Open Thread: Nirvana In Fire Episodes 1, 2 & 3

Welcome to the Open Thread, everyone! I have to admit that I am slightly intimidated by the thought of doing episode notes for a show as intricate and dense as Nirvana In Fire, but I’m excited that you guys are excited to watch this show together, so I’ll do my best!

Here are our usual ground rules, before we begin:

1. Please don’t post spoilers in the Open Thread, except for events that have happened in the show, up to this point. I repeat: no spoilers for future episodes please! It is possible to use the new spoiler tags, of course, but it would be better to refrain from discussing spoilers. This is also because the spoilers are still visible in the email notification that you receive, of the comment in question. We have quite a few first-time viewers among us, and we don’t want to spoil anything for anyone.

2. Discussions on this thread don’t have to close when newer threads open, just so you know! But as we progress through our group watch, please keep the discussions clear of spoilers from future episodes, so that future readers coming to this thread won’t be accidentally spoiled. Does that make sense?

Without further ado, here are my reactions to this set of episodes; have fun in the Open Thread, everyone! ❤️

My thoughts

Episode 1

So, full disclosure, this is my second watch of Nirvana in Fire, so I already have an idea of how things unfold in our drama world. At the same time, my first watch is hazy enough in my memory, that many of the details escape me (and NIF has SO many details!), so in many ways, this will feel reasonably similar to a first watch, for me.

Rewatching this first episode, I’m struck by how much information is actually given right away, and yet, how challenging it is, to piece it together in a meaningful way, particularly on a first watch, unless you are hawk-eyed at picking up details, and in possession of mental faculties akin to Mei Changsu’s, in order to connect the various fragments of information, into a semblance of a whole.

What I’d like to do, at least for this initial stretch, is to provide as much of that connection as possible, based on what is shown (ie, without delving into spoiler territory).

From the dream that we see Mei Changsu having in the present, we can see that his former / actual name is Lin Shu, and his father and their Chiyan Army had been massacred in battle. He appears to have survived alone; his father’s parting words to him, are to live on, for the sake of the Chiyan Army. That screenshot above, of the character ‘林’ carved into the bracelet, is of the Lin family name, which is the same character that we see on the battle flag, in the dream.

On a side note, I do now find it slightly strange, that Lin Shu would’ve been the one to fall from the cliff, and from his father’s grasp. Logically, it would have made more sense for his father to have been the one to fall, since it’d be harder to survive such a fall. How did he manage to survive such a fall?

In the present, Langya Hall is an important piece of our puzzle, and it appears to be a famed, almost mystical source of intel and wisdom, where people can pay for information &/or advice. It’s super cool how complicated Langya Hall’s library system is, with homing pigeons bringing in intel on the daily, and earnest, hardworking assistants dutifully filing everything away in a system that looks possibly like what Google might look like, if it had to exist without the internet.

Lin Chen heads Langya Hall, and we see that when he receives news of Northern Yan naming their Sixth Prince as the Crown Prince, he muses with a bit of wonder, that “he” actually did it. We will soon infer that “he” refers to Mei Changsu, and that his success as a strategist, is designed to lure the interest of the princes of Daliang, which is where most of our story will take place.

As a matter of clarity, I thought it’d be good to mention that Jinling is the capital of Daliang, and this is why Lin Chen’s assistant asks him whether it will be necessary to send the news to Jinling. However, Lin Chen surmises that the princes will naturally find out the news, because the Daliang ambassador is already on his way to Northern Yan.

The two princes whom we meet this episode are Prince Yu, who’s the fifth prince, and the Crown Prince, of Daliang, who appear to have always been in competition for the Emperor’s favor. The Crown Prince is disgruntled because Prince Yu keeps making him look bad, by doing an outstanding job, and from this, we can also infer that Prince Yu probably wishes to jostle his way to the throne.

Both princes receive the same cryptic tip-off (one prince with more effort than the other, since Prince Yu had to make a personal trip to Langya Hall, while the Crown Prince didn’t), which essentially says that the secret to possessing the world, is to have Mei Changsu on their side; he is the one who had helped the helpless Sixth Prince of Northern Yan become Crown Prince, after all.

Another important piece of information we gain, is that Mei Changsu has plans to enter Jinling, but on neither of the princes’ invitations which would likely be forthcoming. At the same time, we learn that Mei Changsu is in poor health, and is depending on medication that Lin Chen supplies, in order to complete his mission, which he estimates will take two years. Dang. Talk about introducing a note of futility really early; we already know that our protagonist doesn’t have long to live.

Based on what we see this episode, we can conclude that Mei Changsu has been planning his mission for many years, and his ascension to the top of the Langya List, thus making himself attractive to both princes as a potential advisor, is part of his plan.

I will say that the scene in which Mei Changsu intervenes on the waters of Jiangzuo, leans way more mystical than logical. I mean, there’s no explanation for how Mei Changsu controls that boat that he’s standing on. If he were a powerful pugilist, I’d reason that he was controlling the boat using his qi, but we’ve already been told that he’s not, so unless his feisty assistant Fei Liu is propelling the boat forward with his qi (which still doesn’t explain the initial solo appearance), I got nuthin’. 😅 I think that this is just to impress upon us, just how powerful and respected Mei Changsu is, in the pugilistic realm, to the extent that it’s quite mystical.

As for Fei Liu, I’d been rather puzzled by his savant-like characterization, until phl1rxd kindly shared some background from the novel, on my NIF review. Allow me to quote what she says here:

“Fei Liu was caught by a very mysterious Japanese organization. The leader of this organization kidnaps and buys children with great potentials for martial arts, and cuts them off from all contact with the outside world. He uses drugs and poisons to control these children. When these children grow up, their mental capabilities cannot fully develop, and cannot tell good from evil, right from wrong. They lack common sense, but they are also highly skilled at the martial arts, and are controlled by the leader for acts of espionage and assassination. […] Fei Liu was the youngest of the children, and had just been taught the tricks of their trade, but had not been released on any of their missions yet; he had no enemies, but was displaced from his home, left alone to freeze and starve to death.”

So Lin Chen and MCS find him on the street, take him in and MCS treats him like a younger brother.”

Thanks, dear phl1rxd! That really helps to add insight and perspective! ❤️

Mei Changsu travels to Jinling with Xiao Jingrui, who tells his friend Yan Yujin, that he’d met Mei Changsu two years ago, by a fated coincidence, and that Jingrui had written to invite him to recuperate from his reported poor health, at his house in Jinling. Heh. I’d wager that that coincidence had been closely manufactured by Mei Changsu, in order to create an excuse for him to travel to Jinling in the future, without having to associate himself with either of the princes.

On a side note, I thought it might be useful to explain why, in romanizing characters’ names, some names are romanized with a spacing in between, and some are not.

In the standard hanyu pinyin (汉语拼音) system of romanizing, family names stand alone, while given names are romanized without the spacing in between. Therefore, Jingrui’s full name is Xiao Jingrui, where “Xiao” is his family name, and “Jingrui” is his given name. Lin Chen’s name appears to be treated differently, but really isn’t. “Lin” is his family name, while his given name is a single character, “Chen,” and therefore, when expressed together, there is a spacing between the characters, ie, Lin Chen. I will be using this convention through all of our episode notes.

Outside the capital, we meet Princess Nihuang, who immediately proves to be a badass warrior, judging by the way she’s dressed in armor, and also, by the way she goes into instant spar mode, when she realizes that she’s crossed paths with Jingrui and Yujin.

What’s interesting about this scene, is Mei Changsu’s reaction, while he sits in the carriage, hidden from view. His expression is.. complicated, to say the least, and it’s clear that he recognizes Nihuang, and has some personal history with her.

It’s only later, after Nihuang’s conversation with the Emperor about his plans to find her a husband, that we learn that she’d once been bethrothed to the Lin family – which is when we can quite safely conclude that Nihuang had been Lin Shu’s fiancée.

Notably, from the way Nihuang appears to have put off marriage for a long time since Lin Shu’s supposed death, and still seems to be reluctant to marry despite the Emperor’s intentions, she appears to continue to mourn his loss.

Meanwhile, Mei Changsu assumes the name Su Zhe, for the sake of anonymity, and enters the Xiao household. Significantly, when he sets eyes on Jingrui’s father, Marquis of Ning, Xie Yu, he flashes back to the man who had sliced him down that fateful day. Which means to say, Xie Yu is an enemy, and not a friend.

Episode 2

This episode, we find out that the Emperor’s real reason for being so intent on marrying off Princess Nihuang, is because she’s been doing too good of a job as a general in Nanjing, and he’s afraid that, given too much time, Nanjing will become part of the southern country, instead of being loyal to the Liang royal family. This is why he wants to marry her off, and bequeath her title to her brother instead. As genial as the Emperor appears to be, it’s becoming clear that he is very shrewd as well.

Next, we meet General Meng, Commander of the Chu Army, who immediately lives up to his reputation as a formidable fighter, easily trouncing the pair of fighters who are sparring with him. He also comes across as an all-business, stoic straight-shooter, from the way he speaks with Prince Yu and Marquis Xie.

We also learn that everyone who’s anyone, is vying for the influence and power that would come from being Princess Nihuang’s husband. For this reason, Prince Yu and the Crown Prince have men in the race as well.

It’s about this time, that Mei Changsu’s cover becomes a little unstable, with Fei Liu’s happy flitting amid the Marquis residence rooftops triggering suspicion from a visiting Commander Meng, thus giving rise to an exchange of blows. As Commander Meng puts it, Fei Liu’s impressive martial arts prowess is highly unusual, which in turns begs the question of how exceptional Su Zhe himself must be.

This gets Marquis Xie’s attention right away, and it isn’t long before he guesses correctly that Su Zhe is in fact the Mei Changsu that he and the Crown Prince are looking for.

Privately, Jingrui expresses concern that his father won’t be able to believe that Su Zhe is an ordinary man of the pugilist world, and Mei Changsu says quite freely, that he’d taken on the name Su Zhe for convenience, but if his secret can’t be kept, then it can’t be helped. It does appear that Mei Changsu says this knowing that someone is eavesdropping on the conversation, and that someone is Jingrui’s brother Xie Bi, who immediately takes the information to Prince Yu, the way Marquis Xie is taking the same tidbit to the Crown Prince.

..Which is how both princes become aware that the precious person that they’re both looking for, is actually already in Jinling, and under Marquis Xie’s own roof, no less. Clearly, this is all by Mei Changsu’s design, so it’s not like his plan to keep a low profile had failed. I believe he had allowed that plan to appear to fail, so that the princes would find him.

Next, we meet Prince Jing, whom Princess Nihuang and Inspector Dong run into, on the city outskirts. It turns out that the relationship between Inspector Dong and Prince Jing is frosty, because Prince Jing has never accepted the verdict, that Lin Shu’s father had killed her husband.

We’re not told why, but this could also be at least part of the reason that Prince Jing seems to be out of favor with the Emperor as well as the Crown Prince and Prince Yu.

I do feel sorry for Prince Jing, who seems the straitlaced, stoic, hardworking sort. We’re told that he’s been doing battle for his nation, and yet, when he comes back, he’s kept waiting outside in the courtyard for a long time, before the Emperor – who’s forgotten that Prince Jing was even waiting at all – agrees to give him an audience.

Once he gains that audience, the Crown Prince wastes no time picking on him, asking why he didn’t go home to change before seeking an audience with the Emperor, when in fact, Prince Jing had once been punished harshly, for doing exactly that. Ugh. It’s really a case of damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.

Prince Jing isn’t exactly coming across as likable right now, but I already feel sympathetic towards him. And since I don’t like the oily vibes that the two other princes are giving off, I guess I’m rooting for him, by default?

The next thing we know, the Empress and Princess Nihuang show up at Marquis Xie’s abode, and request to meet their house guest Su Zhe. At first, I wasn’t sure why Jingrui gets so worked up and refuses to accommodate the request, but after he explains it to Xie Bi, it all makes sense.

