Available on: Viki, YouTube
Total episode #: 48
Dumpling-rating scale: 4/5
Legend of Yun Xi 芸汐传 (much like its Legend predecessors such as Fuyao, Dugu, Ba Qing) follows an intelligent but disadvantaged girl’s fight against her enemies — and succeeding! Along the way, she gets caught in a messy love triangle, all the while entertaining us with her upbeat and humorous personality.
Based on the novel Poison Genius Consort (天才小毒妃), it stars Ju Jing Yi 鞠婧祎 as the titled lead and Zhang Zhe Han 张哲瀚 as the cold Prince Qin. Rounding out our leads, Merxat 米热 portrays the mysterious poison master, Gu Qi Shao.
Probably the most underrated 2018 CDrama, I found this light-hearted drama truly enjoyable to watch. Although I thought there were a few too many political scenes, the plot was generally tight and the pacing consistent.
Particularly enjoyable was the development of Yun Xi and Long Fei Ye’s relationship. The contrast of their personalities — Yun Xi is the embodiment of sunlight and Long Fei Ye (true to his nickname) an ice block — was very entertaining.
Their relationship begins less than optimally when Yun Xi becomes Fei Ye’s first concubine as part of the Empress Dowager’s scheme to destroy Fei Ye. However, as the drama progresses they fall in love after Fei Ye recognises Yun Xi’s good-nature and skill while Yun Xi’s recognises Fei Ye’s honor (and strength?). Entwined in their love story is the battle for power between Tian Ning, Western Qiu and Northern Li states.
For ‼️ spoilers ‼️ I have set out my Episode Guide below (starring 🌟 my favorite arcs) –
- Arc 1 | Episodes 1 – 4 | Past Encounters 🌟
- Arc 2 | Episodes 5 – 23 | The Warring States 🌟
- Arc 3 | Episodes 24 – 39 | The Poison Master
- Arc 4 | Episodes 40 – 48 | A United Kingdom
Arc 1 | Episodes 1 – 4 | Past Encounters 🌟
Episode 1 introduces Han Yun Xi as the daughter of a high-regarded imperial doctor. Following her mother’s disappearance, she is ostracized by her father and develops a frightful red mark on the side of her face. The mark causes her to be shunned from society (by developing a reputation for being ugly), isolating her even further.
In an effort to cure herself, Yun Xi encounters Fei Ye (in disguise) and Gu Qi Shao. Gu Qi Shao is immediately taken by Yun Xi’s positivity and kindness (despite the mark on her face). Against the advice of his companions, Gu Qi Shao helps Yun Xi escape from Fei Ye (after she steals his book of poison remedies).
Little does Yun Xi know that she will soon be married to Fei Ye. The Empress Dowager (the Emperor’s mother) who is increasingly fearful of Fei Ye’s growing influence makes a deal with Yun Xi — Yun Xi is to marry Fei Ye and become the Empress Dowager’s spy. Yun Xi’s main goal is to determine whether Fei Ye is in fact Prince Qin (the Empress suspects that he might be a fraud). The only way to determine this is to located the Wind Symbol on his body. In return the Empress Dowager promises to reunite Yun Xi with her mother.
Nearing her wedding day, Yun Xi’s mark on her face grows and she begins suspects her father. Her father confirms that he has been poisoning her (to prevent her marriage to the prince) but she goes ahead anyway for the sake of her mother.
On the way to the prince’s manor she put on her mother’s bracelet (gifted to her by the Dowager Empress). This magical bracelet transports her to a mystical world where she is able to find the remedy to various poisons including her own. Using the bracelet, Yun Xi is able to cure her face and finally enters the prince’s manor.
Meanwhile, Fei Yi pursues a look-a-like Yun Xi but is instead poisoned by Qi Shao (in a mask). He returns to his manor seriously wounded and Yun Xi (without knowing who he is) cures him. Upon asking him to leave, Fei Yi reveals that he is in fact her husband…
Arc 2 | Episodes 5 – 23 | The Warring States 🌟
Arc 2 explores the political landscape of the warring states and the competing interests of their leaders. At the top is the Emperor Tian Wei of Tian Ning – although intelligent, he is mistrustful and conniving. He is especially cautious of his brother, Prince Qin (Long Fei Yi), particularly given his rising power and influence.
In an effort to maintain his grip on power, Emperor Tian Wei marries the princess of the defeated Western Qiu, Chu Qing Ge. Renowned for her beauty and intelligence, Princess Chu Qin Ge views this marriage as a step in executing her revenge against Tian Ning.
It’s not just the Emperor who is mistrustful of Prince Qin — the Crown Prince Long Tian Mo and his maternal Grand Uncle are actively trying to bring Prince Qin down. Together with Gu Qi Shao (and his companion Yu Ze, who is in love with him), they massacre a number of high-ranking ministers with the intention of framing Prince Qin. Their plans are however exposed and before the Grand Uncle is executed, Long Fei Yi reveals to him that he in fact the Crown Prince of the decimated Western Qin and also intent on destroying Tian Ning.
Long Fei Yi and Yun Xi grow closer despite the Fei Yi’s discovery that Yun Xi is working for spy for the Dowager Empress (in episode 7). In episodes 8 and 10, Yun Xi demonstrates her loyalty by Long Fei Yi by taking a knife for him in pursuit Yu Ze and providing the Dowager Empress with false information.
