First of all, spoiler warning. Second of all, trigger warning.  No one's asking, but I'm going to offer my interpretation of the character of Li Cheng Yin just because I'm procrastinating on studying I feel that there's a lot of discourse about him, and I just wanted to defend him a bit. My third warning is that I'm coming from the standpoint of a drama viewer, and I never truly read the novel. I'm not saying I'm right, or that anyone's opinion is wrong. That's the beauty about art, you interpret it your own way. (;

Li Cheng Yin is a very interesting character. As a dreamer who's dabbled in writing as a hobby (note: unprofessionally), he is literally the male lead I've always wanted to write. I wanted to create someone whom you both love and hate, someone who does wrong in the name of right, a very gray character, and that's Li Cheng Yin.

Just because I said I'm defending him doesn't mean he's a good person. To be clear, the one person I rooted for in this drama above all else was Qu Xiao Feng. My girl was the core of the story and deserved all the good things. But if you take her with her unhindered spirit and innocent smile completely out of the story, where do you see Li Cheng Yin? Is he really bad either? Can I implore you to step into his shoes?

From the beginning, he was clearly never vying for the throne. He was just a weak prince with some powerful (step-)relatives who made him even weaker (the emperor was wary of him). He had a very good relationship with his first brother, the original Crown Prince. And what did the Crown Prince warn him? He warned him of all of the treachery and ghosts that haunt the Eastern Palace. Cheng Yin never wanted to be a part of the power struggle. That is, until he witnesses his brother get assassinated. He's deceived into thinking that the assassins are from Danchi because of their clothing, and the Danchi already have a rocky relationship with the empire... It makes sense that they would play dirty. His belief and then hatred for the Danchi is valid.

Next he learns the truth behind his mother's death. She was conspired against; his entire maternal family line was exterminated, leaving only him and a single cousin remaining. Maybe hundreds of people—loyal subjects to the empire, women, children—all massacred. So Chai Mu and Gu Jian pull him aboard this very heavy vehicle called revenge. He doesn't have the power to take down the most powerful woman and the most powerful family in the empire, so they tell him his plan is going to start with gaining political merit by conquering Danchi.

After meeting some incredible girl we're not paying attention to in this analysis, he's lead directly into the Danchi camp where he's immediately disregarded by the Khan simply because of his heritage, and he sees the people of his empire enslaved. He's royalty; he's supposed to be protecting them. War is an ugly thing, but it's a thing. There are those who rise and those who fall, and the only side in the right is the side protecting what you care about (P.S. that means there's no real right side). The Khan gives his life to protect his people, and Li Cheng Yin's sins have already begun to weigh down on him as he brings his sword down. This is just the way of his world. Those who don't rise will fall.

Some time later, he's started playing the game in the palace. He uses some girl to bring up a conspiracy behind the second prince. When her life is endangered by the power struggle, he's remorseful, and he warns her to be more careful. Chai Mu tells him that he put her in that position because he was too softhearted. Li Cheng Yin is too soft. This is the moment he realizes that as long as his political enemies are still free, he can never take off his armor. It's really heavy armor, and it only gets heavier with every lie, every act he has to perform, and every drop of blood spilled. He's learning this from a man who willingly risked his own daughter's life on multiple occasions to fulfill a revenge plot. He's learning from the most driven man. Revenge is drilled so deep into Cheng Yin's mind. It becomes his responsibility because he's the only one who can fulfill it. It becomes what he must live for. He can't even live for himself.

There was another girl who did become a pawn in his power struggle, but she was not always just a pawn. I'm aware that there are some discrepancies regarding this arc between the novel and the drama, but again, I'm only talking about the drama here. Se Se was a childhood friend and sweetheart. He may have wanted her family's support, but he also never mistreated her, even liked her. While some of their interactions, especially later on, are completely fake from his side, he felt responsibility for her because he married her. He knew she tried to implicate the third concubine, but he covered that up. He fell out of love, but he owed her too much. While he ends up hurting her by revealing that she did became his pawn, it was at a point where he couldn't lie anymore.