He’s right; the Empress wouldn’t ask to meet Su Zhe for no reason. She clearly already knows his identity as Mei Changsu, and is likely here to test him. Jingrui’s determined not to allow his friend to be put in a difficult position, and would rather be rude to his royal guests in order to protect his friend. That’s really loyal of him, I must say. Jingrui’s definitely endearing himself to me, with that stand.

However, it does seem that Jingrui is pretty naive about his father’s political stance. He knows that his brother is aligned with Prince Yu, but seems completely oblivious to the fact that his father is aligned with the Crown Prince.

Mei Changsu, however, seems more than aware, judging from his serious expression when he says, “The state of the capital is so chaotic that even the sons of Xie have been caught up in it, yet the Marquis can remain neutral? How rare.” Ooh, that’s sarcasm, so well disguised, that Jingrui doesn’t even pick up on it.

The start of the tournament to select Princess Nihuang’s consort begins, and it’s both amusing and rather sickening, to see how both princes take turns fawning over Mei Changsu and trying to win him over. Prince Yu strikes me as immediately quite rude, the way he freely acknowledges Mei Changsu’s identity right away, as though Mei Changsu never took on the name Su Zhe. I would say both princes try really hard to win his favor, though, and the Crown Prince even gives Mei Changsu a jade token that will afford him easy entry into the palace grounds.

Ha. I love how Mei Changsu immediately passes it over to Fei Liu, as if it’s a casual plaything, and not some precious thing that the Crown Prince has just parted with.

The Grand Empress Dowager summons Jingrui and Yujin, which is how Mei Changsu manages to extricate himself from this conversation with the princes.

The Grand Empress Dowager turns out to be a sweet, affable old lady who seems to love asking her great-grandkids whether they are married, and whether they have children. It just so happens that she’s also having trouble recognizing who’s who, due to her age and deteriorating faculties.

What a Moment, though, when she looks at Mei Changsu, and immediately addresses him as Xiao Shu, which is what we’d previously heard his father using in flashback too, as Lin Shu’s pet name. Notably, because he is introduced as Su Zhe, everyone else easily concludes that the Grand Empress Dowager is simply using a common casual term of address, by using the word “xiao” (ie, little) paired with his family name, which, in this case, is Su. The truth is, though, she isn’t saying Xiao Su, she’s saying Xiao Shu, and the impact on Mei Changsu – or rather, Lin Shu – is quite great.

His composure, usually so immaculate under all circumstances, is definitely ruffled. And it’s ruffled even further, when Royal Gran asks for Nihuang, and puts their hands together, asking when they are going to get married. Ahh! Royal Gran might be showing signs of dementia, but her clarity in recognizing Lin Shu is outstanding.

And how significant, that when Nihuang tries to pull her hand away, Mei Changsu grabs on and doesn’t let go. Ooh. It’s not clear why he does this, but it certainly appears that he just can’t help himself, given the emotion of the moment. This does give Nihuang pause, but clearly, Lin Shu looks so different now, compared to 10 years ago, that she – and everyone else except for Royal Gran – cannot recognize him.

However, this entire incident does seem to pique Nihuang’s interest in Mei Changsu, since, after they leave Royal Gran’s audience, she does call after him to ask if he would be agreeable to accompany her for a stroll.

When Nihuang starts to make mention of the earlier happenings at the pavilion, Mei Changsu is quick to apologize. He explains his actions by saying that he was being considerate of the elders’ feelings, and Nihuang tells him with a slight smile that she doesn’t mind – though if this had been a normal day, his body would have been separated from his hand by now. Tee hee. She’s a badass.

It appears that Nihuang is testing Mei Changsu a little bit, as she asks him if he really doesn’t have the heart to chase fame, since he’s chosen the busiest and most chaotic place to rest. However, when Nihuang presses in to ask which prince Mei Changsu would pick, Mei Changsu evenly replies, “The house of Mu has always guarded the southern border and never asked about the political matters of the capital. Why are you interested in my future, Princess?”

Smooth and guarded, just like I would expect of the master strategist who’s top of the Langya List.

Episode 3

Nihuang’s conversation with Mei Changsu is interrupted when they notice a eunuch berating and beating a young slave boy for being clumsy, and for stealing books. According to the eunuch, this boy is favored by Prince Jing, and he assumes that the boy is being wayward, believing that Prince Jing will have his back. Just then, Prince Jing steps in to stop the eunuch from beating the boy.

The eunuch immediately apologizes, but also quickly name-drops Noble Consort Yue (mother of the Crown Prince) as the person who had given him the authority to supervise the area. Nihuang will have none of it, and interjects by literally whipping him on the lip. Ooh. Like I said, she is such a badass. And how handy, that the whip is compact enough, that she keeps it on her at all times. Perfect for moments like these, when she needs to make a quick and lethal point, ha.

We learn from Nihuang’s conversation with Prince Jing, that because of a matter relating to Prince Qi (whom we haven’t learned anything about yet), he is treated as a joke by the other princes. Hmm. Something to file away, since this will surely come up again later.

We also learn that the boy’s name is Tingsheng. Mei Changsu seems particularly interested to help Tingsheng learn to read, and offers to find a way to bring him out of slavery. Prince Jing is doubtful of Mei Changsu’s intention at first, but Nihuang counters that Prince Jing’s own interest in Tingsheng is just as interesting, considering how many other slaves there are in the palace besides Tingsheng, which effectively puts a stop to Prince Jing’s line of questioning. I love Nihuang; she’s turning out to be so strong and smart!

While Mei Changsu is making his way out of the palace, he’s attacked by a guard on the pretext of wanting to spar with him (we later find out that this man was sent by Nihuang’s brother Mu Qing, who’s suspicious of the fact that Mei Changsu’s been seen spending time alone with his sister). Fei Liu steps in just in time, to save Mei Changsu, but it’s Commander Meng who uses his authority to send the man packing.

What an intriguing reveal, that Commander Meng knows Mei Changsu is actually Lin Shu, and that they had been exchanging letters for the last 12 years! From this exchange, we can tell that they are very good friends. Not only does Commander Meng believe in Lin Shu’s innocence and the innocence of his father, he was also able to recognize Lin Shu right away, when they’d crossed paths at Marquis Xie’s manor.

According to Commander Meng, Lin Shu’s appearance has changed so completely, that there are no traces of the old him, in his current appearance. That would explain why everyone in Jinling has not been able to recognize him. As to how Commander Meng managed to recognize him, we are not told, but I’m putting it down to his instincts as a longtime friend and comrade-in-arms. There was probably something about the way Mei Changsu carried himself, &/or perhaps his gaze, that first clued Commander Meng in.

Commander Meng later visits Mei Changsu in his quarters at Marquis Xie’s manor, and offers to help him in his plans. However, Mei Changsu tells him that he does not want to involve Commander Meng, in case his plans go wrong, and he ends up destroying the reputation of Commander Meng’s entire household. This definitely has whiffs of treason about it, no?

Meanwhile, we learn that one of the key reasons Nihuang is so interested in Mei Changsu, is because she suspects that the person who had come to her aid in battle 2 years ago, almost like an angel who had appeared and then disappeared, had been sent by the Jiangzuo Alliance, of which Mei Changsu is the head.

Innteresting. Does that mean that Mei Changsu’s been keeping tabs on his fiancé all this time, and had sent help, when she’d run out of options? That’s.. pretty romantic?

Mei Changsu gets dragged into the goings-on of the tournament even though that wasn’t in his original plan. Not only does the Emperor appoint him to look over the written test scripts by the shortlisted suitors, he’s also tasked to deal with Bai Liqi, the candidate from Northern Yan. For political reasons, the Emperor absolutely does not want Nihuang to marry someone from Northern Yan, but the tricky thing is that Bai Liqi is turning out to be a very formidable fighter.

In the midst of all this, we get some insight into the interesting circumstances surrounding Jingrui’s birth. Due to a possible mix-up of two babies because of a thunderstorm that had blown out the lights, Jingrui technically belongs to two families, because the other baby had died that night, and the Emperor had decreed that the two families would share the one baby. It sounds rather bizarre, but ok. Besides Marquis Xie’s household, Jingrui is also considered part of the Zhuo family. Another nugget of information to file away for another day, I believe.

At the feast for the ten shortlisted candidates, Jingrui’s hope is to spar with Bai Liqi and have the chance to injure him at least a little bit, in order to dampen Bai Liqi’s quest for Nihuang’s hand. This is where we end the episode, with lots of fancy fighting, while the rest of the court – including Mei Changsu – looks on.

As you probably have noticed, Chinese dramas don’t tend to end each episode on a cliffhanger like Korean dramas do. Instead, it feels like the episode just stops when the 45 minutes is up. This is why it feels like we’re ending this episode a little randomly in the middle of the fight scene; it’s coz we are. 😅 The upside of this, is that we don’t have to deal with the jumps in story that many Korean dramas use, to get us to the cliffhanger in time by the end of one episode, only to then backtrack next episode, in order to fill up the story gaps that were jumped over previously. Instead, we get the story as it was intended to be told, from beginning to end.

One last thing I think I should mention, is that, yes, most fight scenes in Chinese dramas are this fanciful, with lots of flying in the air and leaping from rooftops. This is supposed to be made possible by each fighter’s “qi” which you might have come across as “ki” in Korean and Japanese dramas.

For now, even though Show has given us a lot of information to chew on, it definitely feels like we are still in set-up mode, with more information that promises to come our way. So hang in there, my friends!

PS: Many thanks to phl1rxd, who’s kindly volunteered to share updated character lists, as we go! She will post the list in the comments, and I will pin it to the top, so that her comment with the list, will be easy for everyone to find. Thanks phl1rxd, you rock! ❤️

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phl1rxd
phl1rxd
4 months ago

Hi Everyone!

Here is the list of characters for E1-3. If a character is not mentioned than they are not important to the drama.

Character Reference Guide
(In order of appearance and description is based on their place in drama at time of appearance – shout out to Beez – a few of her descriptions were just too good not to use)

Episode 1

  1. Lin Xie – head of the Lin Family and Commander of the Chiyan Army (seen holding his son’s hand)
  2. Lin Shu – son of the above who falls from the cliff, commands Chiyan Army with this father.
  3. Mei Chang Su/ Su Zhe/Sir Su – the main man, the protagonist of the story
  4. Lin Chen – very good friend of MCS who runs Langya Hall, appears carefree and likes to joke around but he can get serious real fast, took over Langya Hall after his father passed away, the ‘terrible teaser and tormentor’ of Fei Liu.
  5. Minister Xu –not important to the story
  6. Minister Zhu – not important to the story
  7. Prince Yu/Xiao Jinghuan – son of the Emperor and Royal Prince (32 years old).
  8. Emperor Xiao Xuan – Big Daddy, Boss Man and head of the pecking order – the Emperor. No one calls him by his real name, just Emperor or Your Highness (殿下/Diànxià)
  9. Empress Yan – top ranked wife of Emperor responsible for Palace goings on
  10. Noble Consort Yue –mom of the Crown Prince Xiao Jing Xuan
  11. Crown Prince/Xiao Jingxuan/Prince Xian – son of the Emperor and ranked top dog as the Crown Prince (35 years old)
  12. Zhou Dingfeng – head of Tianquan Manor (Heavenly Spring Manor), on the Langya Hall list for martial arts for last ten years and currently ranked 4th, works for Marquis Xie/Marquis of Ning
  13. Zhuo Qingyao – son of Zhuo Dingfeng, married to Jingrui’s sister Qi and member of Tianquan Manor, works for Marquis Xie/Marquis of Ning
  14. Marquis of Ning/Marquis Xie/ Xie Yu, married to the Emperor’s sister, father of Jingrui, brother Bi and sister Qi.
  15. Qin Banruo/Banruo – wearer of reddish-pink eyeliner expertly applied, strategist for Prince Yu
  16. Folks in the little boat – escapees fleeing from Duke Qing….hold that thought
  17. Men in the big boat – members of the Double Sword sect ….hold that thought
  18. Fei Liu – ‘Lil Bit, MCS’ bodyguard, Martial Arts savant, one major, little bad ass
  19. Head Eunuch Gao Zhan – the man behind the Emperor, runs the eunuch in palace and takes care of the Emperor, extremely skilled in handling same, I heart him
  20. Yan Yujin – Son of Marquis Yan, nephew of the Empress, lifetime friend of Jingrui, carefree and happy, no siblings, loyal and devoted – half of my Darling Dynamic Duo
  21. Jingrui – son of Marquis Xie, brother of Bi and sister Qi, nephew of the Emperor, lifetime friend of Yujin, loyal, true and kind – half of my Darling Dynamic Duo
  22. Li Gang – member of the Jiangzuo Alliance, trusted main assistant and protector of MCS, I heart him
  23. *Princess Nihuang – commander of the Yunnan army, extraordinary woman, skilled in martial arts, a sharp cookie, and was betrothed to Lin Shu (27 years old)
  24. Xia Dong – bad ass extraordinaire, executive director of the Xuanjing Bureau, friend of Princess Nihuang (37 years old)

*A common misconception is that Princess Nihuang is a member of the Royal family. “Who in the Royal Family in Da-Liang/Liang/GreatLiang is Princess Nihuang related to?” Answer – no one. She is from the Mu family and is a princess in her southern border region of Yunnan which has sworn allegiance to the emperor. Her family has served the Emperor through military support in keeping the border safe from invasion. Her father the King is dead and she is the interim leader in Yunnan until her brother Mu Qing is able to rule. She is beautiful, smart and a bad ass.

