Name: The Story of Ming Lan
Writer/director: Zeng Lu & Wu Tong/ Zhang Kaizhou
Date: Dec 2018
Number of episodes: 73
Genre: Historical, Romance
Based on book/manga?: Yes, Don’t you know? The green should be plump and the red lean by Guanxin Zeluan.
Why did I press play? Looking for something new to watch. Due to the uninteresting drama “Our Glorious time”, I had reservations watching a new Zhao Liying drama. Regardless, I took a peek.
Up until which episode is is this firm thoughts review based on? Episode 1 – 8
Zhao Liying – Sheng Ming Lan – main female
William Feng – Gu Ting Ye – main guy
Zhu Yi Long – Qi Heng – love triangle guy
The opening scenes of the drama is a random introduction to the story; the main wife/mother lamenting the impeding betrothal of her eldest daughter, and the conflict about the coal. I feel that is should have had a more transparent beginning. In retrospect it does build a foundation for influential dynamics and vaguely points to where the story might lead.
This messy start quite frankly creates a lot of confusion, particularly the people and circumstances around the two young boys. During an attempted murder on the boat, everyone thinks Gu is dead. Yet he appears at a funeral to establish his inheritance rights. This doesn’t add up because he wasn’t in his hometown. How were they able to hold a funeral ceremony and have so much of the family there? To get to the bottom of this, I rewatched these parts several times and was none the wiser.
The story also eluded that the eldest scholarly brother would play a prominent role. Yet, as adults he disappointingly fades into the background. Hopefully he will again come to the foreground. His sense of justice and scholarly ways is an anchor and comfort.
Watching the characters lives and projected futures, hovering around is a sense of heaviness and gloom. Particularly the women, who seriously get the short end of the stick. There is the never-ending and outlandish preservation of an unreasonable definition of purity. The world is filled with numerous places, people and opportunities, yet their scope for exploration is dismal. As for a career… dream on! With the exception of running a house (they can be undermined), there is little-to-none they can do – no matter how talented. The limitations keep rolling because the master/husband/father have the final say and veto power. The final blow is the minute input choosing a spouse. It doesn’t end there, once married the girls will mostly likely share their husband with concubines. It’s all very exhausting.
Heng starts off as an intriguing character. Back to the early confusion, I can’t recall him mentioned in the childhood years, therefore presume he is new character. His endearing flirtation with Ming lan makes my heart flutter. His sincere awkward and growing love for her is delightful. He suspects she plays hot and cold potato and doesn’t hesitate to dish out a lie. Despite this he can’t help himself and is head over heels for her – even if he gets hurt. He does have questionable traits. For example, he is a tad naive and a mama’s boy. He doesn’t think about properties, nor the dismal prospect of them marrying. This image was a little shed during the polo match; by his boldness talking with her side by side with only a light screen between them. The scene was charged with angst, passion and chemistry. He become even more impressive as partners with her for the polo match. Later while at the temple, it was awesome how bold and straight to the point her was in conveying his feelings to her.
The depressing part is, if against all odds they have permission to get married, few rainbows and sunshine post matrimony. The pair would enjoy spending their lives together, but that is only part of the experience. Most of Ming Lan’s life have pressure and control from her monster.. I mean mother-in-law. On the flip side, this life is await other girls who marry into an unpleasant family.
Switching gears to the concubine and her daughter (and son). During the period of Ming Lin’s mother death, she is undoubtedly despicable. But years later, when the children are adults, she isn’t particularly evil or dangerous. Of course, she knows all the tricks to get her way and passes this skill onto her daughter. The pair want to have the upper hand at all times. We can’t resent them too much. Let’s remember the only way they get away with all is because the master completely indulges them. Despite being an intelligent man, falls for her very obvious “damsel in distress” mode. They are together for over a decade, and ultimately get along well and have a good relationship. Everyday wouldn’t consist of tantrums and plotting.
On a side note, the main wife is a in a difficult and discouragement lifelong predicament. But her perpetual vindictive attitude looks exhausting. Perhaps she could adapt a with a different approach, one where she keeps her dignity?
In these early days Gu Ting ye is underwhelming and made it made cringe that he will be the leading man. He’s shallow and his personality and ambitions seems a little boring and one-dimensional. He also looks really old for the situation he is on. Though in the crazy women and his two children, my alarm bells went off. We can’t have Ming Lan marry into that sort of environment. This is probably intentional as the story at this point is about her Qi Heng, so it makes sense that we don’t root for him at the start. Pleasantly as the episodes go on, all this changes for the good and him as the lead becomes exciting.
We don’t see too much of Ming Lan, only little snippets here and there. Holding back on her is beneficial in two ways. Firstly, it creates time and space to learn about the bigger story, culture and politics. The story is richer and we can place her character’s circumstances better. Secondly it builds anticipation and curiosity to learn more about her.