So recently, a funny thing happened. I found myself marathoning Chinese fantasy drama Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms. This, when (a) I’ve lately found myself floating in and out of a moderate drama rut, with most shows just not captivating me as much as I wanted them to; (b) I’ve previously had serious difficulty appreciating any kind of C-fantasy, and lasted all of 10 minutes, the last time I attempted to watch one; and (c) after 10 years of consistent drama-watching, I rarely ever really marathon dramas anymore. I usually ingest just 1 episode of a show each day (maybe a max of 2, if there’s a particularly exciting cliffhanger), and easily move on to other shows and other things.
Not this time, my friends. At my peak, I was watching 5 – five! – episodes of this show in a day. I watched the episodes back-to-back, and even stayed up past my usual bedtime, risking next-day panda eyes and accompanying fuzzy brain, to watch “just one more episode.” Not only that, I also watched this show almost exclusively, through all of its 58 episodes. Woah, right?
This is completely and utterly Nelly‘s fault, I say. She was the one who got me to watch this in the first place (thank you, Nelly. I <3 you).
As much as I enjoyed my watch of this show, I must admit that I didn’t love all of it. Here’s a handy quick list of things to take into consideration, as you approach this one.
1. It’s CGI-heavy and not all of it’s pretty
To support its fantasy context, Show dishes out a whole lotta CGI. Sometimes, it’s actually quite nicely done, and results in a lovely, ethereal sort of effect. A good chunk of the time, though, the CGI is a little on the clunky side. Case in point, this lion-beast thing above, which is supposed to be Super Scary, but kind of looks like a plasticky distant cousin of the Ninja Turtles.
My advice: just roll with it. It admittedly took me a little while to get used to it, but after a couple of episodes, my reaction to the sometimes-unfortunate CGI was reduced to only the occasional giggle.
2. It’s primarily a love story
There are fights and battle scenes in this show, but truth be told, this one’s really all about the OTP love story. Everything else is literally just set-dressing. So don’t expect the politics or battle plot-lines to be truly robust.
If you’re more into actual strategic plotting & associated brilliance and don’t care much for romance, this one might not work for you (you might want to check out the amazing Nirvana in Fire instead).
3. Sometimes it’s hard to follow Show’s logic
There were definitely times that I found the logic in this show hard to follow. Sometimes, it was because Show didn’t explain certain details until much later; sometimes, it was because Show didn’t explain some things at all; sometimes, I think, it was because I’m unfamiliar with Chinese fantasy and how it all works; sometimes, it was a case of my math not aligning with Show’s math; sometimes, it was just a basic case of skimpy writing.
Due to these various reasons, things didn’t always make sense to me, or, they made a little bit of sense, but I still felt like there were some holes in the logic.
My advice: don’t try to pick at the logical details too much. It’s better to just roll with it and let Show take you on the journey it wants to create. Picking at the details too much will just spoil the watch experience.
Here are just a couple of examples.
(i) Unexplained details
Because Show doesn’t explain until much, much later, why Ye Hua looks exactly like Mo Yuan (both played by Mark Chao), I found it extremely confusing in the early episodes, when Ye Hua, whom we only knew as some kind of spirit, appears and refers to Mo Yuan as a different person. I actually thought they were the same person, and felt quite baffled at it all.
(ii) Other unexplained details
Show never explains why Bai Qian (Yang Mi) had to train at Kunlun Mountain, while Feng Jiu (Dilraba Dilmurat) never had to do anything similar. Both were being groomed as future queens of Qing Qiu, so this didn’t make sense to me.
Show also never explains why Mo Yuan made the Bell of the East Emperor such that a god’s soul sacrifice would be required to seal a baddie inside. I mean, if he was the one who made it, surely he could’ve found a better method to seal it? Also, why wouldn’t he make the seal longer-lasting than 70,000 years?
(iii) Mathy stuff
With one day in the celestial realm being equivalent to one year in the mortal realm, sometimes it got hard to keep track of what was going on in either realm in the passage of time. Like, if this amount of time has passed in the celestial realm, wouldn’t this stage in the mortal realm be over by now? To be fair to Show, this niggling feeling didn’t strike me all that often, and maybe when it did, it was my poor math at fault.
The other math thing, is that time skips happen in the tens of thousands of years on a regular basis. I, uh, had trouble keeping everything straight in my head. Big numbers are not my strength.
