Scarlet Heart 步步惊心 is a 2011 Chinese drama that means many things for newly weds Cecilia Liu Shi Shi and Nicky Wu. It cemented Liu Shi Shi's status 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.
Scarlet Heart is the shorter iteration of its varied English titles. Based on a novel called Bu Bu Jing Xin aka Startling By Each Step, the 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.
Scarlet Heart might be one of countless TV series in the time-travel and romance genre, yet it is so successful and far-reaching in appeal specifically because it manages to tell a compelling story extremely well, bringing to life complex characters in rich detail and throwing them in the midst of the Nine Lords War 九子奪嫡. The battle for the throne is intense, yet the writing masterfully interweaves a passionate romance that touches the heart.
Scarlet Heart stars Liu Shi Shi (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). Liu Shi Shi is surrounded by dashing men in a powerhouse cast that can easily headline their own series and the author Tong Hua 桐华 is renown for penning popular novels like Song in the Clouds and Ballad of the Desert, both of which were also made for TV.
It was a surefire formula that paid off and a Korean drama remake is in the works starring IU and Lee Joonki at the helm. There was also a sequel called Startling Love By Each Step 步步惊情 and a movie too but honestly, I try to pretend that the latter don't exist.
For synopsis, cast and ratings, see 2016 c-drama recommendations.