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renzhe

First Episode 22: 天龙八部 (Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils)

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renzhe

A part of the Grand First Episode Project -- See this thread for more info.

Emule - youku - English subtitles - Torrent (english subs) - mysoju (with English subs)

First of all, a warning -- there are several versions around. This version is from 2003. There is also a very famous one from 1997. I have had this version recommended by several people as the definitive one. A previous thread about this version.

--- PLOT SUMMARY ---

远山 and his wife get attacked by masked assassins while travelling. He ultimately defeats them, but his wife is killed. He leaves their baby behind and jumps with his wife off the cliff.

Thirty years later, the son, 乔峰, a senior within the Beggars' Sect captures a document identifying a traitor in the imperial palace and earns points with the Sect leader.

慕容复 argues with 华大人 about not receiving weapons they paid for, for trying to start an armed rebellion, and ends up destroying his ship. Back at home, he meets his young cousin who is enchanted by his gongfu, but he is cold towards her. She doesn't understand why he's chasing the crazy dream of becoming the emperor.

Back in the sect, the boss discusses the idea of leaving the sect to 乔峰. A senior brings his wife, who seems to be attracted to the hard-drinking 乔峰. The boss announces that he will leave the sect to the eighth or ninth brother. The sect members all choose 乔峰. The sect boss gives him one last test -- fight the 一品堂 group in western Xia kingdom (single-handedly? I didn't quite get it). Ha fights and defeats one of the four evils (I guess this is 段延庆)

A young traveller 段誉 interrupts a duel of two schools and almost gets killed for his troubles, but is saved by a strange girl 钟灵 who feeds a snake to her pet 闪电貂. The pet is none other than the killer rabbit from the Holy Grail and it kills half the courtyard and poisons the other half. The boss of one of the sects poisons 段誉 in order to force 钟灵 to let him visit her home to get the antidote. She instructs him not to let his name be known.

--- PLOT SUMMARY END ---

Quick wordlist:

不对头 bu duì tóu - not right

大功 dà gōng - great service

帮 bāng - sect

朝廷 cháo tíng - imperial court

帮主 bāng zhǔ - sect leader

过奖 guò jiǎng - flatter

军备 jūn bèi - armaments

协议 xié yì - agreement, pact

反悔 fǎn huí - break a promise

叛乱 pàn luàn - armed rebellion

宣扬 xuān yáng - make public

开恩 kāi ēn - do a favour

动武 dòng wǔ - start a fight

江湖 jiāng hú - the martial arts world (thx Ajax)

造反 zào fǎn - rebel

付之东流 fù zhī dōng liú - wasted effort

秘笈 mì jí - a manual of martial arts techniques

虚无 xū wú - nothingness

渺茫 miǎo máng - uncertain, remote

继任 jì rèn - successor

盖世 gài shì - unrivalled, matchless

严守秘密 - to maintain utmost secrecy

海量 hǎi liàng - ability to drink a lot

长老 zhǎng lǎo - elder

商议 shāng yì - consult someone

推举 tuī jǔ - elect

支援 zhī yuán - provide assistance

恩怨 ēn yuàn - grudge

畜生 chù sheng - beast, domestic animal

深厚 shēn hòu - deep

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Edited by renzhe
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renzhe

Not exactly sure how I should rate this.

Obviously, it's based on a famous novel (and a really good one at that), which automatically makes it interesting. This also means that the story is quite complex and you need to concentrate from time to time in order not to lose all of it. I found this difficult given the language level.

What's really nice about this is the scenery -- it's quite stunning and really works well as a Wuxia backdrop. The action sequences are well done, and the story is obviously very interesting.

On the other hand, I did find this a bit hard to follow. I could have followed it and gotten the gist of it, but once I tried understanding exactly what is going on, I was thumbing through my paper dictionary full time. Lots of rarer words (at least ones I wasn't immediately familiar with) -- many of the words in the vocab list couldn't be found online. The language is upper intermediate and getting all the nuances of the story will require a decent level. Writing the summary involved looking up the wikipedia article on the novel just to figure out who the hell was who and to make sure I wasn't getting it all wrong. This is where it stops being much fun.