Places/Sects Reference Guide (in order of appearance)
Episode 1

  1. Meiling – location of big battle being fought by the Chiyan Army seen in first scene
  2. Langya Hall – location of the largest spy/info network in the country – similar to Google – anyone can ask a question and get an answer – at a price, releases list of the “Best of the Best” every year, messages move through carrier pigeons
  3. Da Liang/Liang/Great Liang – country where it all happens, where the Emperor resides
  4. Jinling – capital of Da Liang/Liang/Great Liang 
  5. Eastern Palace – designated home of every Crown Prince
  6. Jiangzuo – area south of Yangtze River in the east
  7. Jiangzuo Alliance (East River Alliance) – run by Mei Chang Su, it is the highest ranked pugilist sect controlling 14 provinces with an extensive network of intel
  8. Langzhou – head of MCS operations
  9. Yunnan – borders Liang on the south, allied with Liang
  10. Snow Cottage – part of the Marquis of Ning’s mansion where MCS and Fei Liu reside/from book
  11. Xuanjing Bureau – a very dangerous version of the CIA/FBI complete with dungeons and torture devices. Hardly anyone that walks into Xuanjing Bureau ever comes out again. Shudder! It reports directly to the Emperor himself and is sworn to avoid any involvement with politics. It is in essence, the personal tool of the Emperor only. Xuanjing officers are not allowed to be placed onto the Langya Hall martial arts ranking list

———————————————-

Character Reference Guide
(In order of appearance and description is based on their place in drama at time of appearance)
Episode 2

  1. Meng Zhi – Commander General of over 50,000 men in the Imperial Guard, ranked 2nd on the Langya list and number 1 in Liang for his martial arts skills, trained in the Shaolin method, loyal and brave, an old friend and army mate of Lin Shu, Fei Liu cannot beat him in a fight, trusted by the Emperor
  2. Xie Bi – I call him brother Bi, brother to Jingrui and his sister Qi, runs the household, son of Marquis of Ning and the Emperor’s sister Grand Princess Liyang, nephew of the Emperor
  3. Prince Jing/Xiao Jingyan/Jingyan – son of the Emperor and Concubine Jing, (31 years old) righteous, loyal, brave and true (and more)
  4. Consort Jing – Prince Jing’s mom
  5. Grand Princess Liyang – wife of Marquis of Ning/Xie Yu, sister of the Emperor, has those 2 cool hair thingies pasted on either side of her cheeks, Jingrui, Brother Bi and sister Qi’s Mom
  6. Prince Mu Qing – brother of Princess Nihuang, brash and hot headed
  7. Grand Empress Dowager – grandmother (not mother) to the Emperor, in her 90s, sincerely loves each and every one of her grandchildren, related to the Emperor by marriage not blood, I want her in my family

Places/Sects Reference Guide (in order of appearance)
Episode 2

  1. Tianquan Manor (Heavenly Spring Manor) – a martial art sect run by the Zhou family. Zhou father is ranked 4th on the Langya list.

———————————————-

Character Reference Guide
(In order of appearance and description is based on their place in drama at time of appearance)
Episode 3

  1. Tingsheng – a child from the servant’s prison
  2. Lin Shu/Mei Chang Su/Su Zhe/Sir SU – updated – all the same person
  3. Sima Lei – son of an official and Crown Prince’s pick for Nihuang
  4. Baili Qi – Representative from Northern Yan in Jinling to fight for Nihuang’s hand in marriage

Places/Sects Reference Guide (in order of appearance)
Episode 3

  1. Servant’s Prison – where condemned parents and children go to work as slaves for the Palace and once there, you can never leave
  2. Northern Yan – a country of the north and one that has caused Liang trouble in the past.
Last edited 4 months ago by kfangurl
phl1rxd
phl1rxd
4 months ago
Reply to  kfangurl

No problemo! Can you do me a favor and add that J back onto Jiangzuo. I had a bit of a struggle with making everything neat and inadvertantly deleted that J and it is important . Muchisimo Gracias!!! 😍😍😍

beez
4 months ago
Reply to  kfangurl

I was trying to edit my comment (about princes’ ages) but the system wouldn’t let me and it was only 5 minutes later. Then while I was typing my next comment to say ignore my earlier comment cause you guys already discussed it, the page froze and I could type no more. When it came back my new comment was gone (reasonable since I had not hit send yet) but also the previous comment had vanished!

The site was running like butta before I went to bed last night but this morning it’s glitchy and the repaired edit feature is broken again. What happened while I was sleeping?

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
4 months ago
Reply to  beez

@ Beez – a Full Moon

BE
BE
4 months ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

So great

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
4 months ago
Reply to  BE

The lists get shorter as we go along. I tried to include a few novel research facts on some of the entries.

CP
CP
4 months ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

LOL at Qin Banruo’s description – accurate though, gotta love the red eyeliner. Also Wang Ou is so pretty she can probably pull any makeup off!

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
4 months ago
Reply to  CP

CP – she is so tiny as well. She is really beautiful. That AvenueX link is great. Thanks for posting that.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
4 months ago
Reply to  kfangurl

Crown Prince Xian is 35 | Prince Yu is 32 | Prince Jing is 31 Source: Novel
Let me find my sources for the other. Bear with me as I dig…

CP
CP
4 months ago
Reply to  kfangurl

Their order is noted in the character description that appears on screen when the characters first show up in the drama: Crown Prince is the 5th prince, Prince Yu is 6th, Prince Jing is 7th.

I don’t watch with English subs but I doubt it would’ve been translated in the subtitles. I also know phlrxd is going off the book (which I haven’t read…. my Chinese isn’t THAT good unfortunately) though so I’m not sure if the ordering is different there, but please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong!

Last edited 4 months ago by CP
CP
CP
4 months ago
Reply to  CP

Sorry I misstyped – Prince Yu is 5th, Crown Prince is 6th (phlrxd’s character list is correct). It won’t let me edit my comment above anymore so I am afraid I am causing more confusion than help now 🙁

CP
CP
4 months ago
Reply to  kfangurl

I don’t think the show is explicit, but I got the impression it’s because Crown Prince’s mother (Noble Consort Yue) is favored heavily by the Emperor (I assume there was likely various plotting/scheming before the events of the show to manipulate him into this place, but Emperor’s favor for Noble Consort Yue likely helped hustle that plan along).

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
4 months ago
Reply to  kfangurl

Yes FG – it is def confusing. I have searched for info on this very issue. I tried to see if that number based on birth order, clout or something else and I was unable to find anything. I found tons of info on naming and pecking order amongst the palace ladies but nothing on this issue.

CP
CP
4 months ago
Reply to  kfangurl

I finally figured it out after some diggng; Crown Prince is the 4th prince, so it matches the ages. There’s a scene in ep. 4 (31:23) where they describe the other princes – I have put a spoiler on any info not already revealed in ep 1-3, though it is not a major spoiler.

Spoiler
1st – Prince Qi
2nd – Empress’ biological son (deceased)
3rd – Prince Ning (son of Consort Hui, sickly – minor character)

4th – Crown Prince *
5th – Prince Yu (per character intro)
Spoiler
6th – Not named – described as no ambition

7th – Prince Jing (per character intro)
Spoiler
8th – Unknown
9th – Not named – described as too young

*Xiao Jingxuan is only noted as “Crown Prince” in the character intro of the drama & his number isn’t specified, but he is 4th by process of elimination.

CP
CP
4 months ago
Reply to  kfangurl

Haha thank you guys for giving me a puzzle to solve!

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
4 months ago
Reply to  kfangurl

Ages:
Novel: The Crown Prince, Xiao Jingxuan, was thirty-five years old. Prince Yu, Xiao Jinghuan, was thirty-two. I also found Jingyan’s age here so all ages are directly from the novel. Any ages shown are def correct.

LOL Fangurl – If you really want to get confused check this out. Listed by order of birth. Spoilers there so be careful.

5th and 6th Prince:
Drama:
E1 – 10:05 mark Prince Yu refers to Crown Prince as 6th Prince (is that really what he said FG?)
I just need to find the other reference for Prince Yu as 5th. I have to dig through my notes for that episode…

However, it is probably best to delete 5th and 6th and 7th behind their names until I get all my sources.

I trust the novel sources and with that let me say that I am using the author’s second version. She rewrote E1-14.

beez
4 months ago
Reply to  kfangurl

Oh! Thank goodness. I was so confused by this and had typed out my question in my notes of “‘Crown Prince says “I’ve been crown prince for six years…’ and Langley Hall is just now hearing that he was selected? Or is the scene of Crown Prince supposed to indicate 6 years have passed since we see Langly Hall getting the message?”

Thanks, so much, KFG for clearing that up so my brain can become installed.

Geo
Geo
4 months ago
Reply to  beez

@Beez: If you saw my earlier comment, I totally missed this whole reference to the 6th prince of the Northern Yan being appointed Crown Prince and was thinking the Prince Yu discussion was about his rival, the Crown Prince of Da Liang. I think it’s easy to miss the reference, in this show, some seemingly throwaway lines actually have greater future significance than the viewer realizes at the time..

I’m also not surprised about the confusion about the number designation of the Crown Prince among other viewers, I spent the whole show unsure about his #. Someone also commented they were confused when Prince Yu seems to imply the Crown Prince was just appointed, yet later on, we hear he has been crown prince for 6 years. While clarifying these tidbits are not essential to the story, understanding these lacuna, so to speak, adds to the viewing experience, especially the 2nd time around.

beez
4 months ago
Reply to  beez

haha! I meant to type “… so my brain can become Unstalled” but I guess INstalling a new one would be even better! 😆

Shahz
Shahz
4 months ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

Thank you so much for putting this list together. It is invaluable! 🤩I was thinking yesterday I need a handbook.

beez
4 months ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

– How is the 6th Prince older (35) than the 5th Prince (32)? I had this same problem when I tried to correlate the ages (birth order) with the prince ranking in Scarlet Heart Lee Joon ki (although I recognize that I’m talking two different countries so the systems may be completely different). Are the ranking of princes not by birth order but by something else?

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
4 months ago
Reply to  beez

I believe the root cause of the confusion is multiple sources and unfamiliarity with familial terms. I am good on the ages as I recorded each one from the novel as I came across it. Notice I had FG re-post my original Royal Family list under NIF review due to this issue.

Cathy
Cathy
4 months ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

Thank you so much, phl1rxd, for giving us this information, in chronological order no less! This is my first Chinese drama and I am very intimidated by the length and large cast of characters. I probably would never have attempted to watch this drama without this watch group, so thanks too to kfangurl!

beez
4 months ago

Thanks for the link. Love all things fashion. Despite the career that I was l working in, I went back to school when I was 48 and got a degree in fashion. So love links like this. I’ll spend a lot of time there. Thanks.

