Monday, November 14, 2011

Novel vs. Drama: Major Differences

For those of you curious about the differences between Sealed with a Kiss drama and novel, I'm going to try to put together a list that explains how the drama deviates from the novel. In case you haven't heard, the novel is written in first person narrative. The story gets unfolded in Tong Xue's perspective. We only see what Tong Xue feels, but not necessarily what is true regarding various events. I read the novel awhile ago, so I don't remember all the details.

Characterization of Tong Xue:

In the novel, Tong Xue is a young college student studying chemistry at a prestigious university, presumably in Beijing. When the novel opens, she's already a junior in college and Yueying is actually one of her dormitory roommates. This means some of the past events also get pushed back even earlier. For instance, Tong Xue's first love actually happened in high school.

The scriptwriter, Guo Baoxian, couldn't keep Tong Xue's student status in the drama because SARFT worried that the character may set a bad example for students and the young audience in China. There is nothing glorifying about a student being a rich man's mistress. So, she made Tong Xue a little older in the drama and changed her profession from a college student into a fresh graduate working at a interior design firm.

Tong Xue's personality sounds much stronger in the novel than depicted in the drama. She has very dark humor and is very sarcastic in her narration. Unlike the drama where Tong Xue rarely responds to Mo Shaoqian's kisses, Tong Xue is much more assertive in dealing with Mo Shaoqian. She uses her sexuality to her advantage to please Mo Shaoqian and try to make him tired of her so he'll let her go.
First Meeting:

In the drama, Tong Xue and Mo Shaoqian first met at a cafe while Tong Xue was waitressing as a side job to earn some money for her tuition. In the novel, Tong Xue met Shaoqian at a school ceremonial event when she was 18 years old and a freshman in college. He was one of the important guests cutting the ribbon while she was picked as one of those attendants dressed in qibao holding the ribbon for him to cut. Tong Xue left a deep impression on Shaoqian when he accidentally cut her finger with the scissor. Even though she bled profusely, she did not utter a single sound. He then became interested in her and tried to pursue her. Exactly when or how did Shaoqian find out about Tong Xue's identity was not clearly stated in the novel.

Tong Xue's "First Time":

The drama wasn't very explicit about when Mo Shaoqian and Tong Xue's relationship became sexual. It was implied in the drama that something "happened" after Mo Shaoqian ordered Tong Xue to undress at the beach house, but if you watch one of the deleted scene, he actually just made a comment and left her untouched.

It was a total different story in the novel. After Tong Xue was lured to Mo Shaoqian's apartment under the pretense of a tutoring session, Mo Shaoqian pretty much said the same stuff to Tong Xue, as shown in the drama, regarding her uncle's embezzlement.  The biggest difference came from Tong Xue getting drugged from drinking some tea. When she woke up, she discovered herself in bed and the fact that she was no longer a virgin.

Some people probably wonder why did Mo Shaoqian even bother to drug Tong Xue? There were many ways to make Tong Xue submit to Mo Shaoqian's revenge plans. Why the drugging? Well...the author did mention on her microblog that Tong Xue was also Mo Shaoqian's first..uh hem...You get the point. He didn't want to embarrass himself and the situation to get too messy, so he decided to drug Tong Xue to make things easier for him. Clean and effective. He got the results he wanted without exerting much force.

Characterization of Mo Shaoqian:

The scriptwriter really toned down Mo Shaoqian's ruthlessness and made him more likeable. He committed some unforgivable acts against Tong Xue (e.g. drug rape, etc.). Most of the novel was dedicated to the good memories of Xiao Shan than the backstory of Mo Shaoqian.

We don't actually get to see a very sympathetic Mo Shaoqian until the very end. There are subtle clues in the beginning to imply that Mo Shaoqian is actually more complicated and kinder than described by Tong Xue. The hidden clues are sometimes too "subtle" for the readers to detect. I'm actually very happy the scriptwriter filled in the gaps about Mo Shaoqian's character.

I forgot to add that in the novel Professor Jiang revealed to Tong Xue that Mo Shaoqian was addicted to drugs for a period of time (Edit: I was mistaken into thinking that Shaoqian got addicted to drugs shortly after his father's death. The novel didn't actually specify when he got addicted. It just said his mother found out about his addiction 2 years ago and left China with him to get treatment for it). What kind of drugs? I'm assuming they were anti-depressants or painkillers. According to his mother, Shaoqian went through hell to get rid of his drug addiction. She gave him a puppy "Loveable" (dog breed in the novel was a Samoyed, not Poodle) to help him emotionally after the rehabilitation ordeal. 

