Joy of Life Season 2 (2024) 庆余年第二季

Summary: Based off of a book by the same name, Fan Xian (ft Zhang Ruo Yun) returns to the Qing Kingdom after his excursion from the Qi Kingdom in season one. Once back, he is embroiled in numerous plots that on one hand is aimed to bring him down, but on the other gives him the opportunity to rise up at court.  He has many adversaries with the 2nd prince his biggest opponent this season but his real father, the Qing Emperor, also adds many obstacles to his path.



Total Episode Count: 36

Initial Airing Date: May 16, 2024

Platform: CCTV8 and Tencent

*Note – English translations may not match official translations


Initial Rating: 7.3/10 [First 20 episodes]: This highly anticipated season 2 of Joy of Life boasts a bigger production and an even bigger cast. Overall season 2 does a decent job recreating the vibe of the first season but is bogged down by uneven pacing, bloated cast and obvious product placement. It does not surpass season 1 in terms of quality but is a decent sequel. 


Final Rating: 7.3/10: Confirming my view that while it was a decent drama, it does not beat season 1. There is still much to like about season 2 but there are flaws and the unparalleled expectations for season 2 didn’t help. Regardless, It was one of the most popular dramas this May (perhaps even this year). 

Fan Xian 范闲

zhang ruo yun 张若昀

Modern man born in this “historical” world. Has the modern consciousness and takes this opportunity to change society

lin wan’er 林婉儿

Li qin 李沁

Princess. Daughter of Chancellor Lin and Princess Li. Marries Fan Xian. Outwardly quiet but exceptionally sharp.

qing emperor 庆帝

chen dao ming 陈道明

Cold, calculating, powerful, ruthless. A mysterious ruler that pulls all the strings behind court.

chen ping ping 陈萍萍

wu gang 吴刚

Head of the Procuratorate, the largest intelligence organization of the Qi kingdom. 

2nd prince 二皇子

liu duan duan 刘端端

Cunning and cruel, one of Fan Xian’s biggest adversaries.

crown prince 太子

zhang hao wei 张昊唯

Outwardly idiotic, under the surface he is sharp and ruthless

fan si zhe 范思辙

guo qi lin 郭麒麟

Brother of Fan Xian and Ruo Ruo. Focused only on earning money

yan bing yun 言冰云

wu xing jian 吴幸键

Enemy turned close friend of Fan Xian. Member of the 4th department

wang qi nian 王启年

tian yu 田雨

Stingy but loyal, very close subordinate of Fan Xian

deng zi yue 邓子越

yu ai lei 余皑磊

Trusted subordinate of Fan Xian  who helps him run the 1st department

fan jian 范建

gao shu guang 高曙光

Adoptive father to Fan Xian

lin ruo fu 林若甫

yu yang于洋

All powerful Chancellor. Father to Wan’Er and looks out for Fan Xian

fan ruo ruo 范若若

song yi 宋轶

Fan Xian’s younger sister who unconditionally trusts her brother and starts learning medicine this season

hai tang duo duo 海棠朵朵

xin zhi lei 辛芷蕾

Powerful fighter and female saint for the Qi Kingdom. Close friend of Fan Xian

qi kingdom princess 齐国大公主

mao xiao tong 毛晓彤

Naive but resilient, she is adorable as a button. Assigned to marry the 1st prince. 

ye ling’er 叶灵儿

jin chen 金晨

Wan’Er’s best friend. Lover of martial arts. Assigned to marry the 2nd prince


Season 1 left off on the cliff hanger of Fan Xian being stabbed to death. Season 2 starts right where season 1 left off with the apparent death of Fan Xian. We all know he couldn’t have really died. In reality, he worked with Yan Bing Yun to fake his death to shake off his tail of the 2nd prince and buy him time to return to the capital. The Qing Emperor, Chen Ping Ping and Fan Jian were initially distraught to hear of Fan Xian’s death but then gathered he must have faked it. 

Back at the capital, Fan Xian must figure out how to save his adoptive brother, Fan Si Zhe, his teacher, Fei Jie and also the wife and child of his old deceased friend, Teng Zi Jing, all of whom were supposedly captured by the 2nd prince as blackmail to force Fan Xian to turn to his side. Turns out, Fan Si Zhe is totally fine, Fei Jie is off on other matters but Teng Zi Jing’s wife and child were brought into a mysterious Bao Yue lou. Fan Xian works with old and new colleagues to help resolve the mystery of this new Bao Yue Lou as well as other matters thrown his way by not only the 2nd prince, but also the Crown Prince and, the Emperor himself. 


