If the same soul grows up with different experiences and memories, are they still the same person?

Fated romances are one of the most common tropes in Chinese drama, so much so that many series take for granted that one will always love the same person in every lifetime. Xianxia drama Love and Destiny 宸汐缘 is a rare rejection of the assumption, instead questioning the ideas that the soul is the sole entity of human identity and that one’s life is necessarily bound to that of one’s past lives. In one of the most morally ambiguous battles in a recent drama, a chapter climax of the series has the male leads fighting for different reincarnations of the female lead. One male lead is determined that the human reincarnation of the female lead dies on time so her soul will return to heaven; another wants to try and save her current mortal self. The former believes that it’s important to save her soul so that she lives on, but the later believe that each life is a new person and they can’t sacrifice one of her lifetimes for that of another.

Love and Destiny follows three lifetimes of the female lead (Ni Ni) – first as the immortal Lingxi, who is then banished to experience mortal life as Lin Mo, and then becomes an immortal again. Her story is paralleled by that of the secondary love triangle, where immortal Qingyao (Zhang Zhixi) faces the opposite problem – she fell for the mortal interlude of an immortal. When he returns as an immortal, does she still love him?

“Every day, every moment I’ve lived is mine, how is it all fake? … Remember, the girl who mend your clothes and shared meals with you, the mortal who was willing to marry you, is called Lin Mo. The girl you’re waiting for is Lingxi. Don’t mistake us for one another.” – Lin Mo to Jiuchen

Lin Mo’s life is one of a substitute. From birth, she was told she was a biological child so that her mother could cover up a lie. She lived a life where no one in the family cared much for her except for her father, only for him to push her into the river to save his biological daughter. When she survives, she finds out that she was adopted and leaves the family. Living by herself, she befriends the immortal Jingxiu (Li Dongxue), who has also escaped to the mortal world. Yet just as she and Jingxiu were beginning to spark up a romance, she was lured into a romance with Jiuchen (Chang Chen). As she is going through her fated death, the perfect timing for her soul to return as Lingxi, she learns of the truth. Most of his romantic actions were because he considers her to be Lingxi and didn’t want to see her with anyone else. Even the peach tree that gave her hope as a child was planted for Lingxi, not her. With her last breath, she tells Jiuchen to remember her as her – Lin Mo. She tells him to never forget that the girl who spent day and night with him loves him as Lin Mo and no one else.

Instead of finding it romantic that the male lead loves every reincarnation of her, Lin Mo finds it horrifying that he thinks of her as a continuation of Lingxi. She reminds him of who she was – her human parents, her upbringing, her life story, her experiences with him, everything that makes her Lin Mo and no one else. While both are kind and strong in nature, Lingxi and Lin Mo’s life experiences shaped who they are and made them drastically different beings despite sharing a common soul. Lingxi is spritely, chirpy, and sometimes clumsy. Lin Mo is reserved, quiet, and thoughtful. Lingxi worships Jiuchen as a war god, but Lin Mo loves Jiuchen for his companionship. Lin Mo dies loving Jiuchen, but the series doesn’t give a satisfying answer to whether Jiuchen loves Lin Mo as Lin Mo or Lingxi.

The immortal Qingyao must choose whether to accept the love of the immortal reincarnation of her mortal husband.

Lingxi’s fellow disciple Qingyao (Zhang Zhixi) is on the opposite side of the problem. As a mortal, she was deeply in love with her husband. When he was killed in a flood, she focused on practicing to become an immortal but still longs for him. Yet when she returns to Earth and meets his latest reincarnation, she saw how happy he was with his current life, and chose not to tell him of his past. When this reincarnation also passes away, it’s revealed that like Lin Mo, her ex-husband was an immortal banished to experience earthly lives before returning as an immortal. With all of his previous memories, he seeks her love again. She rejects his immortal form. He is not the person she once loved, and the person who loved her is no longer him. Instead, she chose to stay with another immortal who fell for her as himself.

In contrasting life stories, the two female leads decide to separate the soul from the individual. Lin Mo reminds the male lead that the person he fell in love with is not just Lingxi, while Qingyao reminds her ex-husband that the person she fell in love is not just his soul. Through their stories, Love and Destiny makes a bold departure from conventional Chinese dramas to argue that a person is the sum of both their soul and experiences.

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5 thoughts on “Review: Love and Destiny questions the trope of reincarnated love”

  1. I agree. I had my own misgivings about the drama after finishing but this only adds to it. Fans can easily say that JC did it to ensure her soul lives on, but LX choose to die. He locked her in an ice cave to ‘protect’ the realms and then had her reincarnated to protect his own interset. He played with her life and rejected her every choice. What choice did Lin Xi or Lin Mo make that JC respected?

    Ugh, it does look like grooming now that I look at it and she was only 18 too. He used Lin Mo as a vessel to bring about his old love whom he rejected and had remorse for it. I never thought JX was lying when he told her that she was her own person born as LX’s trial. What a pityable character.

  2. I can’t help but agree with this assessment. Since the evil guy fell in love with lin mo, but ling xi kept reminding him that she was not lin mo anymore.

  3. I really like your analysis on the reincarnated love from 2 point of views. But I’ve to disagree with you that Ah Mo is “spark up a romance with Jing Xiu, she was lured into a romance with Jiu Chen”. From the first time Ah Mo met Jiu Chen, she already developed a little feeling toward him so there’s no luring. I think you missed a few scenes that showed Ah Mo feeling toward Jiu Chen before she left home. Jiu Chen viewed Lin Mo as an extension of Ling Xi and he accepted all of her personality.
    To people that are not watching this series, this article will give the impression of “faithfulness” between Ling Xi and Jiu Chen. But having finished the series, I can tell me it’s not about “faithfulness” that Jiu Chen loves Lin Mo.
    On the same note, Lin Mo only view Jing Xiu as someone that’s she is supposed to meet but not as a lover. May be on Jing Xiu part that he wants to be sandwiched between Ling Xi and Jiu Chen but he has not chance whatsoever.
    Overall, very good article and I agree that Love and Destiny makes many bold departures from typical c-drama drama tropes.

    1. I think your interpretation is the more widely held one , but I beg to differ. Lin Mo is a young girl who has a vague idea of what romance should be like and who has barely seen a male outside her immediate family. To me, her early signs of friendliness towards Jiuchen aren’t that different from her friendliness towards Jinxiu. In both cases, she was told that she will develop a romance with the guy, and so began to think of their relationship as potentially romantic.

      Jiuchen’s actions towards her felt a bit too much like grooming. She was told what her interactions with him should be through trickery. I don’t think she was ever given a choice, nor was her choice respected when she tried to assert one(by telling both of them to leave ).

  4. T_T it’s basically like a modern drama, lingxi got amnesia but happily live ever after with her first love because that man remember all and “faithfully” stayed with her.

    and yunfeng “accidentally” separated the loving couple qing yao and her ex-, then yunfeng wholeheartedly accompany, totally faithful to qing yao until she gives up her undying love to her ex-, because her amnesia ex- said he didn’t want to regain his memory just for his “lover from 500 years ago”… then her ex regain his memory and let qing yao go because he remember what he said and has no “right” to regret anyway. lol

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