Touring in Jiang Nan


Reviewed by: sukting

September 03, 2003

Rating: four

Chinese title: 江南游

How long
50 episodes

Foreword
A friend prompted me to review this serial. As it is quite unlikely to be shown again, I just wish to share this with all fans. If Taiwanese friends are fortunate, they might be able to catch it on television although the chance is slim. This serial makes me discover that Ling Bo isn’t the only person who can impersonate as a man. If you think that Yip Tong is good, I’m afraid that she might lose out to another actress who is so successful that I have forgotten that she is a woman when watching it! Yip is simply too soft to be a man.

The story is on a prince who enjoys touring around the Jiang Nan province. He has the company of 4 subordinates and also befriends a maiden, Xiang, on his journey. The lady later accompanies him on his travels, on a special mission, which he will know later. During his travels, he manages to clear many cases and seek redress for the innocent or unfortunate. But there is more in store for him as he goes on his way. Sorry for my poor memory but I simply can’t recall the cases!

Story

The prince is in his room admiring his calligraphy. He hears commotion from his study and rushes there. He is astonished to see his guards surrounding a beautiful maiden. He is attracted by her beauty. The maiden grabs a painting and the prince decides to spar with her. He wins and catches hold of her, but she manages to slip and runs away with the painting. Actually I will like to say that the prince is so distracted by her beauty that he forgets to hold her tightly!

The maiden is Ding Xiang. She knows that her lover, Wen Qi, likes the painting. He has gone to many shops and is disappointed when he can’t get it. He later finds out that the only copy is with the prince so he decides to give up. Xiang happens to know about it and thus goes to steal it for him.

In the meantime, Wen Qi is worried sick upon knowing her act. Before he can walk out of his room, Xiang returns happily with the painting. Wen Qi chides her for being so reckless. She still smiles but looks uncomfortable when he questions whether she has gone to blows with the prince. Both are so close and he can tell that she has met him although she says nothing. He even deduces correctly that most probably, the prince is attracted to her. With an anguish expression, he then tells her of his plan. She is stunned, shocked and of course flatly refuses to carry it out. But later, she gives in upon seeing how depressed he looks.

It is the most absurd plan that one has come across. The prince is Wen Qi’s elder brother who was exchanged at birth with the empress dowager’s daughter. The empress is his mother’s sworn sister and has hoped for a son to ascend the future throne. The emperor is dying and it will land into his evil brother’s hands if he has no heir. But alas, a daughter was born and they had to make the switch to rescue the situation.

Knowing that his mother misses his brother, Wen Qi is troubled on how to lure the prince to meet her. The empress dowager is frightened of the prince knowing his actual parentage. So she forbids his mother from entering the Forbidden City. Thus Wen Qi comes up with this plan of asking Xiang to be the ‘bait’.

Xiang does not need do anything. The prince has already made up his mind to look for her. He decides to tour Jiang Nan where many beauties come from, hoping to meet her there. His four subordinates are 3 scholars and a skilled swordsman. These people are great helpers in helping the prince solve cases.

Xiang deliberately shows up and agrees to travel with him. He asks her about the painting. She is worried that the prince might want it back as she knows that Wen Qi likes it so much. To her relief, the prince says that it is a gift for her but he only wants to know where it is. She lies that she has given to her good friend, Xiao Yu. Xiao Yu is not as skilled as in martial arts as her but she is an expert in poetry.

Wen Qi’s residence is coincidentally in Jiang Nan but it will take a long time for the prince to reach there. Xiang tells Wen Qi the good news. His close friends, Jiang Tao and Xiao Yu, are with him. The three are delighted by the news. They decide that Xiang should follow the prince in his travels. Xiang is the best choice because she is skilled in marital arts and she has traveled widely, knowing the dangers. I really pity her – they travel to so many provinces. In each place, the prince will get involved with a case. She is not just his bodyguard but she also has to pretend that she loves him!

Wen Qi is supposed to stay at home to recuperate from his illness but he is anxious over his brother’s safety. He also follows them to protect them in secret. Tao and Xiao Yu are always with him as they are worried over his health. This brother is so pathetic. There is one occasion when the prince is under a watchful eye by hooligans but he doesn’t notice it. Wen Qi manages to drive all of them away but after that, he has a relapse. He is lucky that the hooligans are so frightened that they don’t turn around to see what has happened to him and just run away! He tries to keep it from Xiang.

