Novoland Pearl Eclipse (2021) 斛珠夫人 : C-Drama Series Review

Novoland Pearl Eclipse is really a series that I stumbled upon as it is shown on national television, and the couple of Emperor Di Xu and Consort Shu Rong caught my attention. Never really a Yang Mi’s fan, I actually resisted watching the show at the beginning but decided to give it a try to follow through with the Emperor and his consort’s ending.

The couple that caught my attention

The premises of the stories are varied but showcases a few relationships

  • Close brotherhood bond of Di Xu (Emperor) and Fang Jian Ming, closely intermingled with their mystical Bai Xi blood bond
  • Master-disciple relationships of Fang Jian Ming and his beloved 2 disciples – Fang Zhuo Ying and Fang Hai Shi
  • 3 couples with their different love stories :
    • Fang Jian Ming – Fang Hai Shi, representing the forbidden master-disciple relationship
    • Emperor Di Xu – Consort Shu Rong @ Princess Tilan, representing the love-hate relationship of Di Xu learning to love again
    • Fang Zhuo Ying – Zhe Liu, representing a simple palace guard and embroiderer’s love

The main stories follow through more than a decade of struggle that Di Xu and Fang Jian Ming (Lord Qing Hai) face to establish the kingdom and maintain its peace. As Di Xu loses his beloved wife Princess Zizan and almost losing his own life, his childhood best friend Fang Jian Ming uses his own blood to establish a mystical Bai Xi relationship whereby any physical injuries of Di Xu will be transferred to Jian Ming automatically. As the only remaining prince, Di Xu reluctantly ascended the throne where both he and Jian Ming commits towards establishing a kingdom serving the citizens.

As the close friends run the country together, they also face internal sabotages within the court, eliminating corrupt officials & moles trying to usurp the throne, and facing off with defending against external forces from bordering kingdoms. In their endeavour to maintain peace for the citizens, love brings more chaos into their lives.

Anguish of a Lover, Responsibility of a Ruler

I am a little confounded with Di Xu’s (portrayed by Xu Kai Cheng) character. It is very well-portrayed in the series, whereby I thought this particular character soared above Fang Jian Ming’s (portrayed by William Chan). His anguish is all written in his face, his struggle is so well-acted. A very simple-minded prince, who is once carefree and loving with a great friend & loving family, is thrown into chaos pursuant to losing his beloved wife. Unable to get over his loss, and not given a choice but to continue to serve his familial lines to ascend the throne. He is almost sadistic in nature, towards himself and others close to him.

I really like Xu Kai Cheng’s portrayal of this character. The character is not really a likeable one, and is such an easy villainous role to hate. BUT Xu Kai Cheng saves the role, and I find myself empathising with Di Xu and even rooting for his “awakening”. Losing his family and beloved wife changes him so much, putting him in torment on a daily basis while taking on the responsibility for a nation. Although moody all the time, he manages to somehow segregate his responsibility as the emperor and his own struggle with his personal relationship – especially with Princess Tilan, his Consort Shu Rong.

Almost sadistic emperor

I really like that he does introspection on his own behaviour, often struggling to even understand his own actions and temper tantrums. I also like the very realistic way he portrays his guilt, whereby he tries his very best to redeem through small acts but is not overly amicable. I like it even better that pursuant to his realisation that he really needs to move on, he actually keeps Zizan’s portrait and belongings away. Deep down, I am sure he has realised that no matter how much you love someone, the happiness and relationship are fleeting. Nothing is permanent. Although I am not really a believer of fate, I do think that when bricks and bats are thrown our ways, we just have to face them with persistence with a good conscience. Very likely, Di Xu’s conscience pricks at him whenever he is cruel to Princess Tilan. Having a conscience is a great start, and taking actions to move towards a guilt-free conscience is even better.

