes in not harming the innocent. She is overjoyed when Wen Xiang still acknowledges her despite her lowly status.

  13. Lu Yue Er – Lam Yim Ming (Kent Cheng Zak See’s wife in realife)
    She is a woman but she is frank to admit her feelings to the person she likes. But what a pity as I have the wrong impression that she will end up with either Guan Yi or Wen Xiang, as she eventually ends up alone.

  14. Du Er Mei – Chow Hoi Mei
    Meng Ji finally meets his match. This woman is compatible to him in wits and is very good in martial arts too. Having grown up with bandits, she is not shy like other women and will uphold justice when she deems necessary. Chow is tall and is convincing when acting as a man. The scenes of her pitting wits against Meng Ji in the school are highlights to watch.

  15. Jin Yin Feng – Tsang Wah Sin
    Unlike Meng Ji and Er Mei, she received Western education and is very westernized. She is very willful and throws her weight around to compete against Er Mei. However, she changes for the better when she falls for Meng Ji. Tsang is still the same as in other serials in portraying willful roles but I like the quarreling scenes that she has with Chow. There are many comical scenes of both trying to be the first in Meng Ji’s heart.

Favourite character
Meng Ji, for his sense of humour and wisdom. A close second will be Hua Dong for helping friends out without any complaints.

Most hated character
Guan Yi for being stubborn and inflexible. A close second will be the teacher for being such a snob.

Song
A comical song by Wan himself but I have no idea what the title is.

Conclusion
I watched this serial in the early 90s on Singapore television and have not watched it again. It is strange that TVB doesn’t promote this serial. Actually I find it quite good. It offers a lot of humour and battle of wits scenes. You will be disappointed, as it doesn’t show many fighting scenes. Still, it is a pleasure to watch. Especially the chemistry between the 3 advisors – it is amazing that they have so much chemistry despite this being the first time they have acted together. The two lead actresses are also successful in portraying spitfires. Don’t miss it if you have the chance.

On acting : *** (Scale of 5)

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


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