Zhou Sheng Chen was raised by his brother, the Emperor, until the age of thirteen, when he set out to defend the border and establish himself as a loyal and accomplished general. Cui Shi Yi, the well-read daughter of an esteemed family, has been betrothed to the Crown Prince since birth. However, political scheming and tragic events result in Cui Shi Yi falling mute, her former fiance becoming a child Emperor, and Zhou Sheng Chen returning to the capital amidst a cloud of political turmoil. Against the Cui family's protests, the Empress Dowager Regent changes the terms of Cui Shi Yi's betrothal. Her new fiance is the Emperor's sickly, young companion and the future Crown Prince, if he can survive long enough to come of age. Zhou Sheng Chen accepts Cui Shi Yi as his disciple to resolve lingering animosity between the royal family and the Cui family, and Cui Shi Yi suddenly finds herself leaving her sheltered life in the capital for Zhou Manor in the Western State. Despite their differences as a mute and sheltered young noblewoman from the capital and a battle-hardened general, Zhou Sheng Chen and Cui Shi Yi soon form a strong bond as master and disciple. However, their relationship is impeded by their respective principles and responsibilities, while the ongoing power struggle in the palace constantly threatens to entangle them both once more. (Source: DramaWiki || Edited by: AH at MyDramaList) ~~ Adapted from the novel "One Life, One Incarnation – Beautiful Bones" (一生一世美人骨) by Mo Bao Fei Bao (墨宝非宝). Edit Translation
Where to Watch One and Only
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Beautiful Bones are Rare in This World"Most people’s eyes are shallow, seeing only the skin-deep appearance and not the ‘bones,’ the appearance of the inside.”
One and Only （周生如故）, formerly known as Memories of Chang’an is a 24 episode historical drama adapted from a novel “一生一世美人骨 – Beautiful Bones" by Mo Bao Fei Bao. This drama is probably one of the most anticipated dramas. The novel is adapted into two dramas, with two different timelines
1. One and Only, tells the story of Cui Shiyi and Zhou Shengchen’s past life.
2. Forever and Ever, tells the story of Shiyi who has memories from her past life and desires to find Zhou Shengchen
From the storyline, acting, production, cinematography, costume, everything is executed to perfection!! The production team paid close attention to all the details in this drama. Although there might be some differences and hitches in the first few episodes, the adaption from the novel to the drama is executed near to perfection. The first episode of the drama is done in a hasty and confusing manner, for those who don't read the novel might be confused about understanding what's going on. However, as you keep on watching it, you will gradually understand the whole story.
Bai Lu and Ren Jialun acting are phenomenal, both of them acts so well in the drama. They add so much emotional nuance that brings the characters to life. Bai Lu is so versatile in her acting, in this drama she acted as a calm and mature woman, and she really pulled it off. Every single of her emotion is very infectious, she will make you laugh, smile, and definitely cry... On the other hand, Ren Jialun, there is not much to say about him, EVERY SINGLE RJL HISTORICAL DRAMAS NEVER DISAPPOINTS - his aura, articulation, bearing and looks are perfect!! Both of the actor's chemistry also *chef kisses*. The way their longing for each other, the way they stare at each other, everything about their chemistry is immaculate!!
In addition, the screenplay is also immensely elevated by the excellent acting of the supporting actors. The interaction and chemistry between everyone are realistically portrayed. You can just feel how loving and kind is everyone at the Nancheng mansion. And of course, you can also feel how annoying the antagonist are in this drama.
The most commendable thing about this drama is the cinematography and music. Every shot in the drama is framed beautifully. The shots in this drama are so magical and breath-taking as if the novel really came alive. Moreover, the use of a soft yet vibrant colour palette and the perfect colour grading makes watching this drama a pleasant experience. There are also a lot of aesthetic details shots in the drama. All in all, the cinematography is a feast for the eyes!
The music fits really well into the whole atmosphere, especially the instrumental music. Unlike other dramas where they only inserted the instrumental in certain scenes, this drama did it differently. This drama blends the instrumental music and diegetic sound so well, adding so much nuance into each shot. In addition, the instrumental music is also very soothing to hear. The OSTs are also very beautiful and pleasing to hear.
