The Standout Features of The Gate of Xuan Wu that Make it a Must-Watch

At present, what kind of historical drama can still possess a unique charm for the audience? A jade pomegranate, an old street, the turbulent modern history intertwined with the fate of ordinary people's daily lives. The hit drama "The Gate of Xuan Wu" has provided its own answer.

In early March, the historical drama "The Gate of Xuan Wu" premiered. The story begins with a jade pomegranate symbolizing the prosperity of the nation, spanning from 1898 to 1945, covering multiple historical events such as the Hundred Days' Reform, Siege of the International Legations, and the Second Sino-Japanese War.

Unlike previous works of the same genre, "The Gate of Xuan Wu" cleverly integrates high ideals, multiple perspectives, and strong empathy, breaking away from the usual focus on the political intrigues in the court and the temple often seen in historical dramas. Instead, it turns the historical lens towards a jade carving family and a lively old street. For the audience, whether it is the initial concern over the fate of the national treasure jade pomegranate or the immersion into the lives of the people on the old street, the drama evokes a sense of empathy and captivation.


The historical ordinary people in cdrama

Although involving multiple significant historical events, most of the story in "The Gate of Xuan Wu" revolves around ordinary people, sometimes humorous and absurd, sometimes full of simplicity of the common man, making history relatable to the contemporary audience. For instance, at the beginning of the story, during the Hundred Days' Reform, the jade carver Li Tianshun (played by Ren Zhong) rescues the abducted girl Huang Hexiang (played by Tong Lei) on his way to exile in Xiling, and a bond forms between them. However, Li Tianshun is already engaged, leading to a complex love triangle.

The Standout Features of The Gate of Xuan Wu that Make it a Must-Watch

During that time, the streets were filled with the tense atmosphere of the reform. When the officials were hunting down the patriot Wang Wu (played by Sun Tie), Wu Xiuzhen (played by Li Yixiao), who was engaged to Li Tianshun, cleverly and bravely protected Wang Wu, winning Li Tianshun's heart. The previously deadlocked love triangle was resolved, revealing the deep bonds among the people of the old street. Viewers praised it as "genuine, righteous, and authentic". Similar stories are not uncommon in "The Gate of Xuan Wu", such as Li Tianshun's deception to save Prince Pu Lanting, and the subsequent comedy of errors involving the imitation of the jade pomegranate, leading to a high-density plot twist that keeps the audience on edge.

The marriage granted by Empress Dowager Cixi (played by Siqin Gaowa) to Prince Pu Lanting, though appearing as a common palace intrigue, actually hides the popular trope of marriage before love. These aspects of "The Gate of Xuan Wu" that resonate with younger audiences are a result of the meticulous design by director Wang Xiaokang.

The Standout Features of The Gate of Xuan Wu that Make it a Must-Watch

He stated, "I hope this drama can be light-hearted, not always about political scheming or palace intrigue typical of historical dramas, but incorporating more modern life concepts into the story. This includes the flash marriage and love after marriage between Prince Pu Lanting and Mingyue, and the emotional entanglement among Li Tianshun, Yang Shangde, Wu Xiuzhen, and Huang Hexiang, with jealousy and warmth intertwined." Making historical dramas more accessible to the common people, more grounded, and closer to the lives of the citizens was the original intention of director Wang Xiaokang, reflecting his constant insight into the industry's development and changes.

In fact, such design choices have swiftly bridged the gap between "The Gate of Xuan Wu" and the audience, seamlessly integrating the daily life changes of the old street residents with the historical development. Each viewer watching from the screen gradually becomes immersed in the drama, becoming a part of the old street community, naturally reliving those thrilling historical moments.


A perfect rendition of the veteran actor

For audiences familiar with Beijing-style drama series, the classic series "Da Zhai Men" from thirty years ago remains an unavoidable topic of discussion. The portrayal of various facets of life through the rise and fall of a family in the series is truly thought-provoking. Thirty years later, the reunion of Siqin Gaowa and Zhang Fengyi in "The Gate of Xuan Wu" has brought a sense of novelty to young viewers, while older audiences find themselves immersed in nostalgia for classic series like "Da Zhai Men" and "Luotuo Xiangzi." Additionally, veteran actors such as Li Chengru, Zhao Yi, and Li Guangfu have also brought significant highlights to the audience.

The Standout Features of The Gate of Xuan Wu that Make it a Must-Watch

For example, Zhao Yi's portrayal of the playboy Wang Tongren not only exudes dramatic tension but also adds a touch of humor; Zhang Fengyi's depiction of Li Yunmian showcases the demeanor of a seasoned actor while adapting to the changing times. When it comes to casting choices, apart from maintaining the quality of Beijing-style dramas for thirty years, director Wang Xiaokang expressed that "The Gate of Xuan Wu" also has its own unique considerations. With actors spanning different generations, most of them being native to Beijing or adept at speaking authentic Beijing dialects, he believes that casting Ren Zhong as the male lead character represents a quintessential Beijing youth actor.

