The Legend of Xiao Chuo is about our feisty protagonist Yanyan (Tiffany Tang), but central to its plot is her relationship with her sisters, Wuguli (Lu Shan) and Hunian (Charmaine Sheh). How do we go from sisters are doing it for themselves to two sisters out for themselves? The disintegration of the sisterly bond is caused by putting jerky guys ahead of family.
I’m just going to say it: it’s all Wuguli’s fault! From the time she first steps into the drama, this second sister is suspect. Other characters frequently admit that she’s always been this way: spoiled, selfish and out for self. But when she decides to try to save that punk Xiyin (Ji Chen) by leaving the house with the travel token she steals from her father, she puts all of them on a path that can only end badly and puts him ahead of her family. I would have left her in jail.
And let’s talk about Xiyin for a minute. Let me get this straight: you and your father poorly plan out an attempted coup, fail, then blame the emperor who you know is going to retaliate violently, but somehow you still vow to get the throne. Okaaaaaaay, but all of Xiyin’s subsequent attempts fail too and when they do, he resorts to even more crazy and outlandish plans. Methinks that you are not smart enough to be on the throne.
It is Wuguli’s never-ending support of Xiyin that causes the breakdown of the sisterhood. I don’t know how she thinks that supporting Xiyin’s quest for the throne does not equal hurting her sister. For example, Wuguli knows that he’s trying to hurt not only her sister but the royal heir she’s carrying when they go to punish the guys who kill their father, but only at the last minute saves her from the plot. Wuguli always manages to rationalize Xiyin’s plans and stick with her man. This comes to a climax when Xiyin (and his punky son) are killed during YET ANOTHER coup attempt. So instead of admitting her bad decision-making, Wuguli doubles down and hatches a plan to get rid of her own sister. HER. OWN. SISTER. Aaaaaaand paints herself as a victim, blaming her sister for killing her husband, you know, during the coup attempt. I have no sympathy for her.
I have bit more sympathy for Hunian, Yanyan’s long-suffering oldest sister. She’s the one who takes for fall for Wuguli’s poor choices and marries Yansage (Tan Kai) to get her sister out of jail and save her family from punishment. She constantly tries to cut Wuguli slack and is routinely disappointed. She’s no-nonsense and usually does what needs to be done.
But like Wuguli, she starts to rationalize the bad behavior of her power-hungry husband. She knows that Yansage is the bad emperor’s brother who has enabled his violent behavior. When he misses his opportunity to stop the successful coup by Mingyi and Han Derang, he also starts plotting the long game to get the throne. During his coup attempt, he manages to kill Hunian’s maid, cause Hunian to lose their child and locks her up while he storms the castle. Of course, the coup does not work, and he’s mortally wounded in the process.
I’m willing to cut Hunian some slack: after all, they were married and over time she developed feelings for him even though he’s a jerk. And you would think she would be the last person to turn against Yanyan. But before she kicks the bucket, Wuguli tells Hunian that Yanyan was responsible for Yansage’s death (you know, during the coup where he was dead set on killing her on his way to seizing the throne). Hunian stops speaking to her sister for years as she guards the Northern border.
Here’s where Hunian starts to go off the rails and disregards her sisterly bond. She picks up some random stable boy and makes him a general, then lets him disrespect her empress sister! Then, she chooses said random stable boy over her sister when she breaks him out of prison for his attempted assassination of the emperor, Yanyan’s son and Hunian’s nephew. She’s totally shocked when troops show up on the northern border and deliver punishment for, you know, attempting to kill the emperor. If this was anybody else, she’d be eliminated for helping an assassin try to kill the emperor but Yanyan spares her life. And Hunian is mad for years after. C’mon girl.
Both Hunian and Wuguli blame Yanyan for disregarding the sisterly bond. But, if their judgement were not clouded by their relationships with jerky men, they would see that it was their choices that destroyed the sisterhood.
Even though Yanyan starts out as willful, she develops into a responsible empress and regent. (Oh, there will be a separate post on Yanyan and Han Derang!). She is always trying to preserve the sisterly bond. Even though Xiyin schemes on multiple occasions, she cuts him slack because of Wuguli, never punishing him to the extent he deserves. When Yanyan hears about Hunian’s shenanigans on the northern border, she tries to be understanding. But let’s be clear: when you try to usurp the throne or kill an emperor, you need to be prepared to pay the cost for failure. I really resent both Hunian and Wuguli blaming Yanyan for what their husbands did, painting her as some power-hungry empress who disregards the family bond. Yanyan has no choice but to ultimately eliminate the jerky men who happen to be husbands to her sisters.
Image: “The Legend of Xiao Chuo.” MyDramaList. https://mydramalist.com/photos/Wzr05_3 (Accessed 27 Dec 2020)