I do not condone physical and mental abuses, and Di Xu’s character actually imposes these very often at the beginning to Princess Tilan (poor girl!). But I do think that in the ancient times, these are very usual and even acceptable in the society then, especially when the perpetrator is an authoritative emperor.

But Di Xu really has his own demon to battle and crush. In actual fact, his behaviour towards Princess Tilan and Jian Ming is almost the same. When he gets angry at how Fang Hai Shi has saved Princess Tilan and that she resembles so much of his beloved Zizan, he goes berserk. With Tilan he goes through his passive-aggressive accusations while with Jian Ming, he purposely makes him see the portrait of Tilan and even make him confront his so-called “mistakes”.

I find it refreshing to see his journey from a tortured soul to finding his own reconciliation with grief and anger. Precisely due to Tilan’s gentle mild nature is the right treatment for his matters of conflicted heart, which makes me so supportive of this particular couple. 

Strength in Gentleness & Placid Acceptance

The complete opposite of her elder sister Princess Zizan, the younger Princess Tilan (portrayed by Chen Xiao Yun) is mild-mannered and demure, seemingly less confident. Sent for a marriage for her country’s benefits, she accedes to the arrangement and shoulders the responsibility to ensures assistance to her home country Zhunian.  

Tilan is bewildered with Emperor Di Xu’s often cruel actions and scathing comments. Taking them in her stride, she ensures a low profile even though it seems like an impossible task with all his volatile temper and jealousy.

Behind the weak physical façade & mild temperament lies a different kind of strength – a tenacious will to face fate in her journey. Being in a position of not being able to stand up for herself, she is not brash in her actions. She keeps her emotions in check (that is great EQ for a more modern-take) and even magnanimous in keeping an open mind to different perspectives. She is able to see through the sufferings of Di Xu and is even empathetic towards him even when he is obviously cruel towards her.

I like her quiet strength. I like that she keeps her emotions in check to ensure the best survival for her and her maids. Sometimes I can even detect the resignation in her voice when facing things that she has no control, and her slight annoyance of being wronged but has no avenue to even voice her own mind. As this is the first time I am watching actress Chen Xiao Yun, I am very impressed with her depiction of this role. As she acts dual role of the energetic & spirited Princess Zizan vs the modest & demure Princess Tilan, there is a marked differences in her portrayal.

One of the more impactful scenes is when Princess Tilan gets angry at being molested by Di Xu in front of her sister’s portrait. She finally musters enough courage to tell off Di Xu who is tipsy. She is angry but at the same time sympathetic towards the obvious mental suffering plaguing Di Xu. Totally an angel sent to save the burning-in-hell Di Xu.  

Every so sympathetic Princess Tilan

Devoted Friend & Official, Scheming Strategist, Dumbo Master

The character Fang Jian Ming or Lord Qing Hai (portrayed by William Chan) is depicted to be the loyal subject willing to sacrifice everything for the good of a kingdom. Although William Chan is able to carry through the cold-exterior required of this character, I am totally not impressed with this character at all.

Although with noble intention, he is always torn between his devotion towards ensuring the kingdom’s peace (and the Emperor’s well-being) and his love for his disciple Hai Shi. A person with little words, he is actually very loving towards both his disciples Zhuo Ying and Hai Shi. He doesn’t cultivate the master-disciple relationship to gain benefits, but always remind his disciples of his own directions & objective of Li Feng Pavilion.

He has a very clear direction guiding him towards dedication & commitment to serving the Emperor and kingdom. Such clarity guides his conscience but his clarity with his love for disciple Hai Shi though is very much lacking. Their many misunderstandings, his often pushing away of Hai Shi seemingly for her safety, his rejection towards Hai Shi’s love due to his belief in his shorter life, his refusal to communicate.

His character is actually a noble and understanding one, just that his relationship with Hai Shi is very annoying. Seeing 2 persons in love, but the many pushes and pulls are just so not necessary.

