Table of contents :

(Titles link to sections)

  1. General Information :  
    1. -  Production dates and location (June-Nov 2022, Hengdian), Crew : illustrated + links to trailers and other promotional items ; Airing (Links to platforms)
    2. - Synopsis (adapted from Baidu web encyclopedia)
    3. - Promotion and reception (heat index etc)
    4. -Main creative Line Up (announced June 2022)
    5. - Music - songs and background music  (links with illustrations)
  2. Xianxia Realms and the Abyss
    • Introduction to some xianxia concepts and dramas
  3. Characters key (alphabetical list)
    • Character relations Posters
  4. Characters and Cast. (illustrated gallery, by order of appearances)
    1. Lead characters presentation (adapted from Baidu)
    2. Mortal Realm first descent
    3. Immortal Realm
    4. Mortal Realm, second descent
    5. Divine Realm
    6. Attack of the Evil and Aftermath
    7. From the Past to the Future 
  5.  Xianxia Gods and Fate - some thoughts around The Legend of Shen Li
  6.  The 天外天 Extranatural Heaven concept - some thoughts
  7. Goodbye to Shen Li (Gif with players in the variety show, and messages from Zhao Liying, Lin Gengxin and Liu Guanlin


Info from Baidu, adapted and edited from the machine translation, videos from YouTube or Weibo (all pictures link to their sources).

The novel:
《与凤行》"Traveling With The Phoenix" (also titled "The King Is Here") was  published by Jiangsu Literature and Art Publishing House in April 2014.
Author:  Jiu Lu Feixiang (九鹭非香)  member of the Chinese Writers Association ; she is under contract with Jinjiang Literature and has published several best selling novels (including "Cang Lan Jue" [Love Between Fairy and Devil].

《与凤行》"Traveling with Phoenix" is a costume myth drama. produced by Tencent Video and Xinli TV, 

English title : The Legend of Shen Li.

   "The play is adapted from the novel 本王在此》(The King Is Here) written by  Jiu Lu Feixiang (九鹭非香)  [translated here]. It tells the story of Shen Li, the Bi Cang King of the spiritual world, who fell to the earth due to an injury while on the run from marriage. By chance, she met the last ancient god Xing Zhi who had come down to earth to experience life. This launched a new mythical love story of the "three realms", full of pyrotechnics and majestic power."          

1.1  Shooting dates, location, Crew, airing date

  • director :  Deng Ke 邓科  (chief director; he also appears as the chicken seller in the first episode!), Gao Congkai 高琮凯, Wang Yiding  王奕丁
  • scriptwriter : Jiu Lu Feixiang 九鹭非香  (also author of the novel)
  • producer:  Li Eryun 李尔云 (chief producer),     Hubo 胡泊、Zheng Zhongli 郑中莉,  Li Xaobiao 李小飚
  • executive producer : Zhou Haonan 周皓
  • production supervision by    Wang Juan 王娟、Xu Jian 徐佳 ,  Zhao Liying 赵丽颖
  • Production company :     Shanghai Tencent Penguin Film and Television Culture Communication Co., Ltd, Xinli TV Culture Investment Co., Ltd.

  • Dubbing : Bianjiang Studio (5 actors or actresses are "dubbed" by known voice actors)
  • Filming locations :     Hengdian Film and Television City, Xiangshan Film and Television City  and Jinyun Xiandu Scenic Area (in Lishui City, Zhejiang Province -see below, section 1.3: Tourism), nicknamed "Fairy Capital on Earth" (it was also a shooting location for Legend of Sword and Fairy《仙剑奇侠传》and The Journey of Flower《花千骨》)
  • Shooting dates : June 14, 2022,  in Hengdian to November 4, 2022. Wrap picture on Nov.15 and video of wrap & closing ceremony (3'26)

  • Premiere date :     March 18, 2024  (Hunan Satellite TV [Hunan weishi  湖南卫视 ] + Web TV platforms  Tencent Video [Tengxun shipin 腾讯视频], Mango TV  [Mangguo TV 芒果TV]+ Rakuten Viki international platform with 14 different languages options for subtitles  ; the show has also started broadcasting through Kukan TV  and Kukan Drama English channel on Youtube   (direct links here but georestrictions and/or need for subscription or membership may apply. But, in case of difficulty, the show can be "kissed".)
  • --->    Poster (with clues) of Tencent airing calendar till March 23 ; Second Poster of airing calendar from March 24, and third Poster from April 1.  The drama social media page mentioned the airing to be Monday to Thursday (2 eps) at 20:00 + Friday to Sunday (1 ep) at 20:00  (after first week when 4 eps. were released on first day).  The third poster mentioned the option to purchase an "express package" for eps.34-39 as of Friday April 5.
  • Number of Episodes :     39  (each having a duration of 45 minutes)
  • Drama Weibo   (289,000 fans on March 21, 2024 ; 306,000 on March 24, 2024)

