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A must read, if you don't already know ...








Written by Elizabeth


"THIS IS A GREAT SERIES!!!"


SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS!


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Translated as
Great Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty or Great Emperor Wu of Han

Year of Production
2004

Type of Production
Mainland China (CCTV)

Being one of the most expensive Chinese productions in history, this is the true story of the reign of Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty, adapted from "Book of Han" by Ban Gu, and "History Records" by Sima Qian, showing his victories, and failures, his path through life and the harshness of reality.

No. of Episodes
58

Cast-Character
If you know the names of those listed as Unknown, please post them using Post A Comment or email Funn Lim at funnlim@gmail.com

Chen Bao Guo - Lie Che (Emperor Wu)
Jiao Huang - Liu Qi (Emperor Jing)
Ma Shao Hua - Dou Ying
Zhang Shi - Tian Fen
Gao Fa - Yizhixie
Ren Chong - Zhang Qian
Ma Yung - Han Yan
Lu Jian Min - Wei Qing:
Li Le/Li Jin Feng - Huo Qu Bing
Gui Ya Lei - Empress Dowager Dou
Song Xiao Ying - Empress Wang Zhi
Su Xiao Ming - Princess Guan Tao (Liu Piao)
Tao Hong - Princess of Huai Nan (Liu Ling)
Lin Jing - Wei Zi Fu
Yang Tong Shu - Princess Ping Yang
Yang Tong Shu - Jin Su
Zhao Xue Lian - Princess Nan Gong
Xu Hong Na - Empress Chen Jiao
Gao Ting Ting - Lady Li
Unknown - Lady Gou Yi
Unknown - six-year-old Liu Che
Unknown - seven-year-old A Jiao

Brief Outline
The story starts in the late reign of Emperor Jing of the Han Dynasty, who is the grandson of Lau Bong, who established the dynasty. But after the exhaustive war with Xiang Yu and the strained struggle to rid the imperial court of the Lu Family, the country has been recovering from and a drained treasury and political unsteadiness. Thus, when faced with outer threats of the nomadic Xiongnu tribes, the country can only pacify the enemy with gifts of food, women and money and endure humiliation in order to avoid war which will further devastate the country.

An intense and unpredictable battle takes place b Empress Bo etween the royal concubines for the "Empress" title as the childless is deposed, and after all competition is rid of, Lady Wang rises to the top rank as Empress, with her young son, Liu Che, as the crown prince. Raised in such a time, Li Che sees the humiliation of his people at the hands of the Xiongnu over the last sixty years, and the weakness that his predecessors are forced to live in and vows to change all when he becomes Emperor.

Once Emperor at seventeen, Liu Che's road to brilliance was obstructed by his grandmother who resisted change, his mother and uncle who tried to make him into a puppet king, and as well as the lack of advisors and officials who agreed with his own views. But with increased power, he also sees the harshness of politics and the need to sacrifice one to save all.

Lie Che successfully made many reforms to improve the old system, at the price of his closest teachers and advisors, which helped consolidate power back into his government rather than separate states ruled his royal relatives. Once the internal matters had been settled, Liu Che begins to plan his long-waited ambition, to rid his borders of the barbaric Xiongnu tribes and restore dignity and strength to his nation.

Liu Che's dedication to his country and usage of efficient people helped to strengthen his nation, but yet, his love life was not as successful as he moved on from woman to woman with short-lived passion and commitment. As time passes and his victories amount, he becomes self-glorifying and as senility and age catches up with him, he becomes over-suspicious and too self-obsessed and leads to one of the most tragic events in Han history - "The Witchcraft Incident".

His military conquests during his reign earned him the posthumous title "Han Wu Di", which means Han Emperor of military Achievements.

Note : All screencaps below are clickable thumbnails

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Evaluation of the cast and characters
Males
Chen Bao Guo as Lie Che (Emperor Wu)
I am quite surprised that Chen Bao Guo decided to act all the way from 19 to 60 in here. His range of acting surely accommodates it, but I did initially get a bit distracted when he looked way older than his elder sisters, his uncle, and his first Empress, but as the story gets on and you get drawn more into the suspense and cleverness of the plot, you would actually forget about it.

