Drama

Currently Watching: Luoyang (Is It Worth the Hype?)

Warning: MINIMAL SPOILERS from Episode 1 – 10 for the main characters, not the storyline.
Let’s be honest, like the crowd in this scene,
many people watch this drama for…
… but what else is worth checking out? (◔◡ <)✿

INTRODUCTION

This drama was highly anticipated by many, mostly domestic watchers and international fans of the actors/genre, since it announced filming in October 2020. Lots of paparazzi tried to sneak in or bribe insiders to snap photos. The hype escalated with gorgeous posters of the characters and settings, press conferences, and behind-the-scene videos. The iQiyi site crashed for an hour before the drama started. Meanwhile, fake reviews flowed into Douban, rating the drama from 1 (anti fan) to 5 (fan) before it officially aired. So much hype! While we Chinese historical drama-fans or the actors’ fans are currently watching it, is this drama worth watching for the curious onlookers? I’ll tell you a bit about the first 10 episodes, then you decide!

L  U O Y A N G

Native title: 风起洛阳
Also known as: Feng Qi Luo Yang, Wind from Luoyang
Country: China
Genres: Thriller, Historical, Mystery  
Episodes: 39
Airs: Dec  1, 2021 – Dec 30, 2021
Airs On: Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday
Duration: 45 min.
Watch here: Trailer 1, Trailer 2  |  Drama

The plot is simple, a typical historical mystery/investigation drama. Set in the ancient capital Luoyang during the era of 13 dynasties, the story revolves around three people who come from different backgrounds: Gao Bing Zhu, Bai Li Hong Yi, and Wu Si Yue. Together, they investigate a series of mysterious incidents involving the conspiracy to overthrow Empress Wu Ze Tian.

The drama is based on Ma Bo Yong’s novel that has not been published yet. There is no original work, so it adds a sense of mystery to the story. Ma Bo Yong, dubbed as the “Prince of Fantasy”, is an award-winning Chinese crime novelist whose works have been adapted to several dramas, one of them being The Longest Day in Chang’an (2019). His other novel that is highly anticipated for a drama adaptation is the upcoming The Wind Blows From Longxi.


MAIN CHARACTERS

Sometimes, the struggle of watching Chinese historical dramas is the numerous characters, some having multiple names. Some characters even have secret roles, so telling you about them is a major spoiler. Don’t look at the cast list either, there are spoilers. While watching, just write some names and positions down, and remember how they look like or what they wear. To not overwhelming you, I will just tell you about the main characters. Don’t worry about the rest! After several episodes, you’ll become familiar with them.

Gao Bing Zhu
(
Huang Xuan)
Bai Li Hong Yi/Er Lang
(
Wang Yi Bo)
Wu Si Yue/Yue Hua
(Song Qian)

Gao Bing Zhu, further referred to as Bing Zhu, lives for revenge. He is from the slum Unwelcome Well, I will tell about the place later. He used to be a deputy marshal according to the synopsis, but I haven’t seen him in that role yet. That was five years prior, but something happened so he became an outcast. He is a wanted man now as he’s a suspect in some deaths. However, the higher-ups in the government respect him. Bing Zhu is a part-time mortician, so he’s good at doing autopsies and checking the cause of wounds and death. His other skills? He’s a cunning and street-smart fighter. His martial arts action is amazing, but more important are his excellent survival skills.

Bai Li Hong Yi, further referred to as Er Lang, longs to find out the truth about his father’s death. He is from the noble family of Bai Li. His father used to be a Minister of Works. Er Lang used to work under his father, but he resigned as a protest against his father’s plan to marry him off. Er Lang is an upright man, although he has known Liu Ran for a long time, he doesn’t want to marry for business reasons. He’s more passionate about his mechanical engineering hobby. He is also picky about food, so he becomes an unofficial food critic who goes to restaurants to review their food. Things changed when his father died. Now, he needs to rack his genius brain to find out the mystery behind it.

Wu Si Yue, further referred to as Yue Hua. She is an Inner Guard official. The family of Wu has been a loyal supporter for the Empress for a long time, so her majesty appointed them as the royal guards and her brother as the head of the Inner Guard Office. As a proud member of the Wu family, Yue Hua is skilled in martial arts. She is also a curious person with sleuthing skills and a sense of justice that takes her above and beyond just escorting royal family members. Empress Wu Ze Tian even gives her permission to investigate anything and anyone. Much to her brother’s displeasure, who wants her to be a typical lady and get married.

