The story tells the legend of the QingLuan mirror and Lican sword, which is said to be able to reunite the country when possessed by the owner. These items were once formerly owned by the Dragon Sect and are now lost. Before the demise of the Dragon Sect leader, the information regarding the location of these heirlooms, is handed down to the only remaining maiden: Yuan Qiao Suo. She is told by her master that she is not to give away the location to anyone as it could end up in the wrong hands and bring about chaos.
Upon the death of her master, she goes in search of the lost mirror and sword, under the disguise of the high official from Northern Zhou Court Si Kong's wife's niece. During her journey, she comes across the Prince Gao Chang Gong (a.k.a Prince of Orchid Hills) and Yu Wen Yong. Her romance blooms with both and she must choose who to help and who to love. ~~ Based on the internet novel 'The Royal Prince of Orchid Hills'.
Cast & Credits
This drama started out quite interesting but after she met Lanling King, I think the plot became really repetitive. She became really indecisive between both men and went back and forth several times, which I thought was really unnecessary. They could have cut that down a bit so the drama wouldn't be so lengthy, too. Beware, this drama starts out *very* cliche and unrealistic. Just a warning, both love-lines are pretty cruel romances and the sweet moments don't last long.
As for the characters, you have the typical cold-hearted main male lead (Yu Wenyong) who slowly warms up and is very protective, and you have the typical kind second male lead (Lanling King) who's always there to save the day. The main female lead is also the typical girl who doesn't lose to anyone easily and plays around to annoy you. Yu Wenyong has quick character development, followed by the main female lead; however, I didn't see much development for Lanling King. Going on a tangent, I think Lanling King's role was poorly written in this drama because he's known for being smart and strategic, but here he seems to be weak in planning and always listens to whatever everyone else suggests. He doesn't have a stance and can't do anything on his own will.
The acting was alright overall. I think some crying scenes were a bit forced and cringe-worthy, but otherwise it was bearable. Nothing was super unnatural or out of frame. The music is very nice and suits the scenes. There's pretty much just the opening theme and ending theme; the former used more with Yu Wenyong and the latter used primarily with Lanling King--it's like their personal songs. Overall, I personally like Yu Wenyong more so if I were to rewatch, I would just skip to his scenes because it's really heartwarming to see a cold playboy turn into a loving and protective man.
TLDR; This drama is watchable but does get long and draggy in the middle. There were lots of unnecessary parts of the plot and cliches, but I think it is still a pretty good watch. This drama is definitely not for you if you want to see the female lead end up with one guy quick (because she's wishy-washy).
NOW the proTAGoNIST (yes, the wonderfully played protagonist) seems dainty... but she's clever, she's charming and she's a strong woman! Although she has an innately childish personality and voice, it's strangely full of maturity and soul as you watch on. Great voice acting on the main actress' part ^^
OK let's get right into it!
When watching this drama, I kept in mind that in Chinese history, Lanling general/king (not emperor) is a respected hero. It is commonly perceived that his courageous but tragic story cannot be told without its raging war and the political struggle for power, which is a central theme to the patriarchy society at the time. YET it's also been said that the tale of Lanling king is about his regret, for being too late to realise and appreciate his wife's affection, and thus his infamous love/longing. (Ambition & fighting wars had his undivided attention.)
The plot is well written and revealed in successive surprises as the story goes on; subtle moments reveal every character's vulnerable side at completely unexpected moments, moulding interesting personalities. The character relationships are quite in-depth, but at times low-key to pick up on and read into. (May I say that the chemistry between all the characters, not just love interests, are really well done!) Often there are correlations made when a character replied using the exact same words/meaning, said by another character earlier on, and thus there would be a twist in the meaning in the character's relationship with another. And I really dig that technique, XD.
*QS- female protagonist, LL- Lanling male lead, YY- YuwenYong male lead*
1. On Appreciation/Regret:
This strong theme of appreciating the person who loves and cares unconditionally for you, is not limited to the female protagonist, QS, but almost all the main characters. (I would call this, characters chasing after each other's hearts in a cycle, to death; "like moth to fire" (from ED lyrics.) Obviously from the outset, QS learns to accept the love YY keeps proving to her- it is a difficult journey when she already had LL in her heart. (Reminds me of Empress Ki, where Seung Nyang admits she loved both Ta Hwan and Wang Yoo, in the last scene of the drama.)
The story directly conveys to the audience, when QS even herself, advised one of the leaders of the Dragon sect, to "value and not be blind to the one in front of your line of view, who loves you" after that person died by his mistake, but her last wish was for QS to look after him. (Yup, there are as many selfless characters as there are selfish.) Although his higher cause to help build a prosperous kingdom, overode personal desires, his unspoken regret to be unable to accept her (not QS) feelings every time he rescues her, is evident as he keeps on him, her ornament.
