"The greatest punishment that Heaven has dealt mankind, is not the ability to forget, but the ability to remember forever."
Goodbye My Princess ― alternatively titled as Eastern Palace ― is a currently airing Mainland Chinese drama based on Fei Wo Si Cun's novel of the same name. The drama has received immense praise from audiences and critics for its acting, pacing, beautiful cinematography, and soundtrack. It is also commended for its respectful treatment of the source material, coupled with the successful incorporation of newer elements.
What's even more impressive is the production team's choice to wholeheartedly embrace the tragedy of the story, and being unafraid to market it as such, since this usually drives potential audiences away.
As of the time this article has been written, the drama is already in its final week of airing, with 40 episodes out of 52 having been released, of which 34 are available subbed. The story is equally poignant for episodic watchers and binge-watchers alike.
Therefore, if the 'Tragedy' tag is what scares you away, I'm here to convince you to give this drama a chance, and explain why it deserves more love, while simultaneously trying to dodge potential spoilers to the best of my abilities.
"Once upon a time, there was a little prince who lived in the Zixu Kingdom. He disliked war the most, but the Eastern Palace was a treacherous place filled with blood, and in order to seek justice, the little prince had to perform a mission he almost couldn't complete. For this reason, he had no choice but to deceive a friend...
A very important friend who meant the world to him. "
― Gu Xiao Wu ―
Xiao Feng is the ninth princess of Western Liang's Xi State, and the granddaughter of the Khan of Dan Chi, a small desert kingdom. In order to establish good relations with the Li Empire, her father pledges her hand into a marriage alliance with a prince from the Central Plains, a decree that she's not too happy to abide by and therefore makes various unsuccessful attempts to evade this ordeal.
On one of her escapades, she has a chance encounter with the injured Fifth Prince of the Li Dynasty, Li Chengyin. The two narrowly escape death and captivity multiple times, and finally make it to Dan Chi, where Xiao Feng is seemingly safe from the murderous outside world but fate tends to disagree. Tragedy ensues as the aftermath of an earth-shattering betrayal, and Xiao Feng's entire life is ripped away from her, along with her blossoming relationship with Li Chengyin.
Distraught and at wits' end, Xiao Feng decides to set herself free from all the excruciating memories, by jumping into The River of Oblivion, a mystical place said to eradicate memories and the people associated with them. The catch is that it is seemingly hidden from everyone, and no survivor has ever returned from there. To save her from her imminent death, Li Chengyin jumps in after her, and thus their shared memories are wiped from existence, their entangled fates untangled, and their lives separated as two parallel lines would be.
However, this is not the end, as the wheels of fate begin to turn again, landing the now amnesiac Xiao Feng into the very place she was ready to risk death to avoid ending up in; the Eastern Palace. Bestowed with the title of the future Crown Princess, Xiao Feng awaits her fate like a lamb waiting to be slaughtered, having been pledged to Li Chengye, the Second Prince (prospective future Crown Prince).
The now amnesiac Li Chengyin is busy with the aftermath of the previous events, heavily involved in court politics, and has a woman he loves. With conspiracies and ill intentions from a multitude of antagonists impacting the Eastern Palace left, right and center, there should be no reason for the two to ever meet, but their fates are aligned once again as the two apparent strangers find themselves drawn to each other, their repressed memories threatening to return when the sole reason for their survival is their amnesia. Amidst the bloodthirsty residents of the Eastern Palace, and the even more dangerous world outside, these two will have to find solace in each other against terrible odds.
The Star Crossed Lovers
Cheng Xin Xu as Gu Xiao Wu/ Prince Li Chengyin
Peng Xiao Ran as Princess Xiao Feng
Intelligent, charming, cunning, dangerous, and ambitious. In a nutshell, he is fit to be king. It's incredibly difficult to place him in a box. He's perhaps the greyest character of them all.
Whatever he does, he doesn't go halfway. Especially when it comes to love. He is incredibly vocal about it and does not fear opposition. He's a joy to watch. His character is made to be loved, then hated, then loved again. However, subjectively speaking, I have nothing but adoration for him.