Screenshots of the drama Weibo page on March 24, airing details + number of fans of the show

1.2 Synopsis

In order to control her own destiny, Shen Li ( played by Zhao Liying ) , the blue king of the spiritual world, while  escaping from marriage , accidentally met Shen Xingzhi ( played by Lin Gengxin ) who was staying in the human world . The two of them worked together to eliminate evil and promote good and explore the truth. Mutual affection was kindled. Xingzhi, the last god in ancient times, was responsible for guarding the outer world and protecting the peace  and the order of all things. The two people  shouldered heavy responsibilities which made choices between love and responsibility difficult. In order to protect her people, Shen Li fought bravely against the evil forces and did not hesitate to die in the East China Sea to uphold justice. Xingzhi understood the meaning of responsibility from Shen Li, and finally  shouldered his mission bravely, to protect the peace of the world at the expense of his own ego. In the process, both of them rediscovered the true meaning of love, responsibility and life.

This section last updated April 21, 2024

back to Table of Contents                                                    Next section:  Promotion, reception, main line up

1.3 Promotion and reception 

Zhao Liying bidding farewell to Shen Li (and welcome to Jia XiaoDuo in upcoming What A Wonderful World) from Weibo.Storyboard picture for the set of Qingsheng Village courtyard, first episodes and ending of the drama. 

June 2021, Tencent Pictures, Xinli Media, and Yuewen Film and Television announced 70 film and television works at the "Xiangrong Rixin" 2021 annual press conference. Shen Li  TV series was on the list, and In July 2021, the drama was officially filed.         

From May 24, 2022 to March 18, 2024, the  public was kept aware of the new drama helmed by pair  Zhao Liying and Lin Gengxin. through  a steady flow of:

  • concept, character posters (March 11, 2024),incl. a Lin Gengxin double-sided special  (March 19, 2024)
  • festival posters (August 4, 2022 for Qixi Chinese Valentines Day; September 10 , 2022 and September 29, 2023 : Mid-Autumn festival posters),  
  • posters showcasing the steady rise of million reservations  
    • for Tencent video  (2 million on June 2023 ; over  3 million on September 1 ; over 4 million on December 2 ; over 5 million on Feb 26, 2024  ; over 6 million on March 9, over 7  million on March 12, over 8 millions on March 17, 2024, to in excess of 8.87 million on March 18, 2024 )  
    • and for Mango TV (over one million on Feb.18, 2024,  over 2 million on March 3, 2024; over 3 million on March 14; over 4 million on March 18)  
    • and of popularity points (which rose spectacularly in a few hours on premiere day, from over 23,000 points already 17 minutes into airing, to in excess of 28,000, after 146 minutes;  over 29,000 after 24 hours from airing, and one hour later, achieving status as "Fastest Tencent Drama to break 30,000 heat Index")
    • + see this short video compilation of rankings of March 19, 2024

Shortly before the drama aired,  Jeremy Xu  /徐正溪  Xu Zhengxi (in costume from his upcoming in Water Dragon's Chant/ Shui LongYin alongside Luo Yunxi) who almost simultaneously announced his retirement from the industry (after the last episodes of his starring role drama Yong An Dream) posted a short clip to support with the then upcoming drama of Zhao Liying and Lin Gengxin, The Legend of Shen Li /Yu Feng Xin (in Chinese).  GIF linked to Weibo original:

From March 13th to 16th, 2023, the drama participated in the 2023 Hong Kong International Film and Television Exhibition  ; November 7, 2023,  the drama was selected into Jiangsu Satellite TV’s 2024 drama list ; one month later, on December 15, the play was selected into the China Central Radio and Television Station’s 2024 TV series list  

Screenshot from  : "Lin Gengxin said: Zhao Liying cried for a whole day when shooting the finale"

March 7 and 9, 2024 official announcements of scheduled broadcast in North America and on Hunan Satellite TV, Tencent Video, and Mango TV on March 18.  A week later, on March 14, 2024, the show held an exclusive launch press conference (51' 中文 only) in Shanghai, accompanied by an interview of both leads (5'58中文 only), and simultaneously released a new trailer Preview of Happy Three Realms Edition. 