Anyway, Chen Bao Guo tackled this role with so much effort that you would just believe that he was Emperor Wu in his previous life. He showed the hopelessness when he fails, yet the strength and arrogance that is inseparable from such a man with great ideals and achievements. He has a very deep and loud voice that is very efficient when commanding authority, but it does sound a bit strange in his early years to have such a booming voice.

Call me cruel, but I like to see Chen Bao Guo cry because he just does it so naturally and subtly. His eyes are so expressive, you actually see them redden and twitch as he speaks, then at the right time, the tears come out.

I think Chen Bao Guo had his best moments as Emperor Wu in the older years as he repents his arrogance because it just so much depth - bitterness, anger, frustration, then the blank look of realization, then sorrow and then my favourite - tears!

Emperor Wu is a man who has such a wide range of thoughts and imagination that he managed to achieve what previous Han Emperor could only dream of. I appreciate the way he gathers all resentment, hides them when being restricted by his controlling grandmother, and then releases it all at once with a grand plan of strategies after much maturation of thought and mind.

But the problem with him is that his plans are so grand that cost a lot and he wants them to be done in a hurry (e.g. making the steel swords, refilling treasury). He is quite a lucky guy to become Emperor when the previous generations have been so thrifty and filled up the treasury and food storages, or else, his ideals would have just remained ideals, and never been achieved. But hey, if you don't dream, you won't succeed, right?

However, I do think that Liu Che is quite a heartless man in his private life. I actually think he is quite a jerk for sleeping with his paternal cousin (N.B. paternal cousin in ancient times = actual sibling, therefore INCEST!!!) and then telling her to forget him as he won't love her. But at least he's honest.

I don't think he has ever truly loved a woman without being led by lust. He married Chen Jiao due to her mother's political influence, but he doesn't respect her. He favoured Wei Zi Fu for her voice and beauty, as well as using her as a tool to make Chen Jiao jealous and his mother-in-law angry, but yet when she ages after having kids, he moves onto a younger Lady Li. He likes Lady Li for her beauty (thus Lady Li refuses to let him see her sickly face lest her son loses favour) and Lady Gou Yi because of her youth and likeliness to Lady Li. He only sleeps with Liu Ling because she was beautiful. No wonder he feels lonely! However, I do think that this is a realistic portrayal of Emperor Wu since most emperors do just move onto younger ladies and I applaud the producers for not writing a super romantic tale and spoil his whole personality.

I liked how the story showed how earlier events in his life influenced his attitude and treatment of matters later in life. It really made him human and his wrongs more forgivable, especially when he publicly apologizes for his wrongdoings.

Du Chun (son of the actor who played Nian Gen Yao In "Yong Zheng Wang Chao" ) played the teenage Liu Che, and I think he did a good job as well, but not as well as Chen Bao Guo.

(BTW, the male actors do really get ride horses without stuntmen! CBG looks so good when riding a horse!)

I think it is better to know some background history first before attempting this series, here's a link to stuff about Han Wu Di: Wikipedia.org

Jiao Huang as Liu Qi (Emperor Jing)
As you may know, Jiao Huang is a veteran actor who has at least played Emperor twice before in huge productions such as "Yong Zheng Wang Chao". So as expected, he was relatively comfortable in the role. However, instead of being a great emperor, this emperor is weak and restricted by his mother's bias against him, his own failing health and the poor circumstances of his nation.

Yet, he yearns to be strong when outer and inner enemies untie to weaken him, but he knows that can only eliminate one yet pacify the other. He endures tremendous humiliation and emotional pain when he has to give up an Emperor's dignity and send his daughter as a "tribute" to the Xiongnu. (For more info about the relationship between these two countries back in ancient times, have a read of this at Wikipedia.org

He knows that Liu Che would be a great ruler, and thus orders the best to be taught to him to benefit his people and tries to make his path to succession smooth by eliminating rebellious relatives and implementing breeding farms for horses to use in wars later on.

However, he is a good man overall, though easily influenced by people close to him and thus doesn't have much determination or confidence. I believe his quiet and forgiving character has been included to contrast against his stronger son who is quite aggressive even from a young age. Jiao Huang is just so convincing as this weak man, who just tries to keep everything together even though everything is falling apart, but through weakness, he also shows strength. He also cries very naturally as well, especially when his mentor gets executed to appease his rebelling royal relatives, and with hopelessness and unwillingness, he farewells his teacher and friend. I'm just so happy that Emperor Jing's story is not glorified!

