Lie Ru Ge is the daughter of the master of Lie Huo Manor which is the most powerful jiang hu sect. She is a cheerful beauty who’s trying to regain her eldest senior’s heart after he suddenly goes back on his promise to marry her. In an effort to learn how to attract her beloved again, she goes to the most popular brothel house where she meets Yin Xue, the brothel ownerand “Number One Beauty”.
Little does she know, Yin Xue has a mysterious past that involves her and will go to the ends of the earth to protect her.
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Overall, it felt that the whole story was kind of stretched-out, some scenes were so empty and slow-paced, I even thought about skipping the drama. I had the impression that the producers struggled to find a clear storyline, the series was like a long debate what the story is about than actually something happening. Moreover, I think the production quality is rather inconsistent. For example, sometimes fighting scenes were top notch (e.g. Zhanfeng vs. Daowuxia), whereas other scenes looked like they wanted to do more than they were actually able to (e.g. the Chinese boxing scene between Zhanfeng and Liemingjing and especially the flying scenes).
Digging into the story, I don't really see the connection between Yinxue's story and the story around Liehuoshan. The only real connection is the character of Ruge. Ruge is some kind of a reincarnation of Yinxue's former love, but you hardly get any info about their past relationship. The circumstance that this reincarnation is exactly Anyeming's daughter who happens to grow up in Liehuoshan for protection seems to be rather random. Thus, I feel like these two storylines are somehow seperate and do not really go together in the drama. Another thing about the story which bothers me is the overly self-destructive and self-sacrificing attitude of Yinxue and Yuzihan. I think at some point it's not credible anymore and the characters become too predictable.
Getting to the characters, Ruge is the main girl who holds the whole story together. She is described as "lively and passionate", but I cannot really see this in the drama. To me, "lively" is not the same as being childishly overenthusiastic which I saw instead. In addition, I rather see the opposite of "passionate" - her expressions seem rather stiff and forced. The fire element doesn't suit her at all. Anyways, Ruge is supposed to undergo a change from a rather lighthearted girl to a strong woman, which I can see to some extent. Yet, it is not pronounced enough. She seems too dependent on Yinxue to actually get to that state of being strong on her own.
Yinxue is a character which I cannot understand at all. First, I cannot see how this character fits into the story except that he has the job of saving everyone (not without a purpose in his mind though). That he has no clear place in the story is supposed to make him mysterious, yet I have the impression that he is "just there" and rather annoying. Yinxue has his darker past behind him and is portrayed as a spiritually and culturally versed character. However, his behavior towards Ruge does not reflect that at all. Starting with Yinxue trying to make a move on her when she just dissolved her engagement with Zhanfeng, he is continuously nagging her to give in to his approaches. His behavior is often over the top - for example, him being pouty because Ruge treats him coldly in the context of Yuzihan almost dying which requires her full attention. Yinxue's rather selfish behavior is quite appalling. Especially him playfully asking for a kiss in exchange for men's lives - exactly, how much is a life worth?! Later, he makes her temporarily lose her memory through his powers, and by this almost got to marry her. Although the underlying reasoning is to protect her from painful memory and to help her recover, that undertaking leaves a rather unpleasant "aftertaste". But I'm even more shocked with Ruge's behavior, because no matter how he behaves, she either seems to be just ok with that or she endures everything obediently. Nothing from which Yinxue had suffered in the past justifies his behavior. In his equation, saving someone for the sake of Ruge means he deserves her love. But love cannot be "earned". Clearly, I cannot see anything sweet in that "love story". It even makes it worse that there is basically no chemistry between the actors at all - even the tacky ending cannot save this.
Yuzihan is probably the most likeable character in this drama. Despite everything he went through, he is not hateful and doesn't even want to become heir to the throne. In later episodes he gives up everything for Ruge and is not greedy for her love. Even a healthy body cannot corrupt him. Is he human at all? Still, his character has the most depth, and his expressions are on point. It's interesting to watch his character developing and see him making use of his cleverness.
Zhanfeng's character gives me the impression that there is something missing, like that the character is not really fleshed out. You can hardly understand why he believes the lie about the death of his parents "just like that". You can see him suffering, but you cannot emphatize with him. The lie about his parents is the basic foundation of the whole story, but it didn't seem to be treated with great care by the producers. Precisely, the way how he was tricked into believing this lie should have gotten more attention. What is missing is basically seeing the exact scene how he got tricked, him trying to make own investigations in which he learns about buried (fake) evidence and finding out other people's lies which slowly feeds into his distrust, something like that. Watching the series gave me the impression that he trusts other people too easily (by the way, how does Yilang know about this "top" secret?). What is even more annoying, is Zhanfeng saying nothing in so many scenes. Although this is intended, it clearly feels that the dialogue part is missing. Weirdly, when Liemingjing and even Ruge learn about Zhanfeng believing that lie, they do not try to talk with him about that. If you see a person close to you suffer that much, in Ruge's case they even dissolved their engagement because of that, why don't you address it? Why doesn't Liemingjing tell Zhanfeng the truth to protect Ruge together but instead just waits until everything is messed up (even if he didn't see the benefit or need to prepare him and work on a plan together, he should have done so at the latest when he learned about Zhanfeng's Anhegong martial art skills)? What if Anyeluo accidentially meets Ruge who looks exactly like her mother, then the whole "masterplan" would be in vain? Furthermore, I don't understand why Zhanfeng humiliates Ruge in the beginning, it feels that this behavior is not really necessary for the story, and it doesn't explain his later actions when he is actually trying to be nice to her. Nevertheless, with regard to the acting, Zhang Binbin's portrayal of emotions is the benchmark for any other actor in the drama.
Story: Beware; some of the synopses around the internet are a bit off from what the drama is really about. The plot is developed pretty well (although there are a few holes, here and there). The plot is intricate, and at some points left me 2nd guessing what I would predict would happen (I like that, because it mean it doesn’t FOLLOW the basic C-Drama line). Anyways, just be prepared for plot twists.
Acting/Cast: I don’t speak Chinese, so I cannot comment on whether I think their speaking is on point. However, I feel most of the acting was genuine and sincere. I cried with some of the characters, and smiled at all the lovey dovey scenes. The kissing on this drama, is pretttttty “MEH.” The drama was well casted and everyone seemed to have harmony. I like the supporting roles and support love lines. I also liked how bad ass all the female characters were! Not all of them were weak women that needed “saving.” Even Feng Huang, no martial arts skills, was pretty bad ass and so strong of a character that Lei Jing Hong got his sh*t together! I also wanted to note that Dilraba and Vin Zhang's acting has gotten so much better than the King's Woman!
Music: Very catchy theme songs and ending theme song. The ending song is sang by Dilraba. It sounds so nice to the ears, I would download it if I could.
Rewatch Value: I’d definitely add this to watch again list. I think it’s a pretty overall great drama. Cinematography is great, the landscape and scenes are beautiful. I liked the courtyards in Liehuo Manor. I.e. Maple had all the maple trees, Plum courtyard had all the plum blossoms, etc.