Starring Vivian Chen Derong as Yinshuang and Steve Ma Jingtao as Haozhen
The first series in Qiong Yao's three-part collection, 'Mei Hua San Nong', 'The Tattooed Flower', or 'Mei Hua Luo', demonstrates the role fate can play in life.
The story is set in the Qing Dynasty, during Emperor Qianlong's rule. In a royal household, a birth was about to occur. The royal officer's wife, the Fu Jin, was giving birth to yet another child. She had several daughters, but no sons. That day, a beautiful woman arrived, captivating the royal officer. He married her as his concubine, making Fu Jin feel threatened about her position.
The baby soon came, and it was another daughter. Deeply saddened and crying, the Fu Jin reluctantly agreed to a plan her sister had devised. The daughter was to be switched with a son from another family, the son not being of royal blood. Fu Jin could not bear to part with her own child, but knew that her sister was thinking for her best interests. She tearfully parted with her daughter, but not without leaving an indelible tattooed flower on her shoulder.
The baby daughter drifted away in the river, and was soon found by two singers who worked from place to place and earned money. She was named Yinshuang (played by Vivian Chen). Meanwhile, the son, Haozhen (Steve Ma), grew up in a royal household, constantly doted on by his 'father', the royal officer. As fate would have it, the two met and fell in love. However, Emperor Qianlong also respected Haozhen and his family, and wanted him to marry a partner of high status. Qianlong proposed a marriage between him and his daughter, the princess, who adores Haozhen. Instant love triangle.
Anyway, Yinshuang soon works her way into her original family's household, without knowing that she was their daughter. Fu Jin pities Yinshuang and the jealousy she suffers from the princess. She soon allows Haozhen to take Yinshuang in as a concubine. After an accident, the Fu Jin finds out that Yinshuang was her own daughter. Many troubles are caused then, as the love triangle between Haozhen, Yinshuang, and the princess, as well as their pasts, builds up to a climax that does not end well for either one of them.
Why the Rating
Immediately after watching this series, I did not find it enthralling at all, disappointing. I hated how the series abused the cliffhanger, making it seem as if Haozhen would be beheaded in the beginning and then ending the series in tragedy, but this time with Yinshuang's death. It was already predicted that this series would be a tragedy, and the fact that the series went as far as to show Haozhen's death made it extremely predictable. If Haozhen's execution was not meant to be a misinterpretation for the viewers, then why else would it exist?
Admittedly, however, 'The Tattooed Flower' has several high points. I am a rather young viewer, and therefore I was generally not impressed by these productions that were aired when I could only read a few words. Its plot starts out rather realistic. While the chances that Yinshuang and Haozhen would ever meet and fall in love are slim, it is a good representation of how the past defines the present. However, it does stick with realism for the most part. For example, Yinshuang never fully has Haozhen - even after their marriage, she is but his concubine, a situation realistic for the time period. It was a short series, so there is really no need to complain about dragging scenes.
With all its positives, 'The Tattooed Flower' does not shine in my eyes for one simple reason: it lacks the charm that captivates viewers. The acting was quite disappointing. Most of them were not even pretty, and while modern standards might be different, I found that the excess of makeup, particularly eyeliner, made the actors even more unattractive. Vivian Chen gave an adequate and accurate depiction of Yinshuang, but I have never been her greatest fan. She seemed to lack Yinshuang's charm that might attract Haozhen to like her. Steve Ma's performance was even worse, with his stiff manner inappropriate for a rather romantic man like Haozhen. While this was partially the script's fault, at times he seemed overly angry at the princess, and sometimes glared and screamed at his beloved Yinshuang. The acting performances are convincing, I suppose, but seem exaggerated.
'Mei Hua Luo' is a respected book and series, and I definitely give this series some credit. But in my opinion, it is simply average.
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