Monday 12 April 2021

the long ballad // 長歌行 Cháng Gē Xíng // Chouka Kou (ちょうかこう)

 This year is starting to become quite interesting... after so much talking and expectation it finally arrived

the so much anticipated (specially for the fans), the drama series based in Xia Da’s epic masterpiece;

長歌行 Cháng Gē Xíng also translated or with the meaning of “the long ballad”, “the long song” “song of the long march” “the princess vagabond” and, in korean as Jang-ga Haeng (장가행) as well as Chouka Kou (ちょうかこう) in Japan (this is also how I knew it for quite some time, as I also (mistakenly) believe she was a “japanese shojo manga” artist

I think I first came acquaintance with this Chinese manhua work back in 2014 or 2015?, meanwhile searching kissmanga (yes, who remember those times?) this was one of the most recommend work in the list// the new chapter was out, so I had a pick view, I think it was about the time Mimi arrives at the camp, so I sip through that “new” chapter and I was this is a really high quality artwork, it had this incredible love for details inside the Yurt tent, the camp, the horse, the cavalry scenes, the areal atmosphere, the landscape, the composition (the hair floating in the air), the intrigue in the scene ... so it was then that I decided to start to read from the “beginning” ...

...and I mean the “beginning” ... what a beginning!!! 

Most of the modern manga at that time (and almost all today) are more often than ever chip/chop fast lacking quality (the use of computer graphics and rendering vectors strokes makes most of the work indistinguishable from each other) … but this was something else…it had a SOUL, the pages were singing back to you, the hand-made, the craftsmanship (how long would have taken her to make one of this spread; 8 hours, 10? 16?), the splash of ink and fine lined work till the tiniest pointed hairstyle… in the standards of detail as Vagabond perhaps?, ok maybe not (but definitely not being so dark and crude!) It was (still is) incredibly beautiful, quality artwork and delightful illustrations that make me fall in love!  

...and the plot, that was incredibly exciting as well ... The storyline is somehow based in historical events of the tang dynasties succession, yet the main focus is the beginning and the “development of the Silk Road”; 

The main character (female lead) would be the only (fictional) surviving child of the (historical assassinated) crown prince Li Jiancheng (according to the historical records; Crown Prince Li Jiancheng was assassinated, together with all his male descendant and a second brother Li Yuanji by their third brother Li Shimin (in what is known as the Xuanwu Gate incident in 626). These were all sons/descendants of Li Yuan (founder and first emperor of the Tang dynasties)

(after killing his brothers and all their male descendants) Li Shimin, becomes crown prince and later as the successor of his father he would become the second emperor in the Tang dynasties

So here it is our main character// 李長歌 (Li Changge) (a “fugitive princess” and the antagonist “her uncle, the future emperor of Tang”), to survive the “princess now” goes hiding herself as male adviser, first as militar, then as a strategist, with a thirst to revenge her father, her mother and her deceased brothers; Li Shimin becomes her main focus and target and solo reason to remain alive... 

Along the way, she loses a battle (against the Turkics advance) and the safety of a north city, suddenly she also becomes a prisoner of war (still disguised as a male) starts advising the leader of this tribe; Ashina Sun (who also needs to survive in his own internal conflict of power-grab among the vandals tribes), and slowly, but surely she becomes an item among the tribe, advising strategies, targets and roads to Tegin (leader Ashina Sun) and his trust friend and military adviser of the eagle division; Muijin, (Li Changge saves those men’s life several times)

All these, in the meantime her full character is developing and changing and maturing, we start with her being very wild and almost crazy, psycho-killer thirst for revenge, young impulsive with highly surviving skills, metamorphosing and adjusting to situations purring pure adrenaline, but along the way, she is confronted with emptiness, feelings of lost and grieve, (there is also a huge sense of redemptions and philosophy, inner assessment, zen, and so on), the masters of Taoism she encounters along her way are also incredible lessons for all of us. And then it is also very funny, when “he disappears” from Sun’s tribe, and worrying about “him”, they start a huge search along the north road, till they are notified “they should stop searching for a “weak-flimsy male” but start searching for a “young teen-girl” instead...   hehehe, Ashina Sun’s face (in that one)..., anyway there is a lot of “trust, mistrust, plots and complots, alliances, betrayers, double-crossing, mischievous, covering, schemes, strategies, action, battles, enemies, friendship, a sense of lost, roots and longing to find oneself  .... (as well as an under layer of sensuality, testosterone, gender bender, and sexuality)... either way it was just too delicious… 

