New Life Begins (2022) 卿卿日常
Summary: Set in a fictional world that is largely reminiscent of China, women from the 9 unique regions of the land are sent to Xin Chuan, the ruling region, to be selected as tribute for the princes of Xin Chuan. Li Wei tries desperately to avoid being selected but being the only tribute from Ji Chuan, she is matched to the unfavored 6th prince, Yin Zheng. This comedic story revolves around this unlikely pair as they grow together but is added unique color by the other princes and their respective wives.
Total Episode Count: 40
Initial Airing Date: Nov 10, 2022
Initial Rating: 6.9/10
Final Rating: 7.3/10
A light hearted but thought provoking comedic period drama that shines in its depictions of female struggles and friendships but falters with contradicting messages for romantic couples.
In a rare change, my final rating for the drama ticked higher than my initial review as the drama’s midpoint’s focus on women outshone most of my initial gripes with the main couple.
New Life Begins aired with little fanfare but did quite well since, reaching over 9,000 on the iQiyi popularity index in it’s first 28 hours of airing. Within 7 days, the drama’s popularity index topped 10,000, beating out Love Between Fairy and Devil, speaking to eyeballs and discussion the drama has received.
The drama’s strength actually lies in the supporting cast which is huge for this drama. Because the wives or concubines of the princes come from different regions of the land, we do get to visit many different locales that are very reminiscent of different regions in China and so, it is a fun tour of the country as well. It’s almost like the Hunger Games where people are characterized by the district they come from except here, there’s no fight to the death. Because there are so many regions, the cast is quite large and you’ll recognize many of them from different dramas.
In a refreshing change and the best part about this drama is that all women support each other and work together despite coming from different backgrounds and competing in class which I find very heartwarming. They work to create change in a male dominated world in Xin Chuan.
Despite these uplifting moments, the chemistry of romantic relationships leave much to be desired, especially for the main couple that prevents the drama from reaching its max potential.
Li Wei 李薇 – Tian Xi Wei 田曦薇
The tribute from Ji Chuan 霁川, she has loving parents and an adorable younger brother who all want her to fail the selection process so she can return home with them. Unfortunately, their plans fall flat and Li Wei is sent to marry the 6th prince as a concubine. Li Wei doesn’t have too many skills but is quite the foodie. Though her kind hearted nature brings much needed warmth to the 6th prince’s home.
Yin Zheng, 6th prince 尹峥 – Bai Jing Ting 白敬亭
The 6th prince of Xin Chuan. He recognizes the challenges of gaining his father’s favor because he has so many brothers and is also wary of his 2nd brother’s, heir apparent, authority. Yet he wants to fight for more. Incredibly bright and accomplished, he brings Li Wei into his home to help secure his political future. But after spending time with Li Wei, he begins to recognize that he enjoys her company and the relationships she’s helped him build in his own family.
Yuan Ying 元英 – Liu Ling Zi 刘令姿
The business oriented princess from Jin Chuan 金川, Yuan Ying was ordered by her father to marry the 6th prince as his main wife. Yet she has no affection towards him. Instead, she helps train Li Wei to become an adequate partner to Yin Zheng and she helps Yin Zheng manage the household. She has high ambitions that are outside of household.
Hao Jia, 郝葭 – Chen Xiao Yun 陈小纭
Childhood friend of Li Wei. Hao Jia comes from Yan Chuan 胭川 and becomes the concubine of the 2nd Prince. Though she is learned in various arts and crafts, her family upbringing was challenging which turned her into someone who views marriage as a job. While she thought she was marrying someone who can take care of her, the reality is far from imagined.
Zhao Fang Ru 赵芳如 – Chen Zi Han 陈紫函
Wife of the 2nd prince, Zhao Fang Ru is outwardly cold but at her core a good person. She hails from Dai Chuan 黛川 and her family owns a number of mines。 This monetary strength made her a perfect match for the ambitious and conniving 2nd prince.
Yin Song 尹嵩, 2nd Prince – Zhang Xiao Chen 张晓晨
The son of the main wife, the 2nd prince is an abusive husband and ruthless brother. He treats his wife and concubine as objects and restricts them from partaking in many activities. He is also terrified that one of his brothers will impact his current political standing and tries to destroy all obstacles in his path.