However, Xiang knows him too well. She is equally worried, as she knows that long journeys have tired Wen Qi out. She finds a chance to let them meet at an inn, hoping that this will strengthen their bond. The prince is delighted to know a knowledgeable friend and both men get along well. It is really agony for the two lovers when they pretend not to know each other! Wen Qi decides not to rush things. How can he show the prince his face at every province as this will openly arouse his suspicions?

Xiang often sneaks out to give more information to Wen Qi and others on the prince’s next destination so that they can make preparations. (I wonder how she can be so successful every time. The prince is more highly skilled than her but he can’t detect it?) I simply like the scenes when they are together. There are often occasions that both sit together and Wen Qi just holds her hand. They only look at each other in silence as they cherish the limited time they have together.

There is one memorable scene where Wen Qi has a bad relapse. Xiang visits him to tell him the well-being of the prince and wonders why his back always facing her. She demands to see him and is shocked that he has turned so wan. She wants to return to his side to take care of him but is annoyed when he asks her to take care of the prince instead. Reluctantly, she obeys him.

From the travels, Xiang finds the prince a benevolent and wise man. He uses his wits to solve all difficult problems and reduces taxes for some provinces when the harvests are bad. There is an occasion that his swordsman bodyguard is accused of murder and thrown into jail but the prince manages to clear his name by finding the real killer. All along, she has thought of him only a man who likes indulging in pleasures.

He tells Xiang that touring around has been his dream and he knows that he will not have the chance to do it once he becomes the emperor. Being among the common folk will allow him to know their problems and solve them immediately. The tour is also partly a cover-up to trick his power hungry uncle that he is not interested in court affairs. He also confesses to her that he also wishes to be with her by going out of palace too. Xiang feels shy and yet troubled, knowing that the prince has really fallen deeply in love with her.

Unlike Wen Qi who has a mild temperament, his sister Wen Yu is bad tempered. Despite their personality differences, she is still concerned about Wen Qi and is shocked to know that Xiang is seeing another man. She is about to confront her when Tao tactfully brings her away after making a brief introduction. Wen Yu decides to plan her own revenge to teach Xiang a lesson for being such a loose woman.

(The following part is highly questionable because my television set broke down. It was the same time when ‘Ming Kiem Fung Lau’ was shown. I wondered why I was so destined to miss the important and exciting parts of both serials???? My friend might have remembered it wrongly after so many years. If any other viewers have watched it and find any mistake, please kindly let me know.)

Wen Yu doesn’t know martial arts but she has a group of bodyguards. They abduct Xiang and she demands to know why Xiang has forsaken her brother. Is it because of the prince’s riches? Or because she finds Wen Qi a burden for being sickly? But Xiang refuses to reveal a word and is badly slashed by her whip.

The prince’s uncle hears of Xiang’s disappearance and gives an evil grin. The prince’s men are at their wits’ end and goes to Wen Qi for help. Wen Qi is having an afternoon nap at that time and Xiao Yu keeps the news from him. She and Tao find out that the uncle has her and informs the prince after repeated failures to get her out. The prince confronts his uncle. His uncle denies the act but ‘Xiang’ screams for help in his underground cellar. The prince saves her out but he has to let the matter rest, as the uncle is his elder.

Wen Qi hears of the kidnap and is very concerned. He is puzzled when Xiang doesn’t turn up at their usual meeting place. Missing her, he arranges to meet them at an inn. When Wen Qi meets ‘Xiang’, he becomes suspicious. Normally Xiang will feel uncomfortable when the two men are together and will be nervous and afraid to look at him in the eyes. But now, she can even smile at Wen Qi. He can confirm that this woman is an imposter! He observes her carefully, afraid that she will harm the prince.

The prince can also tell that something is wrong, as Xiang normally doesn’t brew tea the way this woman does. Both men strike at her at the same time when they see her adding poisonous powder into the tea. She then confesses that Xiang is really not with the prince’s uncle and she is only a pawn to assassinate the prince. The prince is usually a kind and gentle man but upon knowing the truth, he destroys her skills! Both men are troubled upon knowing that Xiang is still missing.