I was totally hooked with the plot and the visual, it became my favorite manhua for a reason, and I was not the only one, you start reading, and you're suddenly devouring the content, and then you follow the “updates” ... and wait for the next “update” ... and you wait... and you keep on waiting... 

The waiting became so irritating that as many others I started to search the official (Chinese site) in Chinese, looking for any other extra info, following Xia Da in her blog “april” now closed and (like everyone else) sniffing her Tencent account “april44” (is like a Twitter or Instagram for China// she does not use any western social media) only Chinese which she eventually also closed down, the only place that was still offering info and content were some artists in, but the best source of info in the west was and still is (who probably has collected the bigger fan’s collection so far)/ and is where I get most of the “updates”, and as well as from “busy-old-fool” (unruly-sun)

And so it was how we (the fans) were left  - was this in 2017?... and still counting...

In the meantime (KissManga closed down completely), and mangafox changed its domain… currently, under “” however, nevertheless, the manhua artwork is still available in English on several other online sites as for example, as well as in the main source (in Chinese) in // is still up, holding to this that last page on chapter 61, as well as in Russian (but you need to search under “путешествия чангэ” terms)

Yes, unfortunately, slowly… It had stopped, the series came to a hold… (apparently they were some disagreements between the artist (manhua/writer) Xia Da and her publishing company (Summer Zoo), according to some other fans she had to wait for her contract to be terminated and some extra time to get the full rights of her work back to her, she was also worn-out and need it to take some time out

At the same time Xia Da founded her own studio/manhua company, collecting several awards and being praised national as well as internationally; These last few years Xia Da has been working active in other manhua series, as well as a kind of pre-sequel or ‘complements’’ was added to 長歌行 Cháng Gē Xíng; 拾遗录 Shíyí lù (complements?) however I cannot find these series translated into English language

It is almost about the “childhood” of the main characters, a bit of “background knowledge” to follow up the series. 

Either way (even without understanding Chinese) you can see that this work is also delightful... (these are indeed computer/digital artwork and not hand-ink, but quite charming still)

Some of her works are also being sold in hard-copy paperback, you can always find them under “Xia Da”  “ 夏达” author (manga/ artist/writer), yet even when 11 volumes of 長歌行 Cháng Gē Xíng are available online (costing around 70 euros), unfortunately still incomplete series

Original Chinese

Japanese market

“Xia Da”  “ 夏达” 長歌行 Cháng Gē Xíng manhua in original Chinese, 11 volumes are available (costing around 70 euros), **still incomplete series/stops at chapter 60*

-//-- there is also an official French version also for sale under “la princesse vagabonde” only 8 volumes were printed

“Xia Da”  “ 夏达” Choukakou (ちょうかこう) manga’s set sold for the Japanese market, I believe only 8 volumes were made  **still incomplete series**

Then there was always the running rumor that the series would “soon-some-day-to-be” become an action film series, either movie, anime or TV.. Until a few years back, Xia Da was still active sharing content and props with her fans via her blog or her personal account “april 44” and ideas for the film and her manhua work, I’ve heard lots of rumors and through other fans about this sharing and even saw a few of the previous here and there, but I didn’t want to have my hopes all up... because I am still “on hold waiting for an update on chapter 61”, I tried not to follow up much of that excitement 

… Even so the “visuals were incredible” … And then... “filming of the series had started”… And then “filming of the series was done”... and then “filming production was starting” and then “filming production was over” ... and then “the series would be aired “soon” “this year 2020” December?, “this year 2021” January? ... “February?” ... “March?”  ...

