Sunday, August 19, 2012

Tribute to Classic Chinese/Taiwanese Romantic TV Series by Qiong Yao

Before the advent of popular internet novels or even romantic "idol" dramas in general, Chinese television was once dominated by romantic series created by Qiong Yao.  She is a famous Taiwanese romantic novelist who adapted many of her novels into popular TV series and movies for decades. Her first movie screenplay brought major success in 1960s. She is also renown for hand picking countless beautiful women and bringing these aspiring actresses to super stardom. They include Bridgette Lin, Vicki Zhao, Ruby Lin, Fan Bingbing, Jiang Qinqin (Shui Ling), Chen Hong, Chen Derong, Qin Lan, Leanne Liu Xuehua and etc.These women were completely unknown to the general audience before filming Qiong Yao's TV series/movies. I don't think I know of any prominent writer who has as much monopoly or "power' over her TV series as Qiong Yao.

Unfortunately, in recent years Qiong Yao has completely deteriorated in her ability to make a memorably good "series (forget about the nightmarish remake of the Huan Zhu Ge Ge). Yet Qiong Yao still deserves major credit for all the good things she did for Chinese television. Some of her TV series now may seem overly cheesy with soapy dialogue and melodramatic, but I feel they still hold some "old magic" that many new Chinese series fail to achieve in the production.

The name "Qiong Yao" is synonymous to a specific romance genre in Chinese entertainment, which is a rough equivalent to Louis Cha in the wuxia world (Qiong Yao is actually a distant relative of Louis Cha). Her love stories are distinguished by a certain type of idyllic romance. Many of her TV series are famous for being tearjerkers, "goose-bump-raising" dialogues, characters that cried every 10 minute, and love-crazed heroes.

Besides Hong Kong wuxia series produced by TVB, I grew up watching these melodramatic tearjerking series with my mom and aunts. I didn't understand much Mandarin at that time, but I was drawn to the beautiful actresses, bright colors, ear-catching music, and idyllic romance. Despite all the cheesiness, corniness, idealistically annoying characters, and exaggerated acting, the main themes songs in these TV series still hold a very special place in my heart. It's very hard nowadays to find memorable theme songs that I can hum the tune.

I rarely shed tears for dramas anymore (note: I felt sad, but did not get teary for Bu Bu Jing Xin).  My eyes once poured buckets of tears when I watched these classic Qiong Yao series as a kid. Just by listening to the main themes songs, I can get emotionally stirred up again. T_T

Anyway, I hope those who aren't familiar with Qiong Yao will enjoy these lovely theme songs I posted and those who grew up with her dramas can enjoy this little recap and bring back good chilhood memories!

NOTE:  I did not write these synopses (except for one or two), but only compiled them from various sources and made some minor edits.

Warning: Since Qiong Yao's series are rather dated, some style of acting may not to your liking or taste. I defined Level of Engagingness by how much I could sit through the whole thing without the urge to fast-forward.


PLEASE LET ME KNOW IF YOU'RE FAMILIAR WITH ANY OF THESE SERIES!

Plum Blossom Branding 梅花三弄:梅花烙 (Plum Blossom Twist Trilogy Part 1)
Year: 1993
Starring: Steven Ma, Vivian Chen Derong
 Level of Engagingness: 8/10
Would I watch this again? Yes, this series is the mother of all switcheroo dramas for me. Despite being very engaged by the drama, I still hate Steven Ma's acting. His "lion-roar" annoyed me!
Key Themes: switcheroo, forbidden love, love that transcend class, parental love, love triangle
Synopsis:
Set in the Qing Dynasty,   Manchu prince's wife, titled Fu Jin, was heavily pregnant with her 4th child. She had several daughters, but no sons. When her husband took a beautiful Uyghur dancer as a concubine, she felt threatened. Unfortunately, Fu Jin gave birth to another daughter. Deeply saddened, Fu Jin reluctantly agreed to a plan her sister had devised. The daughter was switched with a son from a poor family. Fu Jin tearfully parted with her daughter and branded the baby's shoulder with an indelible plum blossom flower from her hairpin. Drifting on a river, the abandoned baby was found by a childless couple working as traveling singers. She was named Yinshuang. Meanwhile, the son, Haozhen, grew up in a royal household, constantly doted on by his "father", the Manchu prince. As fated by destiny, Haozhen and Qinshuang meet and fall in love...