Speaking of the selection of the male lead, director Wang Xiaokang stated, "Ren Zhong is a native Beijing child with representative works. We tried to cast actors from Beijing as much as possible so that the dialogue can have a more authentic Beijing flavor." Using local actors to recreate regional characteristics poses a challenge for creators, as language limitations restrict choices and make selecting suitable actors less straightforward. This year's popular drama "Blossoms Shanghai" was cast in a similar manner, resulting not only in an authentic Shanghai flavor but also in the rise of a group of talented Shanghai actors.

The Standout Features of The Gate of Xuan Wu that Make it a Must-Watch

Aligning with the essence and linguistic requirements of the series is the foundation of appearing in "The Gate of Xuan Wu," as director Wang Xiaokang revealed, "Because the series spans different historical periods, it is filmed in reverse order, with each actor starting from an older age and gradually portraying their younger selves. Additionally, 'The Gate of Xuan Wu' does not use wigs for the makeup during the Wuxu Reform period; instead, the actors need to have their heads shaved." Coupled with the requirements of set design, understanding the characters and performances posed significant challenges for the actors.

Ultimately, actors from different generations come together in "The Gate of Xuan Wu" to portray the various facets of life during different historical events. The stories that were already well-known from textbooks or past works are reinterpreted in a meticulous manner that delves into each character's life. History is no longer a weighty relic of the past but rather the emotional entanglements of Li Tianshun, the schemes of Wang Tongren, the choices of Pu Lanting and Mingyue. it is within these stories that illuminate real-life.

The Standout Features of The Gate of Xuan Wu that Make it a Must-Watch


A fresh retrospective on history

For director Wang Xiaokang, "The Gate of Xuan Wu" is not an easy proposition. The jade pomegranate, serving as the thread of the story, is the origin of the entire project. Beyond symbolizing craftsmanship, the series delves into the interpretation of craftsmanship and heritage in different plots and narratives. For instance, at the beginning, the character Li Yunmian, portrayed by Zhang Fengyi, spends a lifetime carving a pomegranate stone, only to find his hands unable to carve new jade pieces in the end.

The essence of craftsmanship that aims to 'spend a lifetime perfecting one thing' is what "The Gate of Xuan Wu" seeks to convey. In historical dramas, the choice of the setting and events is equally crucial. Amid the vast land, why Beijing? Why The Gate of Xuan Wu? Director Wang Xiaokang believes that instead of filming historical stories that audiences are already familiar with, it is more compelling to shed light on unknown historical facts, with The Gate of Xuan Wuand the old streets serving as the vessels of such untold tales.

The Standout Features of The Gate of Xuan Wu that Make it a Must-Watch

Director Wang Xiaokang remarked, "The old street actually has a history of over a thousand years, even older than Beijing itself. The history and political significance of the old street are distinct." If Beijing is a representative of the stories of the Chinese dream over the past century, then the old street is one of the most representative parts of Beijing.

In order to authentically recreate historical scenes, "The Gate of Xuan Wu" meticulously reconstructed the old Xuan Wu street in a 1:1 scale. During the location scouting phase, Wang Xiaokang and the crew searched in Beijing and Xiangshan for over two months but failed to find suitable settings, leading them to opt for a 1:1 scale construction.

Hence, the rich Beijing essence is one of the highlights of "The Gate of Xuan Wu." From iconic architecture to the attire of characters from different social classes, and even the accents in their dialogue, all contribute to the audience experiencing the authentic Beijing style. To precisely capture the entire historical period's essence of Beijing, "The Gate of Xuan Wu" engaged Beijing folk consultants for overall guidance and paid meticulous attention to details. Director Wang Xiaokang stated, "In terms of details, from wedding ceremonies to funeral rites, from clothing to cuisine, everything was carefully researched. Firstly, the costumes were meticulously studied to match the attire of people at that time.

The Standout Features of The Gate of Xuan Wu that Make it a Must-Watch

From the surface to the core, using the stories of ordinary people to depict the historical vicissitudes, and showcasing the century-long cultural changes through authentic Beijing dialects and styles, "The Gate of Xuan Wu" unlocks a new perspective for contemporary audiences to view history with sincerity and innovation. The drama, filled with fireworks and artisan spirit, is approaching its grand finale, yet the stories of the historical old street and its people continue to unfold.

The Standout Features of The Gate of Xuan Wu that Make it a Must-Watch

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