Startling By Each Step/Bu Bu Jing Xin/步步驚心 First Impressions

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Hello everyone and to my Cantonese-speaking, Mandarin-speaking and Chinese viewers, HAPPY CHINESE NEW YEAR!! In honour of the New Year, I thought I would post a review on something in the ancient Chinese series category that I’ve recently started watching. 祝你們心想事成, 步步高陞, 日日都更開心!! (Wishing for all your dreams to come true, for your successes to climb and for each of your days to happier than the last)

dkFor all of you who are fans of ancient Chinese series or Taiwan or Tangren made films, today I’m reviewing Bu Bu Jing Xin, otherwise translated as Scarlet Heart. Initially I was opposed to watching it when it first came up and when it was dubbed by the Cantonese TVB dub team because I thought it was going to be as typical as all the other royal court Chinese dramas I’d seen before. Recently I decided to give it a try to pass the time as I wait for other series to be released in the Taiwanese television world.

The story follows a girl named Zhang Xiao in present day who, after being caught in a life and death accident, has her soul/spirit thrown back into her past reincarnation, the daughter of a Manchu aristocrat named Ma’ertai Ruoxi, during the Qing Dynasty under the rule of Kangxi. Without a way to return to the present, she decides to live the life she’s suddenly been thrown into. She meets a few of Kangxi’s sons, befriending the emperor’s tenth son, creating close bonds with others, and even falling in love.

Ruoxi gets caught up in quite a bit of political drama and because of her bright personality, her quick wit and flamboyant liberal mindset, she even becomes a quite important individual to the Emperor himself. Though she knows how history will unfold, she ultimately cannot change the destinies of her friends but she tries to help them along the way.

I ask you to give this series at least four to five episodes before giving up on it because once we get past the introductory bit and Ruoxi enters court life officially, she realizes, first hand, just how fearful and awesome the emperor’s power is over the lives of his people. Coming from the present, her core beliefs stem from self-determination and individualism so she naturally clashes with the conventional norms of the day. When she witnesses the tenth brother’s engagement set-up with one of the brattiest noble girls of the court, she’s outraged and disheartened at how restricted noble life truly is. Still, she wishes her best friend to choose happiness, despite his fate.

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My grandmother is totally right when she says that the costumes are absolutely gorgeous. Just absolutely gorgeous. I especially love the winter wear and the cape designs. For me, that’s quite a statement because I’m not a particular fan of the Qing Dynasty (mainly because of all it’s court drama) I won’t mention Ruoxi’s love triangle STUFF but don’t worry, she’ll end up with the right guy (if you haven’t already found out from internet spoilers). The only thing that’s bothering me is the reused background music from past Tangren series productions such as Legend of the Condor Shooting Heroes (2008) or later re-re-used in Strange Hero Yi Zhi Mei (2011) – both of which I watched previously.

I find Ruoxi’s character charming in a number of ways. She’s relatable to girls in the present because despite the conservative era she finds herself in, she can’t help but lament it all despite conforming to court life. Her private complains over the unbearable heat in the summer, other adjustments to Qing dynasty life and most important, her unruly mannerisms as a result are so quirky and endearing. She even forgets which way to place her hands during a curtsey in her first days (LOL) The best thing about Ruoxi is that she’s WELL LEARNED AND WELL READ, which means she never hesitates to engage in arguments regarding societal convention, equality or morality with any man who dares to challenge her beliefs. I’m really pleased with how Liu Shi Shi portrayed her character and I give Ruoxi major props for being able to even walk two steps in those awkward Qing-styled shoes.

History buffs will definitely enjoy the show as will classic Tangren fans. It was quite the hype when it was released and subsequently dubbed. For all of you unfamiliar with Chinese history or ancient Chinese series, this might not be the best one for you to start with. I’d recommend Xuan Yuan Jian or Strange Hero Yi Zhi Mei that has more mythical and magical elements rather than a heavy weight of history and ideology behind the landscape of the story. I don’t write about Chinese series much so I hope you guys liked this. Thank you for reading, I hope you’re all having a wonderful Chinese New Year with family and friends and I will be posting new stuff soon!

– Cloudy

What are you pondering today?

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