"Chinese Star News" (YouTube) posted several commented cuts from the Press conference (Gif excerpts below): 

"Zhao Liying said to Lin Gengxin: You are still keeping up the tradition of giving cheap gifts."

Discussing height : "Zhao Liying and Lin Gengxin discuss how to shoot a kissing scene"

Lin GengXin's wry teasing humor.  Can Lin GengXin cook ?   Yes he can...About memes and more banter ; Lin Gengxin said to Zhao Liying: Is my face smooth?

On another Youtube channel, the kissing scene and LGX preparations for the drama was discussed (2'25) :

Since release, the promotion continued with a live stream featuring members from the cast.

Excerpt : "Why does Lin Gengxin become so shy when he makes eye contact with Zhao Liying? "   (commented by Chinese Star News with language tips on the 10'40 full video). Featuring  Zhao Liying, Lin GengXing, Liu  GuangLin (Tian Jun), Xin YunLai (Mofang), He Yu (Furong Jun), discussing the sparring session in Episode 13 including the dangers of the martial arts shooting with a waist ring (BTS of the scene here).


Announced for April 11, 2024 : "the most awaited variety show themed for The Legend of ShenLi , coming on Tencent TV app ."  2h15+ entertainment in two episodes, with English subtitles, click on the title next: Treasure Seeking: The Legend of ShenLi.  (another option is to watch it on the WeTV app for an additional fee, searching "Treasure seeking")

 =>  Also see the Goodbye to Shen Li   Gif.

INTERVIEW OF LIN GENGXIN 林更新  (3'23) ON VIU posted 2024-04-07 on YouTube:

Tourism :  "Data from the Tongcheng travel platform shows that from the launch of the TV series on March 18 to March 31, the booking volume of Jinyun Xiandu Scenic Area (缙云仙都景区) , the filming location, increased by 572.2% month-on-month. A popular check-in spot for travel.
Jinyun Fairy City is located in Lishui City, Zhejiang Province. As a scenic spot featuring natural landscapes, as shown in the TV series, every scene is like a fairyland on earth. This was the real landscape of Xingyun's small courtyard."   
[How to get there, what to see - info]

The Legend of Shen Li is the second time Zhao Liying and Lin GengXin paired in a drama, after the successful but cliffhanger ending 2017  Princess Agents (Direct link to the show on Viki, 57 episodes) which got embroiled in a plagiarism case, killing the will to do the expected Season 2 (both leads have expressed that they don't wish to pick up the roles again, sadly).

Zhao Liying is the only Chinese actress whose dramas has exceeded 10,000 heat on 3 online platforms: IQIYI, Youku, and Tencent platforms. Youku's The story of Xingfu, IQIYI's Wild Bloom, and Tencent's The Legend of ShenLi (Direct links to the shows)

Popularity "Heat index" rise, March 18-19:
4 million reservations, Mango TV :
8.87 million reservations on Tencent Video:

The Legend of Shen Li placed among the top ten most watched dramas of the week ending March 24, 2024,  for first week since it started airing : it ranked #2 only because it was one day late in the aggregated data for the week, as compared to the #1 which had been watched longer.  (Sandrusca added more details about the scores).

#2 most popular TV drama for week ending March 24, 2024, as reported on the Marcus Here! channel.
#1 most popular TV drama for week ending April 07, 2024, with 635 points   (It also was reported as having over 108 million views)
#1 most popular TV drama for week ending March 31, 2024, with 631 points (popular drama score).  
#1 most popular TV drama for week ending April 14, 2024, with 605 points. 

The Legend of Shen Li Opening Douban rating April 11, 2024 :   7.2/10  (decent, given the deleterious influence of hater anti-fans: the fans of the show worked against that. 7+ means it is acknowledged as a good show.).

The drama had set a 2024 record high of 31784 popularity points on Tencent by April 11 (popularity points are not computed the same way by platforms and by companies like VLinkage, btw, each have their own methods):
#3 most popular TV drama for week ending April 21, 2024 on VLinkage.
#5 for week ending April 29, 2024. (despite Yang Zi and Xu Kai also breaking records then for  their modern drama  Best Choice Ever ). ...#10 for week ending April 12, 2024. Still in top ten for 8 week running!

1.4  MAIN LINE UP   List

*  See characters gallery presentation details  by order of appearance, after the Alphabetical List.

