1) Woxinchangdan, and by extension
2) Chen Daoming
4) Literature, in a prodigiously wide range of genres and languages
5) Snow - because of your
(This could be the subject of a whole book.)
In some ways this series should be called The Great Betrayal. The massacre of the cutting, the awful subtitles, and the second script writer's inability to match the nuance of the first's-- just one stab after another. I don't know how the original story outline went, but my own major source of dissatisfaction is the location of the Yue prisoners in that damned quarry, out of Fu Chai's sight and oh so clearly out of Fu Chai's mind as well. The action then becomes WZX vs Gou Jian, with Fu Chai as the guy who occasionally wanders in on a horse. Quite aside from disrupting the conflict between the (supposed) two principle figures, it makes Fu Chai look incompetent and out-of-it, a role he should have left behind in episode 17 or thereabouts.
I'm willing to admit my yaoi goggles may be blinding me to what the script writers had in mind. If in fact it's all supposed to be about Gou Jian vs Wu, then I suppose I must just shrug. If in fact there's supposed to be strong indications of stock heavy!Fu Chai, then yeah, stock heavies we have. If Second Writer assumed-but-naturally that Fan Li x Xi Shi should overwhelm anything Fan Li's done before then, well, I must simply accept the disjunct between that and episode 16. But the pity of it, Iago, the pity of it. Everything could have worked so brilliantly (read: the way I wanted it to) and instead there are tantalizing moments and unforgettable scenes and a lot of 'nothing to my purpose.' Like The Magic Flute-- glorious music amidst an unutterable mess of a libretto.
However, I still believe that I'd register all this differently if I knew what the actors were really saying. Language and nuance are so important to my appreciation of just about anything, that their absence is like listening to music when one speaker is on the fritz. You can't hear the whole thing.
And once again, my obsessions, let me show you them: the classic diction (I'm assuming it is) of Woxinchangdan lets me hear words and constructions that I know only from studying hanzi. I have no ear at all, but if I ever register the differences in tones, it'll be from listening to Chen Daoming's dialogue.
Which brings us to
2. Chen Daoming
I expected the series to be what Japanese manga was to me earlier-- utter disjunct from anything I was familiar with in the outside world, total connect with stuff that occupied the dark backward and abysm of my Id. It wasn't, which is fine. Even Japanese live action connected only peripherally with the subconscious stuff. (Note that my Japanese fannishness started with live action historicals, from Kurosawa to Mito Komon.)
Uncle Ming *is* an utter disjunct from anything I'm familiar with in the outside world, but I could never have conceived of something like that myself. Again with the musical metaphor-- he's a tune in a key I'm not familiar with, that keeps trying to modulate into one I do know when I try to sing it myself. Then I go back and look at the original and yes, as the Japanese say, 'it is different' (meaning No.)
And *still* I know I'm not seeing him quite right because too much cultural context is missing. But what's there is pretty damned impressive. The expressiveness of his eyes, the nuances of his tone, the habitual gestures and body language he gives his characters: fascinating to watch, and rewarding because it's clearly not unconscious. I don't know if he thinks it out beforehand or plays it as it comes to him, but it feels miles away from the body language of western actors that slash fans rely on so strongly to justify their pairings.
I'll admit to a western bias here-- I prefer him as Gou Jian over any other role I've seen, and even as himself. For one thing he has no eyebrows, which always bothers me. (This because I do have eyebrows.) And his mouth is disturbing. Too soft, too sensual; not unpleasing, understand, but disturbing. If I watch Chen Daoming himself I understand *exactly* why paleaswater says he's yin. I may not know what yin is exactly, but whatever it is, that's it. I can see him playing languid aristocrats and esthetes, no problem. Gou Jian however is... if not more yang, at least a different kind of yin. Deeper, hotter, more passionate, more chiaroscuro. That's pre-Wu; post-Wu is-- I never know if he's Moral Ed or a truly chilling negative.
Where did those dragons come from? Partly it was the Gaiden becoming so much more resonant than the main series, and within the Gaiden, Goujun being so different from the other characters.
This matters because: I learned my fandom in Japan, in Japanese, which is why the phrase 'the Other' (as in 'writing the Other') has always confused me a little. In fandom as I've known it for fifteen years the only Other present is me-- outsider looking in, trying to make sense, with my little Japanese and less Chinese, of what's going on, eavesdropping on the people this thing was meant for to see what they think of it. (It bothers me that I can't do that with Woxin fandom, which is why I'm so despreately grateful for the Singaporean educational system.)
So maybe I honed in on Goujun because he's the outsider in the Gaiden world- or rather, I read him as such. And he's gorgeous, which the real outsider, Gokuu, isn't. And besides he canonically has three brothers who come in colours. Mhh-- coloured dragons.
And all the rest came from the right brain, unthinking, because I assure you if I'd thought about it I'd have done it so much different.
In my youth there was no Net and I hung around with English majors and I had agoraphobia and my parents had a lot of books. Hence I spent a lot of time indoors, reading the stuff my friends were talking about as well as other stuff that kind of interested me (like Genji and Red Chambers.) I haven't read half as much as I seem to have: faking it was the other thing my English major friends taught me.
Mon pays, ce n'est pas un pays, c'est l'hiver
Mon jardin, ce n'est pas un jardin, c'est la neige
as Gilles Vigneault famously sang. 'My country is no country, it's the winter, My garden is no garden, it's the snow.' This is not quite true of Toronto, or not as true of TO as of anywhere else save the west coast. For years I didn't notice snow particularly. But my feet are disaster areas, and walking on snow and ice grows more and more painful with every year, so for a good half decade now I've shovelled other people's snow around the neighbourhood just so that I can get to work and the supermarket.
That said, there was no excuse for the amount of snow we had last year.