Ma Shao Hua as Dou Ying
I have always liked this actor ever since I first saw him in "Zou Xiang Gong He" as Sun Yat Sen. He has got very large, kind-looking eyes, and they sort of sparkle at times as well.

Highly-viewed as he is the nephew of Empress Dowager Dou, Dou Ying is a quiet and conscientious person, who tries to keep his dignity while making his way through court. He studies his opponents carefully before making any movements, and thus mainly succeeds when he strikes. He is truly loyal to the Emperor against his own Dou family clan, and admirably enough, will do anything for the emperors and the good of the people. Thus, he has very bad connections with most of the court, but gains the respect of the general public. He is a clever and talented man (PM and Military General all in one! Me like!), with passion for his country, but has very bad luck in that he is never truly favoured by the Emperor and his talents never used.

Ma Shao Hua has no trouble in acting out this kind and generous character. He has a soft speaking voice that just suits this character so well. His facial expressions also change quite smoothly and subtly which is bonus when showing how he is trying to hide nervousness and worry when deciding when the best time is to voice his opinion.

Zhang Shi as Tian Fen
The moment he started talking, I immediately singled him out as a Taiwanese actor (he has an accent similar to Richie Ren!).

IMO, Tian Fen is a combination of Lady Wang's many brothers, which is sort of good since this series already has so many characters. His role acts as a comedy relief in here, providing quite a few laughs to ease all the tension built by the political battles throughout the series.

Tian Fen is quite playful, witty, greedy, lazy and quite a pervert, but yet, he is also an extremely clever man who helps his average wealthy family rise up through society, using his vast social connections to secure the throne for his nephew, Liu Che. He is not evil, but terribly narrow-minded and arrogant that he heads the corruption events within the court. He has no patriotism, and will betray his own nephew for the right amount of money. However, his conscience gets the better of him as he ages.

Zhang Shi is quite a plain looking actor, but he is quite versatile from his performance in here which makes him stand out amongst the more serious actors, yet when it comes to emotional parts where he realizes that he has gone too far in the ultimate battle with the Dou family, yet cannot go back, this actors does make quite an impression and shines.

Gao Fa as Yizhixie
Okay! Now onto Alpha male of the Xiongnu tribe! I have never seen this actor in such an aggressive and loud role. And he's still got that killer stare!

This dude has a very aggressive, brave and ambitious personality and a lot of arrogance and national pride since he is a pure-blooded and eldest Xiongnu prince and eldest. Being quite talented upon the battlefield, he has a lot of resentment when his inexperienced and mixed younger brother, Prince Yu Dan, is named as heir instead.

After a lot of planning and training himself to be heartless (he kills his poor wife and his horse) and his armies robotic to his command, he murders his aging father and makes himself the new Chanyu (Xiongnu Chief), and exacts his long-hidden plan to increase Han tributes to him and further annihilate surrounding tribes into submission, thus causing Liu Che to heavily retaliate with the inevitable Han-Xiongnu war!

I really like how the series managed to showed a more private side of this character, and it makes him really realistic. He is actually quite nice to his siblings and passionate to his second wife. He also cares for his people's welfare and his soldiers. His aggression for war is actually quite similar to Liu Che's, depending whether you see from the Han or Xiongnu point of view. I'm just glad that he isn't made too nice to spoil his traits (such as Gallen Lo in "Chao Jun Chu Sai" who was way too nice and romantic)!

This actor shows a very commanding and magnificent performance, he certainly stands out amongst the Xiongnu males with a certain royal arrogance and posture (as well as the fact that he is the only one who looks like he bathed in the last three months!).This is good because the series tends to draw a lot of comparisons between him and Liu Che. His acting reminds of Kong Wah's arguable performance in "The Conqueror's Story", consisting of a lot of staring and glaring, and a lot of yelling, but Gao Fa manages to have much more control in body expression to show his superiority. (And did I mention I joined his fan club? :D)

Again, he has very expressive eyes, showing a range of expression from murderous, high and mighty, anger, disappointment, to sorrow and tenderness. I was initially quite upset to see this character's story so butchered when compared to the historical one (will talk about later), but it turned out alright and one of the most interesting and deep characters.