GuruGulabKhatri
GuruGulabKhatri
4 months ago

I am late to the party, but here I am ! This is my first C-Drama, so there is a looot to take in.
But I have to start with saying how absolutely gorgeous the show looks. Right from the production and costumes, to the cinematography, it is soo beautiful!! China could not have had a better tourism ad!

Secondly, I am very intrigued by the characters and their equations. I think younger me would have been fed up by the first episode, but now I am more willing to let the drama take my hand and lead me on. The gossip- monger in me is veryyy piqued by the going-ons of this city.

But I think the most interesting part of the show for me had to be MCS. In all the dramas that I have seen world-wide, I don’t think I have seen many MLs like him. Its actually nice to see a ML who isn’t a ‘alpha male dudebro’, but a more grounded character. He is smart and wise, for sure, but his lack of physical prowess makes his character development more interesting and honestly, more realistic (except his ability to row a boat by playing a flute). Other male leads, who are either princes/ kings or CEO’s come across as angsty brats rather than leaders with responsibilities. But MCS is shrewd, wise and self- assured. He is a grown-up man and behaves as one. This was very refreshing for me!

I look forward to seeing the rest of the drama. The 40+ minute run time had initially put me off, but now I don’t even realize when the minutes have passed.

PS. the hair accessories are so pretty. Are they symbolic as well?

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
4 months ago

Hi GuruGulabKhatri –

First let me say that I am not an historian. Far from it – I am just a huge fan of this drama. I have watched many CDramas before NIF, but NIF just clicked with me and prompted me to dig into the rich and treasured cultural heritage of that period.

Yes, the hair accessories are very symbolic as is the clothing. The ladies in the Palace headdress denoted their ranking and usually contained symbols inlaid into the piece. The Empress had the most elaborate. If you changed rank up or down your headdress changed as well.

NIF was the first CDrama I really dug into, as the headdresses and clothes were gorgeous. I watched a BTS clip of a CDrama recently and the folks who work in the costume department had walls of hair accessories (and hair) from different time periods.

There is a paper from the Yanbian University Academy of Fine Arts that reviews the NIF costumes and head gear. It has a small spoiler so I cannot post the link yet, but I will post once that episode airs. It is an excellent piece. The consensus is the same on most articles I researched and that is – NIF took a lot of care to make sure that every piece of clothing and headdress and even the etiquette was accurate interpreted. NIF even had their own team of etiquette experts teach the actors how to move their hands, bow properly, etc. Notice Noble Consort’s hand movements.

In the meantime, I love this site because it has everything – cloths, hair accessories and even sewing patterns and it breaks it down by dynasty.

GuruGulabKhatri
GuruGulabKhatri
4 months ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

This is so fascinating! Thank you for taking the time to share it !

GuruGulabKhatri
GuruGulabKhatri
4 months ago
Reply to  kfangurl

Looking forward to it! Thank you for this watch party, idk if i would have given this drama a chance otherwise!

beez
4 months ago

@KFG – Wow. Learn something new everyday. I would not have considered the majority of the hairstyles shown as widow’s peaks. There were a few on there that I do think of as absolute widow’s peak as they have the small point. But apparently any hairline that recedes on the side counts. But the guys in NIF don’t look like widows peaks to me at all, even after seeing the link. MCS, Gen Hawty, Prince Jingy and Prince Yu have very smooth and definite hairline with nary a peak in sight. I stopped typing to Google images and I’m surprised, I guess they do!

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
4 months ago
Reply to  beez

@Beez – this link is for you – Hair!

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
4 months ago
Reply to  beez

@Beez – more hair! This is fascinating…

beez
4 months ago

– lol Let me know if I just imagined it. But those tiered ceilings were impressive.

j3ffc
4 months ago

Wow, coming on in a bit late due to so-called “work” to find the discussion as epic as NIF itself! Thanks especially to kfangurl and Phl1rxd for the incredibly useful recap and resource for the character-challenged (like me), and to Trent and others for helping explain the whole “pugilist” thing. I have little to add to what all have said, except to express my delight that our hero is such because he is incredibly brilliant and not (yet, at least, to our knowledge) a physical bad ass, and that we have impressive woman characters with real agency in this piece. Among other characters, I especially like Fei Liu (lol when he “dropped in” to the conversation from above the window).

beez
4 months ago

– two very different types of foine. I prefer Hu Ge (young pics that I see on Google) than Hu Ge’s perfect features. But neither of them hold a candle to Gen. Hawty! 😉

beez
4 months ago

– yeah, I know times were hard back then but who would volunteer to work in the palace. Hard work and lots of task masters who think no more of your life than they do a soiled rag. Probably much less than a used embroidered silk hanky.

beez
4 months ago

@BE – Nope. This is my second watch.

Spoiler
And I said strong silent type, not humorless. I love Gen. Hawty’s laugh.

Last edited 4 months ago by beez
BE
BE
4 months ago
Reply to  beez

@beez: well to each his own, though it seems to me Meng is chatty enough among this group. I did not read the book so it does strike me

character
Meng’s wife

is mentioned sometime during the series. But at least
action
we never see that person, who shall not be publicly named, nor the two of them en flagrante delecti
.

beez
4 months ago

– but I think I remember seeing chandeliers!

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
4 months ago
Reply to  beez

@Beez – you have some good eyes. I will check it out…

Snow Flower
Snow Flower
4 months ago

So what’s with the baby switcheroo?

beez
4 months ago
Reply to  Snow Flower

@Snowflower – Now THAT is something you have to wait and see on. 😉

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
4 months ago

E3

MCS finds that the child getting beaten, Tingsheng is 11 years old and that is important. Then question – counter question – and it is all very interesting. How is MCS going to get Tingsheng out of the Slave quarters? I have full faith in MCS. I especially enjoyed that innocent looking face MCS is showing. 

Book Excerpt Chapter 16 Tingsheng’s name is literally “courtyard-born”, likely named after his birth in the ‘Secluded Courtyard’.  

Prince Mu Qing makes a huge mistake and orders his man Lao Wei to check out MCS/Sir Su. ‘Lil Bit (as Beez calls him) Fei Liu to the rescue! I swear that he grabs Lao Wei by the cojones before he throws him. Meng Zhi is now alone with MCS. Oiy! What a conversation!

We now know that MCS cannot reveal his true identity for fear of death. His old face and identity make him a criminal. [Beez previously asked me how Meng Zhi recognized MCS right away even though he now has a different face. I searched the book and the web and I could not find a reason.] My 2 cents – Meng Zhi had been in contact with MCS for several years via letters and knew he wanted to return to Jinling. I just think he put two and two together due to Fei Liu being MCS’ bodyguard. Fei Liu is so above the skill level of most martial artists (except him of course) he is kind of hard to miss and after all, MCS is head of the Jiangzuo Alliance. If anyone has any more backstory I would appreciate it. I also like FG’s take that there was something deeper there that he recognized.

Mu Qing is getting blasted by his sister right now for instigating the above. In a previous battle she believes that MCS sent a strategy via a mystery man to her to help her win a water battle. So she owes him and she racks her brain trying to figure out why he would go out of his way to help her. Ni Huang is grateful nonetheless. Yes, FG, how darn romantic is that? 

Who Are You? A lot is revealed in the important conversation between MCS and Meng Zhi. Meng Zhi is strong and loyal and he truly cares about MCS. He then calls him Xiao (dear little) Shu – there it is. MCS is really Lin Shu, the young man betrothed to Ni Huang and the son of the Lin Family who have been branded traitors by the Emperor. We hear about the Battle of Meiling (the recurring nightmare) and how the troops were killed almost to the man. We see MCS as he was – Lin Shu who is falling off the cliff. Meng Zhi professes his allegiance. That is a real help to MCS as Meng Zhi has direct access to a lot of things in the Palace and can be of great use to MCS. I feel that hearing his old friend agree to help him lifts MCS’ spirits. There is total trust between them and MCS has to feel less lonely. Also, Meng Zhi really makes me nervous as he has to make sure that no matter what, he appears loyal to the Emperor only.

Sima Lei seems to be the Crown Prince ‘s choice for Ni Huang. Sima Lei

On the two babies: Here is what happened in the book concerning the baby that was still alive the next day Book Excerpt Chapter 2 The Emperor held the [surviving] baby and gazed at him for a long while. Though he could not reach a decision, he quickly grew fond of the little boy and thought of a compromise. “Since it is impossible to figure out who this boy belongs to, then it would not do to have him take on either the surname Xie or Zhuo. I will bestow upon him the royal surname and name him in accordance with the convention for my royal sons. His name will be Jing…Jingrui, since he was born on Mt. Rui.”

Let’s Get Ready to Rumble Part 2:  Bai Li Qi, a martial artist from Northern Yan is sporting the Northern tribe vibe. He is a one-man wrecking crew and a potential political disaster. Flash forward to a banquet for the top ten and the darling dynamic duo are scheming to find a way to weaken Bai Li Qi so the Princess can defeat him. Our besties helping out their ‘sister’ Ha!

We see the Northern Yan rep bribing the very good looking (when you watch this as many times as I have you notice these things) eunuch for info on Jing Rui. Again, I really dislike that Ni Huang is treated like a political pawn. Cheeky Mu Qing telling MCS to deal with the problem of Bai Li Qi! Jing Rui puts his scheme into action but the fight is called by the Emperor.

Don’t miss our MCS’s puppeteer control over the Crown Prince with just a nod of his head.

E3 Recap:

  1. Ni Huang knows that there is something special about Mei Chang Su but she cannot put her finger on what it is. She also thinks she owes him one.
  2. Looks like Mei Chang Su/Sir Su Zhe now has another name – Lin Shu. Not to fear as Mei Chang Su is mostly used in future episodes.
  3. Meng Zhi and MCS go way back. One thing for sure the Lin Shu he sees now is not the same Lin Shu he remembers. He is unrecognizable.
  4. Bai Li Qi winning the tournament would be a political nightmare
  5. The family of the Marquis of Ning is deeply meshed with the Zhou family
  6. Slippery Nobel Consort Yue may be 2nd in the Palace ranking but she is 1st in the bed ranking

DID YOU KNOW…

  • The production company of NIF1 is Daylight Entertainment who also brought us NIF2, The Disguiser, Ode to Joy, The Story of Minglan, When a Snail Falls in Love and Love Me if You Dare to name a few. The directors for both NIF1 and 2 are Kong Sheng and Li Xue. Kong Sheng plays a small part but I have yet to ID him.
Last edited 4 months ago by phl1rxd
beez
4 months ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

– nope, wasn’t me. I have tons of questions but I just accepted that someone that close to him, who also knew that he wasn’t dead, would recognize something about him. Besides, since I must accept that his altered appearance is foine (as in beautiful), why not accept his friend would recognize him? Plus those broad shoulders for soneone who’s supposed to be sickly. (I’m talking about the actor’s portrayal here, not the character, who really is sick.

Argh this is one of my pet peeves similar to Scarlet Heart Lee Joon ki. That scar they made all that “to do” over so that he had to wear a Phantom of the Opera mask doesn’t compare to the scars Jang Hyuk asks for on his saeguk characters and proudly displays.

Slight spoiler for Scarlet Heart Goreyo
They could’ve at least made LJK’s scar show up more until he got the make up make over. He wore a HUGE mask to cover up a scar smaller and lighter than a papercut.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
4 months ago
Reply to  beez

@Beez – you are correcto mundo. It was someone else and I got it confused because it was right with all of our comments on the NIF review.

🤣 on spoiler

laos7
4 months ago

Wow, so much valuable input both in the post and in the comments – I spent the whole morning reading them all!
I’m more surprised that no one has mentioned yet how hard it is to stop watching at exactly 3 episodes – as there was no cliffhanger I’d actually wanted to continue watching to find ‘the closure’ to the tournament to find Princess Nihuang’s husband.

