Scarlet Heart

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Scarlet Heart
Scarlet Heart.jpg
Promotional poster
Also known as Bu Bu Jing Xin
Genre Romance
Historical fiction
Fantasy
Time travel
Created by Tong Hua (original story)
Directed by Lee Kwok-lap
Starring Cecilia Liu
Nicky Wu
Kevin Cheng
Yuan Hong
Lin Gengxin
Opening theme 1. One Persistent Thought (一念执着) performed by Hu Ge and Alan
Ending theme 1. Three Inches of Heaven (三寸天堂) performed by Ivy Yan
2. Season of Waiting (等你的季节) performed by Cecilia Liu
Composer(s) Raymond Wong
Country of origin China
Original language(s) Mandarin
No. of episodes 35
Production
Producer(s) Karen Tsoi
Location(s) China
Running time 45 minutes per episode
Production company(s) Tangren Media
Release
Original network Hunan Satellite TV
Original release 10 September – 29 September 2011
Chronology
Preceded by New Stories of Princess Pearl
Followed by The Glamorous Imperial Concubine
Related shows Palace, Scarlet Heart 2, Scarlet Heart: Ryeo
Scarlet Heart
Scarlet Heart (Simplified Chinese).jpg
Scarlet Heart's intertitle
(Simplified Chinese version)
Simplified Chinese 步步惊心
Traditional Chinese 步步驚心
Hanyu Pinyin Bùbù Jīngxīn

Scarlet Heart, also known as Startling by Each Step, is a Chinese television series based on the novel Bu Bu Jing Xin by Tong Hua. It premiered in China on Hunan Broadcasting System (HBS) on 10 September 2011.

A pioneer of the time slip genre in Asian television, Scarlet Heart is a commercial and critical hit, both in China and across Asia. A sequel, Scarlet Heart 2 first aired in China on Zhejiang Satellite TV on 22 April 2014.[1]

Plot[edit]

Zhang Xiao (Cecilia Liu), a young woman from the 21st century, suffers a near-fatal accident that sends her back in time to the Qing Dynasty during the Kangxi Emperor's (Damian Lau) reign. She finds herself trapped in the body of one of her previous incarnations: Ma'ertai Ruoxi, the teenage daughter of a Manchu general. In this new timeline, she has an elder sister, Ruolan (Annie Liu), who is a concubine of the Kangxi Emperor's eighth son, Yinsi (Kevin Cheng). Ruoxi initially tries to return to the future, but she soon adjusts to life in this era. She meets some of Kangxi's other sons, including the fourth prince Yinzhen (Nicky Wu), tenth prince Yin'e (Ye Zuxin) who falls in love with her, and fourteenth prince Yinti (Lin Gengxin). She also forges a close friendship with the thirteenth prince, Yinxiang (Yuan Hong).

Ruoxi attracts the attention of the emperor with rumors of her brashness and bravery, and manages to charm him with her intelligence and wit. Later, at the imperial palace's "beauty draft" (during which concubines and wives are chosen for the princes or the emperor himself), conflicting arrangements are made by Yinsi and his first wife, Gogoro Minghui (Shi Xiaoqun), leading to Ruoxi being drafted into the service of the dowager empress to keep the peace. Ruoxi is given an appointment as a servant to the emperor himself, specifically to prepare and serve tea to him and those he hosts.

During Ruoxi's stay in Yinsi's house, Yinsi falls in love with her. She initially rejects him but eventually returns his feelings, and later agrees to marry him if he gives up competing for the succession to the throne. This is because Ruoxi's knowledge of history makes her aware that Yinsi's ambition will ultimately lead to his death in prison after Yinzhen becomes emperor. However, Yinsi refuses to and thus Ruoxi broke up with him. Before leaving, Ruoxi warns Yinsi of Yinzhen's plans to usurp the throne and came up with solutions for him to prevent being taken down by Yinzhen.

Ruoxi then started to get closer to Yinzhen, and their interactions changed her unfavorable opinion of him, and she unwittingly falls in love with him. Meanwhile, Yinsi and his supporters, acting on Ruoxi's advice, frame Yinzhen for plotting against the crown prince Yinreng (Zhang Lei). Yinxiang steps forward to take responsibility and is ultimately sentenced to house arrest. After this incident, Yinsi realizes that Ruoxi is now romantically involved with Yinzhen. Yinreng is deposed after his criminal ways are exposed and is imprisoned for life. Kangxi then begins showing preference for Yinti and offers Ruoxi as a concubine to him. However, Ruoxi boldly defies the emperor's order, and as a penalty, she is demoted to the laundry department.

