An Oriental Odyssey – An Ode to Zhao Lan Zhi and Yue Yuan An

Hello folks! I haven’t written in a long while (although still religiously watching c-dramas when I have a moment) as Life has just gotten so busy but I guess this resonates so much with me that I felt compelled to pick up the pen again.

Finally, a healthy relationship in the c-drama world (ehem, cough, All Out Of Love) which I can totally get behind and …. he is the second male lead so destined to Not Get The Girl.  Why???? Seems to me that the scriptwriters are equally conflicted as I am up to episode 32 of a 50 episode drama and Zhao Lan Zhi, the doomed second male lead, is in as many, or even more scenes than the male lead, Mu Le, and his arc with the female lead, Yuan An, is well-thought, well-written and well fleshed out….until its ah, tragic end.  I literally punched my fist in the air     [ spoilers ahead]     when Yuan An clearly stated in ep 32 that her heart belongs to Lan Zhi. I honestly did not think there was anything more than affection and kinship for Mu Le from her perspective – while show tried to position for Mu Le to be the romantic lead (and it was obvious from all the previews and staged romantic moments ..ehem..sudden flowerpetal shower), kudos to Wu Qian who interpreted Yuan An such that she treated him as a child she is responsible for,  cares for and tries to not hurt his feelings (no lingering looks, no conflicted feelings – her entire attention was focused on Lan Zhi once he joins them (family dinner, sending off fake princess, literally anytime! ) and her obvious choice that she would have to kill Mu Le if it came down to only-one-could-survive.

My immense second male lead syndrome started the moment Lan Zhi could identify that Yue An was a female garbed in male attire, pretty much in their official first meeting (after he rescued her princess style). Observant? Check. And although they were initially on opposing sides, he had enough instinct, wits and flexibility within reason to give her 3 days grace period to investigate the case and clear her male servant’s girlfriend from a murder charge. Intelligent dude with compassion? Check. I particularly liked the part where Lan Zhi confronted Mu Le in army camp saying that he is aware that Mu Le has feelings for Yuan An hence considers him a love rival but yet he was professional enough to try and manage things fairly despite his discomfort and jealousy. Man with honor and integrity? Check.

If there is one thing to learn from this doomed couple is to Not Take Things for Granted. When Lanzhi was baring his heart to Yuan An knowing that they cant be together as he has to marry Ming Zhu in exchange for her anecdote, I could hear strains of 可惜没如果 in my head. Aaah, so sad and stoic, my poor Lanzhi. While not every real life relationship would end so dramatically (poison, anecdote, Empress decree), how many of us have taken a stable, fulfilling relationship for granted until it drifts apart or completely disintegrates. Maybe that’s the one thing which makes me so invested in Lanzhi and Yuan An. Not much is said outright but all their interactions together show how much they are in love with each other – she willing to try something different to be more conventional so he would be more at ease, he learning to accept her as she is – “peacock” flower arrangement and all, she risking her life more than once to rescue him despite not knowing how or the what the repercussions maybe, him prepared to lie to the Queen to prove to her that he is not merciless (and really because she asked him!), her duelling with Ming Hui so that the latter will stay away from Lanzhi and him sticking her fake brother up a tree for insulting Yuan An! While they may have different view points, neither conforms to the other completely but instead try to find a happy middle ground where both perspective are not completely sacrificed but just compromised. They may disagree and get upset each with other but like a  mature, healthy relationship, neither walks away from each other after a quarrel – they know that they are each other EndGame. Even if Yuan An was attracted to Mu Le (and Lanzhi to Ming Hui) since both Mu Le and Ming Hui were so forward physically with Yuan An and Lanzhi respectively, it’s clear that the love that they have for each other far outweighs any such distractions.  It was telling that Lanzhi told Mu Le that if the Queen had allowed him a request, he too wouldn’t have asked for a grant of marriage to Yuan An because in his mind too (similarly in hers), them getting married was an eventuality that both of them wanted and did not require external consent. Ahhh, the feels.

