The Longest Day in Chang’an 长安十二时辰

The Longest Day in Chang’an (长安十二时辰) is not long at all. The episodes flew by so fast leaving me with the impression of, “What? I have to wait another week for my next episode?! Nooooo!!!!”

The drama starts in the morning of January 14th in the year 744. It is the day of Lantern Festival. For the next 24 hours, residents and visitors can traverse Chang’an, the capital of Tang Dynasty, without restriction to mingle, to shop, to be entertained to their hearts’ content. On this festive day, Jing-An-Si, a brand spanking new inter-departmental counter-terrorism agency, got a credible intel that a group of foreign spies is planning an attack on the city. Their preemptive strike to thwart off the enemy’s plot failed miserably with their undercover agent lying in the morgue sans tongue. Now they are racing against time to stop the enemies from turning the biggest celebration of the year into an inferno hell of fire.

Visually, this drama is stunning. From the clothing and the makeup, the street layout and the buildings, to the furniture and the utensils, everything screams, “This is the Tang Dynasty! Chang’an is a world-class metropolitan.” The color schemes and camera angles tied all the elements together beautifully.
The Longest Day in Chang'an The Longest Day in Chang'an
The Longest Day in Chang'an The Longest Day in Chang'an

After watching the Empress in Goodbye My Princess , I developed higher tolerance for non-modern makeup fashion. By their appearances, can you spot who isn’t Chinese in this picture?
The Longest Day in Chang'an

The characters are multilayered. Throw in power, revenge, favors, money, you just never sure who is on which side. I disapprove the behavior, but I don’t object to the person.
The Longest Day in Chang'an

Story wise, this drama peels off like an onion. Just when they think they solve one problem, another even more complicated one takes its place.

Possible spoilers ahead. Read at your own risk.

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Chinese Lesson 1: Supernatural creatures

妖魔鬼怪 (yāo mó guǐ guài) when translated into English roughly means monsters, demons, and ghosts. The translation is a gross generalization of creatures in Chinese supernatural stories. I feel they deserve a better description. If only we can drop the inaccurate translation and just stick with hanzi pinyin when we do subtitles, maybe more people would finally appreciate the differences between them.

“妖者非人之活物所化;魔者生人所化;鬼者死者所化;怪者非人之死物所化” ~ 魔道祖師
(“Yao are transformed from non-human living beings. Mo are from living human beings. Gui are from dead human beings. Guai are from non-human, non-living objects.” ~ Chinese novel Mo Dao Zu Shi)

(妖 yao) – Monsters, fairies, and shapeshifters. Yao are not demons, but they are often referred to as fox demon, spider demon, tree demon etc… I guess we haven’t found a more suitable noun to describe non-human living creatures that behave like humans but are neither good nor evil. They may or may not take on human form. Yao are the backbone of Chinese supernatural stories. We can’t live without them.

Basically, all the nonhuman characters (wesen) in Grimm are Yao.

The most famous Yao of all time is Madame White Snake. There are hundreds if not thousands of works referencing her throughout the centuries. The oldest piece I have read was dated back in the 1600s.

There are as many types of Yao as there are living creatures on earth.

(魔 mo) – Demons. Here comes the difference between Chinese vs western interpretation.

In other countries, demon = devil = Satan = fallen angel. In Good Omens, Crawely represents the demon.

Mo means differently in Chinese. People are referred to as Mo when they are overtaken by their obsessions and they can no longer control their actions. In dictionary form: A person who holds extreme or fanatical views, especially one who resorts to or advocates extreme action. In The Legends , Li Chenlan and Jiang Wu represent the Mo.

(鬼 gui) – Ghost. No ambiguity here. Dead people become ghosts.

(怪 guai) – Monsters. They are inanimate objects that have developed consciousness. They may or may not take on human form.

Japan’s chōchin-obake and kasa-obake are the very definition of Guai.

The Monster book in Harry Potter can be considered as a Guai, too.

