Relic of an Emissary

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Relic of an Emissary
Relic of an Emissary official poster
Genre Historical fiction
Mystery thriller
Created by Wong Wai-sing
Written by Wong Kwok-fai
Choi Suk-yin
Starring Joe Ma
Michael Tse
Kate Tsui
Sammul Chan
Elanne Kong
Joel Chan
Ruco Chan
Lau Kong
Opening theme Kong Shan (江山) by Joe Ma
Ending theme Ngor Tang Nei (我等你) by Michael Tse and Kate Tsui
Composer(s) Tang Chi-wai
Yip Siu-chung
Country of origin Hong Kong
Original language(s) Cantonese
No. of episodes 30
Executive producer(s) Wong Wai-sing
Location(s) Hong Kong
Camera setup Multi camera
Running time 45 minutes (per episode)
Production company(s) TVB
Original network TVB Jade
Picture format 576i (SDTV)
1080i (HDTV)
Original release 4 April – 13 May 2011
External links
Relic of an Emissary
Literal meaning "Hongwu Thirty Two"

Relic of an Emissary (Chinese: 洪武三十二; literally "Hongwu 32") is a 2011 Hong Kong historical fiction[1] television drama serial produced by TVB.

The 30-episode drama premiered 4 April 2011 on Hong Kong's TVB Jade and TVB HD Jade channels, airing five days a week. Wong Wai-sing, who produced TVB's The Academy trilogy series, serves as the drama's executive producer.

The drama is loosely based on the Jingnan campaign of the Ming Dynasty, a coup d'état that ended the Jianwen Emperor's brief four-year reign over Ming China. The Chinese title of the drama literally means "Hongwu 32", the 32nd year of the Hongwu Emperor's reign.


The story takes place during Zheng He's younger years, several years before his oceanic voyages. When the Jianwen Emperor ascended to the throne in 1399, he changed the era name to "Jianwen First Year" (建文元年). After Zhu Di usurped the throne in 1402, he purged all of Jianwen's supporters and ordered all documents that recorded the era name "Jianwen First Year" to be changed to "Hongwu Year 32" (洪武三十二年) in order to establish himself as the legitimate successor of the Hongwu Emperor, the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty.

Plot overview[edit]

The story begins with the sons of the Hung-mo (Hongwu) Emperor returning to the capital city as a show of filial piety to their father, who has fallen extremely ill. Secretly, the princes are harboring intentions to succeed the throne. As a result, chaos surrounds the kingdom, and a chain of conspiracies and schemes begin occurring in the city...

While pursuing a mission, Brocade Guard captain Ngo Siu-fung loses his memory in an accident. As he begins to slowly piece back memories of his past, he realises that he was once a vicious, unreasonable, and merciless Brocade Guard. He decides to start anew and change his ways of style, but his colleagues are unable to see past Siu-fung's history of cruelty, and they assign him insignificant tasks to complete. Fortunately for Siu-fung, he saves Chu Wan-man, grandson of the emperor, who has dressed himself in plain clothes to observe the commoners of the city. The two become good friends and Wan-man appoints Siu-fung as his personal bodyguard.

The emperor dies, his posthumous edict robbed, and the kingdom is left with no heir. The princes all desire the throne, leaving the kingdom unprotected from future attacks. Impatient, Wan-man orders Siu-fung to find the edict as soon as possible to stabilise the chaotic situation. The powerful and intelligent fourth prince Chu Tai (Zhu Di), titled Prince Yin, also sends his most trusted adviser Ma Sam-po to investigate the case. Fighting to retrieve the edict, Siu-fung and Sam-po undergo a battle of wits and skill. They start an ambiguous friendship – though they see each other as equals, they are unable to work together because their loyalties lie elsewhere.

The edict is retrieved and Wan-man ascends to the throne, crowned as the Kin-man (Jianwen) Emperor. Soon after his coronation, mysterious cases begin to occur around the kingdom. Someone with an ulterior motive is intentionally framing Prince Yin of starting a coup.

Though Prince Yin is later proven to be innocent, Wan-man becomes really cautious of him. Aware that the new emperor has intentions in killing him, Prince Yin raises an army to overthrow him. Under the slogan of "clearing the court and pacifying national disaster" (清君側、靖國難), Prince Yin starts a coup d'état, that is later known to be called the Jingnan campaign.