Wen Qi returns sadly to tell Tao and Xiao Yu about Xiang’s disappearance. Tao then recalls seeing Wen Yu. Wen Qi becomes anxious, as he knows this sister is usually very reckless. The next few days, they can’t find Wen Yu anywhere and the three become fearful. Wen Qi has sleepless nights, as he doesn’t wish to let go of any single clue and waste any time. Later, Wen Yu dumps Xiang’s body at a bottom of a cliff when she discovers that she stops breathing. Wen Qi happens to see her and he practically JUMPS down to get the body without any hesitation!

Tao and Xiao Yu are appalled to see him doing this. Wen Qi feels as if he is stabbed in the heart upon seeing that Xiang was seriously whipped and is unconscious. How can he not recognize his sister’s doing?? He quickly brings Xiang up to the top of the cliff with a leap. Tao and Xiao Yu are relieved to see him coming up in safety but are stunned to see his pale look.

Wen Qi has noticed that her body is cold and lifeless upon touching it. He places the body on the grass with trembling hands and kneels beside her. When checking that there is no pulse, his heart nearly stops. Extreme grief and regret overcome him. He starts blaming himself for forcing her to do things against her will when he recalls their past quarrels. The blow is too much for him to bear and he collapses after vomiting blood, with his hands still clutching the corpse close to him after crying. My friend has related that it is a very touching scene but unfortunately, I missed it!

Wen Qi has a nightmare, dreaming that Xiang was crying to him in a pool of blood and when he dashed to her, she was slashed in the neck and died. Upon awakening up, he is bitter to find that the tragedy has indeed happened in real life. He sees Xiao Yu and Tao preparing for the burial. Despite being unwell, he still insists on placing Xiang into the coffin. Upon carrying her, he is delighted when she comes to life! Both hug each other in joy. Wen Qi is so traumatized by the nightmare that he refuses to rest so that he can nurse her back to health. He is so afraid of losing her upon seeing how serious her injuries are.

(Luckily my VCR works this time and I have not missed the rest of this exciting story.)

Xiang returns to the prince and lies that she stayed with Xiao Yu all this while and Xiao Yu persuaded her to fake her disappearance to see if the prince is concerned about her. The prince loses his temper but is glad that she is fine. Xiang is troubled upon seeing how concerned he is over her.

The empress dowager is furious with the prince for falling for a commoner. So she decides to get his cousin, Princess Ling Long, to bring him back to the palace. Princess Ling Long is talented in poetry and well known for her beauty. The prince is attracted to her. All his followers (except the swordsman) find her a better catch than Xiang because she is more refined.

At first, Xiang is very relieved that the prince has found someone suitable for him that can match him in status and also assist him in court affairs. But she realizes that she still has to gain the prince’s love so as not to fail in her misson. Leaving herself no choice as all her friends are not around to help her (she had Tao and Xiao Yu to take care of Wen Qi at his home), she has to handle it alone.

But how? She isn’t as cultured as Xiao Yu in poetry, Chinese calligraphy and chess. She now regrets not having learnt more from Xiao Yu and Wen Qi. I really laugh when she is at her wits end when she loses to Ling Long in all these areas! But when it comes to playing the zither and cooking, both are at par.

Ling Long considers her a love rival and always belittles her whenever she has the chance. Xiang doesn’t blame her for being hostile but she knows that she has to act tough. The prince is still more interested in Xiang. But he finds it hard to please both women, as he doesn’t wish to offend both of them.

His four servants aren’t that happy with their prince’s hesitation. So they arrange a duel between the two women without the prince’s knowledge. But their skills prove even and they can’t make up their minds. They decide to seal their fate with a zither competition. At first, Xiang thinks that it is a normal competition but later, she finds that Ling Long actually uses her inner strength to play the music! To protect herself, she has to follow suit. The other 3 scholars don’t even know that they are in danger as they admire the music. Luckily the swordsman can detect it. He hurries to bring them to safety and he runs to get the prince.

Ling Long says that the loser will only admit defeat when she is the first to fall. Xiang agrees. Well, as much as you have guessed, Ling Long faints first while Xiang is so relieved that she faints after her. At this time, all the 5 men rush there and are the judges at the right time.

The following shows how cheap a commoner’s life can be! The four advisors run to Ling Long to examine her while the prince tries to revive Xiang on his own! The four are relieved that Ling Long only suffers from exhaustion. Only when the prince commands them angrily that they remember to treat Xiang! The prince then confesses to Ling Long that he likes Xiang more and she returns to the palace unhappily.