There is one more character who so far is not involved in the investigation, but she’s quite important: Er Lang’s wife Liu Ran (Song Yi). Liu Ran comes from the oldest noble family of Liu. Her uncle and Er Lang’s father married them off for business purposes. Er Lang and Liu Ran have known each other since they were little. She has a crush on him, so she is determined to marry him. Although Er Lang is not happy with the arranged marriage, thus he is cold to her, Liu Ran is caring and sensible. She is specifically supportive during his hard times losing his father.

Clueless Couple


FIRST IMPRESSIONS

My first impression of this drama started before the drama aired. The gorgeous set posters seen on the Photo section on the drama page are definitely a feast to the eyes, credited to Cryssy Anne and Enigma05 who uploaded them. From the start, I knew the cinematography would be superb, since the director Xie Ze was a cinematographer for 10+ years before becoming a director. He also directed the famous Legend of Fu Yao (2018).

Then I saw in the comment section a list of details of the drama production (thanks to fellow MDLer LoveLiyingYibo who posted it): pre-production took 120+ days and shooting 150+ days. During pre-production, 100+ sets were built that took about 40,000+ sq meters (≈ 4 hectares or 10 acres). Production involved 650+ staff and 25,000+ actors, wearing 5000+ sets of costumes, 5,000+ accessories, and using 15,000+ props. How these details are used is seen on the example below:

Did you see the people kneeling down in the far across the river on the scene? The production team didn’t necessarily need to put the extras there, we wouldn’t really notice. However, the drama wants to show us how populated the Unwelcome Well is, a setting I will tell you about below.

After 10 episodes are out, I found some of my favorites:

Favorite Main Character: Gao Bin Zhu

In general, the main actors bring up their respective characters impressively. Before watching Luoyang, I have watched Wang Yi Bo in The Untamed (2019), and Song Qian in Lover or Stranger (2021) and Find Yourself (2020). In this drama, Wang Yi Bo played the cold and nerdy Er Lang perfectly, so was Song Qian with strong-willed and kick-ass Yue Hua’s character. However, I had never seen Huang Xuan’s performance before. Therefore, I’m surprisingly impressed by his acting, bringing up the character of Gao Bin Zhu flawlessly. A man who was born and raised in an unfortunate place like Unwelcome Well, who had a dream to be free from the place, only to be ruined by what happened to him that changed him to be a cold-hearted and revengeful man, inflicted by the traumatic wound. You watch Huang Xuan act as heartless psycho Bin Zhu, but you also see him act as sympathetic and carefree Bin Zhu. I don’t want to spoil you what happened, but here’s a heartbreaking scene when he cries reflecting the past:


Favorite Supporting Character: Empress Wu Ze Tian

In my opinion, this story time setting is in the most interesting history in China during the reign of Empress Wu Ze Tian. In this drama, the Empress is played by award-winning veteran actress Yong Mei. She is depicted as a calm, soft-spoken ruler and a meditative Buddhist follower, yet is feared by her subordinates, including her direct descendants. Officials and family members have an audience with her in sweat and tremble out of fear.

Because of the interesting depiction of the Empress in this drama, I actually dug more information about the first and only female ruler in China’s history. Since it’s not my intention to write more extensively about this impressive ruler, you can read more about her here, here, and here.

Historically, Empress Wu Zetian’s consolidation of power partly relied on a system of spies. In this drama, you get to know Joint Corp, a very complicated yet effective intel organization that is the eyes and ears of the Empress. As an organization, Joint Corp plays a major role in this drama, but I won’t explain further. What they do might be spoilers to the story. This is my favorite organization so far, not only because of its intricate administration, but because I’ve never seen an intelligent organization like this in other Chinese historical dramas!


Favorite Setting: The Unwelcome Well

The royal palace is majestic, and the noblemen’s mansions are exquisite, yet the setting that attracts me the most is the Unwelcome Well, as it’s unlike other settings usually seen in Chinese historical dramas. As the drama tells the audience about the place: “in the hustle and bustle of the capital, there is an unsavory area. It’s called the Unwelcome Well. It’s dark and humid. It’s a world of total darkness. People who live here are all outcasts. Most of them are descendants of criminals. For the rest of their lives, they’re not allowed to leave the Unwelcome Well.” (Luoyang, episode 2). Although it’s a slum area, the people, the props, and what happened there so far are quite rich. For example the chasing and fights I will tell you about below.


Favorite Scenes: The Manhunt for Gao Bin Zhu

When Bin Zhu is still a wanted criminal, the manhunt scenes depicting many departments searching for him are impressive with the massive use of set, lighting, extras, and props. 

To the right is the manhunt scene when Yue Hua with the Inner Guard are looking for Bin Zhu all the way to the Unwelcome Well. The action scenes while running and fighting are well executed. The drama not merely shows actions, but also incorporates the characterization of the main roles, Bin Zhu and Yue Hua. In the little scene when in the middle of the cat-and-mouse game they both saved an innocent little child, showing each other (and the audience) that they are not cold-blooded, but actually are considerate human beings and can work together harmoniously.