Overall Thoughts

After a 5 year hiatus, the 2nd season of Qing Yu Nian finally aired on May 16, 2024. It is one of the most highly anticipated dramas, perhaps ever, with over 18million people clicking they are “waiting” to see the drama, the highest number ever for Tencent. The drama broke many records since airing, becoming the fastest drama ever to breach 30,000 on Tencent’s popularity index and now currently holds the highest number at over 34,000, surpassing 2022’s A Dream of Splendor. 

It is also doing decently well on CCTV8, though perhaps not as well as online where the drama is garnering over 100million views a day now. But, CCTV8 gave a prime spot for the drama to air and also aired a condensed version of season 1 in the lead up to season 2 which shows how highly regarded this drama is for both CCTV and general audiences. 

Every day, there are numerous trending topics on weibo and other social media discussing what happened in the day’s episode. Sometimes there’s interesting commentary on the background of the episode with more color from book fans but other times I get dismayed because people comment that clearly did not watch season 1 or clearly did not even watch the episode where the clips came from. Overall though, it has been a thoroughly enjoyable chase.

Let’s Talk About The Cast

There has been significant speculation over the years as to whether or not season 2 would ever happen and who of the cast would return. The biggest question was on Xiao Zhan who exploded in popularity while Season 1 was airing but his portrayal of Yan Bing Yun…was controversial. When the cast of season 2 was announced and people saw that he was NOT part of the cast, his fans were furious while other people rejoiced. 

Regardless, almost all of the cast returned save for a select few. Xiao Zhan was replaced by Wu Xing Jian, someone I’m not too familiar with. The other big change is Ye Ling’Er. Ye Ling’er is Lin Wan’Er’s best friend and in season 1 was played by an unknown Han Jiu Nuo. In season 2, she was replaced by the much better known Jin Chen. There’s been significant controversy over this change which I will elaborate on later. 

On the whole, it has been reassuring just how many cast members returned for season 2 even after 5 years. In my mind, it was a no brainer, Why would you NOT return. Joy of Life was SUCH a massive success that you would be giving up the opportunity to make a once in a life time mark in an impactful and also make some $$ with this drama. Cast members from season 1 saw their careers grow significantly due to season 1 and many well known actors/actresses are now in season 2. The likes of Mao Xiao Tong and Wang Chu Ran, who normally headline their own dramas, are willing to join this cast in small roles.

What I’ve Enjoyed

Familiarity: Because many of the old cast members returned, the “flavor” seems very similar and very familiar in season 2. The drama doesn’t really remind you of what’s going on in the world, it expects you to have watched season 1 and then dive directly to season 2. You’re back in the Qing kingdom, back with Chen Ping Ping, with Wang Qi Nian, with the Crown Prince, with the 2nd prince and all the schemes and jokes that come with it. There are recurring characters from season 1 that show up for a few brief moments but they’re wonderful callbacks to those characters that add a lot to the world we’re seeing on screen. I really enjoyed just being back in the Qing Kingdom. There was a lot of anger towards the first few episodes of season 2 that deviated from the book but I kind of glossed over that simply because WE”RE BACK. There are moments of seriousness and then suddenly moments that just have you burst out laughing. All a very familiar formula. 

I do commend Zhang Ruo Yun who lost a TON of weight between season 1 and season 2 which really upped his handsome factor on screen. He did say that he focused on trying to keep his figure/remain healthy for Season 2 (and season 3) specifically. 

Uplifting themes that provoke introspection: One of the reasons why Season 1 did so well is because the character of Fan Xian wanted to right many wrongs that came with the imperial system, and he was able to do so because he had many “dads” to support him or else his modern day knowledge helped him. That drive continues in season 2 to even greater heights. Fan Xian is a man of modern day with modern thoughts of equality and justice. He fights for this throughout the drama. When an old man dies, most other people just think it’s an old man who dies. Fan Xian cannot agree with that. This man had a life, had a story. Who will remember him in the future? For students taking the imperial exam, who will fight for their chance to change their lives and give them a fair chance? The questions that were posed not only by Fan Xian, but by other members of court and also of the aristocracy have audiences questioning what would we do in this situation. 

Some comments I see joke that if they were brought to the Qing Kingdom, they would not survive a single episode given all the scheming that’s going on. Perhaps that is true. But would we fight against the injustices we saw on screen? Do we fight for the injustices we see in our own world today? There is certainly a level of escapism BECAUSE Fan Xian has the intelligence, the men, and support from multiple sides to fight for many of these injustices and win. He wants to fight for that utopia and inspired many people in the drama by his actions. I would like to think his actions are inspirations for viewers to think about our own lives. 

Why It Doesn’t Surpass Season 1

Inconsistent pacing: Because of the large cast, it feels like the drama is both bloated but also too jam packed at the same time. We don’t get moments to really breathe and sit through climactic events before moving onto the next joke or next calculating scheme that Fan Xian needs to address. What’s missing are more of the the calmer moments between characters, e.g, with Wan’Er or even with the rest of the Fan family. They bring about more warmth and liveliness to the cast that jokes from Wang Qi Nian and interactions with members of court cannot. This season also focused more heavily on court schemes rather than the martial arts components or even the spy craft of Jian Cha Yuan (the Procuratorate) that were more essential in season 1.

