The Justice - The Zither and the Sword


Reviewed by: sukting

September 02, 2003

Rating: three

Chinese title: 侠义见青天-剑胆琴心

How long
5 episodes out of 25

Foreword
Wish to see how Tsang Wah Sin acts with Taiwanese artistes? This part will satisfy your curiosity!

I watched the first 4 episodes on cable television free of charge and missed the final episode as I didn't subscribe to it. If my friend has given me the wrong information, please forgive us as this happened a long time ago. This is the second story out of the 5 parts. It is a combination of tales on Zhan Zhao (Lau Chung Yan), Ouyang Chun (Man Tse Leung) and Bai Yu Tang (Zhang Zheng Yuan). The 3 are said to be close friends in the serial. I only watched the story which focuses on the latter.

Story

Yu Tang returns to his benefactor who saved him when he was young. The man, Zhang Chong, is a very well-known zither player and he is overjoyed to see Yu Tang again. He invites him to stay at his home. Yu Tang is attracted to Zhang's blind daughter, Zhang Rong. Rong has mastered her father's skills and even knows how to compose her own works. She plays all her works for him and as he has a good memory, he knows all of them by heart even though he has only heard them once. They soon fall in love with each other.

Rong has been blind since young but Yu Tang doesn't give up. He finds the best physician to treat her because Rong wished to see his face too. The answer to her treatment is the 'tianshan snow lotus? (any idea why this antidote is so popular in so many serials???). He sets off to look for it immediately. During this time, Prince Xiang Yang's son, Shou Qian, sets eyes on Rong and tries to ask for her hand in marriage.

When this fails, he sets fire to her home in rage, burning nearly everyone to death. Rong manages to escape with Chun's help. Yu Tang is unable to find the antidote but upon hearing the news, he hurries back. He tries his best to console Rong but knowing that Prince Xiang Yang is a powerful man, he secretly plans to look for evidence of the misdeed. However, Prince Xiang Yang has cleverly concealed all information of what his son has done.

Shou Qian sees Yu Tang being intimate with Rong, and he gets jealous. He accuses Yu Tang of stealing the snow lotus from his home. Yu Tang falls into a trap and he is very badly injured in jail. The poor man suffers so much but when Rong comes to visit him, he puts up a false front (actually quite unnecessary because she can't see anyway). He even wants her to bring along her zither to play her compositions as he wants to hear them. But the wise Rong hears his weak voice and detects that he isn't as strong he is supposed to be. She is worried and demands for his release.

She offers herself to Shou Qian for exchange. But later she feels shameful over the deed and jumps over a cliff. Shou Qian doesn't keep his promise and still wants to execute Yu Tang in public. Luckily Chun brings evidence to prove his innocence. Yu Tang is so weak that he faints at the execution ground. Chun brings him to stay in a monastery.

Yu Tang only wakes up after a few days. Chun doesn't know how to break the sad news to him. Yu Tang starts to worry when Rong doesn't visit him. She visited him when he was in prison but why hasn't she turned up now that he is safe? He asks Chun whether she is sick and is anxious to see her. Chun has to tell him the truth. This scene is so tragic - Yu Tang is very persistent in avenging Rong, but he is too weak to even lift his sword. He then sobs uncontrollably. Chun then tells him to get well first before he can seek revenge, otherwise he will be courting his own death.

But Yu Tang is too eager. He starts practicing the next day! In the end, he vomits blood again. The chief monk, who has watched him practise, is impressed with his skills but tells him not to overexert himself.

It is Rong's death anniversary. Despite the monk's protests, Yu Tang is adamant on visiting the spot where she killed herself to make the offerings. He brings along Rong's zither and his sword. His wounds are still hurting him, so his movements are slow. He meets Shou Qian on his way and Shou Qian sneers at him for being unable to have Rong's love and recover her body. Yu Tang spars with him, but he hasn't recovered. Shou Qian gets his sidekicks to beat him up and they nearly kill him! One sidekick gets terrified and requests Shou Qian to stop. Before Shou Qian leaves, he steps on the zither and kicks it aside.

Yu Tang is heartbroken upon seeing this. He crawls quickly to the zither to check if the strings are still intact and see if there is any damage done. He hugs the zither close to his face. It is very touching to see him doing that. Yu Tang is so upset that he drinks heavily. When he is drunk, he displays his sword skills again and falls unconscious by the river. (This part is ridiculous - isn't he still recovering from his injuries? How can he recover so quickly such that he has the strength to show off his skills again?) A woman then comes close to put a cloak over him. Upon seeing it when he wakes up, he thinks it is Rong's doing, but is disappointed when he can't find her anywhere.

Yu Tang gets better. He masters every stroke quickly and the chief monk is surprised. He says that had it not been for Yu Tang's good bone structure and his talent for martial arts, he might not have recovered so quickly. Yu Tang thanks the chief monk humbly for his help and decides to seek revenge now.