And finally... 



Are... we… there.... yet? .... April  ?

《长歌行》主演 translated as Long Gexing (TV series) or “the long ballad” TV series aired exclusivity in 

Tencent Video // currently playing and being updating weekly online // I follow it with English subtitles via dramacool 

(Xia Da original) Manhua

TV series (screenwriter - Pei Yufei, Chang Jiang)


So, until now, these past days I have watched 18 episodes from the TV series (of a total of 50 I believe?), so there are still 32 episodes more to come... 

My impressions so far... 

First things first, 

China is a beautiful country, and this series shows that, what an amazing place, stunning scenery and valleys, rich bast, impressive areas, plus the Production location of Hengdian studios (the largest film studios in the world) that even has life-size replicas of the imperial palace grounds and the Forbidden City (Wow!). 

The scenery, most of the scenes, the lively streets, the period era, the details come easily to life, that flouting airy visual amazing, the special effect, oh gosh...all that wuxia style, the kung-fu-fighting, the kicking, the action ... I am amazed and I love it

Even when I am not sure what I am watching… I love the action scenes... 

It is not Xia Da’s masterpiece; 長歌行 Cháng Gē// I am not sure what I was expecting, I know that is always difficult (impossible to represent a novel or any other “paperwork” into film format... I am not really sure why... either way the “director needs to give its input to the “original work”... the “scriptwriter has something, some other scene idea that needs to fit-in”... whatever the case it is, or however it is done, film never “matches the original work”

Perhaps this is why it is done in such of “extreme” way as not to be able to compare it with it... over all the TV series 《长歌行》主演 “the long ballad” it is what it says “based on”, is not Xia Da’s work

So, changes form the “original plot” that “the director/screenwriter feel the need to adjust” and I personally disagree;

  • The age of the main characters// in the manhua Li Changge • 李長歌 is about 14 or 15 or 16 (she has not had her first period yet), she is a tomboy, she is almost a demon at the beginning, she is brutal full or rage and treats Adou awful (you need to grow with her in the manhua, and you feel her rage, despair, lost, and you grow mature alongside with her, ok?... it is part of the character development … And it is amazing part of the storyline it is actually the “storyline”

  • The actress playing Li Changge character, is Dilraba Dilmurat (迪丽热巴) which also is of Uyghurs ethnicity, she is stunning beautiful, and I would definitely vision her as a mature Li Changge  in a later development stage of her life (like when Li Changge  has already been married to Ashina Sun for over a decade, and they have five kids for example), I do not feel Dilraba Dilmurat is the “teenager version of  Li Changge“ nor is her character in the TV series portraying that

  • Also the age gap with the main lead; I know that originally the first choice to play Ashina Sun was originally scheduled to be played by Qu Chuxiao (and lots of fans were very excited about this idea) yet not sure exactly why it finally changed to Wu Lei (who to my like // i am not alone in this one, it is quite young for the role) or maybe not.. 

Qu Chuxiao (26 years old)

Wu Lei (21 years old)

  • Let’s see

I would have loved the chemistry Qu Chuxiao (26 years old) with (29 years old) Dilraba Dilmurat 

I cannot feel or believe the “chemistry Wu Lei (21 years old) with (29 years old) Dilraba Dilmurat, I would have rather had Wu Lei (21 years old, with some other young 18 till 23+ years old actress) 

I can't believe it, this to me, it was a wrong ”miss-matching” casting from day one!!

  • Wu Lei playing a “different” Ashina Sun, I am not even sure what is up with this one// Dilraba Dilmurat looks, and it could easily be kind of a mature version of Li Changge ... I don't even know who “Wu Lei” is playing .it says “Asina Sun'' but that is not Ashina Sun; a savage Turk that can eat you alive... Ashina Sun is full of testosterone, he is “the presence” the “I do not give a fçk, Satan spit me out of hell”... “Wu Lei” interpretation is more like the “I am going solo kid of the secondary school, he is a kid, and acts as a kid” ... I am totally lost on this one... it is not that they “adjust’’ the character, it is more like the TV character does not show any attributes of the manhua character... 