BE
BE
4 months ago

Another pair I immediately go for on badass vibes alone, Xia Dong, who appears to be the other character in story with a backstory, and Prince Jing, not quite as pretty as Yu, a man too good looking to be taken seriously if you know what I mean, who is even more serious and upright than General Meng, has a higher simmer, and is far more tightly zipped.

And I imagine the one-two north/south punch of Baili Qi and Princess Nihauang sends more than a few shivers up the spines of the entire Da Liang Dynasty, never mind the abject horror of hirsute progeny they might produce. Can you imaginge Nihauang riding into Jingling on that bowling ball. Crushing!

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
4 months ago
Reply to  BE

BE – I am so glad that you made that comment on Prince Yu being too good looking to be taken seriously. In real life he is a really good looking man. Hu Ge is godlike but Victor Huang is just flat out fine.

BE
BE
4 months ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

I guess Hu Ge does turn anemia into Godlike for the appropriate and appreciative individual especially as show progresses. To be honest, I was disappointed in my first watch to find out so quickly that Jin Dong (Lin Chen) was not gonna be the male lead. I did wind up thinking first time before show was over that Victor Huang did a pretty good job with his character.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
4 months ago
Reply to  BE

BE –

I am a big fan of Jin Dong (I was glued to my screen whenever he appeared) and I have seen him in a few dramas. He truly impressed me with his role in The Disguisers. The Disguisers is made by the same production team as NIF and features many of the same actors. I waited for a few months after viewing NIF before I took a look at it as it is so completely different.

beez
4 months ago

– For me, it’s a poor memory thing. 😊

Thanks for the link.

I was noticing in Chinese historicals that the generals are very young for generals. Do you know if general in these cases would be more in line with captain or colonel? (Not in General Hawty’s case though because there’s obviously no one military ranked above him.

As to General Hawty’s personal life, I’m going to pretend that spoilers are over that every time I read “wife”. 🙉🙈🙊

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
4 months ago
Reply to  beez

@ Beez – that is a good question probably best answered by an historian. We may feel like that because we see that depicted in CDrama. Not sure how much is idol-like rationale and how much is actual fact. I dare not attempt to answer. However, the great thing about your question is that it is an opportunity to do a little research and learn something new and that is always a good thing!

Snow Flower
Snow Flower
4 months ago

I have not read all the comments yet, but just wanted to report that I am on board. Just finished Episode 3 and think I know what is going on. I still have not figured out the Emperor’s consorts. Overall, the story is very intriguing.

BE
BE
4 months ago
Reply to  Snow Flower

@ Snow Flower: Easy at first also to confuse the Marquis wife with the consorts, (I also sometimes tend to confuse Marquis with Crown Prince), but have no fear, their personalities are so distinct you will be able to sort them all out and which prince they are aligned with.

beez
4 months ago

@Geo – I don’t doubt you but @KFG the link Geo provided didn’t work to take me to his earlier comment that I flubbed up on.

I wanted to look and see how I got confused (not that that’s that hard).

@Geo – I think I was trying to hurry and look at all the emails (comments) and the new system doesn’t remind me who I’m responding to like the old one did. (Yes, my short-term memory is just that short.)

Again, I’m so sorry.

Geo
Geo
4 months ago
Reply to  beez

@Beez: No need to apologize, I’m just trolling, lol.

beez
4 months ago

Oh! I’m sooo sorry, Geo.

beez
4 months ago

Oh! BE – I got so thrown off by the mention that Gen. Hawty MIGHT have a wife that I forgot to respond to the part about him being wholesome and not angsty. Yes, I prefer an alpha, non-overly into his feelings overly talkative man (I like the strong silent type). Gen. Hawty is probably the first male character I’ve seen in a very long time who is uber confident but doesn’t have that seemingly necessary additional attitude of being a jerk. He’s got it all!

beez
4 months ago

@BE – married? Oh well, I don’t recall them ever showing or mentioning her so since he’s fictional, I’ll be a fictional scarlet woman in my fantasies. Or maybe I’ll add murderess in there to so I can not be a mistress in my fantasy. LOLOLOLOLOL
BTW, BE, you’ve airways got to bring the rain ☁ when I’m without an umbrella🌂! 😁

BE
BE
4 months ago
Reply to  beez

@beez:
Well, strong silent types, eh? I wonder if by the end of this you might change over to

character
Prince Jing
.
Myself I go for the really competent
character
Consort Jing, his mother, who in real life is seven years older than the Prince–that Emperor! A real cradle robber
.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
4 months ago
Reply to  BE

🤣😂😅

beez
4 months ago

Who?
Who is No. 1 Xuan Bu? I don’t remember him throughout the entire series?

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
4 months ago
Reply to  beez

@Beez – He was just mentioned as being number 1 – he is otherwise completely unimportant. (although I would defintely not want to make him mad)

beez
4 months ago

– I noticed in the list of characters you list Lin Shu as separate from MCS. I thought it was because you were afraid of it being a spoiler but I don’t think it is since its revealed early on.

“The book differs from the drama in a few aspects (additional wife and daughter, love line, etc.)” phl1rxd

Who has the additional wife and daughter?

Where can i read/buy the book in English? (This is all because of you ’cause I have no idea when I’d find the time to read it, but I want to.)

Have I not even been close to spelling the General’s name right? Oh well, I’ll stick with Gen. Hawty.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
4 months ago
Reply to  beez

@Beez – yes I was concerned with spoilers so in the pinned E3 characters list I added an update with his all of his names.

This is not a spoiler just a novel referenceIn the novel Meng Zhi is married (sorry Beez), the Emperor has a daughter in the story line and a love line was different. Watch the drama again before you read it. You will see just how dynamic the drama actually is. The casting could not be more perfect!

Here is one place to read the book – no cost. More of what was happening in the background and a more in-depth look into MCS’ emotions.

That’s Commander General Hawty Miz B. 🤣 😂 😅 I love the name and trust me I know exactly of whom you speak. He deserves a Boom Shaka Laka shout out. I wish Meng Zhi had my back like he has MCS’ back – that conversation in E3 was moving.

I have nicknames for a lot of the characters as well. I call Prince Yu’s right hand minion ‘Snake in the Grass’ (E1 – his head covering is cobra-like). I always call the Emperor Big Daddy and Prince Jing I call Jingy. Maybe its an old school thing.

beez
4 months ago

@CP I find it incredibly romantic (although admittedly not a majority of time is devoted to it). But the romance and loyalty seems so passionate (especially coming from Gen. Mei)…

beez
4 months ago

la·cu·na
/ləˈk(y)o͞onə/
Learn to pronounce
noun

  1. an unfilled space or interval; a gap.
  2. “the journal has filled a lacuna in Middle Eastern studies”
  • a missing portion in a book or manuscript.

Thanks, kfg 😊

Geo
Geo
4 months ago
Reply to  beez

https://thefangirlverdict.com/2021/05/26/open-thread-nirvana-in-fire-episodes-1-2-3/comment-page-1/#comment-97627

@Beez: I felt so proud of myself to be able to use the word “lacuna” in its proper context for once, and you credited KFG! Oh well…KFG does deserve major credit for everything in this blog.

NIF is so detailed and there’s very little said that is not significant in some way. I think the first 30 minutes are almost unfair as can be seen by the many of us who confused the Crown Princes of Northern Yan and Da Liang (in the beginning these are just names of places without meaning or significance) and I suspect not many on the first viewing will remember the significance of MCS helping the 6th Prince become Crown Prince in Northern Yan in understanding a future situation. Maybe this show is designed for multiple watches as the only way to catch all the intricate details of the storyline.

beez
4 months ago

Yes! That was the exact line I was looking for but which none, including the Dark Closet, have it. I think I originally watched on KissAsian but they seem to be shut down (for now) so I couldn’t check the subs on there.

General Mei being sarcastic while commanding sigh

beez
4 months ago

Yeah, it’s a lot for storytellers to hit us with, without much backstory at first. Although I imagine it would be clear to people familiar with the historic geography. For me, the names are so difficult (hey! I have problems trying to remember English names too) so at the first mention of names & places, I’m just clicking with “prince #, palace, emperor” and trying to place a “Mei” and “Shu”(which too many characters seem to have in their names) along with a few other partial syllables that I take what I catch and assign that syllable to their character. Xie and Bi and Shu, etc. (Y’all know I’m more likely to label characters based on physical attributes.) 😔

I’m actually pretty amazed at myself that I know who characters are talking about when they’re not in a scene just by those few syllables I’ve assigned!

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
4 months ago
Reply to  beez

@Beez – I’m with you Beez. Remember that FG said that the Mandarin spoken in this drama was exquisite. Imagine being able to appreciate the drama in Mandarin.

beez
4 months ago

@kfg and – shouldn’t there be a parenthetical that Crown Prince called himself the 6th prince mistakenly in the subs? Or maybe he didn’t and I’m still thinking of the northern prince that Langly staff were talking about. 😆

beez
4 months ago

Ep. 1 is like the first season of Game of Thrones where my son sat next to me and paused it every time a new character was introduced to give me all the backstory. Thank goodness NIF doesn’t need that past episode 1.

beez
4 months ago

@BE and Phl1rxd – I was just thinking while watching Lonnnnnnng Ballad just how brutal times were back then. I was also noticing the difference in eastern heros from western ones (in our storytelling, not in real history) – where western movies try to give the hero (even an anti-hero) a self-righteous code when dealing with innocents/bystanders, The Long Ballad had our heros ruthlessly killing people. Oh! You stumbled upon our plans, I’ve got to kill you because if I let you go, you’ll for sure spill the beans. Which, I suppose it’s kinder than tying them up to starve to death if nobody finds them out on the empty plains.

BTW, anybody else admiring the interiors of those amazing tents that look better than my house!

Last edited 4 months ago by beez
phl1rxd
phl1rxd
4 months ago
Reply to  beez

@Beez – You gotta love those yurts. I remember researching them back in the 70s and they were pretty easy to tear down and re-assemble.

beez
4 months ago

That makes TOTAL sense! That’s better than experiences like I’ve encountered on YouTube where you reply to someone and then they go back and edit their original comment which makes my response seem strange and out of nowhere (or psychotic, cause, you know YouTube comments…) 😆

beez
4 months ago

@kfg Ah Ha! I’ve been waiting on the words “Chinese” and “cultural” to ask this question in any thread –

Do you know why Chinese historical have men in these over exaggerated hairline wigs (is that considered handsome moreso than a regular hairline?) The reason I’m asking is obviously nobody has a natural hairline like that or else some actors wouldn’t need to wear a wig. It doesn’t seem to be just because people wore their hair long back then because they could easily (more easily, in fact) just blend the shorter hair on front over what we used to call a “fall” back in the day – a wig where the person’s hair in front is combed over the wig.

This faux hairline has been in every Chinese historical movie/tv show for as long as I can remember. Although thank goodness, for the most part, they’ve done away with the big hairy over-the-top moustache eyebrows. But I’m so curious as to why the need for the wigs? Is it similar to how if a movie is made about ancient Egypt, the actors where wigs because Egyptians actually wore wigs? So did Chinese men wear wigs to get that hairline effect and if so, is that considered manly, attractive, stylish?
(For the record, I don’t know about the rest of the characters, but it’s doing its job on Gen. Mei.)

Last edited 4 months ago by beez
BE
BE
4 months ago

I sent this in an E to K: speaking of reactions: my distaste for Consort Yue (my goodness, baby talk more oily than a slathered up bottom before a clean diaper, and young enough to be her son’s twin, that Emperor a textbook in old man being made a fool of on her account) or my desire to cut Banruo (too cool for school as she takes Yu to the master’s program of mascara) about a mile of space between us, yuk. When those women smile at you, you want to ask, “which is it this time, strychnine or just arsenic?”

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
4 months ago
Reply to  BE

Ah BE – I am with ya on Consort Yue – her almost imperceptible shimmy just gets me. I can at least cut Banruo a little slack because she is intelligent. I think it snake venom myself.