One and Only is a slow-burn drama, therefore, it might not be everyone's cup of tea. However, it is still a really good drama with its romance and court intrigue. This is definitely a good drama for those who are looking for a slow-burn yet beautiful romance story.
P.s. remember to prepare a lot of tissues beforehand, this drama will take you on a rollercoaster ride ^^
Love of a distant pastOne and Only has the distinction of being the first production in 2021 that I’m rating a perfect 10 overall. Personally for me, it is the best C-drama historical of the year and quite possibly one of the best of all time, within the sub-genre of historical romance (non-comedy). To put it simply, and I don’t often use this term, this drama is a MASTERPIECE.
Based on the celebrated novel, One Life, One Incarnation – Beautiful Bones" (一生一世美人骨) by multiple award-winning novelist and screenwriter Mo Bao Fei Bao (墨宝非宝), who also wrote the screenplay for this drama. As a brief summary, the story revolves around the love between Cui Shi Yi and Zhousheng Chen that spans a period of two lifetimes, namely during the ancient era of the fictional Beizhen Empire and contemporary China of the present day. One and Only follows the star-crossed lovers journey during the earlier lifetime, while a sequel that takes place in the modern time period, Forever and Ever, is slated for back-to-back release.
As I understand from readers of the source material, both parts of the story convey vastly contrasting outcomes, notably the earlier backstory ends in tragedy while the sequel, which forms the main component of the novel, has a much happier conclusion.
Although primarily a slow-burn sweeping epic love story, One and Only does explore the sociopolitics and values of a deeply-ingrained Confucian setting which I suspect is modelled on the Northern and Southern Dynasties era, if not earlier, that includes filial piety, obeisance to King and country. Besides the political maneuverings and warfare, relationship dynamics in the form of master and disciples, as well as “sibling camaraderie” is heavily featured.
This iQiyi production is helmed by the critically acclaimed Guo Hu, who had previously directed well known productions including The Journey of Flower, Eternal Love (Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms), Lost Love in Times, and Love and Destiny. The original score and one of the OSTs is composed by the prolific and highly regarded Tan Xuan, who had served as music producer for numerous productions including Love and Redemption, Princess Agents, The Glory of Tang Dynasty and Eternal Love, among many others. For only a 24-episode serial, principal photography took entirely two months at Hengdian World Studios, the meticulous process of which is magnificently depicted in the end product itself.
Why do I consider this production a masterpiece that deserves a “10” rating?
The Technical Execution
I’m hugely impressed with the technical aspects of direction, art direction, cinematography, and choreography. The post-production editing and overdub, in terms of the voice dubbing process, the voice actors utilised and sound mixing, as well as the visual and special effects employed are exceptionally well rendered. The appropriate levels of colour grading along with countless immersive, overhead and tracking shots amidst the backdrop of grand pastoral views, while even parallax angles are applied to great effect especially during scenes of battles and massed congregations.
The seamless transitions between the various sequences, scenes and shifts in atmospherics are testament to the experience and capabilities of the director as well as the entire production crew. All these components seek to ensure that this production becomes a well crafted aesthetic and cinematic treat indeed.
The Production Values
One and Only is made of big money and it truly shows. Nothing at all looks cheap or out of place. From the wigs, costumes, accessories, set designs, props, horses, snow… the list just goes on. This is a top-tier production through and through. The big names in the production crew and the quality of the casting certainly reflect the overall production values.
In comparison with other C-historicals and despite the fact that Hengdian is a popular and convenient filming venue for many similar productions, it is extremely apparent that extra care and attention to the finer details have been taken for every production stage and its related aspects. I do believe that it could also be partially attributed to the fact that the drama format is shorter, at 24 episodes, thus affording the production more time to perfect the principal photography and post production processes, as opposed to 40 or 50-episode dramas with the same filming schedule, thus resulting in shorter duration for fine-tuning or filming additional takes of each shot. Having fewer episodes also contributes to compact plotlines and significantly reduces the amount of fillers, with the end result of a more engaging and compelling storytelling.