In the meantime, Shou Qian has nightmares of Rong coming to seek revenge from him. He wants to change to another room to sleep but things don't improve. Prince Xiang Yang is later astonished that Yu Tang has managed to find evidence of Shou Qian's doing now and has reported the evidence to Justice Wen. So he tells his son to flee. Well, you should watch the scene where Yu Tang goes after Shou Qian when he tries to escape on a ship. He uses his sword and nearly slits Shou Qian's throat. But Chun stops him in time and Yu Tang ties Shou Qian up.

Shou Qian is sentenced to death, and Prince Xiang Yang vows to seek revenge on Chun and Yu Tang for making him lose his only son. Chun and Yu Tang later pay respects at Rong's grave. Justice Wen and Yu Tang console Yu Tang not to take things too hard. Yu Tang says nothing but clenches his hands around the wooden tablet. He tells them to leave first as he wishes to stay with Rong quietly. They are concerned over his injury but still leave him there.

What a wrong choice they have made. Yu Tang suffers a relapse and he is in pain. Suddenly he hears Rong's zither music. (I don't understand this woman - if she wants him to forget her completely, she should not have exposed her own tracks so soon and so obviously!) He is sure that he is not dreaming as although his inner strength has weakened by half, his hearing is still sharp. He hurries back to the temple nearby - where he is staying - and demands to see her.

A monk is shocked to see him vomiting blood and wants to check his pulse. Yu Tang brushes his hand away and is persistent in seeing Rong. But the monk still thinks that he is dreaming. Yu Tang says bitterly that he can't be making a mistake because no one knows Rong's music better than him. But the monk insists that he saw Rong jumping off the cliff. Poor man - he faints due to disappointment. The monk quietly prays for forgiveness for not telling the truth after he helps Yu Tang to rest on a stretcher in the hall.

When Yu Tang wakes, he sees a zither string on the ground. (I really cannot believe this deliberate arrangement, can Rong be so stupid to leave such a clue? It might work if he gets to see Rong's hair instead). He later begs the monk to tell him where she is staying - this is so touching. He kowtows to him so many times that the monk has to give in to him.

But Rong is firm in not wanting to see him. The chief monk has examined her and although he has the antidote, he can only apply a few drops in a few months. She will take 10 years to recover. If she takes the whole dose at once, she will be dead. She decides not to make herself a burden to him. But Yu Tang kneels outside her room. This scene is very touching. Yu Tang kneels under the sun although he is unwell. He nearly faints again and his lips have turned white.

Rong later shows up. But she has made a dreadful decision - she has applied all the antidote at once to her eyes. She feels that she is no longer fit to be Yu Tang's wife after being violated by Shou Qian and she doesn't wish to burden him all his life.

Yu Tang brings her to the woods. She plays on the zither while he practices his skills. (This is so inconsistent - how can he recover so fast???) Rong suddenly regains her eyesight and Yu Tang forms a rainbow with his sword skills. To his alarm, she dies in his arms. He buries her sadly.

I didn't get to watch the ending but according to my friend, Prince Xiang Yang accuses Chun and Yu Tang for betraying the country. But Justice Wen manages to find, in the cellar, evidence of Prince Xiang Yang's plot to overthrow the emperor. All the weapons and the letters to the enemy are all there. He is executed in the end while the two swordsmen decide to find a quiet place to settle down. (If there is anything wrong with the story, please let me know.)

Introduction on characters

1. Bai Yu Tang - Zhang Zheng Yuan
I like Yu Tang for his skills and wit. He is a swordsman but he is also very scholarly. But this is not to the extent of Jiao En Jun's exaggerated version of holding a fan all the time. Yu Tang often covers his sword with a cloth which he keeps with him. He knows where to draw the line at breaking the law but when it comes to losing his love, he can lose his control. But who can blame him for wishing to kill Shou Qian? Those who have seen his sad fate will feel so sorry for him. No wonder his hatred is so great.

My verdict - Ma Jing Tao isn't the only man who can cry. Zhang is also a fine actor besides Chen Jun Sheng. He does so well in the emotional scenes that you will feel like crying with him. There are certain scenes where he doesn't need to say anything. The clenching of his fists is enough to convey the anger and humiliation he feels.

I am also very impressed with the way he handles the fighting scenes. Before that, I have only watched him in HSDS94 and he impressed me as the young Yin Ye Wang. But...I don't understand why I only see him acting as fathers in other serials. I am very puzzled over the producer's choice. He does have the makings of a swordsman - is it because he is not that popular that he is no longer cast as one?

2. Zhao Shou Qian - Ng Kai Wah
This good-for-nothing is a hopeless womanizer and a cold blooded creature. Many will dislike him so much for ill-treating Yu Tang. He always comes up with evil plans to get his way. Several torture scenes are fantastic - you will be shocked by Kai Wah's skinny outlook. But you will be won over by his splendid performance. See how he slashes his whip on Yu Tang when he is in jail? And how he steps on his stomach during Rong's death anniversary? Yu Tang vomits so much blood but Shou Qian just will not stop! The highlight of the serial is the rape scene - he really acted like a lecherous villain.

Kai Wah declares that this is his last time acting as a villain. What a pity - actually he should do it once in a while. So if you are his fan, don't miss this segment. Head for the video shops now!

