Sunday, December 18, 2011

Bu Bu Jing Xin (步步惊心) Episode 1 Part I

Bu Bu Jing Xin (步步惊心) > Episode 1 Part I
The drama begins with people scurrying in and out of a room in ancient China. We soon come to realize that this is in the Qing dynasty. The person in question is modern-day Zhang Xiao, who wakes up in the body of a young Manchurian girl. She wakes up to a younger version of herself, and with perfect eyesight (she was wearing glasses) and very long hair. She is initially disorientated and thinks that this is some sort of prank.

Just at this juncture, a maid enters the room and addresses her as “Second Young Mistress”. Confused Zhang Xiao demands to put an end to the charade (still thinking that it is a prank). Zhang Xiao questions Qiao Hui and learns that she is in the Qing dynasty and that the present Emperor is Kangxi. She is apparently the second daughter of a Manchurian general, Maertai Rouxi, and she is in the 8th prince’s household.

Upon hearing such information Zhang Xiao starts to panic and is flustered. Another woman enters the room and tries to calm Zhang Xiao down. She tells her that she is her elder sister Maertai Roulan and that Zhang Xiao has nothing to be afraid of. When asked what happened to her, Roulan tells her that she had fallen down a steep flight of stairs and had injured her head, rendering her unconscious for a few days. Even the physician was unsure of her recovery.

Zhang Xiao starts to have a flashback in the present time, where she was having an argument with her boyfriend, Huang Di (which can mean “Emperor”). She had accused him of cheating on her, and in the process of their argument had an accident (being electrocuted and hit by a car) that brought her to the Qing dynasty. It appears that the time of her accident, Maertai Rouxi also fell down the stairs at the exact moment in time. It finally sinks in that she is in the Qing dynasty and not in the modern world. She concludes that the accident had somehow brought her back to the Qing dynasty and thinks of ways on how she can go back to her own time.

Zhang Xiao finally recovers and spends the following days trying to strengthen her new body and discovering how she can leave the ancient period. She thinks to herself that it is fortunately that she is in the body Maertai Rouxi, where she is being looked after and taken care of by Qiao Hui and Roulan.

Zhang Xiao learns that her “sister”, Roulan, is the second wife of the 8th prince who spends all time chanting Buddhist scriptures and praying. So she assumes that her “sister” is not highly favored by her husband. Zhang Xiao, being stuck in Rouxi’s body is apprehensive about her future as she the 8th prince’s fate (through history). So she thinks to herself that it is maybe a good thing that Roulan is not that close to the 8th prince to minimize the pain. She decides that although the future for them may be unfortunate, since she is stuck in this time, she will live in the moment as is.

As she walks back to her room, she questions Qiao Hui about the Maertai family and herself, Rouxi. Her accident proves to be a good excuse for her to orientate herself with the current Qing dynasty she is in. Each time she acts out of character or asks a question, the people around her attribute it to her amnesia, which resulted from her head injury. She learns that Roulan and Rouxi’s mother had passed away just after Rouxi was born. Without a mother, Rouxi had grown out to be a willful child who was out of control, running wild like an untamed horse free-spirited. Not knowing what else to do with her, her father sent her to Roulan hoping that she will teach a young Rouxi some “manners and etiquette” that is worthy of a young lady.

Roulan comments that Rouxi (Zhang Xiao) has changed a little since her accident and is becoming more ladylike. Zhang Xiao contemplates telling Roulan that she is not her sister but someone else, as she feels that she is cheating her. She soon abandons the thought as no one would believe her and might even brand her as insane.

Gently probing Roulan, Zhang Xiao learns that she had been staying at the 8th prince’s household for 3 months and that she was sent to her because Roulan was the only one that Rouxi at least listened to. Their father wanted Roulan to teach Rouxi manners and etiquette that will help Rouxi in the compulsory Imperial Lady inspection (where daughters of esteemed Manchurian families are sent into the palace to be concubines or servants serving the Emperor) which would take place in 6 months time.

Computing the data that she has gathered, Zhang Xiao starts to contemplate her options. She realized that Roulan will not be a reliable heaven as the fate if the 8th prince is not a good one, but it would be even worse if she was to enter the Imperial Lady inspection and head for the palace! She decides that she needs to escape before the Imperial Lady inspection commences. She had an idea, to face a life-threatening accident/situation that will send her spirit back to the present time.

