|The main cast from left to right: Tang Li (Wang Youshuo), Ouyang Ning Jing (SNH48 Lin Siyi), Gu Qishao (Mi Re/Merxat), Han Yunxi (Ju Jingyi), Long Feiye (Zhang Zhehan), Chu Qingge (SNH48 Kiki/Xu Jiaqi), and Emperor Tianhui (Hu Bing).
Legend of Yun Xi follows in the grand tradition of its Legend predecessors such as Fuyao, Dugu, Ba Qing, and the rest in pitting an intelligent and capable underdog of a girl against her enemies—and winning. Along the way, she snags the heart of one man, breaks the heart of another, and dazzles us all with her spirit and spunk from the moment she power walks out of her bridal sedan chair and into her mother-in-law’s face.
|Nothing’s getting in the way of this girl’s marriage, not even her wedding veil.
Synopsis: Adapted from the novel Poison Genius Consort by author Jie Mo, the 48-episode webdrama tells the story of Han Yunxi (Ju Jingyi), an imperial physician’s daughter who’s doubly skilled in medicine and poisons. This turns extra handy when she’s decreed by the emperor to marry the country’s second most powerful man, the Duke of Qin—or Prince Qin, if you prefer—Long Feiye (Zhang Zhehan), because he’s always getting into scrapes. However, all is not well in the holy land of matrimony.
|Han Yunxi: So we’re married now, what’s next? Long Feiye: Now we pretend everything was just a fever dream.
Han Yunxi’s working in the service of the empress dowager to spy on her new husband so she can find her long-lost mother. Long Feiye is investigating the emperor and crown prince for their nasty human experiments while plotting revolution on the side. Gu Qishao (Mi Re/Merxat), a seemingly aloof valley master with a penchant for red robes, befriends our female protagonist and falls in love with her even as he shoulders a mission to destroy her homeland from the inside out.
|Gu Qishao: You can’t blame me for hating the male lead when he beats me every time!
|Gu Qishao: Poison lass, run away with me instead! Han Yunxi: Okay, but I have to be home before curfew or hubby will get mad.
Meanwhile, our side plots involves a princess of a neighboring kingdom named Chu Qingge (SNH48 Kiki/Xu Jiaqi) seeking vengeance for her murdered father by marrying Emperor Tianhui (Hu Bing) and a love-you-hate-you whirlwind romance between our two sidekick characters, Tang Li (Wang Youshuo) and Ouyang Ning Jing (SNH48 Lin Siyi). She wants to marry him, he’d rather eat dirt. (Despite three separate mentions of marriage in this post, I swear this series is more palace politics and intrigue instead.)
|Chu Qingge: You think I’m only unconscious, but this is all part of The Plan™.
|Ning Jing: We totally slept together. Tang Li: We did WHAT?!
Along the way, we have people getting poisoned about every other episode. Because, you know, Han Yunxi has to show off her genius skills. Naturally, everything ties into a big overarching plot that culminates in a crescendo of war-torn battlefields, near-death experiences, and dramatic song lyrics so perfectly encapsulated in the series’ theme song and MV, “Falling Flowers Turn to Mud.”
So how’s it look so far?
First Impressions: Surprisingly, I like it.
It’s not the webnovel, that’s for sure, but maybe that’s the point. Legend of Yun Xi leans more on the fluff and character archetypes, painting the picture of a vibrant, lively world with bright, broad strokes instead of lingering over the little details. Pacing for the iQiyi web version is measured but steady so there’s always something to look forward to for the next episode. You come to quickly recognize the type of characters you’ll meet: the quirky and outgoing heroine, her cold and aloof husband, the charming but crafty second male lead.
|Legend of Yun Xi also gives viewers the chance to choose between vengeful, sweet, fluffy, or spicy romance amidst its mixmash of power struggles and poison plots.
Initially, I had doubts about the casting of Zhang Zhehan as Long Feiye, who’s nicknamed in the book as Giant Ice Cube, but he looks much better in motion than in stills. They’ve also paired him with an excellent voice actor that dubs all his lines with all the perfect nuances you expect from a chilly, taciturn aristocrat/”God of War” just waiting for the right girl to melt him. 😉
|Long Feiye (Zhang Zhehan)
Mi Re/Merxat is also well cast as Gu Qishao, imbibing the combination of danger and mischief that makes up his paradoxical personality. In a usual move for drama adaptations, his Gu Qishao is actually an amalgamation of two separate novelverse characters, yet both fit the image of “bewitching but deadly.” His eyes and slight head tilts are especially expressive in scenes that ask for punches of personality.
|Gu Qishao (Mi Re/Merxat)
And Han Yunxi? Ju Jingyi’s a bit more cheery, immature, and cutesy than the original character, but at heart she’s still got the spirit and spark that made her such an appealing protagonist. Yes, she still falls into the trap of noble idiot at times, but it’s moments when she stands up to her foes or cleverly uses her brains that really allows her to shine.
|Han Yunxi (Ju Jingyi)
This is an idol production with plenty of young actors and actresses to match—singers too, as Shanghai Star 48 Culture and Media Group is the main production company. A good number of the supporting cast come from girl groups like SNH48 or similar (perhaps accounting for all these original characters on the side). But every person has their own place, point, and personality, so you’ll be able to tell them apart before long.
|Emperor Tianhui (Hu Bing) and Chu Qingge (SNH48 Kiki/Xu Jiaqi) in the center, flanked by girl group stars. From left to right: Baili Mingxiang (SNH48 Shao Xuecong), Ouyang Ning Jing (SNH48 Lin Siyi), Han Ruoxue (CKG48 Liu Jiongran) and Bai Su (GNZ48 Xie Leilei).
Conclusion: In the flood of ancient Chinese dramas now available on the market, Legend of Yun Xi blends in rather than stands out, but there’s always something special about watching a book you’ve read come to life. As the English translator for the webnovel, I can attest to getting hopelessly, foolishly, biased over this drama, plot deviations and all. It’s exciting, it’s bright, 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.
|Bows with grace, exits stage right.
Feel free to visit volare novels to read the original webnovel (Poison Genius Consort), catch up on drama extras + subbed content, or follow the ongoing recap of all 48 episodes! Do note that there are big differences in the drama vs. novel. 🙂