Five Kings of Thieves: A Fusion of Traditional Chinese Philosophy and Modern Drama

In comparison to the multitude of laws, rules, and formulas in Western natural sciences, the exploration methods and achievements of traditional Chinese culture in natural sciences often appear more mystical and less easy to comprehend, with the "Five Elements" being the most representative. The five elements referred to as metal, wood, water, fire, and earth each have their own characteristics, and there exists a closed loop of generation and restraint, representing a rather fundamental worldview. By creatively applying imaginative artistic processes on top of this, a colorful set of worldviews can be generated.

Five Kings of Thieves: A Fusion of Traditional Chinese Philosophy and Modern Drama

Starting from March 23rd, exclusively on Youku and recently concluded, the adventure mystery drama "Five Kings of Thieves" creatively integrates the "Five Elements" with the background of the Republican era, creating a unique worldview that is truly eye-catching. Starring Wang Dalu and Ren Min, "Five Kings of Thieves" may only consist of twelve episodes, but it is a high-quality short drama with diverse elements, leaving the audience wanting more after its conclusion. The creative team, drawing on their experience in crafting high-quality short dramas, deeply integrated the "Five Elements" into aspects such as narrative, characters, visuals, emotions, and themes. In other words, the creation of "Five Kings of Thieves" is like exploring an answer: the combining of Five Elements and high-quality short drama.


Five elements + adventure mystery = more excitement

If you wish to evaluate "Five Kings of Thieves," it is best to watch all twelve episodes first. This is a very typical adventure story, with a touch of a road movie vibe - the events encountered by the main characters in the early, middle, and later stages are not homogeneous, even presenting unexpected diversity in atmosphere and audio-visual quality. This unpredictability stems from the creators incorporating the Five Elements into the narrative of adventure and mystery. Traditional adventure mystery stories, based on familiar worldview settings, often feature foreseeable dangers.

"Five Kings of Thieves" presents a worldview similar to a fantasy drama. The drama divides families and martial arts legacies based on the five major elements of metal, wood, water, fire, and earth, with each family excelling in different areas - the Fire family excels in offense, the Water family uses flexibility to overcome rigidity, the Earth family is skilled in machinery, and the Wood family specializes in medicine.

Five Kings of Thieves: A Fusion of Traditional Chinese Philosophy and Modern Drama

The distinct characteristics of the Five Elements families are not only reflected in their combat styles but also in their ways of dealing with others. The Fire family is passionate, the Water family is agile, the Wood family is steady, the Earth family is cunning, and the Metal family is loyal. There are unique balancing and pulling relationships among the Five Elements families. For instance, there is deep-seated enmity between the Fire and Wood families. The Earth family has even betrayed the other four families in the past. The Metal family remains extremely mysterious, revealing itself only partially towards the end. This complex power dynamic adds unpredictability to the main characters' adventure and allows for a diverse range of styles in their journey.

The main storyline of the series unfolds as various factions compete for the treasure "Sheng Wang Ding" guarded by the Five Elements families, but the members of the families do not all step forward at once. The first to appear in disguise is the Earth family, followed by the Water family infiltrating the Zhang family's mansion. Of course, the audience is initially unaware of their true identities. Surprisingly, it is the Fire family's leader Yan Jingtian (played by Wang Ruolin) who reveals his identity in the second episode. The mystical kung fu of the Five Elements families is also showcased by him in the second episode. This creates a pace that is slow at first but quickens as it progresses, leaving the audience with a sense of ambiguity and intrigue about the Five Elements families.

Five Kings of Thieves: A Fusion of Traditional Chinese Philosophy and Modern Drama

After the protagonist Huo Xiaoxie (played by Wang Dalu) and Shui Yaoer (played by Ren Min) embark on their adventure, how will the relationships of friendship and enmity within the Five Elements families unfold? What kind of predicaments will the younger generation face due to the grudges of the older generation in the Five Elements families? What kind of techniques are the families that have not yet appeared skilled in? These are concerns and curiosities that the audience constantly harbors. When Huo Xiaoxie, Zheng Zedao (played by Zhao Huawei), and Jin Pan (played by Bao Xiao) discover a fellow traveler murdered in the second trial of the Fire King's three trials, a locked-room mystery unfolds.

With the incorporation of the Five Elements, the rivers and lakes traversed by the main characters become even more perilous; the crises they encounter during their adventure become more unimaginable; and the puzzles they must face are even more difficult to unravel due to the existence of possibilities beyond common sense. By infusing the Five Elements into the worldview, the adventurous atmosphere becomes richer, the mystery deeper, and naturally, the audience becomes more excited and engrossed in following the story.


Five elements + patriotic sentiments = more inspiring

After transitioning from an actor to a director, Ju Xingmao's masterpiece "Da Gou Gun" ranked among the top ten TV dramas at the 2013 National Drama Awards, with his representative work being "Ferryman." These two dramas differ significantly in terms of episodes, genre, style, and broadcast platforms. Therefore, he was dubbed the genius director in the industry. Ju Xingmao's genius lies in his ability to learn the basic principles of creating various types of films and television dramas, then integrate them to create works with his own unique style.

Five Kings of Thieves: A Fusion of Traditional Chinese Philosophy and Modern Drama

Starting his career as an actor, he appeared in films directed by Li Shaohong and He Ping. Although he later focused on TV series, his works mostly aimed for a cinematic quality. For instance, in "Five Kings of Thieves," there are grand scenes with strong visual and auditory impact, such as the massive pit trap orchestrated by the Earth family in the entire inn, the chain explosions caused by the combination of Tu Lei and Water Family's Qilin Pill. What sets "Five Kings of Thieves" apart is Ju Xingmao's perfect integration of his experience in creating legendary dramas, infusing patriotism and nationalistic sentiments throughout the entire series. This allowed the mysterious and abstract Five Elements to resonate emotionally.

