Episode 1 begins by setting up the stage for a Ming dynasty where a woman's place is relegated to the home. Hang Yun Xian (Liu Shi Shi) attends a birthday celebration in her father's stead but her family can only afford a modest gift, which is regarded with contempt by the other guests. However, Yun Xian is not the least bit concerned as she cares more about a rare medicinal herb that she finds in the compound.
Suddenly, Zhu Qi Yu (Huang Xuan) springs out from hiding threatening Yun Xian to handover the medicinal herb. Qi Yu is the king's brother and he is being chased by assassins to stop his meeting with the Empress Dowager who intends to make him king. Realizing that the man before him is desperate because he is poisoned, Yun Xian ends up helping him instead.
Dong Chang eunuchs enter the scene in search for Qi Yu and a series of events transpire with the end result being that Qi Yu escapes with the help of Wang Mei Lin (Gina Jin) and Yun Xian is punished harshly by her father for practicing medicine.
First Impressions: Gender inequality is still a topic for discussion in this day and age so I can't begin to fathom how women survived in ancient China where the times were far more restrictive.
Nevertheless, the drama might be exaggerating the circumstances stating that women were not even allowed to accept cure from a doctor for fear of gender differences. I have never heard or seen that before but then again, my references are mostly works of fiction so I'm hardly a reliable source.
Regardless of whether it is fake or factual, the prejudice and societal pressures that Yun Xian has to overcome makes for a very riveting account of her rise to become a royal doctor.
Liu Shi Shi knows how to choose her projects and she delivers as the strong-willed, intelligent and principled Tan Yun Xian who dives headfirst to question the blind foolishness of adhering to tradition.
Wallace Huo as the emperor did not appear in episode 1 but the narration seems to portray him as someone terribly misguided for placing trust in the eunuchs of Dong Chang. I already sneaked a peek at episode 2 and
I think, I hope, surely there is more than meets the eye behind the emperor's careless facade.
The writing is fast-paced, solidly introducing many of the characters with enough depth to be intrigued by their motivations both good and bad. It is not chock-full of angst as one might have anticipated and I can't wait for more.
For synopsis, cast and ratings, see 2016 popular cdrama listing.