Ren Chong as Zhang Qian
This handsome actor(and I mean handsome !!! But not as much as Fred Cheng! Hehe!) cries most of the time, since his character endures so many hardships in here to fulfill his promise to the Emperor. He spends thirteen years in tremendous humiliation (being forced to eat horse poo) and danger on his quest to be an envoy to Afghanistan to invite them to help fight the threatening Xiongnu and develop trade, and after many years, contributes to the development of the Silk Road. Being a playmate of Liu Che, Zhang Qian is extremely loyal, and brave and very determined. This young actor really stands out because his character is just so pitiful, extremely when he finally makes his way back to the court in rags and flashbacks to his former humiliation.

Ma Yung as Han Yan
Another clown role made to keep up the humour. I did expect more from this character screening that he is a great shot with the bow, but all he seems to do is run around and please Liu Che. Maybe it is me, but I expected a more handsome actor for this role of a man who Han Wu Di has been rumoured to be homosexual with. I see this actor everywhere but don't see much improvement. Hope he gets some good roles in the future!

Lu Jian Min as Wei Qing
Great guy! He's patriotic, loyal, brave, smart, clever and protective of himself and his family. However, I am quite disappointed that in this version, Wei Qing's military strategies were dumbed down to make Liu Che look smarter when he suggests the ideas. However, despite his achievements, he is a modest person and doesn't like to show off. However, he is ashamed of his origins as a carriage driver and thus hides his affection for Princess Ping Yang, even when they get married because he will always see his inferior upbringing.

First time I've see this actor, and I am pretty happy with his performance. He provides some very subtle acting, which is very effective for such a sensitive character.

Li Le/Li Jin Feng as Huo Qu Bing
He is one arrogant, over-confident little brat who only cares about winning and showing off - and he also happens to be a teenage military genius who never lost a war. He's a clever boy, but I don't see him having any love towards his country; he just wins wars for his own glory and to please the Emperor. I'm not quite sure whether this portrayal is accurate to the one in real history, but I think this young actor did correctly act out his characteristics - pride, arrogance, self-obsession, impulsiveness and rudeness, but there is no spectacular scene where I though he shined, but is cute when he tries to impress his uncle, but gets no reaction. I see a bright future for this young actor!

There are also heaps of other male characters in the series but there are too many roles to write about and most of them die or disappear within episodes with no spectacular acting, So I'll just skip them lest you all get conjunctivitis by reading my long review!

Females
Gui Ya Lei as Empress Dowager Dou
I personally don't like this character and don't have much feeling towards her death (which is over-dramatised BTW), but certainly no complaints about this Taiwanese veteran actress that most of you have seen around for ages. Her transitions from a fierce political figure to a loving mother/grandmother are very natural, and she also shows the dominating and stubborn personality that she has when handling affairs concerning her favoritism towards her younger son. She's like a semi-villian here, which is refreshing because Gui Ya Lei usually just takes on kind motherly roles. I am surprised by how realistic she portrays a blind person, and happy that she doesn't fumble around for things because people who have been blinded for a long time actually have an excellent memory of where things are and are quite independent. Another breakthrough in acting fro Auntie Gui!

Song Xiao Ying as Empress Wang Zhi
Never seen this actress before, but I think she was a miscast for Lady Wang in the beginning, because she looked very old and haggard in the beginning and looks a bit funny in bed scenes with Jiao Huang. But she gets better later on when she casts aside her kind and humble appearance and emerges as the calculating, power-hungry and selfish Empress Dowager.

However, no matter how she much she uses her son's power, she is a loving mother towards her children. What ever evil thing she does, she does it for her own protection, her son's protection and due to insecurity and long-term oppression from her mother-in-law and sister-in-law.

One of her best scenes was when she was farewelling Princess Nan Gong (her daughter) who was leaving China for good. It was very emotional, and she handled it very well with the heartbreak, tears and loneliness.

Su Xiao Ming as Princess Guan Tao (Liu Piao)
Actually, Sun Xiao Ming isn't an actress, but a singer who wanted a go at acting. There's nothing really special about her performance, but also nothing really wrong with it. There's not much depth to act out, so basically, we just see how greedy, manipulative and evil this Princess is.