After all that explanation, we are ruined by Chinese compound words.
魔鬼 (Mo Gui) – People/monsters that are pure evil.
妖魔 (Yao Mo) – Crazy, demented people/monsters.
鬼怪 (Gui Guai) – Scary monsters that cause goosebumps.
妖怪 (Yao Guai) – Strange, grotesque people/monsters.
妖精 (Yao Jing) – Seductive people/fairies.

He’s Coming To Me เขามาเชงเม้งข้างๆหลุมผมครับ

He’s Coming To Me (เขามาเชงเม้งข้างๆหลุมผมครับ) is an additive supernatural BL mystery about a guy befriending a ghost and solving the true cause of his death.

Thai drama He's Coming To Me Ohm Singto

If you don’t feel warm and fuzzy inside watching their daily interactions, I don’t think we can play together.
Thai drama He's Coming To Me Ohm Singto

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The Legends 招摇

The Legends (招摇) is a xianxia dramedy about a badass villain, a dead badass villain, possessing the body of a girl from Team Good Guy to seek revenge against her villain-usurper. In the process, she ended up falling in love with him and they lived happily ever after. It’s a crazy setup and it’s fantastic!

The Legends Zhao Yao

The Legends is definitely one of the better adapted dramas based on supernatural novels. It navigates around the Chinese censorship on ghost genre by offering a different spin on how our favorite baddie is able to stick around to haunt the people she should be leaving behind. For those deep-rooted ghost mythology the show can’t get around, it doesn’t try to twist them into something they are not, it simply skips over them. It’s a sad but necessary evil to pass Almighty-CC’s ban on all-things-supernatural. And I accept the changes with a nod of approval.

‘Cuz no matter what our badass villain is, ghost or otherwise, Lu Zhaoyao is awesome to the core!
The Legends Zhao Yao

I admit that the drama’s action department requires a major overhaul, but their inability to seamlessly integrate actors with their stunt doubles does not take away from the sparkling chemistry between the major characters. Since their juicy goodness happens after Zhaoyao is dead, feel free to skip to episode 6 when she officially begins her afterlife journey to get her villainy groove back.

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The Story of Ming Lan 知否知否應是綠肥紅瘦

Tang Dynasty could tout having the first and only female Emperor in Chinese history, but Song Dynasty gave women the most legal rights. It was the best of time and the worst of time for female in ancient China. The Story of Ming Lan (知否知否应是绿肥红瘦) will tell you all about it.

The Story of Ming Lan

To fully appreciate the awesomeness of SML, you first have to have basic knowledge of ancient Chinese society and women’s place in it. If you have seen a proper period drama, like Dream of the Red Chamber (红楼梦), feel free to skip this part. If the closest you came to period drama is Scarlet Heart (步步惊心), a crash course on ancient Chinese culture may help avoid the dreaded impression of “I don’t get it. Why is the show so slow? Why isn’t there any catfights?” Cuz’ the best part of the show is knowing what the characters must do, can do, and should not do, and debating if we would make the same choice if we were in their position.

