Court Lady (2021) 大唐女儿行: C Drama Series Review

Main poster

Series follows through the adventures of Fu Rou, a daughter of a merchant, who gets entangled in romantic pursuits amidst the schemes of the royal Tang dynasty. The series is quite complicated with many characters, all intertwined during the reign of Li Shi Min @ Emperor Taizong of Tang Dynasty.

At the beginning, a stubborn Fu Rou who wears her heart on her sleeves, meets Sheng Chu Mu a playboy son of the noble family Duke of Lu. In order to win her heart, the playful & mischievous Chu Mu strives hard to improve himself ultimately paving his career as a general. Fu Rou falls for him, but fate & destiny take them for a roundabout route towards happiness.

Fu family in Guangzhou loses their home to a fire, part of the plot by the Duke of Cai Lu Yunji’s plot. The Fu family, including Fu Rou, moves to Chang’An whereby Fu Rou works as an embroideress in Prince of Han’s Mansion (Princess of Han is Sheng Chu Mu’s elder sister). Through her great talent in embroidery, Fu Rou is summoned to the palace. Subsequently, she is involved in the many schemes of the palaces, revolving around the fight amongst the princes for the throne.

Work of Yu Zheng

The series is directed by the controversial Yu Zheng, and I had reservations before starting the series. His series are not my favourite and I am a little biased with his works, but his key signature is to work with complicated stories especially palace schemes. Just look at his previous works – Palace (and its sequels), Beauty’s Rival in the Palace, Story of Yanxi Palace, Legend of Haolan. His specialty is really to use different pocket of history as the backdrop and serialise the schemes by re-imagining the historical persona and inserting various characters & human desires, turning the history into a fiasco of scheming & plots.

I must say, he has done a great job for Court Lady, as the characters do not come across as vile. Many of the characters have many facets to their characters. The “good” characters are not painted as saints. The “evil” characters are also not totally nauseating. This time round, the series has many moderate characters, for which I could empathise with their actions. His work has improved to be more elegant. 😀

Early light hearted scenes

Comparing this with Story of Yanxi Palace & Legend of Haolan, the main female lead (Wu Jinyan) in these 2 series is aggressive & prioritises her own personal agenda. On the other hand, the female lead Fu Rou (Li Yi Tong) places more importance towards the benefits for the bigger picture.

Surprisingly, the series is able to bring out a lot of different themes and very interesting story arcs.

Interesting Story Arcs on Brotherhood/ Siblings

Empress Zhangsun has 3 sons – Crown Prince Li Cheng Qian, Prince of Han Li Tai (also Chu Mu’s brother-in-law), Li Zhi (who ultimately became the Emperor Gaozong of Tang). As a mother, Empress Zhangsun is always thinking of the well-being of all her sons. However, as any parent, there must be a favourite somewhere. The jealousy of the Crown Prince is a little off the chart, and frankly unreasonable. He is so insecure in his own position (even though he is already the Crown Prince), and is so suspicious of all the others, taking actions for imagined “dangers” from external sources. Frankly, his main danger is his own insecurity.

Empress Zhangsun & Emperor Li Shi Min : target couple relationship?

The character of Prince of Han is really loveable, a seemingly frivolous prince who loves his wife & food, and pretending to be meowing as the wife is a cat-lover! Funny that a wife-fearing prince, ends up so in love with his wife. But because of his brother’s insecurity, poor Prince of Han loses his wife and almost everything dear to him. I also believe everyone has a bottomline, and his brother crosses that when all his insecurities drive the irretrievable wedge between the 2 brothers. It is no wonder that the youngest Li Zhi takes the ultimate crown. I really doubt that the emperor thinks so highly of Li Zhi, but the 2 elder sons probably show their true colours too soon.

On the other hand, the Sheng brothers of the Duke of Lu family share a closer and more united bond. Sheng Chu Mu, Sheng Chu Ling and Sheng Chu Jun – when the boys are still frivolous & immature playboys, they stuck and cover for each other. When they grow to contribute towards the country, each taking different route. Each still a playboy falling in love with a beauty, and striving to prove themselves. The ending for Chu Jun is very sad, how can they write such a tragic script for the youngest?! (sob… sob…)

Sibling love is also not just amongst the brothers. The sibling love between Lu Qi and Lu Ying Ying is also warming to the heart. Both truly care for each other and their family. Lu Ying Ying voluntarily marries Prince of Liang to save his father and brother, even though Prince of Liang is known to be promiscuous and a woman-beater. Upon her marriage, Lu Qi is concerned how is Ying Ying treated, continuously coaxing and comforting her to inform their family if she is being bullied. Surprisingly, the Duke of Cai being the evil villain and all, managed to raise such a pair of filial children.

Interesting Story Arcs of the Villains

What is a story without their villains? Surprisingly, this series makes me feel & empathise with the villains. Their journeys are equally full of difficult decisions, and they are human after all, and it could be any of us in their situation. The series paints a lot of gray into the characters, which makes the series all the more interesting.