3. Ou Yang Chun - Man Tse Leung
This character talks a lot. He is quite poor in words too. But his martial arts skills are still quite powerful. My friend says that it is a pity for me not to have seen how he and Yu Tang escaped from Prince Xiang Yang's men in the ending episode. Till now, I am still itching to watch it but too bad neither of the 2 Singapore stations show it! Man Tse Leung is truly ageing. With his bloated figure, he is no longer the slim Dai Hup that we have known in the 80s. The common get-up that he sports in the serial does not help him to project a Dai Hup image.

4. Prince Xiang Yang - Lau Dan
He is a ruthless man but too bad his scenes are limited. I hope to see more of him. He is the only one among all to speak the Mandarin lines in his own voice. And he is so fluent in it! Even Zhang's voice is dubbed! He has done the job well.

5. Zhang Rong - Tsang Wah Sin
She is so pretty in here. It seems that she hasn't changed much despite all these years. We often see her in wilful roles so this is a refreshing change for all of us. Acting blind also poses a high level of difficulty but Tsang acts well in here. Although this is the first time she has paired up with a Taiwanese actor, she doesn't show any discomfort and slips into the role well.

Most favourite character
Yu Tang for his perseverance in love and seeking the truth. In addition, he is able to tolerate all the humiliation just to seek the truth and exact revenge.

Most hated character
Shou Qian - this creature deserves to be killed for all his wrongdoings. He actually regrets letting off Yu Tang and not killing him earlier. He is still not repentant so he deserves to be finished in the end.

Song
It is sung by Zhao Chuan - Asking The Sky (问一问青天). There is no doubt that this experienced singer, with his unique voice, is able to deliver this fast-paced song with powerful lyrics very well. But unfortunately, this nice song is wasted on this terrible serial.

Interesting scenes

Yu Tang's first meeting with Rong.

Scenes of Shou Qian's misdeeds. Very horrifying indeed. From womanizing, gambling to killing!

Yu Tang's scenes showing his sufferings after Rong's death, as mentioned above. I like all of them. They really portray his sadness well, although it is very unrealistic that he recovers so soon. Yang Pei Pei should have done more homework or checking before production began!

Rong's dying scene - touching and very sad.

Interesting facts

If you have the impression that all serials produced by Yang Pei Pei will be blockbusters, this serial will prove likewise. It is a joint serial by China Television Station and TVB. It scored so badly in Taiwan against 'The Loyal Subjects' (七侠五义) that it is still placed in the lowest shelf in the TVB warehouse. TVB has not shown it in Hong Kong after so many years.

Will you believe this - the other cast is of A-class standards: Lau Chung Yan, Yip Tong, Siu Mei Kei, Tien Niu, Leung Pui Ling, Shen Meng Sheng and Xie Zhu Wu. What has actually gone wrong?

Yang Pei Pei admits that she spent too much time on "Heavenly Sword Dragon Saber 94" and thus her script on this serial isn't that focused. Moreover, time is too rushed for her. But from what I see, she gives too many excuses. In fact, I did not wish to continue watching after watching the last episode from the first segment. Yip Tong simply cries too much and her dying scene takes up a whole 20 minutes.

I did not intend to watch this segment at first but still, my curiosity to see how Wah Sin works with a Taiwanese actor got better of me. The chance is so rare since she seldom acts now. Luckily I didn't miss it otherwise I will definitely regret my decision. But I am also hesitant - is it like a soap opera?

I can't believe my good luck because the third segment returns to Chung Yan and Yip Tong, while the last two segments belong to the other artistes mentioned above. Tsang and Zhang do not appear in other segments anymore. It is really fate that I get to watch this one.

It is said that Yip Tong's periodic outlook was very ugly on her and the viewership was terrible so she returned to Hong Kong after filming unhappily. It's also said that 'the Loyal Subjects? had an astounding victory which made Chung Yan and Yip Tong very embarrassed, I am not very sure about that. I find it quite okay but it could be dragged down by other segments that pulled down its ratings. Anyone has the answer?

Suen Hing wanted to star in this serial as well as 'The loyal subjects'. But the other station didn't let him go, so many viewers missed the chance of watching him act. Both stations have decided to place both serials at the same time slot. Yang Pei Pei then ropes in Zhang to help out.

Zhang doesn't mind being the substitute and shines here. Yang has done a mess in the production but on cast selection, she is good!

Conclusion
This segment is still worth your time. In fact, I am baffled to find that TVB artistes make up the majority here! It looks every inch a normal TVB drama. If not for the presence of some Taiwanese artistes at times speaking Mandarin with a sharp voice, I wouldn't have noticed it. It is amazing that Zhang feels at ease working with them.

The story offers some entertainment value as the fighting scenes are quite impressive. There are too many scenes on the conflicts in the imperial court, and that might bore some viewers. Certain parts may be so slow-moving because there are too many scenes of Yu Tang pinning for Rong. Still, it is not easy to see Kai Wah and Wah Sin acting in the same serial anymore. Do go for it if you have the chance.

Ratings :

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

On story : * * * (Scale of 5)


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