Tao Hong as Princess of Huai Nan (Liu Ling)
It was a big surprise for me when I saw Tao Hong here because she always just seemed to take on kind roles all the time. I thought her transitions from innocent to evil were too quick. She was perfect as the naïve Liu Ling who got cheated by Liu Che, but as the vengeful woman? It was very strange seeing her flirt with so many men, and it is sort of funny as well, but her character doesn't have much depth either, so it's very hard to judge her acting. She definitely a clever woman, who uses her sex appeal to get information to help her father plan rebellion, but is she doing it because Liu Che dumped her or because she wants to help her dad? I just found it weird that she is so obsessed with him after meeting him. It is refreshing though to see Tao Hong try out different roles.

Lin Jing as Wei Zi Fu
I've seen Lin Jing in a couple of roles here and there; the most memorable was in HSDS 2003 as the manipulative Ding Min Jun. But here, she is very persuasive as the innocent and kind-hearted girl, and her crying is very good. She is one you would so sorry for because she is so weak and helpless, but at the end, the beautiful Lin Jing gives quite a moving performance as the bitter Empress who has finally had enough being stuck between her heartless husband and unfavoured son, and shows her strength and decisiveness when she supports her son to the end. I thought she overdid the aging process, but an excellent performance overall.

Yang Tong Shu as Princess Ping Yang
A beautiful and graceful actress no doubt, but sadly, she has a vase character. Not much to do anyway, except hang around her mother and look lovingly towards Wei Qing. The only time she stands out is on her wedding night when Wei Qing kneels before her and calls her "Mistress"; her face and tear shows her disappointment and heartbreak. She definitely needs for screentime!

Yang Tong Shu as Jin Su
The same actresses plays a dual role. While Princess Ping Yang is elegant and arrogant, Jin Su is humble, rude mannered and timid. It really shows the actresses skill in differentiating between the two characters.

Zhao Xue Lia as Princess Nan Gong
Wow! Wow! Wow! Finally, my favourite character! Zhao Xue Lian has improved so much since I first saw her in "Grand Mansion's Gates II" as the Bai's pretty granddaughter. She surprised me a lot in here with her short but memorable performance. I am going to keep an eye out for this newbie - she's bound to impress.

Princess Nan Gong is a tragic and lonely character. Though she doesn't appear much, her character is so important to the plot because she symbolizes hope, endurance and love/passion - all the things that are lacking in the time of war and hate.

She is unwillingly married off to the Xiongnu as a symbol of Han humiliation and subordination. She knows her place as the Xiongnu Yan Zhi (equivalent to Empress) but is able to maintain her dignity and national pride when she helps the enslaved Han people.

She initially hates the Xiongnu for raiding Han border-cities, but after her son, Prince Yu Dan is killed by Han archers, the pain and loneliness she endures begins to let her see things from the Xiongnu side as well, and is stuck between the two warring nations, both which she feels for - native of one, and matriarch of another.

Yizhixie and Princess Nan Gong is one of the strangest political, cultural and emotional relationships I've ever seen. Both are in a continuous cycle of love and hate until the end as the Han-Xiongnu war goes on.

I am very impressed by Zhao Xue Lian's interpretation of this character. She is a very graceful and elegant with her soft speech, which is helpful in acting out this special princess, as well as the pride (but not brattiness) which accompanies such a status. Her tears fall very naturally (its heartbreaking to see her cry) and she is able to show tremendous strength in personality despite her weak appearance when she stands up for her people who have been enslaved by the Xiongnu.

She shows good body expression as her face is usually veiled, and is very believable as a loving mother as well as a tender wife despite her young age. All her scenes are very powerful and memorable, especially her last scene she delivers a tragic speech as she helps the war-torn Xiongnu tribes heal.

Others
Lady Li (Gao Ting Ting) and Lady Gou Yi are miscellaneous vase characters that only appear once or twice, being hugged by Lie Che. Neither of them really acts or appears much in this series. Xu Hong Na who played Empress Chen Jiao was OK, but I thought she failed to show the bitterness of being barren amongst the jealousy and spoilt brat attitude. He Jia Li who did the same role in "Da Han Tian Zi" had a much better performance.

By the way, the kids are so cute! A special mention to the kids who played the six-year-old Liu Che and seven-year-old A Jiao - really cute and great chemistry.

