Winter Begonia: A Pro and Con First Impression

Kdrama Jen and Kmuse check out the new Chinese period drama Winter Begonia. Come find out if they can get past the opera to click with the story as they share their pros and cons.

Pro – Our intense male leads

Kmuse: Cheng Feng Tai (Huang Xiao Ming) & Shang Xi Rui (Andrew Yin) are stunning as our best friend bromantic duo. Their instant connection is what is drawing me back to the story and I love how much chemistry they have.

Kdrama Jen: From the very first scene where we had the super-masculine lead burst onto the scene in all his glory and then this contrasted with the opera singer’s delicate appearance, I was intrigued by this pair. It certainly felt like there was a little more than a bromance brewing. They really connected on the screen.

Con – (for some) – Chinese Opera

Kmuse: I have tried multiple times to be able to handle this style of music. It is just not going to happen. I will stand back and be in awe at the gorgeous outfits and makeup but when it comes to the caterwauling wail of music, I will turn down my sound.

Kdrama Jen: This is not really a con for me. I think Chinese opera is an acquired taste, but you can still hear the level of musicality and vocal control required to hit those notes, so I find myself quite fascinated!

Pro – Learning about the opera history

Kmuse: As much as I dislike the actual sound, the history surrounding the opera is a different matter. It is fascinating how you have to be in a guild and deal with a lot of politicking to be successful. Also, how every sound and action can have a hidden meaning. Very interesting.

Kdrama Jen: Yes! The history and the culture of the opera are woven into this storyline. Since this is not an area usually spotlighted in such depth, I am really enjoying this aspect of the show.

Con – Set During the Japanese Occupation

Kmuse: As interesting as this time in history is, it also means that we will be having some brutal/tragic story arcs. No one is ever safe when it comes to this horrible moment in time. So prepare yourselves that everything isn’t going to be all flowers and sausages towards the end of the show.

Kdrama Jen: I am just thrilled that I get to respond right after Kmuse used one of her phrases that always makes me laugh. I shall be prepared for a distinct lack of flowers and sausages… It’s true, though. This time period tends to be full of gunfights and tragedy. Hold onto your opera masks!

Pro – Deluxe and intricate design & costuming

Kmuse: Kdrama Jen and I were HUGE fans of the cinematography of The Story of Yanxi Palace which was directed by Huang Xiao Ming. So imagine how happy we were to find out that he is also directing Winter Begonia. His eye for detail and set design make every scene more epic in scale. He is a genius at visual world-building.

Kdrama Jen: WOW! This is truly a work of art. You can see the attention given to every camera angle and design choice. It becomes an immersive experience!

Con- Missing story arc

Kmuse: In the original novel this drama is based on, the two men had a romantic relationship that is absent in the drama. This, most likely, is due to the Chinese government’s ban on homosexuality. They have managed to keep the intimacy between the two men on a “bromance” level but you can tell that the relationships of the story are affected by this plot arc being absent. It leaves the viewers with a feeling that something is unsaid or missing which is occasionally distracting.

Kdrama Jen: It feels like I am watching an epic romance, but with all of the romantic elements edited out. It actually helped to learn this was based on a BL storyline because in its current form it really does feel like there is something missing. At least now I know why!

Would we recommend?

Kmuse: I think if you have an interest in history then you would really enjoy this show. It gives insight into different social classes and I personally find it fascinating. For someone who likes their show to be more action-packed, this might not be the drama for you.

Kdrama Jen: I am definitely a binge-watcher when I watch dramas, but this is not one I can binge. I am continuing to watch, though. So, if you enjoy history and have an interest in learning more about Chinese opera, then this is a show that may capture your attention. I am not screaming, “You MUST watch it!” I am also not discouraging anyone. If you enjoy learning about history and culture, then consider giving this one a try!

If you do try it or you are watching it, please share your thoughts in the comments!

5 thoughts on “Winter Begonia: A Pro and Con First Impression

  1. I have the same general pros and cons based on the previews and images I’ve seen; yes to the visuals, no to the Beijing Opera singing (but I do have a mute button). This might be one of those stories where converting a definite BL source novel is going to disappoint. I’ve heard that the producer was keen on promoting Beijing Opera as a historical and cultural asset so that might get more of the attention and be seen with great favor by censors. Sounds like they’re not going to be as successful converting it as with MDSZ. I’ll be interested in seeing how it all unfolds, waiting a bit (not like I don’t have hundreds of other shows to watch/finish) before plunging in.

  2. I have the fortune to read the Novel and I think you’re right regarding the missing sorry arc. It absolutely fills in the spot that is missing in the story and the characters relationship. It makes sense as to how they are so close and why Cheng Fengtai reacts the way he does and say the thing he does in the series for Shang Xi rui. Some of the lines are verbatim from the book. Andrew Yin and Huang Xiao Ming plays the characters perfectly. They are slightly older (what looks like to be at least ten years older) than portrayed in the novel but I can’t think of better seasoned actors to bring these colourful complicated characters to life. It’s unfortunate their love relationship (which I thought was beautiful) was taken out of the series and other gritty bits cleaned up at it adds bit of realism to the story. Perhaps in a few years time there would be a remake where this is not an issue. Please give the book a go if you ever come across a fully translated version. I commend the people that have attempted to translate the novel in English as it’s tremendously difficult to do so especially for historical novels.

  3. I’m currently watching the drama at the moment and loving most of it.
    However, definitely do feel like there is a missing link between the two main actors.
    Would love to read the book, do you have any links to sources to obtain the translated versions?

Leave a Reply