Now the prince is in Jiang Nan. Recalling that Wen Qi stays here, he invites Wen Qi to dinner. Wen Qi finds it so awkward to face Xiang. I really laugh upon seeing him sitting in a slanting direction to avoid her. But, both exchange glances secretly. Xiang meets Wen Yu who mocks at her again. Xiang is normally eloquent in speech but she is no match to Wen Yu in her sharp remarks!

She is unhappy and goes to visit Wen Qi. Wen Qi is concentrating on calligraphy and thinks that Xiao Yu is walking in when he hears the footsteps. Upon hearing Xiang’s voice, he puts down the brush and looks up. He wonders whey she is not with the prince at this time. She asks him bitterly when he is going to tell the prince his real identity. She simply can’t put up with this anymore. He replies that he has not told his mother about this and tells her to wait for a suitable time. She becomes agitated and asks him what will happen if she becomes the prince’s wife? She runs away before he can get her.

Wen Qi is very upset by her words. He is being forced by circumstances and if given the choice, he will not do it too. He vomits blood and tries to hide it when Xiao Yu comes in upon hearing the commotion. Seeing him sitting on the chair in pain, she opens his palm and is shocked. She is angered and wishes to tell Xiang about it. But she stops to take care of Wen Qi when he faints while trying to stop her.

Xiang cools her mind. She realizes that Wen Qi really knows his brother well and he will not force himself on her. The prince finds an inn but there aren’t enough rooms. The prince and Xiang are given the same room. At first, she is so scared that he might ask her to sleep with him but he lets Xiang sleep on the bed. Xiang is touched upon seeing him clutching on the table. She can’t sleep so she places a blanket on him. He wakes, smiles and holds her hand. She smiles uneasily at him, asking him what he will do if she refuses to be his wife. He replies that he will be upset but will still respect her decision. Since he as a future emperor can have many wives, he also can’t blame her. She replies that since he is so fickle-minded about women, she should treat him like an older brother. He takes it as a joke, without knowing that she really means what she has said!

The empress dowager is furious when the prince doesn’t return to the palace and is in Jiang Nan now. She comes personally and has an argument with him. In anger, she blurts out his real parentage. The prince comes to Wen Qi’s home to confirm his identity. This is a very heartbreaking scene when Wen Qi is so upset that he actually kneels down to tell him that!

The prince is worked up, pulls him up and demands to see their mother. Madam Gao sees the three together and gets confused. She asks Xiang why she is not with Wen Qi but with the prince. Everything comes clear to the prince then – he now knows why Xiang says those words earlier and why Wen Qi kneels before him earlier to beg for his forgiveness. Still, he is happy to reunited with his natural mother.

Wen Yu is also with Madam Gao and finds it hard to accept the truth too. Madam Gao is touched and grateful to Wen Qi for making such a big sacrifice. The prince is equally stunned on his brother’s actions and forgives both of them. He says in disappointment that Xiang has never meant to be his from the beginning and makes Wen Qi promise to treat her well.

The empress comes to look for the prince and sees Wen Yu. Wen Yu cries, asking her why she is so heartless to give her away. They hug. She agrees to let her visit her in the palace more often. Wen Yu doesn’t mind not being a real princess because she has grown very attached to Madam Gao. The two mothers meet up, thanking each other for taking good care of their children.

The empress dowager and the prince return to the palace. Xiang stands by the cliff to watch them leave while Wen Qi returns into the house to keep his mother company. The story ends here but my friend and I are baffled. Why no last scene on the lovers together and ends so abruptly? And the prince – did he marry Ling Long finally? There is no answer for both!

Introduction on characters

1. The prince – Chen Li Li

I really don’t know whether to like or hate this character. He is a good ruler. With his good martial arts skills, he needs no protection if he doesn’t offend so many people. Warlords and bandits are angry with him for foiling their attempts to rob the poor of their money. Greedy officials are unhappy with how their revenue is cut by half. And also the way he outsmarts his uncle in his plans to keep his power in court!