This next part is very gray. Truthfully, I never liked Gu Jian, even hated him at times, but I also hated Li Cheng Yin on occasion, so I dare say this is not a bias. Li Cheng Yin is legally married to some girl. Forget that he has feelings for her. Both his wife and Gu Jian dare look him in the eye and say they have feelings for each other. They lead him to believe that it's an affair. If you look at this in a historical setting, forget that he's the Crown Prince, any woman who cheats on her husband would be gravely punished in the eye of the law. Gu Jian is given several warnings, but he fruitlessly enters the lion's den anyway.

At this point though, Li Cheng Yin has already begun being consumed from the inside out. I'm going to finally bring Xiao Feng back into this because I pity him in this arc. He loves Xiao Feng. So much. In a world where he can't even live for himself, he wanted their future together. He suppressed his feelings and wore a mask because they were going to have an entire lifetime together after he took down his enemies who would threaten to hurt her. He was going to make it all up to his wife.

Just when he finally knows she loves him too (after the empress' assassination attempt and Xiao Feng offering herself as a hostage in his stead), she's missing for days. He can't figure out why. All of a sudden, everything is out of his control. I believe he is driven to the point of insanity, worrying over her, missing her, wondering what history she has that he doesn't know about. This is when he caught a glimpse of a life without her. He set the city on fire to get her back. No one in their right mind does that. Just as quickly as the moment he finally knew of her feelings, he loses it. She takes it all away. She hates him.

I believe that love isn't pure, that there is a "good" and a "bad" side to it, and Li Cheng Yin was a character who possessed both. I don't dare to romanticize a toxic relationship. It is toxic. His love for her could be sweet. He wanted her to always remain happy, innocent, safe. He wanted her to enjoy her freedom inside and outside of the palace. He had Pei Zhao protect her when he couldn't. But his love was also most certainly suffocating. He was possessive, jealous. He couldn't lose her under any circumstance. He was obsessive because she was the only light he saw in his future.

The highs are high and the lows are low. That's what makes this drama so devastating. With every pure moment between the two, we wanted to root for them to never remember, but with every step Li Cheng Yin took towards his blood debt, we knew there was no redemption for him and no way he could ever have the future he wants. The pitiful part is that in their second fate, he didn't know he was continually driving a wedge between them. His greatest punishment is both forgetting and remembering.

I love Li Cheng Yin as a character. He is complicated; he's not right nor wrong, good nor bad, clever and naive at the same time. Above all, I love who he is in a world where only he and Xiao Feng exist. I'm so happy I got my 12 minutes of romantic comedy in their special bonus episodes; I knew that in a simpler world, that is how their story would go. If reading this has absolved even some animosity about him then I'm very happy to have spent too much time writing this instead of studying for my exams. I love dissecting characters, so I am very interested to hear your take! Do you agree? Disagree? Just don't stab me with A'du's dagger!

I couldn't agree more. The complexity behind the characters and their interactions and their circumstances is a diamond in the rough of cdramaland. You are also a very gifted writer :-).  

There you go. I know you're a writer or some sort. Your writing is very very good. You're analytical, precise and articulate. I really enjoy your writing. Seeing the in-depth knowledge that you have with the Chinese culture and language, I dare say you’re also well-versed in Chinese, both written and verbal. You are such a talent.

Thank you so much for opening the knots in my heart after watching this drama. I have also been trying to figure out the Li Chen Yin’s character. I know I love him, but at the same time couldn’t get over the fact of his lack of remorse. The way you put it makes a lot of sense. Yes, he had bigger things he needed to take care of first. Remorse would only weaken him. He couldn’t protect the ones he loved and cared about if he had no power. And to get this power, he had to be ruthless, as he put it, “It’s more dangerous to be a crown prince than an emperor.” 