Check out here for 11 things about Song Dynasty you should know.
  1. For most of Chinese history, it was a patriarchal society. As such, women’s social status was between medium high to non-existent. They were expected to be seen but not heard, especially for a low ranking new wife in her husband’s household.
  2. Filial piety was codified into law. Not performing the duty would result in job demotion, exile, and even beheading. Mourning period for parents was mandatory 3 years, in which the family was prohibited from marrying, holding public office, hosting celebratory activities, attending banquets, etc.
  3. A wife could be divorced by her husband (as in dishonorably dismissed) for one of 7 reasons: Unfilial conducts; Barrenness; Promiscuity; Jealousy; Severe chronic illness; Gossip; Theft.
  4. On the other hand, she could not be divorced for 3 reasons: She had no other place to go; She had observed the mourning period for her parent-in-laws; She had married her husband when he was poor and now he’s rich.
  5. While a wife could ask for no-fault divorce (as in honorably separated) in any dynasty, it was more commonplace in Song Dynasty. Once granted, she could get back her entire dowry and remarry without restriction. Sometimes, she could get child custody as well.
  6. In Song Dynasty, a husband could only have one “Wife” (spouse), but he could have many “Qie” (concubine).
  7. In Song Dynasty, the law forbid promoting a Qie to a Wife. While both types of women were considered legally married to the husband, the Qie was essentially a glorified maidservant and could be sold like a property. A man was a “bachelor” if he never had a Wife, even when he had many Qie and children at home.
  8. A Qie was different from a Tongfang (maidservant who served her master in bed). And a Tongfang was different from a Waishi (mistress). Qie and Tongfang were women pre-approved to sleep with the man by his family, and Waishi was not. To turn Tongfang or Waishi into a Qie, paperwork had to be filed with the government.
  9. In Song Dynasty, women had property rights and could inherit their parents’ money. Although a daughter was only entitled to half of what her brother got, it was better than none, especially her husband had no claim over it. What was hers remained hers.
  10. In Song Dynasty, there was a social difference between children born of a Wife (“Di”) and those born of a Qie (“Shu”). The Di children had priority in inheritance order, job choice and marriage candidate. The Shu daughters normally marry the Shu sons. If they happened to marry men of higher social status, they were expected to be a Qie.
  11. Occupations from most respected to least: Scholar-officials (everyone’s dream job); Farmers; Craftsmen; and Merchants.

References:
Filial mourning, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Filial_mourning&oldid=832678676 (last visited Feb. 16, 2019).
Dishu system, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Dishu_system&oldid=866127401 (last visited Feb. 16, 2019).
Four occupations, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Four_occupations&oldid=882735651 (last visited Feb. 16, 2019).
Society in Ancient China, https://www.timemaps.com/encyclopedia/ancient-china-society (last visited Feb. 16, 2019).
Concubinage, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Concubinage&oldid=883341340 (last visited Feb. 16, 2019).
Liu Shi Yu, Ancient China is One Wife and Many Concubines, https://www.aboluowang.com/2014/0319/380940.html (last visited Feb. 16, 2019).
Wu Gou, Women’s Status in Song Dynasty (2015), https://www.thepaper.cn/newsDetail_forward_1375473 (last visited Feb. 16, 2019).

Now that you have read up on the basics, let’s move on to the show.

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My, How You’ve Grown!

I’ve been watching some old dramas and got unexpectedly warm and fuzzy inside when I recognized a few familiar faces among them. And I went, “Oh~~ They were so adorably cute!” I’m talking about the child actors. Some have grown up to take on leading roles, such as Wu Lei in Tomb of the Sea. Others are still playing younger versions of main characters. My moment of nostalgia inspired me to write about six young actors who made a strong impression on me in one drama or another, and I hope to see more of them in the future.

I’ll start the list with Bian Cheng, who I currently use as my profile pic. He completely won me over with his portrayal of teenage Luo Chi in Faithful to Buddha, Faithful to You. The farewell scene between Luo Chi and Ai Qing tugged my heartstrings to no end. I was choking with tears when he asked Ai Qing if he could go and find her in China. There was so much emotions contained in that small, hopeful question. And at a tender age of 12, he was able to to bring out all the layers with those soulful eyes of his.

Bian Cheng

Bian Cheng Name: Bian Cheng (边程)
DOB: August 6, 2004
Where have I seen you: Eagles and Youngsters; Faithful to Buddha, Faithful to You; Love O2O; Beauties in the Closet; Ruyi’s Royal Love in the Palace; Never Gone

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Song, you are the drama

May all the drama soundtracks in 2019 be as memorable and fitting as these are.

Xiang Long – Yi Sheng Zai Jian (A lifetime of goodbye) by Xu Fei.

Ruyi’s Royal Love in the Palace – Mei Xiang Ru Gu (The fragrance of plum is same as old) by Mao Buyi and Zhou Shen

Ashes to Love – Bu Ran (Unsullied) by Mao Buyi

Eternal Love – Liang Liang (Chilly) by Zhang Bichen and Aska Yang

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