Main Theme Song


Ghost Husband 梅花三弄:鬼丈夫 (Plum Blossom Twist Trilogy Part 2)
Year: 1993
Starring: Steven Ma and Chen Derong
Would I watch this again? Yes, only the beginning before the fire. 
Level of Engagingness: 7/10
Key Themes: family feud, forbidden love, tragedy, suicide attempts
Synopsis:
While traveling, a young wife goes into labor under a blossomed plum tree and gives birth to a girl with the help of the passing Ke family. The baby girl has a flower shaped birthmark on her left arm and is named Yuan Le Mei. The two families make a pact that Le Mei would be betrothed to Ke Qi Xuan, the younger son of the Ke family. They then travel together but are stopped by robbers. Unfortunately, while during a physical struggle with the robbers, Ke Qi Xuan's father accidentally stabs Le Mei’'s father. Because of this incident, there is hatred between the two families.
About 20 years later, Le Mei grows up to be a very beautiful young girl. Her cousin, Hong Da is very much in love with her. One day, when they sneak out from the house to watch a season’ celebration in a village, Le Mei meets Qi Xuan  who is now a very handsome young man. Qi Xuan is immediately captivated by Le Mei’'s beauty and gentleness...

Just when Qi Xuan and Le Me are able to resolved their family objections to their union, tragedy strikes. Qi Xuan is severely disfigured in a fire and becomes a cripple who wears a mask to hide his scarred face. He forces his family to announce to the world that he is dead...(partial credit to Scarlett's Angel Yue Ling Homepage)

Main Theme

Between the Water and Cloud 梅花三弄:水云间 (Plum Blossom Twist Trilogy Part 3)
Year: 1993
Starring: Steven Ma, Vivian Chen Derong, Chen Hong
Would I watch this again? No, hate the story with a passion
Level of Engagingness: 3
Memorability of Main Theme Song: 8/10
Synopsis:
Set in the Republican era, it traces the tumultuous love triangle between a young conventional woman from a wealthy family, a poor aspiring artist, and a young liberal divorcee. This series is the final installment in the Plum Blossom Twist Trilogy.






Main Theme Song:


Green Grass by the River 青青河边草
Year: 1992
Starring: Yue Ling, Steven Ma, Jin Ling
Memorability of Main Theme Song: 9/10 
Would I watch this again? Maybe, for the little child actress.
Level of Engagingness: 5/10
Synopsis:
Xiao Cao ("Little Grass) and Qing Qing ("Green") are neighbors and have known each other for more than 10 years.  Every year, Xiao Cao's grandpa, Da Hai comes to visit her.  Unfortunately, months pass and her grandpa has yet to come.  Around the same time, Qing Qing is forced to marry a old man 40 years older than her and has more than enough wives to handle. On the day of the wedding, Qing Qing runs away and took Xiao Cao along to Yangzhou hoping to meet up with Xiao Cao's grandpa.  While trying to escape, they jump into a buggy and meet He Shi Wei, who was also running away from home to defy his parent's wishes for an arranged marriage with a girl whom he never met. The three of them then begin their journey and adventures to Yangzhou...(partial credit to Scarlett's Angel Yue Ling Homepage)

Qing Qing, Xiao Cao, and He Shi Wei
Main Theme Song:  

Awaiting Husband Cliff (望夫崖 Wang Fu Ya)
Year: 1991
Starring: Yu Xiaofan and
Level of Engagingness: 7
Memorability of Theme Song: 8/10
Would I watch this again? Maybe, for the nice scenery in Daili,  Yunan 
Tagline:
"Awaiting her lover all day but in vain,
A lone and bitter lovesick stone she became,
For millenia she has there lain,
Seeming to have just began and all the same."


