The 40-episodes series is a mix of coming-of-age adventures for a bunch of young royalties, romance and worldly wisdom, sprinkled with comical reliefs. The focus is in the region of Xin Chuan whereby the Lord of Xin Chuan has 10 sons and the other 8 regions will send ladies representative to be married off to the princes as peace-treaty.
Prince Yin Zheng is the 6th prince, seemingly weak physically but has many reform ideas. He volunteers to marry Li Wei from Ji Chuan, an agricultural region as his concubine. Their first meet up is filled with misunderstanding but both faces challenges during their journey and really falls in love with each other.
When Prince Yin Zheng journeys to Jin Chuan region, the Lord of Jin Chuan decides to marry off his daughter Princess Yuan Ying as he sees the potential and capability of Prince Yin Zheng. However, Princess Yuan Ying turns out to be an independent woman who longs to be an official in her own region. The two agrees on a pact for a temporary truce and to train Li Wei to be the rightful wife to the prince. Prince Yin Zheng and Princess Yuan Ying finally proceeds with an official divorce when his position within the Xin Chuan government is stabilised. Subsequently, he helps Princess Yuan Ying to persuade her family to allow her to be an official in Jin Chuan region.
Muse #1 : Bai Jing Ting portrays Prince Yin Zheng, does look slightly sickly and regal. I first watched him as the male lead in Reset and really like his acting. Prince Yin Zheng’s role is probably less difficult, but I like the conflicted but sweet prince. Tian Xi Wei portrays Li Wei and fits the chirpy, energetic & cute female lead. Perhaps such character has been immortalised in many other similar series, I do not feel too attached to the actress nor the character. A positive female role model definitely, always positive in facing challenge in life but perhaps lacking in layers in personality.
Muse #2 : Prince Yin Zheng’s attendant Official Su Shen is very cute, with great comical timing in his response to the situation. Love the character which brings laughter at the most critical period.
Muse #3 : The chemistry between Prince Yin Zheng and Li Wei is touch and go, sometimes there sometimes not there. The series do try to milk out as much sweet moments as possible for the couple, which does drag a little. At 40 episodes, the series could have been much more enjoyable if shorter and less draggy with the focus on romance especially between the two leads. The series pairs them off early on, but to sustain them over the remaining 40 episodes are a little bit more challenging. In real life, Prince Yin Zheng is definitely best boyfriend/ husband materials who is smart, sweet, understanding, forgiving and generous. Not so sure whether he exists in reality!
Muse #4 : Princess Yuan Ying’s involvement as the main wife is a little out of the ordinary, but it is great the series does not paint her as the third wheel. Her personality as a direct & ambitious woman who knows what she wants in life is a breath of fresh air. I also like how the series show the softer side of her and her need for approval from her parents to pursue the life that she wants. Her relationship with Li Wei is great as mentor and good friends, showing a lot of positivity towards the women.
Li Wei’s good friend Hao Jia chooses to be the concubine to the Eldest Legitimate Prince Yin Song with the ambition to rely on his status for a better life. She views marriage as an employment opportunity, with the husband as the employer. Prince Yin Song turns out to be an abuser, whereby Hao Jia regrets her choice to rely on a man to seek her life journey and own happiness. After going through a difficult pregnancy & labour, she encounters post-partum depression and tries to commit suicide. Saved by her good friends, she decides to begin a new life with her daughter and left Prince Yin Song. The arrogant Prince Yin Song is finally punished by Lord Xin Chuan to be a commoner upon being caught for his illicit involvement in betraying Xin Chuan.
Muse #5 : Post-partum depression is featured quite prominently in the ancient series, defined as being “possessed”. It is quite a sad reality on how this is described in the historical past without understanding the mental difficulties of the victims.
Muse #6 : It is interesting to note how Hao Jia describes her choice to marry the Eldest Legitimate Prince as an “employment”, looking for the best opportunities in the royal harem as a career.