He is not afraid to invite trouble to his doorstep. He is so lucky to have help in the bright daylight (the 4 advisors) and in dark (Wen Qi and his trio will help him to settle those unseen dangers too.) We can’t blame him for being indecisive because Ling Long and Xiang are equally outstanding. One can help him in court and understands him well despite only together for a short time. Another is brilliant in knowing his likes and dislikes. It is really hard to choose one from the two.

This actress is so competent in her acting that most of the time I have forgotten that she is a woman. She laughs like a man with a loud voice, talks like one and also acts like one! My family has always hated long-winded Taiwanese dramas but they go for this one. She has such big eyes that can expressed the character’s joy, anger and grief well. In fact, she carried herself so well that when I watch other serials, I am not convinced by other actresses who impersonate as men anymore. Have I set too high expectations?

2. Gao Wen Qi – Yang Huai Min (as the heartless as Lau Shuet Wah’s character husband Chen Shi Mei in Taiwanese serial ‘Justice Bao’)

He is just like his name – a rare talent in the four arts. Wen Qi is good in chess, calligraphy, painting and marital arts. Not losing out to his elder brother at all. But unfortunately, he is in poor health all the time despite being highly skilled. Sometimes, you wonder why he isn’t the eldest child and turns out to be the youngest instead because he has such good foresight and planning. No wonder his health deteriorates and has no chance to get well because he worries too much!

I doubt there will be a person so noble to ask his sweetheart to get close to another man. Wen Qi does it but not without worries. He loves her with all his heart and is prepared to fight for his own happiness. Since young, he has known the truth because Madam Gao knows that he is very sensible. But this places such a big burden on him to make his beloved mother happy.

Although Wen Yu isn’t his real sister, he is close to her and gives in to her. He doesn’t blame his mother for showing more attention to her since young. Wen Qi is hesitant to bring the reunion forward because he is doubtful on how she will react upon knowing the truth. Both siblings quarrel over Xiang, which strains their relationship, especially after she injures Xiang seriously.

Yang does well in intimate love scenes. His pairing with Li is really close to perfection. The ways he looks at her and puts up with her tantrums are so touching. The way that he portrays how he is being sandwiched is very well depicted. The sick scenes show his sorrow well. Yang doesn’t scream aloud to let off steam. By speaking in a sad and moving voice before collapsing is enough to move the audience without tears. This is what I call acting! I complain that there might be too many of this but my friend laments that he deserves MORE than that because he makes poor Xiang suffer. Maybe she is right……

She likes the part when Wen Qi thinks that Xiang is dead, saying that it is one of the best scenes in there. I have no doubts on it as he has maintained his high standard throughout. I wonder why this actor ends up acting as villain roles now. He is so good as a pleasant guy in here.

3. Ding Xiang – Li Yu Ling

Her name represents a flower. Both men are more highly skilled than her, looking distant and indifferent. But when they are with her, they soften and address her as ‘Xiang Xiang’ fondly in a soft tone. She is pretty, sensible and courageous. In order to get the painting that Wen Qi likes, she risks her life just to make him happy. She brews medicine for Wen Qi and cooks delicious dishes to improve his health and appetite. She gives up her interest in wandering around after knowing him and keeps him company to accommodate his quiet nature. Knowing Wen Qi and Madam Gao’s wish, she sacrifices her own happiness to accompany a man whom she doesn’t love for months. She is a perfect woman of any man’s dreams!

Actually, she should not have agreed to such an unreasonable request. She vents her frustrations from time to time because the pressure is too much for her to take. And to be misunderstood for being a loose woman is really too unfair to her – actually she suffers more than Wen Qi!

She is smart in self-protection. Being in the pugilistic world for long, she is armed with secret gadgets. She simply can’t bear with the torture that Wen Yu has given her so she eats a drug to fake her death . She will have a chance for escape after her ‘death’ later. However, she doesn’t expect Wen Yu to be so cruel to throw her down a cliff. It was so real that even Wen Qi is also deceived by her, thinking that she is dead!

As witty as she is in other areas, I really laugh at the part when she doesn’t know what to do with Ling Long. She has protected the prince from assassins well and is never intimidated because Wen Qi never chides her for not spending more time on chess, paintings and poetry. But she feels so threatened and inferior by this woman. She starts to ponder if Wen Qi will turn to like Xiao Yu instead since they spend so much time together. But upon seeing how concerned he is for her, she is confident of herself again!

