Note: I had written this a long time ago, like September 2018 long time ago but had done it in a different format to my current ones, basically trying to squeeze the whole drama into one post and guess what happened? I never completed it and never posted it.
(I had contemplated if I should even post this since its so old but…I had typed a ton of words and spent weeks on it. Besides, this drama was where I first saw two actresses that I really like now – Zhao Lu Si and Bai Lu)
Other titles: Huang Feng Prison, Feng Qiu Huang
There are two story arcs in this drama, with the first arc lasting 16 episodes. I’ll start with an introduction of the main characters in the first arc, which is set in the Liu Song empire.
First, we have our female lead portrayed by Guan Xiao Tong (关晓彤). She takes on the role of two characters although one of them is only in the first episode. The first is Liu Chu Yu (刘楚玉), with the title of Shan Yin Gong Zhu (山阴公主). She’s the princess of Liu Song Dynasty and also the king’s sister. She’s scheming and manipulative, even towards her brother. She also likes pretty boys and manipulated her brother to decree that all pretty men in the city be brought into the palace to be part of her harem. To everyone else, she’s the only one that can calm the King’s explosive temper but in reality, she has a perfume satchet that Rong Zhi had formulated for her, that had calming effects on the headache that the King constantly experiences. She dies in Episode 1 after falling into a lake where Liu Chu Xiu was waiting to take her place.
The second character Guan Xiao Tong portrays is Liu Chu Xiu (刘楚锈) or Zhu Que (朱雀), our main character. She’s an orphan that was picked up by a sect (Tianji Pavilion) when she was young and given the name Zhu Que. When she grew up, she was given the mission of swapping places with Liu Chu Yu and killing the King, Liu Zi Ye. Because she has taken Liu Chu Yu’s place and everyone in the drama refers to her as such, anytime I mention Chu Yu, I’m referring to Chu Xiu/Zhu Que’s character, not the dead Liu Chu Yu’s character. In Episode 6, she overhears the Queen Dowager’s conversation and finds out that she’s actually Liu Chu Xiu, Liu Chu Yu’s twin sister that was “killed” because the “God” at that time, Tian Ru Jing’s master, had told the King that one of them had to be killed otherwise there would be chaos in the future. In order to keep her position at that time as Queen, the Queen Dowager had followed through with it. However, the palace maid that had been tasked with carrying out the murder couldn’t bear to carry through with it so Liu Chu Xiu had survived. Learning this complicated everything, making Chu Yu very unwilling to go through with carrying out her mission. Thinking that the cause of her mission was due to Zi Ye’s tyranny as King, she sets about trying to teach and change his ways, ultimately failing.
Next, we have our male lead Rong Zhi (容止) portrayed by Song Wei Long (宋威龙). He was Chu Yu’s favourite and most trusted male in her harem. He’s really clever and always has everything in the palm of his hands. In actuality, he’s a spy sent from the neighbouring country, Northern Wei. When Zhu Que first exchanged places with Chu Yu, Rong Zhi was immediately suspicious because even though she had apparently lost her memory, her drastic change in character couldn’t be explained by it. Later, while bedridden with an illness that he’d faked, Chu Yu had confessed that she liked him and that she was actually Liu Chu Xiu, Liu Chu Yu’s twin sister. I’d have to say that Rong Zhi’s (Not Song Wei Long) acting was very bad for a master schemer because his eyes twitched when Chu Yu revealed her secret. Even though he was there as a spy, Rong Zhi slowly fell for her and nearing the end of the first arc, when he was supposed to be planning his army’s next move, he kept worrying about Chu Yu and once even went to find her in the middle of the night.
Now on to the supporting characters.
(Liu Zi Ye)
First, we have Zhang Yi Jie (张逸杰) as Liu Zi Ye (刘子业), the Emperor of Liu Song empire. He’s a young but violent ruler, killing anyone that displeased him in the slightest way. Despite Chu Yu’s teachings, he broke his promises to her time and again, the last straw coming when he killed a group of children for singing songs mocking the crazy king, aka him. Chu Yu then decided that he was incorrigible and went along with the original plan to have him killed. Though when it came time to kill him, she couldn’t bring herself to do it so she left him squashed among dead soldiers. He subsequently died when another group of soldiers found and killed him (Episode 13).