Main cast  (main creative lineup announced on June 14, 2022):  

1. Zhao Liying 赵丽颖  aka Zanilia Zhao, b. October 16, 1987 in Lanfang, Hebei Province, playing as Shěn Lí    (沈璃) 

2. Lin Gengxin 林更新, aka Kenny Lin , b. feb.13 1988, playing as Xíng Zhǐ  (行止)  /   Xíng Yún (行云)

3. Xin Yunlai  辛云来 , b. Sept.22, 1994, playing as Mò Fāng  (墨方)

6. He Yu 何与 b. He Yi Tian 何宜谦 b. Sept.22, 1994, in Ningxia Province, playing as Fú Róng Jūn (拂容)

7. Li Jiaqi 李嘉琦 aka Jackie Li , b August 24, 1995, in Tongliao City, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, playing as  Orchid  ( 幽兰)

4. Zeng Li  曾黎 , b.  Sept. 17, 1976 , playing as Shěn Mù Yuè  (沈木月)

5. Liu Guanlin 刘冠麟 , b Dec.19, 1981, playing as  Tian Jun (天君) Heavenly Emperor

8. Huang Chengcheng  黄澄澄 , b  Feb. 9, 1985. in Dazhou, Sichuan, playing as Wang Bao ( 王宝)

9.Xuan Lu  宣璐 , b Jan.15, 1991.  playing as Liu Yu ( 琉羽)

10. Qiu Xinzhi   邱心志  , b. March 31, 1968 , playing as Liu Ming ( 六冥)

  Guest roles :
Xu Haiqiao  徐海乔 b.April 17, 1983 in Shandong, playing as Fèng Lái  凤来

Dong Jie 董洁 b.April 19, 1980 in Dalian, Liaoning, playing as Lady Yun (Yun Niang, 云娘)

Song Ningfeng 宋宁峰, b.March  7, 1981 , playing as Zhou San Lang, 周三郎 , Yun Niang's husband who ascended to immortality

For the detailed characters and cast list, go to the Alphabetical List and/or to the Characters List by order of appearance.  (click on to follow links)

Special appearances :  
Wang Yiyao 王伊瑶  b.June 30, 1991 in Daxing'anling, Heilongjiang Province,  playing as  Jin Niang Zi 金娘子

 Wei Zixin 魏子昕 b.November  8, 1980,    playing as Fú Shēng 苻生, wizard employed by Gu Chengrui  

Li Zifeng , b. December  6, 1986,  playing as   Qing Ye 清夜  / Gù Chéngjǐn 顾成锦 / Jing Yan景言

 Huang Y 黄羿 b.  June 22, 1997,  playing as  Jing Xi / Xiao He  小荷/ 景惜

Hu Dandan 胡丹丹 aka Smile Hu, b.October 30, 1991 in Nanchang City, Jiangxi Province,  playing as  Ye Shi /Shi Luo  叶诗施萝

 Zhou Xiaochuan 周小川, b.February 23, 1983,   playing as  Shang Bei. 尚北

 Chen Zhen 陈震 aka Marco Chen, b. Chen Songhua 陈松桦 August 30, 1979 in Taiwan,   playing as  Zhu Fei,  诸飞 general of Immortal Realm

This section revised and completed May 13, 2024

back to Table of Contents                                                                                                                 Next section : Music

1.5  MUSIC  

(click on pictures to follow the link and listen) 

OST music started to be released from Valentine's Day February 14, 2024 with the ending song :  "Share the Mountains and Rivers/ "As Ever (如初 Rúchū) " MV " theme song, sung by Zhang Bichen 张碧晨 . 

The OST lineup was announced on March 17, 2024. The  theme song "World / Ages)" sung by Liu Yuning,  was released on March 18, 2024. The theme song "Blazing Heart"  sung by Curley Gao, was released on March 19, 2024 ; and subsequently, the opening melody 《碧苍战歌》Bi Cang Battle song,  and the song : "Bi Cang /"Hazy Sky" (碧苍) sung by Jessie Li/Li Jiawei 李佳薇 released on March 21, 2024 . 

(The trailer song "Ling Long/Exquisite"  (玲珑)  sung by Xin Wen  辛雯 was from March 16, 2023 according to a source.)

MV:  Ling Long 玲珑 (Exquisite), sung by Xin Wen 辛雯 ; lyricist : Shibazhou 十八州  ;  composer Shen Qingmeng 沈清梦. Posted Feb 21, 2024  - Song for trailer.

