Blossoms in Adversity (2024) 惜花芷

Summary: 花芷 Hua Zhi (ft Zhang Jing Yi 张婧仪) is the eldest granddaughter of a powerful government official. Since her youth, she was unique compared to other young women in the capital. She was well learned and taught by her grandfather. She shied away from society by working on her different contraptions at home. She is set to marry the young and handsome Shen Qi 沈淇 (ft Wu Xi Ze吴希泽). On a shopping trip, she is almost accused by the ill intentioned goons for treason. Another handsome and mysterious young man Gu Yan Xi 顾晏惜 (ft Hu Yi Tian 胡一天) stops them. On the day before Hua Zhi and Shen Qi’s engagement, the Emperor decides to exile Hua Zhi’s grandfather for insubordination. All of the men of the Hua family over the age of ten are sentenced to exile. The remaining Hua family members must fend for themselves. Hua Zhi takes up the mantle to lead the remaining family back to prosperity and save their family.

 

Total Episode Count: 40

Initial Airing Date: April 02, 2024

Platform: Youku

*Note – English translations may not match official translations

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Initial Rating [first 20 episodes]: 7.3/10 – A truly feminist positive show that revolves around the female relationships of the Hua family. This has been a very heartwarming and satisfying watch that has tugged at my heartstrings. My main quibbles are with the main male lead and lower production values. 

Final Rating: 7.3/10 –A gratifying show that shines when focused on the female familial ties and relationships and the journey these women take to become independent. The wooden acting from the male lead and the Emperor’s plot line detracted from the overall drama.

Hua Zhi 花芷

zhang jing yi 张婧仪

Eldest granddaughter of the Hua family. She takes over the mantle as head of the household when the men in the family are sentenced to exile 

gU yAN xI 顾宴惜

hu yi tian 胡一天

Nephew to the Emperor and now head of the infamous Seven Night Department, he tries to solve the mystery of his mother’s death

Shen Qi 沈淇

Wu xi ze 吴希泽

Eldest grandson of the Shen Family. He almost becomes engaged to Hua Zhi and tries his best to help her family but is stifled by his own family

xia jin er 夏金娥

myolie hu 胡杏儿

Wife to the 3rd son of the Hua family, she’s sassy but ultimately kind hearted. She supports Hua Zhi in running the household 

 

shao yao 芍药

Lu yu xiao 卢昱晓

Younger sister to Gu Yan Xi, she suffered heavy trauma as a young girl and was locked away for several years

shen huan 沈焕

bian cheng 边程

Younger brother to Shen Qi who spends his days gambling and going about town with his friends. He and Shao Yao have a frenemy relationship

 

 

 

Initial Thoughts

It took me up until episode 4 to really get into the groove of this drama. I mean, half of the first episode is about a young Hua Zhi on a boat with her grandfather as they weather a storm. There’s also many members of the Hua family that are introduced that I was trying to remember all of the characters. However, the drama then moves on to the core conflict of the drama. The men of the Hua family are sentenced to exile, leaving only women and children including boys under the age of ten behind. The rest of the Hua family must try to survive without their original luxuries, with Hua Zhi taking charge. Once the drama focuses on the women in the Hua family, that’s where the drama truly shines.

I binged watched the first 14 episodes because it’s been a surprisingly heartwarming drama, almost like a nice cup of tea. It’s about family and sisterhood with a nice sprinkle of romance. I do have quibbles with the drama but overall, I’ve had fun. As of the first 20 episodes, the drama has reached 9500 on Youku’s popularity index. This is quite respectable and I suspect will climb higher if the quality of the story continues. I was thinking of reading the book but it’s several hundred chapters long. I’m not sure if I’ll get to it. Book readers have noted that there’s been many changes to the book storyline, but as only a drama viewer, I haven’t had many issues following along with the story.