He had to be very careful with every step he made, and everything he said. On one side, he needed to show the Empress and Prime Minister Gao that he was a malleable man who cared nothing about governing, but on the other side, he was strategizing in taking them down but without putting his name on the plate, which would have irked the emperor and led to his own demise. Alienating Xiao Feng was the only way to protect her so that she would not be used by the Empress and Minister Gao to threaten him. Had they known he loved her so much, both Li Chen Yin and Xiao Feng would have been outcasted or even dead. 

He had to maneuver and tread carefully, every single living second, and I can’t imagine what a life to live. Only Xiao Feng gave him the little pleasure and relaxation with her pure and unpretending character. No wonder he loved her so much. With her, he was his true self, and she was his only true love. 

After he finally got rid of all his obstacles, he ran happily to Xiao Feng, only to find himself hated. He was disillusioned, shocked, distraught, heart-broken, and couldn’t understand why. All he could think of was she was having an affair behind his back. Everything he’s done to ensure their future was down the drain. This was nothing any men can take, especially one as powerful as he was. No wonder he did what he did -- killed off his final perceived enemy, Gu Jian. Afterall, he didn't even realize he had amnesia and forgotten their earlier relationship with Xiao Feng -- Gu Jian was Xiao Feng's first love and he was the one who stole her away.

Summer is coming up quickly. Many, especially those in colleges, are facing their final exams. Good luck to you. I know you’re a brilliant student and will do well in everything you do.

liteulkwin  - let me know when you publish a novel because your writing is fantastic.  I'm already a fan.

I'm very thankful for this website, mainly because opinions are not trashed.  There were a couple of other site threads, especially about Li Chen Yin, that were either haters or lovers.  There was no middle ground for discussion which is something I can't abide by.  What makes "Good Bye My Princess" so very compelling is exactly what you mentioned:  for the first time, the main male lead operates in the white, the grey and the black colors of humanity.  My favorite saying is that there are reasons for everything we do but no valid excuses.   Xiao Feng pretty much tells him the same thing in episode 51.  There's a reason for every chess move he completed but the price came at the expense of his humanity.  Li Chen Yin truly did become someone who did not deserve love but as a viewer, I felt a tremendous amount for his character anyway.  

I believe it was Chinesedramafan (shout out to ya!) that pointed out that Gu Jian was brainwashed by his stepdad.  I'm 55 years old with a half of a lifetime lived and seen.  Gu Jian's character was the one I personally identified with because he lived with the regret of a major decision.  It haunted him and, at the last, he selfishly wanted that moment to relive.  I think back on my life and see a few decisions that have haunted me, not to his degree, but definitely like a whispered memory that says "it could have been different".  The unforgivable action of Gu Jian was to make Xiao Feng remember.  For that alone, I think I'd personally put one more killer arrow in him but when he met his death, I cried like a two year old.  

When Li Chen Yin's opponents were neutralized, he realized that he had lost Xiao Feng.  All that he had done to keep her out of the crosshairs and defeat his enemies also drove her away.  At that moment, he fully understands love, loss and obsession.  He knows that she will never be by his side but he wants to cage her anyway.   When she dies, I think he would have killed himself right there except his mind created the delusion she was alive.  I personally believe that's the only way he could fulfill his third promise to Xiao Feng to live well.  

Thank you so much for starting this thread!  You're analysis of the storyline and characters were a gift!