Crown Prince – from the noble prince born with a silver spoon, to an arrogant prince demanding for respect, to the suspicious prince thinking everyone is scheming against him, to a paranoid prince with evil intent. The character is portrayed to be insecure and a poor judge of character. He is just too into his own personal agenda that he could not see the bigger picture. He fails miserably in taking advices, always trusting the wrong confidante who is using him. His fall from the top is a humbling experience, but I doubt that he ever learns his lesson. His Crown Princess is equally similar in personality, insecure of her own position & the love of the Crown Prince. She makes even worse mistakes than the Crown Prince, leading to their downfall eventually. 

Crown Prince & Crown Princess

Prince of Zhou, the son of Concubine Yan, a character I really hate. He hides behind a smiling face, pretending to be a chivalrous & gentlemanly prince. However, the character is the most scheming of ALL the villains. Like mother like son, very similar to his own birth mother Concubine Yan. His favourite is to twist the situations for misunderstandings, especially between Chu Mu and Fu Rou. And the 2 love-birds ALWAYS fall for his tricks. They must be totally blinded by their love for each other. Tan Cian Ji the actor portraying the character is very good as the spoilt brat too as I first watched him in a modern drama The Centimeter of Love. Actor with potential 😀  

Prince Zhou – the scheming prince

Prince of Liang, the brother of the emperor, the brute of a prince who is promiscuous and cruel. He relies on his father to maintain his control in the capital city. He improves a little upon his marriage with Lu Ying Ying, and lucky him to have such a kind-hearted wife who gives up freedom to suffer punishment with him. He could not believe it that his wife will come back for him in his worst condition, insisting to himself that she will not do so. People do believe what they want to, and it is difficult to change their mind. BUT I am glad of the twist ending the series had. He did not escape death, but at least he cares enough to protect his wife.

Another very interesting villain is Lu Qi, the only son of Duke of Cai Lu Yunji. Lu Qi is born into the glorious family of a general, and is dedicated towards his family benefits. The character is really quite filial and has a strong dedication towards family glory. His relationship with Fu Yin is bitter-sweet, as he truly loves her and is pained when he realises her true reason to be near him. Regardless of the pain, he is unable to find it in his bones to kill her, and even free her when he is fleeing from the guards. If he is born into a different family, perhaps his journeys and ending will be quite different. Perhaps a character as naïve and pure as Fu Yin, who truly believes in karma, suits Lu Qi to counter his conscience.

Fang Zi Yan, a young victim of the treasonous Duke of Cai’s schemes. He is saved while escaping by the pirates, but became obsessed with taking revenge. At first, he is in love with Fu Rou (as they were childhood friends). He does not appreciate the admiration of Lu Ying Ying, but when he loses her then only regrets his own actions. Lu Ying Ying describes him as too engrossed in his hatred and advises him to repent. Even Fu Rou advises him to take the right path towards being an upright person. Unfortunately, Fang Zi Yan never listens until it is too late.

Fang Zi Yan – Pirate, Official, Traitor?

Interesting Muses

Empress Zhangsun is considered as an empress who is noble & virtuous. My conclusion – having a good wife is the key to a peaceful life. Boys, choose your virtuous wife wisely!

I am surprised Li Yi Tong takes up the role with Yu Zheng’s production, but she excels in it and manages to bring an elegance to the role. The character of Fu Rou is one that is subtle to remain principled without being overly aggressive. Li Yi Tong does a fairly good job, but performance-wise she is better in Royal Nirvana. Herewith, her acting is moderated with little growth.

Xu Kai portraying Sheng Chu Mu is Fucha Heng in the Story of Yanxi Palace. He looks slightly different in the series. Chu Mu’s playfulness & flirtatious nature are so different from the cool-headed Fucha Heng. Chu Mu’s character could be expanded to showcase his growth but is a little muted.

Fu Rou & Sheng Chu Mu

There are so many characters in the series, providing ample opportunities for various actors & actresses. I guess that Yu Zheng’s complicated stories provide a great avenue for many different new artists to shine and get their 10 seconds of fame. Though Yu Zheng’s character is of dubious nature, his production does provide a lot of opportunities for the industry.

Royal life is so full of twists and schemes, and dangerous! Never be born into a royal family in the olden days.

There seems to be less emphasis on OST, a little disappointing as I have always love a good accompanying tune to a good series.  

There is a great English translation of the series, link herewith.

Conclusion 8/10

At 55-episodes, the beginning of the series is a lot more playful & light-hearted, but the pace turned very serious especially after Fu Rou enters the palace. The story is engaging, but is complicated with many characters. It is also because of this that there are opportunities to tell the interesting stories of these side characters. The series excel in them, especially inter-twining the stories with historical persona.

Another reason that I like the series is the general feel-good factor. Karma is mentioned quite a lot near the end of the series, and most villains got what they deserved. The key characters remain true to their own principles. And series has a happy ending (yeay!), which is an important driver for me to finish the series. 😀 Watch this purely for the engaging storyline & the various characters. Acting is so-so, romance is bitter-sweet but not overly over-whelming. The last 10 episodes are very rushed, sometimes lacking good connection. But generally an enjoyable series.  

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