Saturday, May 12, 2012

14-Minute Trailer of Su Dongpo + Personal Rant on a Famous Concubine

When I first watched this trailer, I fell in love with the scene where Su Dongpo dreamt about his first wife, Wang Fu, and his subsequent recitation of the famous "Jiang Cheng Zi" poem which he composed in her memory (previously mentioned in an earlier post here). I just love the instrumental piece that accompanies the poem recitation scene. The atmosphere, music, vibe, and feel of the entire scene is like it ought to be.

Su Shi lived in a time period when his country was facing some serious invasion threats from all sides of its borders. The Song Dynasty was military weak and a few years after Su Shi's death, it lost half of its territory to the invading Jurchens (prototype Manchurians). So if you're not too interested in the turbulent political backdrop of this time period and the whole political factionalism/infighting that this trailer mostly emphasizes on, skip to minute 6:17 and watch this scene with the nice traditional Chinese music.


Even though Wang Fu seems to play a very poignant role in this series (albeit her limited screen time), I'm more interested in watching how Su Shi's relationship with his handmaid/concubine, Wang Zhaoyun, unfolds in this drama adaptation. Su Shi described her as fiercely loyal with a strong sense of justice. But I'm not expecting too much Wang Zhaoyun in this series since the main plot focuses on the larger picture of Su Shi's political career and not a story about his romantic life.

If you read my previous post on Su Dongpo, you have probably already detected my unabashed bias for Wang Zhaoyun. :P Yes, I do like her a lot! She served Su Shi for 23 years and was able to understand him very well despite their age difference and huge gap in social standing. Some may wonder if Su Shi adored Wang Zhaoyun so much, why didn't he repay her devotion by elevating her to wife status and improve her social standing? Well...I read that according to Song Dynasty's marital laws, a man was forbidden to "marry"  a lowly concubine and elevate her to the status of wife. Such an act was seen as disgraceful and punishable by law.

Wang Zhaoyun was like Su Shi's soulmate, but in a unromantic way. Their relationship is founded upon mutual understanding, loyalty, and devotion than romantic love. At least that is how I interpreted their relationship. A famous little anecdote about Wang Zhaoyun managed to survive till this day.

One day after coming home from a state meeting, Su Shi was strolling around his backyard.  He suddenly pointed to his stomach and asked his maid servants, "Do you know what my belly is full of?" Someone answered "essays" and another answered "knowledge." Only Wang Zhaoyun smiled and replied, "Sir, your belly is full of  bu he shi yi." Su Shi then roared with laughter. He praised, "The person who knows me best is only Zhaoyun"

bu he shi yi 不合时宜  is a Chinese proverb which literally means inopportune or out of keeping with times. It is often used to describe behavior deemed as inappropriate for the situation at hand or out of align with the current era. Su Shi was often in troubles for his political honesty. Even though he excelled in every government post he was assigned, somehow Su Shi always came into odds with the dominant political fraction at the time. When the reformists were in power, Su Shi saw the hidden flaws and abuses in the reform system and criticized them. The reformists then labeled Su Shi as a conservative and their enemy. But when the conservatives came into power, he couldn't turn a blind eyes to their abolishment of even the good reforms and their political persecution of the reformists. He tried to intervene and the conservatives turned against him. In sum, he was just a political moderate who wanted to reform the government in a practical manner and do what he saw best for his people and his country. Hence, Wang Zhaoyun's use of bu he shi yi nails the character flaw that contributed to Su Shi's turbulent political troubles.
Wang Xiaochen plays Wang Zhaoyun
Wang Zhaoyun and the Su's family old nanny
Wang Xiaochen has a brilliant smile. It'll be interesting to see how she plays the rather demure, but fiercely loyal Wang Zhaoyun
Wang Zhaoyun is played by a young actress named Wang Xiaochen (王晓晨). If some of you feel she looks familiar, you may have seen her in Hu Ge and Ariel Lin's version of Legend of the Condor Heroes produced by Tang Ren in 2006. She briefly guest star as Huang Rong's mother in that drama. I thought she was such a cute girl when I first saw her. I'm really looking forward to her portrayal of Wang Zhaoyun.

Wang Xiaochen in 2006 Legend of the Condor Heroes


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