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Written by Jules




"Contrary to what majority thinks about her (Sonija Kwok), I didn't think she was that bad when she first began acting..."






SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS!






Released

2003



Cast

Steven Ma- Chow Sai Hin

Charmaine Sheh- Princess Cheung Ping

Moses Chan-Ming Dynasty's last Emperor

Maggie Siu- Empress/Chow Yuk Fung

Michael Tong- Cho Sing Hing

Sonija Kwok- Chiu Yan

Jay Lau- Tin Fei

Marco Ngai- Ng Sam Kwai

Anne Heung- Chan Yuen Yuen

Ellesmere Choi

Annie Man- Lee Yuk Han



Story

A mega TVB grand production which yielded disappointment in ratings wise, for I think TVB had to shorten the length of the HK version. Anyways, basically, we get to see the Ming Dynasty coming to its end and the struggle of its last Emperor trying to save it. Tragic, emotional, you name it.



Plot

So long, so here are the highlights.



Cheung Ping (little Charmaine) and Sai Hin (little Steven) have known each other since they were kids. The two are inseparable and to me a little scary and weird for the two express emotions to each other like they're 20/30. Anyways, the two split up because at this time the Empress (Maggie Siu) is being wrongfully accused of killing Tin Fei's baby (Jay Lau). She is banished from the palace to live with the commoners. Well, she and her two daughters Cheung Ping and Chiu Yan (little Sonija).



Years pass and everyone is grown up, country is still in turmoil, blah blah blah, Maggie and her girls are living as ordinary people with different names. They would go from job to job just to have ends meet.



Because of fate, Cheung Ping and Sai Hin reunite at a cannon factory owned by Sing Hing's (Michael Tong) dad. What's Sai Hin doing there? He's the cannon designer employed by Sing Hing's dad. As for Cheung Ping now using another name, Fai lei so Sai Hin couldn't recognize her as indeed his childhood love, is also there because she needs to work for money. Anyways, Sai Hin figures out that Fai Lei is indeed Cheung Ping, but there are just some obstacles. Sing Hing also likes Cheung Ping and at this time our Sai Hin is engaged t Yuk Han (Annie Man). So the poor love birds have feelings for each other but can only bury them.



Making the long story short, the Empress returns to the palace with her girls but because of corruption and Tin Fei they were horribly treated by everyone even by the Emperor himself. However, because of both the Empress and Cheung Ping's sweet darling nature they won over the trust and love of the Emperor again.



So, I'm going to skip a bunch and get to the part of Sai Hin actually becoming the Princess Consort and is ordered to fight off the will be Chings. However, with all his efforts, the Emperor couldn't save his kingdom from falling and in the end, the Ming Dynasty was gone.



How do Marco Ngai and Anne Heung fit into this??

He's Ng Sam Kwai, the Chinese Arnold Benedict who showed up at like ep. 20. He and Chan Yuen Yuen (Anne Heung) are madly in love with each other. Sam Kwai promised her that he'll come back for her but for 3 years, he was a no show. A desperate Yuen Yuen, who'll do anything to see her lost love again, stupidly listened to Tin Fei to become a concubine in hopes to see Sam Kwai again. Anyways, little did she know that she was only a pawn in Tin Fei's very twisted and what I don't understand plot.



So what was Tin Fei's plan?

You see? In the beginning, I thought it was just trying to find a pretty chic, that would be Anne, get her to make the Emperor fall in love with her, so she will ultimately have control over him. Yeah, pretty twisted but that's the evil Tin Fei for you. What I don't understand, was how did she factor Sam Kwai and Yuen Yuen. It's so happens that when she learnt of their relationship, she immediately spawn the plan that would ruin them both. What did she have against him anyway, he didn't even show up until 20 episodes later. So back to the plan, of course when Yuen Yuen met up with Sam Kwai at first she was so mad at him but they made up because truthfully she still loves him. So th begin this sordid affair and when the Emperor found out he was furious. But without Sam Kwai he knows that he'll lose his country for sure, so he made a deal of Sam Kwai that after the battle is fought and won he'll let him have Yuen Yuen. However, again, nothing is that easy, Tin Fei and her conspirators made sure that didn't happen and ultimately it's the whole country against Sam Kwai for trying to steal the emperor's wife. Sam Kwai felt that there's nothing for him anymore and left the palace. Mind you, he didn't open the gates to the Chings yet. You'll just have to watch it to find out.