After Michael Tse's successful and popular portrayal of the undercover cop Laughing Gor in Wong's 2009 crime drama The Academy III: E.U., TVB had notions of creating a fourth installment of The Academy that would potentially continue with the character's story. After several negotiations with the company, Wong decided to drop the idea and instead went to produce a costume drama version of the series.[2] The working title of the drama was changed from "The Turbulence of Jingnan" (靖難風雲) to "Hongwu 32".

A costume fitting and press conference was held on April 9, 2010 in the TVB studios in Tseung Kwan O with a total of 48 cast members.[3] Filming began 18 April 2010 and ended on 28 July 2010.


First intended to be a continuation of The Academy series, casting for Relic of an Emissary (then known as "The Academy IV") placed an emphasis on keeping the original The Academy cast. Sammul Chan was the protagonist Lee Pak-kiu for all three installments; Kate Tsui was introduced in the second; Michael Tse, Elanne Kong, Leung Ka-ki, and Joel Chan were introduced in the third. After major changes were added to the script, which included story setting and character background, slight casting changes also occurred. Instead of Michael Miu leading the serial drama, Joe Ma was chosen instead. His portrayal of King Fuchai of Wu in The Conquest sparked interest for Wong to cast him as Chu Tai. Wong further mentioned that he wanted Ron Ng to be part of the cast as well, who portrayed the other protagonist Chung Lap-man in The Academy. However, the writers could not afford to write in another male lead.[2]

Cast and characters[edit]

Note: Character names are in Cantonese romanisation.

Main cast[edit]

  • Michael Tse as Ngo Siu-fung (敖笑風) — the drama's main protagonist, a cold-blooded and ruthless commander of the Brocade Guards. While on a mission to escort Prince Chun to Jiangnan, Siu-fung loses his memory after an accident, but slowly regains it as the story progresses.[4]
  • Joe Ma as Chu Tai, Prince Yin (燕王朱棣) — the powerful and intelligent fourth son of Hung-mo. Though Prince Yin helps his nephew succeed the throne, his extreme governing methods tend to clash with the Kin-man Emperor's more sympathetic approach to rule. Upset with the young emperor's reign — and believing himself to be the true heir to the throne — Prince Yin begins to secretly plot a coup.[5]
  • Sammul Chan as Ma Sam-po (馬三保) — Prince Yin's personal bodyguard and most trusted adviser. The son of a Hui family from Yunnan, Sam-po is a Semu and the descendant of a Persian official who served as Yunnan's governor during the early years of the Yuan Dynasty. When Sam-po was eleven, he was captured by Ming troops and made a eunuch. After Prince Yin overthrows the Kin-man Emperor, he gives Sam-po the name Cheng Wo (鄭和) and fulfills Sam-po's wish by granting him permission to explore the West.[6]
  • Kate Tsui as Shum Chin-sam (沈千三) / Wong Chor-chor (王楚楚) — a pair of twin female spies working for the Brocade Guards. The elder twin, Chin-sam, goes undercover as a madam and becomes the owner of the Willow Court, an established brothel in the capital.[7] The younger twin, Chor-chor, eventually becomes Prince Yin's concubine, in an attempt to obtain information regarding Prince Yin's plan of rebellion.
  • Elanne Kong as Chu Ying, Princess Wing-yeung (永暘公主朱櫻) — Prince Yin's younger sister and Sam-po's best friend.
  • Joel Chan as Chu Wan-man, the Kin-man Emperor (建文帝朱允炆) — the Hung-mo Emperor's eldest and favourite grandson. Wan-man is described as a caring and gentle emperor, who places the well-being of his country and people first. Prince Yin sees Wan-man's compassion as a weakness, unfit for a ruler.[6]

Recurring cast[edit]