Li is versatile in her acting. She is firm with the prince because she wishes to help him to be a good ruler. But when she is with Wen Qi, she is like any other woman who wishes to get attention and be pampered. Their happy times are quite limited but she still cherishes every moment. I can never forget her happy expression after meeting him before returning to the prince with a frown and serious look.

4. Jiang Tao
He is like a caring elder brother to all of them. Tao is Wen Qi’s future brother in law who is very highly skilled in martial arts and has a large circle of friends from the pugilistic world. That is why the prince’s trips have been quite smooth sailing all along. Madam Gao has wished Wen Yu to marry a scholar or a court official but upon seeing how nice he is, she accedes to them being together. He knows of Wen Yu’s parentage all along and having pity on her, he can put up with her bad temper.

But he has close shaves at times when he manages to stop Wen Yu from disclosing Xiang’s identity to the prince! He knows of Xiao Yu’s fondness for Wen Qi but knowing that the ending is fruitless, he tries hard to console her and keeps the secret from Wen Qi.

5. Gao Wen Yu

I have rarely come across a woman who is so unreasonable and willful to take matters into her own hands. Those who wish to scold in refined words can learn from her. Poor Xiang is at a loss for words to talk back at her when she accused her for having a change of heart!

Actually, we can’t blame her for becoming this way. Wen Yu always feels that Madam Gao is unfair to her. Wen Qi gets to learn martial arts while she only gets to learn the things that women should know (sewing, playing the zither, etc). Madam Gao explains that this move is to help Wen Qi to get well while it isn’t necessary to learn any martial arts since her future husband is so powerful. Wen Yu isn’t convinced. Xiang and Xiao Yu are also swordswomen so why can’t she be one??

She feels very out of place when Tao shares with her all his experiences in the martial arts world. They are a mismatch in interest but the love between them is still strong. She is filial to stay with her mother upon seeing her lonely when Wen Qi is always not at home. She starts to question him but he keeps mum.

Upon seeing Xiang going out with another man, she is so furious to see her brother suffering in silence so she decides to ‘discipline’ her for him. But she nearly kills her and tells her bodyguards to dispose her ‘body’. She is about to leave with them when Wen Qi appears with Tao and Xiao Yu. She decides to see how Wen Qi will react to her ‘death’. Little does she expect Wen Qi to jump down the cliff too. Her anxiety is no less than Tao and Xiao Yu upon seeing him fainting due to extreme grief. But she is so afraid to get reprimanded that she doesn’t dare to show herself. And indeed, Wen Qi and his trio are so angry with her that they do not speak to her for weeks!

Later when she knows that Xiang is alive, she is relieved that she doesn’t blame her but still annoyed that she ‘forsakes’ Wen Qi. Whenever she is about to confront her, Tao always stops her, telling her not to intrude into their affairs. This annoys her and both often quarrel. She wonders how the righteous Tao becomes so unfeeling. She is stunned that Wen Qi treats his ‘love rival’ so well - the three can even have a meal calmly together! But knowing Wen Qi never desires for an official post, she starts feeling confused.

She is unprepared for the shock at first. However, she is touched by Madam Gao’s unconditional love for her and thus decides to stay with her. All will like her when she turns demure at the end. This actress is quite formidable in her acting. I nearly swore at her for nearly screwing up things when watching the serial!

6. Xiao Yu

Her name means little rain in Chinese and her voice is as crystal clear as raindrops. She is as beautiful as Xiang but is gentler. Her debut scene appearance is eye-catching. She is about to cross a rope bridge when she is harassed by some men. She still smiles but I really laugh when she later hurls all of them to the stream beneath! She describes them as falling like raindrops from the sky, making a poem from it!

She takes care of Wen Qi on Xiang’s behalf. Wen Qi treats her like a younger sister, not knowing her love for him. She feels sorry for the loving couple to part and tries hard to overcome his loneliness. There are many scenes where she portrays her despair well.

One unforgettable one will be her standing outside the window seeing how intimate Wen Qi is with Xiang, touching her hand and talking to her in a tender tone. Despite knowing that she has no place in his heart, Xiao Yu feels jealous and Tao has to give her a pat on her shoulder to give her comfort.

Another will be her shock when discovering that Xiang caused Wen Qi to have a relapse. This is the first time that I have seen Xiao Yu so angry. If not for Wen Qi’s anxiety to hold her back and faints, she will have given Xiang a thorough scolding. How I wish to see that! This actress acts well too.