Shang Guan Jing, 上官婧 – Fan Shuai Qi 范帅琦
The sister of the current ruler of Dan Chuan 丹川, Shang Guan Jing is an independent and martial arts oriented woman. She marries the 5th prince and becomes fast friends with Li Wei. She enjoys practicing martial arts and caring for her weapons while not caring much for academics. Shang Guan Jing tries her best to adjust to life in Xin Chuan despite coming from a place where women have more power than men whereas Xin Chuan is the opposite.
Yin Qi, 5th Prince 尹岐 – Chang Long 昌隆
Physically weak and not a great student, the 5th prince makes up for these weaknesses by being a supportive brother to the 6th prince and an adoring partner to his wife Shang Guan Jing. He is without a doubt the comedic relief of the cast.
Dong Hai Tang 董海棠- Liu Meng Meng 刘萌萌
The kind hearted wife of the 3rd prince, Hai Tang hails from Cang Chuan 苍川. She is left to take care of the 16 women her husband roped into their household but instead of being antagonistic, she creates a friendly environment with all of the concubines because they all dislike the 3rd prince and how he treats women.
Yin An, 3rd Prince 尹岸 – Liu Guan Lin 刘冠麟
An extremely pompous man with a wife and 16 concubines whom he named after Chinese solar terms. Problem is, apart from his wife, he cannot tell his concubines apart. He loves to consider himself one of the handsomest men in all of Xin Chuan and believes all of his actions are correct.
Set in a fictional world, it is time for the once every three year selection of women to be wives of the princes of Xin Chuan. In total, there are 11 princes in Xin Chuan and for this round, the 5th, 6th and 7th princes were up to select a wife. This practice was established to strengthen ties between Xin Chuan and the 9 regions it rules.
Li Wei from Ji Chuan arrives with the tributes from other regions. She meets up with her childhood friend Hao Jia from Yan Chuan as well as other women there as tribute from all over the land. Each woman is there for a different reason. Li Wei, for example, doesn’t want to marry and tries to show that she has no skills in order to be rejected. Hao Jia, on the other hand, has her eyes set on the 2nd prince because she has heard of his power in court. She is looking for a boss to rely on to improve her status at home.
On the princes side, the 1-4th princes are all married. The 2nd prince is the heir apparent as the eldest son of the Queen and has an iron grip on court matters. Our main male character is the 6th prince Yin Zheng who currently suffers from stomach illness but is extremely bright. He uses his illness to stay under the radar of his more menacing and authoritative 2nd brother that would not hesitate to stamp him out if he dared to be too impressive.
Despite hoping to avoid marriage in Xin Chuan, Li Wei is selected to marry Yin Zheng as a concubine after a hilarious run in with him in the kitchens while she was hoping to steal food. Elsewhere, Shang Guan Jing is set to marry the 5th prince Yin Qi, Ruan Si Si marries the 7th prince, Yin Jun, (both as wives) and Hao Jia marries the 2nd prince as a concubine.
The drama revolves around the sisterhood the respective wives create and the businesses they build to establish their independence in the face of the archaic and male dominated rules that Xin Chuan enforces on its women. Meanwhile, the 6th prince, having now married, starts working towards his ambitions of enacting reform in Xin Chuan which includes creating night markets and moving towards a new currency.
This drama is based off of a book set during the Kang Xi era and the sons were supposed to be the son of Kang Xi. The main female lead was supposed to have time traveled back. Apparently the drama is entirely different from the book. PHEW. Did not need another rendition of this.
What I Liked:
- The Sisterhood Bond: This drama’s core strength is about the relationships between the women in Xin Chuan who were forced to marry their respective husbands. But rather than fighting against each other, they came together to support one another. Here are some of the most impactful examples:
- 6th Prince Housewarming: When the 2nd prince refused to attend Yin Zheng (6th prince’s) housewarming party, this led to the rest of court refusing to attend either at risk of displeasing the crown prince (2nd prince). This was going to be a slap in the face for the 6th prince. But who ultimately showed up to support Li Wei? It’s all of the female friends she made at Xin Chuan who then included their husbands (the 6th prince’s brothers). The most tear inducing attendee was Hao Jia who knew she was going to be punished by the 2nd prince but she still snuck out to support her friend because she knew how important it was to be there for Li Wei.