I actually feel kinda sorry for Zheng Ye Cheng because in my mind, the character Mu Le is not a rootable romantic character at all. Sure, he may love Yuan An wholeheartedly but it comes with reciprocal expectations (why would you force a kiss on someone who is effectively your boss and blame her for being “cute and pretty” or expect to hug her just because Lanzhi held her hand? Eww). When he left her alone in ep 32 because he FINALLY realised that while she cares for him, her happiness and joy is only for Lanzhi – I was like – she is all alone and miserable (esp since you didn’t tell her why Lanzhi did that) and you are leaving???? I truly suspect that while Mu Le is the protagonist (perhaps based on the book, I am not sure), one of the scriptwriters (and I dare say even Wu Qian herself) has a huge Lanzhi bias! It doesn’t help that Wu Qian and Zhang Yu Jian has off-the-charts chemistry – even when they are just sitting at a table and she hands/serves him food or standing/walking together – you don’t need them to hold hands to know that their hearts are aligned. Even the Empress can see that when she was trying to advise Ming Hui against marrying herself off to Lan Zhi.

So I just cannot bring myself to watch the remaining episodes – without Yuan An investigating with Lan Zhi, it takes away the essence of the story for me. I am just glad that I got 32 episodes of it and there are only 18 episodes left. Ideally, I would like it that Yuan An knows the extent of Lanzhi’s sacrifice and loves him till the end although she is touched by Mu Le’s love for her. Since Mu Le is the male lead, I think its not likely so I am not holding my breath.

Having said that, I think Oriental Odyssey is still a light, fun watch and I highly recommend it. Wu Qian is so spunkily cute without being annoying and makes a believable male in that she is not overly made up so I may still cave and watch the remaining episodes. I first saw Zhang Yu Jian in Delicious Destiny and thought he was underused there so I look forward to their next collaboration in Le Coup de Foudre. If for nothing else, I hope this article puts Zhang Yu Jian in the limelight as he is not well known and its such a pity as he did Zhao Lan Zhi so much justice!

29 thoughts on “An Oriental Odyssey – An Ode to Zhao Lan Zhi and Yue Yuan An

  1. I’m a Yuan An and Lanzhi shipper even though I knew from the opening snippets that my ship is doomed from thr start. I conditioned my mind that they’re not going to end up together but my heart can’t help itself to ship them obssessedly hahahahah! I literally cried when Lanzhi was crying as he fed the pill to Yuan An, telling her goodbye.

    Those adventures since ep1, those glances, those opposite characters…. There’s something in their relationship that was subtle yet so loud about love/romance.

    I still watched the episodes (mostly skipped them) until the end. Mu Le was hot as a person but I didn’t really warm up to him that much. And I never felt any romantic feelings for both of them despite the funny antics.

    Though I did not like Minghui, I also did not hate her. I respected her character. I smiled thinking that Lanzhi and she will have a steady relationship until the end.

    Some viewers interpreted it as:
    Yuan An and Mu Le = youthful romance/love

    Lanzhi and Minghui = adult/mature love

    That’s why (ahem) I’m ecstatic that they’re the stars for Le Coup de Foudre. It’s like seeing Lanzhi and Yuan an in modern era. The gods must have favored their sacrifices and pittied the shippers hahahahaha!!!!

    There’s this fanmade video of some clips in AOO and LCDF. It’s like watching reincarnation romance haha.

    Modern set up means more hugs and kisses as husband and wife. I watched the episodes and my heart would burst due to giddiness.

    Wu Qian has a talent to have chemistry with her male leads. But to be honest, her chemistry with Zhang Yun Jian is far my favorite. That I want to go to China and match make this two.

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  2. I came looking for some points on why this drama seems to put too much focus on the second main lead story with the female lead.

    Because, from the second and third episodes (still watching on the earliest arcs), I got more attatched to that ship than the actual first male lead’s one. In fact, looking at the overall story, despite I enjoy Mu Le’s character’s naïve nature and his story; i’d rather had a drama that would completely scrap off this character, focused more on the mysteries Lan Zhi has to solve (even if that means tossing the beads’ main role appart) and his relationship developement with Yuan’an. That would made for the drama I’d trully want to watch instead of the one they gave us (even if it’s still funny and watchable).

    It trully doesn’t help that the writers gave Yuan’an a crush on Lan Zhi from the first few chapters after he appears to the “omiai” date (the arranged marriage first meeting) and she realizes he has agreed to a possible arranged marriage with her.
    As I see in your post, the crush keeps developing into a pure and true love and it does get reciprocated just for the writers to crash it all after 30 some episodes just to justify the first male lead’s choice.