(Tian Ru Jing)
Next, we have Liu Ze Qun (劉澤群) as Tian Ru Jing (天如镜), an astronomer that’s almost seen like a God to the people because he can read the stars and foretell the future. After a few interactions with Chu Yu where she tries to persuade him to be on her side, he eventually falls for her and gives in. Although later, due to Zi Ye constantly breaking his promise to Chu Yu, he returned to the original plan of overthrowing the King. We later find out the he’s part of Tianji Pavilion and he was also the one to save Chu Yu when Tianji Pavilion’s leader wanted to kill her for finding out something she wasn’t supposed to know. However, his method of saving Chu Yu was to give her a medicine that induced amnesia, not just about things that she shouldn’t know, but also about everything that had happened with Rong Zhi.
Last but not least, we have Gao Yu Er (高雨儿) as Fen Dai (粉黛). She’s Chu Yu’s best friend and they’ve been together ever since she was taken in by the Tianji Pavilion leader. She was sent in before Chu Yu to get more information on the Princess and also as a side-kick of sorts once Chu Yu had been replaced. One day, Zi Ye came looking for Chu Yu when she wasn’t in her residence and angered that she wasn’t there after he’d been waiting for a while, he killed a servant. Fen Dai tried to poison him but he’d thrown the poisoned cup at a dancer in anger. In order to protect the other servants and complete the mission, she did a dance on the water (with lots of feet I must add) and the pleased emperor brought her back to his palace. That night, her attempt to kill Zi Ye was foiled and she was punished with death for her crime. Before that, Chu Yu had tried to save her but Fen Dai knew that there was no way she would be able to survive Zi Ye’s wrath so she took all the crimes upon herself, protecting Chu Yu till the end.
At this point, I’d like to mention another supporting character to show the contrast between her and Fen Dai. Not going to add a picture because I can’t be bothered to look for it. She’s mean. That character is You Lan, Chu Yu’s personal maidservant who’s in love with Rong Zhi and betrayed Chu Yu to the people that were after her, just because she was jealous that Chu Yu had Rong Zhi’s affections. She died at the end of Arc 1. Good riddance.
This is the end of character introductions for Arc 1 because everyone else basically dies or goes to live a nomadic life after Rong Zhi’s “death”. The second arc starts from Episode 17, with an old storyteller telling Rong Zhi and Chu Yu’s story to a group of people sitting around a tree. Unsatisfied and angered at the couple’s tragic ending, the listeners began to make a fuss and the storyteller appeased them by continuing the story, with Chu Yu going to Northern Wei to form a marriage alliance with Rong Zhi. The twist? They have both lost their memories about the times they had spent together.
(Chu Yu 2)
With her memories erased, Chu Yu now really thinks that she’s Liu Chu Yu, the princess of Liu Song Dynasty. Despite the uprising that overthrew and killed her brother, she survived because Tian Ru Jing had used his position as the country’s “God” to protect her. She was later sent to Northern Wei by the new King, her Uncle, without Tian Ru Jing’s knowledge.
(Rong Zhi 2)
With his memories of Chu Yu erased and back in Northern Wei, Rong Zhi was back to his previous scheming and manipulative behaviour. In Northern Wei, he was the King’s Uncle, Prince Regent of the Wei empire and carried the title of She Zheng Wang (摄政王). In order to gain more power, with his ultimate goal presumably to be King, he ‘courted’ and was slated to marry Ma Xue Yun, the only daughter of a high court official, when Liu Song sent a marriage alliance proposal. With the proposal, Chu Yu had sent a puzzle/riddle which Rong Zhi was able to answer to Chu Yu’s liking. Because it was obviously beneath the Princess’ position to be anything less than a wife, Ma Xue Yun was now reduced to being Rong Zhi’s concubine. Even though Xue Yun’s father was angered and had wanted to cancel the marriage, Xue Yun and Rong Zhi managed to convince him otherwise.
