Saturday, March 2, 2013

Tribute to Varioius versions of Qiao Feng and A'zhu in Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils

After digging into Wallace Chung's latest adaptation of Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils, I became nostalgic of the older versions. Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils is filled with a multitude of colorful characters and many story arcs. The story is a bit too complicated to summarize in a few words for those who aren't familiar with this classic Louis Cha's wuxia novel (Louis Cha is also known as Jin Yong 金庸). Like many others, I inadvertently learned a lot of my Song Dynasty foreign relations history from watching Louis Cha's wuxia dramas. LOL.

Basically, the entire story consist of several separate yet intertwining story lines set during the Northern Song Dynasty. It revolves around three male characters: Qiao Feng (Beggar Sect Chief), Duan  Yu (Prince of Daili), and Xu Zhu (Shaolin monk). I like to watch Qiao Feng and Xu Zhu's story arcs but don't give a damn about Duan Yu. If you haven't learned from my previous post, the brief tragic love story between Qiao Feng and A'zhu is one of my ultimate favorite romance in Chinese TV cinema. To this date, I already watched a  three different adaptations and liked every single one of them. Hopefully, the newest Wallace Chung's version won't disappoint me.

If I have to name a favorite, I probably have the strongest feelings for the 2003 version produced by famed mainland Chinese director Zhang Jizhong. Ironically, the 2003 adaptation isn't even the first version I watched. I actually saw the 1982 TVB version as a young kid and remember loving it. The older TVB versions were good too, but the 2003 version just managed to strike a core and managed to bring tears to my eyes. Thus, it became my personal favorite.

Below summarizes Qiao Feng/A'zhu storyline. Please skip if you know the story already. 

Summary of Qiao Feng Character (Credit to wiki)
Qiao Feng is the charismatic chief of the Beggars' Sect, who possesses strong leadership qualities and exceptional prowess in martial arts. He falls from grace after he is revealed to be a Khitan, and after he is wrongly accused of murdering several fellow martial artists to conceal his identity. He becomes an outcast and the prime enemy of the Han Chinese wulin (martial artists' community). He is forced to sever ties with them and engages them in a one-man bloody battle in which he kills many, including some old friends and acquaintances.

Qiao Feng leaves to verify the claims that he is a Khitan and investigate the mysterious murders. He is accompanied by A'zhu, who is in love with him and stands by him. After a long journey in disguise, he finally concludes that he is indeed a Khitan and he assumes his ancestral name "Xiao Feng". Tragically, he makes a major blunder after being tricked into believing that Duan Zhengchun (A'zhu's father) is responsible for his parents' death. He kills A'zhu by mistake, who is in disguise to defend her father.

Xiao Feng regrets and has since left Song territory with A'zi, A'zhu's younger sister, whom he had promised to take care of. A'zi has a strong crush on him, but Xiao Feng does not like her at all for her mischievousness and sadism. Xiao Feng wanders into Liao territory, where he becomes a powerful noble after forging a strong friendship with the ruler, Yelü Hongji. When Yelü Hongji decides to invade Song, Xiao Feng attempts to dissuade him as he still values his past relations with the Han Chinese. Ultimately, Xiao Feng commits suicide to prevent war between Song and Liao after taking Yelü Hongji hostage and making him swear that he will never invade Song for as long as he lives.

Summary of A'zhu character (Credit to wiki)
A'zhu is the elder illegitimate daughter of Duan Zhengchun, Prince of Daili, and one of his mistresses. She is initially a servant of the Murong family. She meets her half-brother, Duan Yu and helps him escape from Jiumozhi. Being a master in the art of disguise, she once disguised Duan Yu and herself as Murong Fu (her young master) and Xiao Feng respectively, as part of a plan to save some members of the Beggars' Sect who were captured by Western Xia soldiers. She later disguises herself as a monk and infiltrates Shaolin in an attempt to steal some martial arts manuals for Murong Fu. Xiao Feng witnesses the act, and forces her to hide with him behind a giant statue. They are eventually discovered, and in an ensuing fight, she is seriously injured by the abbot Xuanci. Xiao Feng takes her and escapes, and when inspecting her wounds, finds out that she is actually a woman. He uses his inner energy to preserve her life and cares for her while she is wounded.

During this time, they grow closer and A'zhu falls in love with him. Xiao Feng looks for the physician Xue Muhua, who is the only person capable of curing her internal wounds. Although Xue is initially unwilling to save her, he eventually agrees to and Xiao Feng departs. After her wounds are healed, A'zhu waits for Xiao Feng five days and five nights on the road and tells him her wish to accompany him forever. Xiao Feng is touched by her dedication and reciprocates her feelings for him. Although they experience a calm and peaceful life in the wilderness while travelling, Xiao is unable to let go of his desire to find out who the person who killed his parents was. They return to Song territory, and A'zhu volunteers to help Xiao trick Kang Min into revealing who "Leading Big Brother" is. However, Kang Min quickly sees through the disguise and gives misleading information that the "Leading Big Brother" is Duan Zhengchun. Xiao Feng challenges Duan Zhengchun to a duel. Before the duel, A'zhu finds out that she is actually Duan Zhengchun's daughter, along with her long-lost sister A'zi. She decides to disguise herself as Duan Zhengchun to prevent a conflict between her lover and father and is killed by Xiao Feng by mistake. Before her death, she requests that Xiao Feng promise to take care of her younger sister A'zi.

2003 Hu Jun and Liu Tao Version
Hu Jun isn't your typical handsome male lead most girls would seek in tv dramas. He's pretty average looking but I love his rugged and stoic heroism that he brings to the character of Qiao Feng. Liu Tao as A'zhu was just absolutely stunning. She gave A'zhu a very sweet and gentle vibe and you just couldn't help yourself and fall in love with her.

Qiao Feng/A'zhu MV - Tian Xian Zi

Liu Tao's gorgeous smile just melts my heart


 1997 Felix Wong and Jay Lau Version

When I first watched this version, I did not expect Felix Wong to convincingly portray Qiao Feng. He pleasantly proved me wrong and I was completely absorbed into his story. Jay Lau was also quite good as A'zhu. She wasn't as pretty as Liu Tao, but definitely not wooden or forceful in her acting. In terms of writing and development, I think this version a little extra details to the relationship of Qiao Feng and A'zhu.

Official Main Theme Song


1982 Bryan Leung and Wong Hang-sau
Despite being produced before I was even born, I still have very fond memories watching this version as a child with my sister. At the time, Qiao Feng's storyline did not catch my attention. I was more drawn to Duan Yu's story. Ironically, as I grew up older, I started to hate Duan Yu and my fondness for Qiao Feng increased. I don't remember much details about this version other than the fact that one of A'zhu's half sister, not the full-sister A'zi, looked exactly like her.

Official Theme Song


2013 Wallace Chung and Jia Qing
This version obviously hasn't been released yet, but after seeing Jia Qing in her role play, I decided to give this adaptation a chance. I was actually quite repelled by this particular remake due to the hideous costumes and the bad record of the production company. However, the official teaser shows some promise and I'm always open to new adaptation. I love the fact that the production team decided to expand Jia Qing's screen time by having her played both A'zhu and A'zi. I think the fact that both sisters look alike will further expand the storyline. In older versions, I always felt Qiao Feng/A'zhu's story ended too abrubtly and too short for my liking. Even though we get to see how much Qiao Feng loves A'zhu through his treatment of A'zi, I still want more screen presence of A'zhu.
Qiao Feng in his official Kitan costumes
 Official 2-Minute Teaser 


Is anyone a Qiao Feng and A'zhu fan?

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