The Cast and Acting
I do think that the narrative for the first part of the novel is rather straightforward while the interweaving sub-plots relating to certain side characters are not overly convoluted. Because of this and also how strongly written the main characters are, I feel that One and Only is largely character-driven. For this type of drama to succeed, the leads would have to give one hell of a performance to breathe life into their characters. Fortunately, this is where the cast well and truly delivers.
I’ve been a fan of both Bai Lu and Ren Jia Lun ever since I first saw them in The Legends and Detective Dee respectively. Although some of their roles or choices in certain projects have led to questions in the past, I’ve never doubted their broad potential and talents. I honestly think their performances here are the best that I have ever seen from them and are worthy of wider recognition for their efforts.
Bai Lu imbues her character of Cui Shi Yi with such grace, elegance, nuance and emotional depth that absolutely defines the term masterclass in acting. She portrays a character who is mute and having to use sign language, albeit temporarily, that slowly but surely undergoes immense character growth to mature from being a shy and timid young girl to a confident, independent and resolute woman. There is a massive intensity in her convincing depiction of the sheer torment, anguish and sadness that genuinely touches viewers' hearts (or mine, at least). And that poignant scene in the final episode, where she is dressed in all red, truly is poetry in motion…
Ren Jia Lun plays the noble and warm-hearted Zhousheng Chen, royal Prince of Beizhen, General of the West State and Master of his eleven disciples. I’ve always believed that Ren Jia Lun is at his best when he is cast in profound roles because very few actors are able to genuinely portray stoic and solemn characters as well as he does. There is a powerfully understated quality to his performance in this drama that makes you believe he is completely immersed in the character. Intelligent, calm and heroic, all the traits of a capable leader are put on full display in his depiction right to the bitter end.
Bai Lu and Ren Jia Lun, as Cui Shi Yi and Zhousheng Chen, share some of the most convincing, irresistible, organic and downright heartbreaking chemistry and emotional connection that deeply touches the soul. No aspect of their relationship development feels rushed, irrational, undercooked or over-the-top. Their love is subtle, meaningful and simply perfect. They are meant for each other.
As far as the supporting cast is concerned, suffice to say everyone delivers a commendable effort in their respective portrayals. The veterans in Fu Jun and Liu Wei Wei, depicting Advisor Xie and Shi Yi’s mother respectively inject a measure of class and finesse to the production. No drama would be complete without the antagonist, Liu Zi Xing who is played by the relative newcomer, Wang Xing Yue. I’m quite surprised he is only 19 years old, but he does give a decent account of himself and succeeds in making me hate his guts. Among the many familiar faces in the production, look out for memorable appearances by Daisy Dai, Yao Yi Chen and the ever amusing Han Cheng Yu.
Alongside the fittingly sombre and introspective compositions of the original score, there are four OSTs in the soundtrack. Zhang Bichen has established herself as one of the premier soundtrack contributors in recent years and her rendition of the theme song, along with Ren Jia Lun’s character theme, are my personal favourites of the compilation.
张碧晨 Zhang Bichen - 如故 As It Is
任嘉伦 Ren Jialun - 如一 Like One
郑云龙 Zheng Yunlong - 定心 Tranquil
李紫婷 (Mimi Lee), 井胧 (Jing Long) - 无虞 (Unworried)
I do not usually favour sad stories, particularly those with tragic outcomes, and almost always avoid such dramas. However, I’m glad I did not because One and Only is indeed a very special production that has been made with such care, effort and passion that it would be remiss of me not to have given this a shot and appreciate the fine work of the entire production crew and the cast. And, I keep telling myself, at least there’s consolation in the form of the upcoming sequel’s more promising narrative and ultimate closure to look forward to.
“Beauty bones are rare in the world.
Those with bones do not have skin, and those with skins do not have bones.
Most people in the world have superficial eyes, only the skin, but no bone.
If in this society, there is someone who has the memory of two lives and loves you deeply. How happy.
Shi Yi was like this to Zhousheng Chen.
And he has forgotten her a long time ago”.
(excerpt from the novel’s introduction)
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