Scarlet Heart 步步惊心 is many things for newly weds Cecilia Liu Shi Shi and Nicky Wu. It cemented Liu Shi Shi's career as a top star, rejuvenated Nicky Wu's acting career (he was 40 at the time) and culminated in the couple's lovely beach wedding in Bali. Yes, the onscreen couple got married on Mar 20, 2016 and it seems only fitting to talk about the drama that brought them together.
Based on a novel called Bu Bu Jing Xin aka Startling By Each Step, this 35-episode drama adaptation tells the tale of an average white-collar worker who wakes in the body of Maertai Ruoxi, a young Manchu maiden during the reign of Kangxi. It is directed by Wu Jin Yuan, Lam Yuk Fan (Eternal Love) and Deng Wei En.
Scarlet Heart might be one of countless TV series in the time-travel and romance genre, yet it is so successful and far-reaching because it manages to tell a compelling story extremely well, bringing to life complex characters and throwing them into the center of the Nine Lords War 九子奪嫡, a time in history fraught with danger and treachery in a bloody fight for the throne. Yet beyond the politics is a passionate romance that touches the heart.
Scarlet Heart stars Cecilia Liu (Imperial Doctress), Nicky Wu (Legend of Zu), Kevin Cheng (City of Devastating Love), Yuan Hong (Princess Jieyou) and Lin Gengxin (God of War Zhao Yun).
Cecilia Liu stands out as the only woman among dashing princes and she deservingly carries the entire show as the resilient heroine. Her leading men form a powerhouse cast with many of them easily headlining their own dramas as of late. Even the source novel's author Tong Hua 桐华 is a force to be reckoned with for penning popular novels like Song in the Clouds and Ballad of the Desert, which were also made for TV.
It was a formula that paid off, even warranting a Korean drama remake starring IU and Lee Joonki. There was also a sequel called Startling Love By Each Step 步步惊情 and a movie by the same name but honestly, I try to pretend that the latter don't exist.
For synopsis, cast and ratings, see 2016 c-drama recommendations.