So did the Emperor really fall for Yuen Yuen?

I would say no. His heart was always with the Empress Yuk Fung and I'm glad. So why did he chose her? Well, we have Tin Fei to thank for that again. She pulled a trick on everyone by making Yuen Yuen wear this huge flower that'll attract the butterfly which will dictate who'll be the Emperor's next wife. Guess what? Yuen Yuen won. So at that night, she's presented to the Emperor. At this time, he was so occupied with more important business, fighting off enemies that he didn't even care who the butterfly chose. So we went to see her and I think there was the initial, "WOW! She's hot!" kind of thing but it wasn't love for sure. I don't think he wants to see her unless it was to ask her something about the condition of her hometown. Ok, enough on that.



Yeah…I know I missed a lot of stuff but it's a lot of stuff and I'm tired. If you want to know the FULL storyline, please visit www.perish.freehomepage.com for a detailed summary.



Performances

Moses Chan

I used to think this guy not only looks like a, um, don't get mad Moses fans, but a rat and can only do one thing, make me hate him because of his characters. After Family Man, I changed my view of him because he did the unthinkable. He was funny, charming and most importantly proved to me that Moses is actually a talented actor who can portray an array of character traits. He was able to make me sympathize with this sometimes crazy and sometimes admirable king. I mean, sure, when he gets all manic and rips his emperor robes off and starts yelling at everyone around him, I'm just going, man…no wonder no one wants to work for you!" But then I understand that he's frustrated. Everyone around him is just looking out for their own interest, no cares for the country and for some odd reason, no one understands the country is in deep deep trouble. He feels that it's only him against the world and he somehow has to win. I admire this king for not giving up and even though at the end he was about to, he didn't, very noble. You then felt sorry for him when he's all sick because he's all worn out from facing this battle himself but at the same time you rooted for him and wished he succeeded. Anyway, Moses was able to convey all that convincingly and I truly enjoyed his character and again I felt for him and sympathized with him.



Looks wise you might say that Moses isn't a handsome guy, and I have to agree with you. In fact, unlike Nick who isn't a handsome guy, I don't even find Moses attractive. But he has this screen presence in here with his costumes and especially that beard that made him portray the emperor so well. Without the beard though, he missed something, like in the beginning, too scrawny somehow. Too bare, I guess.



Maggie Siu

Her character was this "too-good-to-be-true" kind of person. She's sweet, gentle, polite, etc, and finally a little wimpy to me. I mean, if I were Empress with all that power, I wouldn't let anyone slapping me around, like that other concubine who thinks she's all that, (not Jay Lau). She's another concubine who hates Maggie because supposedly it's because of Maggie that's why Moses doesn't pay attention to her. I mean, she has the guts to humiliate Maggie in front of so many people and what's more Maggie didn't do anything about it. Even though she's supposedly powerful but hey, you can't treat someone like that especially if she's higher in rank than you. Maggie's empress was I think not too scared to stand up to her enemies but she feels like she shouldn't cause any trouble for her beloved husband the emperor, which I guess is admirable. But still, she's too nice and wimpy. Even when she regained her title back saying that she'll use her power to govern the palace people, it was a short lived experience. Yeah, she beat the crap out of Tin Fei but that was once. The dumbest thing was she let Tin Fei to continue to stay in the palace. Banned her from the palace and be a commoner! Why let her stay? It's like she's inviting the trouble. Anyways, again, just too nice and again, too wimpy.