You bring up a good point on the gals though. I love the juxtaposition of the main female characters. On one hand you have Ni Huang who is brave, fierce, strong and loyal and we have Xia Dong who has worked at the Bureau for 17 years and is super capable at her job, On the other hand we have Noble Consort Yu and Banruo, who are constantly scheming and manipulating.

That good, the bad and the ugly. I struggle to think what it must be like to be sent to the Palace at 15 or 16 never to leave again. On top of it you are locked up with others and everyone is struggling for power. You have to walk a thin line every day so that you do not offend the Emperor (or anyone else) but actually please him. I’ll pass, thank you. 🤔

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
4 months ago

E2

Can I talk about the Emperor for a second? Make no mistake – he is one shrewd, sharp (albeit very suspicious and paranoid) cookie. The Emperor is concerned over Ni Huang’s military power.  But will he really feel safer if one of his sons gets their ‘person’ to marry Ni Huang? Wouldn’t that be like chocolate chip versus peanut butter cookie? It certainly would not stop his concern, only move it in another direction.

Boom Shaka Laka (Sly Stone kind) – Meng Zhi! He deserves that intro. At the military quarters we get to meet Meng Zhi – Commander General of Da Liang, as well as Commander of the 50,000 Imperial Guards. He is trusted by the Emperor. He is testing Liang’s fighters for the tournament and who better to do the testing? Meng Zhi (that doll face as we say in S. Philly) is ranked second on the Langya Hall list of top Martial Arts experts and the greatest warrior in his own Da-Laing/Liang/Great Liang.  Meng Zhi was said to be exceptionally strong and was very adept at recognizing martial arts movements.

Cheeky MCS is right under everybody’s noses and I love that he is incognito at least for the time being. The Princes are knocking each other over trying to get to MCS and I found myself laughing more than once at their ridiculousness. Note – these two brother Princes put a lot of weight behind the Langya Hall message about the Divine Talent. Please know that the reputation of Langya Hall is such that this is warranted. The novel states that people were always lined up waiting to submit their questions. Don’t forget your wallet!

I love how we get to see an inkling of the relationship between MCS and Fei Liu. Note – in the novel MCS dotes on Fei Liu to the point of spoiling him absolutely rotten

Book Excerpt Chapter 9: “Fei Liu’s mind is not as bright and complicated as others, but his focus is astonishing. Out of all the people I know, no one can compare with him in that regard.”…Mei Chang Su

Too late for incognito – Fight! I do not know if you noticed it but watch how closely Marquis of Ning (Xie Yu) stares at the exchange between Meng Zhi and Fei Liu. Why? Because he is curious about his resident guest and he may pick up some hints about him through his bodyguard’s fight moves. Each sect has special martial arts moves. Poor Fei Liu is in a snit because he lost.

You may ask why isn’t Fei Liu on the Langya Hall List? Chapter 35“Fei Liu never used to leave home much, he will be on the list next year.”…Mei Chang Su to Jing Rui

I love the MCS/Fei Liu relationship. Because of the way that Fei Liu was found, there is an unbreakable bond of fierce loyalty between MCS and Fei Liu. Fei Liu is truly loved by MCS. The only real love Fei Liu had in his life has come from MCS. They have both gone through hell. He will go to any lengths to protect MCS. Fei Liu always obeyed the commands of Mei Chang Su without question.

That fight exposes MCS. I agree with FG that MCS is fully prepared for this. I find the situation with brother Bi/Prince Yu and Marquis of Ning/Crown Prince a lot awkward. Two opposing factions in the same household?

You get your first glance of the true evil of the Marquis. His take? Better to get rid of MCS than wait to see what direction he is moving.

Prince Jing Yan is here for the first time as Ni Huang escorts Xia Dong out of the city. Prince Jing is not one for pleasantries, is he? Xia Dong also has that beef with the Lin family who she believes were traitors responsible for her husband’s death. Prince Jing apparently does not believe the Lin family turned against the Emperor and neither does Ni Huang.

I really enjoyed seeing Prince Jing’s stoic character when he is next to the two Princes. Prince Jing speaks truth to the Princes’ deviousness. Tell ‘em Jingy! Imagine how it must have felt to have to wait 2 hours outside to see your father. Don’t you love how Head Eunuch Ghao Zhan does not forget him even when everyone else does?  

More awkwardness. Think about the emotions Jing Rui is feeling when he finds out that brother Bi fed Prince Yu the MCS info and now the Empress and Ni Huang are at the house to see MCS. Just so that you know, this really bothered Jing Rui on a deep level. The book makes a point to explain that Jing Rui, normally a happy, good natured person, got really angry at Bi for insisting that MCS meet these visitors. So you see that MCS is setting a tone here  – I am the boss.  

So, how it is that the Empress herself and Princess Ni Huang are paying a house visit? They were sent by Prince Yu and the Marquis’ wife, Grand Princess Liyang (the one with the hair thingies pasted down her cheeks), happens to be the sister of the Emperor/sister-in-law to the Empress. The Marquis married into royalty. 

Let’s get ready to rumble Part 1: The Emperor had a new platform built in the square at the Phoenix Building just for these Battles. And we have two battles going on: the battle for the Princess’ hand and the battle between the princes for the attention of MCS. The book states that the brother Princes “hated each other to the core”. Check out how MCS moves his tray of sweets over to Fei Liu – Fei Liu loves sweets (and arranging flowers and eating fruit).

It’s Crying Time. Great Grandmother! Tissue – for realz. This scene gets me every – single – time. I always cry. How sweet that MCS give Fei Liu instructions beforehand and tells him that she is the most peaceful grandmother on earth. How cheeky is Yu Jin with GG? Check out Ni Huang checking out MCS and the look at MCS’ face. Here is where actor Hu Ge (MCS) gives us enough to signify that this is a special moment.

All the ladies are taken back and assume that GG is having a senior moment. Truly, MCS’ face breaks my heart here. Ni Huang is stricken – imagine what is going on in her head. Xiao (dear little) Shu is a term that GG would have called the son of the Lin family, Lin Shu, her intended husband since childhood. MCS is fighting his complicated feelings, ‘cause feeling them he is!  And poor Ni Huang – she looks confused and in pain but extremely curious to see who is this man GG called by her intended husband’s name? She does not recognize him, so just who is he?

 
E2 Recap

  1. No one hrumphs and grunts like Fei Liu
  2. Is Prince Jing in the permanent dog house?
  3. Bi is not high on my popularity list

DID YOU KNOW…

The author of NIF1 (termed a web novel) is Hai Yan who was only in her 30s and working a day job when she wrote it. Note that she also wrote the screenplay for both NIF 1 and 2. There are 2 authored versions of chapters 1 through 14. The book differs from the drama in a few aspects (additional wife and daughter, love line, etc.) but overall the drama is 80% faithful to the novel. If you read the novel you will understand exactly just how very dynamic the production is compared to the book. It is if the book opened and unwrapped itself into three dimensional awesomeness. What the book offers is an additional peek in the heart and mind of Mei Chang Su and a little more backstory on the schemes. While I read it I actually heard the voices of the cast in my head. The book took many years to be translated into English with multiple translators working on it. It was just completed recently. I am deeply grateful to these wonderful souls.  

CP
CP
4 months ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

thank you for all your book references! They’ve piqued my interest, and I’ve made the decision that I’m going to tough it out and try to read the book. I considered it in 2015, but seeing as NIF was my gateway into C-drama, my Chinese was pretty rusty then, but has since improved vastly from all the years of C-drama watching, so maybe it’s worth another shot.

It’ll probably take me the length of the entire group watch to finish the book since my Chinese reading speed is pathetic, but I’ll let you guys know if I find anything interesting along the way that might not be caught in the English translation.

Last edited 4 months ago by CP
phl1rxd
phl1rxd
4 months ago
Reply to  CP

No worries CP – it is already translated here. Happy reading!

CP
CP
4 months ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

I want to read the original because it is very well written – the Mandarin is beautiful in the drama but even more so in the book… enough that I want to appreciate it fully despite it being slow-going. Started it this afternoon and it’s going okay actually – I can understand about 95% and it only took me about 30 min for a chapter, so there seems to be hope yet!

Thank you for the link though! If I get lost I will lean on the translation to save me ><

Last edited 4 months ago by CP
phl1rxd
phl1rxd
4 months ago
Reply to  CP

CP – that is really awesome.

beez
4 months ago

“According to Commander Meng, Lin Shu’s appearance has changed so completely, that there are no traces of the old him…” kfangurl
That’s one powerful “blue pill” where the Matrix gives you the good looks of Gregory Peck! I’ll take one to go. Maybe I’ll end up looking like Sofia Loren! (For the millennials, substitute Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie (although it’s probably some newer stars that my Baby Boomer self doesn’t even know should fill those slots).)

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
4 months ago
Reply to  beez

@Beez – I would be content with just being 25 again.

BE
BE
4 months ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

What I wouldn’t do for 65!

beez
4 months ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

I’m not greedy – 40 would be wonderful!

beez
4 months ago

Head Eunuch Gao Zhan – makes me think of GOT bald headed “spider” creepy advisor guy. I asked my son and he says his name is Varys. His appearance is the opposite of Head Eunuch but when I look at then, the underlying creepiness gives me the same willies.

download.jpeg
Last edited 4 months ago by beez
Trent
4 months ago

Wow, just a drive-by to say the first-day commentary by the NIF experts and enthusiasts is on fire! Thanks, y’all, it’s really helpful to get settled and grounded even more in the early story and the setting.

Onward!

BE
BE
4 months ago
Reply to  kfangurl

And this is just episodes 1-3.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
4 months ago

This is a drama that just keeps giving. My first watch I was like “Wow that bromance is great”, second and consecutive watches I was like “Wow how did I miss that?” It forces controlled bathroom breaks – freeze that screen because everything is important – and jeez – you don’t realize it until many episodes later.

As an example – this is my 11th watch. There are many others with 20+ watches under their belt. Maybe because the novel starts when they arrive in Jinling, I missed that MCS was behind the Northern Yan event. I learned something new! Thank you FG! The divine finger of MCS reaches everywhere…

I wish I had BE’s prolific vocabulary range, Beez, Merij1, Jeff and Trent’s humor, Snow Flower’s style of prose (which makes her words sound like music), Sean’s sharp political savvy and Fangurl’s analytics and grace. Please excuse my cringe song titles and lyrics and S. Philly slang thrown here and there. Nevertheless, here we go…

E1
Hello Hell. We are watching the destruction of the Chiyan Army. It is the nightmare of the magnificent man.

I do want to note that Prince Yu is on an inspection trip to Jiangzuo. Take note of the man walking through the mansion who gets stabbed. Straight through the neck…sideways.  😉

Crown Prince Xian gets word that Prince Yu is getting two more Royal Pearls and it sets him right off because the more Royal Pearls you have, the closer to Big Daddy Emperor you get. Note that all Royal Princes start with 5 Royal Pearls (these are not just pearls, they are Royal Pearls).

The Zhuo father/son team show up and they are tracking Prince Yu. The Zhuo family are head of the Tianquan Manor (Heavenly Spring Manor). There were many sects at that time and each had their own fighting styles. It was not uncommon for those wishing to move up the Lang Ya Hall List or those who just wanted to improve their skills to challenge others to duels. There was an ethical code that these challenges would not produce severe injuries. So the duel between Ni Huang and my Dynamic Duo were pretty much par for the course.

Move It On Over. My younger self would have shoved Prince Yu and all those men off that path if I would have known Lin Chen would be at the end of it. Sigh! I had to laugh at how very fast Lin Chen sent out that reply to Prince Yu. Even Prince Yu was like “What, don’t I warrant more thought process here?”

Here is a little something for you on the Marquis of Ning: This was the man upon whom Emperor relied upon, the so-called “Pillar of the Empire”, Marquis of Ning, Xie Yu. Marquis of Ning has some political clout.

As for MCS appearing in the boat – this is typical wuxia and I personally love wuxia dramas. It is really helpful to understand wuxia and jianghu. The men in the big boat are from the Dragon Sect and did you not love that smack down by ‘Lil Bit Fei Liu?

