"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" – John 3:16
Nirvana in fire (Lang Ya Bang) is a Chinese historical drama filmed in early 2014 and released in 2015. There are 54 episodes of 40 minutes each. It is based on the book of the same name by Hai Yan. The main actors are Hu Ge as Mei Chengsu/ Lin Shu, Liu Tao as princess Nihuang, and Wang Kai as prince Xiao Jingyan. Some of the songs in the drama were sung by these main actors.
During the 4th century, war broke out between the feudal Northern Wei dynasty and Southern Liang dynasties, leading Liang’s General Lin Xie to take his only child, the 19 year old Lin Shu, to battle. Unexpectedly, Lin Xie was framed by a political rival, causing the unjust deaths of seventy thousand Chiyan army soldiers, just after they drove off the hostile Wei forces.
After barely escaping with his life, Lin Shu establishes the Jiangzuo Alliance with the help of Langya Hall and makes a name for himself as Mei Changsu, chief of the pugilistic world. Under the alias of Su Zhe, he returns to the capital of Liang 12 years on to overturn the injustices imposed on the Chiyan Army and secretly assist his friend the unfavoured Prince Xiao Jingyan in his battle for the throne.
This is a mind-blowing must-watch drama. It is so good that I got addicted pretty quickly and couldn’t stop watching it. I watched the whole series over two weeks. But if it hadn’t been for the Internet connection issue, I would have finished it over three or four days. After it ended, my head and heart were still full of it. I’m very impressed with the high quality production of this drama. I love every scene of this drama, love the plot, the characters, and the relationships between them, which I will go in details in the next section.
What I love about this drama?
The plot is amazing. The events are often unexpected but logical. There is so much going on in each episode with quick pace. I’m often very impatient and fast forward most of the dramas I have watched, but I rarely skipped any scenes of this drama. Even though the ending isn’t very hard to predict once it is revealed that Su comes from the pugilistic world to support Jing, it is such a well thought out plot that you are still curious to see how it will happen.
The characters are very well-developed with depth in their personality. They all behave very consistently with their motives. The actors did a superb job in portraying the characters very well. Su is my favourite. I love how he is so wise. He not only has clever plans but also responds brilliantly to changing situations. He always has the upperhand over the protagonists in any cases. His only weakness is that he is very ill. This is a clever way for the writer to allow some situations to go messy without undermining his intelligence and also to show how much he has suffered from the past injustice. I think Hu Ge is definitely perfect for this role.
I love the relationships between characters in this drama. The main focus is the brotherhood relationship between Su and Jing. Lin Shu (Su’s real name) and Jing were cousins and also best friends in the past. When Lin Shu was framed and killed together with his bother prince Qi, Jing never believed it and this incident left a big hole in his heart. From the beginning, Su has always wanted to support Jing to fight for the throne. He knows Jing can help him re-open the case from the past.
Jing, however, was kept in the dark about who Su was. Jing thought Su was only a clever strategist who could make immoral decisions to achieve his goals. Jing even misunderstood Su at some point and wanted to break the relationships with Su. It was heart-breaking but it definitely helps build up the climax. I do love how they made up with each other in the same episode as I can’t stand seeing this break-up any longer. Jing did suspect Su’s identity time to time as Su accidentally referred to something from the past or showed his past habit. But it wasn’t until the very end that it was revealed to Jing.
Romantic love isn’t a focus of this drama, but it was inserted beautifully. Princess Nihuang was betrothed to Lin Shu and they were love birds. Similar to Jing, Nihuang never believes that Lin Shu betrayed the country. She was one of the very first people who recognised Su from the very beginning. With the military power that she has, she is definitely one of the important supporters who help Su achieve his goal. Su also has another female admirer, Gong Yu. She is not only good at playing music but also martial arts. She followed Su everywhere and tried to protect him. Su knows he can’t return her love so he tries to be distant with her.
Su’s relationships with his subordinates are always very fun to watch. His bodyguard Feiliu is so cute. He is still an innocent child with a bad temper. Feiliu loves his Su ge-ge and does a brilliant job in protecting Su. General Meng is a loyal friend, who recognised Su from the first meeting. In contrary to his amazing martial arts skills, he doesn’t use his brain very much and remains very simple. His frequent question is ‘Did I say something wrong?’. I also love Su’s physician Yan. He always looks very stern and scolds Su many times for not looking after himself. Su seems to be really scared of his physician. His other subordinates Zhen Ping, Li Gang and friends Jing Rui, Yu Jin, Lin Chen make the show very fun too.
Last but not least, every scene of this drama is beautiful. The setting and the clothing are great too.
What I don’t like so much?
I wish to see more of the bonding time between Jing and Su after Jing knew Su’s real identity. Jing cried out to his mum once he knew the truth, but there isn’t much talk between Jing and Su about it.
The ending wasn’t very satisfying as I want to see more of other characters’ reaction when knowing Su’s real identity. After all the story makes such a big deal about it. It would be interesting to see more responses to the reveal.
My favourite episodes
Episode 33 Jing wanted to break up with Su due to the misunderstanding but they made up soon after that.
Episode 39 Su got released from Xuanjing Bureau and got poisoned. Jing regrets lots about misunderstanding Su.
Episode 43 Su accidentally dropped too many hints of who he was through his habits and also the emotional meeting with Jing’s mum. Jing started to highly suspect his real identity.
Episode 49 Jing knew Su’s real identity. It is a beautiful flashback when Jing recalled their previous encounters.
My least favourite episodes
Episode 31 Su was ill and unconscious for a few days. Xia Jiang and prince Yu carried out their plot to catch Wei Zheng and break the relationship between Su and Jing.
Episode 44 Prince Yu wanted to rebel and carried out an attack. I don’t generally like war so there is a bit too much war in this episode for me.
Episode 54 It is the last episode but it doesn’t make me feel very satisfied.
Some of the directors also played parts in the series, i.e. Wang Yong Quan (executive director) as Xia Jiang, Wang Hong (son of Wang Yong Quan, assistant director) as Li Gang, and Wei Wei (casting director) as Tong Lu.
Link to watch with English subtitle