An evaluation of various aspects of this series
Acting Chemistry
All the guys have very good chemistry with each other, especially Chen Bao Guo with everyone, Ma Shao Hua with Zhang Shi (its funny when they quarrel), and Jiao Huang and the actor who played his teacher. Jiao Huang also has excellent chemistry with Gui A Lei who plays his controlling mother who underneath all bias, does love him as a son, and also with the young actor who played the teenage Liu Che. Though unreasonable, it would be quite nice to see Chan Bao Guo and Jiao Hang in a scene together, but it never happened.

Romance
There's a lack of romance factors for the couples as the plot is not a love story but a political one, and there's the problem when the only couple to kiss and have intimate bed scenes was Jiao Huang and Song Xiao Ying. There is also the problem of the producers editing out romantic scenes to make things look ambigious.

Liu Che has limited time with his women, so sadly Chen Bao Guo doesn't have much chemistry with the ladies. Strangely enough, he has excellent chemistry with Song Xiao Ying who played his mum, and Song Xiao Ying was great with Chang Shi in their plotting and mutual protection. Lu Jian Min and Yang Tong Shu also have limited chemistry because no close scenes of them together until the end when they are 50!!! (Unless you watch the uncut version!)

Only two "lover" couples do I reckon have any special chemistry. The first couple is Zhang Shi and Tao Hong, thought they don't actually love each other. They use each other all the way through the series, and have some heavy flirting, but they do have a lot of chemistry in intimate scenes. It's in every movement or glance. BTW, they are good friends in real life so probably that helps.

And the Most Compatible and Unexpected Chemistry Award goes to
Strangely, the couple who I initially marked as "the worst marriage ever" came out with the best husband-wife chemistry. From a very heated quarrel to rape, to mutual understanding, to love - these two artistes have displayed a very close and unexpected chemistry despite only have less than five short (and heavily-edited) scenes together. Sparks just fly when they start glaring at each other. So who are these two artistes? If you have read the character sections, you may have already guessed - it's Gao Fa and Zhao Xue Lian. Bravo to these two!

Music


Great themesong by Han Lei. It sounded a bit funny when I first heard, but its tune and lyrics are so powerful and moving when you hear it, that even before you see the first episode, you know this is good stuff.

Let's talk about the lyrics. Surely, very poetic and symbolic, but I am a bit confused because they don't really seem to be talking about Emperor Wu.

"Amongst the never ceasing flow of theYangtze, you are a like a breaking wave. Amongst the vast and continuous mountain ranges, you are like a towering peak. You hide your loneliness in the folds of dark clouds, and write your dreams on the blue sky and grass plains."

This part is fine. Han Wu Di was indeed a great man who stood out. Sure, he put all his ambition and disappointment into building his ambition and formulated the most unimaginable achievements ever.

"You have ignited your body to bring warmth to the earth, at the cost of letting yourself become ashes. Let the numerous flames dance around magnificently, for they would be your last words."

Now, this part is getting a bit weird. Han Wu Di may have done a lot for his nation, but not to that degree. I suspect that this chorus actually refers to the generals and soldiers as well as the politicians who helped Liu Che reform and died in the process. Maybe this themesong means that this story is not only about Liu Che, but also about all those great people that have helped created the history of ancient China.

The subtheme at the ending clip is very strangely modern in tune and in lyrics. However, there are better sub-themes shown during the series, which have a great effect on the mood and brings out a lot of emotion. However, a strangely romantic song was played near the end with Liu Che and Wei Qing which is a bit weird because they two were rumoured to be lovers in books.

But the "Chang Men Fu" really was disappointing for me. It was sung with little expression, when it is supposed to heavily hint bitterness and loneliness. I preferred the one in "Da Han Tian Zi".

There is a strange mixture of background. I was laughing my head off when I hear electric guitars in the first episode, and then some violins in later scenes. There is also a very Japanese stringed instrument being played at times, which is quite strange since the women already look very quite Japanese with their makeup.

Better choices, however turns up with a wide range of vocal instrumentation with drums which are very effective to add to suspense. The music in the battle scenes are also chosen very appropriately.

Costumes and makeup


No complaints about the male Han outfits, but the chest armour looks a bit like the ones in "Gladiator", but the overall army uniforms look very neat and the colour-coding makes it very easy to distinguish which side the soldiers are on during civil wars.

The female Han costumes are just beautiful, and each character has a certain colour-coded costume to show their status, like Wei Zi Fu moves from lighter colours to bright red as she becomes Empress and dark or white clothing is given to the Empress Dowagers to signify high status and increased age. The material and hairstyles are quite plain, but that's actually quite nice because that's how the ancient drawings of the Han women looked.