- Yuan Ying’s Independence: Yuan Ying was forced to marry the 6th prince by Yuan Ying’s father, the leader of Jin Chuan, as his main wife despite Yin Zheng wanting to push Li Wei into the main wife role. When Yuan Ying showed up though, she immediately established that she did NOT want to get in between Li Wei and Yin Zheng’s relationship. Instead, she was going to help him secure his foothold in court and help Li Wei become an adequate wife worthy of the main wife role. When the time came, she wanted to separate amicably so she can do her own thing. Yuan Ying is an extremely ambitious and capable woman who does not want to be kept in a household. In any other drama, she would have fought Li Wei for Yin Zheng’s affections but no. She had no interest in Yin Zheng, only in helping him and Li Wei. Li Wei, in turn, showed kindness and caring for Yuan Ying which she lacked growing up as she constantly wanted to prove herself.
- Zhao Fang Ru and Hao Jia’s understanding and support: Both of these women had the misfortune of marrying the abusive 2nd prince. Zhao Fang Ru at first was incredibly prickly against Hao Jia which was understandable. A younger woman was here to spend time with her husband. But at seeing how Hao Jia was subsequently treated by the 2nd prince and how defiantly Hao Jia responded to her shackles (see above), Zhao Fang Ru’s hardened outer shell softened. The two women came to an understanding that they were both struggling in this household. Zhao Fang Ru became one of Hao Jia’s best supporters and stood up for her when Hao Jia was giving birth, ultimately saving her life.
- Women Focused Struggles: This drama refreshingly highlights challenges women face in a day to day world which includes struggles of owning a business, challenges of being taken seriously by peers or older individuals. One unique topic is post partum depression which I thought was a great add.
- A Creative and immersive world:
- Each “Chuan” (region) is unique and full of life: Because the wives are all from different regions of the country, we are introduced to the different characteristics of those regions. They’re reminiscent of regions of China but there are even more cultural differences. Dan Chuan for example, eats spicy but there, the women rule supreme while the men are relegated to the home. In Ji Chuan, the custom is to have only one husband and one wife and most of the people are simple farming people. Jin Chuan is extremely wealthy and glittering with gold due to port trading. It’s fun as the drama does take you to different regions and you meet different kinds of people which makes Xin Chuan the big melting pot of the country.
- Each character has unique traits: The cast of characters are quite different not just because of their regional background. The princes themselves and the subsequent family members are all adorable (well almost all of them). It makes this drama feel quite alive and helps you feel like you’re actually a part of the royal family or the overall world.
What I Didn’t Like:
- Romantic relationships: Many of the couples in this drama fall for the person they were “forced” to marry. This was the case for the 6th, 5th, 7th prince pairs and you could consider the 4th and 3rd prince families which didn’t sit entirely well with me because you could argue then that these arranged marriages WERE good then. And some of the romantic moments did feel forced. Ultimately, this drama shines when the women and men focused on their struggles rather than the episodes that highlighted relationship struggles especially for the main couple.
- 6th prince pair: For Yin Zheng and Li Wei, I struggled to see why Yin Zheng is specifically set on Li Wei. It felt like the two fell in love because they were the first person each other met of the opposite gender and spent a ton of time together. Li Wei has a few strengths of her own but it felt like at her core she was just being a decent human being. Compared to Yuan Ying and many other capable women in the drama, she seems…inexperienced. She made great gains throughout the drama by putting in the hard work to learn which should be commended but she was still making rather rudimentary mistakes near the end of the drama. This in my opinion was the writers lowering her intelligence level to tug at heartstrings which irked me. My main argument is that if Yuan Ying arrived first rather than Li Wei or Yin Zheng was forced to marry any other woman that was ultimately just a decent person, Yin Zheng would have had a great relationship with them as well. In any case, the forced nature of the “cuteness” of their interactions at the beginning and end of this drama were really what prevented this drama from being excellent.
- [SPOILER WARNING]
- Idealistic World: This could be a pro and a con depending on how you want to view this drama. I took this to be a slight con because I felt like the drama wrote storylines based on convenience. Some of the major political reforms the drama highlighted hit minor roadbumps when in reality war was waged for less. The ending was almost too fairytale like for a drama that highlighted some extremely poignant topics.
I am very happy to debate this drama. Let me know what you thought!