MV of  碧苍 (Bi Cang / Green Sea, Blue Sky) sung by 李佳薇 (Li Jiawei / Jess Lee),, posted March 21, 2024. Lyrics by Hua Xiyue 花僖悦 ; composed by Yuan Wenrui  袁文睿
Notice : Bi Cang is the martial name of Shen Li, and "azure blue" would be best translation, if one wants to translate name, which better should be left "as is".
MV of 不知返 (Bu Zhi Fan, No Turning Back) sung by Wang Heye 王赫野  , posted March 20, 2021.  Lyrics by Shēnmínglì  申名利、Fu Xin 付欣 ; composed by Yang Bingyin 杨秉音.
Opening theme of the drama, played by Budapest Film Symphony Orchestra, released on TV and posted to YouTube on March 22, 2024. The title on Baidu OST listing was 《碧苍战歌》Bi Cang Battle song, but here the OP on YT wrote "碧苍之名" (The Name of Beauty). - [thanks to sandrusca for bringing this video to our attention!]

Two pieces from the full BGM : See Vastness and Invoke the River of Oblivion, posted March 29, 2024.
Full OST with BGM by composer and music producer Yang Bingyin, posted by Sarann, Release on: 2024-03-25.

Playlist of 49 OST songs and bgm for The Legend of Shen Li,  posted by WeTV on YouTube. (titles in Chinese) Released on: 2024-03-25
MV with Hanzi, Pinyin, and English Translation by Mei.S, posted March 10, 2024.  Lyrics : Deng Shuyue 邓舒月 ; composed by Zhou Fujian  周富坚.    (Ru Chu : episodes ending song)

MV with Hanzi, Pinyin, and English Translation, by Peachey Blossom, posted March, 2024 :
See "As Ever", above
See"No Turning Back.."  to left.
MV of "Ages"   Lyricist  Wang Xiaoqian 王晓倩 , Fu Xin   付欣 ; composer Yang Bingyin 杨秉音
see Bi Cang to left
MV of Blazing Heart, lyricist  Wududu 五毒毒、 Wang Xiaoqian 王晓倩,  composer Sun Ai Li 孙艾藜
Full OST of the 5 official songs above, MV with Hanzi, Pinyin, and English translations, compiled by Peachey Blossom.
Identical to Budapest Film Symphony Orchestra  to left, but with choirs ! (no lyrics) posted by P.B. on March 23, 2024.
Full BGM of the drama, compiled by Peachey Blossom as a treat to those who like the drama! Posted on March 26, 2024 - Includes many wonderful pieces : See Vastness (见苍茫) , Invoke the River of Oblivion (引忘川) , Colored-Glazed Thoughts (璃思).... 

The Leaf flute song (with vocals)  in ep.9

This section last updated April 3, 2024

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This is so amzing. Thank you for this

Can you explain the realms and Xutian abyss please

From what i understood The realms on this Xianxia are Mortal, Immortal - Demons, and  Divine Realms - that has gods.

Frost, I appreciate your notes.  It really helps me enjoy this drama even more!

Seeing as Jackie Li is in this, can we expect some humour? 


Can you explain the realms and Xutian abyss please

From what i understood The realms on this Xianxia are Mortal, Immortal - Demons, and  Divine Realms - that has gods. 


Yes roughly the Chinese cosmology division you describe is like that, except it is not always clear cut : how many "divine realms" would there be?  Is demon realm one, or below?  Depends. The most well known divine realm  is "Heaven Realm" which is ordered somewhat like the Chinese Empire, with an Emperor, an Empress, Generals, and Ministers among which you might find Lao Zi (in charge of making immortality pills) and some Chinese heroes. (But I am not sure it's the only one, if you consider that in Ashes of Love, there is a hint about a Buddhist world that looks to be placed above Heaven realm as a sort of Paradise).  Everybody in Heaven Realm is not a god or goddess; there can be immortal fairies too, and in other Realms, there can be gods or goddesses that are not always immortal : the goddess of flowers in Ashes of love, who has her own fairy realm, dies, apparently forever, although death is not always final with the concept of reincarnation.

Ashes of Love, Flower RealmAshes of Love, Wangchuan river, ep.6, where ghosts can consume those who fall in.
Runyu, the Night Immortal, resting with his dragon tail idly moving in the pond near his Star terrace of Heaven Realm, in Ashes of Love.A terrace in Heaven Realm in Ashes of Love

"Demon World" is bordering "Heaven Realm", separated from it by the River of Oblivion Wanchuan 忘川 in Ashes of Love, and by steep mountains with a powerful dragon gate-keeper between this and other worlds, in Sword and Fairy (the worlds of which are inspired by the Shangqing sect of Daoism). Other "immortal" worlds (Flower Realm and Bird Realm, which are immortal fairy worlds, in Ashes of Love) are in between "Mortal world" and Heaven and there is the deep down "Netherworld", that has "Ghost worlds"and other more evil Demon/Devil worlds, and "the Abyss".  But that geography is not always as clear as it seems, and there is a "path" (Dao) to ascension (using the concept of "cultivation") that can make mortals become immortals, and sometimes gods, as if these were hierarchical levels in government.