Now on to Arc 2’s main characters.
We first have a new character, Tuoba Yun (拓跋昀) with the title of Kang Wang (康王), portrayed by Yalkun Merxat aka Mi Re (米热). He’s the “bad guy” of the 2nd arc, constantly trying to one-up Rong Zhi. He is scheming and manipulative but always seems to be one step behind Rong Zhi. He’s in love with Huo Xuan and refuses to marry anyone else, greatly worrying his mother. In Episode 17, he confessed to Huo Xuan just as she was on a horse, hurrying back to the capital upon receiving news (sent by Tuoba Yun) that Rong Zhi was going to marry Ma Xue Yun. He was rejected by Huo Xuan with rather scathing remarks.
(Ma Xue Yun)
Then we have Zhao Lu Si (赵露思) as Ma Xue Yun (马雪云). I would describe her as Rong Zhi’s Tuoba Yun to Chu Yu. At the start, she was portrayed as a highly respected, kind and virtuous lady but it’s later revealed that that was an act because she wanted people’s praise. She was fine with being Rong Zhi’s concubine because she understood Rong Zhi’s unfeeling character and he had promised her that he would fulfill his duties to her as her husband. However, when she realised that Rong Zhi was slowly falling for Chu Yu, she became jealous and kept thinking up little schemes to get Rong Zhi to fall for her.
When she’d first met Chu Yu, she’d pretended to be pushed into a shallow pool of water by Chu Yu in order to malign her. Rong Zhi had rushed to Xue Yun’s side and questioned Chu Yu about her actions. Xue Yun’s maid then told Chu Yu that her master had a weak body and that no matter how angered she was, she shouldn’t have taken it out on Xue Yun. Chu Yu had then refuted her allegations with three reasons. Before saying the third reason, she approached Xue Yun, and Rong Zhi immediately put an arm in front of Xue Yun, asking Chu Yu what she wanted. Chu Yu then proceeded to push Xue Yun into the shallow waters before saying: “Anyone I, Liu Chu Yu, wants to punish, I’ll just directly do it.”. Something I find funny about this was that in the previous scene, Chu Yu had slipped from the swing she was standing on and Rong Zhi had flown across the courtyard to catch her. He caught Chu Yu when she was far away but couldn’t catch Xue Yun when he was right by her side. The bias is already showing ;D
Next we have Huo Xuan (霍璇), also a love rival of sorts to Chu Yu. But unlike Ma Xue Yun, she has a good head on her shoulders and doesn’t use under-handed means. Huo Xuan is portrayed by Bai Lu (白鹿), who also portrays another character with a very different personality and disposition (Le Yun-More on her later). Huo Xuan is a female general of the Wei empire. She had followed her father into war since she was little and that was where she had met and fell for Rong Zhi. She has a strong personality and a good hold on her emotions, unless when it comes to Rong Zhi. At the start, when she’d heard that Rong Zhi will be marrying Ma Xue Yun, she had hurried back to the city to meet Rong Zhi but because there was a law saying that Generals who entered the city without permission while they were supposed to be on a mission would be seen as trying to rebel, Rong Zhi stayed inside the city walls and sent Shen Yu to pass Huo Xuan a gift, the armour she wore into battle during their childhood. Because she knew Rong Zhi’s character as a master schemer, she left saying that she didn’t care about the method, only the outcome. And as long as the outcome was that Rong Zhi would marry her, she would be okay with it. Later in the story, when she realised that Rong Zhi was falling for Chu Yu, she proposed a competition whereby the winner would get to stay with Rong Zhi. Although she won, she ultimately realised that he wasn’t the Rong Zhi she’d fallen for anymore – Calm and collected in all situations, never did anything that wasn’t to his favour – so she left the city. She then met Gu Huan, a simple but highly skilled doctor that was kind to a fault. Gu Huan fell for her very early on but she only let him in after he did a few things for her that touched her and they got married in a simple ceremony at their little cottage.