7. The empress dowager

An unfeeling person who can give away her own daughter to save the country. If not for her, Wen Qi will not have come up with this desperate attempt to use Xiang in luring the prince out from the palace. To consolidate the prince’s position, she selects Ling Long to be his future wife so that she can enlist the help of her father to command the military troops. She is disturbed when Wen Yu questions her about her cruelty. But nothing matters to her than the country being put at stake. A very practical woman.

8. Madam Gao

She is a dutiful mother who loves her children. She misses the prince but tries to suppress her urge to meet him. Knowing that Wen Yu has a fiery temperament, she is determined not to let her learn martial arts because she is so frightened that she might kill someone if she learns the skills. But Wen Yu still nearly kills Xiang anyway. She tries to tame her by passing her all the embroidery skills she knows.

The child she worries for the most is Wen Qi. She hoped that through learning martial arts from young, his health will be better but it doesn’t work on him. Wen Qi observes that she is often sad and thus, she reveals the secret. She is puzzled on why Wen Qi is often not at home and mistakens that he blames her for giving his elder brother away. She is later surprised by his gesture and is very touched that he actually tries so hard to make her happy.

Most favourite character
Wen Qi, for being able to bear the suffering of missing his lover in making his mother’s wish come true. A close second will be Xiang for being so tolerant of both men.

Most hated character
Wen Yu for causing so much trouble. Wen Qi and his friends really have cold feet whenever she appears. She is just like fire, which will spread fast and must be stopped on time!

Song

The theme song is sung by Chen Li Li and Jiang Guang Chao. A very interesting song on the scenery of Jiang Nan on why the prince is so reluctant to leave upon stepping into the province.

Interesting scenes

All scenes of Wen Qi and Xiang together. Unlike Qiong Yao’s leads who need to talk a lot to move the audience, both need not do anything much. Just by looking their eyes, we can feel the torment when they face each other but they can’t talk freely because the prince is present! The argument scenes are good too, showing the conflicts they are in.

Stories showing the prince’s wisdom in solving cases.

The war between the two women over who should get the prince - I am speechless to find how the two can fight so fiercely like men!

The scenery is nice! I never know that Taiwan has so many natural spots – it doesn't pale in comparison to China!

Interesting facts

Chen Li Li came to Singapore for concerts and all were packed because many liked to see how she looked in real life as a woman!

There was another serial after this called ‘Spring in Jiang Nan’ ( ???). It is a story on the four legendary scholars. The love interest of Tang Bo Hu (Ling Bo) is played by Li Yu Ling again as a swordwoman to protect them. But I am so disappointed to find that Yang Huai Min plays Wen Zhen Min so they are not lovers here and he knows no martial arts. That is bad enough. I must admit that I hate ‘wong mui diu’ (???) singing very much (but Ling Bo MUST sing every episode) so I did not watch the serial after 2 episodes. My friend had better tolerance – 10 more episodes. Why she stopped – because Ling Bo must still sing in a scene where the swordswoman is injured! This is really too much for us to bear!

Flaws

Too many scenes of Wen Qi vomiting blood. I really pity him – why must he suffer so much? But my friend still wants to ask for more!

Long dialogues that drag – certain parts are even repetitive.

The fighting scenes are really too basic and few. Nothing to rave about. But I can’t blame them as this was due to the lack of technology in those days.

Jiang Guang Chao (the original singer who sang ‘Bao Qing Tian’) having more reading lines and exposure than the other 3 advisors. As much as I have tried, I can’t remember the other faces. But still, I must praise him for acting convincingly well as the advisor who is snobbish but good in healing skills.

The final scene of acknowledgement was too dramatic, with too many tears, and ended too abruptly. There was not really enough time to explore their feelings. I also wish that they can add a final scene of Wen Qi and Xiang together. Or at least tell us what happens to the prince in the palace in the end??

Conclusion

I find Taiwanese serials more formidable in writing about love relationships and family ties than fighting scenes. They explore each character’s development and feelings. This serial has all of these qualities. It also packs suspense, loyalty, friendship and natural scenes. Despite its length, I follow the story faithfully. Plus a great cast, this serial is worth keeping if it is out on vcds. I consider it a real classic.

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

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


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