Ok. With an eyecatch like that, how could this show not be silly? It, unfortunately, suffers from the type of silliness that includes literal whining from characters, so it drives my husband a little crazy. And, because he understands Mandarin, all the worse for him. It’s something I can get past, though, since the show is pretty amusing.
I actually first watched this 10 years ago, all the way back in 2002… when getting to see the episodes took an entire month’s worth of effort. I remember liking it, but I can’t remember too much beyond the basic premise.. and thinking that Zhang Ting and Vincent Jiao were gawwwwjus.
The series opens up with Lady Zhang, one of the Emperor’s concubines, in the midst of childbirth. She and her staff are hoping for a boy to secure her position. Elsewhere in the palace, the Emperor is anxiously pacing, awaiting an heir, as his 15 daughters try to reassure him. In another elsewhere, the Empress sends out some ninja assassins to ‘take care’ of the baby.
Her baby turns out to be a girl, but her nurse is prepared. She brings a baby boy, and The Switch commences. Lady Zhang bites her left arm to “mark her” for later, and tries to assure the baby that the Li family is a good family who will raise her well. (Ok, first of all, I don’t think that biting a baby’s arm will help you identify her years down the road. I mean, my mom jokes around that my chin has a certain wrinkle because the nurse pinched my chin right after I was born. So I guess I could be wrong? I don’t think all marks stay forever, though. Second of all, we’re already 3 minutes in and they’re already making good on the title. XD)
The assassins arrive just as the nurse is trying to get out with the baby, but the eunuch is apparently an excellent martial artist and is able to get the baby back after a scuffle.
The Emperor rejoices in the birth of ‘his son’, but is soon informed of the Empress’s misdeeds. We find out that the empress is notorious for having sons and concubines killed to secure her position. She grovels, begging his forgiveness, but he walks away from her.
The nurse hands the baby girl to Lady Li… but she realizes that her son is now a daughter. Filled with hatred and vengeance, Lady Li decides to leave the baby on the steps of the nearest brothel (in Yuangzhou), so she can be raised by prostitutes and be ill-used in life. Since she can’t take direct revenge on Lady Zhang, she’ll take it out on the baby instead. “I will repay evil for evil!” she declares. The Li nurse bites her right arm to mark her. (Adults need to be taught not to bite people, seriously.)
The baby is indeed taken in by the prostitute Jinhua… and all the women there immediately dote on her. Flash forward, and the baby grows up to be quite the troublemaker. We are introduced to the present Qianqian and her silly antics, as she fights off some men she had apparently cheated out of some money. When she’s about to get in really serious trouble, it is broken up by the appearance of the rival gangs in their area… whose face-off is then interrupted in turn, by somebody identified as the Black Dragon, Long Tianxiao, dread triad leader. When she tries to confirm his identity, he runs/flies off.
Undaunted, she looks for and finds him, continuing to pester him for a confirmation of his identity and a look at his face. Although he tells her that only the dead can see him, she attempts to unveil him.. eventually doing so by tricking him (ie, crying and whining about how he’s a bully). She admires his youth and claims she’s not intimidated by him as he would never hurt a woman. He proves her wrong, spanking her over his knee, but she turns on the waterworks again, asking how he could bully an orphan. In the end, it is just a ruse, and he ends up eating dirt.
Back in Baihualou, the place is busy with all the customers, who tell her she should be more gentle. Her moms advise her of much the same, and tells her there’s no use in thinking she’ll rise in the world. There’s a lot of customers who would pay for Qianqian, too many for Jinhua (Da-niang) to offend were she to turn them down. Having grown up in the brothel, though, Jinhua asks her what other life there could be for her.
Wandering back out to the market, she ends up admiring a bolt of silk in Er-niang’s store that another customer, Caiqing, is already admiring and actually takes it right off her shoulders. The two end up in a fight, with Qianqian trying to show off her moves, but she’s met her match in Caiqing. A greasy Bai Hu arrives, egging them on, telling them that the winner will get a reward from him. Caiqing seems to be at a loss, and is off her guard enough to be beaten by Qianqian. She walks away, but seems to be ready to help Qianqian when Baihu tries to force his attentions on her.
Just then, a procession arrives, announcing the death of the Emperor. It is declared that no bright colors are to be worn or displayed, especially red. Only black or white may be used. No vices shall be committed, or death will be the punishment. When Qianqian asks about the colorful vegetables, the messenger calls his men over, and the spray white paint all over the vegetables. The dog is painted white. The signs are painted white. Colorful decorations are covered with white cloth. Another urgent imperial edict arrives, telling them that the emperor has gotten better, and that the citizens should not be unduly alarmed. The messenger is sent off for punishment, and life resumes at the market… although the edict to remain meat-free and vice-free remains.
Because of the imperial edict, business for Baihualou comes to a halt. Qianqian is not afraid of voicing out how unreasonable all this is within the confines of Baihualou, but Jinhua is scandalized. She boasts that she soundly beat the magistrate’s daughter (having been informed of Caiqing’s identity at the market). Da-niang tells her she should try to be in Caiqing’s good books. When Qianqian mentions that the magistrate is Qin Zhongyu, however, Jinhua’s face twists in remembrance, and she storms over to his office.
Jinhua is turned away from the magistrate’s office. Just then, Shi Shucai, a family friend of the Qin’s, arrives.. and Caiqing realizes that this man is her betrothed.