Tag Archives: Chinese Historical Drama

OH DAMN Y’ALL! Team TBR Challenge Review: Miss Mystery

“Blurb”: 18 years ago a young and innocent Xue Tong witnessed her family being brutally murdered. Since then she has hidden herself quietly and patiently, waiting for the day she could put her revenge plan into action. Well that day has come, and Xue Tong has finally returned to her hometown as Miss Lin Bao Er, the daughter of a wealthy Nanyang businessman. Now an adult, Lin Bao Er is clever, cunning, good with a gun, and skilled at understanding the depths of human nature.

When she meets the charming young master Zhu Guan Wen, the two decide to pose as couple in order to progress their own interests. Neither can help but grow feelings for each other, but will their love be their greatest strength or their downfall? [– from MDL]

You. Guys. I am giddy as I write this review. Revenge, a kickass FL, and THE most supportive ML. I was constantly *STAR-EYES* and *HEART-EYES* while watching this drama. Honestly, I think you “need” both trailers to get an idea – it’s definitely got it’s dark moments (nearly all presented in trailer two), but there’s a lot of romance too. The TBR prompt for October is “Danger Zone” and … Miss Mystery really fit the bill here because our FL (female lead) Lin Bao Er/ Xue Tong is throwing herself into unknown dangers in order to avenge her family. She’s got a plan, but in life you never quite know how things will turn out. Lucky for her she has ML (male lead) Zhu Guan Wen who could be labeled “Mr. Supportive.” (ETA: I forgot to add that as a potential bonus, each episode is only 5-10 minutes long, so it’s not a big commitment.) Continue reading

A Drama to Delight Your Cold Little Black Heart. Team TBR Challenge Review: What’s Wrong With My Princess

General Murong Qiu Yu was infatuated with the second prince Li Mo, she aided him in seizing the throne. However, she was betrayed and killed by Li Mo and her sister Murong Xin Er. After being reborn, Qiu Yu found herself back on her wedding night with the seventh prince, Li Jian. Qiuy Y decided to join forces with Li Mo’s rival, Li Jian, to ensure that Murong Xin Er and Li Mo face the punishment they deserve… – source, MDL


I followed the TBR Challenge Prompt for “once!” This is a new to me scriptwriter (Luo Man Ying) – which isn’t something I usually check, but I did here. It’s also fitting because the story is the best part of the drama. What’s Wrong With My Princess is one of the most satisfying revenge stories I’ve seen. It’s a short drama so definitely not big budget, but definitely worth watching. I think I’ve seen both lead actors in other dramas previously, but ironically the one who I’d be most interested in seeing again was a character I hated – the SFL. (I chalked it down to the directing and good acting – her character is awful.)

When it comes to Chinese dramas the way lead characters are discussed are “Female Lead (FL),” “Male Lead (ML),” “Second Female Lead (SFL),” “Second Male Lead (SML),” and occasionally there’s a third FL and ML. Although ML and FL are always the hero/heroine, it’s not the case for SML, SFL, etc. – just they also get the more developed stories and longer screen time. There are some trigger warnings needed for the beginning – although it’s so unrealistic and absurd seeing it at least for me wasn’t that big of a deal – in fact I kept thinking and even said “that’s not how this shit works” but it was so awful it’s one of those “I don’t mind it’s wrong” things. The evil characters kill FL’s child in utero… right as she’s going into labor. It’s deeply fucked but that’s the point and why she comes back so angry and determined to exact justice. There’s also the dark history (or purported history) of consorts and concubines doing this sort of thing in the palace in order to grab power for themselves or preserve power … so it’s slightly less “what the FUCK”/more common to see to a native audience than to a Western audience.
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What if the “Villains” Were the Heroes? A belated TBR Team Challenge Review of Dong Lan Xue

“Summary”: The maid in charge, Shen Yan, has assisted the Seventh Prince Chu Ning Yuan in seizing the title of crown prince. The two, who also had tragic experiences, became cold-hearted in order to seek revenge and seize power. They are used to seeing the dark, and the little warmth is only left to each other. Chu Ning Yuan gradually fell in love with Shen Yan who was always by his side, but Shen Yan was indifferent to his love, and even took the initiative to match Chu Ning Yuan to marry the daughter of a powerful minister in order to destroy the current crown prince’s plan to stabilize his power by taking the prime minister’s daughter as a concubine. Chu Ning Yuan saw Shen Yan’s intentions and became more determined to keep Shen Yan by his side. [Lightly edited by me, initially taken from MDL]

Trailer:

Dong Lan Xue is a short webdrama that is obviously low budget but doesn’t look like it at all. The costumes are gorgeous, as are the actors, the sets are well done, the script is excellent, the acting is good, there’s great fight choreography, and even nice background music. I think it was the first super short I’ve seen – as in each episode is only 2-3 minutes, and I was impressed with not only how much gets packed in, but how well the story is told. Continue reading

She dies the first time they meet. He dies the last time they meet. Team TBR Challenge Review: An Ancient Love Song

JUST WATCH THIS TRAILER

This is one of the rare times I’m “in line” with the TBR Challenge prompt – July is “opposites attract” and while this maybe isn’t what one would think … I feel it fits here. I might also be a little off with the second sentence of the post title, but it’s pretty safe to assume. So this is a love story but it is NOT an American genre romance. Obviously.