You can always just enjoy the fights and roughly follow along, but I'm not sure that I want to do this with this particular story. Obviously, advanced learners will enjoy this one, as long as they are into Wuxia stories.

So yeah, definitely worth a look. It's pretty, it's got action, and if you can follow the conversation, you'll probably enjoy it.

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skylee

The OP's review is quite disappointing. But I think he found the show diappointing too.

I've never thought that the story would be difficult for anyone to follow. First the story is well known, and the script of this show is good. But the story is actually made up of three main stories with many sub-plots and involves history that might be confusing to foreigners.

And the guy's name is not 北喬峰, it's just 喬峰. He and 慕容復 are the most famous heros at that time so people call them "北喬峰 南慕容" (Qiao Feng of the North, Murong of the South".

My comments in 2004 (!) -

The later episodes are better than the earlier ones because the plot gets more and more complicated but clearer and clearer as well. I kept being amazed by how late some of the main characters appeared in the story and how one story led to another, and could not help but appreciate the structure of the original story. It covers so many countries/dynasties - 大理, 西夏, 吐蕃, 宋, 遼, 女真 (which is not yet 金).

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renzhe
The OP's review is quite disappointing. But I think he found the show diappointing too.

Absolutely not. I found it to be a really well done and interesting show that I had trouble following because my Chinese level is not that great. I'll give you an example:

And the guy's name is not 北喬峰, it's just 喬峰. He and 慕容復 are the most famous heros at that time so people call them "北喬峰 南慕容" (Qiao Feng of the North, Murong of the South".

There is no way to know this from watching the show. You know this cause you've read the book. You also found it easier to watch because you're a native speaker. The story is well known to you because you grew up in Hong Kong.

I would definitely recommend this show to anyone who can follow it. It took me 2.5 hours to write up that summary, and I had to consult an encyclopedia to do so. If my Chinese level were higher, I'd most likely watch the whole thing, but this way, it's a lot of work, and I miss important parts of the story.

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roddy

Ok, let's give this one a shot:

Fifteen minutes in: So far, so generic fighty-fighty. Not sure what that 远山 guy was playing at, his wife left specific instructions to look after the kid,and he promptly jumps off a cliff with his wife's corpse and the baby. And then the baby flies of its own accord back into the hands of the attackers. Let's not dwell on this too much though.

Thirty minutes in: Ok, so we've got 喬峰 proving his worth to be head of the guild, and 慕容 wanting to become emperor? Not sure if he's entitled to be or is just a bit up himself. All the slapping was funny though. Now, what's going on on top of this waterfall?

34:16: Ha ha ha ha ha ha.

34:52: Eh, what? So the rat-thing just did its stuff then ran off to let them be captured?

Forty minutes in: Ok, somewhat convoluted set up with a traveller, a mysterious young girl with a poisonous ninja-rat-thing and two battling gangs. The ninja-rat-thing has poisoned one of the gang leaders and then scarpered (presumably one of the gangs has a ninja-cat) and in return the gang leader (who now has twenty days to live) has taken the girl hostage and has sent the young traveler boy (who gets everything he deserves for wandering about in the woods reciting poetry) to get her dad and his antidote - under pain of his own death, as he's got a seven-day poisoning himself.

The end: Hmmm, can't think any good will come of poking around in an abandoned cave . . .

I can see this one might work out good as the characters and plots become clearer, but as far as this first episode goes, it all seems a bit disjointed. As has been said, this is quite possibly as I don't already know the story / much about Chinese history, etc. And I find it hard to rate the production values very highly - the fights are just fights and as yet I don't care about the characters, so who cares who wins and who's got the best magic? Parts are just cheesy - 喬峰 seeing that woman might as well have had 'they like each other' flashing up on the screen. Even if it was played for laughs it was overplayed.

Wouldn't watch this one any further, I think.

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renzhe

I think that some of the convoluted way things are presented is due to the fact that it is based on a novel, and they had to introduce the main characters and set up the story and still keep it interesting in the first 45 minutes.