Take note of who was standing in that boat with the old couple from Bingzhou. It is Zhuo Qing Yao or as I call him Zhuo son. That couple are fleeing from Duke Qing and we then see these folks enter the capital.

The boat scene gives us an idea of how very powerful Mei Chang Su and his Jiangzuo Alliance are, and I agree with Fangurl 100% that this is probably the reason they filmed that. The Jiangzuo Alliance is no joke.  

We see Head Eunuch Gao Zhan chatting with the Emperor. He is wiser than wise and he has to be, to serve the Emperor for as long as he has. I know it is hard to look at faces while trying to read subs but his facial expressions are always important and speak volumes. @Beez – if you are braving the dubbed version you won’t miss any of these. 

Good on you Fangurl for picking up that fated meeting with Jing Rui! Here is a little backstory: Jing Rui first met MCS in a Mt. Qin {part of a mountain range in Shaanxi which forms a natural barrier between Guanzhong plain and Han River valley] teahouse when he gifted his plum blossom branch to MCS who was admiring it. Jing Rui took note of MCS frail health, high morals and keen intellect and admired him so much that he invited him to rest and recuperate at his home in Jinling.  MCS has a plan for a plan for a plan.

Darling Dynamic Duo – Ok you all have to love this pair. If you do not love them now I promise you that you will love them very soon. Yan Yu Jin and Xie Jing Rui – the two best besties in the world. One is easy going and carefree and the other is serious and steadfast. They have grown up together and been friends throughout their entire life. I always thought that they bring out the best in each other. I heart them.

Ni Huang! My girl! What an extraordinary human you are. Hu Ge does such a good job with this scene!

Sneaking out the back door is Zhuo son (he is definitely easy on the eyes) and now we know that the Marquis of Ning is behind the old couple’s escape and Lord knows what else.

Cue Scary Music. That moment MCS is introduced to MCS is so intense I get the shivers every time I see it. You can cut the air with a knife. Yes Fangurl, he certainly is an enemy of MCS!

The Emperor really starts to show how he operates when dealing with the marriage issue. Ni Huang is only in power in Yunnan until little brother Mu Qing can step in and take responsibility. The Emperor wants to take no chances with her military power as her soldiers are devoted to her. His paranoia cannot allow the threat that she may one day use her troops against him. He also needs her. She is an accomplished Commander of a huge army that protects his southern border. 

Who Run The World (Girls)

  • Let me just say here – just what the heck does Ni Huang have to do to get any cred? She is such a completely capable person, she has no need for a husband. Besides, she still loves her Lin Shu. She does manage to change the rules but check out how the Emperor handles that. He is telling her not to push her luck with his generosity of allowing her to change those rules. Please know that she is one his favored subjects so consider what he does with those he does not favor.
  • Xia Dong! What a bad ass and what great lip gloss. Xia Dong is 37 years old and has spent the last 17 years in the Xuanjing Bureau where she is an officer. So right now, we absolutely know she is a bad ass because that place is no joke. She and Ni Huang served together in the army for 1 year.

The Emperor sends her to investigate the case of the old couple on the boat from Bingzhou/Bing Province who filed a complaint against the Duke of Qing for confiscating property. Note – this is a big issue as it is a pet peeve of the Emperor. It shows his respect for Xia Dong and her position in the Bureau to trust this job to her. Here we see a positive trait of the Emperor – he does care about some things relating to his people.

E1 Recap

  1. The larger the headdress in the Palace the higher up you rank – the more pearls your son has the higher he ranks
  2. It looks like Lin Chen, head of Langya Hall and MCS have a plan and it is a big one and they have a lot of intel behind them. Our MCS is seriously ill.
  3. Duke Qing is up to no good   
  4. Inquiring minds want to know…Why was Prince Yu really in Jiangzuo and were the Dragon Sect in the big boats (stopped at border of Jiangzuo) working for him or Duke Qing? 
  5. We are very, very glad that the costume person decided not to use those long sideburns on MCS after E1
  6. Lin Chen is Fei Liu’s own personal annoying mosquito, so Fei Liu takes his frustrations out on the pigeons.
  7. Head Eunuch Gao Zhan is a quiet genius at being strategically tactful

DID YOU KNOW…

  1. NIF was shot on location at Hengdian World Studios, Xiangshan Film City, Shihu City, Zhexi Grand Grassland Gumingjiu Cultural Village, Yandang Mountains.
  2. Banruo’s poem about the Divine Talent Mei Chung Su is very similar to the following:

Book Excerpt from Chapter 7: “He glitters in the distance like ice, like snow. Serenely, a subtle fragrance floats along the winding river. Recognizing all heroes of this world, at the head of East River is Mr. Mei.”….This was the poem recited by Chief Shu Qitian of the northern superpower Cliff Dragon Sect when he first met Mei Chang Su nine years ago.

On to E2…

Last edited 4 months ago by phl1rxd
phl1rxd
phl1rxd
4 months ago
Reply to  kfangurl

You rock the house Fangurl! Grateful for the eye opener. It’s OK if you remove the 5th and 6th references in the character list as it might confuse everyone. CP rocks too. Jingy is def 7th.

Northern Yan 6th Prince scenario: that goes to show you that either:

  1. I am really getting old
  2. NIF is just that detailed

I have read that the author originally intended for this to be BL novel, which would cause a dilemna on who is ML and 2ML cause love is everywhere. Can’t find the source as I am buried under a mountain of sources. 🤣😂😆 Just the age sources alone were a lot of work to record.

E2 and 3 on the way.

CP
CP
4 months ago
Reply to  kfangurl

Fun fact : Haiyan (the novel author) is MUCH better at writing BL than BG (as you can probably tell by the severe lack of BG romance in our drama). For NIF and NIF 2, the drama team actually rewrote/added in some of the details of the BG storylines to make it more romantic, which worked out nicely I think!

Regardless they couldn’t show BL in the drama anyway because of Chinese censorship so even straight-up BL novels (think Untamed) become “platonic soulmates”. For this story though, it definitely works since romance of any kind is clearly not the focus.

BE
BE
4 months ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

Your posts are so much fun.
I am wondering only this far down this AM in the comments how Princess Nihuang and her brother fit into the royal lineage.

And if Crown Prince is 35, well simply judging from her appearance Consort Yue…well it appears the Emperor’s proclivities must at one time have run toward, I hate to say it, children. This would assuredly be a scandalous bit of casting in Korea; was there any blowback with regard to this anywhere?

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
4 months ago
Reply to  BE

BE – If I can find the age when she entered the Palace I will def let you know.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
4 months ago
Reply to  BE

BE – They don’t. Take a quick peek at the character list E1 as I explain the Mu family.

BE
BE
4 months ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

Just looked up characters, the woman playing Consort Yue, Yang Yu Ting, was at time of filming…wait for it…35! Gao Xin, who played the Crown Prince, was, dig this, 37! Mama!

BE
BE
4 months ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

Ah, Mu…so is it explained why not of that family Emperor can impose marriage? Or do we just say, hey, what can’t Emperor get away with?

Trent
4 months ago
Reply to  BE

I’m speculating, but I think that the Mu family, and the polity they are in control of (the “southern region”), as part of the Liang empire owe political allegiance to the Emperor, and that probably extends to the Emperor having explicit (or very strongly implied) power to arrange marriages of its ruling family should he choose to exercise it (as he does here). There’s also probably a fairly strong implied in loco parentis effect going on as well, since Princess Nihuang is currently parentless, and the Emperor is traditionally viewed as the “father” of the nation anyway.

My two cents, at least.

Last edited 4 months ago by Trent
phl1rxd
phl1rxd
4 months ago
Reply to  Trent

@Trent – well that was perfection.

Trent
4 months ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

Aw, stop, you’ll make me blush and all.

BE
BE
4 months ago
Reply to  kfangurl

We aren’t talking teen here: in terms of actors’ actual ages Consort Jing would have been 7 when her son was born, and Consort Yue hadn’t even been born yet when Crown Prince was born. A failure of the makeup department imo, but I do think Consort Yue’s status at beginning of show did have a little to do with her youthful look and baby talking ways.

Last edited 4 months ago by BE
Blueyy
Blueyy
4 months ago

Hi to everyone on this!! Absolutely love this site, always come here to read the reviews and just general discussion (albeit as a lurker haha) so this is the first time I’ve de-lurked and I admit I am a bit anxious BUT if anything could make me de-lurk it HAD to be NIF :’)

I remember watching this back in 2015 (so long ago o_o!) and I absolutely loved it. It is simply a masterpiece and easily one of my all-time favourites that I’ve been meaning to re-watch it since then and when else would be a better time than with everyone on here!
One thing I always missed back then was a place to discuss because there weren’t many sites that did so, so I am soo excited to be joining everyone on here for it! I’m even more excited, because like a few of you, I’ll be watching it through a different lens now as it’ll be my 2nd-watch, but just re-living that experience and catching up on new small nuances and details will be soo enthralling yet again!!
I love your thoughts so I am eager to read them, just that I have my final exam tomorrow haha so really need to get my ass off this open thread for now and revise for that and once I’m done, will watch Ep 1-3 and join everyone to rave about it!

So excited and cannot thank you enough for setting us this small haven for all of us to fangirl/rave/analyse/discuss the amazingness that is NIF <3

Last edited 4 months ago by Blueyy
CP
CP
4 months ago

Thank you for organizing this group watch! I’ve been involved in a lot of the discussion already (so fun!), but I just wanted to write a little about my own thoughts too. I’m mainly a C-drama watcher (and only recently ventured into K-drama since C-drama quality is admittedly pretty subpar, NIF notwithstanding), so I’ve been a mostly silent fan of this blog. NIF was actually my gateway into mainland C-dramas (before that I watched a lot of HK TVB dramas with my parents), and to this day remains my favourite drama of all time, so I’m thrilled to be able to participate in this group watch. This is my 6th watch, but it has been a couple years since the last one, and I’m having fun rediscovering all the little details I had forgotten. I started episodes 1-3 over the weekend and now I’ve been hooked right back in and I’ve just been binging haha…

Episodes 1-3 is still mostly setup and by this point I’m far from going into this with fresh eyes, but couple quick thoughts:

1) I still can’t get over how smart MCS is – the fact that he probably plotted to know Jingrui 2 years ago just to be able to conveniently go to the capital without allying himself with either prince… so cool
2) There are 2 characters that recognized MCS as Lin Shu from the second they see him – the grandma, and Commander Meng. I find it intersting how the 2 of the “slowest” people (grandma having a bit of dementia, and Commander Meng always being a step behind his impossibly smart friends) are actually the ones that see right through all the disguise to the core of who MCS/Lin Shu really is.
3) Love how MCS tactfully deflects all the not-so-subtle attempts from the 2 princes to suck up to him. Pretty hilarious to see these 2 fall all over themselves fawning over him, and then MCS just being all like, “who? me? Don’t mind me I’m just a common Jianghu person”
4) Yay for Nihuang/ MCS romantic tension haha – enjoying the tidbits we do get since romance is far from the main event in this drama.