There was an incident in the novel where Tong Xue hurt her back and was in seriously pain, so Mo Shaoqian gave her pain medication prescribed to cancer patients in their terminal stage. YIKES! She was extremely shocked that Mo Shaoqian had those pain medication in ready supply. Actually, she was just shocked in general that such a self-controlled and prideful man like Mo Shaoqian would have a drug addiction. Due to his past drug history, less potent drugs have no effect on him. When he hurt his feet in his mad rush to take Tong Xue to the hospital, the doctors gave him the most potent painkillers.

I also heard that Fei Wo Si Cun at first designated Xiao Shan as the male protagonist in the novel. However,  either she or the readers became too interested/invested in Mo Shaoqian, so she elevated him to become the #1 male lead over Xiao Shan. When you read the novel, Xiao Shan actually gets more "novel" time than Mo Shaoqian. Xiao Shan is a well-drawn out character while Shaoqian remains mysterious and "villainous"...until the last few chapters.

Other Characters:

In the main chapters, Mu Yongfei only shows up in one scene. She's mentioned a few times, but never actually "appears" as often as in the drama. Same goes for many of the other characters such as Mu Zhenfei and Shaoqian's father, Professor Jiang. Professor Jiang is actually a famous chemistry professor in the novel, not an architect. She also doesn't die and her role is very minimum. We do not even see a single interaction between mother and son. The novel also doesn't touch on Mo Shaoqian's business dealings and schemes. His sidekicks, He Jie and Chen Hou, are all new characters as well as his business rival/ally, Tao Jingtian. Yueying's boyfriend, Zhao Gaoxing, is a good-looking athlete, not a comedic character. They actually broke up at the end of the novel. Yueying then moves on to marry a rich man who "manages" her like his company.

Tong Xue's Pregnancy:  

The drama shows that Tong Xue wanted to keep her baby after dreaming about her, but had a miscarriage later. In the novel, Tong Xue did not want to keep the baby. I think she decided to get an abortion for several reasons:
  • Tong Xue was still a young college student. If her school found out about her pregnancy, and she's unmarried, she would get expelled.
  • Yongfei went to see Tong Xue and bragged about her "loving" marriage with Shaoqian, pleading to Tong Xue not to wreak her "happy" marriage. Tong Xue was still in the dark about Yongfei/Shaoqian's political marriage.
  • Tong Xue already broke up with Shaoqian at the time. The baby would be fatherless, and she probably couldn't afford to raise a baby even if she wanted to keep the baby.
  • She still hasn't forgiven Shaoqian for what he did to her, and I also think she found out the truth behind Shaoqian's revenge.
Mo Shaoqian and Mu Yongfei's Marriage:
Unlike the drama where the writer set up their marriage as just business contract and legally fake, their marriage in the novel is real and legal. It is still a marriage in name only though, since Shaoqian absolutely refuses to consummate his marriage with Yongfei. I personally feel Shaoqian's hatred for Yongfei runs deeper in the novel than depicted in the drama. They have almost NADA interaction in private during their 10 long years of marriage. Mu Yongfei said in her chapter that her only way to contact Shaoqian was through his personal secretary. She could even count the number of "alone" time they spent together with her fingers. And none seems to have ended amicably, except the last time they met to sign the divorce papers. She is really quite a pitiful character. At first, I thought Tong Xue was the most pitiful character in the novel. After reading Mo Shaoqian and Mu Yongfei's chapters, they are all equally pitiful.

Mo Shaoqian and Tong Xue's Ending:

It's a happy ending for both of them in the novel. The drama left the story open, but the author actually wrote an epilogue that detailed their happy married life together. Read this epilogue here.

Lin Zixian's Ending:

In the novel, Lin Zixian’s ending is actually much more tragic than in the drama. Despite their initial collaborative relationship, she had a nasty fallout with Mu Yongfei. In fury, Mu Yongfei publicized on the internet Lin Zixian’s past sexual promiscuity and the fact that she contracted STDs (possibly HIV/AIDS). To take revenge on Mu Yongfei for destroying her reputation/life, Lin Zixian splashed acid on Mu Yongfei’s face, severely disfiguring her, and then tried to commit suicide by drinking the acid. The acid completely burned her esophagus and she ended up in a coma. 