  • The next one in this list of unfortunately miss-match is Mujin, who originally is wit, sharp, clever, loyal friendly, self standing, cautious, reserve and reliable he is the type of “the cool character”, the guy is so “cool” than some fans would find him even more interesting (and irresistible) than Sun, however in the TV series we are left with a kind of “immature, drama-character, the joke is on him” again we are back to a kind of more “kids of a secondary school character, cheap kind of jokes” that a Turkish vandal tribe in the 650 AD... 

Yet even so, there are changes made for the adaptation which “I personally find a total killer

  • Even Wu Lei playing a “different” Ashina Sun and Mujin’s miss-mach character are kind of a downfall, to me is not yet a “killer” as what the scriptwriters did with the character of “the lesser khan”... Ashina Sun is “Satan spit me out of hell”... then the lesser khan (Ashina She'er) in the manhua series is Satan himself, this guy is a cold calculating, blood thirsty, sadistic psychopath, no empathy, no regrets (he would have tied you down to horses to dismember you, “vlad the impaler” that kind of cruel creepiness), you do not want to turn your back to him!

In the TV series this character (who is played by 库都斯江·艾尼娃尔 Kudousi Jiang Ainiwaer //the poor actor, I feel so sorry for him), the original character was an amazing challenging role, yet the actor now has to play the “looser” the school bully type of stereotype, the character made by the TV series is a paper shallow character, pathetic, anyone holding a tantrum, any spoiled looser, or snitch could have done it... it is way beyond ridiculous..., this is not a Turkic ethnicity, it is not a khan, it is not a vandal, it is not a clean cold calculator psychopath... The TV character is an immature, insecure, child-man, snitch, weak idiot, with an inferiority complex. I am not happy with this one.

  • Ok, in the manhua there are several main characters like; … Li Changge • 李長歌 .. Ashina Sun.. Ashina Sun’s hair... 

  • ... that hair..., oh boy, it has a life of its own, if I could, I would have just “sniff it”, “lick it”, “eat it”...  that luscious, silky, natural, freely hair, that compliments this character so well, it is as wild and free as himself... in the era of technology and special effect and CGI you think they might have being able to get this one right... right? ... Well think again...

  • What you expect is this imposing, wild, indomitable, free-spirited warrior, but what you get is… an “elf?” what is up with his fake crappy wig (dreadlocks?, braids?), anyway! If they were going to use a “wig” could they really not match-one to the character’s description? Like for real, how difficult can this be?

  • ...Oh, I am seriously done roasting this one!

Characters that live way above my own expectations, 

  • ... So far so good, Haodu (who is played by Liu Yuning) this is a robocop/terminator type of role, he has an order and a target, “trace down the princess and eliminate her” full stop

  • Qin Gu (the wise gentle elderly man who still know how to kung-fu master),

  • The capable XuFeng, following on his master steps,

  • Adou (the lively honest loyal young kid, that follows Li Changge everywhere as any “happy puppy” // however spoilers //he dies?? Why does he need to die in the TV series??, what is that about ??// end of spoilers 

  • Gongsun Yuan - oh she is as adorable as if she had been designed by Xia Da herself

  • Luo Shiba (I haven’t seen any full episode with her yet, but the preview seems to be a very interesting match)

  • Mimi is quite good, her hair and halo in the manhua is delightful she is also a gorgeous blond Uighur, on the TV the character is more like a brunette or dark-red as well as a bit more childish than the original but is not such a bad match, neither is her acting, so far I cannot complain (well see if the plot keeps faithful to its original script... you know what happens next)  

  • The royal advisors are also doable most of the time;  Gong Sunheng, Fang Xuanling, Du Rurui, maybe Wei Zheng(?), as also it is the characterization of the “Great Khan” in my opinion

  • Others that I have not seen yet, but (previews) seem quite interesting (promising) and good match are;