(iv) Skimpy writing
Sometimes characters behaved in conveniently cooperative ways, which got the story to trundle along quickly, but also made me feel like the characters weren’t behaving in ways I would expect normal people to.
Like when Bai Qian as Si Yin convinces Ninth (Zhang He) to go with her to Qing Qiu when she’s supposed to be studying under his watchful eye. She basically says something like, “Since you’re supposed to keep an eye on me day and night, going with me would still count as keeping an eye on me. If you don’t let me go, I’ll still find a way to sneak out,” – and Ninth, who is loyal and steadfast in obeying Mo Yuan, simply thinks about it for 2 whole seconds before readily agreeing. I thought that was weird.
Or, like when Bai Qian gets thrown down to the mortal realm by Qing Cang (Lian Yi Ming) and wakes up with no memories of who she is. She doesn’t even try to find other people to ask if they know who she is; she just wanders into the abandoned wooden hut and decides to live there. I also thought that was weird.
4. It might be a slow burn at first
Since this show is all about the love story, and the love story doesn’t really kick into gear until the teen episodes, this could be a bit of a slow burn, at least at first.
I mean, I did like the show from episode 1, and I thought I could see the appeal even then. Honestly, though, it was only when the love story really got going in the teen episodes, that I found myself wanting to watch back-to-back episodes all day, everyday.
So if you don’t find yourself feeling all that hooked in the early episodes, hang in there – it gets crackier.
5. Some of the side plots aren’t so compelling
Since it’s no exaggeration to say that romance is the Main Event in this show, it’s unsurprising that besides the OTP loveline, there are a couple of other lovelines too. The secondary loveline that gets the most screentime is the one between Feng Jiu and Dong Hua Di Jun (Gao Wei Guang), and while I didn’t hate this loveline, I have to admit that this arc did wear my patience rather thin at points.
While this is partly due to the out-of-practically-nowhere nature of Feng Jiu’s fixation with Di Jun, it’s mostly because I find Dilraba Dilmurat to be a rather limited actress. I found her delivery of Feng Jiu rather two-dimensional, and therefore, I suspect, I found Feng Jiu’s adoration for Di Jun – as well as her (many, many) tears at his rejection of her affection – hard to buy. Layered on top of that, the teary sadness dragged on for far too long, in my opinion, and by the later stretch of the show, I found myself wearily resigned to the scenes that featured their loveline.
I will say, though, that by series’ end, I did feel genuinely moved by several of Feng Jiu’s scenes with Di Jun, and that’s a nice turnaround indeed.
In contrast, I felt that the loveline between Sixteen (Liu Rui Lin) and Yan Zhi (Dai Si) was better executed. It’s brief, but bittersweet in a way that actually works. They both feel sad without the other person, but both of them are strong enough to know what needs doing, and actually do it. Neither of them collapses into a weeping heap because their love cannot be fulfilled, and that actually made me respect them for it.
On a frivolous side note, I must say that Di Jun looks pretty darn cool with the platinum hair. Likey.
6. It’s not always a smooth ride
As much as there are stretches of delicious crack in this show, there are also harder stretches to get through. In particular, there’s a portion of the show that I found particularly makjang and hard to watch. I guess it didn’t help that the Makjang with a Capital M occurs soon after the giddy crackiness of the teen episodes.
I’m gonna echo the advice that my friend Panda gave me: “Hang in there, it gets better in a few episodes, after *something* happens.” That really helped me get through the tough stretch, so I’m passing on Panda’s wisdom to you guys. 😉
STUFF I LIKED
While at first glance this looks like the shorter list, the things that worked for me, well, really worked for me, and made this watch a very enjoyable one indeed.
1. Mark Chao as Ye Hua
Heh. Before I embarked on this show, quite a few of my Twitter pals assured me that I would love Mark Chao. And they are absolutely right, I do love Mark Chao in this. *hearts in eyes*
I will say, though, that it took me a while before I found myself boarding the Mark Chao train. In the early episodes, we see him as God of War Mo Yuan, who is consistently so disciplined and restrained, that even his speech patterns felt kind of dull from him being so calm all the time. So I found Mark Chao handsome enough, but it puzzled me why everyone was swooning over him.