  • Ruco Chan as Chu Kuen, Prince Ning (寧王朱權) — the cunning and manipulative seventeenth son of Hung-mo. To maintain his superiority and power in court affairs, he purposely creates havoc between Prince Yin and the Kin-man Emperor to worsen their relationship.
  • Lau Kong as Dou Hin (道衍) — a Buddhist monk. He later becomes Prince Yin's strategist, and receives the name Yiu Kwong-hau (姚廣孝).
  • Gordon Liu as Yim Chun (嚴進) — the Brocade Guard head and Siu-fung's superordinate.
  • Skye Chan as Tsui Yee-wah, Princess Yin (燕王妃徐儀華) — Prince Yin's wife.[8]
  • Leung Ka-ki as Ma Yan-wai (馬恩慧) — Wan-man's wife and later Empress. Her marriage to Wan-man is arranged by the Hung-mo Emperor, who believes that Yan-wai possesses the wisdom of a future Empress.
  • Sire Ma as Fu Siu-kiu (傅小喬) — a maid who serves in the Brocade Guard dormitory. She was once the daughter of a noble, but due to certain legal matters, her family was arrested. She was almost sold to a brothel, but was saved by Princess Wing-yeung.[9]
  • Benjamin Yuen as Lee King-lung (李景隆) — a youthful and loyal general who serves for Kin-man Emperor. He falls in love with Princess Wing-yeung.[10]


Relic of an Emissary received mixed reviews. On Douban, the drama earned a rating of 6.8 out of 10 based on over 2700 votes.[11] During broadcast period, the drama received several complaints concerning blatant scenes of violence and sexuality, protesting that such aggressive and intimate content were unsuitable for broadcast during family viewing time.[12]

Viewership ratings[edit]

The following is a table that includes a list of the total ratings points based on television viewership. "Viewers in millions" refers to the number of people, derived from TVB Jade ratings (not including TVB HD Jade), in Hong Kong who watched the episode live. The peak number of viewers are in brackets.

Week Episode(s) Average points Peaking points Viewers (in millions) AI References
1 — 5
1.66 ( — )
6 — 10
1.72 ( — )
11 — 15
1.59 ( — )
16 — 20
1.66 ( — )
21 — 25
1.72 ( — )
26 — 30
1.78 (1.85)

Awards and nominations[edit]

45th TVB Anniversary Awards 2011[edit]

  • Nominated: Best Drama

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Elanne Kong laughs at hook-up rumours with Michael Tse". Wenweipo (in Chinese). 2010-04-10. p. 1. Retrieved 2010-04-15. 
  2. ^ a b "Elanne Kong likes Michael, ditches Ron Ng". Oriental Daily (in Chinese). 2010-03-11. p. 1. Retrieved 2010-04-14. 
  3. ^ "TVB Calendar - Artistes". (in Chinese). p. 1. Retrieved 2010-04-14. 
  4. ^ "Michael Tse's Blog: Jinyi Wei @ Hongwu 32". TVB Blog (in Chinese). 2010-04-10. p. 1. Retrieved 2010-04-15. 
  5. ^ "Joe Ma's Blog: New drama - Hongwu 32". TVB Blog (in Chinese). 2010-04-11. p. 1. Retrieved 2010-04-15. 
  6. ^ a b "Joel Chan's Blog: The Emperor Has Arrived". TVB Blog (in Chinese). 2010-04-11. p. 1. Retrieved 2010-04-15. 
  7. ^ "Kate Tsui's Blog: Pimping @ Hongwu 32". TVB Blog (in Chinese). 2010-04-10. p. 1. Retrieved 2010-04-15. 
  8. ^ "Skye Chan's Blog: (My) First Ancient Look". TVB Blog (in Chinese). 2010-04-11. p. 1. Retrieved 2010-04-15. 
  9. ^ "Sire Ma's Blog: image for New Drama - Hongwu 32". TVB Blog (in Chinese). 2010-04-10. p. 1. Retrieved 2010-04-15. 
  10. ^ "Benjamin Yuen's Blog: Big General @ Hongwu 32". TVB Blog (in Chinese). 2010-04-11. p. 1. Retrieved 2010-04-15. 
  11. ^ "Relic of an Emissary at Douban". Douban (in Chinese). Retrieved 2011-09-24. 
  12. ^ "Rape, S&M, and homoeroticism in Relic of an Emissary spur comparisons to 3D Sex & Zen". Jayne Stars (in Chinese). 2011-05-07. Retrieved 2011-09-24. 
  13. ^ Week 1 Ratings
  14. ^ Week 2 Ratings
  15. ^ Week 3 Ratings
  16. ^ Week 4 Ratings
  17. ^ Week 5 Ratings
  18. ^ Week 6 Ratings

External links[edit]

  • Relic of an Emissary - Official Website (in Chinese)
  • K for TVB English Synopsis (in English)