Ruoxi works within the laundry department for a number of years, and is offered some level of protection and special treatment by ways of the princes. Kangxi falls ill during this time, and when Ruoxi is brought back to the emperor's service by Eunuch Wang to prepare pastries and help stimulate Kangxi's appetite, he pardons her and restores her to her former role as his lead tea preparer and server.

Kangxi eventually dies of his illness, and with military support from Longkodo (Zhao Jialin) and Nian Gengyao (Xing Hanqing), Yinzhen falsely claims that Kangxi named him the successor, effectively staging a coup and taking the throne from Yinti to become the Yongzheng Emperor. Yinzhen then releases Yinxiang from custody and moves Ruoxi into his quarters, eventually consummating their relationship. He does not, however, marry her, as he wants to be able to live with her and see her every day—wives and concubines have their own estates between which the emperor must divide his time. Ruoxi is pleased enough with this arrangement, as she has always been reticent about marriage and enjoys seeing Yinzhen daily as well. Ruoxi's happiness, however, is marred by Yinzhen's paranoia and his ruthless persecution of Yinsi and his followers. She is often caught between the rivaling factions of Yinzhen and Yinsi.

When Gogoro Minghui tells Ruoxi that Yinsi acted against Yinzhen years ago because of her advice based on the knowledge of the future, she is shocked, and her despair causes her to miscarry Yinzhen's child and is unable to conceive again. Enraged, Yinzhen blames Yinsi and his wife, issuing an edict forcing them to divorce, which leads her to commit suicide. Ruoxi fears Yinzhen's punitive actions against his brothers and confesses the truth to him and Yinxiang. Yinzhen is stunned when he understands why Yinsi plotted against him and starts treating Ruoxi coldly. Ruoxi is unable to withstand the mental stress and asks Yinti to help her leave the palace. Yinsi knows that Yinzhen will not allow Ruoxi to leave and decides to intervene. He discloses details of his past romance with Ruoxi, and an angered Yinzhen eventually agrees to let Ruoxi and Yinti leave the Forbidden City.

Despite Yinti's excellent care, Ruoxi's emotional anguish deeply affects her health, and she begs him to send a letter to Yinzhen, requesting to see the emperor one last time before she dies. However, a misunderstanding between Yinzhen and Yinti causes the letter to be thrown aside unread. Ruoxi struggles to stay alive, but after three days, she concludes that Yinzhen's absence confirms that his love for her has ended, and she dies. When news of Ruoxi's death reaches Yinzhen, he rushes to Yinti's house, regretting his actions after learning that Ruoxi still loved him.

In the later years, Yinsi and Yintang (Han Dong) were imprisoned as Yinzhen blames them for everything that happened. Yinxiang went to visit them in prison and hands them poison, which was Ruoxi's request to him before she left the palace. Both Princes commit suicide and end their suffering. Yinxiang dies a few years later, followed shortly by Yinzhen himself, whose 12-year reign as Emperor was the shortest in Qing history. Yinti lives on but does not find another wife. Only Yin'e has a happy ending with his wife (Liu Yuxin) that he grew to love, watching Emperor Qianlong ascend the throne.

Back in 2011, Zhang Xiao regains consciousness in a hospital and is informed that she had been in a coma for weeks. She wonders if her experiences in the past were real or imaginary. After recovering, Zhang researches the Qing Dynasty era, only to find that history remains on its proper course, and there are no records on Ma'ertai Ruoxi. However, she later visits a museum where she recognizes some Qing Dynasty-era artifacts and sees a woman in a Kangxi Emperor portrait that resembles her. Meanwhile, a man who bears a striking resemblance to Yinzhen visits the exhibition and encounters Zhang Xiao but does not recognize her. The show ends with a cliffhanger of the man walking away as Zhang Xiao's tears start to fall.