Ha. I soon found myself changing my mind once we got into the teen episodes and the loveline got going in earnest (more on that in a bit). This basically means that even though Mark Chao plays more than one character, I like him as Ye Hua the most (yep, I’m a Ye Hua fangirl). <3
How do I love thee, Ye Hua? Let me count the ways
There are 3 big reasons why I love Ye Hua. Here’s them:
(i) He’s so handsome & regal
Yes, I know it’s a frivolous reason, but it definitely helps that Mark Chao looks so regal as Crown Prince Ye Hua. So tall, so handsome, and so dignified. <3 Even when he’s dressed as a mortal commoner, Ye Hua’s air is stately, commanding and very royal, and I found that very attractive indeed.
(ii) He’s powerful and formidable
I guess this speaks to my soft spot for superheroes; I love that Ye Hua is a force to be reckoned with, whether it’s in smarts, in battle, or in sheer celestial powers. I just loved watching him be impressive, in all of his different ways.
(iii) He loves so strongly & so deeply
Dramaland is so full of powerful jerks that need to be reformed by their One True Love, that Ye Hua’s deep and unwavering love for Bai Qian is a complete breath of fresh air. The guy’s Super Powerful, but at the same time, he is also full-on unabashedly in love with his girl, and unafraid of telling her – and showing her – how he feels about her. I can’t tell you just how much I love that about him.
Flail. Swoon. Puddle.
There’s lots to choose from, when it comes to Ye Hua highlights, but I’m going to pick just 2.
In the beginning, when we were introduced to Ye Hua, I found him to be rather self-righteous and stiff. BUT. That all changed once he became Su Su’s pet snake. Which is why I have a soft spot for this portion of the show.
I found his bemused voice-overs funny, and it was so gratifying to watch the heretofore inscrutable Crown Prince soften towards and fall for Su Su. That’s when the fun began, coz his slight, stifled amused smiles started to make me soften towards him. Who knew that a smitten Ye Hua would be this fun to watch?
The stifled smiles in her presence; the slight shifty eyes in Third Uncle’s (Li Dong Heng) knowing presence; the affectionate looks in her direction. This delighted me greatly, and totally made me hit the play button on the next episode, and then the next.
Say it again
The thing that moves me most of all, is Ye Hua’s deep and enduring love for Qian Qian.
For me, the scene that demonstrates that most clearly, is in episode 48, where she tells him that she does want to marry him. His reaction is so absolutely moving, because of the wealth of emotion that is written on his face, and that spills forth as tears from his eyes. He is just so profoundly moved and grateful, that she loves him and wants to marry him.
Just so deeply affecting to behold. Augh.
I must concede that Ye Hua isn’t a perfect character by any means. Sometimes he comes across as a bit of a stick in the mud; sometimes he manhandles Bai Qian and it makes me uncomfortable; sometimes he thinks he knows it all, and in trying to do it all, removes personal agency from the woman he loves.
But still, I have to say that the good (and the swoon) far outweighs the not-so-good. *cue fangirl spazz*
2. Yang Mi as Bai Qian
Just like Ye Hua is a breath of fresh air, I found Bai Qian to be a breath of fresh air too. In a drama landscape where Candy heroines are a dime a dozen, Bai Qian stands out as a heroine who is vulnerable, yet forthright, graceful and strong at the same time.
I found Yang Mi as our heroine to be very enjoyable indeed. She’s got a very likable quality about her, and she transitioned so naturally from the younger and more immature Si Yin, to the older and wiser Bai Qian, that I had to stop to remember just how different she was, before the 70,000 year time skip.
Like Ye Hua, Bai Qian isn’t a perfect character either. She’s impulsive, possesses an unusually large soft spot for liquor, and tends to let her emotions eat away at her. But, these qualities make her all the more relatable, and make her moments of strength truly shine.
Even though Bai Qian allowed herself to be bullied as Su Su, I do love that when she is fully herself, and back in her immortal skin, she is powerful and strong, and doesn’t hesitate to stand up for herself. I love that she is unafraid to speak her mind, whether directly or in the manner of veiled steel.
One of my favorite Bai Qian moments is in episode 54, when she realizes that Su Jin (a very solid, very annoying performance by Huang Meng Ying) had taken her eyes, and she basically marches right up to the Nine Heavens and takes them right back, never mind celestial laws and all that stuff.
