Eternal Love (2017) was my first Chinese drama.
My interest in Chinese dramas started when I wanted to watch a Wuxia or Eastern fantasy; I wanted to watch something new, that had a fresh take on the tropes. I had always been interested in costume dramas before, so this felt like a natural step to take. I mean, who doesn’t like fantasy, pretty outfits and good storylines?
Eternal Love is one of the most watched Chinese dramas. It has beautiful sets, great costumes, amazing effects that feel natural (for the time), apart from the CGI monsters and it is a Xianxia (sub-genre of Wuxia).
If we go into more detail about these genres, then the key difference between Wuxia and Xianxia is that Wuxia is low fantasy and Xianxia is high fantasy. In Wuxia martial prowess is greatly exaggerated. Whereas Xianxia takes this a step further to include demons, ghosts, gods, immortals, Chinese mythology and a focus on the quest for immortality through cultivation. It is heavily influenced by Daoism too.
That being said Eternal Love is primarily a love story. It follows the turbulent romance of Bai Qian and Ye Hua, respectively played by Yang Mi and Mark Chao. The female protagonist Bai Qian is an immortal white nine-tailed fox and Ye Hua is an immortal, eastern dragon. In Chinese culture dragons are seen as a symbol of divinity and power, whilst white nine-tailed foxes are auspicious and linked to peace and love. Immortal usually refers to one who has cultivated and ascended to the Heavens. However, there are many kinds of immortal and in this story the protagonist was born as one, should explain it further. Our story starts with her being taken to study at Kunlun Mountain to become a disciple of the God of War Mo Yuan due to her free-spirited and mischievous nature. Kunlun Mountain has a long history of being regarded as sacred and as a place where immortals live; it features in much mythology and is usually mentioned in Xianxia.
It doesn’t take long to become invested in the plot as it moves relatively quickly; though if you’re interested in the romance the male lead doesn’t appear until several episodes in. Each episode has a good amount of content and having watched other Chinese dramas now I can say honestly, this is rare. Other dramas, such as Ashes of Love, Bloody Romance and Eternal Love of Dream, tend to drag the story out instead, condense it or have a rushed ending. Eternal Love is well-paced. Also, each scene of the drama mentions details that, whether now or later, are used to give hints, but due to their subtlety can be easily passed over. This makes Eternal Love my favourite drama as nothing is superfluous and everything is connected. At the beginning I thought I’ll only watch one or two episodes but ended up watching it all within the space of a few weeks due to these immersive qualities.
Eternal Love became my favourite partly as well due to the skilful acting and on-screen chemistry between the female and male lead. Yang Mi, who plays Bai Qian, is a well-known Chinese actress. The strength of her acting is shown in the way she plays the changing personality of Bai Qian; the playful disciple at Kunlun Mountain to the strong Fox Queen. Mark Chao has two roles, one as Ye Hua, the Crown Prince of the Heavens (the male lead), and the other as Mo Yuan, the God of War. He expresses Ye Hua’s pain and unwillingness to let anyone see his weakness due to the expectations placed upon him with heart breaking authenticity – you empathise with him and wish for him to share everything he hides with Bai Qian. Also, both of the leading actors are bishies (if you don’t know that is the English fandom slang for beautiful people)!
Another thing that hooked me to this drama was the music; it is classed as Mandopop (Mandarin Popular music) and ballad. Sixty different tracks were used, including instrumental versions of a few songs, two of which are the opening and ending songs. Each key character has their own song too. The music is well incorporated into the drama and enhances the depth of the story. It makes each scene memorable and distinct. A few of my favourite tracks are Peach Drunk, Zhe Yan (a character song), Although There’s No Possibilities (both versions) and Mortal II.
I included the translated Chinese title of the drama in the heading because I feel this title suits the drama much better. It helps to specify what I am talking about as well. Eternal love is a title that has been used as so many times; it is a long overused, understated cliche. However, the translated Chinese title of Three Lives Three Worlds, Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms is personal and has specific story references. In the drama there is a place called Peach Blossom Woods that does have ten miles of peach blossoms that bloom all year round and it is a key place that is visited many times throughout the story. It is also special to the female lead, Bai Qian too. Peach blossoms symbolise love as well and peaches in general represent immortality, though as a western audience would be less perceptive to these links it is understandable the title was changed. The three lives three worlds refer to the stages of the love story, but I’ll leave that to you to uncover.
If you like romance, you know then that there are fewer equal and realistic relationships portrayed. This is why I prefer to watch this over and over again. The male lead, Ye Hua, supports Bai Qian in what she wants to do and their relationship takes time to form. It’s not the typical love at first sight scenario. Bai Qian misunderstands Ye Hua and feels that it’s unfair for them to be together as she is older than him, so she tries to be considerate.
There are 58 episodes in total and it can be watched on YouTube and Netflix with English subtitles. It has a sequel called Eternal Love of Dream, that is about Bai Qian’s niece, Bai Feng Jiu.