A subrealm  within the Mortal Realm is "Martial Realm", where martial artists and cultivators strive for strength and enlightenment, and strive to ascend on the path/dao.

In Love Between Fairy and Devil, there are three main realms: Yujing, which is home to the fairies and high immortals, Cangyan Sea, which is home to the Moon Tribe, and Yunmeng Lake, which is home to the mortal race. Yujing encompasses several locations, including Shuiyuntian. The Moon Tribe is viewed as demons by the high immortals of Yujing Fountain Palace which is a part of that world's Heavenly Realm.  Another realm is touched on when in Xuanxu realm, on the border of Wanchuan Oblivion river, the dragon Shangque explains the outcome of the battle 30,000 years ago between Shuiyuntian and the Moon Tribe,

Shuiyuntian Haotian Tower (prison from which Dongfang Qing Cang escaped in LBFAD)Shuiyuntian arbiter hall where fairy Orchid  resided and was assigned to take care of the "Destiny books".

Xianxia is not always consistent with concepts : each author has his /her own and I am not a specialist of the work and ideas of 九鹭非香  (Jiu Lu Fei Xiang), the author of this story, who is also the author of 苍兰诀 (Cang Lan Jue, adapted to drama as Love Between Fairy And Devil).  There may be some overlap between the two xianxia worlds of Cang Lan Jue and  与凤行 (Yu Feng Xing, which means Walking with the Phoenix, the novel also titled "King is Here", which now gets adapted to drama as The Legend of Shen Li).  I had watched Cang Lan Jue as entertainment, curious about the pairing there, since I had heard about them and watched Wang Hedi before, in my exploration of the Meteor Garden phenomenon, which is as far removed from xianxia as can be.  But I had fond memories of Ashes of Love and some other xianxia dramas, from Ten Miles of Peach Blossom to the Untamed, so I went to watch the story of Orchid and Dongfang Qing Cang, after spending part of that summer on the epic Love Like The Galaxy. Coming back later to other xianxia, such as,  lately The Starry Love, Till The End Of The Moon and although it was not totally satisfying to me, The Last Immortal (but I still need to watch Ancient Love Poetry, to get back to re-watch TLI with better perspective, I suppose).     

Some wuxia and costume dramas also touch on Daoist beliefs which have a special view on esoteric worlds divisions and the path from mortals to ascend towards immortality through "cultivation" (which can have spectacular outcomes, such as "flying" over walls,  rooftops, battlefields.. in stories of course).  These beliefs, as far as fantasy is concerned, are used as raw material that also get influenced by other World folk tales and beliefs, including from Indian or Greek or other mythology (in The Legend of Shenli, the Chimei 魑魅   is a man-eating mountain spirit shown as a poisonous shape shifting beast with snake-scorpion tail that looks much influenced by the Greek Chimera (translated as 嵌合体 Qiàn hétǐ  or phonetically as Qíměi lā 奇美拉), although hybrid fantastical creatures are numerous in homegrown Chinese culture, such as the 麒麟 Qilin, the Chinese dragons, and 凤凰 Fenghuang Chinese phoenix, among other ones). Daoism as a creed gets colored by Buddhist close concepts. Demonology draws on many sources, that can be modernized from authors of stories, novels, movies, anime, even games.  

Not only are there the traditional Chinese Si Xiong 四凶  four evil creatures :

  • the Hundun (渾敦, 渾沌; Hùndùn; 'chaotic torrent), a yellow winged creature of chaos with six legs and no face;
  • the Qiongqi (窮奇; Qióngqí; 'distressingly strange', 'thoroughly odd'), a monstrous creature that eats people;
  • the Taowu (檮杌; Táowù; 'block stump'), a reckless, stubborn creature;
  • the Taotie (饕餮; Tāotiè; 'greedy glutton'), a gluttonous beast.
Lord BiCang battling the Chimei shape shifting monster with scorpion tail, in The Legend of Shen Li,  Clip from ep. 8 linked  (4'48)

The phrase 魑魅魍魉  Chīmèi wǎngliǎng  refers to "evil spirits, demons and monsters  - all sorts of evil  persons", and in fact specifically three sorts : .魑 Chi is a sort of yellowish dragon, 魅 Mei is a seductive forest spirit, 魍魉 Wangliang is a water demon.  China has a wide variety of demons. Each Chinese New Year the Nian beast will be remembered, for example. Plus sometimes some "new ones" borrowed from other spirit believing cultures in Korea Japan, India.   To make matters even more murky, and complex, in this perspective, Chinese xianxia can also be mixed  with  "xuanhuan", a sort of Chinese fantasy genre concept that has influences both from wuxia "cultivation" tales, xianxia, and science fiction alternate universes or far planets stories.  