Situ Langlang, Sum Simiao and Madame Jing Dan (looking forward to seeing them live)

Changes in the plot/scenes and extra added characters; 

  • Of these are many examples, as if with only the character miss-matches wasn't enough to complain about, the script writers also kind of added “extra useless characters and nothing-to-add plots”; who is this Li Leyan princess and why or what is she adding to the plot (we are in episode 18, she has gone from palace life, to exile, to kidnapping, to missing/lost, to refuge, to beggar, to labor worker and still hasn't grown a bone yet, she is still as hollow and useless as from minute one, what a waste) and then what is up with her other “accompanying/love interest” Wei Yudama (?) // if anything I might believe they are necessary to make Haodu to shine or to give him more screen-time (they might be supporting roles for Haodu?, otherwise I cannot get it

  • Other extra plots/characters // mainly the whole Lujiang drama/scheme (episodes 5 till episode 9?), the “we have just met by change by the 10th time today”, the overused “knife/sword in the neck/threatening; I will kill you!”, also the kind of “damsel in distress” (original Li Changge is resourceful, and independent, in the TV series, however she needs to be rescued or helped by Ashina Sun, in almost every single episode... is kind of tiring,  and completely kills the character trails…, also in the manhua “she” (disguised as a guy) is supposed to impress and save Sun’s life a couple of times, and he eventually ends-up calling him “my brother” and this loyalty is the main reason why he then goes to search for “him (her)” because Sun owes his life to “him (when in reality it is a “her”)” …yet in the film, Sun almost immediately (episode 5) finds out “He” is a “She”, and goes to treat her softly and kind of slowly she is becoming almost as useless as the other princess “come and rescue me please”...

With 18 episodes done i kind of feel that what I love it about the manhua is still not there, the fresh approach, the strong female character, the inner struggles of the human psyche and the character development is almost lacking if not, it was complete ignored by the scriptwriters

And what they have left is the beautiful visuals, the amazing fighting and the great choreography (wuxia style) in yet a kind of childish plot with more hollow paper characters and clique roles (it feels like a secondary school prototype, “the pretty girl”, “the team’s captain”, “the bully” and “the school’s clown”) but inside a Turk’s camp. Not resembling the manhua’s original character growth and plot so much... 

I think if I was not in love with the original script, manhua and visuals, I would have probably skipped this series all together but with (32 more chapters or so still to go) I hope, I can only hope it would get better? 

I would make an update maybe in May or June, when I am done watching the whole-lot, and I would give my final say, then! 

//**spoilers alert**//

The ancient Silk Road,

Although there were always initial form of commerce exchange and channels from East Asia (China) to west Asia (Persia/Iran) till Western Europe (Rome/Italy) since ancient times, it was dangerous and eventually came to a halt during long periods, it will be reopened by the Tang Empire in 639 CE when Hou Junji goes into the quest of conquering the West, and the Silk Road remained open trade for almost four decades/// this happens during the Regime of Emperor Taizong of Tang (aka, Prince of Qin, personal name Li Shimin //who is also the antagonist in the manhua series “he is the princess’s uncle, whom she had swear to kill for revenge”),

My take on the manhua’s plot was that eventually she would instigate the conquest of the west and form an alliance with Turks and Vandals tribe and as “princes of Tang/grandchild of Emperor Gaozu of Tang // founder of the Tang dynasties” she would marry the next Khan (?next on line//you know who, right?) to bring peace and prosperity to the people of China and the grasslands... as this is what follows with the historical events of the era // see the historic period; Tang conquest the west, the conquest of the western turks,Turkic Khaganate, Göktürks, Second Turkic Khaganate and so on…//

...or something on the likes of that... *(she is probably also a “natural child of whom she thinks is “his uncle & sworn enemy”) either way

That is kind was my take on the drama plot, yet I am not Xia Da, so not sure what she really has in mind for her characters, not sure what the “scriptwriters are planning to do so” either, I just have to wait and see if I become far more than disappointed or amazingly excited.

//**end of  spoilers**//

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