Muse #7 : The actress who portrays Hao Jia is Chen Xiao Yun whom I first watched in Novoland Pearl Eclipse as Ti Lan. Her voice is quite special and memorable with a twinge of soft but persuasive tone. I really like her role as Ti Lan, but in this series as Hao Jia, she does not really shine through. The character is supposed to be a tough cookie, but that does not come through in the series.
Princess Shang Guan Jing from Dan Chuan, a region with women leaders and officials, is paired off with Yin Qi the 5th Prince, a mischievous and clownish young prince. Prince Yin Qi wears his emotions on his sleeves, often sensitive towards others. The term opposite attracts obviously applies to this pair as the strong-willed & loyal Princess Shang Guan Jing is as different as sun and moon with the mischievous but easy-going and happy-go-lucky Prince Yin Qi. When Prince Yin Qi is also punished to be a commoner, the couple faces the potential of divorce. Prince Yin Qi finally realises he has deep feelings for Dan Chuan’s princess and tries his best to win her over. Following her on a journey to visit various regions, they rekindle their feelings for each other and vows to be together despite their differences.
Muse #8 : I really like this pair of opposite attracts. I find myself rooting for Prince Yin Qi all the time – for him to be a bit more stable and realises his own feelings for Shang Guan Jing. I am also glad that Shang Guan Jing is realistic enough to understand that Prince Yin Qi will not be able to change his childish and mischievous way.
Prince Yin An is the playboy 3rd prince, who has a legal wife and 24 unofficial concubines. His love for money drives him towards businesses but he always thinks his contributions are significant to his wife and concubines. In reality, they do not think too highly of him due to his bragging & nagging. When his wife and concubines leave, he gets angry with them and tries to take revenge. When his wife and concubines show solidarity to be resilient towards his business schemes, he subsequently realises his annoying habits and tries to turn a new leaf.
The 4th prince and 7th prince are less featured, but both have loving wives although their journeys are slightly different with the 4th prince being more ambitious to carve a niche for himself. When he is found out to have ignored Prince Yin Zheng’s safety, Lord Xin Chuan warns him by demoting him to reflect upon his own behaviour. As the 7th prince has low-profile, he leads a relatively stable life.
The series is becoming very popular, and it is understandable. It is witty, funny and full of positive vibes. The key themes brought up revolves around the themes of coming-of-age adventures, testing the boundaries, challenging precedents, facing adversity, understanding their own values & principles.
Other themes explored are also interesting on their own. The sisterhood portrayed in the series has lots of positive vibes which I really like. Many ancient royal family series portrays the women as scheming against each other to come up top, never supporting each other. In total opposite, this series turn the tide around to show solidarity amongst the women who are marginalised. The series acknowledges the differences in personality of the women, but shines on their strength in facing adversities and sharing the woes to support each other. In real life, having strong friendships get through tough times does help but the dosage portrayed in the series may not be so realistic.
The series also bring significant meaning to “inclusion”, with the focus on the 9 regions and its economic benefits. Taxes based on tiering of income. Businesses for economic growth. Financial (and food) aids for neighbouring regions during natural disasters. Equality for marginalised community. Necessity of corruption in managing relationship vs efficiency for implementing initiatives undertaken by the government. Various regions bring different benefits to the table eg agricultural Ji Chuan, mining activities in Dai Chuan, business transactions in Jin Chuan etc. Very much like the economy of the world.
At the same time, the concept applied to bring about changes in a conservative society are very innovative too. Restaurant with focus of different cuisines of the 9 regions as a meeting place for foreign envoys – food does unite people. Selection of talents replacing selection of brides from the 9 regions. Instant meals used for aids to assist getting through the cold winter.
Of course, the series does not lack the normal royal family in-fighting and its intricacies. The Xin Chuan emperor is portrayed to be a lonely leader, always pitting his sons against each other to maintain balance at court. But the positive series pumps in the family focus for love and support, amidst their royal duties towards the citizens of the regions.
Generally a very feel-good series with lots of laughter along the way for the audience. Watch it for the novelty and feel-good positive vibes, less for romance and in-depth schemes. That way it is probably more satisfying.