Hey drama fans, today I really wanted to write up all my thoughts on one of my favourite ancient Chinese series – Lan Ling Wang. I watched the series last year when it first came out and it is probably tied for my favourite wuxia series of all time. For those of you unfamiliar with ancient Chinese history or wuxia series, hopefully this post will introduce you to something new to watch. I will also be featuring the Lan Ling Wang official photobook, the DVD box set and the calendar here so remember to scroll till the bottom! 😉
(I’m gonna try really hard to leave out spoilers)
The series tells the story of Lan Ling Wang or Gao Changgong who by legend is one of the most beautiful men in all of ancient Chinese history. Because he was forced into battle at a young age, he decided to don a mask both to intimidate his enemies and hide his young and beautiful features. In the 2013 mainland China and Taiwan join production, Lan Ling Wang blends not only traditional elements of Chinese culture but also a healthy dose of mythology. The series itself is a perfect mix of legend, romance, court and war.
It begins with a prophecy…
“When the Heavenly Maiden appears, the rightful King will emerge… he who possesses the Heavenly Maiden will possess the world.”
The story is told from the actual Heavenly Maiden’s perspective – or rather, the last descendant of the line of seeresses. Yang Xue Wu has been raised and protected in the village all her life. Although she possesses the blood of her sacred clan, her grandmother never taught her any of the mystic practices in hopes her granddaughter would grow up to be a regular child. We find out that their heavenly clan has always been coveted by power-hungry rulers or persecuted by fearful men which is why Xue Wu’s grandmother has hidden the village in miles of mist. As a child, Xue Wu overhead a prophecy foretelling the futures of four great leaders in the war-torn world outside her village and became infatuated by Lan Ling Wang. As much as Xue Xu’s granny tries to keep Xue Wu away from the outside world, fate brings Xue Wu and Gao Changgong together into a story of war, love, betrayal and tragedy.
As a wuxia fan I really enjoyed the series more than I thought I would. Initially I thought Ariel Lin would serve as the storytelling medium and she wouldn’t be as directly involved in the turning of the events. Although the prophecy is heavily centred on her presence, I thought the story would be mostly about politics and war; and even though it is, the writers do a fantastic job at balancing the romance side plot with the historical main plot. Except for Xue Wu and one or two minor characters, al the main generals and court figures are real people who existed in ancient Chinese history. Word of warning for the romance drama because at one point it does get very intense and closely intertwined with the court politics. With forty-six episodes, all the characters get enough spotlight to develop according to their significance to the plot and except for the bitchiest of characters you can’t bring yourself to hate any of them really.
Thoughts on Characters
I don’t want to reveal any of the other villains right now so I’ll just talk a bit about the three main characters below. Overall I think the characters are realistic enough. They are certainly idealized and tightly locked into the hero/villain/supporting character slots at the beginning of the story but as the story delves into back stories and we see them interact more and more with their allies and enemies, they come to develop into very three-dimensional characters. Trust me, there are some really great villains in this series. I totally hate their guts cause they are so evil to the main characters but they have all the traits that make up great villains.
Yang Xue Wu (Ariel Lin) – Ariel Lin does an amazing job at bringing out both the light-hearted, strong and quick-witted character of Yang Xue Wu. Xue Wu starts off as a pretty naïve character but she is the type of kind-hearted character that you just can’t hate. Because she’s been so closed off from the world and the social conventions of them, she’s the sort of character that is almost removed from the flow of the story not only because she’s an anomaly on her own but also because she’s supposed to be a legend of sorts to her world. Xue Wu literally means “snow dance.”
Gao Changgong/Lan Ling Wang (William Feng) – A lot of people ended up critiquing William Feng for being too “manly” for the pretty boy role of Lan Ling Wang but I honestly think he did a perfect job. He has these really subtle changes in his expression when Xue Wu appears or is nearby which makes your heart flip-flop for him. Lan Ling Wang embodies loyalty, courage, patriotism and all the most patriarchal virtues and elements of ancient Chinese values.
Yuwen Yong/Emperor of Northern Zhou (Daniel Chan) – This is the first time I’m seeing Daniel Chan in film cause he’s technically not from my generation of actors/actresses but he did a FAN-TAS-TIC job as Yuwen Yong. Originally Yuwen Yong is sort of seen as the antagonist because he’s from the enemy kingdom and serves as the love rival to Lan Ling Wang for Xue Wu’s affections but ohmigod he turns into the most selfless characters in the series and he will just break all your fangirl hearts. Chan did a splendid job in bringing out both the stoic and conflicted yet also tender and playful sides of Yuwen Yong.
Notable characters also include An De Wang (played by George Hu), Lan Ling Wang’s closest younger flirtatious half-brother and Han Xiao Dong (played by Shawn Wei), Xue Wu’s loyal friend and protector. I also really loved Yuwen Yong’s Empress Ashina (played by Wang Di) and Yuwen Yong’s adorable niece, Yuwen Zhen (played by Zhang Zi Mu).