Theme Song:


Princess Xinyue (Eternal Love Series Part 1)
Year: 1994
Level of Engagingness: 7/10
Would I watch this again? Maybe 
Memorability of Theme Song: 9/10
Key themes: Morality, family bickering, third-party relationship, home-wreaker, friendship
Starring: Yue Ling  and Roy Liu Dekai
Synopsis:
Xin Yue is the beloved daughter of a Manchu royalty.  She was urged to flee with her younger brother after her father's protecturate was invaded by rebels.  Accompanied by her two loyal servants, she and her brother escaped but nearly got captured by the rebels. During her flight, she fell off a sand-cliff and General Nu Da Hai who happens to pass by saved her life.  Being the offsprings of a loyal warrior who died for the Manchu nation, both Xin Yue and her brother was adopted as the Empress Dowager's godchildren. General Nu then offered them shelter at his home. Xin Yue was welcomed and loved by everyone especially Yan Ji, General Nu's wife.  His son, Ji Yuan falls instantly for Xin Yue, and daughter, Luo Ling, treats her like a sister. But unfortunately Xin Yue fell in love with General Nu when her little brother got sick and both of them took care of him.  Their love became unleashed when they spent days and nights together for nearly two months... (credit spnctv forum review)

 Main Theme Song:


Yan Suo Chong Lou (Eternal Love Series Part 2)
Year: 1994
Starring: Leanne Liu Xue Hua and Kenny Bee Chung,Wang Yan
Memorability of Theme Song: 7
Would I watch this again? Maybe 
Key Themes: Morality, widowhood, marriage, family, forbidden love
Synopsis:
Set in the early Republican Era (1920s) in a small town in Anhui Province called White Sand, where it was famed for its Chastity Archway of Widowhood. The Chastity Archway of Widowhood was honored to women who remained staunchly faithful to their dead husband and devoted their remaining life in serving the family.

The spoiled son of the Ceng clan, a prominent family in White Sand Town, is married to Xia Meng Han, a young woman from a distinguished family. Unfortunately, their marriage proves to be unhappy as the son wastes away his time in entertainment, drinking, and womanizing. One day he gets himself in a brawl and gets killed. The adopted son, Yu Hang, sees these tragedies unfold before his eyes and sympathizes greatly with Meng Han. His sympathy eventually grows into love...


Main Theme Song:


Mute Wife (Six Dreams Series)  
Year: 1990
Starring: Leanne Liu Xue Hua
Would I watch this again? No, because it's too depressing!
Level of Engagingness: 7/10
Memorability of Main Theme Song: 7/10
Key themes: marriage, disability, family disorder, third-party relationship
Starring: Leanne Liu Xue Hua and Lin Rui Yang
Synopsis:
A poignant love story, set in the 1920s, between a traditional deaf mute woman and an educated man with modern ideas. Jing Yan and Yi Yi, a deaf and mute young woman, are betrothed to each other before they were born, by their fathers who are sworn brothers. Jing Yan grows up being unhappy about the engagement. He voices out his disagreement with the old traditional custom where parents arrange their children's marriages, and denounces marriages not based on love. He wants to call off the engagement, but his father would hear nothing of it because as a man of prestige he cannot and will not go back on his words once it's given. Reluctantly, Jing Yan married Yi Yi due to pressure from his father and also out of filial piety towards his parents. After the wedding, Jing Yan is unable to accept Yi Yi as his wife and treats her coldly and keeps his distant from her. Yi Yi is devastated .She has been trained from young, by her mother ,to be a good and capable wife to Jing Yan, so as to be worthy of him. Jing Yan's attitude dashes her hope and silently breaks her heart. However, as time passes, Jing Yan begins to see Yi Yi's virtue, kindheartedness, intelligence and beauty. Soon he falls for her and grows to love her with his utmost passion. Their loving and perfect relationship, however, crumbles when tragedy strikes...(credit to MacysRosalind from YouTube)

Main Theme Song:
 

Dream Link
Year: 1996
Starring: Vivian Chen Derong, Xiao Chang, Roy Liu Dekai
Level of Engagingness: 7/10
Would I watch this again? Yes, parts.
Memorability of Theme Song: 6
Synopsis:
Zi Ling is a dreamer who has always been overshadowed by her perfect older sister Lu Ping. For a long time, she's secretly been in love with Chu Lian, who also happens to be Lu Ping's boyfriend. Lu Ping is busy with her own dream of becoming a successful professional dancer and has little time for Chu Lian. Conflict arises when Chu Lian realizes that the one he truly loves is Zi Ling. An unfortunate accident forces a guilt-ridden Chu Lian to enter an unhappy marriage with Lu Ping, but he is unable to forget Zi Ling. Fei Yun Fan is a mysterious, wealthy, and much older man who loves Zi Ling with all his heart. Hoping to move on with her life, Zi Ling gradually reciprocates Fei Yun Fan's affection. (credit to Lady Zhuge)

Main Theme Song:


Xue Ke
Year: 1990
Starring: Leanne Liu Xue Hua and Steven Ma
Level of Engagingness: 6/10
Would I watch this again? No, not my cup of tea. 
Memorability of Theme Song: 8
Synopsis:
Before Xue Ke was married into a rich family, she lost her virginity to her lover and gave birth to a daughter.  Her family tried to keep everything a secret from their in-laws by sending her lover and baby away and concealing her virginity.  On the wedding day, due to guilt, Xue Ke disclosed the truth with her new husband.  It was from then on that her in-laws treated her terribly and her husband end up marrying another woman.
Years passed and her lover is still searching for Xue Ke and their daughter.  Unbeknown to Xue Ke, her daughter was brought into her husband’s household as a maid.  With all the years of being the second unworthy wife, her husband began to create feelings for her and tried to undue all the years of torment.  Soon Xue Ke has to decide who she want to be with: her lover and daughter or her current husband. (credit)


Main Theme Song


Romance in the Rain
Year: 2001
Starring: Vicki Zhao, Ruby Lin, Leo Kui, Alec Su
Level of Engagingness: 6
Would I watch this again? No
Memorability of Theme Song: 4
Synopsis:
Based her 1964 novel Yan Yu Meng Meng, this Qiong Yao's series follows the Lu family in 1930's Shanghai. Lu Zhenhua has 9 wives who all resembled his first love in some way. His 8th wife, Wen Pei, has a daughter named Yiping. His 9th wife, Xue Qin, has four children. Xue Qin, a ruthless and greedy woman, finds every way to make Wen Pei’ and Yiping’'s life miserable. Wen Pei and Yiping are eventually kicked out of the house. However, they still depend on the monthly allowance that Lu Zhenhua gives them. Being a strong-willed girl, Yiping angers her father one time and he beats her. She vows to never take his money again. This leads her to find job as a singer in a Shanghai Club. During this time, both Yiping and Xue Qin's eldest daughter, Ruping, meet He Shuhuan and Du Fei, two young aspiring reporters. Ruping falls for He Shuhuan, but he only has eyes for Yiping. To spite her half-sister's family and father, Yiping accepts Shuhuan's love.(credit)

Du Fei (Alec Su), Ruping (Ruby Lin), Yiping (Vicky Zhao), He Shuhuan (Leo Ku)
Main Theme Song:
 

Princess Returning Pearl or Huan Zhu Ge Ge
Year: 1998
Starring: Vicki Zhao, Ruby Lin, Zhou Jie, Alec Su, Chen Zhipeng
Would I watch this again? HECK YES!
Level of Engagingness: 10
Memorability of Theme Song: 7
Synopsis:
Xiao Yan Zi meets Xia Zi Wei, a poor girl who marched a long way to find her father, the Emperor, but no one would take her seriously. Xiao Yan Zi decides to sneak into the mountain where the Emperor hunts, but Zi Wei could not handle the tiring mountain climb. She asks Xiao Yan Zi to tell the Emperor her story. On her way, Xiao Yan Zi gets shot by an arrow and could not fully explain her story, making the Emperor mistaking her for his illegitimate daughter. A a long and painful story of getting everyone to their proper roles begins, but many dangers lies near – the death sentence if anyone lies to the emperor, and an evil Empress who is waiting to catch Xiao Yan Zi in the act. Added on top, Xiao Yan Zi's lack of proper manners and knowledge of books has driven her closer to jeopardy. (credit Dramawiki)

Theme Song:


Tears in Heaven
Year: 1998
Starring: Jiang Qin Qin (Shui Ling), Athena Chu, Zhu Enjun, Tou Chung Hua, Vincent Jiao En Jun
Level of Engagingness: 7
Would I watch this again? No, not my cup of tea.
Memorability of Theme Song: 6
Key Themes: Family, Sister Bond, Marriage, Revenge
Synopsis:
A pair of tragedy-stricken sisters are left to raise their three siblings after their father died in a fire which engulfed their home. Their sworn enemy and the one responsible for their suffering is a sadistic nobleman, Zhan Yun Xiang, suffering from a bad case of sibling rivalry. The sisters find work as singers in what would be a modern-day bar/casino. A conflict develops when eldest sister unknowingly falls in love with Yunxiang's older brother who had just returned home from a long journey. (credit KHN Spnct TV forum)
Main Theme Song

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