  1. thanks for the update....I keep waiting for the next post of Sealed with a kiss

  2. Thank you for taking the time and translate for us. Your hard work is really appreciated. If you are ever in Chino Hills, CA, let me know because I make great French Macarons.

  3. Thanx so much for the update. It makes me wanna read the novel even though my chinese is pretty weak. Thanx for keeping us updated. I can't wait for you to give us more snippets.

  4. I just love this story (Sealed With a Kiss). Thanks for your dedication and hard work in providing more informations about it. Hopefully someday, someone will translate the entire book in English.

  5. In the drama, in ep 1 . Did the drama ever mention or explain why TX was so afraid of the CAFE place.

  6. can you share with me the link to the script writer's blog? THANK YOU

  7. @evolecallow: I don't think it was ever fully address about why she was so afraid of the cafe. Supposedly, the fact that she met Mo Shaoqian at the cafe was a valid enough reason for her to be scared of it. She doesn't want to relive the nightmare by going back to where it all started.

    @Anonymous: The scriptwriter name is 郭宝贤。 Her Sina weibo is She was also one of the co-writers for the ATV series "My Date with a Vampire."

  8. Jolecole, thanks a million, your hard work is very much appreciated. I know that i"ll be asking to much can you recap the whole drama? I'm looking forward for your recap. Have a blessed day and God Bless.

    Amy S.

  9. Thank you so much for all of your hard work! As soon as I asked those questions I saw this page.
    So once again, thanks so much!

  10. Hi Jole Cole, can you translate the whole novel into English ?

    What about the third parts of ending ? Did the author write any things after the second part yet?

    By the way, thanks for your hard working and keep it update:)

  11. Hi JoleCole, can you answer this question. In the TV ep 15 when TX was sitting at her parent cemetery and SQ came, he then kiss her. Was it her imagination/dream or it did happen? And if you don't mind what did he said to her. Thank you.

  12. @"can you translate the whole novel into English?

    I don't think my solo effort can make such a gigantic project possible. Translation is really time-consuming and I'm afraid I don't have the time nor the energy to translate the whole novel into English. Sorry! However, I'm thinking about translating my two of my favorite chapters in the novel, written in Mo Shaoqian and Mu Yongfei's perspective. I started to translate Mo Shaoqian's chapter already, so it should be available soon.

    @What about the third parts of ending ? Did the author write any things after the second part yet?

    I read that part 2 is actually unfinished. So there may be more short anecdotes in the future. When is this future? I actually don't know It really depends on the author's mood. But whenever this future is, I'll definitely translate the rest of part 2.

  13. @evolecallow: Yes, that scene where Tong Xue sees Shaoqian at the cemetery was just her imagination/dream. At that point Tong Xue was debating if she return back to his side to save her uncle or be selfish and live a free. The "Shaoqian" in her dream just told her no matter what choice she made, she would still be forever haunted by her decision.

    If she chooses to ignore her uncle's plight, even though she can lead a clean, simple upright life again, her conscience will still pluck at her for being selfish. If she decides to become Shaoqian's mistress again, though she will continue to live in "darkness," at least her conscience will be free from guilt in not saving her uncle. So, there isn't simply a black and white world, grayness exists too. Before he kisses her, he says "I'm destined to go to hell, so I must find someone to accompany me... and you're the best candidate."

  14. Thanks Jolecole. I've been wanting to ask you this for a while now. From the beginning when it was announce they were going to adapt this novel to drama. Were you at first disappointed Hawick was chosen to be Shaoqian? cause i remember you wrote something about it. Now, can you imagine anyone else playing Shaoqian other than Hawick? I like to hear your thoughts.

  15. First of all, thanks Jolecole for your recaps and translation work (especially the translation work, I really love it!). Secondly, yea, like the person above me, I'm also wondering your thoughts on Hawick's portrayal of Mo Shaoqian.

  16. @evolecallaw:
    @"I'm also wondering your thoughts on Hawick's portrayal of Mo Shaoqian"

    Yes, I was not very happy when they first cast Hawick as Mo Shaoqian. He was nowhere near the look I had in mind for that character. I felt Hawick was too fragile looking to carry on the alpha-male/ruthless type. Ideally, I was hoping for a Chinese version of Christian Bale (which I know does not exist!), handsome but with a streak of delicious wickedness. But after watching Hawick's portrayal, he managed to convince me with his acting ability. Hmm...this may be an interesting topic to explore for my next posting. HAHAHA