As a mother she was loving, caring, etc. But in some cases I do think she's a little biased with her girls for favoring Cheung Ping more, which I'll elaborate further later. Maggie Siu is so pretty still, she aged beautifully I have to say. You can definitely tell she's not as young as she used to be but hey she looks great and her acting is top notch. Her empress can be a little more assertive in the beginning but she made up for that in the end. Although, I think sometimes her character is a little useless because literally she's just standing there next to the Moses or making him drink his medicine or anything, but even he said so, without her support he wouldn't have the strength to go on.



As a couple with Moses, even though there weren't too many scenes where they showed their affection, you can tell the two care and love each other very much. Maggie will do anything for him and vice versa.



Steven Ma

At first, I thought Steven couldn't pull this role off. I never thought of him as Sai Hin material because not only is Sai Hin great with wit, and smarts, he's also gentle, awesome in fighting, and most of all PERFECT for Cheung Ping. In some way shape or form Steven has portrayed some of these characteristics but failed to convince me that he's any good at portraying any of them . I think he's adequate in his roles but he's never truly prove to me that he's definitely good top notch TVB big brother hot shot. But for some reason, I do like him as an actor. He's so tanned but I don't think he's that good looking though. In here, again, he failed at times to make an impression on me that is memorable. His Sai Hin was likable and I felt for him and saw his love for both Cheung Ping and his country. His character was also another admirable character always doing the right thing and very bold. When he went up to the Emperor and bluntly said that it was because of him that's why they've been losing all their battles. He hit it right there and I was so proud! But like I said, Steven did only an adequate job in portraying Sai Hin for he still lacked something. Well, maybe more than adequate. I would say above adequate and leaning towards good. He was just sometimes unnatural and forced in saying his lines especially when he's trying to express something to someone. A little more practice and he'll be great, that's what I say about every actor nowadays! Or maybe he's just bored of playing these characters.



With Charmaine as a couple, I used to think that they will prove to be cute as I was watching this series. But as it progressed, I realized I wasn't watching it for them. I mean, we have a kingdom falling, boo-hoo for these love birds, right? So as I kept on watching, they gradually made me lost my interest in them but I was rooting for them to get together. I guess it was "heartbreaking" no wait, more like, "not again but they'll see each other" kind of thing every time they're separated. I'm not a cold hearted person, it was just after twice of this, it was getting tiring. Another thing I have to complain about, what's up with the beginning? I seriously didn't like it at all. First, it kind of ruined it for me even though I kind of knew the couple's fate, but putting us through their childhood memories and letting them revisit their childhood place, blah blah blah, a little too over the top. We get it, their in love. Then they had to put us through that ALL over again at the end. Man, I fast forwarded it because I didn't want to sit through it again.



Anyways, in the beginning when Sai Hin realized Cheung Ping who he's been searching for, was right in front of his face was the only scene that I thought was cute between the two of them. And then from there, it was I mean, Steven and Charmaine have chemistry but it was too over the top, again. We get their in love, make it more interesting!



Charmaine Sheh

I'll confess here that I used to think Charmaine was such a bad actress that no matter how much practice she got she'll still be bad, or was that Le San San? After that, I boycotted all of Charmaine's series until I watched Country Spirit and Herbalist Affair and my views changed drastically. I admired her character so much in there and she proved that finally with practice she's gotten it and began to like Charmaine as an actress.



Her Cheung Ping was just like her mother, sweet, nice, gentle always thinking about the other person. Very noble in that she was willing give up Sai Hin to Yuk Han (Annie). She also did everything she could to help Annie after how she treated her so badly. I wouldn't call her a wimp because she does have some spunk in her. But I will call her a little boring to watch for sometimes when a problem appears her solution is just to cry. But I think it's through the story that we see Cheung Ping grows and matures and she cries less and less, a good thing. Like when she yells at Michael for being such a bum or when she beat up Sonija for almost killing her. As for performance wise Charmaine did do above average. She portrayed the gentle, lovely princess as just that. Although, her performance wasn't as memorable as in Country Spirit or Herbalist Affair, it definitely was a good one. I think she still has room for improvement though because at times when she's delivering her lines, she seems to be whining it not expressing the right emotion for it. But otherwise a good performance. She was very pretty in here and her costumes were very pretty. Just her hair at first annoyed me, the bangs sometimes just looks funny, but then I got used to it.



