Currently Watching: Song of Phoenix

Song of Phoenix is a 2017 Chinese period drama that has 81 amazing episodes.

(Yes, 81 episodes. But don't let that intimidate you.)

Adapted from the novel of the same name by Liang Zhenhua, it is an embellished story of the real-life poet Qu Yuan whose life and many writings continue to influence and inspire people today.

Currently, Viki is subbing the series but it may also be found on youtube and dramanice (although the latter two may still contain just the raws).  

It stars Ma Ke, who many may recognize from Journey of Flower and The Journey, and Zhang Viann, whose long resume includes well-known titles like Empress of China, The Investiture of Gods, Romance of the Condor Heroes, Border Town Prodigal, and Ban Shu Legend. The cast also includes other well-known actors like Qiao Zhen Yu (Sword of Legends) and Lan Xi (Legend of Concubine Zhen Huan). Just to name a few.

pLZVOo6L_3c12c6_f.jpg  W47QjExL_885213_f.jpg

Qu Yuan (Ma Ke) is a child prodigy whose skills in poetry are matched only by his cleverness. He develops a close friendship with the Emperor of Chu and, as a result, agrees to serve as a magistrate in one of the most difficult areas of the state. Mo Chou Nu is introduced as a peasant and earns money as an acrobat, although the summary explains she is a slave. Qu Yuan falls in love with her because she reminds him of the woman in his dreams, literally, while Chou Mo Nu initially despises him for a number of very valid reasons that I will not spoil. The episodes released so far document the efforts Qu Yuan makes to earn her trust as well as his efforts to successfully carry out his post as a magistrate.

But because this is a Chinese drama, we know that their love is destined to not be easy.

And since this is a political drama, we are guaranteed to encounter numerous schemes between people seeking power and revenge.  

Here is what you can expect:

01eM8BM1_ed7290_f.jpg  VLQYKOGL_598589_f.jpg

Set during the Warring States period, the Emperor of Chu (left) seeks to stabilize and grow his state. In order to do this, he must contend with the military power of Qin (right), a nearby state who seeks to conquer them. Currently, the two states maintain a shaky truce because the Emperor of Chu keeps a Princess of Qin, Zheng Xiu, as a consort and the Emperor of Qin favors a princess of Chu in his harem. 

P4YjVq71_d58178_f.jpg

Zhang Yi (above) is the Prime Minister of Qin and extremely clever and ambitious.

Although he appears loyal to the Emperor of Qin he seeks to eventually be the one on the throne. He seeks to place in the harem of the Emperor of Chu a girl whom he has personally trained (and may or may not love although she loves him) to assist in destabilizing Chu.

Because of the show's length, viewers may expect an emphasis on plot and dialogue. In the fashion of Empress of China, much of the filming is likely to be limited to a handful of locations (palaces, battlefields, temples).  Also, the real life poems of Qu Yuan are incorporated in the show. This may take the form of dreams that Qu Yuan has (for example, the opening of the show is a dream) or scene changes as he literally develops a poem. They lend the show a fantasy element that would otherwise be missing.

Unlike The Empress of China, the drama will focus more heavily on romance as that is central to the show. Thus, there will likely be less plotting but that should still make up a sizable portion of the drama (at 81 episodes, it has to!)

Take a peek at some stills:

Zheng Xiu, Princess of Qin, Royal Consort to Emperor Chu

W3rXjdq1_c1cb0d_f.jpg

Emperor Chu & Queen Mother (the mother of the Empress)

71NQVWG4_b6fbbd_f.jpg

Mo Chou Nu

(reminding anyone of Empress of China?)

M4PO7wB3_26c6c0_f.jpg

Qu Yuan

61G07XbL_ec0af6_f.jpg

Unfortunately, other than palaces, much of the scenery seems to be CGI (as opposed to commercially successful shows like Eternal Love that filmed on location).  Here is an example:

W3rXjd71_44cc31_f.jpg

But anyone familiar with CGI in Chinese dramas should know that this is more the norm, while dramas like Eternal Love are the exception in terms of quality.

Additional Information:

I scoured the internet and learned (with the aid of google translate) that the directors, Joseph Chang and Ding Yang, have both worked on many dramas over the years.  Chang is better known for his incorporation of martial arts while Yang I believe has worked on Flowers in Fog, among other dramas.  Both directors' dramas tend to have average ratings of 7.0 and above (with a few misses).  I have yet to learn much about the screenwriter, Tian Zhongyang. The reason I have researched it so much is due to the drama's length; I think viewers should know what they are getting into and whether or not its creators have a good record or not. The novel was well-received and this is an adaption. It is currently rated 9.3 on Viki and iQiyi in China has it rated at 8.2 (last I checked, as of 5/5/17).