(I had significant issues with episode 25 in particular because the focus of the episode was detracted from the main activity to include other conflicts and side characters. The main activity was reduced to an after thought which was quite frustrating. Season 2 is only 36 episodes. I feel like it could have been longer.)

Obvious product placement: Maybe not super obvious to non-Chinese viewers but the yogurt and a few other items that keeps popping up in the drama really kills the immersion because it is a major marketing ploy. Other dramas have these types of product placements but I did not enjoy how frequent this was. 

Jin Chen’s Ye Ling’Er: There’s been significant controversy of the replacement of Ye Ling’er’s actress. The original actress is not well known at all and her career didn’t really take off after Season 1. It’s not fully clear why Jin Chen replaced her. There’s significant speculation on this but the fact is, we have a different actress now. While I don’t mind Jin Chen as an actress overall, her chemistry with the 2nd prince is minimal compared to the immediate chemistry between the Qi Princess and the 1st prince and also Fan Xian and Wan’Er. She just seems very wooden and her screen time is not really added value. (I normally fast forward her scenes). 


Final Thoughts [Mild Spoilers Ahead]

It was highly entertaining to chase the drama and watch the online commentary as it was airing to see how fans reacted. In terms of overall buzz, it breached 2% on CCTV8 so performed decently well. Online however, the drama basically took 50% market share of all dramas currently airing which was insane. Fox Spirit Matchmaker, another highly anticipated drama, only captured about 7-10% of market share. Joy of Life Season 2’s popularity index on Tencent was above 30,000 for the entirety of its run, another record feat. 

This season was fun, but it was not as gripping as the first season, especially the first half of season 1. I did wish the season was a few episodes longer as despite the flaws, I still thoroughly enjoyed being in the world of Joy of Life. Let’s discuss: 

Second Prince needed another “villain” to balance him out: Liu Duan Duan, the second prince’s actor, gained a lot of popularity for his portrayal of the 2nd prince Li Cheng Ze in season 1. In season 2, it seems like screenwriters wanted to give him more air time so he was the primary “villain” for the drama. Except, he was more interesting in smaller doses when also tagged teamed with the likes of Princess Li Yun Rui. The scenes when she returned helped balance him out. While I do enjoy him on screen, he was given a little too much screen time which undercut his effectiveness.  Many of his scenes with Ye Ling’Er also felt unnecessary and forced. 

The focus needs to be on Fan Xian: The first part of the drama was all about court politics and the trials Fan Xian underwent which showcased his integrity and willingness to fight for justice, but that is standard in many other dramas. Fan Xian is more interesting BECAUSE of his modern day knowledge and the back story of his mother. Both of them are lonely in this world and have the ability to change many things since they have knowledge of the present day. The last 10 episodes of the drama actually felt more intriguing to me because it returned to the mysteries of Fan Xian himself. Wu Zhu finally returned and highlighted that something nefarious from Shen Miao/the holy temple is afoot. Qing Di finally revealed he is Fan Xian’s father and provided him with a painting of his mother. Fan Ruo Ruo learned how to use the sniper rifle (?) Ye Qing Mei brought out from the holy temple/Shen Miao. Those mysteries that then tied into the Ming Family in Jiang Nan helped build a more immersive world. This is where the story/plot shines instead of the court politics. 

Wan’er: We will discuss her on our podcast series in more depth but I don’t think the screen writer knew what to do with Wan’er this season. Her story deviated from the book to give her more color but as the main female lead of the drama, she felt underutilized. Li Qin, whom I am a huge fan of, did the best she could with the material she was given but overall felt like there could have been more to emphasize her relationship. Many people online criticized the screenwriter Wang Juan for how he wrote Wan’Er this season which I found amusing. There were several trending topics on weibo on this subject. 

Plus, I had major qualms with the wedding. The only wedding to occur in the drama (both season), and something that was marketed nonstop outside of the drama, the wedding between Fan Xian and Lin Wan’Er to me fell flat. I was highly anticipating the wedding but their romance got very little screen time and the festivities were minimal to say the least. I am a fan of “fan wan” CP and wished they spent more time together or emphasized their romance further. Instead, the wedding was small scale and there were way too many guests that interfered with the flow. 


Those were some initial thoughts for my review. We will of course be doing an in depth analysis of both seasons for our podcast so stay tuned. Fingers crossed Season 3 will not take another 5 years before it is presented to audiences.


Let me know what you think!


2 thoughts on “Review: Joy of Life Season 2 (2024) 庆余年第二季

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