Kim

Oh, wow! Thank you all for the praise! I wasn’t expecting such a response. I’m happy to help facilitate discussion on this wonderful existence of a character/story and hear your insights as well! It's rare to find a story so enticing. It'll take me a long time to move on from these feelings. Flushing out these characters will give us a deeper sense of appreciation and enjoyment from the drama! I respectfully welcome all viewpoints.

 chinesedramafan:
I know I love him, but at the same time couldn’t get over the fact of his lack of remorse

I know! It was especially tough to watch his response in Gu Jian's death scene. It was his final point of no return. It was Li Cheng Yin in his coldest, hardest form. But on top of that, I was also frustrated by Xiao Feng and Gu Jian's response. Gu Jian was warned by so many people. He knew it was a suicide mission. Xiao Feng should have known it was a suicide mission. And no one wanted to clear up the misunderstanding to Cheng Yin about who Gu Xiao Wu was until the end. It just felt like such a waste to go down in such a fruitless battle. And Cheng Yin showed no remorse for this because of the infidelity. He still didn't understand what Xiao Feng blamed him for by the scene where she jumps off the gate. No one wanted to fill him in on that either. The man was so mislead. In a way, he didn't know what to show remorse for.

The interesting thing is that we started to feel some hate for Li Cheng Yin because of the Danchi battle. While he did play a major role in that battle, it was on such a grander scale than he can be blamed for. Realistically, if it weren't Li Cheng Yin who killed her grandfather, it could have been his brother. It could have been General Gao. Her grandfather could have killed him. War could have broken out over something else entirely unrelated to the first prince's assassination. The Danchi and Li Empire were at odds for a long time. Even Xiao Feng came to understand this.

What pushed her over the edge after recovering her memories would actually be his ability to lie and as you said, show no remorse for it. He approached her not only because she was the key to finding the Danchi camp but also because she was the politically favored bride. This is all reinforced when he kills Gu Jian and then reveals his true feelings for her versus Se Se.

Li Cheng Yin had created a web of lies too large for her to fathom. Xiao Feng grew up free-spirited, straightforward, upstanding, and with nearly no hardship. It takes her a long time to even realize what her duty is as a princess to her country entails. She is a very different person from him. She never had to make decisions that went against her morals. She had to make her own sacrifices, but those sacrifices never brought harm to anyone but herself. This difference between them could not be bridged.

 Kim MC:
There's a reason for every chess move he completed but the price came at the expense of his humanity.  Li Chen Yin truly did become someone who did not deserve love but as a viewer, I felt a tremendous amount for his character anyway.  

I believe it was Chinesedramafan (shout out to ya!) that pointed out that Gu Jian was brainwashed by his stepdad.  I'm 55 years old with a half of a lifetime lived and seen.  Gu Jian's character was the one I personally identified with because he lived with the regret of a major decision.  It haunted him and, at the last, he selfishly wanted that moment to relive.  I think back on my life and see a few decisions that have haunted me, not to his degree, but definitely like a whispered memory that says "it could have been different".  The unforgivable action of Gu Jian was to make Xiao Feng remember.  For that alone, I think I'd personally put one more killer arrow in him but when he met his death, I cried like a two year old.  

I think we felt a tremendous amount of love, and even pity, for him because of his circumstances! Honestly, I can't really imagine another resolution for his conflict. Can you imagine Li Cheng Yin's life suppressed by the empress and Gao clan forever? Or can you imagine the guilt he'd live with if he ran away from the empire? The Gu clan would roll in their graves. I don't think there was a happy ending available for Li Cheng Yin.

I don't know if anyone feels the same way, but for me personally, I hated Chai Mu and Gu Jian more than the villains of the drama. I understand that there is a blood debt to be paid, but Chai Mu was equally ruthless in his vengeance. I would agree with the brainwashing! He raised Gu Jian to be a weapon to the point where Gu Jian had to beg to be pardoned. Chai Mu brought Cheng Yin on board to shoulder all the responsibility. Chai Mu was the leader of the movement, and Gu Jian and Cheng Yin were his tools.

What upset me was their lack of responsibility. I hated the way Gu Jian always warned Xiao Feng that Cheng Yin would hurt her, that he couldn't be trusted. It was like Gu Jian didn't play a hand at all in the events of the first arc, as if he hadn't been withholding his truth from her since they were children! He was such a hypocrite towards Cheng Yin, acting like Cheng Yin was scum of the earth. Actually, Gu Jian only ever showed remorse for Xiao Feng; not once did he express any guilt in what happened to Danchi as if that wasn't part of the plan all along, as if it was all Cheng Yin's fault. Gu Jian was just regretful that he lost the girl he loved.