While reading 射雕, I was often imagining how it would look if filmed, and have to admit that sometimes I was wondering which parts would have to be cut out, and how exactly one could show it concisely -- there's a lot of stuff happening.

I'm sure it gets better as the characters and the story develops. It has very nice sets and scenery, and well choreographed fight sequences, which is a good basis for a Wuxia adaptation.

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Quest

4 years later, I still think this is the best of 张纪中's 金庸 dramas. I enjoyed it the most. I just rewatched the first episode, and I can understand roddy's feelings. There's too much going on, and with a critical mind, one can find flaws and cheesiness here and there, and without knowing what's to come, deem it unworthy of watching. However, if you are willing to embrace it, it will become much more interesting as the story unfolds. Maybe watch it like a Marvel/HarryPotter/LOTR story. It's a fantasy, not a modern drama, and should be viewed as such with its own rules and bounds. The characters may seem to behave rather oddly at times, but once you accept their customs and powers, you will find a great story beneath, one of loyalty, love and sacrifice. The plots and characters in this drama are much more convoluted and enticing than any of those in Hollywood Chinese films. I'd suggest downloading it and watching it full screen as it will help bring you into its world.

PS: I just downloaded the new 鹿鼎记 with 黄晓明 after reading this thread, will report on it later.

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ajax

This was one of the first Jin Yong adaptations I watched. It remains my favorite and pretty much got me interested in the genre. That's probably mostly due to Jin Yong's story and characters, but I still think this adaption is pretty decent. At the very least, it has lots of beautiful people and some beautiful scenery (was filmed in Dali).

The first episode was a bit confusing with all those characters being introduced. Rewatching it after having seen the rest of the story, it makes a lot more sense. The next 10 or so episodes revolve around Duan Yu, my least favorite of the main characters. Took me weeks to get through those, but then I couldn't shut it off and finished the remaining almost 30 episodes in like 4 days.

The cgi rat thing was quite cheesy. Luckily, I don't think there were too many more animals in this series. Things look really cheap and ridiculous the moment a fake looking cgi animal shows up.

江湖 jiāng hú - travelling performer (??)

This is a really common word in wuxia that means something like "the martial arts world." I've also seen it in modern gangster films referring to the criminal underworld.

PS: I just downloaded the new 鹿鼎记 with 黄晓明 after reading this thread, will report on it later.

I'll be interested in seeing your opinion. It exceeded my (low) expectations, but the editing/censorship and rushed feeling at the end kind of got on my nerves. Huang Xiaoming was quite good, though, and the interaction with the princess was really fun to watch.

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lingshu8

Thanks for this renzhe. This is a good series based on a great novel.

Here's a website with extensive background information (in English) on 天龙八部 (and 武侠 in general), including an explanation of the meaning of the title, as well as glossaries of people, places, organizations, martial arts, weapons, etc in the novel:

http://wuxiapedia.com/novels/jin_yong/demi_gods_semi_devils

Edited by lingshu8
correct grammar

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renzhe

I've watched a few more episodes of this, and it definitely gets better.

It's less chaotic, the language is easier, and the story more linear, and some characters get room to develop, so it starts getting interesting. I agree with roddy in that the first episode was quite wild. The next few ones are easier to follow, and keep you interested. The scenery is great, and some of the complex relationships between protagonists start to surface.

I've had a look at parts the 1996 version for fun, and I definitely prefer this one to it. The older one just seems dated, and the production is much cheaper. There are some gems in there, though. I prefer the 1996 木婉清, she's both assertive and funny, the one in this show just seems like a terrified whiner most of the time. Also, 岳老三 in the older version seems more dangerous. The new one is funnier, but it's hard to take him seriously.

For most other things, though, I prefer this version. I can follow this much easier than with the first one, and with some wikipedia lookups, it's OK. The first few episodes have a bit too much slapstick (and bad CGI), but it's been getting better. I'll give it a shot.

