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In my recapping endeavor, I decided to start with An Xiang, since it is the only one that came out so far and ranks number 3 on the poll of recappable dramas.

This drama is a mystery that revolves around the extremely wealthy and powerful Chen family, whose patriarch dies, leaving questions and and gaps in knowledge that are slowly pieced together, including information that deals with their past. The beginning two episodes give information on their ancestor, who lays the foundation for the present day Chen family, both their wealth, and their problems.

Let me state for the record, I know nothing about recapping. At all.

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The beginning details the life of Chen Da,  the great-grandfather of the main character in this series. It begins in the year 1900. Chen Da, is twelve, and sailing in a ship with his parents and other unskilled laborers hired by foreigners to work as miners. Because this is a drama, there is no such thing as smooth sailing. Literally. A typhoon comes, killing his parents right on deck, and sweeps him on land, to the imaginary island of Nan Ya which is somewhere in Southeast Asia.

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Even though Nan Ya was not his original destination, he ends up finding a mining job anyway and so he grows up toiling away on the island. Another miner gives him advice to use his money wisely unlike the rest of his coworkers, and he takes this to heart.

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One of the things Chen Da does with the money he earns is buy some papaya. A rich pampered looking girl played by Yang Mi comes along in her rickshaw to buy some as well.  Chen Da stares because who wouldn’t stare at how pretty and cute Yang Mi is? It’s love at first sight. The girl who obviously is used to these sort of attentions gives a smirk before she leaves, her coach running over Chen Da’s foot as she does so. The pain does not jolt him back into his senses that nothing good can come from pining over this lady, and he inquires after her name. The street vendor tells him she’s the daughter of the man who owns the mines he works in, Mr. Jin.

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He spends the rest of his money dictating to a scribe, a letter to his parents, saying that if they ever get tired of sailing, they should come join him. It’s really amazing how Huang Xiaoming can manage to look so young, pitiful and innocent simply with his eyes and his pacing in his speech. This letter writing will become a habit of his throughout the series, a symbol of his haunted soul. Or something poetic like that.

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Obviously Miss Jin‘s powers of inducing infatuation are even more powerful than previously thought, because the next scene has fast-forwarded a little, with Chen Da in a suit, and no grime on his face at the home of Mr. Jin, getting yelled at because he dared to ask for her hand in marriage. Before he leaves however, he catches a glimpse of her on the stairway and she turns up her nose haughtily at him as if to say she agrees with her father. Double burn.

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Chen Da is terribly persistent though, and goes to make another bargain with her father. He will risk his life in a three year endeavor to find a gold mine amongst the far-off islands with a crew, if only he will give him his daughter’s hand in marriage. The deal is set, and off Chen Da goes to suffer again in rags. Cut to a few years later, and Huang Xiaoming has horribly long hair, and looks like he hasn’t taken a bath in ages. But it was all worth it, because they found an island with gold and lots of it.

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He and his crew return with to the city with bankers at their feet, and his future father-in-law looking like the prodigal son returned. After Chen Da gets cleaned up they go and celebrate over drinks, although Chen Da sobs over all the men that died on the journey with him. His father-in-law fakes compassion for him, although he does manage a look of genuine concern when Chen Da picks up a fork in his distress and takes the sharp eating utensil away from him. Chen Da leaves drunk and miserable, and in dramas, things usually get worse before they get better. Chen Da gets beat down in the middle of the street and left for dead. It’s clear that Jin had no intentions of letting him marry his daughter at all.

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Chen Da gets taken care of by rare nice people, recovers, and gets back together with the crew he went hunting for gold with.  Since Chen Da already spilled the beans on where the island with the gold mine is, it’s now heavily guarded, and he hatches a plan to get it back. Surprisingly this plan that has them running around on an island with armed guards and guard dogs is actually successful. With all his gold, he goes abroad to the west for a few years. However, the tenacity that has helped him overcome all the obstacles is the same tenacity that compels him to go back once again to the city he was swept ashore at when he was twelve even though his best memory of that place is getting his foot run over by a pretty biatch.

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The near-death beating he was given has now conveniently left a badass scar on his left cheek. Even if his wealth, top-hat and specs weren’t imposing enough, the scar could definitely induce people into submission, and people are certainly obliging to his every whim. This includes  Jin the gold mine tycoon who doesn’t recognize him (probably because he’s already sure Chen Da is dead) , wants to invest in gold mines with him and is quite amiable in letting his daughter accompany “Mister Chen” from England to pretty parks where they stroll and chat.

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She doesn’t recognize him either, and as they make small talk, he smiles at her, saying that from the moment he saw her buying papaya he would never lie to her. She still doesn’t register him, and he doesn’t press the matter. Instead he smiles and just says he wants to marry her,  inducing a shyness in this girl that one would not have though could be there. Apparently no one has offered to marry her after all these years. They were probably either a) put off by her princess-attitude b) beaten to death by her father’s goons or c) bought off by Chen Da.

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In a fit of rebelliousness she decides not to return home to her money-hungry dad and instead goes back to Chen Da’s place, drinks down a glass of wine in one gulp, straddles him and soon he whisks her away to the bedroom, thinking “This was way easier than I thought it would be this time!”. Cut to a shot of two glasses, one empty and one full.