The Sheng Wang Ding in the drama is not just a treasure commanding the martial arts world, but also a national treasure. Set against the backdrop of the Republic of China, the drama aims to showcase how people in the martial arts world, represented by Five Kings of Thieves, would act in times of national crisis. Combining martial arts with a grand era, elevating chivalry to "for the country and the people," is the immortal contribution of Mr. Jin Yong. This drama explores a similar formula, combining the Five Elements with the grand era, using the high-octane nature of legendary dramas to enhance the spiritual quality of adventure and suspense genres.

Five Kings of Thieves: A Fusion of Traditional Chinese Philosophy and Modern Drama

At the beginning of the series, the auction of the national treasure hosted by Zhang Siye (played by Heizi) was initially a competition among martial artists. However, the presence of the Japanese characters disrupted the simple logic of the martial arts world. While the members of Five Kings of Thieves were prepared for internal conflicts, a young student's statement, "This item is a national treasure and must not fall into the hands of foreigners," not only ignited patriotic sentiments in the audience but also successfully broke free from traditional martial arts narratives.

Five Kings of Thieves's status in the martial arts world determines that they cannot simply protect the national treasure in the face of foreign aggressors. Huo Xiaoxie's growth is accompanied by confrontations with Japanese forces and pro-Japanese factions. Faced with Japanese threats and temptations, not all members of Five Kings of Thieves can remain steadfast. Among them are heroes and traitors. Heroes are the guardians of justice, and traitors are to be dealt with.

In this era, the Sheng Wang Ding is no longer just a symbol commanding the martial arts world or a sign of protecting the royal family; it is now a vessel that unites the Chinese people, rallying the entire nation against aggression. In times of national crisis, the passion displayed by the martial artists represented by Five Kings of Thieves, infused with patriotism, is more inspiring than mere chivalry.

Five Kings of Thieves: A Fusion of Traditional Chinese Philosophy and Modern Drama


Five elements + destiny couple = sweeter love

Web dramas and short dramas primarily target young audiences. Regardless of the genre or theme, the chemistry between characters, known as couple, plays a crucial role. Thus, incorporating couple awareness when shaping character relationships has become an essential creative code that premium short dramas cannot ignore. In "Five Kings of Thieves," the emotional relationships between several main characters are cleverly intertwined with the Five Elements, making the couple dynamics more intricate. The on-screen chemistry between the actors becomes more intense. Huo Xiaoxie and Shui Yaoer are a "Fire-Water couple." Huo Xiaoxie consistently maintains his candid nature.

Shui Yaoer undergoes several transformations throughout the plot. Initially portrayed as mischievous and often displaying a spoiled attitude, the audience later discovers her heavy inner struggles due to her condition of a fractured heart and scattered soul. The clash between fire and water is not the norm in the Five Elements, and the initial adventures of Huo Xiaoxie and Shui Yaoer can be described as the epitome of joyous adversaries. They engage in debates and arguments over trivial matters, bringing laughter to the audience. Especially during the scene where Shui Yaoer instructs Huo Xiaoxie in martial arts, she even demands him to stare his eyes out, a form of torture that surprisingly sweetens the bond between them.

Five Kings of Thieves: A Fusion of Traditional Chinese Philosophy and Modern Drama

In the cycle of generation and restriction among the Five Elements, water restrains fire while wood generates fire. The scriptwriter intentionally utilized the audience's familiarity with these relationships when developing the characters, introducing Lin Wan from the Wood Family shortly after the beginning of the duo's adventure. Lin Wan saves Huo Xiaoxie's life with her medical skills, embodying the concept of wood generating fire. When considering Huo Xiaoxie's series of misfortunes after meeting Shui Yaoer, the relationship among these three characters falls into sophisticated.

However, as Huo Xiaoxie stated when facing his inner demons in the final trial of the Fire Gate, "I decide my own fate." Similarly, the destiny of couple is determined by the individuals themselves. Since the Lenglong Mirror has tied the two together, there is a hint of a fated destiny between them. A destined couple must undergo various tests of loyalty, trust, and understanding. Only by overcoming these obstacles, the conflicting destiny of "fire and water" can be reversed.

Five Kings of Thieves: A Fusion of Traditional Chinese Philosophy and Modern Drama

Apart from the Fire-Water couple, "Five Kings of Thieves" features up to twelve other couple combinations identified by fans. These couple pairings mostly imply the interactions of the Five Elements, some reaching the end while others part ways midway. The common knowledge of the Five Elements' interactions allows the audience to experience a deeper sense of destiny when indulging in couple dynamics, intensifying sweetness or cruelty, evoking emotions, and leaving a lasting impression.

In recent years, outstanding short dramas have emerged continuously. These high-quality productions affirm one fact - short dramas are not disposable commodities. Despite their smaller scale, creators can focus on a single element without resorting to gimmicks, integrating this element into various aspects of the work to achieve a greater sense of differentiation overall. "Five Kings of Thieves" excellently exemplifies this point. By empowering adventure and suspense genres with the Five Elements, this drama signifies an expansion in creative vision and an effective artistic practice, deserving of recognition.

Five Kings of Thieves: A Fusion of Traditional Chinese Philosophy and Modern Drama

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