The premise is … what if you and your soulmate were trapped in reverse timelines.

I want to talk about the details of this drama for once – because the way An Ancient Love Song came into existence is SO COOL. As far as i know it’s a short, low budget “low production” series. However, I saw some interesting buzz about it, and had liked the FL (female lead) in another drama I’d watched before. Initially I saw a trailer and was like “while the visuals are beautiful it looks sad, so pass” but then I heard about the origin. So apparently someone made a random but intense fan music video (FMV) years ago. They took clips of different dramas and put them together (very impressive – they made the visuals seamless and it really looked like it could’ve been one show) –  and even hired voice actors for new dialogue/a story. It went viral, and eventually someone decided to turn it into an actual series. The original creator was even brought on as a scriptwriter. I believe someone said it’s the first time this has ever happened. Continue reading

Team TBR Challenge Review: Word of Honor

LOOK IT’S SO GOOD OKAY? 
*CAVEAT: To be honest, I put off watching this series for a bit because there were some mixed reviews, and for the first episode(s) the critics are legit. The beginning is … a lot. They throw a lot of shit out there, and introduce characters that are instantly killed off. Also, for whatever reason the first (few?) episodes – I’ve replaying from E1 as I write this review for me … third? fourth? rewatch – anyway, especially in episode one it’s like the director firmly told everyone “hey, overact as much as humanly possible.” Even knowing that/having seen some gifs that had me facepalming, I almost DNF’d at E1, but powered through, and am so glad that I did, because this series truly is excellent. (You need to watch the first few episodes the first time to get the background, but IMO the series only really starts/gets good once the hero loses is stupid awful “disguise.”) So … lol truly – if you pick up this series, which I hope you do … POWER THROUGH THE FIRST FEW EPISODES. Ping me, tweet me, email me, I will let you bitch all you want! I’ll encourage you and we’ll get through it! (It’s taken me months to write this review where I started and stopped…) Anyway, here’s the blurb/summary.

As leader of an elite unit, tasked with protecting the imperial family, Zhou Zi Shu was not a man to be taken lightly. A man of great honor, who commanded much respect, he served with the utmost loyalty and was rewarded accordingly. However charmed his life may have seemed on the outside, in reality, it was not the life Zi Shu desired. Unsettled within himself, Zi Shu ultimately decides to leave his position in order to pursue his own dreams.

Putting the past behind him, Zi Shu is determined to start anew but even the best laid plans can be waylaid by fate. Not long after setting off to see the world, Zi Shu finds himself embroiled in a conspiracy that rocks the martial arts world. At the same time, he meets Wen Ke Xing, a mysterious martial artist from the Ghost Valley, who is on a quest to avenge his parents’ death. Brought together by fate, the two become fast friends as they share a series of adventures that leads them ever closer to a legendary treasure that is rumored to give its owner ultimate power over the martial arts world.

Entangled in conspiracies and hunting treasure, Zi Shu and Ke Xing find themselves caught up in an adventure so epic, it could alter the course of history forever.

Adapted from the novel, Faraway Wanders by Priest, Word of Honor is a 2021 adventure fantasy drama directed by Gary Sing and Jones Ma.

I posted online a little bit about this series while I was watching it and I said it has some of the most complex main characters I’ve ever read or watched. One was basically forced to become an assassin to protect not only himself but his entire martial [arts] sect (Four Seasons Manor) of nearly 100 people that he was entrusted to lead at just 16 years old. The other is willing to watch the world burn as he tries to avenge the tragic death of his parents – and with good reason, because they were betrayed by the world. Then there’s the added level of this being a same sex relationship/romance drama which is definitely ~not allowed in China, so the whole thing is overall subtle and it’s mostly hints and innuendo. (Since the airing of this show there’s been an outright ban…) Still, I really enjoyed Word of Honor and started rewatching it to write this review. Again, I also entreat people to “endure” through the first few episodes because there’s some pretty painful overacting in them which thankfully doesn’t last.