The other character Bai Lu portrays is Le Yun (乐蕴), an orphan that looks similar to Huo Xuan. Rong Zhi had originally picked her up because he knew that Tuoba Yun liked Huo Xuan so much that he would even accept a look-a-like. Rong Zhi arranged for Le Yun to “accidentally” meet Tuoba Yun who soon arranged to have her stay with him. Even though Tuoba Yun’s subordinate kept warning him about Le Yun and he was aware that she was very possibly a spy, he kept her by his side, accommodating her every whim. Later, when Tuoba Yun had to act crazy in order to stay alive, Le Yun killed a guard and set fire to Tuoba Yun’s residence to let him escape. The idea was that when the fire had been extinguished, they would find the bodies of a single male and female and assume that he had died, allowing him to live a new live. This was her way of repaying the kindness Tuoba Yun had shown her.
Now on to the side characters.
First, we have Xu Kai (许凯) as Shen Yu (沈遇). He is Rong Zhi’s head bodyguard and right-hand man. He’s highly-skilled in martial arts and sometimes acts in a brotherly way towards Rong Zhi. He later falls for Qing Yue, Chu Yu’s handmaiden and friend, though nothing really ever came out of it. Honestly, he wasn’t really memorable in this drama and I might not have placed him in here were it not for the fact that I’m currently obsessed with the drama Zhao Yao (招摇), where he’s the lead with Bai Lu (Huo Xuan).
Next, we have He Feng Tian (何奉天) as Gu Huan (顾欢) aka Tianji Pavilion Leader. In his identity as the Tianji Pavilion Leader, he always wears a mask that covers most of his face. In the first arc, he came across as ruthless and scheming, sending Chu Yu to kill Zi Ye even when he knew her identity as Chu Xiu. When she uncovered his plan, he had wanted to kill her but Tian Ru Jing pleaded with him, promising that he had something to make her forget everything so she wouldn’t ruin his plans. It’s only in the second arc that he appears as Gu Huan, a highly skilled doctor that was kind to a fault, always putting others before himself. He had started out with the intention of getting Huo Xuan to fall for him so he could manipulate her, but he fell for her instead and his actions became sincere instead of just acts. Later, after he’d already married Huo Xuan and she was recovering from her miscarriage, he refocused on his original plan, which was to incite war against the Wei empire. Huo Xuan arrived after receiving a tip-off from Rong Zhi and confronted him about his identity as the Tianji Pavilion leader. After he’d confessed to her, Huo Xuan stabbed him before breaking the sword and stabbing herself with the other half (rather suavely I must add).
Then we have Wu Jia Yi (吴佳怡) as Qing Yue (清越), Chu Yu’s maidservant and friend. I’d say that she’s pretty well-versed in martial arts as she’s able to fight off male soldiers, only losing to Shen Yu or when there’s a ton of people to fight against. She’s a cute little food lover that has quite a witty mouth on her, which might be what attracted two suitors. One being Shen Yu and the other Wang Ze (王泽), Huo Xuan’s subordinate and right-hand man. Although Wang Ze later died because he’d betrayed Huo Xuan to save his mother then committed suicide to redeem himself. What I really like about Qing Yue is her loyalty towards Chu Yu. Let’s not forget about that backstabbing maidservant in Arc 1. Nearing the end of the drama, she’d stayed behind to fight the guards while Chu Yu escaped. Overwhelmed by the sheer numbers, she’d been captured and jailed although before she was taken away, Shen Yu had given orders that they were not to mistreat her. I would like to assume that she ends up happy with Shen Yu although that is very hard to speculate because that was literally her last scene in the drama and Shen Yu’s last scene was foreboding.