If I “totally kickass and amaze-balls-tastic” is a rating, that’s what I would rate the production quality as. The sceneries are amazing. The costumes are drop dead gorgeous and the creative director of art and photography deserves an Oscar. Xue Wu changes outfits more times than Lan Ling Wang goes into battle but you don’t even care because each and every single costume is so unique and intricate and detailed. If you are a fan of the show already I would strongly advise you buy the official Lan Ling Wang photobook because you are getting high quality print pictures of your favourite characters, dramatic moments and tons of behind the scenes stuff. I would argue that the landscapes and sets for Lan Ling Wang go even beyond that of Bu Bu Jing Xin because it’s not entirely constrained to a certain dynasty’s trends and fashions. Xue Wu journeys between the Zhou and Qi quite a bit, inside the palace and outside in the villages so her wardrobe will showcase all social castes and peoples of the era. Honestly everything and everybody in this series is beautiful.
I also own the official soundtrack for Lan Ling Wang and if there was ever a soundtrack worth buying a physical copy it would be this one. There are five vocal songs including the main theme, “Into the Array” composed and sung by Mayday as well as the sub theme “Shou Zhang Xin” by Della Ding. You are also getting the eight instrumental tracks that are signature to the series and it all comes in a lovely package with another mini photo booklet.
I would definitely recommend Lan Ling Wang to any big history buffs out there and also wuxia romance fans. I will admit that I bawled like a baby throughout this entire series because the characters bring out the highest of the high and lowest of the low in human nature which really gets to you in dramatic moments. First time wuxia or ancient Chinese fans might find the history and politics stuff a bit heavy because the plot does get quite dark towards the end and the flower-petal falling, gut wrenching romance scenes aren’t for everyone but there is enough action in the plot to keep you interested. By the time you get through the introductory arc, you will have become quite attached to the characters that you’ll stick with the series regardless of what happens. The pacing does drag a tad bit when Xue Wu first enters palace life but things are never dull.
I hope you guys enjoyed this review. There has been more time for me to delve into the drama world recently because I’m on summer break right now. Initially when I watched the series I wanted to do episode by episode recaps but I was on edge the entire time trying to find out what happens next that I just flew through the series in a blur. The Xue Wu X Lan Ling Wang moments are SO SWEET. Part of why I love how their relationship developed was because they had none of that reserved men and women distance in a lot of traditional Chinese series. Rather their characters sort of progress at a pretty quick and modern pace. Xue Wu isn’t afraid to lie close to Lan Ling Wang when he’s sick to stay with him. She doesn’t like being served and waited on in court and she’s not afraid to put herself in danger to support Lan Ling Wang in his endeavours. If you guys are into ancient Chinese series, I strongly advise you to give this series a try. I just love this series so much omg.
**BEWARE OF SPOILERS BELOW**
Favourite Moments- BEWARE OF SPOILERS AND FANGIRLING
– The first episode when Xue Wu meets the beautiful older sister in the hot springs LOL
– When Lan Ling Wang crashes Xue Wue’s coming of age ceremony
– When Lan Ling goes back to save Xue Wu from being dunked in the water repeatedly by the bad guys. Best one-on-one fighting scene ever.
– When Lan Ling Wang and Yuwen Yong have a talk and actually talk about their ideals on war and peace. If they were both born at different times or in different places, they really could have become comrades
– When Xue Wu catches Lan Ling Wang in bodyguard garb who’s infiltrated the Zhou palace to keep an eye on Xue Wu as she is taking care of Yuwen Zheng.
– When Lan Ling Wang is forced to give up his legion of men to Gao Wei and the men continue to display unwavering loyalty to Lan Ling Wang.
– When Xue Wu goes to retrieve Lan Ling Wang as he’s kneeling in the rain in the training field
– When Yuwen Yong is searching through the forest for herbs to save Xue Wu
– The morning Lan Ling Wang wakes up with Xue Wu hugging her like it’s the last time he’ll ever hug her.
– When Xue Wu asks Lan Ling Wang to teach her how to swordfight so that she can fight along with him, protect herself and protect him too. It looks more like a dance than swordplay but really sweet nonetheless.
– When Lan Ling Wang gives his last words to An De Wang knowing he’s going to die soon…
– When Xiao Dong sacrifices his life to save Xue Wu.
– When Xiao Cui comes up with a way to convince An De Wang to pick himself up from the gutters.
– Xue Wu’s last conversation with Yuwen Yong after she reunites with Lan Ling Wang. His expression and his inner thoughts as leaving is really heartbreaking.
– When Yuwen Yong makes it into the Qi palace in the last episode and has all his men turn around to he can reflect on his memories with Xue Wu.
– Absolutely love the last narrative by An De Wang on the peace and prosperity of the new kingdom
What are you pondering today?