Below is the amazing cinematography of the manhunt scene at night, when he escapes during transfer from one department to another. The search involved the entire city of Luoyang, while the wounded Bin Zhu was trying to hide.


Favorite OST: “The Wind of Luoyang” at Er Lang and Liu Ran’s wedding

Although I’m not a fan of background music improperly placed that hinders the action happening on the scene,  I just needed to turn down the volume. So many things to see on the screen, plus reading the subtitles and understanding the conversation! But I love the OST, although surprisingly not one sung by any of the leading OST singers in Cdramaland! The song “Wind of Luoyang” quickly became my favorite song. I played it in a loop while writing this article. First I heard it when it was played during the elaborate wedding scene between Er Lang and Liu Ran. Although the scene seems draggy, the detailed traditional Chinese wedding ceremony is entertaining and informative for an international audience like me to watch. The song itself actually is not a wedding or love song, it’s more like the Luoyang national anthem, lol! It tells about the beauty of Luoyang, its people, and the king. However, the calm tune, the singer’s soothing voice, and the Chinese traditional music instruments fit perfectly accompanying the bride and groom walking slowly down the aisle. 

Below is the list of OST up to Ep 10. Note that Song Qian also sang an OST song.

Huang Si Fu
Song Qian

Winky Shi 
Ending theme “Longing Heart” (心念) by Huang Si Fu (黄诗扶)
“Long Wind” (长风送) by Song Qian
“Wind of Luoyang” (风起洛阳) by Winky Shi (Winky诗)
Xiao Huang Liang (笑黄梁 ) an old saying means “a dream that cannot be reached” by Li Zhen Ning (李振宁)
“Heavenly Mystery” (天机) by Lao Qian Ma (Lao乾妈)
“Irrelevant” (无关) by Silence Wang

Li Zhen Ning
Lao Qian Ma
Silence Wang

FORETHOUGHTS

Now, after watching all the beautiful cinematography, setting, costume, and props that entertain us, don’t be fooled! The plot itself is dark. There is a lot of bloodshed and deaths, separation, sadness, and fears. A lot of secrets to be revealed, some are appalling to the characters.

For newbies in historical Cdramas, taking notes of the names and terms is necessary in the beginning. While the eyes are trying to note all the intricacies of props and sets in every scene, the brain has to process all the names and terms thrown on the screen, while camera goes fast from one scene to another. 

Another forethought is the quality of dialogues. I assume Ma Bo Yong was only involved in creating the plot line, not the dialogues. I’m not too impressed with the way the scriptwriter Qing Mei wrote too simple dialogues between the main characters. For example, many times during conversations between Er Land and Liu Ran, she only calls his name with no other conversation follows. And it happens like hundreds of times! Another example, the sub stories seem draggy without witty dialogues. For example, the mundane conversation happening at the princess’ birthday banquet. Oh well, the scriptwriter isn’t at level with my favorite Chinese scriptwriter Wang Juan yet.

 


CONCLUSION

In my opinion, Luoyang is a good Chinese mystery/investigation historical drama that can be watched by beginners, as the crime plot is quite simple as I stated in the Introduction. Since the protagonists are not royal family members, there are not much intrigued palace politics involved, a factor many drama fans shy away from historical dramas from.

Luoyang can also be watched as a currently airing drama. The release schedule is 2 episodes a day from Wednesday to Saturday, and the plot moves fast. By the end of the year, I can put this drama as the last one to watch in my dramaland milestone list!

Regarding the ending, I safely assume that in the end the conspiracy will be revealed, and the nation goes back into a normal situation, the Empress will still be on her throne, and our heroes stay alive. I have watched similar Chinese mystery/investigation historical dramas like The Imperial Coroner (2021), Ancient Detective (2020), The Sleuth of Ming Dynasty (2020), and I can guess that Luoyang will also end nicely.

Snippet: a meal that unites

Do you enjoy eating chicken like Bin Zhu or Er Lang?

Back to the main question: Is Luoyang worth the hype? What do you think?

Thanks for reading and happy watching!


Acknowledgement and credits: Thank you to the editors who edited this article. I do not own any of the images; credits go to their respective owners. The images are from Internet search, drama posters, stills, and screenshots. GIFs are self-made from drama scenes.


Edited by: Tine (1st editor), devitto (2nd editor)

historical
chinese drama
wang yi bo
victoria song
song qian
luoyang
ma bo yong
huang xuan
song yi
wu ze tian

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