Next we have Wu Jin Yan (吴谨言) as Feng Ting (冯亭), Rong Zhi’s sister & the King’s foster mother, though not by birth. If I have to name an ultimate villain in this story, it’ll be Feng Ting because she’s the only villain that survives till the end. She’s similar to Rong Zhi in her intellect and ability to guess everyone’s next move. At times, it would appear like she had gotten her punishment and had been outsmarted by others but in the end, she’d always come out unscathed. At the end of the first arc, Rong Zhi had faked his death and was going to return to Northern Wei but Feng Ting had bribed his friend to poison him. The poison wasn’t meant to kill but to erase his memories so that she could control him. In the second arc, she always appeared as a virtuous and kind Queen Dowager. At one point, when the King had ordered that she be confined to her living quarters, he visited her one day to find her praying for his safety and happiness. At the end, she was the one to dethrone Tuoba Hong, her “son”. It is then revealed that due to a law that the Crown Prince’s mother couldn’t be allowed to live, she had killed her own son and taken Tuoba Hong under her wing after his mother had died. At the end of the drama, when Tuoba Hong’s son had been born, she forced him to name the baby as Crown Prince and her as the regent before she made an announcement that the King was unfit to rule and had appointed her as regent. She named the baby “Hong” and at this point, it’s revealed that her birth son’s name was also Hong. So all this time, when Tuoba Hong had thought that his mother was good to him, she’d been treating him as a replacement for her dead son. (Just a note here that all the Hong’s are written with different characters but all pronounced as Hong. Feng Ting’s birth son’s name was 洪, the King’s was 弘 and the baby’s is 宏.)
Lastly, we have Shi Yun Peng (石云鹏) as Tuoba Hong (拓跋弘), the Emperor of the Wei empire. He is highly paranoid and vicious, though that can only be seen later in the drama. In Tuoba Yun’s last scene, he was having a sword fight with Tuoba Hong and Yun had first gotten the upper hand but he couldn’t bring himself to actually kill his nephew. Hong on the other hand, didn’t hesitate to stab Yun. (Very vicious, very heartless, I must say.) Even though Tuoba Yun was trying to start a mutiny, Hong could’ve just imprisoned him. Another point that took me by surprise what that at first, he seems to be less intelligent than Rong Zhi but there was a particular scene where he surprised me with a scheme he’d set up. Despite that, no one can outsmart our master schemer and Rong Zhi still came out tops in the end.
Now that I’ve introduced the more “major” characters in the drama, here’s a quick introduction of the “minor” characters in the drama. (Includes Arc 1 and Arc 2 characters)
Liu Yu (刘彧) – Liu Zi Ye & Liu Chu Yu’s 11th uncle. He’s cowardly and with Xiu Ren and Tianji Pavilion’s help, becomes King after Liu Zi Ye’s death.
Liu Xiu Ren (刘休仁) – Liu Zi Ye & Liu Chu Yu’s 12th uncle. I feel like he’s the only “normal” person in the Liu family.
Yue Jie Fei (越捷飞) – Liu Chu Yu’s bodyguard
You Lan (幼蓝) – Chu Yu’s handmaiden, in love with Rong Zhi aka that backstabbing b-
(Yes, I’m still salty)
Liu Se (柳色) – Member of Liu Chu Yu’s harem, a dumb dude lol. I mean, he once tripped over his own feet and fell, ripping his pants.
Mo Xiang (墨香) – Member of Liu Chu Yu’s harem. On Rong Zhi’s side. Falls for Fen Dai and blames Chu Yu for her death.
Huan Yuan (桓远) – Member of Liu Chu Yu’s harem. He’d initially hated the Princess for locking/trapping him in her harem but he later fell for her after he’d seen different sides of her, starting from when she’d saved him from falling off the edge of a mountain even after he’d tried to kill her.
Liu Sang (流桑) – Member of Chu Yu’s harem. A young boy that’s surprisingly skilled with a knife.
He Ji (何戢) – Chu Yu’s husband. He’d previously been deeply in love with her, even defying his father’s orders and asking the previous King for her hand in marriage. However, due to Chu Yu’s cold attitude towards him and her actions of acquiring a harem that shamed him, he slowly grew to hate her as deeply as he’d loved her.
Hua Cuo (花错) – Not a member Chu Yu’s harem, but resides in the Princess’ residence because of Rong Zhi. Highly skilled in martial arts that Rong Zhi had taught him.