In the evolving world of cinema, few milestones stand as towering as the phenomenon of “The Untamed.” As of December 29, 2021, this Chinese drama has registered an astonishing 10 billion views on Tencent Video alone—a surprising feat, given the world’s population of just 7 billion. This figure doesn’t even account for the viewership on other streaming platforms.
A Timeless Drama
Originally aired in 2019, “The Untamed” continues to captivate audiences into 2021. Adapted from the Chinese literature work ‘Mo Dao Zu Shi,’ written by Mo Xiang Tong Xiu, the drama falls into the Xianxia genre, exploring martial arts, mythology, Chinese folklore, Taoism, and Buddhism. Intriguingly, while the source material dwells on the romantic relationship between two men, the adaptation avoids LGBT elements in compliance with Chinese government regulations.
- Title: The Untamed / Chén Qíng Lìng
- Air Dates: June 27 – August 20, 2019 (50 episodes), December 25 (20 special episodes)
- Cast: Wang Yibo and Xiao Zhan
- Genre: Mystery, history, fantasy, wuxia
- Directors: Steve Cheng, Chan Ka Lam
- Screenwriters: Deng Yao, Yang Xia, Guo Guang Yun, Jing Ma
- Available on: Netflix, Tencent Video, WeTV, Viki, Prime Video, Apple TV.
The Intriguing Plot
The drama follows Wei Wuxian, adopted and raised by the leader of the Yunmeng Jiang sect. His childhood, shared with sect leader’s children Jiang Yanli and Jiang Cheng, leads him to a place called Yun Shen Bu Zhi Chu to learn cultivation arts.
The story unfolds in a magical world where Wei Wuxian’s mischievous personality clashes with Lan Wangji’s calm demeanor. Their unlikely friendship develops into a partnership, facing challenges, breaking rules, and fighting tyranny.
Set in a fictional universe with five main clans practicing cultivation (a form of spiritual meditation and martial arts), the story explores themes of loyalty, morality, and the complexities of human emotion.
Wei Wuxian – Originally named Wei Ying, he is an orphan raised by the Yunmeng Jiang Sect. Clever, mischievous, and compassionate, Wei Wuxian becomes a prominent cultivator but later strays into demonic cultivation, a forbidden practice.
Lan Wangji – Also known as Lan Zhan, he is a disciple from the Gusu Lan Sect. Lan Wangji is a character of stoicism, strict adherence to rules, and deep emotional complexity. He is drawn to Wei Wuxian’s lively nature, and their relationship develops through a complex mix of friendship and unspoken feelings.
Cultivation and Schools
The practice of cultivation and the hierarchy of the different sects is central to the story. The five main clans—Lan, Jiang, Nie, Wen, and Jin—each have their own cultivation techniques, values, and traditions. Students are trained in martial arts, magical arts, and ethical principles.
- Early Years and Friendship – Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji meet at the Cloud Recesses, where they train in cultivation. Their relationship starts rocky but grows into deep friendship. Wei Wuxian’s mischievous ways clash with the strict rules of the Lan Sect, yet Lan Wangji finds himself drawn to Wei Wuxian’s free spirit.
- The Sunshot Campaign – A war against the tyrannical Wen Sect sees both heroes prove their valor and skill. The aftermath leaves Wei Wuxian adopting demonic cultivation, a practice that harnesses resentful energy and is considered immoral.
- Fall from Grace – Wei Wuxian’s use of demonic cultivation leads to misunderstanding, fear, and eventually his persecution by the other sects. His protective actions towards the innocent Wen remnants further alienate him.
- Tragedy and Death – Wei Wuxian’s decision to protect the innocent leads to a tragic showdown. His reputation tarnished, and facing betrayal, he chooses to end his life, leaving a grieving Lan Wangji behind.
- Resurrection and Redemption – Sixteen years later, Wei Wuxian is resurrected. With Lan Wangji’s support, they unravel a series of mysteries that shed light on past betrayals and clear Wei Wuxian’s name.
- Special Episodes – A set of 20 special episodes focuses on the relationship between Lan Wangji and Wei Wuxian, expanding on their emotional bond and connection.
- Loyalty and Morality – The story challenges traditional views of right and wrong, questioning loyalty to sect over personal morality.
- Friendship and Love – The deep, complex relationship between the main characters transcends conventional friendship, hinting at a profound, unspoken love.
- Rebellion and Conformity – Through Wei Wuxian’s actions, the story examines the tension between societal expectations and personal beliefs.
Two Types of Viewers
- Those Frustrated: The 70-episode drama (50 original plus 20 special) might overwhelm new viewers, especially with its complex terms and non-linear timeline.
- Those Who Can’t Move On: Those who engage deeply with the story, seeking to understand its intricacies, find themselves unable to part from the drama’s enchanting world.
Wang Yibo as Lan Wangji
Lan Wangji’s character is emotionally unique and elusive. After initially passing over Wang Yibo twice, the producers found in him the essence of the character they sought. With barely a word, Wang Yibo’s facial expressions convey a rich tapestry of emotion, revealing a character of dignity and complexity, brilliantly portraying the various shades of Lan Wangji’s persona.
Xiao Zhan as Wei Wuxian
Wei Wuxian is portrayed by Xiao Zhan, whose smile captured the producers’ attention. His portrayal of Wei’s joyful yet complicated life is poignant and leaves a lasting impression.
A Brave Storytelling Choice
The decision to eliminate the romantic aspect of the original story in the drama adaptation may have been bold, but “The Untamed” does not lose its essence. The narrative remains robust and engaging, and the characters’ depth and development ensure a gripping experience.
“The Untamed” is not just a drama but a cultural marvel. The casting choices, the storytelling adaptations, and the ability to keep viewers engaged over a lengthy series highlight the show’s excellence.
This drama’s tremendous popularity and the unwavering love of its fans are a testament to its quality and cultural significance. It’s a remarkable feat in contemporary television, showcasing the global reach of Chinese drama. Whether you’re a newcomer or a devoted fan, “The Untamed” offers a rich and immersive experience that continues to resonate with audiences worldwide.