Chai Mu was similar. He showed no remorse for any impact he had made on neither Gu Jian nor Cheng Yin's lives. The moment when Li Cheng Yin warned Chai Mu that Gu Jian would die--for Chai Mu to dare say that he thought that Cheng Yin was one who honored love, it was just so hypocritical. As if he hadn't told Li Cheng Yin that being soft was his weakness. As if he hadn't manipulated either of them. As if he hadn't forced his own daughter into a corner. He turned them all from survivors into victims.

I completely agree with you about Gu Jian forcing Xiao Feng to remember! His motive behind that was mostly jealousy-driven. It was because Xiao Feng used Cheng Yin's name as a decoy that triggered Gu Jian. These cousins act like they're on different sides but they're really not so different. And truthfully, I was disgusted by his fake Gu Xiao Wu arc. While I understand that he just wanted a few happy months with her, much of his hate for Li Cheng Yin was envy, and if she had instead remembered that Gu Xiao Wu betrayed her, he would have clarified the situation straight away!

I forgave Gu Jian, like Xiao Feng did, because he was also pitiful, because he did live with so much regret. He was also a victim. He repented for certain things. He used his vitality to save Xiao Feng and A'du. He watched out for them, protected them on numerous occasions. In the end, he used his life to protect the person Xiao Feng couldn't live without. This is his one shining moment over Cheng Yin: he understood the important bond between Xiao Feng and A'du. That was a high degree of love and understanding he held for Xiao Feng that Li Cheng Yin never lived up to.

You are such a good writer. You took the words out of my mouth. I can never articulate the events and characters as well as you do.

Like you, I love the Li Chen Yin’s character. As I said previously, I had knots in my heart as well, but these knots were opened by you when you so-well laid out your perspectives about this character. Yes, I can see why he had to do what he did. I did consider him as despicable, but no more after re-watching the drama and reading your comments. I can empathize with him. Though manipulative, but was it a negative trait of him? When I think of it in the context of today’s politics, it is nothing unfamiliar; people use and manipulate each other to reach their political goals. Do we think of these politicians as “bad” people? I doubt it (with some exceptions, like P**** & T**** - I know I’m biased). Many of them are current presidents and prime ministers.

 liteulkwin:
Chai Mu was the leader of the movement, and Gu Jian and Cheng Yin were his tools.

When I first watched the drama, I didn’t hate Chai Mu. I wasn’t sorry either when he was killed by the emperor, as I felt he deserved it. However, after re-watching the drama, it really dawned on me that he had been the grand master all along. He was the one who strategized for Cheng Yin to plant himself in the Danchi tribe in order to identify the location of the camp. He was the one who made sure that Chen Yin was the one who killed the Danchi chief, so that he (Li Chen Yin) could receive the ultimate accolade. Yes, with your help, now it all makes sense; he was actually a bigger culprit and a hypocrite than I first thought -- even his own daughter hated him (as much as she loved him because he fathered her).

One fact that we have all overlooked -- even Xiao Feng's birth mother also tried to assassinate her father's concubine, Ming Yuan Niang Niang who was also Chen Yin's aunt. Under such setting, murders, massacres, or collateral damage for political gains or revenge become a norm. Chen Yin's action, hence, was just part of life, if not because he had also fallen in love with the girl he deceived. You're right when you said, had Xiao Feng not been such a lovable character and had Chen Yin not fallen in love with her, I think we all would have no qualm over the killings. That's the major hurdle I now have overcome.

I feel I can move on from this drama now, thanks to you. The knots in my heart are open. I would still relish this drama for every scene and moment it brings me. At the same time, I’m glad I meet a new found friend in you.