Overall Thoughts

The ladies first open a pastry shop and the viewing experience for me was like a fruit tart. A little sour, a little sweet, but a very satisfying little treat. I had to keep waiting till the weekend so that I could binge the episodes that were released during the week. This drama rewards the viewer for following the women of the Hua family and makes it very clear that it is these women that are front and center in the drama. These women are allowed to make mistakes and they do, but they learn from it and grow from it. They know that in the end, they will always have a family to go back to.

This was a decent performance from Zhang Jing Yi, although online commentary has been more focused on Myolie Hu and Lu Yu Xiao. It certainly generated more positive buzz for Zhang Jing Yi and removed her from the shadow of Lighter and Princess due to Arthur Chen’s scandal. Hu Yi Tian didn’t fare that well (see my thoughts below) and I thought this was actually a puzzling career move for him since he historically has focused on male dominated dramas. 

This was another good win for Youku. The drama did breach 10,000 and generated a lot of positive momentum for the cast. I thought the rest of the drama moved at a brisk pace, perhaps too brisk. Plots were being developed and resolved so quickly that I was wondering how they were able to reach a conclusion by the last episode. I kept on feeling as though there was more story to tell, but due to the 40 episode limit, we only got these 40 episodes. I want to now read the book, even though its extremely long, to learn what I missed from the drama. 

 

What I liked

  • Family First: This drama has been very refreshing in that all of the family members, whether that’s the men or women of the Hua family, truly want to support each other. Yes, when the family was wealthy and powerful, the women had their squabbles, but when the family fell into ruin, the women (albeit begrudgingly) did not abandon the family but stuck together as a family unit. Sure, every family also fights and the drama doesn’t shy away from each person’s strengths and weaknesses but ultimately, these women understood that they needed to stay strong with each other if they ever have hope of saving their loved ones. I was very pleased at how often I was surprised with how characters behaved. I’ve seen too many dramas where sister-in-laws backstab each other and in this drama, there’s basically none of that. There are several tear jerking scenes of the ladies supporting each other and I will admit that I did shed a tear or two. This is what a family drama should be, the family should act as a unit and solve problems with each other, not create problems with each other
  • Strength of the Sisterhood: Hua Zhi has and develops genuine female friendships with her servants and also Shao Yao. Hua Zhi and Shao Yao’s friendship develops even though she doesn’t know anything about Shao Yao’s background. She treats all of them as her equals and fiercely protects them. Each in turn also protects Hua Zhi as she takes up the mantle of head of the family and has to find ways to earn money, which as the drama points out is very low class in imperial China. These young women are also intelligent and bright in their own way, with their own unique skills. Hua Zhi doesn’t take all of the limelight from these characters and each gets her moment to shine.
  • Honest Communication: The characters in the drama actually have honest conversations with each other and secrets aren’t kept long. This is the case with members of the Hua family and the main couple. Hua Zhi and Gu Yan Xi begin to develop feelings for each other, but Gu Yan Xi is the head of the infamous Seven Night Department and was responsible for the rest of the Hua family. He also saves her several times as the head of the department. He finally tells Hua Zhi the truth before halfway in the drama and she reacts in a healthy and logical way. For members of the Hua family, they sometimes gossip about certain events, but when push comes to shove, they will share their knowledge and concerns with Hua Zhi so that they collectively can make a decision.
  • Individual Characterizations: In this drama, we’re actually able to follow the different wives of the Hua family and are shown their individual characters. There are 4 sons and each has a main wife. The first wife is weak willed and believes her husband is her whole world and she constantly tries to push her submissive ideas to her daughter. The second wife’s son is adopted and worries that his birth mother will steal him from her. The third wife is from a merchant family and works doubly hard so that others don’t look down on her. The fourth wife is newly married into the family and perhaps the closest aunt to Hua Zhi. This is just 4 characters in the drama, with plenty more. Even though we don’t spend too much with all of the characters, they seem alive, rather than just paper-thin characters. As I was watching, although I didn’t agree with all of the characters’ actions, at least I knew where they were coming from.
  • Cute Romances: There were plenty of romances in the drama, each with different amounts of screentime, but my heart was all a flutter for several of these young couples. They all had their own fun flavor, and for each, I was rooting for them. The ladies kept to their own lane and there was no stealing other’s potential partners. The ladies also grew alongside their partners so that I thought most were evenly matched. They were also a treat for the eyes, so I didn’t mind them the little detours.
  • Respect from men: In a drama that focuses on the sisterhood, there were plenty of male characters that were depicted in both a positive and negative light. The main men of the drama who were associated with the Hua family, including Gu Yan Xi, Shen Qi, Shen Huan, were all very respectful and gracious towards the women of the Hua family. They were the positive role models for many of the younger kids in the show, and happy to be second fiddle to these ladies. The scumbags in the show all got their comeuppance, but not because of the men, rather because of the women of the Hua family.
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What Could Have Been Better