    I wonder if it’s a PI drama and which novel/manhua is based on. Perhaps, the original work doesn’t pursue much on this “secondary” relationship developement, but the drama trully doesn’t.

    It doesn’t help either that the relationship is a healthy one, just as you described here. I am currently watching the drama feeling bad because I am rooting for a ship that is bound to happen but it’s actually discarded by the writers because it’s not meant to happen due to roles rules. It is even more complex than rooting for Dramione, knowing the author had originally planned for it to happen.

    Is not like is the first time I have a ship in a drama that doesn’t happen. There are some that give you serious second lead syndrome, but at least, you can see why the writers don’t push for that option or the main leads’ storyline is still consistent enough. This doesn’t happen in this drama at all. Even when the actor playing Mu Le is so cute and he can, somehow, portray his adoration for Yuan’an, I cannot be not invested in that story if the writers keep developing the other ship so naturally it hurts.

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    1. Hi @okaderei! I hope you are still enjoying the show!! I totally agree with what you say – I am so much more game for an investigative drama where the non-conventional crime-busting female actually has brains (and not just brawn and enthusiasm) and the conventional crime-busting male is not TOO straight laced to the point of boring. To me, its a pity that they totally went off-tangent after that and included Ming Hui which was so super odd, considering their past entanglements.

      I also echo your thoughts where we board the wrong ship and have severe second lead syndrome but in those dramas, its clear that the second male lead is NOT the right guy for the female lead. Here. it really does seem as the show is split into two parts with different writing and scripting.

      Do drop in and let me know how the show progresses!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The series of episodes are good. Don’t drop it. You see The primary lead in his real personality as a hdsome smart and kind prince. Things come together and we find out why he hs flashes f memory of the female lead in differs costumes. They were meant be with each other through the time portal.

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    1. hI @Traci! Good to hear that you are still enjoying it! I am generally not a fan of heroes who can set everything aside (to the point its ludicrous ) purely for the heroine so have stopped watching unfortunately. Not a fan of Prince Ying either so hard to watch when not rooting for the male lead!!

      How is it so far?

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  4. Hi @reader! Thanks for popping in!! Yeah, unfortunately this article is really for those who have watched An Oriental Odyssey so quite a limited audience 🙂 I just felt so strongly because finally, we have a pretty healthy relationship and its doomed from the start!

    You are absolutely right – I couldn’t get past ep2 of LSI and dropped it; i know its meant to be quirky but I thought it was highly odd. May give it a try again. ZYC is an earnest boy for sure – he is on HC and gives off that vibe. From the BTS, Zhang Yu Jian (who play the second lead in AOO) is more reserved and wry.

    I am watching Our Glamorous Times now – its light but not silly and a perfect panache after All Out Of Love (couldn’t finish it despite my great love for Sun Yi) and the AOO. I saw that Rise of Phoenix is subbed and wanted to start but am afraid my heart is gonna be stuck in my throat most of the time!!

    I don’t usually buy anything online unfortunately so I get my tea locally. And I too store my tea for a long time. I think as long as its in a dry clean place, it should be okay? At least that’s what I am telling myself 🙂 But flower teas do not keep well. I have quite some pu-er which has been there for 6 years and it still tastes good 🙂

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    1. Nice to hear from you Lizzie. I like Sun Yi a lot, but I can’t watch many of her dramas. Even the slightly less melodramatic drama like Because of Meeting You. I found her BoMY pseudo-sis Zhang Yuxin and adoptive mom characters were loud and super-annoying. I can’t imagine why they wanted to remake that drama. I can’t stand loud shrews. The child actress for the character, Le Tong, in that drama was terrific though. Such an adorable cutie pie.

      I read that AOoL has the 2 male leads having terminal illness one at a time. I thought Yang Mi and drama mom having brain cancer one at a time in Interpreter was already a cheap shot to lengthen that drama. I already disliked it there. So I’m avoiding AOoL. The last Wallace C work I liked was Johnnie To’s Three. I also didn’t like YM’s drama mother-in-law in Interpreters. Another shrew-like female character. I don’t like how Asian dramas like to designate the mother to be the shrews. Gender bias?