Cast[edit]

Principal[edit]

  • Cecilia Liu as Maer'tai Ruoxi (马尔泰·若曦) / Zhang Xiao (张晓)
A modern day 9-to-5 white-collar worker, who accidentally goes back in time from the 21st century to the Qing Dynasty as the teenage daughter of a Manchu general. Intelligent, witty and armed with the knowledge of history, she was able to quickly adapt to life in that era, and ended up befriending the various princes.
The aloof and reserved fourth prince, known for his perceptive thinking and cruelty. In order to protect the people around him and earn his mother's respect, Yinsi decides to seek ultimate power. He first became interested in Ruoxi when he noticed her avoiding him, and ultimately falls deeply in love with her.
The gentle and sweet eighth prince. Having being born to a lowly palace maid, Yinsi wants the respect of his fellow brothers and ministers, therefore driving him to become the most accomplished and talented prince in order to fulfill his lofty ambitions of becoming the Emperor. He falls in love with Ruoxi, but gives up on her when he was asked to choose between the throne or his love.
The rebellious and free-spirited thirteenth prince, who seeks a carefree live outside the palace. His easygoing and steadfast nature allowed him to relate to Ruoxi's 21st century mindset, and they become best friends.
The forthright and sincere fourteenth prince, and the favored son of Consort De. He is loyal to his brothers and cares for them. Although he dislikes Ruoxi initially because of her ultimatum to Yinsi, he ultimately falls in love with her, and marries her in order to bring her out of the palace.

Princes[edit]

  • Damian Lau as the Kangxi Emperor (康熙)
  • Zhang Lei as Yinreng (胤礽), the crown prince
  • Yang Xiaobo as Yinti (胤禔), the first prince
  • Chen Jingyu as Yinzhi (胤祉), the third prince
  • Wang Xiaodong as Yinqi (胤祺), the fifth prince
  • Han Dong as Yintang (胤禟), the ninth prince who is calculating and brusque. He is aligned with Yinsi and thinks of ways to help him plot against Yinzhen.
  • Ye Zuxin as Yin'e (胤礻我), the tenth prince who is cheerful and bumbling. He has an unrequited crush on Ruoxi, but the two later becomes close friends.
  • Qu Aohui as Hongshi (弘时), third son of Yinzhen

Ladies[edit]

  • Dai Chunrong as Consort De (德妃), Yinzhen and Yinti's mother
  • Liu Jie as Consort Liang (良妃), Yinsi's mother
  • Mu Tingting as Lady Ulanara (乌喇那拉氏), Yinzhen's first wife
  • Lu Meifang as Consort Nian (年妃), Yinzhen's second wife and Nian Gengyao's daughter
  • Shi Xiaoqun as Gororo Minghui (郭络罗·明慧), Yinsi's wife
  • Annie Liu as Ma'ertai Ruolan (马尔泰·若兰), Yinsi's second wife and Ruoxi's sister. She is unwillingly married to Yinsi, who loves her and thus led to her father killing her lover in a bid to get her married to Yinsi.
  • Liu Yuxin as Gororo Mingyu (郭络罗·明玉), Yin'e's wife
  • Li Linlin as Lady Fuca (富察氏), Yinxiang's wife
  • Chai Wei as Princess Chenghuan (承欢), Yinxiang and Lüwu's daughter

People of the palace[edit]

  • Xing Hanqing as Nian Gengyao (年羹尧), a trusted minister of Yinzhen and Consort Nian's brother
  • Zhao Jialin as Longkodo (隆科多), a trusted minister of Yinzhen
  • Gao Sen as Li Guangdi (李光地), a trusted minister of Emperor Kangxi
  • Ye Qing as Yu Tan (玉檀), a tea servant under Ruoxi who is the ninth prince's spy
  • Deng Limin as Li Dequan (李德全), head of the internal department who serves Emperor Kangxi
  • Zhou Yancheng as Wang Xi (王喜), Li Dequan's disciple
  • Cao Xinye as Qiao Hui (巧慧), Ruolan and Ruoxi's maid
  • Qi Qinglin as Li Fu (李福), a eunuch who serves Yinsi
  • Hu Zhonghu as Gao Wuyong (高无庸), a eunuch who serves Yinzhen and later becomes the new head of internal department
  • Shen Baoping as Zhang Qianying (张千英), the head of the washing department
  • Lian Teyue as Imperial Physician He (何太医)
  • Kang Mingtong as Yun Xiang (芸香)
  • Huo Dongdong as Yan Ping (艳萍)
  • Zao Yang as Xiao Shunzi (小顺子)
  • Ji Xue as Mei Xiang (梅香)
  • Guo Jinying as Ju Yun (菊韵)

Mongolians[edit]

  • Cristy Guo as Princess Suwan Guwalgiya-Minmin (苏完瓜尔佳·敏敏), a Mongolian princess who falls in love with Yinxiang
  • Ba Sen as King Suwan-Guwalgiya (苏完瓜尔佳王爷)
  • Zheng Kai as Prince Irgen-Gioro Zuoying (伊尔根觉罗·佐鹰)

Others[edit]

  • Guo Zhenni as Lüwu (绿芜), a courtesan and the love interest and confidante of Yinxiang. She ultimately kills herself when she realizes that her lowly birth will hinder Yinxiang's future endeavors.
  • Wang Xiaodong as Chang Qingshan (常青山), Ruolan's lover who was killed by her father.
  • Ma Tianyu as Huang Di (黄棣), Zhang Xiao's present-day boyfriend.

