(If you are unfamiliar with the story, the character guide can come in handy.)
The story started 18 years ago when a Taoist patriot Qiu ChuJi stumbled into Niu Jia Village as he fled from a group of Jin soldier’s chase for killing a Jin.
At the time of Song Dynasty, the corrupt and weak government, consisting mostly of Han people, lost grip on the entire country. Consequently, the Jin people from northern parts of China utilizes the opportunity to seize control with the ambition to one day expand and concur the entire country. Patriotic feels are high on both ends as the Hans despised the Jins for rebelling and the Jins deemed themselves superior to Han. Killing each other back and forth was common place.
During Qiu ChuJi’s brief life-on-the-run, he met the decedents of two heroes – Yang TieXin and Guo XiaoTian, both of which have pregnant wives. The three men were such perfect matches in personality, they became sworn brothers under the moon with a tank of wine. Before leaving, Qiu ChuJi gave Yang and Guo each a sharp dagger to honor the kinship. On each of the daggers, he carved the names of the unborn babies: Guo Jing and Yang Kang, then switched them so the Yang family holds the dagger to the Guo descendant, vice versa – a ritualistic act, typically performed between lovers. The intention behind such an act is to truly unite the brotherhood in blood through the matrimony of the babies if they were to born in opposite gender. However, if luck has it that they are both the same sex, they will follow the footsteps of their fathers and become sworn siblings.
Soon after Qiu ChuJi left, a group of solders led by Duan TianDe stormed through the village. He and his men pillaged and slaughtered the Guo and Yang families, only the two wives survived the ravage. Bao XiRuo of the Yang family was rescued by the Jin prince WanYan HongLie and followed him to Jin territory. While Li Ping of the Guo family found herself caught up in a whole other adventure.
Li Ping is caught by Duan TianDe, who kept her as a hostage. He took her with him to his relative, a well established monk. When Qiu ChuJi heard of the tragedy, he set off to search for the widows. Qiu chased after Duan ,who is now in the safe sanction of the holy ground. Qiu was forbidden to enter but his dogmatic insistence to search the temple for a woman is enough to drive the monks running for an aid. Consequently, Duan and Li Ping are transported to a bigger temple. Qiu followed after, demonstrating his once again his perseverance. Finally, the monk invited the Seven Freaks of the South to resolve the “misunderstanding”. Ironically, the Seven Freaks who were asked to break up the fight joined the fight.
The eight of them fought from the tavern to the temple; from the outside to the inside. Boy was it a long fight. Finally, when both sides are wounded, exhausted, and poisoned, they spread out on the floor for a sunbath break. Duan TianDe seized the best opportunity to stab those who are after him. Before he had the chance, Li Ping is exposed. When the Seven Freaks from the South realized their folly, it was too late. Duan TianDe has already fled, taking Li Ping as a hostage, again. Li Ping eventually escaped Duan TianDe and settled in Mongolia to give birth to Guo Jing.
Since the taoist and the freaks were unable to determine a winner in this endless fight, they decided to rematch 18 years later. (Great way to drag on a conflict.) The rule of this competition gets a little interesting: the Seven Freaks will find Li Ping’s son, educate him with all they know, and bring him back to the tavern 18 years from now to compete with Bao XiRuo’s son, who will be found and taught by Qiu ChuJi. The winning student will bring glory to his master and resolve the fight at last. (Apparently winning means everything to anyone who practices kung fu.)
In just a few years, Qiu ChuJi and the Seven Freaks have found the ones they are looking for. Their separate adventures are exciting and full of danger in their own way. Let’s start with the less interesting one: Qiu ChuJi traveled all over China in search for Bao XiRuo, having only a verbal description of the woman, it’s lucky that he even found clue to head him toward right direction – the Jin castle. Being a patriot deep within the bones, Qiu ChuJi resisted the impulse to search for the widow inside the Jin territory. Yet a beheading event outside of the castle drew his attention. He moved swiftly through the crowd of blood-thirsty peasants to look at each of the beheading woman. When none of them resemble that of Bao XiRuo’s frail beauty, Qiu ChuJi lets out a sigh of relief. Just as he’s ready to turn away, a child dressed in elaborate Jin clothing jumped onto the stage, clapping his little hands yelling, “Serves them right! Serves ’em right!” An elegant woman approached the child, shielding him in her arms and tenderly reproaches, “Kang Er, don’t say that.” The peasants below bowed to the woman. Qi ChuJi’s brow knotted in a tight frown. He’s finally found Bao XiRuo yet there’s no relief nor happiness in the accomplishment. Because Bao has become the concubine to a Jin prince. That night, Qi ChuJi puts down all his national pride and steps foot into the royal palace in attempt to kill the unfaithful wife of his deceased friend. He finds Bao and watches her from afar.
Bao XiRuo is standing in front of her house – the same old, crude house she lived in with Yang TieXin – when Qiu spotted her. She looks out into the distance as if waiting for her husband to return. Then she sighs and turns to walk inside. Qiu follows quietly. Bao sits down in one of the bamboo chairs and takes out the spear that belonged to her dead husband. She caresses it, and takes out a piece of clothe. She begins to wipe it with utmost care. She wipes and wipes and, she starts to sob quietly. Suddenly understanding, he decides to spare her life. But before Qiu ChuJi could leave quietly again, a few men appeared in the dark and escorted him to the Jin prince WanYan HongLie.