The “prompt” of the TBR challenge this month is “love is love” – and this is a “BL” series – “boy love” which is unfortunately banned now, so shout out to the iconic Word of Honor. (LOL seriously – considering comments I’ve read, these characters live rent free in a lot of people’s heads. 💯) And truly. Gong Jun and Zhang Zhehan give a masterclass in chemistry here, with just looks. Continue reading

Team TBR Challenge Review/Rant: The Legend of Hao Lan

​(This is the synopsis from Wiki) Betrayed by her family and her first love, Li Haolan finds herself in desperate circumstances. Her father, State Censor Li He, arranges marriage between her and the far-older Yu Ping, who treats his other wives brutally. When she tries to circumvent this fate by begging her first love, Prince Jiao, to marry her, Li Haolan’s stepmother, Gao Min, orders her killed and thrown into the river. Surviving only by chance, Li Haolan crawls back from the brink of death to discover her reputation in tatters, as Gao Min spread the rumor that Li Haolan shamed the family by eloping with a stranger to explain the girl’s disappearance. Li Haolan’s mother, Wang Wan’er, a lowly concubine, has gone mad with grief over her daughter’s unknown fate. Gao Min orders the murder of Li Haolan’s mother and sells Li Haolan into slavery, just as Li Haolan watches her sweetheart marrying her little sister, Li Xiuyu.

Stricken with the knowledge of everyone’s complicity, and unable to return home, Li Haolan vows she will never beg for another thing in her life as she tries to claw her way out of her fallen circumstances and avenge the death of her mother and the wrongs done to her. The scheming merchant Lü Buwei purchases Li Haolan and takes interest in the fate of this intelligent, unusual girl. Together, they form an unlikely partnership as they both begin to climb the ladders of power.

Through Lü Buwei’s influence, Li Haolan enters Zhao‘s imperial court and makes a match with Ying Yiren, the captive prince of Qin. As Qin and Zhao fall into war, the balance of power changes, with Li Haolan on top.​

The theme this month was a gimme/reader’s choice  and I went with not only one of my most recently watched dramas but the one I most need to process. So the summary/synposis is basically everything that happens in the first episode. I have A Lot of Feelings about this series and an overarching summary in my head is “all the men in this series are trash.” There are only one or two that get more than five minutes of screen time that are mostly ok and … they both die. Granted, most the women in the show are truly terrible too. That being said, I’m … actually not mad I watched this series, but man – it is DEFINITELY not a “happy watch.” Production wise, it’s fantastic. This is clearly a big budget production. The sets, costumes, the actors, the music – it’s all so incredibly well done. It’s a historical drama in terms of not only setting, but it’s based on actual people.
I actually watched the whole damn thing in two days, no thank you, insomnia. I also did fast forward through a lot of the scheming because I don’t care about that shit, and you see it play out anyway so that’s something. I honestly don’t think I missed much though, and I “rewatched” the whole series the next day in that I watched the scenes between the heroine and her husband. And I realized – there aren’t that many. I don’t think I missed any in my second selective fast watch, and it’s possible it could all fit in the span of a single episode. Two at most. Yikes. (They’re also apart for five episodes, which covers the span of eight years/has a time jump.)

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Team TBR Challenge Review: A Familiar Stranger

Shen Qin, the Prime Minister’s daughter, is due to be married to a powerful general, Xiao Han Sheng, but she is already in love with another man, Prince Ning. In a nefarious bid to disentangle herself from this marriage, Shen Qin traps a female artist, Shi Qi, and uses a magician to perform a type of sorcery that enables the two ladies to swap faces.

Shi Qi wakes up with her face now belonging to the Prime Minister’s daughter and is blackmailed by Shen Qin into marrying Xiao Han Sheng. To her surprise, she recognises Xiao Han Sheng from an old encounter in the past. Conflicted, she has to carry out a charade as his wife, Shen Qin, and matters get complicated when Prince Ning also starts getting interested in her. (Source: MDL)

A Familiar Stranger is a hidden gem. I hadn’t heard much about it and think more people should be giving it love. This is a short webdrama that I thought was incredibly well done. (I don’t quite get all the differences between web dramas in China and such – I do know they’re more an established medium than in the states – but sometimes still quite low budget. That’s not the case here/I don’t know how much was actually spent but it definitely doesn’t lack in terms of quality.) The sets, actors, script, musicality and OST (original sound track) are all great. In fact, after first watching it a week or so ago I rewatched it again a few days later, and have re-started it again for this review. And I’ve watched two other dramas that the male and female lead star in, respectively, I thought they were that good. (Also the theme for this month is “unusual historical” which … *gestures* – I mean, everything I watch now is an “unusual historical” in terms of our usual romance novels.) Continue reading

Team TBR Challenge Review: The Blood of Youth


Blurb: As a disciple of the Lei Clan, Lei Wu Jie can’t wait to prove his worth as a hero, but as a novice who has only just entered the martial arts world, the path to becoming a true hero is difficult, at best. Undeterred by the challenges that lay before him, Wu Jei makes his way to the great city of Xue Yue, certain that his time there will mould him into the hero he so longs to be. Unfortunately, his trip to Xue Yue is waylaid by an unfortunate mishap at the Villa of Fallen Snow.