So, the take of one or another author on Heaven realms, Mortal realms, Demon Realms, Ghost Realm and other "lesser" Realms can be very different, as can be the use of traditional myths. There is of course the old Chinese folk religion, with its various levels/tiers of Hell where people will have to pass three tests before getting judged in afterlife  before Yama, the King of hell. Visiting Fengdu City of Ghosts near Chongqing gives an idea through walking the temples and their colored statues : the path goes up through stairs, a view of the Bridge of Helplessness, and more and finally wrongdoers get tortured more or less forever in very graphic ways by devils.  The old Chinese ghost stories and Chinese opera often draw on this folk religion and ideas, such as the story of the Peony Pavilion, or the White Snake (which introduces one  form of "demons" that can lead astray in the human world ;  there are also foxes and other "spirit animals" yaoguai (妖怪 strange beings), yaojing (妖精 fairies), etc. that can appear and coexist with humans in the "mortal realm". In fact, the "spirit" idea also touches plants and things, as is shown in The Journey To The West, the very famous and entertaining novel by Wu Cheng'en written in 15th century Ming dynasty and set in the 7th century about the time when Buddhism was introduced in China. (This story about the Monkey King is interesting too in that the protagonist is a benevolent demon born from a stone, on his way to ascending to Heaven! All Chinese demons are not necessarily evil, some are even life savers such as the White snake. There are also fantastical beasts that feed on dreams, doing away with people's nightmares ; these are called "dream tapirs", belonging to Huanming fantasy worlds such as in Sword and Fairy universe : you can have a look at my notes on S&F4  for an introduction to that drama and universe, which mentions several other beasts from Daoist  lore :  the six guardians of the night time. There is also a brief visit to the Netherworld 冥都 Míngdōu. )

Buzhou mountain in Sword and Fairy 4, in which is located the entrance to the Netherworld where dead people may linger.Terrace entrance to Netherworld (through an invisible portal watched by a dragon)

 The Abyss is a sort of "hell like" concept where the worst offenders and devils get thrown (literally), as in jail, forever supposedly, but always strive to get out and take over the universe. I suppose suicide also can lead to falling into it.  It is a layer of Hell of course, and can be shown diversely, either as a wasteland such as in The Last Immortal, or as a rocky but foggy marshy place with hostile plants and fantastical, threatening creatures :  it has, like any land, different parts, so some can perhaps be visited less dangerously, at the entrance, which can be a sort of cave, or  an opening mystically connected to other realms but submerged under deep sea.  (ancient gods had contained the demons under the sea in Chinese very ancient mythological times).

(My screenshots and Gif from episode 10 of the Legend of Shen Li : Shen Li and Xing Zhi inspect the entrance to the Abyss, outside and inside)

The 墟天渊 (Xū Tiān Yuān  - where xū u is a wasteland, in ruins, tiān is heaven and yuān means deep) abyss in the Legend of ShenLi  looks like it is bordering Demon realm, called 灵界 Líng jiè (spirit world, where shape shifting beings reside) in this xianxia. This "Immortal Realm" (name chosen by translators here)  seems to serve as "buffer state" between the Abyss and the neighboring other realms. The Immortal realm is also "far away" from Heaven realm, called "Divine realm" 仙界 Xiānjiè,  in this xianxia (despite the other translation "fairy world" may look confusing : the Divine realm is where immortal beings who are not originating from shape shifting beasts reside), where there is an emperor, and the "Extranatural Heaven" (天外天 Tiānwài tiān) which looks like a small and  independent part of the Heaven plane: that's where Xing Zhi resided ordinarily. There are "demon/humanoid" guards at the entrance to the XuTian Abyss, which looks like it belongs to the cave entrance variety.  There is a chain that forbids the access and escape of the unknown beings that are inside, and magic seals that form an invisible barrier. A sort of fiery evil eye maelstrom can nevertheless suck in those who come too close. There, the "miasma" flies around, pictured somewhat like black giant amoeba floating and swiftly attacking, targeting living beings to enter them with evil alien poison, that will color the hapless humans' veins black. The landscape looks dark like night time, there are sorts of trees and plants and even luminescent mushroom, two waterfalls, perhaps the source to the Wangchuan (which seems to be a spirit river that can be invoked, for ferrying the dead to their next destinations and thus, help give closure to the living. Shen Li, ep.3 and 22 used the invocation 吾以吾引忘川 Wúyǐwúyǐn Wàngchuān : "I summon in my name the River of Oblivion").

