Once Upon A Time in Ling Jian Mountain (2019) 从前有座灵剑山 : C Drama Series Review

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This series is almost like a slapstick comedy, light-hearted and really not to be taken too seriously. Just as the audience decides to give it a break, the story plots are actually deep & complicated, with linkages to all the various characters.

Series follow the adventure of Wang Lu (portrayed by Xu Kai), reincarnated from another world, who seeks to cultivate immortality. An arrogant rich youngster, Wang Lu, becomes a disciple of Ling Jian Mountain with his innate talent and embarks on a journey which surprises even himself. As he gets used to life in Ling Jian Mountain, he gets Wang Wu (portrayed by Sandra Pinna) as his Master and makes good friends with Hai Yun Fan (2nd prince of Yuntai Kingdom), Liu Li Xian (naïve & innocent immortal with high cultivation skills) and Wen Bao (chubby & patient disciple with specialty in earth element). He also strikes an unlikely friendship with Feng Ling (daughter of Ling Jian Mountain sect leader Feng Yin, and Wang Wu’s good friend).

Hai Yun Tian, Wang Lu, Liu Li Xian, Wen Bao – youthful adventure

The youngsters are tasked to go on an expedition to improve their cultivations & obtain experience. In their journey, they faced various challenges as a team and as individual, opening their horizon on life experiences.

  • Getting to know each other stage as new cultivators of Ling Jian Mountain, revealing the personality of the various characters
  • Facing off the difficult (and mostly hilarious encounters) between Wang Lu and his Master Wang Wu, who does not seem serious in teaching him cultivation methods
  • Returning to Wang Village (Wang Lu’s hometown) and facing off with bogus immortals making use of the villagers for their personal agenda
  • Competitive nature of the young cultivators and their individual reactions during tournaments of the various sects, including finding trust & betrayals during the tournament of various sects
  • Betrayal of sects for their own personal agenda, revealing a more sinister plot

On an individual basis, each of the character has their own demons to vanquish

  • Hai Yun Fan’s personal journey in his discovery of the dark secrets of his family’s persecution : his brother Hai Tian Guo’s betrayal of the family, his own drive to seek revenge & family love to protect each other.
  • Liu Li Xian’s innocence & ignorance but with great cultivation skills bellies a dark secret on her background, almost destroying Hai Yun Fan and her budding romance.
  • Wen Bao’s more down to-earth storyline on his struggle to achieve improvement in cultivation. It is quite funny how Wang Lu uses character-attacks to stimulate Wen Bao’s anger in order to improve his cultivation.  
  • Feng Ling’s dark background & her personal journey – her relationship with Ling Jian Mountain & her father Feng Yin, her attraction to Xue Bo Ran a wolf demon and the secrets her father wants to conceal from her.
  • Hai Tian Guo’s own journey to protect his family especially his younger brother, and his close brotherhood with Ou Yang Shang, previous Ling Jian Mountain sect leader.
Hai Yun Tian & Liu Li Xian

Pairing of Master-Disciple the 2 Wangs

At the beginning of the series, I do not like Wang Wu at all as her character is sneaky and never keeps promises. But as the series unfold, I realize she behaves in such a manner to escape her sorrow. Each action that she takes has a clear direction, although to others it may be easily misunderstood. Her first love & subsequent loss of Ou Yang Shang is a major setback for her.

Her interactions with Wang Lu are very funny, with Wang Lu always misunderstanding her intention & almost always trying to strike back. However, over time, as both master & disciples understand each other better, they have many similarities especially when it is to protect those that are dear to them. I also like the fact that both master and disciples have their own set of friends and adventures, never just the two of them on their own.

Wang Lu’s mischiefs are almost a mirror of Wang Wu’s ownself, but both clearly intends to protect each other. Wang Lu is also able to bring the smiles over the Wang Wu, effectively helping her to get over her sorrow & pining for Ou Yang Shang.

I love Xu Kai’s portrayal of Wang Lu, although I thought the pairing with Sandra Pinna is a little weird. She looks much older (and in the series she is already exceeding a thousand years :)), and when they are together the relationship really resembles sibling love, rather than lovers’ relationship. Xu Kai has way more interesting portrayals in facial expression in a funny way, instead of his usual cool look.

It takes a rascal to subdue another scoundrel

Disciples of Ling Jian Mountain

Feng Yin is portrayed by Roger Kwok, and I love his character. He is supposed to be the sect leader, serious in managing all the affairs of the sect but equally mischievous in managing wayward daughter, colleagues and disciples.

I love his banter with Wang Wu, his indulgence towards his daughter Feng Ling, his way of managing the sect upon Ou Yang Shang’s sudden departure. Roger Kwok proves his years of experiences as an actor is not to be wasted.

Roger Kwok as Feng Yin

The relationship between the “brothers and sisters” of Ling Jian Mountain is also interesting, as each of them are competitive but cares for the sect to work together to protect the sect and the realm.

Conclusion 7/10

With 37 episodes, the series is light-hearted and does make me laugh out loud many times throughout. Acting is so-so, CGIs pretty believable, story lines engaging with the many characters sometimes confusing but equally thought-provoking to stand alone on their own.

The ending seems rushed & slightly confusing for me. Although most loose ends are given clarity, the closure for Wang Lu-Wang Wu-Ou Yang Shang seems too hasty. The arc on Hai Tian Guo totally caught me off-guard, and frankly I did not like it.

Alcoholic master, scoundrel disciple

For Xu Kai fan, I thought he did well here to give his repertoire a difference instead of the usual cool & detached character. For comparison, I think he did way better in this series compared to Court Lady and even Falling into Your Smile. His Fu Cha Heng in Story of Yan Xi Palace is still a classic as the character itself is cool and loveable. I have been watching a lot of series recently with Xu Kai, and more and more I think he needs to challenge himself as an actor to the next level by taking on roles requiring differentiation. The gem in the series for me is Feng Yin as portrayed by Roger Kwok.

Watch it when you need a good laugh without overthinking on a serious plot in a series.

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