As proprietor of the Villa, Xiao Se has all the looks of a wealthy innkeeper, but he can barely afford to keep the inn open. Struggling with his business, Xiao Se is less than pleased when his establishment is damaged by the antics of a young, wannabe hero. Demanding he makes amends for the damage he caused, Wu Jei can think of only one way to appease the grumpy Xiao Se, and that is to take him with him. With no other options, the two set off together without any idea of what fate has in store for them.

Befriending several people along the way, including Wu Xin, Sikong Qian Luo, Tang Lian, and Ye Ruo Yi, Xiao Se and Wu Jei soon find themselves caught up in an adventure far greater than any of them could have imagined. While facing countless dangers, the group stumbles upon a trail of clues that tie one of them to a battle for the throne that took place over a decade ago. The question is, is the intrepid hero ready and willing to take his rightful place as the leader of the people? And where will the brotherhood go from there?

I really enjoyed this show. I started writing this review when I was rewatching (again again) and on episode 6 where there’s a lot of great humor. The Blood of Youth has such a badass ending. The theme for the March TBR challenge is “baggage” and boy howdy does our (main) hero have a lot of it. The most eyebrow raising aspect is – and … get ready to mark your calendars because this is rare – ignore the “romance” in it. Truly it’s terrible. I recoiled from my screen during most the “romance” scenes 😅. I liked the great balance of this series between plot and serious matters and humor, as well as the great relationships that are displayed. Really in my opinion it’s a buddy epic, and a journey of the hero “re-discovering” himself. It’s a bit of a wuxia fantasy – there are a lot of suspension of disbelief elements (basically people flying, near sentient weapons etc), but just go along for the ride. It’s a good time. Continue reading

Team TBR Challenge Review: The Autumn Ballad

Here are two [synopses] of the series:

The story of a witty young girl named Qiu Yan and a cold-faced duke named Liang Yi, who goes from battling each other with wits and boldness to understanding and accompanying each other.

Qiu Yan is the least favored eldest daughter of the Qiu Manor. She managed to reap happiness step by step relying on her own efforts and wisdom. (From MyDramaList)

Or

As the eldest daughter of an influential scholar and Vice Minister of Works, Qiu Yan (Qiao Xin) ought to have been highly favored within her family. Alas, as the daughter of her father’s concubine, the favor Qiu Yan should have received often went to her younger sister, Qiu Min (Kabby Hui). Often overlooked and frequently mistreated, Qiu Yan’s only chance of escape from her less-than-fortunate life comes in the form of an arranged marriage. Unfortunately even that goes awry at the last minute, leaving Qiu Yan an object of scorn and mistrust.

Determined to clear her name, Qiu Yan takes on the investigation herself; but she isn’t the only one looking into the case of her newly departed husband. As head inspector of the government’s investigative agency, Duke Liang Yi (Jeremy Tsui) is determined to uncover the truth. Often crossing paths with Qiu Yan, the two form an unlikely friendship, which works out advantageously for both, as the closing of their case gets them both what they want most. But the fates that tie Qiu Yan and Liang Yi together aren’t finished meddling just yet.

When her family is threatened by an unexpected accusation, Qiu Yan and Liang Yi must work together once more, to save her family from ultimate disgrace. As they work to clear her family’s name, the sparks that often fly between them eventually ignite a much bigger flame. But can love blossom in the midst of a major family crisis?

A fantastic story of clashing wills and melting hearts, “The Autumn Ballad” is a 2022 Chinese romance drama directed by Ding Ying Zhou. (From Rakuten Viki)

(Today was the first time I’d ever seen the trailer… anyway.) The “prompt” for the challenge this month is “Starting Over” and I’m currently having my heart ripped out by my rewatch of The Autumn Ballad … and I think it really fits well. (The book I’m reading very slowly, Kraving Tavek by Zoey Draven, would fit well too but I have a feeling even much more angst is in the second half and I fear it turning into wangst … so we’ll see.) Anyway … it’s funny because I think I actually tried watching The Autumn Ballad a while back but the opening scene turned me off – but last week I saw more of the episode when someone else turned it on and I got hooked. Hard. I literally watched all 34 episodes in two days … so there you go. (I also literally didn’t sleep the second night which is not recommended for healthy responsible adults.) 😅 It also means I’m fuzzy on some details so a piecemeal rewatch is called for, although I’m fast forwarding through all the parts that annoyed me the first go round, so there’s that too.

I don’t know if I’ll do a good job describing things/doing it justice because I’m so in it … but here we go. Continue reading