Deviations from the novel[edit]

Zhang Xiao returns to the 21st century.

The show's producers have announced that the series will remain mostly faithful to Bubu Jingxin, the novel by Tong Hua on which it is based, however there are some differences:

  • In the novel's beginning, though in the television series Zhang Xiao remains a 25 years old white-collar worker, her alter ego, Ma'ertai Ruoxi, was 13 years old, not 16. Another difference was that Zhang supposedly from the year 2005, not 2011.
  • In the novel, Ruoxi is unable to return to her own time and ultimately succumbs to her illness, while Yinzhen dies ten years later amid hopes of reuniting with Ruoxi after death. The story ends with Yinzhen's son Hongli's (whom he fathered with Lady Niohuru) ascension to the throne as the Qianlong Emperor.[2] In the television series, after Ruoxi and Yinzhen's deaths, Ruoxi's soul returns to her incarnation in the 21st century. Whilst struggling to get over the trauma of her experiences of time travel, she encounters a man who resembles Yinzhen and is possibly a present-day incarnation of him.[3][4] The man does not recognize her, and Zhang Xiao remains in guilt over everything that happened when she was in the past as Ma'ertai Ruoxi, chooses not say anything but tearfully watches the man leave.[5][6]

Remake[edit]

Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo is a South Korean remake, directed by Kim Kyu-tae. It is the first Korean drama project for Universal Studios and has a budget of $13 million. It began airing on 29 August 2016 for 20 episodes.[7] Unlike its Chinese counterpart, the series suffered from various acting criticisms and suffered from poor ratings.[8][9][10][11][12][13]

Soundtrack[edit]

Scarlet Heart- Original Television Soundtrack (步步惊心电视剧原声音乐大碟)
Soundtrack album (Audio CD/Digital download) by Raymond Wong
Hu Ge
Alan Dawa Dolma
Cecilia Liu
Ivy Yan
Released October 2011
Length 46:50
Label Chinese Entertainment Shanghai
Scarlet Heart - Original Television Soundtrack (步步惊心电视剧原声音乐大碟)[14]
No. Title Music Length
1. "Yinian Zhizhuo (一念执着; One Persistent Thought)" performed by Hu Ge and Alan Dawa Dolma 04:26
2. "Dengni De Jijie (等你的季节; Season of Waiting)" performed by Cecilia Liu 04:05
3. "Sancun Tiantang (三寸天堂; Three Inches of Heaven)" performed by Ivy Yan 04:50
4. "Bubu Jingxin (步步惊心; Startling by Each Step)" composed by Raymond Wong 02:03
5. "Qi Meng (奇梦; Strange Dream)" composed by Raymond Wong 01:56
6. "Bie Kongju (别恐惧; Do Not Fear)" composed by Raymond Wong 02:08
7. "Bao Lei (堡垒; The Castle)" composed by Raymond Wong 02:39
8. "Du (毒; Poison)" composed by Raymond Wong 01:01
9. "Mosheng (陌生; Unfamiliarity)" composed by Raymond Wong 02:29
10. "Yu (郁; Depression)" composed by Raymond Wong 02:03
11. "Huangshi Lailin (皇室来临; The Arrival of the Imperial Family)" composed by Raymond Wong 00:29
12. "Gongfu (功夫; Kung Fu)" composed by Raymond Wong 00:47
13. "Qingmu (倾慕; L'Amour)" composed by Raymond Wong 02:28
14. "Huanxin (欢欣; Delight)" composed by Raymond Wong 01:39
15. "Qihuan (奇幻; Fantasy)" composed by Raymond Wong 00:40
16. "Xiao Keai (小可爱; Adorable)" composed by Raymond Wong 01:42
17. "Qing Du (情毒; Love Poison)" composed by Raymond Wong 01:38
18. "Bu Yaozou (不要走; Do Not Leave)" composed by Raymond Wong 03:48
19. "Bei (悲; Sorrow)" composed by Raymond Wong 03:27
20. "Zhuijing (追惊; Aftershock)" composed by Raymond Wong 02:23
Total length: 46:50
Songs not included in the commercial release
  • Aide Lianyi (爱的涟漪; Love's Ripples) performed by Ailiya & Alicia [04:30]
  • Diaoke Aiqing (雕刻爱情; Sculpture of Love) performed by Zheng Jiajia [03:35]
  • Xuehua Hongmei (雪花红梅; Snowflakes and Red Plum Blossoms) performed by Gong Shujun [04:14]

