The "Under the Microscope" series began airing on February 9, 2023, and stars Zhang Ruo Yun, Wang Yang, Qi Wei, and a host of veteran actors with excellent reputations, such as Wu Gang, Gao Ya Lin, and Hou Yan Song, in key roles in the series.
This drama is adapted from Ma Boyong's work: Xian Wei Jing Xia De Da Ming (显微镜下的大明, Under the Microscope: Ming Dynasty)". In a series of rare folk archives of the Ming Dynasty, the author discovered six long-lost grassroots political events of the Ming Dynasty. Focusing on a particular province, county, or even village, these six events record the real political life of the lowest commoners in the Ming Dynasty.
When encountering tax injustice, how the common people rose up to fight; when the rights and interests of the family were undermined, how the clan members initiated lawsuits; when political interests conflicted with commercial interests, how the people fought with the government; when the imperial court demanded the rectification of the household register, how they falsified it for profit. From countless real details, an extremely vivid picture of ancient political ecology is shown.
The drama "Under the Microscope" has 14 episodes, focusing on the first story in the original, which tells the story of the mathematics genius Shuai Jia Mo, who discovered the county had borne the silk tax burden of the surrounding seven counties for more than a hundred years, thus starting the path from the county office to the government officials and even higher administrative units to rectify the situation.
Plot Summary of Under the Microscope
Shuai Jia Mo (帅家默, played by Zhang Ruo Yun) is a mathematical genius who has a deep concentration on numbers and calculations. His parents died when he was a child and he lives alone. Feng Bi Yu (丰碧玉, played by Qi Wei), a ham seller in the county, and his younger brother Feng Bao Yu (丰宝玉, played by Fei Qi Ming) and Shuai Jia Mo take care of each other and are like family.
The drama opens with Shuai Jia Mo measuring the land for a farming family, but the calculation results are different from the area on the land deed, he not only fails to solve the problem of the brothers' division, but also makes the brothers suspicious of each other and fight. And Shuai Jia Mo insisted that he did not miscalculate, and never figured out where the problem lies, which laid the groundwork for the silk tax case later.
Feng Bao Yu is a granary student in the county, his sister Feng Bi Yu keep frugal is to provide for his brother to study in the imperial examinations, but Feng Baoyu is a fop by nature and spends his days loitering and using Shuai's talent for calculating to make money in casinos. With the secret support of Shuai, Feng Bao Yu always wins in gambling, so much so that the local gambling houses in Renhua County refuse to let the two enter.
On the day of Shuai Jia Mo's miscalculation of the field area, Feng Bao Yu dragged him to a new gambling house opened by a Lan Xi County people, and they agreed to play for half an hour and leave. With Shuai Jia Mo's arithmetic calculations, Feng Bao Yu wins every time, and the chips he got on credit with a jade pendant have turned into ten times the profit in a flash, causing the other gamblers in the gambling house to cheer loudly.
Not surprisingly, they disturb the owner of the gambling house. The boss, who is struggling with the heavy accounts yet to be calculated, hears about Shuai Jia Mo's talent and has a plan to bet against him. The confident Shuai Jia Mo doesn't expect the boss to cheat, but the boss accuses them of cheating and coerces Shuai Jia Mo to calculate the accounting for him. Feng Bi Yu, who came to the gambling house upon hearing the news and made a mess, eventually them all brought to the Renhua county court.
Fang Mao Zhen, the magistrate of Renhua County, believes in the concept of inaction, but in view of the imminent arrival of the new Jin'an prefect, he decides to clear all the cases at once for fear of causing trouble. During the trial of Shuai Jia Mo and Feng Bao Yu, Wang Yang's character Cheng Ren Qing makes an appearance and wins the case for the gambling house owner with his strong debating skills.
Feng Bao Yu lost the lawsuit and caused his sister to lose money, so he wanted to take Shuai Jia Mo to the provincial gambling house to earn a fortune. However, when Shuai is settling the accounts for the gambling house, he stumbles upon a problem in calculating the land deeds pledged in the casino, which is the same as the one he encountered before with the measurement problem.
Shuai wanted to study the problem in-depth, so Feng Bao Yu used a ruse to help count him into the official archives to check the information. Shuai Jia Mo relied on some memories from his childhood, to go through all the tax files of Jin'an Province at a very fast speed, and found the secret that Renhua County has been paying more silk tax for 100 years, 3530 Liang per year, 100 years is 350,000 Liang (according to a rough estimate, 1 Liang ≈ $100).
This discovery shocked Shuai Jia Mo, and he went to Renhua County Office alone to file a complaint, but was told that he needed to go to the Jin'an Prefecture Office to submit a complaint. After a lot of tossing and turning, Shuai not only did not succeed in feeding the situation to the local officials, but also received corporal punishment for trespassing in the courthouse.