      Tea storage depends a lot on your local climate. I suspect your city is more humid than mine. Probably by quite a lot. If your area is humid, you want to keep your puerh dry. I live in dry area, so I’m starting to store mine in a big, lidded ceramic pot. Places like Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Guangdong, Taiwan are considered humid. Shanghai is medium to dry-ish.
      I tried to buy a bit of tea from teapals but had technical difficulties. No worries. There are other vendors. Good quality raw puerh is supposed to get better with age. Some or majority of people think, ideally, people should drink raw puerh that’s been stored for 30+ years after they have been pressed into tea-cake form. So you shouldn’t worry about storing puerh for the long term. Some self-proclaimed experts claim puerh from Yiwu mountain range area age better for the long term.

      Depends on how sensitive your palate is. Puerh has gotten much more popular this decade. Prices have been going up fast. In previous decades, they were simple, countryside beverage. Now there are a lot of fans. It’s hard to find 30 year old puerh with some quality. I only started experimenting with puerh the past year. Storage that is too dry, especially the first 5 years after pressing, is reputed to be bad for puerh. Too humid can ruin it if it molds. So need to pay some attention. But keep in mind I’m new with puerh. So everything I say is suspect… 😛

      I trust your tea opinions a lot more than tea vendors’. My tea vendors always say everything keeps well. Thank you!

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  5. Saw someone post this following your post 🙂

    It gives a wider perspective and although Zheng Ye Cheng can improve in acting, he has potential. As for his character… I’m pretty neutral about it.
    I’m mostly not happy after reading and hearing from folks that the drama was only 30 episodes but they decided to extend it all the way to 50 episodes. It made me cautious to watch the show and I can see after watching up to episode 25, there were definitely some plot points that can be shortened. Overall, the show is okay.

    Nice to see another fellow admin watching it too 😀 It’s been a while ~ Real life is getting busy for me too 😅

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    1. Hi @chocolatecosmos! Thanks for sharing – that does give it some context. It is quite unusual in that usually the second lead maybe in love with female lead but she is usually in love/pining after male lead or he was her crush but her actual love is second lead. Here, female lead and second male lead have such a well developed story line and for such a chunky part of the show and to-now, she is still in love with second male lead. I actually enjoyed all the episodes todate as it had that investigative slant (though not really an odyssey). ZYC is not a bad actor but I just do not enjoy Mu Le as a character – he lacks that tortured smouldering vibe aka Fu Hong Xue and really just come off dim witted and spoilt – his time in army camp really reinforced that!

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      1. @lizzieyen
        I went to search up more context by looking at the original, lengthy comment on mydramalist. It seems that ZYC was bounded by contract with his agency (he attempted to terminate but couldn’t) and the HC agency paid a lot to get someone to play the main male lead. Just reading it makes me sympathize for ZYC. It seems that the HC agency intended for Mu Le’s character to be overshadowed by second male lead anyway and they were intending on developing second lead’s relationship with the female lead in the beginning and middle of the show. It reminded me of another recent drama where they were promoting secondary characters… I won’t go into details lol.

        Background and context of this whole promotion thing aside, Mu Le character reminded me of Elvis Han’s character in Chinese Paladin 5. Not really smart, not smoldering like you said, and really need help from others a lot. I did end up liking Joe Cheng’s second male lead character over Elvis’s character. I find the type of main male character to be common in adventure type dramas (and anime). So for me, watching Mu Le was familiar.

        Since the show is going to put a halt to Lan Zhi’s relationship with Yuan’an, I hope they end up tying the story better as it would be a disservice to watchers or past watchers of the show. I found the relationship between Lan Zhi and Ming Hui (I do not like her character one bit) to be poor and it wasn’t clear when she started developing an interest in Lan Zhi.

        So I’m putting a halt to watching this show for a bit until I see better improvements on ML and YA relationship… not really hoping much lol. Still, want to continue watching this show for Janice. I look forward to watching other works of all three leads who I think all have acting ranges.

        I’m waiting for Le Coup de Foudre too but since I’ve read the novel, I’m not sure how changes they will do for that drama, so I’m not that excited 😅 Just hoping they don’t drag the story out too much or throw dog blood stuff.

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        1. Ah I see. It’s really odd though – why then let ZYC be the lead. It’s not fair to Zhang Yu Jian either as the promo material / previews / AOO weibo feeds is mostly Wu Qian and ZYC – but the show is clearly shipping Yuan An and Lanzhi – and I mean it in a good way as in storyline development.