The Trusting Soul
Kind, playful, street-smart, humble and at times unintentionally hilarious. She's the yin to his yang, the epitome of innocent, childlike happiness.
Always striving to see the best in the darkest of people, she ends up in difficult situations due to her inborn curiosity, and inability to mind her own business.
However, she undergoes perhaps the most amount of character development of all, losing, regaining, and then again losing her happy-go-lucky nature.
The Unwaveringly Loyal Ones
Shawn Wei as Gu Jian
Najima as A Du
Brave, kind, stoic, and infuriatingly patient. A man who is torn between his loyalty to his people and to the woman he loves.
Xiao Feng's Shifu is not your regular second male lead. Sure, he harbours unrequited feelings for Xiao Feng, but he has much bigger fish to fry.
A direct cousin to Li Chengyin, he is crucial in the Prince's ascension to the throne, while also having a secret mission of his own.
The Sworn Sister
Brave, resilient, patient, and incredibly skilled in combat. The living example of uncontested loyalty.
A Du is Xiao Feng's personal bodyguard. However, she is so much more than just that. She is proof that one does not have to be directly related to someone in order to be willing to risk everything for them.
She has been through literal hell and still managed to protect both her life and Xiao Feng's. When the closest people betrayed her, A Du was Xiao Feng's only light in the darkness.
The Central Plains Cavalry
Kingone Wang as The Second Prince Li Chengye
Gallen Lo as the Emperor of the Central Plains
Wang Zhi Fei as Prime Minister Gao
Siqin Gaowa as the
Grand Empress Dowager
Zhang Ding Han as The Queen
Xia Wa as Zhao Sese
Zhao Long Hao as The King of Shoubo
Guan Le as Mi Luo
Lu Xing as General Gao Xian
From Danchi/ Western State
Zheng Xiao Ning as King/Khan Tomur of Dan Chi
Jiang Kai as King Qu Wencheng of Xi State
Why you need to drop everything and watch this right now!
Chen Xing Xu and Peng Xiao Ran's chemistry is no joke! These two know very well how to tug at the audience's heartstrings with fluttering moments, set the screen on fire in intense scenes and make one cry a river through their portrayal of emotions.
Exquisite, breath-taking, and beautiful are the words to describe the care that was taken to make sure every single scene is as beautiful and perfectly shot as the next. This drama is a visual feast for the eyes.
(Screenshots lovingly captured by yours truly.)
You can check out even more of the beautiful cinematography in Goodbye My Princess' MDL Photos archive here.
They say never judge a book by its cover, but what can you do when they're so beautifully made?
Hauntingly beautiful is just one of the many ways to describe the soundtrack for this drama. Soulful chorals for quiet, emotional scenes and equally tempestuous beats for the scenes depicting conflict. Two of my personal favourites include:
Studio Version by: Chen Xing Xu and Peng Xiao Ran
Originally sung by: Yu Zhao Yuan and Ye Li
Sung by: Xiao Shi and Gong Jun
This drama is certainly a tearjerker. Every happy moment feels like the calm before a storm. I've shed my fair share of tears so far. However, everything about it is so heartbreakingly beautiful that I just cannot stop myself from watching one episode after another (this is coming from someone who avoids longer dramas like the plague). Not a single moment did I find my thoughts drifting away from what was happening on my screen so far. I was and still continue to be transfixed by it.
This drama has a narrative that flows like poetry (and has some poetry incorporated in it too), pays attention to detail, and maintains a crucial balance in politics and romance. Every character has something to contribute to the story and has well-grounded and established loyalties, motivations and backstory. I highly recommend this drama to those who enjoy well fleshed out storylines, questions that are raised and then actually answered, and of course, a brilliant mix of veteran and new talents stealing the show with their screen presence.
If you're still wary of watching this just because the end may be unsatisfying there's good news for you; two endings are said to have been made for this. One honouring the original source material, and the other honouring the hearts of the audience. I personally am a staunch believer of sticking to the source material.
That was my attempt at convincing readers to give this wonderful drama a chance. Was I successful, or did I fail miserably? Let me know in the comments. Thank you so much for reading! ❤