Dreaming back to Qing Dynasty – The apotheosis of Angst
* Major spoilers ahead *
I really disrelish stories with sad endings. Perhaps because there’s just too much sadness in the world we live in, perhaps because in order to accept happiness I have to look deeper into myself and ascertain what it is in me that I’m unhappy with or perhaps because my notion of love on paper is one that transcends time and space… when it’s real… anything is possible, isn’t it? Then why is it that sometimes it isn’t?
I love this drama with a passion, and I hate it equally in the same way, I wanted to say, paying homage to the Yin & Yang but my heart has no space for anything other than love, and if that makes me a romantic idealistic then that’s what I am, a woman that is love and believes in love!
It’s rare for me to write an article in the 1st person, but I feel that exactly because Dreaming Back to Qing Dynasty touched me so much emotionally, I couldn’t write it in any other form.
As I’m writing, I have the OST bursting on my speakers in the background. I can feel the words, but I can’t understand any of them and rather than listening to understand its literal meaning, I listen to grasp its figurative meaning instead. We often try so hard to understand things, to understand people, to understand the world around us, but we forget to feel all of that.
We establish relationships based on likes, we date based on likes, it’s a homogenous culture of likes everywhere. I don’t know if it has always been like this and social media just enhanced this habit of liking everything and nothing or if the world has always been a ‘like culture’ and I’ve been living my life under a rock unaware of it.
There are many dramas out there that bring the audience emotional catharsis, but for me, there has been none like this one at all except for Koizora, and that wasn’t even the drama which I disfavoured immensely but the movie which I loved so incredibly much and which brought me to tears amidst a semblance of acceptance in the end.
Here I didn’t have that. I saw where the drama was going, yet until the last possible moment I hoped against all hope with every cell in my body that they would be together. Their love deserved as much!
I was so angry at the writers for not giving me what I wanted, and then I realized two things: one, that they were together for a very long time and that the end was not really the end because their love was timeless and two, because Xiao Wei got to meet the 13th Prince's present-day incarnation, but I truly wanted them in the past together forever and not cry non-stop at the end!
You must have gotten back to your world
Though we can’t be together
Do you still remember the promise we made before?
We’ll go everywhere together
To admire all the beautiful things
This promise is my gift to you
Be there or be square
Just let our journey begin here...”
Yinxiang in a letter to Xiao Wei
Why? Why could he not travel back to the present? Why? Why? Why? Those letters were heart-breaking!
I extremely abhor endings like this where I can’t stop crying! I felt like a child age five shedding tears because her mother didn’t buy her the doll that she wanted. I felt tired and drained. I felt numb. Never had a drama made me feel so many contrasting emotions! They were on a roll the entire duration of the drama, but I loved it!
Dreaming Back to Qing Dynasty is the story of Xiao Wei, a present-day intern architect that one day gets lost in the Forbidden City in Beijing where she had been countless times before. While roaming around trying to find the exit, she meets an old lady who gives her a beautiful lantern dated back to the Qing Dynasty. She takes it home to her apartment. The lantern which has mysterious powers connects her world and Yinxiang’s, the 13th Prince in the Qing Dynasty, son of the Emperor Kangxi.
Every time Yinxiang dreams he appears in Xiao Wei’s apartment and the two fall in love with one another in the present-day Beijing. Watching their love blossom is adorable with their cute interactions and the architectural background. It’s sweet, lovely and happy. It’s so rare to watch a man from the past coming to the present and falling madly in love.
It’s so rare to see such a love developing in modern days. That’s what really made me glued to my screen every week! How rare it was and how beautiful. A love like that in a world like ours is rare. People focus on money and social status as if those were food to be eaten and live an illusion of happiness that mirror fake plastic products displayed in a street market for sale. It’s sad.
There is a scene where they’re roasting a tangerine, Xiao Wei tries it, and she likes it. I was so curious that I did the same. I simply had to have a roasted tangerine. I loved it so much every time I eat tangerines I roast them in the stove!
Xiao Wei ultimately goes back in time to Qing Dynasty taking the role of the deceased Ming Wei due to their twin-like appearance. After a brief memory loss, she and the 13th Prince are reunited amidst the princes’ battle of succession for the throne and the unrequited love for her by both the 4th (Ding Qiao) and 14th Princes.
Why on earth is that era deeply pestered by unscrupulous conspiracies? Why on earth is any era plagued with intrigues and constant fights for power? Why can they not be filled with love?
Xiao Wei and Yinxiang navigate the perilous court intrigues together, loving and supporting one another in sickness and in health, in the good times and in the bad thwarting danger.
It’s interesting to see that despite the known political alliances and loyalties amongst the princes factions that oppose the 13th and the 4th Princes against the 8th (He Zhi Long) and the 14th (Xin Yun Lai) Princes, Yinxiang and Yitin, the 14th Prince share an unspoken understanding, a bond between brothers that is as strong as the blood they share on their father’s side.
Yinxiang is closer to the 4th Prince, Yitin’s older biological brother than him but rather than making them full-fledged enemies, they’re not, and the 14th Prince comes to rescue whenever the actions of the 8th Prince go against his principles and convictions. He’s a man of honour with strong beliefs and a code of conduct that clearly has a well-defined line between what is morally right and what’s completely wrong. The 14th Prince marries Ming Hui, Ming Wei’s evil sister and mastermind of many of the 8th Prince’s plots to destroy the 4th Prince and Yinxiang whom she despises for being married to the sister she hates.
Ming Hui’s (Sun An Ke) story is pretty typical but pretty atypical at the same time. The illegitimate daughter of a noble family, brutally bullied by her step-mother, she quickly ascertains the vital need of defending herself and standing up against those who have hurt her. She grows up nurturing a lot of hate for her step-mother and her sister Ming Wei, both of which she wants to take revenge on.
Ming Hui falls head over heels with the 14th Prince whom she would do anything for. At first, he really doesn’t care for her at all due to his crush on Ming Wei but gradually sees his feelings developing despite her vicious nature and her sordid actions against the one he loves and the 13th Prince. Ming Hui doesn’t encourage sympathy, and her actions are not justified, but it can be seen why she did what she did.
I was satisfied that she ended up away from the palace, living a simple life with her and Yitin’s son. It showed that she has repented and accepted what life brought her. Her acquired conscience was befitting. Ming Hui was forced to see her wrongdoings and paid for them with newly gained awareness. Justice was served.
Ming Wei…if there was fairness in the world for Ming Hui, why was there none for Ming Wei? Why? Why did she have to die in the past? Why couldn’t she stay with Yinxiang in his era or return to the present day with him? Why? It was heartbreakingly painful! It was excruciating.
Going back and forward between their motions in each era, loving one another, thinking about one another, craving for one another, wishing for one another, dreaming of one another was the apotheosis of angst. I cried for them! I literally poured rivers of tears for them!
I went through such a rollercoaster of emotions throughout the drama’s 40th episode run, it was exhausting. I giggled, I laughed, I grinned, I screamed, I wept, and I sobbed. It was too much. Too much! That writer ought to be sued, I thought. Then I realized who she was and then it hit me, Scarlet Heart.
Dreaming Back to Qing Dynasty was penned by the Scarlet Heart’s screenwriter, Hong Konger Lei Chi. Although set in the same era and addressing the power battle for the throne you get different perspectives with DBTQD having a fresher vibe and a distinctive approach to a story that many are familiar with.
Is Dreaming Back to Qing Dynasty worth it? Definitely!
Should you watch it? Definitely!
Should you watch it with a box of tissues?
No, you should save them all for the last episode. You’ll need them!