Main Poster

A Thin Line between Tenacious Persistence and Obstinate with Obsession

Fang Hai Shi is deemed the main female lead, a young girl blessed with the mythical mermaid’s pearl – well educated by Lord Qing Hai, naive but a quick learner of the complicated situations of the military and court-play.

More importantly, disguising as a male (although the people must be blind not to notice), she has all the freedom of a male official. She is able to freely move about, choosing her own path, and even contribute towards the kingdom in the most unconventional manner. However, what annoys me to no end is her obstinate nature and her obsession with her master – Fang Jian Ming.

In many situations, she is unable to judge the situation objectively, very often making the wrong move which usually results in worse situation for her strategist master. I call this – the more you help, the more the trouble comes. 😀

I see no attraction in someone who is narrow-minded with her views and not even grateful for all that she has. Her inflexibility doesn’t help with her obsession to chase after what she wants – a relationship with her Master, at all cost without any empathy to Fang Jian Ming’s needs and understanding.   

Given Jian Ming’s quiet nature, it makes sense for him to fall for the talkative Hai Shi with her energetic mischiefs. But their personality differences make a very difficult life-long compatibility without major compromises on one party. Based on their personalities, the one likely to make compromises should be Jian Ming. But precisely because Jian Ming is devoted to his life long pursuit to serve the kingdom, this creates a major conflict in their relationship. From that perspective, the expectation that the relationship will work is low.

A Blissful Mundane & Ordinary Relationship

Fang Jian Ming’s other non-descript disciple, Fang Zhuo Ying’s path is a little understated. A little more mundane, a little more ordinary, less excitement. However, precisely because of these are the blissful happiness that he deserves.

Mundane but sweet Zhe Liu and Zhuo Ying

His courtship with Ju Zhe Liu the palace embroideress is often sweet & with tacit understanding, but both parties willing. I am really glad that they have the ending that they both deserve.

Conclusion 7/10

At 49 episodes, the series took its time to develop the various story arcs with the main focus on the 3 pairs and the various plots to topple the emperor. The earlier episodes were enjoyable especially with the different relationships of

(1) Di Xu and Princess Tilan – the main reason for me to be hooked to the series to begin with. I hated the ending for both as it was so unnecessary, although it does make sense that Di Xu being a sensitive soul at heart will definitely not being able to go through another round of losing his family.

(2) Di Xu and Fang Jian Ming – this re-define brotherhood to another level. I love the depiction of the close brotherhood between Di Xu and Fang Jian Ming, once carefree young friends facing adventures together and growing up immediately to face a rebellion & establishing a peaceful kingdom. Their intention is noble with the greater good in mind, but at great personal sacrifices. Jian Ming’s determinance & actual dominance on decision-making, paired with Di Xu’s gratitude and real concerns for his good friend’s own choice in life.

(3) Fang Jian Ming’s close relationship with his disciples Zhuo Ying and Hai Shi – with a smaller age gap with the master-disciples, it is always endearing to see how Fang Jian Ming is firm and stern, but never pushy towards his disciples. His concerns for them are real and sincere. Their banters and sometimes admonishment of their master is actually testament of Fang Jian Ming’s openness towards criticism (and he listens too!).

But what makes the final score is definitely not the main couple of Fang Jian Ming and Fang Hai Shi. I am really opposed to their relationship, and both roles portrayed by William Chan and Yang Mi are nothing great to shout about. The royal conspiracy & military coup stories are average with no major breakthrough, but some part of the cinematography is quite impressive especially at the Huang Quan Border.

I actually hated the ending, so not necessary. But well, it is what it is. Watch it only if you could bear the often great misunderstandings and with less expectations.

Novoland 九州 is a shared fictional universe, whereby various authors use as the background to their stories. The first Novoland series that I watched is Hua Xu Yin : City of Desperate Love, whereby the premise of the stories are really interesting although some of the acting & props could have been better. Such interesting fictional universe.  

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s