Chemistry wise with Steven, it's not that they didn't have chemistry, I mean, the whole story is about their love affair so how bad can it be, but Charmaine doesn't look the best with him, I guess that's a good way to put it. I think the best match for Charmaine has to be Roger Kwok because like what Funn said they sizzled in there. As Cheung Ping and Sai Hin I guess the pair isn't suppose to convey anything hot and heavy just pure um…cuteness (again with the word) and compatible, so they did just that but it didn't hold much of my interest.



Michael Tong

I think I've stated the obvious when I say he is our "very very nice guy who'll fall for the main girl who's destined for the main guy." Again, that's what he exactly played. Sing Hin at first was a womanizer bum who doesn't know anything except for spending his dad's money and do nothing. After meeting Cheung Ping he fell madly in love with her but soon realized that he stands no chance against Sai Hin. So our poor guy is forced to stand by the sidelines but he'll do anything for her.



Michael Tong is a handsome man. Although, I see lots of lines of wisdoms in his eyes, he's still good looking. Again though, I'm getting so bored of this persona that just makes me feel so sorry for him because he just can't get the girl. I actually think though that he has more chemistry with Charmaine than Steven does and I just wish that they'll end up together in one series because it's the second series he's chasing after her. As for performance, Michael has done this so many times that it's like breathing to him so of course it was convincing and good.



Sonija Kwok

Contrary to what majority thinks about her, I didn't think she was that bad when she first began acting. Surely, she definitely wouldn't have won an Oscar or anything with those performances but I didn't think it was that terrible. She was new so I gave her a break in a way. Plus, I thought she was so pretty and still is. I missed her other performances like Lok Sun because I was just not interested, but enjoyed her in The Family Man because she did show improvement. Nothing drastic or breathtaking but still bearable.



Her Chiu Yan seriously had me wishing lightning to strike her standing. This was just a pure evil child who thinks of no one but herself and how to benefit herself. She'll do anything to get what she wants and who cares about who gets hurt in the way even if that person is her own mother. Sonija I had to say was convincing in all her scenes except for maybe her crying scenes or her pouting scenes. She did show effort and while she's far from being a great actress, with a little more practice I think she'll be good. She truly was so evil in here that she lost her beauty and I just couldn't stand the sight of her, so she did her job. Make me hate her so. I guess making us audiences to hate your character doesn't warrant you the best actress award, but if you do that by your acting abilities and not by being annoying or rather your lack of those abilities then I think that's good acting.



Sometimes she's in her scenes she was just so fake when she wanted people to feel sorry for her but I think she was intentionally trying to do that. She showed us that all Chiu Yan had to do was say those things act that way even though to us not convincing, but for some reason she'll get what she'll want because people are just gullible. Another thing, it was weird seeing her call Moses daddy. Weren't they like a couple in other series and are playing another one in an upcoming one? Just too weird.



Jay Lau

I never liked her as an actress back then and I don't think she's that pretty. She was just pure evil in here too. What I don't understand about her is why she did all the things she did just to be the Empress when she knows that the consequent of her actions will ultimately lead to the fall of the dynasty and guess what?? Who or what will she be the empress of? Very stupid on her part. Jay ever since she was back with TVB has been a total of 3 series including this one. She didn't fair too well in Family Man for I thought some of her scenes were too forced and some she didn't try at all. But in here, she made me hate her Tin Fei so much. She was natural and seriously tried her best.