  • Main Male Lead: Hu Yi Tian is a handsome guy in modern day and 20th century dramas, not so much in this drama. I don’t know who the hairstylist is, but his wig where he has the two bangs look absolutely awful. He looks much better when his hair is pulled up. He also is extremely wooden in much of the drama, both acting wise and voice wise. There are way worse offenders than him, but Hu Yi Tian just doesn’t seem very immersed in the world around him. It gets worse and worse throughout the drama when you notice how wooden he is. At first I thought his scenes with Zhang Jing Yi (Hua Zhi) were decent, but even in their romance scenes, I couldn’t feel much from him. When he’s off on his own storyline, I’m even less interested. He was the biggest weak link in this entire show.
  • Nonsensical Situations: There’s a lot I’m willing to ignore in dramas, but there were just some pretty bad offenders that I just couldn’t wave off. For example, Hua Zhi is punished with 20 canings. That’s a VERY tough punishment, which for a woman who knows no martial arts is basically life threatening. She is somehow able to hobble her way to town. Gu Yan Xi rescues her and takes her to a doctor, in which the male doctor tends to her wounds and basically flashes some of her bare back to Gu Yan Xi, believing they’re a married couple. Gu Yan Xi quickly turns away and the doctor immediately understands that they aren’t married. That’s fine, but why is it that the male doctor can still see Hua Zhi’s uncovered wounds?? Then, after being tended by the doctor, Hua Zhi is somehow miraculously healthy enough to then dig 20 jugs of wine, then go sell them, AND THEN go back home and have a huge fight with her family. She only passes out in the evening. I get that the plot needs to move forward, and yes, she was with Gu Yan Xi, but come on. I really couldn’t just ignore her bloodied back as she was digging up dirt in the woods.
  • Royal Family Plotline: Gu Yan Xi has his own rather convoluted plot line where the Emperor and Gu Yan Xi’s father, are plotting and scheming against each other. This doesn’t take up too much screen time, but even with what we’ve seen, I don’t really understand the point of it and why we even care about those characters. It is rather fun to compare the rowdy and loving Hua family to the scheming and cold Imperial family, but otherwise, meh, don’t really need to spend much time on them

SPOILER – Ending thoughts


I thought the last 5 episodes revolving the Emperor, the Moon Disciple, and Hua Zhi was way too rushed and completely unrealistic. The Emperor’s desire for control forces Hua Zhi to donate all of their wealth to divert the river in order to save her family. After a year (which, highly unlikely), the Hua family is successful, and then the Emperor essentially locks Hua Zhi up again. He completely ignores the other threats from his son and the Moon Disciple but that basically comes out of the left field in the last 2 episodes. I couldn’t understand how the Emperor could be that paranoid but then just dies in 2 scenes. I felt this whole plot for the Emperor was such a letdown that I wanted to just pick up the book and read the actual ending to see if I was missing something.

 

Stray Observations: Hu Yi Tian has top billing even though this has been a very female focused drama. He does have more “clout” in the industry so I guess that’s why, but I do wonder why he accepted this drama if his character mainly revolves around Hua Zhi and isn’t the main protagonist.

Cathy

 

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