WanYan HongLie recognizes Qiu and makes a bet with the taoist. If Qiu can beat WanYan HongLie in a dual, then the prince will let the taoist leave unharmed. If instead, WanYan HongLie himself beats Qiu, then Qiu ChuJi must stay in the palace, against his will, and teach WanYan Kang kung fu without revealing WanYan Kang’s real heritage. As to the topic of the dual, it’s up to the prince to decide. He has Qiu ChuJi all figured out way before Qiu’s appearance, consequently, he knows, Qiu’s weak link is his use of spear, which incidentally, is WanYan HongLie’s strong point. They have a spear dual, WanYan HongLie cleverly distracts Qiu ChuJi with incessant mockery and wins the dual. You know the rest.
Now to the freaks. Ever since the Seven Freaks from the South departed from Qiu ChuJi, they traveled day to night, from one place to another and finally settled in Mongolia. Their very first night in Mongolia marked the beginning a turbulent 18 years. Amidst the mountains, a boy stumbled upon the Mei ChaoFeng couple, who are secretly practicing Nine Yin Skeleton Claw stoled from their master Huang Yao Shi. Mei ChaoFeng’s husband grabbed the boy and was ready to kill him when the Seven Freaks arrived on site and distracted the couple. In a terrific fight, the boy stabbed Mei’s husband in fear, using the knife carved with Yang Kang’s name. Mei ChaoFeng’s husband died as a result,and Mei ChaoFeng blinded, leaving the lonely widow shrieking for revenge. In a brutal attack, she managed to kill the Fifth of the Seven Freaks and stormed away vowing to avenge her husband’s death by taking the boy’s life. The boy is Guo Jing.
For the next 10 years, the two kids spend their time learning kung fu under their masters, Yang Kang with a little more luxury, a little more money, and a little more power as a prince of Jin. Guo Jing with a little more luck. When Guo Jing first arrived in Mongolia, he saved Zhe Bie, the legendary archer in all of Mongol. To repay the favor, Zhe Bie became Guo Jing’s master in archery. Soon enough, Guo Jing is an extraordinary archer himself. In a hunting game, Guo Jing saved a pair of huge white condors against the attack of eagles. Unfortunately, one condor died in the process, the other committed suicide after losing its spouse. To prevent the baby condors from dying in hunger, Guo Jing climbed the mountain to retrieve the bird’s nest. And that is how he became the condor heroes – well he has condors as pets.
Because of Guo Jing’s kind hearted act of saving the condors, he became acquainted with Ma Yu, who taught him two years of Quan Zheng kung fu before drifting away into the abyss again.
Although gifted with bravery, Guo Jing is one obtuse boy, always frustrating his six masters with his slow learning rate. To compensate for a lack of brilliance, Guo Jing puts extra effort into everything he does. His diligence pays off as he is constantly awarded by the Mongolian ruler with food and gold, until finally the ruler’s only daughter, Hua Zheng. But before he can accept the wedding proposal, the elders broke the truth: Guo Jing still has to go back and fulfill an arranged marriage as well as fight in a dual. (That would be dualing with your impending wife and then marrying her, if Yang Kang were to be a girl.) On top of that, Guo Jing must also find Duan TianDe and avenge his father’s death. While Guo Jing is traveling with his six masters, the story returns to Yang Kang.
WanYan Kang doesn’t exactly respect his kung fu master Qiu ChuJi. He secretly learns Nine Yin Skeleton Claw from Mei ChaoFeng, who came hiding in Jin territory. Although the rich and spoiled son of a prince, WanYan Kang always has a doubt about his heritage. (This is where the drama diverges.) Rumor has it, the concubine was pregnant when she arrived in the castle, and WanYan Kang is an illegitimate son of another man. WanYan Kang approaches his father about the rumor, who doesn’t deny it right away. Sometimes silence speaks more than a thousand words. WanYan Kang takes his father’s lack of response as an indirect yes and storms out to get some fresh air. Unfortunately, he is spotted and attacked. His father, WanYan HongLie jumps out in time to save his son and is badly wounded. WanYan Kang chases all the enemies away and kneels before the sun, “I, WanYan Kang am willing to shorten my life by a decade if my father can be saved.” (What, are we diving into Mythology here?) Then he helps his father on the horse and walks, with grave difficulty, back to the tent.
Guo Jing and his six masters finally set foot in the central plains. His masters are overjoyed at returning to the homeland they’ve said goodbye a good 18 years ago and separated to mind their own businesses. Guo Jing is left with the personal belongings of his six masters and roams the streets aimlessly.
A little beggar sees Guo Jing sitting down with six bags. She creeps upon him and snatches three bags from his possession. Guo Jing feels something tucking on his left side and turns to look. While he’s looking, the beggar snatches away the remaining three bags on Guo Jing’s right and runs away. Guo Jing feels the motion on his right side and turns to look and this time, spotting the thief. He runs after her, yelling, “Hey! What are you doing?”
“Stealing your bags.” she replies.
I read the set of books a few years back and watched this intermittently for the pasts month and half. Help me out here if I missed any major events.
Impression so far:
Apparently, the premise of Yang Kang being the good guy takes some time to get used to. Most of this so called development is to gain Yang Kang more camera appearance and pity so when he finally dies for good, the audience will understand it as a trick played by circumstances. Sounds awfully like Wicked where we look at the bad guy and realize s/he is just unlucky. Except, it’s just not quite the same.
Mu NianCi looks tragic from the very beginning. She reminds me of Li Yi Fei, except with more facial variations.
Guo Jin is pretty, but not so pretty in this hair style. I understand he just came from Mongolia, but I can’t wait for his hair style change. What bothers me the most in this drama is Guo Jin’s character portrayal. Once again, Guo Jin is simply upright to the point of being frustratingly inflexible. He is, by no means dumb. I can tolerate a little denseness, but not stupidity.