I'm not quite sure, but did Chen Bao Guo have lots of foundation on when he was acting the younger Liu Che? He looks quite unnaturally pale and sickly, but he gets darker as his character gets older. So did he just get a tan or was it makeup? Anyway, I don't like it. He looks much better with a moustache. Kudos to the make-up team who stuck all those wrinkles on at the end. It really doesn't look like Chen Bao Guo. (Looks more like King Kong!! Hehe!)

The poor actresses looked like vampires most of the time because of the makeup - heavy heavy white foundation on the face (yikes!!!), and a dark red line in straight down the lips. I know how the producers tried to get as close as possible to the fashion of the ancient Han women (small cherry lips), but I think it is overdone. Maybe less foundation and less bright colour lipstick would be better. And tone down on the blush.

Now onto the Xiongnu. No complaints about the girls, costumes are very accurate, and Zhao Xue Lian has some very nice, elegant and unique costumes which is a mixture of Han and Xiongnu.

The common Xiongnu soldiers look great, but however the Xiongnu lords looked liked they just walked off the set of "Demi-Gods and Semi -Devils" after filming a Beggar Union gathering, with greasy hair hanging all over their faces. I think the producers overdid the "wild" atmosphere. But I admire the small details they added to the costumes like headbands, belt buckles, hair ribbons, rings, earrings, and pointy shoes, which made them look more realistic.

Scenery
Very nice. From the beautiful Han buildings and long shots of the palace, to the peaceful forest where the hunted, and then to the vast grass plains where the battle scenes and grazing took place, each place is carefully selected to add the feel of the dialogue and characters.

Complaints and Historical Inaccuracies
Does sunshine increase the ageing process?
I think the cast is too old sometimes. Emperor Jing was 48 when he died, yet they cast Jiao Huang who was about 60. Lady Wang seemed to age fast once her husband died that it was so unbelievable. Liu Che was 60 at the end, but he looks as if he was 80, but I can accept that as a result of mental exhaustion. And Lin Jing's Wei Zi Fu and Yang Tong Shu's Princess Ping Yang was only around 50-60 at the end, yet they was walking with arthritis and a hunchback. They just overdid it!

Taking someone else's credit? Or credit being taken by someone else?
I actually got out my copy of the "Book of Han" and followed the events as the series progresses, and there were some small mistakes in the historical aspects. I have picked up that the characters tend to be glorified a lot for achievements that they have not done, or died a way that they did not do.

Liu Che organizing military strategies was a clever move to make him seem more great, but yet, I don't think the real one did much in this area (at least not that I have read of). It was Wei Qing who thought of those strategies.

Wei Qing was also too kind and impartial, and in real history, he did give important military positions to his friends to help them get merit. Li Guang committed suicide because he didn't want to face military punishment after failing a mission, but this series had him die like a hero in war and battle till his last breath.

Yizhixie is so framed for stuff he didn't do. He was actually the younger brother (not son) of Junchen Chanyu, and claimed the throne after his natural death, and with his armies, chased his nephew, the true heir, Yu Dan and his people into exile. Yu Dan later surrendered to the Han and was made a Han Marquis, but died later of illness. He also did not kill his father/brother. It was Maodun Chanyu (Yizhixie's ancestor) who killed his father, brother, stepmother, etc… and usurped the throne after his father tried to eliminate him in favour of his younger son. Seriously, I don't see what he could have done as the son and not do if he was the younger brother!

Probably the writers felt sorry for him, and started glorifying his character at the end. For goodness sake, Yizhixie did not going charging to his death, he escaped and got lost. The fat dude that claimed the throne at the end of the series was real, but he had to return the throne (Hehe! Imagine how embarrassing!) when Yizhixie returned. He died some years later of sickness. I think the changes make his character more interesting and memorable, but it is quite frustrating to find it so butchered!

And I'm not so convinced that Princess Nangong did marry into the Xiongnu tribes. Not much mention of her in the books. Her story is so similar to Wang Zhao Jun's tale, Han "princess' married off but gained respect as the matriarch of the Xiongnu tribe.