Gradually, Long Fei begins to trust Yun Xi and accompanies her back to her family home for the mid-autumn festival (in episode 15). Long Fei Yi defends Yun Xi at her family home (shaming her father’s second house) and also discovers that Yun Xi’s mother died while protecting him.
Mirroring Long Fei Yi’s growing affection, Gu Qi Shao’s pursuit of Yun Xi also intensifies. With the arrival of Bai li Ming Xiang, Yun Xi finds solace in Gu Qi Shao (episodes 16 and 17). Although, Yun Xi eventually returns home, it is disclosed that Fei Yi is suffering from an incurable ‘Gu Poison’. For over a decade, Ming Xiang has been cultivating ‘Beauty Blood’ to cure him.
Fei Yi was poisoned with the Gu Poison as part of the Emperor’s ‘super human’ soldiers experiment. The poison gives you incredible strength for a period of time before eventually killing you. Fei Yi finally shares this with Yun Xi (and his history with her mother) in episode 23.
Entwined in the story is the playful relationship of Ning Jing (mistress of the Yun Kong Academy and Yun Xi’s loyal friend) and Tang Li (Long Fei Yi’s younger brother and ardent supporter).
Arc 3 | Episodes 24 – 39 | The Poison Master
Political intrigue escalates in arc 3 and it is revealed that the Poison Master is Yun Xi’s father. Yun Xi’s mother and father separated after the Poison Master started experimenting on prisoners to become super soldiers the cost of which is early death.
In and amongst this revelation, multiple members of the royal family are poisoned including the Crown Prince (who is poisoned by the Second Prince and Princess Qin Ge). To clear his name, Fei Yi and Yun Xi seek the Poison Master and Poison Beast — successfully, they are able to cure the Crown Prince which result in the downfall of the Second Prince and his mother.
Knowing that he is dying, Fei Yi asks Yun Xi to leave him and live with the Poison Master and Qi Shao. Despite this, Ming Xiang becomes increasingly jealous. In episode 35, Ming Xiang kills the Poison Master after he tells that the only way to cure Fei Yi is by using Yun Xi’s ‘Hearts Blood’.
Qi Shao’s secret is also revealed — he is the son of the Emperor Northern Li and a ‘lowly’ woman. In order to give his mother a proper burial he has been complying with Crown Prince of the Northern Li to destroy Fei Yi and Tian Ning. Betrayed by this revelation, Yun Xi and Qi Shao also separate. Qi Shao is later saved by Yu Ze and is able to reach a deal with the Crown Prince to finally put his mother’s ashes to rest.
In another ditch effort to kill Fei Ye, the Emperor sends him to the south to deal with a plague in episode 36. Yun Xi follows and they discover that the citizens have in fact been poisoned by the Emperor. Fei Yi and Yun Xi are able cure the citizen and in doing to win their respects and that of other ministers.
The Emperor grows even more fearful of Fei Yi. To the Emperor’s horror, the Crown Prince launches the first attack on the Palace in episode 39. Also in this episode, Fei Yi’s mother has to a heart-to-heart with her — she tells her that Yun Xi is Fei Yi’s true match.
Arc 4 | Episodes 40 – 48 | A United Kingdom
All out war breaks loose in episode 40. Fei Yi’s mother sacrifices her life to allow him to launch a full-scale attack on the Palace. Out of grief, Fei Yi reveals himself as ‘Gu Poisoned’ man. Refusing to leave the Palace, the Dowager Empress commits suicide and leaves a note saying that she killed the real Fei Yi (in a fire over 15 years ago) and this is her karma.
The Emperor retreats and leaves the Palace. Although, Fei Yi has succeeded in temporarily defeating the now former Emperor, his health deteriorates. Ultimately, Yun Xi finds out that the only way to cure Fei Yi is by using her ‘Hearts Blood’. This realisation coincides with the former Emperor’s preparation to launch a final attack on Fei Yi using an army of Gu infected soldiers. Believing that he is dying, Fei Yi proposes to Yun Xi.
After their official wedding, Yun Xi drugs Fei Yi and forces Qi Shao to extract her ‘Heart’s Blood’ to cure Fei Yi. Qi Shao devastated by Yun Xi’s death helps Yun Xi defeat the Emperor and unify the kingdom. Fei Yi mourning Yun Xi’s death, passes the throne to Tang Li (and Ning Jing) to become an ‘ordinary citizen’.
I would have liked a less ambiguous ending but as far as Chinese drama endings go I’ve seen a lot worse. I have chosen to interpret the ending in a happy way — that is, thanks to Yun Xi mother’s magical bracelet, Yun Xi is reincarnated and reunited with Fei Yi in the country. Fulfilling Yun Xi’s mother’s wish, they are able to live an ‘ordinary life’ without the complexities of palace life.
While Legend Yun Xi wasn’t perfect, I thought the conclusion reached by dramapanda perfectly summarised how I felt about this drama and it was that –
While the Legend of Yun Xi is a lot like other drama it is bright and exciting and the main trio fit their roles—we get a visual feast of backdrops and costumes and a lovely OST to match, so what’s not to love?
Sometimes, good stories don’t have to be told the exact same way. Sometimes, they find their own path in the retelling, and glow beautifully all the same.