          I really wonder if it’s true because the first 30 episodes are actually pretty coherent in terms of storyline and not just inserted willy-nilly.

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          1. I believe the first and middle parts were where they added the extra 20 episodes because it was post-production where they inserted the episodes and since Janice and Zhang Yu Jian are under HC agency, they agree to film additional scenes.

            The original scriptwriter wrote it out with 30 episodes intending to go into Mu Le’s identity faster (because it was a major plot line in the novel or so) which also supposedly intended to move the romance faster too. So the beginning of the story where Mu Le doesn’t do much or interact much, the additional scenes were added to depict other characters.

            But yes, I don’t get why they didn’t put ZYC as lead… even if he ends up playing a different character. I’m guessing his agency, HC agency, felt they haven’t given him enough work before to promote him to lead.
            Even if ZYC hasn’t lead before, other dramas that cast lesser experienced actors have succeeded (looking at Ever Night).

            I think it’s a bit unfair to Zhang Yu Jian, but I personally find it more unfair to Zheng Ye Cheng who was “forced” to take this role. After looking up his past and future works, it seemed that he is getting cast in better dramas which he earned after catching the eyes of directors/producers so I think it’s working out for him.

            Anyhow, this production sucks imo but everything is already filmed and added so I’ll just accept the drama for what it is 😅

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            1. I wouldn’t reference Ever Night for pushing a lesser known actor in the main lead. The circumstance behind that casting is crazy different. His parents are very influential people in the film industry (Chen Kaige & Chen Hong).

              Liked by 1 person

              1. I see your point. To me it’s more like the audience reactions to someone, who wasn’t as well known from before, being casted as the main lead and his first main lead acting was positive (mostly). Ever Night was the most recent example I could think of at that time, but it’s not a great reference I admit. I believe Liu Hao Ran (who did With You before) being casted in Detective Chinatown and the movie succeeding seem like a good case of casting someone lesser known to star in a decent budget film, albeit that was movie and not a tv drama. Tv dramas seem more geared toward profits and cast “profit making” stars.

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        2. @chocolatecosmos for Ming Hui and Lanzhi, I think her feelings for him started when he also saved her “princess” style and she kinda swooned and he was like squinting “is this person the same one that saved me as their eyes look the same?” And nary a romantic inclination ! 😂

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Their interactions in the beginning to the middle ish, were basically
            Ming Hui: “I am out for revenge, hate you Lan Zhi ruining my evil plans”
            Lan Zhi: “Hmm… you seem suspicious….”
            And then the princess style saving which I was cracking up 😂
            I
            think after that I started fast-forwarding their scenes together because I wasn’t buying any of their romance. At least to me, Ming Hui is just being a jealous person against Yuan’An who really didn’t participate in killing the servant guy in the first case of opioid. All those unjustified hate for the heroine by the second female was absurd to me, so I skip her scenes so much lol.

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            1. There was never any romance between them so you didn’t miss anything!! SHe blamed both Yuan’An and Lanzhi for her servant’s death as they worked together to close the case. I feel that Ming Hui wants someone who loves Yuan’An the way Lanzhi loves her and she decided to just swoop in on him – of course, Lanzhi, despite knowing that she is up to no good, was always quite fair and just in the way he dealt with her. But there was no romance or affection on his part – just trying to find out why would she put herself in such a situation.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. @bananachocolatecosmos and @lizzieyen, OMG! How am I just finding this out now?!?!? This makes me sooooooo furious because I am a BIG Zheng Ye Cheng fan. I initially watched the drama for him (Janice Wu was just the icing on the cake), and that’s why I was soooo disappointed when the drama always focused on Yuan An and Lan Zhi’s relationship. NOW I understand… Because of the all the politics behind the drama… Tsk. Tsk. Tsk. I feel so bad for Zheng Ye Cheng… Poor guy.

                Liked by 1 person

                1. Are you still watching @alwayszhenxin? I have given up unfortunately. Nothing against Zheng Ye Cheng – but I think he is still a bit green to playing a role like Mu Le; I couldn’t root for him either as an unwilling slave (came off petulant and unreasonable) or a prince (just too himbo!).

