I’m always intrigued by the diverse main characters in Chinese BL novels.
They may be betrayed, backstabbed and even heartbroken. Yet, they become shining beacons of light, because they have the strength to withstand trials, infinite amounts of patience and a gentle heart with indefinite trust in humanity. Shen Qiao is one such main lead and I was continuously surprised with his benevolence and caring nature. Thousand Autumns is one man’s journey as he stands tall despite the numerous calamities that befall him and emerges victorious.
Shanghai Motion Magic’s recent donghua Shanghe Jian Xin/Thousand Autumns is a Chinese BL web novel written by author Meng Xi Shi. The novel is also known as Qian Qiu. The plot development is quite popular on social circuits due to its striking similarities to Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation and Heaven Official’s Blessing. As such, the first season of the anime was very much anticipated and the animation studio has managed to recreate the magic in a manner that is resplendent of the original content. The first season of the anime has successfully completed its run and as such, let’s take a walk down the memory lane to reminisce some special moments from this adaptation!
Shen Qiao was the sect leader of Mount Xuandu, the number one Daoist sect under the heavens. He was challenged to a duel and fell down the cliff after being grievously injured.
Yan Wushi is the Leader of Huanyue sect, the Evil Gang. He saves and shelters Shen Qiao while he is recovering from his injuries.
Beimu Kunye is disciple of Hulugu, who was defeated by Shen Qiao’s master Qi Fengge. To avenge his Master, Kunye challenges Shen Qiao and injures him using dubious methods.
Duan Wenyang is also Hulugu’s disciple. Currently, he works for Kunye as his henchman.
Yu Ai is Qi Fengge’s second disciple who is elevated to the position of the Chief of Mount Xuandu, after Shen Qiao goes missing.
Yuan Xiuxiu is the Leader of the Hehuan Sect and is constantly at odds with Yan Wushi.
Bai Rong is the disciple of Hehuan Sect and gets enamored with Shen Qiao.
Yu Shengyan is Yan Wushi’s second disciple. He tends to Shen Qiao while he is injured and nurses him back to health.
The Disgraced Hero and his Triumphant Journey
Shen Qiao’s character development constantly reminded me of Xie Lian from Heaven’s Official Blessing. While they do have some striking similarities, their nature is quite different. While Xie Lian masks his sorrow under his jovial demeanor, Shen Qiao is overtly open with his emotions. His fall from grace is obviously callous and yet at the core, he still manages to retain his original character. Poisoned by his own junior Yu Ai, defeated at the hands of a devious mastermind (Beimu Kunye), Shen Qiao never gives up on his beliefs or ethics. Despite Yan Wushi’s desperate attempts to sway him to the evil side, Shen Qiao doesn’t waver from his Master’s teachings and manages to turn the tide in his favor.
His journey is fraught with numerous battles and challenges. He loses his memories and vision; is misled by Yan Wushi to believe that he belongs to the Huanyue Sect. His friends backstab him, his kind nature is met with betrayal and his life is in danger when Yan Wushi forces him to memorize the mystical book Solarity. He is constantly hunted by various sects, while Wushi’s treacherous words keep pricking at his conscience. It is a battle of mind and will, with Qiao’s humane nature taking precedence over major prejudices. Despite being backed into the corner, Shen Qiao not only regains his memories but also surpasses his earlier levels of cultivation. Although he is kind and caring, Shen Qiao isn’t a pushover. He won’t let Yan Wushi or anyone else chart his journey or make decisions for him. He is humble, bold, handsome and virtuous. Certainly one of the best main leads in the recent times!
The Hedonist Evil Leader With A Moral Compass
Yan Wushi is certainly an intriguing character and although he does share some similarities with Hua Cheng from Heavens Official Blessing, both characters are as different as day and night. While Hua Cheng is led by his devotion to Xie Lian, Yan Wushi is deceptive and his actions are often calculated moves to test Shen Qiao’s limits. When he decides to save a grievously injured Shen Qiao, it is not out of kindness. Yan Wushi has this grand scheme where he wants to sway the leader of the best Daoist sect onto the evil side. His aspirations are pretty simple- Yan Wushi doesn’t believe that there could be someone with a sense of justice, who would be so considerate of others without asking anything in return. As such, he tries to turn Shen Qiao into his perfect puppet and wreak havoc on the martial arts world. His plans are obviously foiled when he is met with a strong resistance. On the surface, Yan Wushi’s actions seem highly manipulative, but in due course of time, Shen Qiao manages to surprise him and even exceeds his abysmal expectations. It was amusing to watch this egoist evil Leader fall head over heels in love with Shen Qiao. The fact that he is easy on the eyes, oozes charm and sensuality makes Yan Wushi an entirely unbelievable character. He can neither be categorized as antagonist nor protagonist. He seemingly tethers on the edge while fighting his own sensibilities, is entirely maniacal and yet till the end, Wushi perseveres to be Shen Qiao’s protector.