Annie Man

After she died, I forgot she was in the series. Yup, that's how memorable her performance was. It wasn't her fault actually, because the script never mentioned her either later, and plus she was just a guest star. Her character was spoiled, blah blah blah, rich girl type who was in love with Sai Hin. She at first hated Cheung Ping because she found out that Sai Hin is in love with her, but later made amends with her because Cheung Ping nobly gave up Sai Hin to her. Anyways, Annie was her usual self, cute, nothing too interesting.



Marco Ngai

He didn't show up that much in here so I couldn't really comment except Marco did his best. He's a very versatile actor and you can see that with his character Ng Sam Kwai. Sam Kwai started out to be honorable and very loyal to the king. But just because of Yuen Yuen he disregarded all his principles and refused to help his country and the king. I guess I can understand though because he's being pressured by all of Tin Fei's people to the point that the king couldn't over look that he's having an affair with Yuen Yuen. I guess I'm just undecided about this character. I cheered for him when he said to everyone's face that they don't know how to protect their country or even fight a battle. He was the only one out there risking his lives for everyone and all these people can do is cause havoc and ruin the kingdom. After all that, he gets slapped by the emperor and gets tossed out of the palace. I understand he's lost hope with everything, but he also knows that if he helps the emperor than they'll win for sure. Instead, he sat by the sidelines and did nothing. Well, Marco didn't show up that much so I really think he got cheated of a better role. Did Marco gained some weight to you?



Anne Heung

I'm beginning to tolerate her more and more now. At first, I just couldn't' stand this actress, but now she's growing on me. She's pretty in here but I don't think enough to be the drop dead gorgeous Chan Yuen Yuen who've made like a million guys fall for her. She wasn't bad, in fact I don't think she can be bad anymore, just not that good. She still isn't that natural in her scenes I think but she showed up for like 10 episodes total so it was hard to really rate her. Guess what though? I actually liked Marco and Anne's chemistry! I know…weird. But I thought their love story was a lot more tragic than our main characters' even though it was more of a sordid affair. In fact, I thought Anne did very well when Marco, Sam Kwai, came to see her and tried to explain why he didn't come for her. She just cried and cried and hugged him, very touching and very convincing.



Ellesmere Choi

Seriously, another insignificant character who's the brother of Cheung Ping. I think the real story he was like a kid though. Anyways, I enjoy watching Ellesmere, but he showed up for no more than 30 minutes total though.



The Ending

SPOILERS ALERT! SPOILERS ALERT!



So the ending…very unexpected. Some people are a little unhappy with it because it ruins the true meaning of a tragedy and what the story of Princess Cheung Ping really was about. Actually lets talk about the theme here. First, I rooted for the Ming Dynasty all the way, even though we all know that everyone was more well off with the Chings. So when someone would try a new tactic to save their country I just wished it would work but of course unfortunately we all know that it would be a waste. It's a little discouraging I guess. No matter how hard you try, fate will have the ultimate say in things. But then I guess the Emperor didn't stand a chance because of all the idiots he's surrounded himself with.



So the real ending- Cheung Ping and Sai Hin didn't die. They faked their own death and lived as commoners to have a peaceful life. And guess who's with them? Yup! Sing Hing but crippled. Anyways, I think it's just another version that's out there, since it's a myth and they're so many other twists on it. I mean, everyone thought Cheung Ping lost an arm, this is just another version of the story like in Duke of Mount Deer. So this just shows that TVB leans towards happy and harmonious endings trying to convey, hard work does pay off, blah blah blah you know, the usual stuff.