Pleased with her idea, she immediately ask Qiao Hui to bring her to the area where she fall from. Qiao Hui mentions how she was found at the foot of the stairs and that Ming Hui (the sister of the 8th prince’s first wife) was the one to witness the fall, claiming that Rouxi had tripped her way down the stairs.

Upon reaching at the scene of the accident, Zhang Xiao starts to climb the stairs remembering the sensation of falling down the stairs before fainting, seeing a blurred figure walking away. The flight of stairs is steep and if she were to fall again, her spirit will definitely return to the present time. As Zhang Xiao contemplates her actions (whether to fall down the stairs), Qiao Hui looks at her worriedly. Just as she musters her courage inches her way nearer the edge of the stairs from the top, Qiao Hui suddenly lunges forward ruining Zhang Xiao’s plan, as if anticipating her action and declares that they have been out for quite a while now and it is time to head back.

Just as they are about to head back, there is the sound of laughter and two males walk towards them. As Zhang Xiao is in a 13 year old Maertai Rouxi’ body, one of the men remarks that for a little girl her speech is interesting (she was commenting if parents look at the same blue sky despite being away from their children). The other man agrees wholeheartedly and looks at her with interest, saying that she speaks as though she is one who has a lot of experience in life. While all Zhang Xiao can do is stare at them, Qiao Hui hastily greets them as 9th and 10th prince (the brothers of the 8th prince) and tugs at Zhang Xiao to do the same.

Realizing that bowing is common in that era, Zhang Xiao bows and greets them albeit unconventionally as she does not know how to bow the correct way, which causes the 9th prince to raise a brow. The 10th prince asks Zhang Xiao if she is a Maertai and she nods. Realizing that they have matters to attend to the 9th and 10th prince take their prince. Even though Zhang Xiao has been in the 8th prince household for some time, the first princes that she meets are the historically recorded 'Poisonous Snake 9th' and the 'Wastrel/Blockhead 10th'. Zhang Xiao thinks to herself that they do not seem as history portrays them. Whilst thinking this to herself the 10th prince turns back to look at her and makes a funny face, making them both laugh.

It is not long after that Zhang Xiao slips out of the house secretly with Qiao Hui to wander the city streets. A worried Qiao Hui tries to persuade Zhang Xiao to go back, but to no avail. Qiao Hui comments that she must be recovering well as she is becoming more daring, and Zhang Xiao retorts that if she were to be cooped up for too long, ‘grass will grow on her’ (a modern Chinese slang), which had Qiao Hui confused. They soon come across a stall selling irons. Excited at seeing an iron in the Qing dynasty, Zhang Xiao intently examines the ancient equipment. Qiao Hui remarks that there was once a time when Roui was so willful and hard to manage that the maids would often want to use a large iron to tame her and make her more docile. Surprised, Zhang Xi asks if she (Rouxi) had been that difficult in the past, but Qiao Hui replies that she was only teasing.

As they pass 'Da Shi Lang', Zhang Xiao comments out loud that she had visited this place many times (in the present time) and is pleased that the air of old Beijing is still preserved. Qiao Hui is taken by surprised, and asks how Ruo Xi could have visit this place and know that much about Beijing since this is the first time she has stepped out of the mansion. Zhang Xiao laughs it off with uneasiness, saying that she had heard of it.

There is a huge commotion with soldiers starting to clear the road, pushing the pedestrians to the side. Qiao Hui urges Zhang Xiao away and gets into the line, saying the soldiers must be there to welcome the Emperor's return to the capital. Zhang Xiao looks on with excited curiosity. She stares in surprise as an eunuch who walks past looks exactly like a construction worker who interfered in the quarrel between her and her boyfriend Hung Di in the present time.

Lost in the moment, she calls out to the eunuch and pushes through the crowd to get to him. It does not help when the eunuch announces the arrival of the Emperor (‘huangdi’), thinking about her ex-boyfriend and losing her rationale she runs out and grabs the eunuch depending to know where is Huang Di. Just at this moment, a horse gallops from the opposite direction and almost tramples Zhang Xiao. As the horse nears to Zhang Xiao, a blue aura (her spirit) can be seen coming out of her body, but soon returns as the horse is restrained in time. The rider turns out to be the 4th prince, Yong Zhen (the future Emperor) and both he and Zhang Xiao stare at each other. Qiao Hui apologizes profusely and asks for forgiveness stating that they are from the 8th prince’s household. Hoping that they would not get into trouble.

