- Information: China • TV Drama • 2011 • 35 episodes
- Original Title: 步步驚心
- Starring: Cecilia Liu, Nicky Wu, Kevin Cheng, Damian Lau, Annie Liu, Yuan Hong, Lin Gengxin, Ye Zuxin
- My Rating:
In the past, I’ve been asked “What is your favorite drama?” I’ve enjoyed many dramas but very few have made it to my list of top contenders. But this one comes very very close. Bu Bu Jing Xin, roughly translated as Startling by Each Step, or also known as Scarlet Heart (not sure where that English name came from though) is a mainland Chinese drama adapted from a very popular novel written by renowned author, Tong Hua. While I haven’t read the novel, I was still very hyped up when they first announced this adaptation because the story sounded really interesting. Read on for my Chinese drama review for Bu Bu Jing Xin and see why I enjoyed it.
Zhang Xiao, a young woman from the 21st century, almost gets killed after getting hit by a car and electrocuted on a promotional billboard. Her soul gets sent back in time to the Qing Dynasty of China and she becomes Maertai Ruo Xi, the daughter of a Manchurian general. She meets her new sister, Ruo Lan, who is the concubine of the eighth prince, Yinsi, son of the Emperor Kang Xi. While trying to find a way back to the modern world, Ruo Xi falls in love with the fourth prince, Yinzhen, and becomes involved in a deadly power struggle between brothers for the royal throne.
- Memorable characters and relationships
- Interesting and engaging plot
- Beautiful cinematography and musical score
- Horrible CG, thankfully used sparingly
- May bore the general male audience
The story begins innocently enough as Zhang Xiao is thrown into the Qing Dynasty era after a car accident. She investigates what happened to her and how she can return to her world. While she does so, she starts acclimating herself with her new surroundings. In the process, she meets 8th Prince. And then 4th Prince. As well as many other princes! And they all develop some type of interest in her. Okay, so this harem part of the story is not really my cup of tea but once this foundation of relationships is laid and you get past this setting and development, that’s when the real drama begins.
Bu Bu Jing Xin appeals to me with its many characters and intricate relationships. I like seeing how they react and grow as they encounter the twists and turns in their lives. It’s exactly because of these character developments that make you care for them as the series progresses. Not to mention that the main character is from modern times and my wondering what would happen to her kept me watching. Honestly, she is my favorite character due to the tremendous hardships put on her; you can really compare her character in the beginning and the end and see how mature she has gotten.
The acting really shines in this drama. Cecilia Liu instantly captured my attention with her innocent and carefree portrayal of young Ruo Xi and made my heart wrench as older Ruo Xi. All the cast members delivered stellar performances. Worthy of note is Kevin Cheng, a Hong Kong actor once with TVB. I watched his dramas before but he was always cast in the “meh” role, nothing really that outstanding but not bad either. When I watched him in Bu Bu Jing Xin, I was simply blown away! We see his good side, his ruthless side, as well as his calculating side in this drama. There was so much emotion in his expressions, especially in this one scene later in the series where he had to make a really tough decision. Props to the actor and also props to the director for bringing out the potential in his cast.
The production is also appealing with its gorgeous costumes and sets. The costumes look very refined and elegant without being too gaudy and colorful. And let’s not forget the beautiful cinematography. The director really has an eye for beauty and I really appreciate that. The scene with falling snow as Ruo Xi reflected was mesmerizing. Not to mention, the use of falling leaves as a marker for time slowly passing by was somewhat poetic and elegant. There were many uses of flowers throughout the series from floral embroidery on clothing to flowered gardens and floral-patterned china. And the tribal dance performance scene was very beautifully done without being too “old-fashioned.” It’s too bad that several scenes are partly ruined with bad computer-generated graphics. It’s understandable why they would use that due to a lack of actual filming locations but the CG stood out so much and looked very fake, ruining the scenes in my opinion. Thankfully, there weren’t that many scenes so the damage was at least kept to a minimum.
And finally, the music. From the touching opening theme song to the memorable background music as well as the ending theme song, everything was just so well put together and it all fits into this one theme that is Bu Bu Jing Xin. If it weren’t for the CG, this series would’ve been 100% perfect!
Despite the rather large cast of characters and a complicated plot, the staff really knows where to focus the story and how to unravel the plot. While this is one of my top dramas, it may tend to bore a lot of the male viewers with its melodramatic scenes. This is not a wuxia drama so don’t expect action at all. But if you like characterization and Chinese history and don’t mind some romantic antics thrown into the mix, try Bu Bu Jing Xin and let it tug at your heart strings.
Popularity: As much as the novel was popular, the drama also exploded in popularity across Asia. It spawned a much-hyped sequel Bu Bu Jing Qing with an original screenplay not written by Tong Hua (not recommended in my opinion) as well as a movie remake titled New Bu Bu Jing Xin: Time to Love. It was also picked up for a 2016 Korean adaptation,
tentatively titled Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo, set in Korea’s Goryeo era. The Korean drama will start simultaneous broadcast in several Asian countries including Hong Kong, China, Japan, and more starting August 29, 2016. Read my first impression of Scarlet Heart Ryeo!
More Information: DramaWiki
This article is purely of my own thoughts and opinions. Your opinions may differ. Any offense caused by my rants and ramblings is unintentional. Thank you for understanding.