There are charming women, just as compatible with YY and LL, but their love were only felt after they died for them; a powerless lady, who was meant to be LL's wife but never managed to, has such a kind and resilient heart, but being constantly un-reciprocated by LL, definitely evokes a bitter emotion from you. Her story may even be on par with QS's legend.
Not all unappreciated love are romantic, such as when LL's mother who was a mother figure to QS, attempted to deny she cared for QS, in order to chase a higher cause, which resulted in initially forcing apart LL and QS, "replacing love's thirst [for QS] with hate" on LL's part (from ED lyrics). This triggers into play the escalation of war by LL's and YY's part in, really, a fight against fate.
Much like how YY tells QS "if you don't believe in the heavens, you can believe in me", when YY tries to win over QS, who is actually, as the title suggests, "Lanling King's princess".
As for LL and QS, there is a constant motif of the attraction between the firefly and higanbana flower, respective of themselves. Although the firefly can never touch the petals of the flower, or else it dies from its poison, QS says to LL "the firefly and flower can be together", and makes a handkerchief for herself and LL, which when overlapped, exhibits a scenery where the firefly rests on the flower. But the ED song lyrics also states the "moth [rushes] to fire (the flower)".
There are many other underlying similar stories of regret in failure to appreciate loved ones.
2. On 'Masks' worn by characters:
Clearly LL's war mask is the icon. His mother, who became the wife of the enemy nation's regent, wore a mask and many other alias'. Dragon sect leader#2 wore three different faces by makeup (what he actually looks like will astonish you). YY wore a frivolous, debauched front. And many other characters wear 'masks'. But everyone wears masks for different reasons, which I won't disclose because I know I have SAID QUITE ENOUGH ABOUT THE STORY ALREADY XD. Yet the most subtle mask, is actually that of QS's- the bridal mask representing the alias identity that she took on without remembering who she was. But at the same time it could be said that memory loss revealed her true self.
There are no bad guys in the characters. Dragon sect leaders desire the powerful artifacts, but for different reasons. The existence of dragon sect is condemned by leader#2, for it's ability to develop a sense of entitled power to the identity, seen to lead leaders #1, and #3 to death. Parallel to the royal family problem, YY's uncle was led to his death, because of his same sense of entitlement.
The music! In fact I really love every piece of soundtrack music, esp the lyrics. For one, obviously the timing of a particular soundtrack is ejected so well into the beginning of scenes, that it really creates meaning and quickly becomes nostalgic.
Another point, which is how the OP and ED is utilised in a way I haven't seen in other dramas before. Just as any other OP and ED of other dramas, the lyrics are intangible to the story line and its motifs. But, the motif representing QS and LL's legendary love as a higanbana flower and firefly, is directly made into the OP and ED respectively. Much like how the OP 'serenades' the ED, and the ED to the OP; the flower sings a love song to the firefly in the OP and vice versa.
The reuse of the ED with only scenes of QS and LL, is an attempt, for one to make up for the lack of scenes LL appears in, but more importantly to remind us this story is actually a tale of the tragic longing between LL and his LL princess aka QS, we all know. Literally the theme of longing is objectified throughout the OP&ED, being hyperbolised to the point of reaching the state of where gazing at "higanbanas warms up the longing for a lifetime" (duh, historical genres).
As they continuously "let slip past the face that I'm familiar with" (cue changing masks) and the plot moves from one stage to the next, the meaning of the ED with its scenes of the couple's relationship, evolves. Moving from initially loving in "times spent in a dream-like manner" to being "awakened" to a tragic longing, stained with "tears of the higanbana" where "like a dream, be its love or hate, only hurt remains" at how "our hair whitens as we missed our opportunity to be together once again". Eventually, their relationship becomes one of which they will "wait for [each other] at the ending point" as long as the "tears of the higanbana [continue to] pound [their] heart" and "recall the pain" because there is "happiness in waiting for [the other] silently" or "a vow to wait for forever".
So "let [their glorified] longing for each other prevent [them] from forgetting the other in [their] lifetime".
And that's basically what makes this drama feel melancholic fraught with nostalgia.
Ehh, that's about it, I'll stop talking/spoiling and you get the meaning... they sure are sadists, right? #poetic-emo-love
*The above paragraph quotes are from OP lyrics
The production cost was reported to be huge- you can imagine the rest. The cinematography! The quality! The breathtaking scenery of riding on horses, galloping across grass fields that stretch across all that the eye can see; capturing well the edge of dream-like moments with LL. Fawn over his dreamy beauty will ya?
PS. If you didn't know, in reality Lanling king's infamous beauty forced him to wear a ferocious mask in war, although the mask's symbolism is much more emphasised than his beauty in this drama. Sorry for such a long review, (usually I'm really reluctant to go as far as to review but this is my first review as I HAD to go make an account because I wanted to tell people about it) but seriously please go and experience it for yourself right now! Sorry if I sound like I'm glorifying this legend.
Link to actual LanLing king dance preserved in Japan till this day: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G-1zec5xJjQ