Feng Bi Yu is keen enough to perceive that Shuai Jia Mo needs help and has her brother as an assistant. She came up with a way to make Shuai reveal the issue of silk tax to the public while Magistrate Fang was adjudicating the case. Quickly, the matter becomes known in Renhua County, and Shuai Jia Mo and Feng Bao Yu becomes the voice of the local people's interests.
The newly arrived Huang prefect faces isolation by his eight subordinate county magistrates, but he finds a good opportunity to use the silk tax case to establish his authority. Cheng Ren Qing, on the other hand, learns shocking news from his own proprietor, Fan Yuan, who has an old relationship with Shuai Jia Mo's elders. At this moment, Shuai Jia Mo became the focus of attention of the county, the prefect, the magistrate, Fan Yuan, and a host of other bigwigs. Feng Bi Yu, Cheng Ren Qing also found Shuai has its own secret, which is related to the tragic death of Shuai Jia Mo's parents twenty years ago. What's even more frightening is that the silk tax in Renhua County lasted for 100 years, and the whole matter goes back to the Chenghua years of the Ming Dynasty, so the final story is not just a small Renhua County or even Jin'an Prefecture that can influence it.
The drama with a strong and compelling story. Why did Shuai Jia Mo's parents die 20 years ago? Why only Renhua County is paying the silk tax in Jin'an Prefecture, and what really happened 100 years ago during the Chenghua period of the Ming Dynasty? All these questions prompted the audience to want to watch the next episode, to know the truth. Perhaps this is the charm of Ma Boyong's novel, which is the selling point of the drama "Under the Microscope" and captures the curiosity of the audience.
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"Under the Microscope" does not focus on the affairs of the court, nor the struggle for imperial power. Instead, it focuses on the Jin'an Prefecture and Renhua County, with Shuai Jia Mo as the microscope to uncover the century-old silk case, so that the various interests involved in the case to start a struggle. Taxes involved in the interests of many parties, and deposited for hundreds of years, it is difficult to imagine the difficulty of the test to reveal. And, the case is also linked to the Shuai family's cases, so the audience also looks forward to the story of the drama to go.
With a presentation closer to ancient life, "Under the Microscope" tells the story of simple people's demands, official balancing acts, and dirty tactics, presenting a realistic and vivid picture of the political ecology of ordinary civilians at the bottom.
Out of the obsession with arithmetic and the desire to fight for the people, Shuai Jia Mo and his friends start an indignant struggle, fearlessly defying the corrupt officials and powerful gentry, and confronting the county government. The choice of Shuai Jia Mo is the resistance to the feudal historical trend. This kind of story kernel of small to large, weak to win the strong, often more able to arouse the audience's desire to watch.
The cast of "Under the Microscope" also filled the audience's expectations. Zhang Ruo Yun, Wang Yang, Qi Wei, Wu Gang, Gao Ya Lin, and other wonderful interpretations provide quality assurance for the drama series.
Zhang Ruoyun portrayed the simple qualities of a minor character at the bottom and his persistence in academics, which will make the audience believe that the Shuai Jia Mo in Ma Boyong's book should be like this. In the drama, Shuai Jia Mo is not alone, Wang Yang, Feng Bi Yu, and Feng Bao Yu have become his partners on the way to fight for the people.
Among them, Cheng Ren Qing (程仁清, played by Wang Yang), and the unknown Shuai Jia Mo form a sharp contrast. In his profession, as a ancient lawyer, he is famous in the county for his clear arguments and meticulous logic. And in life, Cheng Ren Qing is living an extravagant life, the two people who seem to be unable to cross paths, then cooperate and join forces to plead for the people to reduce taxes to the court. This is also the second match between Zhang Ruoyun and Wang Yang (Wang Yang played Teng Zi Jing in the drama The Joy of Life), which also meet the audience's expectations.
Ma Boyong is both the author of the original novel and also the scriptwriter of the drama. If you have read the original, you will certainly be impressed by the mathematical content written by Ma Boyong.
The main character Shuai Jia Mo's application of mathematical knowledge is also used throughout, which is also one of the cores of this novel. When it comes to some problems of counting, some contents become obscure and difficult to understand. Moreover, Ma Boyong put double the effort into examining many documentary sources when creating this historical documentary work.
However, the drama version of "Under the Microscope" makes the originally dry and obscure mathematical academic content, become more accessible. Therefore, in order to let the audience follow the plot step by step into the silk tax case, the series at the creation level greatly reduces the audience's viewing barriers, and the mathematical problems involved are presented through an easy understanding way.
With a compelling storyline, strong cast, the original author as scriptwriter, and perfect reproduction of Ming Dynasty traditions and costumes, "Under the Microscope" has great potential to become one of the best costume dramas of the year, add it to your watch list!