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Miss Jin gets knocked up, but she doesn’t mind because ever since Chen Da proposed to her she has been blissfully romantic and sees him as someone who can whisk away from her avaricious father’s control. But Chen Da has no intentions of marrying her. He came back not to get into the family’s good graces and win her heart, but rather to screw them over. Chen Da  bails on investments and ruins Jin financially. He also cuts him off from contact, even when in the end he just wants to talk about his daughter’s pregnancy.

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Then, in classic Alexandre Dumas style, Chen Da goes to the shack that the two now live in, and reveals who he is. He says years ago Jin killed a man named Chen Da.  He takes off his spectacles (hey it worked for Clark Kent) and his false mustache, and the juxtaposition of his words and his change in appearance leave both father and daughter stunned. He leaves, with Jin Xiao Jie begging after him to not go.

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The father drinks too much that night, and causes a fire to his bed, where he perishes, effectively orphaning his expecting daughter. The man who once embodied materialism is buried beneath a modest mound of earth, and two people attend the funeral: Chen Da and his daughter, although the former does not acknowledge the presence of the latter, but instead goes on his own monologue.

Paraphrased:

Chen Da: You left me for dead Mr. Jin. I almost died. We’re even now.

Miss Jin: *Looks at him* …Uh..ok.

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The scene effectively shows two things.  One is that Chen Da is acting on his sense of justice, rather than simply a thirst for revenge. He has already given considerable sums of money to the family who healed him from the beating Mr. Jin’s henchman gave him, but on the other hand feels the Jin family needed to pay for having left him in such a near-dead condition. The second thing that the scene conveys is Miss Jin’s acceptance of the fact that Chen Da is not her knight-in-shining armor. Left alone in this world now, with another life that she must take care of, she begins to plan and take control of her future. I think she’s still kind of in love with Chen Da though, because I would have taken his cane and started whacking him and then stole his horse and cart and ran away, but she has even a better plan.

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Miss Jin  soon gives birth, and leaves the baby in the hands of one of Chen Da’s servants, saying she’ll retrieve him in a month. Chen Da is livid at seeing the screaming baby. He shouts at all the servants to return it, but it’s no use since Miss Jin is long gone. He’s stuck with it unless he kills it, and while he feels justified at what he did to the baby’s grandfather and mother, murdering an innocent is out of the question.

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Meanwhile Miss Jin slumps down in a street far away from the scene and cries. It must suck to realize all this crap  happened to you simply because you decided to buy papaya at the wrong place at the wrong time. And because of non-safe sex. But she’s tougher than the previous parts of the series would have you believe. She’s stationed herself in a brand new dilapidated shack near Chen Da’s mansion, where one of Chen Da’s waiting women can easily go to and report to her over how much bonding is going on with Chen Da and his baby. She’s  hoping that with time he will connect with their son and that somehow they can still be a family.

Comments:

idarklight has seen the majority of the episodes, and she assures me that the drama is good, and one where won’t feel the need to fastforward. She does also say however, it is  not the greatness that is Who Controls My Youth?. I feel that I would ruin a lot of the essence and awesomeness of Who Controls My Youth? with my recapping skills however, so I would encourage anyone who understands mandarin to watch that show first and foremost, while I try to minimize my damage in recapping this one.

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-I like Huang Xiaoming‘s acting here. The character of Chen Da is a subtle one, without many overt emotions. In fact, he’s probably emotionally impaired, and HXM nails the character. Most impressively is his ability to change his “yan shen”, the expression in his eyes.  In past dramas, you see him with a clever “yan shen”, and here he’s able to erase that, making his eyes seem rather innocent at best and dull at worst, giving credibility to Miss Jin’s mocking that he is a “Wooden head”.

After he finally gets his gold, and goes on his soul-searching mission abroad, he transforms into someone more suave, but HXM doesn’t overdo the change, and still manages to sneak in glimpses of the old stilted Chen Da who is uncomfortable with himself, and in many ways very simple-minded.

I’m  impressed. Beijing Film Academy says he was one of the weakest students that they took in, but he obviously has improved immensely on his acting.

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Yang Mi is okay. In comparison to the rest of her generation I think she is a good actress, but there’s not too much to judge from here. Her acting is adequate. It doesn’t stick out to me as particularly good, nor does it distract me by being bad. I like her character though.

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– The cinematography is not as artsy as Five Star Hotel, which as I’ve stated before, had very lovely cinematography that went completely above the realm of television. However, it’s still nice here.

– The score of this series, even though it is simply variations of the theme, does a great job of setting the ambiance of the series.

Overall verdict:

I still hate television. During the series I was thinking, oh this would be so nice as a movie, and the cinematography could be even better, and more details could be added, etc, things could be condensed… I give props to every recapper out there, because following a series is a lot of work. Yes, I am tired after seeing only two episodes.

Acknowledgements:

First I’d like to note that my recapping format was largely due to sevenses’ Merlin recaps , which are hilarious, and infinitely better than mine.

And I didn’t take these screencaps…some obsessed Huang Xiaoming fan did, but not obsessed enough apparently, because they stopped when the series switched to present day, which happens in the next episode. Some other obsessed fans with screencap machinery better be able to get their hands on vids at least of this quality so I can continue the recapping. I was going to screen cap directly from tudou, but now that I have all these shiny ones I don’t want to anymore.

23 thoughts on “Recap: An Xiang (Hidden Fragrance) Ep 1-2”

  1. Hi I live in Reunion island (french island in Indian Ocean), This just an great soap,! HXM is just perfect, in french : charismatique ! Well I discover China has lots of incredibly magneting series, worth for learning chinese, and to feel how much it has to offer to the modern culture !

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