The Chinese historical fantasy The Romance of Tiger and Rose is one of those dramas that pulled me in from the very first. There are so many quirky and unexpected things that happen!
We begin with Prince Han Shuo peeking out of a carriage at ladies gossiping on the street. (They don’t call him a prince, but that’s what he is.) There has been a war, and he is coming to marry their princess as part of a peace treaty. Suddenly a woman on a running horse gets thrown (watch for the vegetable cart), and Han Shuo flies up in the air and catches her.
It was a stunt planned to impress Second Princess Chu Chu, who he prefers as a wife. But by mistake, he intercepted Third Princess Qian Qian, the high-handed bossy one. She orders him to be taken to her mansion, and you’ll love the way she puts down his excuses and attempts to get out of going with her. Also, don’t you love her hair?
What we have seen is the beginning of a drama written by Xiao Qian, as it plays out in her imagination. In this city, the women are assertive and run everything, and the men are compliant. (The fallout from this idea is pretty funny; listen to those gossiping ladies.) The director interrupts her thoughts with news that the male lead is complaining about her script and wants to talk to her.
She has great difficulty with this guy, because he is on the set of another drama, shooting an aerial sword fight. Every time she tries to talk to him the makeup people intrude or he is lifted up by a crane to do another take. She stalks off enraged but does a rewrite after all when the director puts a gratifyingly large payment in her bank account. She is so inspired and works so hard, that not only does she get a nosebleed but she falls asleep exhausted.
When she wakes up, she is shocked to find herself inside her own drama, playing the part of the bossy secondary character, Qian Qian, who she knows will get killed off in the third episode! She has ordered the prince to come to her house, and the wedding is coming right up. How is she going to get out of this?
She is also shocked to see that Han Shuo looks just like that arrogant male lead she tangled with before. He acts demure, but she knows he has a secret plan to steal a magical artifact belonging to the Queen and bring his army in to attack again. One of the perks of being the writer is that you know the plot!
The scene where he tries to poison her is hysterical. She is of two minds whether to let him do it because that might make her wake up again in her own world. She knows what he is up to because, after all, she wrote it herself!
Qian Qian and Han Shuo both have personal servants who enter into all their plans with gusto and are two of my favorite characters. Qian Qian’s henchman Zi Rui (on the left) is very talkative at first until she remembers that she gave him a lot of lines in order to have enough minutes in the episode! Han Shuo gives his lackey Bai Ji (on the right) a nasty shock when he orders the execution of whoever messed up and had him rescue the wrong princess. Being the guilty party, his solution was really weird.
Besides the surface story, there are several things going on at once. The results of the gender swap are entertaining, which include male geisha-style entertainers, families wanting female heirs, and boys not being allowed to go to school. We get so used to this point of view that we understand the characters’ struggle when a man wants to follow in his mother’s career.
Xiao Qian is sometimes careless with the story-within-a-story idea. She does things like ask what episode it is, and talk about who is supposed to be the female lead. As events stray from her original plot, she tries to get back to it by pulling in professional storytellers to advise her. They are hilarious together, especially the way oranges and bananas become code words!
Do I recommend you watch this? Definitely! Qian Qian remaining alive instead of being poisoned causes ripples that extend throughout the story. What happens to Princess Chu Chu, who was supposed to be the female lead? What happens to Han Shuo’s secret plan, and how does he change? Can Xiao Qian overcome the problems of the plot veering off course? Can she change the ending of her original story? Can she return to her real life? It’s a fun watch with a light touch, and Xiao Qian is lively and carries the show. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Dramas With a Side of Kimchi