The Subtle Yet Blossoming Romance
The storyline does a pretty decent job depicting Yan Wushi’s ardent efforts to win over Shen Qiao. Although it starts with his evil intentions to turn Shen Qiao into a mindless disciple, Wushi is left pleasantly surprised with Shen Qiao’s persistence and constant refusal. These two characters are polar opposites and yet Yan Wushi is drawn to Shen Qiao’s mental strength and endurance. Despite their difference of opinion, Yan Wushi abides by Shen Qiao’s wishes. They have an interesting chemistry where their feelings for each other are always at constant war with their conscience.
Every time Shen Qiao breaks down, Yan Wushi is there to pick up the pieces. Shen Qiao perceives him as the Evil Leader who is trying to muddle his mindset. Their antagonistic dynamics doesn’t make this relationship an easy score. Shen Qiao redefines boundaries and Yan Wushi keeps overstepping them. Also, Wushi’s insanely possessive nature doesn’t bode well with Shen Qiao’s independent nature. This tug of war is at times amusing to watch, but it also gets tiring when Yan Wushi’s flirtatious demeanor is met with Shen Qiao’s defiance. As the story progresses, they manage to find a middle ground and start to respect each other’s choices. That is, until Yan Wushi jeopardizes Shen Qiao’s safety and becomes the last person to betray him.
Their blossoming romance is hindered by Yan Wushi’s choices. Although his feelings for Shen Qiao are obvious, the sudden betrayal is confusing. It could be attributed to the fact that Yan Wushi is left infatuated (after his fight with Leader Ruyan, who provokes him to use his Ninth Level of Pheonix Descending during a duel). Despite the abject shift in their relationship, Shen Qiao still rushes to rescue Yan Wushi when he learns that the evil Leader is in danger. The first season ends on a heartbreaking note, where Yan Wushi sacrifices his life to protect Shen Qiao who finally understands the depth of his emotions. Utterly devastated, Shen Qiao is left alone and repentant. A beautiful romance however sad it might seem!
Interesting Side Characters
Thousand Autumns is blessed with a medley of side characters and the cast is massive. The storyline is predominantly a wuxia world with separate political factions vying for dominance and fame. This universe is split into different sects and the Masters-Disciples relationship is used as a backdrop for duels and battles that clearly form a major part of the plot line. Yu Ai’s betrayal and ambitions become the driving force behind Shen Qiao’s fall from grace and his subsequent troubles. It could be Beimu Kunye and Duan Wenyang, who use evil tricks to destroy the prominent sects and seek vengeance. Leader Yuan and Bai Rong of the Hehuan Sect on the other hand are beautiful, seductive cultivators who unabashedly use their looks as well as powers to win over their enemies. Similarly, Sang Jingxing, Elder of Hehuan sect is another destructive force because he was able to drive a wedge between our romantic couple.
A storyline would be incomplete if it doesn’t have positive characters. While Shen Qiao’s world is turned upside by the evil disciples and their Masters, his kindness draws the attention of Temple Master Zhu Lengyuan. In a world where good deeds are met with amoral advances, Lengyuan sacrifices his life to protect Shen Qiao and his young disciple Shiwu. Leader Zhao Chiying of Bixia Sect is another strong character with a regal bearing. She is protective of her disciples and renders full support in Shen Qiao’s decisive battle with Beimu Kunye. Each character in this storyline is compelling and make solid contributions which drive the drama to fruition.
Thousand Autumns is a fantastic depiction of Shen Qiao’s tumultuous journey as he fights to maintain his dignity and self-respect. Shen Qiao might seem gentle but he has a strong stature, brilliant cultivation levels and above all, never bows down to travesties. Yan Wushi on the other hand is hugely portrayed as powerful Master, undefeated and magnanimous. The anime does a splendid job of adapting their odd dynamics as well as budding romance. The animation studio didn’t try to gloss over Yan Wushi’s romantic overtures and that seemingly sets this Donghua apart. Yan Wushi’s feelings for Shen Qiao are decisive and the adoration stems from his deep respect for Shen Qiao. I’m already looking forward to the sequel, where we will get to witness the next phase of their journey!
Rating-3.5 out of 5