Despite the barriers, miasma can still manage to contaminate other realms, such as Mortal Realm (ep.14-15) and evil forces can threaten the local Earth deities portrayed (these are not in all xianxia, but the Earth God does appear in some like Ashes of Love).

To my mind, it looks like the XuTian Abyss  has a proximity to the Netherworld, which is another concept from Chinese folk religion, Daoism, and Buddhist cosmology where hell is called Dìyù 地狱 (Buddhist cosmology identifies six realms of rebirth and existence: gods, demi-gods, humans, animals, hungry ghosts and hells that are mirrored in the six paths that disciples may follow. So there is a connection between "sects" in human world and those ancient beliefs : A Journey To Love, the recent wuxia drama, draws a lot on this, and for an overview you might check my notes on that one too).

The puppet show in Qingsheng city, Mortal Realm, where Shen Li landed in the form of a strange "mountain chicken" and was rescued by Xing Yun.Immortal Realm capital city and Holy palace on top of a mountain in The Legend of Shen Li.

In the Legend of Shen Li, the division of the three realms is told in easy words to the mortal human audience in a puppet show, in ep. 2 :  "When Heaven and Earth were created, there were three realms. The lower realm is the human world, and the upper realm is heavens. The heavens originally had beasts. The beasts absorbed the spiritual energy of heaven  and earth and practiced techniques. They transformed into human form and called themselves the Immortal. Above the heavens is the abode of the ancient gods, the Extranatural Heaven. The ancient gods are powerful, each with their own duties. Some control time or create beings. After humanity was created, [some beings] learned the techniques of the five elements, ascended to the heaven and called themselves the Divine. More and more of them came to the heavens, and there were constant disputes between the Divine and the Immortal. After millions of years of conflict, the two sides finally drafted an agreement. They settled in two different parts of the heaven known as the Divine realm and the Immortal realm." (WeTV translation)

Hoping these thoughts are useful to you.

This section updated on March 31, 2024

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I dont know what i did to make the comment like a spoiler. Im new to mdl

I came back to this and its so beautiful. Thank you for your dedication, the fast response the will to write these notes, your effort, everything. The chinese names are really interesting.i've watched a few Xianxia and it was easier to understand their realms. This drama chose Divine and Immortal wich sounds the same so it was confusing. I wish they just said demon and Immortal like a few others since Shenli is Demon Lord of Chaos. After the explanation its easier to understand. I like the original novel name Acompanying the Phoenix, its simple and represents the story well. There are too many Legend of, Story of , Love blabla .  Grateful for the reply 

@ Frost Edelweiss .  Thank you for both lengthy posts!  They are much appreciated as I decide whether to put the series on my PTW. 

Im always coming back to this. Just noticed the platforms you forgot to list Viki, it premiered the same day and its following the chinese platforms schedule.


Im always coming back to this. Just noticed the platforms you forgot to list Viki, it premiered the same day and its following the chinese platforms schedule.

It was not really forgotten, just that in this ongoing "tinkering" of Notes, I followed the Baidu and the official Weibo pages which emphasized the Chinese original platforms, not mentioning the international one that has been licensed as we are all well aware of.  It may be interesting to also list the foreign networks that may acquire rights for the show in the future, but I am not sure I can keep up with all that.  I follow the show on WeTV (Tencent).  But to be more complete with other platforms now, I have updated the General info page with direct links to the official platforms + to Viki and Youtube Kukan, and to another (unofficial) one (among many, comments have already given some other ones), hidden as Easter egg behind the GIF of the main platforms available to international audiences. 

I also added a precision about the airing schedule, together with a screenshot of the Weibo message about that, for those who like to puzzle out or read official announcements ;-)

I am debating with myself whether or not I shall add a more detailed character and crew directory, and/or add some stuff about some details such as the Qiankun bag, the Pearls, the mysterious hatching or not from "immortal eggs" of those xianxia characters.  Later, perhaps.

Awesome job. Thanks for sharing 

This is wonderful! Thank you @Frost_edelweiss  Love the way you explain everything in detail and the layout is lovely.  Thank you for your time and efforts.