Have a wonderful day, and looking forward to your next comment.

I also did not initially hate Chai Mu. I honestly didn't really even pay attention to him at first. It wasn’t until Gu Jian asked him if he was really going to let Ming Yue go through with her plan and he responded that he didn’t have the right to be a father that it finally dawned on me what kind of negative impact he really did have on their lives. Then his comment that seemed to criticize Li Cheng Yin really solidified that epiphany for me because I just didn’t think his intentions were any better. They went to really extreme measures for their revenge plot, and it was just so convenient for them to frame Li Cheng Yin as the ultimate villain in the end.

 chinesedramafan:
had Xiao Feng not been such a lovable character and had Chen Yin not fallen in love with her, I think we all would have no qualm over the killings. That's the major hurdle I now have overcome.

Yes, yes! This is what I was trying to get at! We hate him because we love her. If we had turned this around so that we primarily saw the events from his perspective, I think this would be a story about an antihero whom we would all be rooting for. Implicate that empress, take down that corrupt family, prove how wrong your enemies were when they looked down on you! We would be edging him on. It’s all about perspective. Because this is actually Xiao Feng’s story, because we love her so much, because she didn't deserve any of the horrifying events in her life, it changes the narrative. That isn't to say that some things he did (i.e. killing Gu Jian) weren't completely ruthless, however. He is still a morally gray character.

You brought up a good point about Xiao Feng's mother! You are equally analytical; don't undermine your own skills! We definitely overlooked that scene because Gu Jian successfully stopped A'du. In palace dramas, there will always be these underhanded methods to deal with the characters' "problems." It doesn't come from just the villains. Even an almighty protagonist will stain their hands with blood in order to protect themselves and those around them. This is just the way of that world.

Thank you all for a great talk. :) If there are any oppositions, I'd love to hear it in order to gain perspective.

I was waiting for this to get English subs and it's finally out.  The actors describe their characters and their story arc. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=03PFkA331Rk 

Sadly, I'm going to miss the fandom equally as much as this drama.  To have these types of discussions is rare.  

liteulkwin  - I'm also a fan of novels where the male operates within the not so heroic boundaries.  Below is a list of novels and their authors that I think you'll like:

The Eagle Elite Series by Rachel Van Dyken (especially Elite, Elect, Ember, Elude and Empire) - these books will tear your heart out and put it back in (sometimes), definitely read Elude and Empire.

The Ice Series by Anne Stuart - Anne Stuart  has a tendency to write the male lead extremely, and I mean extremely, dark.  My favorite of this series was Ice Blue.  

Check these out if you have a chance.

@Kim MC thanks for the reading suggestions! I'll add them to my TBR shelf ^^

I love hearing actors describe their characters or when directors coach their actors on a scene as well. I think Peng Xiao Ran's description of Gu Jian and his deleted scenes from back in Xi State helped me forgive him more than simply watching the drama had.

@liteulkwin, yes, they did take down quite a few very important scenes which I feel could have helped us understand the characters better, especially Li Chen Yin's.

I think I finally see Li Chen Yin's remorse after decimating the DanChi tribe and killing Xiao Feng's grandfather. He was so guilt-ridden that he also wanted to jump into the Lake of Oblivion to wipe out all the memories. Having said that, it was quite obvious that later, he still knew he was the one who led the killing. That part he didn't forget; he only lost memories of Xiao Feng. Without Xiao Feng in his conscience, he didn't feel guilty for the killing, as you pointed out that it's just a matter of time war broke out between the two nations.

Like you, I love hearing the actors describing their roles too. It helps me understand the characters better and not jumping into conclusions on things I may have misconstrued. I do sympathize with Gu Jian for being pushed into a corner, until it was too late to do anything else (he was dying). In his mind, his final death was his way to redeem himself for all the ills that he had done to Xiao Feng and DanChi. To die a hero is better than to live a coward.