3. The romancey OTP stuff
OMG, you guys. The romance in this show is intoxicating stuff.
There is a Reason that the idea of a Fated Love that stands the test of time is a classic favorite in dramaland. The idea that one love is so strong that nothing can come between the lovers is a romantic one indeed. And because this story takes place in a fantasy world peopled with gods and goddesses, Show can take that idea and literally multiply it by tens of thousands of years, and several lifetimes. In effect – by my estimation at least – this essentially heightens and amplifies the audience’s experience of the romance and emotions, many times over.
As if that isn’t heady enough, Show also allows the love and romance to be expressed in the characters’ desire for each other. Unlike many kdramas I’ve seen (and I reference kdramas only because that’s the stuff I have the most experience with), where most couples stick to the occasional restrained, wide-eyed lip-lock, and most sexytimes (if any) are overlaid with a generous PG-friendly cutesy filter, this show’s open acknowledgement of this couple’s desire for each other felt candid and refreshing.
A big part of the appeal of the romancey OTP stuff, is how Ye Hua is so laser-focused on Qian Qian. Every time he hones in on her, with desire in his eyes and kisses on his lips, my insides flail and tingle, before they ultimately surrender in a big ol’ puddle of swoon. And when he kisses her, he kisses her properly, tenderly and.. thoroughly. Ahem.
Combine that with the multiplied-by-the-millenium wealth of emotion backing that desire, and the whole thing is melt-your-insides potent indeed.
More flail. More swoon. More puddle.
4. Zhang Yi Han as Ah Li
There are a number of secondary characters that I enjoy in this show (Wang Xiao as Si Ming and Zhang Yu Hao as Mi Gu come to mind), but my favorite has to be adorable little Riceball munchkin Ah Li. <3
He’s just so precocious and endearing, and I just love his toddler-enunciation because the words that come out of his mouth are so often much wiser than his little-boy years. Besides that, I am also very taken with his immediate and unquestioning attachment to Bai Qian.
I mean, just look at that sweet adoring gaze. Aw.
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]
We get a happy ending (OMG, so much phew), but I have to admit that getting to the happy ending was a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. The good thing is that our resident antagonists either meet their ends, or are punished for their wrongdoings. The bad thing is.. there’s so much sadness all around.
When Ye Hua died and even Mo Yuan and Zhe Yan (Ken Chang) had no way of reviving him, my heart sank, and I wondered if our OTP would have to start all over again in some other lifetime, in the closing minutes of the show – or worse, not even get the chance for a happy ending at all.
Understandably, in the wake of Ye Hua’s death, Bai Qian wallows in sadness and lingering depression at the loss of her beloved. The fact that Bai Qian then basically spends all her time sleeping so that she can see Ye Hua in her dreams, is tragic and romantic and just really sad, all at the same time.
That is all mournful enough, but other events come together to deepen the melancholy as well. The bittersweet acknowledgement that Di Jun and Feng Jiu will never be together despite their love for each other, and the same tacit understanding between Sixteen and Yan Zhi for their love. On top of that, we get the subtle confirmation that Mo Yuan has loved Bai Qian all this time, but, like Di Jun, chooses the abstinent road for the protection of all the realms.
Selfless sadness, pretty much all around.
So when Ye Hua – after being housed in his crystal coffin for 3 years – is pronounced to be not dead after all, I lapped it up eagerly, never mind that the explanation about how that could be possible seemed a tad convenient. It’s kind of the same thing I felt when he came back from his mortal trial and suddenly had the use of his right arm again, even though Zhe Yan had earlier said that it would take tens of thousands of years for him to gain the use of his right arm. Basically, I so wanted good, happy things for Ye Hua and Bai Qian, that I found it pretty easy to ignore the convenience of the plot development and just accept the happy developments with relief.
In the closing minutes, my mind and my heart were focused only on the important things:
Ye Hua is alive! With all of his memories! Our OTP gets to finally live happily ever after, with their little Riceball!
Hurrah! *throws peach blossoms*
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Rises above its flaws to be an epic love story that works out to be both heartfelt and satisfying.
FINAL GRADE: A-
This trailer is more spoilery than I would like, but it’s the one that I feel gives the best flavor for the essence of this show. Hopefully, without subs and without context, it won’t actually feel too spoilery for those of you who haven’t seen the show.