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renzhe

So, I've finally finished this. Having watched all of it, I have to say that it's one of the best Chinese-language shows I've seen.

I understand skylee's, Quest's and ajax' comments having seen all the episodes. Roddy and I were judging the first episode only, and I still think that it was a bit a mess, where too much happens and things are hardly clear. But the story picks up after the first few episodes, and the characters and their relationships soon become very interesting. The language also seemed easier to follow after the first episode.

I like the story. There are very few black and white characters, even the most evil ones have some saving grace and even the nicest ones often have a skeleton or two in the closet. The gongfu is a bit too "magical" (some other Jin Yong novels seem a bit more realistic, at least in writing), and some parts don't come across clearly in the show, but overall it is very involving, and takes you to a fantasy world of its own. Most of the acting is good, and there are some REALLY memorable roles in here (my favourite is 天山童姥)

I really love the music.

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rob07

Renzhe, would you say this is the best show you've watched so far? I've been wanting to read a Jin Yong novel for a while, but I think I might chicken out and watch this instead.

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renzhe

For me, "best show" is very subjective and it depends. Empty Mirror was the best in terms of acting and moviemaking, Mobile Phone was the most entertaining by far, some historical ones had the best atmosphere, etc. etc.

But this is way up there in in its own way. It's a fantasy show, comparable to Lord of the Rings, or something similar. It takes you into its own world, and there are many characters you grow attached to, several dozen of them, all interesting and with very complex relationships to each other. The first few episodes are a bit of a rough ride, but it soon gains momentum and it kept me glued to the screen from that point on.

I definitely recommend it. What I did to ease the guilt was to watch this one, but read Legend of the Condor Heroes. There are way too many Jin Yong novels for me to read all of them, so I can read some and watch some, and it's a good compromise. Maybe I'll read Smiling Proud Wanderer and watch Return of the Condor Heroes, or some other combination in the future.

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roddy

Hmmm, might give this one another shot once I've finished (or given up on) the shows I'm watching currently.

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rob07

Thanks Renzhe, good advice. After reading it yesterday I went out and bought 雪山飞狐. Although as it is only 200 pages long I still feel like a bit of a bum.

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roddy
I've watched a few more episodes of this, and it definitely gets better.

Renzhe or anyone - how many episodes do you reckon you need to watch before making a yay or nay decision on watching the whole thing? I've got the first five downloading now, going to give it a shot when I finish 锁春记, which should be quite soon.

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Shadowdh

this post represents my first post using my mobile so forgive any errors.

firstly thanks Renzhe for your help dling this. the first episode is a bit overwhelming for me at the moment, but I am sure that after a couple more times viewing it I will understand it better. at least it seems like a genre I can get my teeth into and enjoy. cheers again Renzhe!

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renzhe
Renzhe or anyone - how many episodes do you reckon you need to watch before making a yay or nay decision on watching the whole thing? I've got the first five downloading now, going to give it a shot when I finish 锁春记, which should be quite soon.

To be honest, I'd recommend watching a few more than that, but the first 5 episodes should give you a feeling for the atmosphere and let you know a couple of important characters.

Of course, the best parts are when things get more complicated in the later episodes.

firstly thanks Renzhe for your help dling this. the first episode is a bit overwhelming for me at the moment, but I am sure that after a couple more times viewing it I will understand it better. at least it seems like a genre I can get my teeth into and enjoy.

The first episode was overwhelming for me too (as can be seen from my original writeup). The following few episodes are much more linear and use simpler language. I found that wikipedia lookups helped me understand, but unfortunately, they also spoiled some things (I read too much).

Edited by renzhe

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roddy

Right, I'll download the first ten episodes and see what I reckon. I'm not generally keen on historical shows - don't think I've finished one yet, unless you count 武林外传 - but it sounds like this is worth a better chance than I gave it originally.

I'm still going to giggle at the ninja-rat though.

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renzhe

Wait till you see the ninja caterpillar......

As I said, the first few episodes are a bit rough, but the sillyness soon stops. :mrgreen: Hence the recommendation to watch a little more.....

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