Ultimately:

If you like romances that take place amidst politics, war, and harem struggles then this may be for you. If you like beautiful costumes, then this may be for you. If you can tolerate melodrama and some dramatic lines, then come on over. And if you can overlook horrible CGI and the occasionally stereotyped side character, hop on board. This is the type of show that will be laced with many subplots and will require your attention, and undoubtedly incorporate enormous character growth. This show will likely annoy you if hate betrayal, manipulation, backstabbing, revenge, plotting, power plots, and lovers who must try hard to be together (and may end in tragedy).

Trailer (check it out!)

Comments (18)

  • Login or Register to post comments
  • Reply
    Jordan 4 days ago - edited

    ok so I am 20 episodes in and stuff is starting to get real

    • Reply
      Ayumu 3 days ago
      Reveal Spoiler »
  • Reply
    miss_kayti 6 days ago

    I might wait until it's fully subbed and then see what the general opinion is. 81 episodes is a big commitment.

  • Reply
    Jordan 8 days ago

    If anyone has watched the trailer, does anyone notice that they throw things on the ground A LOT?

  • Reply
    stefanetta 10 days ago - edited

    I'm in love with Eternal Love and now that I've finished it, I'm having a hard time to moving on. To anyone who has watched Eternal Love and is now currently watching this drama, would you recommend it?

    • Reply
      Fay 10 days ago

      I can't remember how many times I watched the Eternal Love. I felt so sorry for Ye Hua and wished that Bai Qian had been nicer to him... :D

    • Reply
      Jordan 9 days ago

      I can't compare it to eternal love. I think if you do you won't like the show because eternal love is on a whole different level of awesome nothing I have seen really compares to it yet

  • Reply
    Ayumu 10 days ago - edited

    I am also currently watching this, and I am not sure if I like it or not, I am only at the beginning. But I have to say that I was slightly (or maybe biggly) disappointed for the romance part/Mo Chou Nu's character because I thought she was gonna be really a slave/servant. And also a little bit disappointed (and angry) at the overly used CG !
    Well, I will just continue for now because there are still many episodes !

    By the way, you kept mentionning Empress Of China, is it a good drama ? Is Zhang Viann (nowadays, I am into her) get many screening time as she is only an supporting role and there are 90+ episodes ?

    • Reply
      Jordan 10 days ago

      Also it is 96 episodes long and she has 2 different love stories

    • Reply
      Ayumu 10 days ago

      Meaning that there are many characters who will die ?
      Do you think I should watch it ?

    • Reply
      Jordan 8 days ago - edited

      I think it is an amazing show, with beautiful costumes and sets (minus the annoying censoring they did with the strip) and stunning make up. Yes, a lot of characters will die. I was surprised in episode 1 that a seemingly important character died. Almost all the major characters die (it covers this woman's whole life by the way) and every 10 episodes, I do an 'in memoriam' listing everyone who has died in the past 10 episodes because I write episode summaries for each episode. if you are curious, you can read a couple and see if you will like the series but I think anyone who enjoys historicals and harem dramas will like this. the script is jam packed with information. it took them three years to write the script for the show!

    • Reply
      Jordan 8 days ago - edited
      Reveal Spoiler »
    • Reply
      Ayumu 3 days ago

      One of the main reason that I want to watch Empress is because of Zhang Viann but if she hasn't appeared yet, that's not really good.
      But I will take a look at your épisodes summaries to see if I will watch it not.
      Anyway, thank you for answering !

  • Reply
    namopanik 10 days ago - edited

    I started this, but the lenght is intimidating indeed. I like the dynamics between MC and Oriana Fallaci-like envoy, but the romance part - well, it probably takes some time to get interesting.
    Can you spoil us how Mo Chu Nu ends up in the palace and when? It's not clear from the synopsis.

    • Reply
      Jordan 10 days ago
      Reveal Spoiler »
    • Reply
      namopanik 10 days ago

      I see. Thanks!

  • Reply
    Panda 10 days ago

    Looks epic

  • 0Articles
  • 0Likes
  • 0Follows

Jordan's most recent articles...

Newest Articles

Most Popular Articles