Drama review: Dreaming back to the Qing dynasty

Dreaming back to the Qing dynasty is a Chinese drama with 40 episodes about a modern woman going back in time, trying to survive and find love in the royal palace. Although the story sometimes doesn't make sense (such as the time travel mechanism, why the female lead always puts herself in danger all by herself, and how everyone falls in love with her), it is beautifully filmed, the acting is great, and the use of different camera angles was done well. 

I generally don't like stories in which the female lead always needs to be rescued, but she has her smart moments like magically becoming skilled in medicinal herbs and wood work. I am actually more intrigued by her evil step sister. She has a traumatizing past and she grew up not knowing unconditional love. Most evil people in TV series and movies are portrayed as an one dimensional villain, who just do evil things for no reason. There is a lot of time spend on carving out the reasons how she became the person she is now and why she does the things she does. It is also not just told and explained, but slowly shown in small details like the self harm that she does to get love and attention, as she may have learned that that is the only way. Although everyone treated her badly while growing up, her step-mom or any of the maids may have treated her wounds, when she fell, or gave her a bowl of warm soup, when she was sick. She used tricks to force the man she loves to marry her, as she thinks that there is nothing lovable about her and that there is no other way. She also didn't know that the 14th prince loved her, as she has never experienced love, so she doesn't recognize it even it if it is right in front of her nose. I was impressed by how smart she was, standing her ground and well-respected by a group of princes. Maybe, it is because I experienced similar things, but I understand her very well. When you grow up in an unsafe environment, you learn to read every possible verbal and non-verbal sign, such as a change in the eyes, the tone of voice, the smallest wrinkle in the forehead, and how the footsteps sound like (angry, nervous, happy?). You become skilled in human psychology for your survival, as you need to be the person that the other person wants you to be and predict what their next possible step is and to manipulate people to act in your favor, as they normally never do.

The way the step sister avoided death was not done very well, as the shift of being angry for the death of innocent people and wanting her dead to finding out about her being pregnant and letting her live, was a bit abrupt. I also never felt that the female lead and the step sister resolved the issues between them. They don't have to suddenly become besties or anything, but it was a bit one-sided. As resolving that hatred was actually the main reason she went back in time (extra bonus was getting a handsome husband), they could have at least said something like, "I understand your motives, but the hurt done to each other is too much to still be good sisters. After getting to know you better, I realised that revenge and trying to judge you by counting all the bad things you have done, while forgetting about the good things, is not what I need, all I want is that you can become a good person from now on and finally find your own happiness." In reality, I don't know if people can really change for the better like that, as I have given people way too many second chances, but I like how the chain of violence is broken and that even the next generation is taught that you don't respond to violence with more violence. 

I really needed to overlook some scenes (How did the 13th prince know when he would die and how was he still able to bury the last pot, before that happens? Also, it is impossible to find the pots without good descriptions and assuming that the scenery didn't change at all during those hundreds of years), but I stayed for the well planned schemes and the romance (minus the almost stalker like behavior of the 4th prince and the cheesy marriage proposal at the end). 

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