Last edited 4 months ago by CP
Ele Nash
4 months ago

I have nothing of intellect to note, but just wanted to say hello, I’m watching, and thank goodness for your summary, kfangurl, and to phl1rxd for the very helpful character list – which also contains some amusing observations! I felt like I was watching the first episode by my fingernails but by the end of the third, I *think* I have a solid enough grasp of who’s who and what the issues are. Like The Rise of Phoenixes, ah, the scenery is just gorgeous, especially around Langya Hall. And can I heart eyes Mei Chang and Nihuang already?! 😍 I think I remember reading you saying, kfangurl, this is not strictly a romance show, but I already feel the love between these two and the romantic in me is anxious for it to all be OK and Mei Chang to survive so they can live happily ever after…

Geo
Geo
4 months ago

KFG, your notes are so detailed and the detailed character and place guides so helpful that I think first time viewers will feel very comfortable with the show. So many things are clearer now as the second watch gave me a chance to get several details I missed the first time:

  1. The first time, I simply missed the significance of Lin Chen’s comment that “he really did it”, it being the sixth prince of Northern Yan winning the crown prince position despite being the weakest of the princes because of the help he had. The first time, I thought the message was about the crown prince of Da Liang, Prince Yu’s rival. Northern Yan didn’t even register with me as a separate entity.
  2. This achievement serves to highlight Mei Chang Su’s strategic credentials and sets the stage for the rival Da Liang princes to seek him out. The significance of this achievement actually even goes beyond the Princes seeking the divine talent. I’ll leave it for first time viewers to recognize the additional significance later on.
  3. Princess Nihuang really confused me, I thought she was the Emperor’s daughter the first watch for quite along time which was really confusing if she was betrothed to Lin Shu who would be her cousin. It’s good for first time viewers to realize her role from the outset. I really liked her character, skilled, smart and assertive and gorgeous.
  4. The balletic fighting scenes continue to impress me.
  5. Like you, KFG, I’m confused that it’s Lin Shu who falls off the cliff but survives and also how does Mei Changsu power the boat he drifts in on with his flute?
  6. The scenery is breathtaking and the costumes are exceptional, of even minor characters. While the royal family’s costumes, notably Prince Yu, tend to be over the top, the understated elegance of Mei Chang Su/Lin Shu’s robes and Nihuang’s classic outfit are my favourites.
  7. The character guide is really helpful, for a long time in my first watch, I was so confused by the different court ladies and their roles. The women in this show are not to be underestimated, Apart from Nihuang, Banruo is Prince Yu’s strategist and the scheming of the court ladies show they are not merely accessories.
  8. I wasn’t sure about what the Jiangzuo Alliance, a pugilist society, was. I’m still not clear but I assume it’s just another region in China, independent of Da Liang and masters of martial arts. However, their influence and power are feared as witness the scene where the warship retreats when faced only by Mei Chang Su and Fei Lu and the leader promises not to be active in these waters until spring. However, if they are so strong, why would they not aspire to rule more territory or more importantly, why does the Emperor leave them alone? He’s such a suspicious person, seeing threats everywhere.
  9. How did Lin Shu go from being wounded in battle at 19 or so to be the chief of the Jiangzuo Alliance in less than 12 years? Seems improbable but I guess we just have to accept it for the sake of the storyline.
  10. I totally missed Jingrui being designated the son of two families which confused me later on when it seemed he had brothers in two distinct families. I must have missed that part of the show, however it was all cleared up for me in the great reveal scene later on.

I’m really enjoying the re-watch even though I saw the show just a month ago. I’m having trouble with the editing and layout, hopefully I’ll figure it out soon.

Last edited 4 months ago by kfangurl
phl1rxd
phl1rxd
4 months ago
Reply to  Geo

Hi Geo –

  1. Jiangzuo – area south of Yangtze River in the east
  2. Jiangzuo Alliance (East River Alliance) – run by Mei Chang Su, it is the highest ranked pugilist sect controlling 14 provinces with an extensive network of intel and yes, they are independent and feared by other sects

I would recommend that you take a minute to look at the video that Avenue X that CP posted.She explains Jianghu after 7:00:00 mark.She talks about NIF. It is def worth a watch – much respect to her!

Excerpt Novel Chapter 32 Translation: Jianghu = the world of the martial arts fighters, sometimes translated as the ‘pugilist’ society (but I don’t like that word – it gives off the wrong vibe to me); it’s a whole different world or society made up of martial art fighters, kind of like the mafia (but more neutral), with its own ‘laws’ and rules of chivalry and brotherhood; it’s made up of different ‘sects’ with their own styles / traditions / history of martial artistry, and sometimes sects join together in alliances (like Jiangzuo Alliance under Mei Changsu); and in Chinese stories of this genre, it’s a common trope for the jianghu world to be completely separate from the political world, where those with power in the jianghu world are never interested in political power (and hence, never a threat to the throne), and with the Emperor never interfering with the wars and feuds of the jianghu sects.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
4 months ago
Reply to  kfangurl

I drank a lot of coffee today. I am going to take your advice and go to bed 😴 🥱

Geo
Geo
4 months ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

: Thanks for the information. The video is very helpful too. I thought the pugilist sects were rooted in history but my take away from the video is that it was a literary creation.

You deserve a medal for your efforts on this group watch, most appreciated.

beez
4 months ago
Reply to  Geo

I could watch an entire separate series on Jingrui’s birth story and his life as the son of two families. 

And also a prequel of how MCS became #1 on the Langly list of fighters. (Google would but help me sleep puglist [sic] so…)

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
4 months ago
Reply to  beez

@Beez – In December 2020 the same NIF 1 and 2 production company announced that there is already a completed script for NIF3 (no word on writer and that is super important). It’s all hush-hush.

It was the single best moment of my 2020.

If they do a prequel you may get your wish. I personally wish for a prequel but they could only bring it forward so much and then you have casting issues.

I believe MCS is number 1 on the Langya Hall List of Scholars (smartest man on the planet). For Martial Arts #1 is Xuan Bu of the Yu empire, #2 is Meng Zhi of DaLiang. If I find his Langya Hall list classification I will follow up.

LongJumpingRiver
LongJumpingRiver
4 months ago

Thanks for this summary. I started watching this very recently (I’m up to episode 10). I found the first episode really difficult to follow (actually, reading your summary was very helpful–and you pointed out some things that maybe I should have noticed, but didn’t!). By episode 2, I felt like I knew the main storyline and the most important characters.

I like this, but it hasn’t yet grabbed me as it has grabbed so many others. I know many consider this a masterpiece. I’ll keep watching and maybe I’ll see it!

BE
BE
4 months ago

I really like NIF, but it has attracted such an inordinate number of passionate followers that I can see how the hype might get in the way of simply enjoying this complexly plotted medieval style revenge drama. It is very good with a million small pleasures, but one does not have to think it is the greatest ever to really enjoy it.
In a current sageuk series, Bossam, a show not anywhere near in the class of NIF, one character of the peasant class says to his buddy on realization that royalty and nobility vying for political power blithely murder their own family members and are constantly plotting against one another, that those folks aren’t exactly his kind of people.
Already rewatching this, though they are a feature of historical dramas, I find myself going somewhat queasy about the eunuch class of fellows, not to mention all those little kids, even the ones who are not slaves or prisoners, being used for labor.

Natalia
Natalia
4 months ago

Hello everyone!!
I had a pretty rough time in the fist episode, but starting from mid episode 2 I pretty much understood what’s going on – and also got somehow used to the show’s pace and style, which is indeed different from Kdramas. I have to say that inspite of my inhibitions and doubts, after watching 3 episodes I am interested enough to see what will happen next. And I am proud to say that I think I got most of what is going on on screen correctly, although your recap K did help to clarify a couple of things that, to be honest, I haven’t even noticed!
My favourite scene so far: meeting with the Grandma (Ι want her in my family too!). I thought it was pretty well done, very touching. I loved how the old lady, in her dementia, she still felt Shu’s presence. Although, I admit I haven’t really picked up what exactly is her relationship to Lin Shu/Mei Changsu.
Phl1rxd, thank you so much for all your work, I will be using this quite often I think! While watching the first 3 episodes I also used a list suggested by Timescout posted on tumblr that has the advantage of posting screenshots of the characters, so it’s very helpful for the completely ignorant, such as myself. However, now that I know what most of the main characters look like, I find the list you made to be much more useful in that it is much more inclusive and gives really helpful info. By the way, thank you for explaining about Princess Nihuang, I too was wandering what’s her relation to the Emperor.
Also thanks to Trent and others for explaining a little bit about the meaning of pugilist in this show. I must admit that for me too, “pugilist” brings in mind plain old boxing.
The only issue I have with the show so far is that on Viki sound editing is a bit weird, I think. But I have never watched a Chinese drama, so maybe this is normal and I will just get used to it.

Anyway, happy watch to everyone!

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
4 months ago
Reply to  Natalia

Hi Natalie – My pleasure! I really love that list that Timescout posted and I used it after watch 2 and it helped. IMHO this is the best CDrama ever made and will spoil you forever. You will not regret a minute spent watching this drama.

manukajoe
manukajoe
4 months ago
Reply to  kfangurl

Hi Natalia, I had some sound/subtitle issues in Episode 1 too, mainly the sound was seriously delayed for a few minutes. That was on Youtube.

Natalia
Natalia
4 months ago
Reply to  manukajoe

Hello, no, my problem was what K mentioned above, the actors (with a few exceptions) are dubbed in studio so to my ear at least the voices sound too loud and clear – I guess normal people have no issue with that!!! It’s just that I don’t ever watch dubbed shows/films, so to me it sounds strange.

beez
4 months ago
Reply to  kfangurl

This reminds me – in the scene where my favorite character General Mei (Gen Hawty) confronts the “tester” of MCS sent by Nihaung’s baby bro, Gen Hawty says “what are you waiting for” to the tester in both the dubbed and subbed version on Viki. However, on the Dark Closet (pseudonym for The Site Which Shall Not Be Named), the subs say “What are you still doing here? Waiting to have a meal with me?” 😆 I love it. He’s just so commanding and sexy and jussssst a little slow but far from stupid. Just like I like ’em. Sorry, I’m so unpolitically correct. (I hope I don’t get banned).

Last edited 4 months ago by beez
BE
BE
4 months ago
Reply to  beez

Gen Meng, eh? Such an upright kinda guy. Not one of those crazy alienated angsty types, but just wholesome goodness, eh beez? Good on you. I think he’s married, however, even if we never see him with her.

Natalia
Natalia
4 months ago
Reply to  kfangurl

Yes! Now that you mention it, this is what is bothering me. It sounds dubbed! I was thinking that voices are too loud, this is it. Well, I guess I will eventually get use to it! Thanks for the clarification.

jisaab
4 months ago

Not quite sure how this works as this is my first time participating – but I’m assuming it’s like your other reviews where we can comment on your review and our own thoughts on the show.

Onto the post! Great review! I really appreciate the play by play recap! I definitely missed the the fact that the Lin family character was repeated twice!

As for the show, so far I actually really like it! I remember reading some comments in the previous announcement thread where some people had expressed that the show is hard to follow until about episode 4. I was scared that it would be a chore to get through episodes 1-3 but so far it’s been great! The first 3 episodes have been really engaging and the acting is solid too! I feel like I’m getting the Count of Monte Cristo vibes so far, so I’m really excited to see what happens next!

I’m especially curious about the Chiyan army massacre! I hope this is revealed in great detail eventually, like Mei Changsu said.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
4 months ago

Whew Fangurl – you certainly have a way to get a lot of information and consolidate it nicely. This is a very nice picture of E1-3. I now have to go back ad trim, trim, and trim my comments some more before I post.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
4 months ago
Reply to  kfangurl

Jeez oh man Fangurl –

Yikes! My comments on E1 alone is 4.5 pages long 😁 Everyone will think I am bonkers if I post all this. I picked everything apart, threw in novel stuff and backstories and I don’t know if everyone wants to go that deep. Granted, that length is only in the first 3 episodes.

I am embarrassed to look like a nutty NIFer so I am trying to trim it now and compliment your gorgeous write-up while still keeping some relevant backstory/novel stuff.

If I get too frustrated with the trim (I write as slow as a turtle) I will throw caution and my reputation to the wind and do a copy and paste in the morning. God help us all. 🤣😅😂 Since it is 2AM my time that may happen.

P.S. I have finished up to E28 (88 pages with novel notes) and that took 2 weeks because I work the drama, the novel and other sources as I am writing so I do not miss anything. You ma’am, are blessed with the ability and talent to nail thing down quickly.

I should send you an example. In the meantime – Hi Ho its back to work i go!

BE
BE
4 months ago

Lin Chen–those early scenes at sword practice whirling around on that small plateau, and then being so arcane in passing out the info about the “Divine Talent” by which one could rule the realm, so cool, giving both Fei Liu and Mei Shengsu a hard time; Princess Nihuang, galloping in on horseback, flying off her horse, sparri