Awards[edit]

Year Award Category Recipient Ref.
2011 6th Sohu TV Drama Awards (Summer) Media Recommended Television Drama Scarlet Heart
1st LeTV Awards Most Anticipated Historical Drama
Grand Ceremony Top 4 Influences
Media's Most Popular Actress Cecilia Liu
Role Model Award Kevin Cheng
6th Sohu TV Drama Awards (Autumn) Online Viewership Award Scarlet Heart
Ratings Contribution Award Tangren Media
Most Popular Actor Nicky Wu
Most Popular Actress Cecilia Liu
Best Newcomer Lin Gengxin
Most Popular On-screen Couple Nicky Wu & Cecilia Liu
Tudou Video Festival Awards Annual Most Popular Television Drama Scarlet Heart
Annual Most Popular Actress Cecilia Liu
Youku Drama Festival Top 10 Television Drama Scarlet Heart
Most Popular Actor (Hong Kong/Taiwan) Nicky Wu
Most Influential Actress Cecilia Liu
Variety Magazine Annual People Evaluation Annual Drama of the Year Scarlet Heart
3rd TV Drama Awards Annual Most Popular Television Drama
Annual Media Recommendation Award Cecilia Liu
BQ Celebrity Score Awards Tudou "Trend" Annual Best Television Drama Scarlet Heart
Annual Most Popular Television Figure Nicky Wu
2012 Mango TV Spotlight Best Television Drama Scarlet Heart
Best Mango Male Celebrity Nicky Wu
Best On-screen Couple Nicky Wu & Cecilia Liu
Most Unexpected Popularity Nicky Wu
Best Emotional On-screen Performance Yuan Hong
Best Writer Tong Hua
iQiyi Award Ceremony Best Television Drama Scarlet Heart
King of Television Dramas
Entertainment Company of the Year Tangren Media
Best Actor Nicky Wu
Most Popular Actor (Mainland) Lin Gengxin
Most Popular Actor on the SNS (Mainland)
Annual Best Newcomer
7th Sohu TV Drama Awards Best Producer Karen Tsoi
Annual Best Actor (Hong Kong/Taiwan) Nicky Wu
Annual Best Newcomer Lin Gengxin
Best On-screen Couple Nicky Wu & Cecilia Liu
6th Tencent Star Ceremony Mainland Television Drama of the Year Scarlet Heart
Hong Kong/Taiwan Actor of the Year Nicky Wu
Mainland Actress of the Year Cecilia Liu
Newcomer of the Year Lin Gengxin
2nd LeTV Awards Television Drama That Broke 100 million views Scarlet Heart
5th DMA Awards (Vietnam) Best Television Drama (Mainland) Scarlet Heart
Most Popular Actress (Mainland) Cecilia Liu
Most Popular On-screen Couple Nicky Wu & Cecilia Liu
18th Shanghai Television Festival Magnolia Award for Most Popular Actor Nicky Wu
Magnolia Award for Most Popular Actress Cecilia Liu
7th Seoul International Drama Awards Most Popular Overseas Drama Scarlet Heart
Asia Popularity Award Nicky Wu
8th Huading Awards Best Actor (Ancient)
Media Popularity Award
Media Popularity Award Cecilia Liu
2013 2012 Seoul Television Festival Most Popular Overseas Drama Scarlet Heart

International broadcast[edit]

Country Network(s)/Station(s) Series premiere Title Ref.
 South Korea CineonTV October 5, 2011
New York City ICN November 11, 2011
 Malaysia Astro December 11, 2011
 Singapore Mediacorp Channel 8 January 16, 2012
 Canada Talentvision July 5, 2012
 Japan BS Japan October 8, 2012
 Thailand 3SD April 10, 2015 ฝ่ามิติลิขิตสวรรค์ (Fha Miti Likit Sawan) [15]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]