Review: Saimdang, light's diary

Currently, I am watching the Korean TV drama series, Saimdang, light's diary. Until now, only 6 episodes have aired out of the 30. I have watched the first 4 in Cantonese, but I decided to watch the rest in Korean as I prefer to hear the original voices of the actors and actrices.

The story line is a bit complicated and hard to follow. It is about a Korean history university lecturer, who gets framed by her supervisor, and the only way for her to have her career - she worked so hard for - back is proving that a famous painting is fake. I think that they are implying that she is the reincarnation of Saimdang, a famous artist in the past. She sometimes gets headaches and then, long lost memories seem to come back, and sometimes, she is reading parts of Saimdang's diary together with a hoobae (a younger male student from the same university as her, who happens to look the same as Saimdang's first love and maybe also an reincarnation), and these are the times that the story takes us from modern times to the joseon era.


The reason why it is a bit hard to follow is that the flashbacks seem to happen very randomly and you sometimes forget that it is a flashback and not two different drama's that you are watching at the same time. I think it would have helped if the guy who is supposedly reading the ancient diary reads the first lines at the start of the flashback and also reads the last lines at the end of the flashback. Also, start the reading of the diary partially during the past and continue in the present and vice versa. They did do something similar (like the guy saying something like: oh man, I want to keep reading the story, it was starting to get interesting), but the transitioning from the past to now and from now to the past somehow isn't done well enough. I think it also has something to do with not knowing what the main story is and what the side story is. In the beginning, the present life is showing the most, and the story just lacked appeal. Later on, more fragments of the past came up overshadowing the present life story. They are also switching back and forth too much, so that you never really grow attached to one story and one set of characters. The setting of the present is also too dark and grim (need more funny moments and interactions). It contrasts too much with the young, innocent - albeit tragic - love blossoming in the past.

One of the main reasons why I am going to keep watching this TV series is the solid acting from Lee Young-ae. She is playing a similar role as in the 2003 hit drama "A jewel in the palace aka Dae Jang Geum", as she is fighting against injustice, jealous and vile women, and male suppression, and she had proven to be very good at that. She is also reminding me of my Latin teacher in high school, who was like the warm mother figure I never had in my life. It is a bit strange, but the resemblance is striking. From the haircut, the face, the expressions, to the small mannerisms. I am not really sure as I barely go out the house and I don't gossip, but I heard she left the school. I wonder if she was fired because she was one of the few who believed me and stood by my side when I was being attacked by my classmates and the teachers or that there was some strange office politics going on. But I would like to tell her that she was almost the only reason I could keep going to school. Going to Latin class and hear mythical stories about Hercules was one of the only things I could still find joy in. She was an immense support to me, when everyone else was stepping on me when nobody was looking. I was let down way too many times to trust someone again, so it was not her fault that she couldn't do anything for me. I don't think I could have changed a thing in those circumstances either. I was so wounded I didn't even want to fight back. I kept quiet about almost everything until it got too extreme and when I started yelling, I was seen as the troublemaker. There was no way out. Just like what Saimdang is going through.

I have no intentions of writing a synopsis of every episode, so I will only write down some remarks and findings about an episode. 

Episode 6:

The beautiful painting, "Painting of a dog and puppies" by Yi Am is shown in this episode and it is currently in the possession of the National Museum of Korea, Seoul. Somehow, looking at it made my heart feel warm. It shows a black-and-white mother dog with her puppies. One resting on her back, and two cuddling under her two paws. For something that was drawn so long ago, it looks surprisingly modern. The expressions on the dogs looks almost from a manga/manwha. The solid black outlines are alternated with softened, shaded lines, making it seem like the dogs are glowing of happiness.

*Writing it down on my bucket list: have to see this painting in person some day!* 

Episode 7:

The second oldest son told an elitist tiger mom off for not letting him listen in on classes with a phrase from Confusius: "Teaching is fair for everyone, no matter the age and status." (類). I don't really get why that woman would actually stop someone from listening in on classes, when she did the same when she was younger and poor. Maybe, this is a human thing. When you had a hard time, you don't want others to have it easy either. He ends the conversation with the ideom "來語不美去語何美" : When you don't respect someone, how can you expect respect back?
 
Before, he listened in on a class with teachings from Confusius (孔子): 
"與善人居,如入芝蘭之室,久而不聞其香,即與之化矣。與不善人居,如入鮑魚之肆,久而不聞其臭,亦與之化矣。丹之所藏者赤,漆之所藏者黑。"

When you interact with good people, it is like walking into a room filled with orchids, after a while, you don't smell it anymore, as you have become one with it. When you interact with bad people, it is like walking into an abalone shop, after a while you don't smell the fishiness, you become one with it. Those who hold onto a cinnabar (a mineral, used to extract beautiful red pigments and red is a refined color in ancient China), will turn red, and those who hold onto lacquer (the sap from a lacquer tree is creamy white, but when it touches the air, it will darken, source link), will turn black. 


I will update this review whenever I watch more episodes.












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