Tian Fen did not go crackers and die; he died peacefully. And I still don't get why the script writer had to make Liu Che so stupid to make Tian Fen PM even after his grandmother warned him about his and Empress Wang's ambitions, and cautioned him not to let any of that side into politics. But he still did just because his mother chucked a tantrum. Then he goes and imprisons Dou Ying because his mum threatens to fast (Maybe if she fasted for as long as the great Ghandi, I would have been worried, but he gave in like one second after she started fasting!). Han Yan also died, but they made him live much longer and then disappear without explanations.

A question on paper and chairs
Papers and chairs were not invented or introduced to China at the time the story was set in, but there are paper seals and at least three people sitting on chairs.

Ending
It was very suspenseful and emotional watching the Han-Xiongnu wars because victory meant so much to either side - Han needed to win to regain former lost national dignity, and the Xiongnu needed to win for survival and pride. The battle scenes were so magnificent.

Then it gets a bit anti-climatic towards the end after the Great Battle to the audience who don't know what's coming next, but those who are familiar with history and the Witchcraft Incident and the Prince Ju Revolution, you all know that the best is coming.

The whole series ends with the same scene which started the whole thing, which reinforces the idea that everything is only a cycle, coupled with the constant scenes of the grazing deer and wheels. It is a very ironic ending, showing the need of war and power in desperate moments, yet its devastation if not controlled properly, and how the best intentions if done to an extreme, will also cause harm and destruction.

Final Verdict: Should you go and watch it?
Well, you've got a bunch of excellent veteran artistes; Tao Hong in an evil and sexy role if you like watching pretty actresses; good looking guys, lots of humour with Zhang Shi around, a good soundtrack and lots of beautiful scenery; a good balance of drama and humour, a great story of strength and dignity, and Chen Bao Guo is never a disappointment! So why not? A good hint is to read on some background info before you start watching. And if you're buying, check whether you are getting the 64 episode uncut version or the 58 episode one. And don't watch it with kids because it is quite violent and bloody and has a lot of sexual implications.

Please go and see it (just don't base your history project on it!)

SO HAVE YOU GOT THE MESSAGE YET? GO AND GET IT NOW! IF YOU MISS IT, IT'S YOUR OWN LOSS! THIS IS A GREAT SERIES!!! ENJOY!!!

Overall Verdict


The Question: "How is it compared to "Da Han Tian Zi"?
In my opinion, "Han Wu Da Di" is a lot of better and much more accurate and consistent than "Da Han Tian Zi", but of course, we are talking about a different budget and a different target audience. "Da Han Tian Zi" is more focused on the dramatic and romantic events whereas "Han Wu Da Di' aims to give a more balanced and political view of Emperor Wu's reign.

Interesting Facts aka The stuff you didn't know!
Chen Bao Guo actually had a heart attack while filming a yelling scene and collapsed on set. But he is alright now. Jiao Huang sprained his hip near the end of filming. Gao Fa fell off his horse when filming battle scenes as another horse rammed into his horse. Sadly, three horses died in the heat and just collapsed. (I knew something was wrong when I couldn't find the tag "No animals were killed or injured in production of this series"!) It was three of the four that was drawing the imperial carriage.

Sadly, I have been informed that the series has been cut from 64 episodes to 58 episodes. People inform me that sex scenes (puzzles me that they were 6 episodes of it) were edited out, which mainly involves Liu Ling and the men, and Wei Qing and Ping Yang's affair. I don't' really mind those scenes, but I saw the cut version and am fuming when I found out that battle scenes were also edited out (Argh! They were the best parts! Battle scenes were already lacking since there was the bird flu problem during filming!), as well as a lot of political dialogue and emotional dialogue which would have made a few scenes run more smoothly and more easy to understand. There is definitely a problem with the editing in the short version.

Goofs
When you look closely at the close-ups of deer grazing, you can see red and yellow identification tags on the ears. The herd must have been borrowed from a deer farm.

I saw a white van in a battle scene, some ends of fluffy black sound-collecting microphones, and my dad swears that he saw a high rise building hiding behind some trees in a background shot of the palace. And some of the horse soldiers are in jeans! (Don't know how that escaped the editing room!)

2 comments:

  1. loiste25.1.13

    Hello! Good review and I already want to watch this drama. But can't find download links anywhere. Do you know where I can download it maybe?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi. It is on youtube. Search for it in chinese.

      Delete

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