The Kids

Little Steven was played by Shing Jin Kuen and little Charmaine was by Maggie Wong. Man, I couldn't stand the two of them. They weren't even cute, I know I'm mean but little Cheung Ping to me should be not only cute but have some hint that when she grows up she'll be gorgeous. Maggie's face was just too plain, not even cute. Her acting was so-so because she is still a kid and I don't think it's right to be too harsh on them. So how about the little Sai Hin? He was more annoying in every way. The kid smiled way too much. I guess part of the reason why I didn't like seeing the kids is because of their "intense" liking for each other. I have nothing against childhood romances and everything because I do think it's sweet. But I don't like the children talking to each other and to everyone else like they're a couple already with intense love for that's the case here. Maybe they're just very mature kids, whatever, ooh…I know! Corny is the word I'm looking for. Yeah…some of the stuff that comes out of these kids' mouths is like, only 90 year olds say that! Ok, well it's not the kids fault but the scriptwriters for making them just too corny.



So cutest couple?

Not that many for there's such emphasize on the mega couple, Steven and Charmaine but their story didn't strike me as that heart wrenching or tragic. So the couple I liked watching was Moses and Maggie. Granted their scenes were few but when they're together it was a joy to watch and very memorable. Every detail that Maggie tended to her beloved husband and definitely vice versa for that was truly rare but it showed how much each other cared for one another. Maybe it's because Moses is an Emperor who has like a million wives so showing his devotion to one is rare for a king, that's why I thought it was sweet.



Another couple who initially I thought was uninteresting but grew to like were Anne and Marco. Oh, to cure your curiosity they did end up together even though, a lot did come between them.



Comparing this to Princess Cheung Ping with Damian and Michelle Mai Suet

Yeah dude, there was another version made like a million years ago by these two. Damian Lau plays Sai Hin and Michelle is Cheung Ping. In there it was all different, Chiu Yan wasn't bad, Cheung Ping and Daimian weren't madly in love with each other and I think the only reason why they got married was because of some political issue, and finally a Michael Tong character was involved in the form of oh…forgot the actor's name but he was in War and Remembrance with Louis Koo and Yvonne Yeung.



Anyways, this version was much more tragic but call me shallow it was tooooo old for me to really watch and enjoy it. Another thing, I don't like Damian. He's an all right actor but I don't think he has screen presence you might say, or anything remotely close to being attractive. All his characters that I've seen don't stand out at all and they're all boring. Comparing him to Steven, even though Steven doesn't have that much experience and talent that Damian has, I enjoyed Steven's version of Sai Hin better. Oh something I forgot to mention, lose the hat Steven, it makes him look too weak and just plain older than he is.



As for Michelle and Charmaine, which was better? Michelle's Cheung Ping was a lot more elegant because she never had to be banned from the palace plus her Cheung Ping was like this sick weakling all the time, but very intelligent. She later learned some kung fu and became sort of a nun later but truthfully don't remember all of it.



Themesongs

A total of I think 3 subsongs all sung by Steven and the main with both him and Charmaine. Steven has such a beautiful voice. Even though he isn't as talented as someone as Andy Lau, but I think he's a really good singer. Charmaine, this was her first true gig and I just have to say it sounds very amateur like and she shouldn't quit her day job. Songs on a whole was very nice and lyrics very touching. I absolutely love it! Actually, it was one of the reasons why I really wanted to see the series after watching the themevideo.



So should you watch it???

Actually yeah. It's not the neat and nice 20 episode romantic comedy that TVB produces so much of. It's a tragic drama that can be a tear jerker if you let it. I mean the characters go through so much that with certain characters you just want a happy ending and with others you serious wish they die a thousand deaths, which is what a good drama does. The story was well paced but the first couple of episodes were dragged a little especially the kids' story. Then it picked up and got interesting. Personally, interesting parts to me were just about politics when there's Moses coming to his senses and wants to win and break his losing streak which there were a lot of. If you aren't into drama stuff and seriously want something lighthearted and easily to understand if you missed a couple chapters, this ain't it. It's pretty intense stuff even though I think the battle scenes can be choreographed a little better, but stuff that will make you want to either want to kill someone with your bare hands, weep because it's just too sad, or maybe chuckle at a joke or two. Mainly at Michael Tong because he provided much of the light comedy here. Some scenes were beautifully shot and others were just plain corny, but give it a try and you won't be disappointed.



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