After the incident, they return to the household and try to sneak in quietly by the back door. However, their absence was already discovered and the servants were being punished the moment they came back. Incensed, Zhang Xiao stoms off to the hall where the first wife of the 8th prince (whose title is Di Fujin), Ming Hui, is punishing them. Not understanding that this was the norm for that era, Zhang Xiao asks Roulan to stop the punishment as it is too heavy-handed, and how could she bear to mete out such punishment. Ming Hui takes to opportunity to bully the both of them stating that while one is anti-social the other is impulsive. She also comments that servants who break the rules ought to be punished accordingly, and mistresses who are foolish in their actions will only implicate their servants.

Ming Hui is determined to punish Rouxi for leaving the house without permission. Roulan kneels and asks to be punished in Rouxi’s stead instead, reasoning that since her sister is young and unaware of the household rules as an older sister she should be responsible for her sister’s actions. Agreeing fully, Ming Hui states that Roulan should be punished more servrely since she is responsible. Angry at the outcome, Zhang Xiao points out that Ming Hui’s position in the household is higher than Roulan, so by the same logic she should also be punished even more severely because Roulan was in the wrong. Furious, Ming Hui raises her hand to slap Zhang Xiao but Roulan stops her. Both of them struggle and fall to the ground. Zhang Xiao rushes forward to help Roulan but Ming Hui pulls her away, determined to slap her. There is soon a 3-way struggle and all three of them fall, landing Ming Hui on a chair and hitting her head. Incensed, Ming Hui storms off.

With Ming Hui gone, Zhang Xiao contritely helps Roulan up and asks if she is ok while Roulan gives her the cold shoulder before calming down. Roulan tells her not to worry about the punished servants since she had already given instructions for their treatment. Touched at the gesture, Zhang Xiao asks that she be scolded as Ming Hui will use this incident to make things difficult for them. Qiao Hui unwittingly reveals that since Roulan’s marriage into the household, Ming Hui has always been making life difficult for Roulan.

Touched, Zhang Xiao asks to be scolded, saying that Ming Hui would use this incident to make matters difficult for Ruo Lan. Qiao Hui added that ever since Ming Huiu married into the household, the first wife had been making Ruo Lan's life difficult. Upset at the news, Zhang Xiao wonders out loud loud why Roulan is still married to the 8th prince if life is so difficult for her, being confined to her small residence and having to share her husband with other women, she deserves better. She goes furher and says that a woman needs to have self-respect: if a woman is capable and willing, she could be self-sufficient and independent. This displays her very modern strong feminism views that seem out of place in such an era, forgetting where she is; highlighting the difference between Zhang Xiao's modern outlook and Ruo Lan's traditional upbringing.

Ruo Lan in turn, reprimands Zhang Xiao for her disrespect and asks if she has forgotten who she is and what is ranking and status. Remembering which era she is in, Zhang Xiao falls silent. Qiao Hui tells her that he words are a little out of place, and Zhang Xiao replies that maybe she is too forward in her thinking (another modern slang), which confuses those present. She soon realizes that in the 1700s women would not be able to understand her views on feminism.

Ruolan examines Zhang Xiao as though thinking about what she said, before saying she understands. She tells Zhang Xiao that the both if them grew up in the north-west where rules were less rigorously maintained. But now that they are in the capital, Ruolan emphasizes that rules and regulations have to be followed now that they are in a prince’s household.

A sullen Zhang Xiao states her reluctance to remain in the capital, which makes Ruolan smiles, saying that Ruoxi has not changed from her troublemaker-self. However, she is glad that Ruo Xi defended her. She tells Zhang Xiao that if she could show a little more restraint in the future, she will overlook whatever her younger sister does within the confines of their circle. Feeling that she is deciving such a nice ‘sister’, Zhang Xiao pauses and softly tells Roulan that the sister in front of her is not the same Ruo Xi that she used to know. Ruolan replies that she knows, Ruoxi has become more caring and understanding. Gently touching Zhang Xiao's cheek, Ruolan smiles and says, "You’ve grown up."


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