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                  1. @lizzieyen , yes I am. But not thoroughly. Just skipping some and watching some… I’m really disappointed in how it turned out. Right now, the story is literally getting no where. The drama itself is a complete mess, as it just feels like the writers and producers just threw a bunch of elements together to try to make it work (ex. memory loss, hidden identities, weird magic powers, and even time traveling). BUT IT’S NOT WORKING. The story now is just horrible. T_T

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                    1. @alwayszhenxin @lizzieyen
                      Hmmm… I guess I’m glad I dropped it pretty soon. I do enjoy seeing funny gifs from the show online. Still waiting for the show to end to catch the very last episode… Wished they didn’t extend the show 😐
                      I’m tempted to make a reaction post based on gifs, but that would mean I have to watch the second half… nah lol.

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  6. I am here for the healthy relationship and seriously, we could just switch the male lead and none of us would be against it. I also side eye All out love lol it’s2018 we can’t be having all this healthiness

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    1. Sigh – just when there is a healthy relationship! I have stopped watching but I see updates on Twitter and seems like up to ep42, Zhao Lan Zhi is still hung up on Yuan An and did not SUDDENLY realise he is in love with Ming Hui who literally tricked and threatened him into marriage! Yuan An on the other hand seems to be focusing her entire energy in managing Prince Ying in Suo Luo and just not thinking about Zhao Lan Zhi at all; diversion!!

      All Out Of Love – triple sigh – I made it to ep42 and just couldn’t …

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Omg I feel the same exact way! I really wanted to watch just for Zhang Yu Jian and Wu Qian. Later found out Zheng Ye Cheng is the main lead. Not really into him much since he seems so kiddy to me lol

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Actually I started because of Wu Qian – wasn’t too familiar with either of the guys although I know Zheng Ye Cheng was in Let’s Shake It (watched 1 ep and couldn’t get into it) and Zhang Yu Jian in Delicious Destiny. I later realized Zhang Yu Jian was also Wang Kai’s right hand man in NiF.

      I am not opposed to the slave-mistress relationships – cue Zhu Yilong in Border Town Prodigal – BUT there has got to be chemistry or some rhyme and reason. For ZYL, he was crazy hot there and the attraction palpable but I digress 🙂 Here, Mu ale comes off as blur Mowgli and not in a manly way while Yuan An treats him either as a child or a pet. I don’t even know why he gets the idea that she likes him romantically. She cares, yes, but in love with him? Errrr

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      1. Welcome back Lizzie. Great to read your post again. I haven’t watched a single episode of this, so I have a hard time following your post completely. I’m too busy to watch dramas right now. Ever Night is currently on top of my waiting list. If the final feedback and comments seem reasonable, I may watch that later. I’m not sure about A C Odyssey yet. Hope for a reasonable ending here too.

        I had Let’s Shake It on the background while I was wrapping up my day for a few days. I think episode 1 to 2-ish are weird at times, but 3-ish to about 20 are quite entertaining. An Yue Xi can be contagiously joyful to watch. LSI gets better after they get past the blue alien scenes I think. I’m not saying you must like it, but it may not be as bad as your early impression. I didn’t like Wang Yan Yang (he was an evil double spy in Decoded. The one who dated the math girl. I liked his acting there fine. I don’t like WYY’s acting in LSI) and another supporting male character. Based on what I saw in LSI and Love020, ZYC seems like an earnest person with good physical skills. He has training in martial artsy-opera. But his acting still has room for improvement. I don’t hold it against him.

        Do you know if all white teas can be stored for a few years? Shou Mei, Yinzhen Baihao (Silver needle), bai mudan (white peony) in particular. If you are slow about drinking these white teas, they won’t taste awful in 3-5 years? Did you ever get teas from the internet? If yes, where?
        I have white bai mudan tea cakes. They age ok. But I do wonder about loose white tea.

        You may have heard about recent multinational trade tariffs. My tea acquaintances and I have been getting more teas than usual this year. lol. I’m thankful I’m not a tea seller.
        I know old green teas taste bad. Apparently so does improperly processed raw (sheng) pu-erh. Processing temperatures that are too high turned them into green tea and they taste bad after 2 years. Too low, they turn into hong-cha like. Either way, they don’t store well long term unlike well-processed raw pu-erh.

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