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Painted Skin or Hua Pi (2011) — episodes 12 to 19

Well, times have not been easy for the vixen Xiao Wei (Fiona Sit). She’s on the run and looking the worse for wear with her flesh starting to break down for lack of food. Demons, you understand, must eat the odd human or two if they want to stay healthy. Her abstinence, while laudable, is possibly going to be fatal. Taken in my by an unsuspecting family, she finally gives into temptation and takes the skin of Xiao Hong (Yang Mi) the maiden of the house. As she makes her attack, a lizard demon Xiao Yi Yi (Dong Ao Yan) who loves the maiden from afar, intervenes but is not strong enough to prevent the killing. Because our vixen now looks like the maiden, the lizard transfers his affection. Some demons are really shallow creatures. He brings her a human heart to eat, but she decides the best food is from someone who loves her. Fortuitously, the maiden is about to be married so this gives her the chance. As she sets off in the wedding procession, Xia Bing (Wu Ying Jie), the granddaughter exorcist, comes into the area. She has a magic lantern that glows red when a demon is near. When it takes her close to the wedding cortège, the vixen uses her powers to disturb a nest of hornets which keeps the exorcist away.

Xiao Wei (Fiona Sit) as the vixen demon lurking

Meanwhile, our unhappy couple of Wang Sheng (Ling Xiao Su) and Pei Rong (Chen Yi Rong) have not married. No-one apart from Linlin and her new husband approve of the relationship. After a year, Pang Yong (Li Zong Han) appears and asks two questions: to the first, “have you ever loved me?” she makes no reply; to the second, “do you like him?” she replies in the affirmative. He leaves but returns when the couple finally decide to go through a second marriage ceremony. There’s a short fight where Pang Yong demonstrates he has the better physical skills to protect Pei Rong, but when Wang Sheng says he matches him in love, Pang Yong wanders off into the night leaving his guan dao as a wedding gift.

Our vixen is having trouble persuading her new husband that she’s the same lovable girl he wanted to marry. She may have the looks but not the winning personality. When she tries to use magic to cook and weave for him, she exhausts her energy and her new skin starts to degrade. The harder she tries, the more she proves she’s not the girl he expected to marry. In the end, she attacks him in frustration that he fails to love “her”, and then wanders off, followed by the lizard who’s still superficial and hooked only on appearance. Our vixen allows herself to be captured by a group of bandits led by Shao Luo (Zhao Yi). His wife died and he can’t forget her but she covets him. She eats the heart of the second-in-command and blames masked attackers. She fakes a wound on her arm and Shao Luo decides to be “protective” towards her. He heals her “wound”. Saying she’s lost everything, she offers to stay on as his maid — that’s demon speak for mistress.

Two years after the marriage our couple remain unhappy, missing Pang Yong and wishing they could go back in time.

Pei Rong (Chen Yi Rong) looking decorative

Xia Bing is still wandering the countryside (and deserts) in search of the vixen. The desire for revenge is a powerful motivator. Now Wang Sheng and his troops are also in the desert looking for more bandits to kill. In yet another sneak attack (does this man have no shame as a military commander?) Wang Sheng makes good progress, kills the bandits and “rescues” the vixen. Funny how fate works out. Now the vixen is living in the same house as Wang Sheng and Pei Rong, burrowing from within. She’s learning to cook and whittle wood from Wang Sheng and grows interested in Pei Rong’s beauty business. There’s just one problem. The lizard demon doesn’t like the wet weather and isn’t going out to look for hearts. Her skin is starting to peel. Fortunately, Pei Rong’s business is the manufacture and sale of cosmetics. They cover up a lot of the skin problems.

When there’s a fire in the house next door, Wang Sheng discovers he’s afraid of fire after the destruction of his home town by the bandits. The vixen counsels him and probably calls down the spirits of his mother and father to comfort him. Linlin warns Pei Rong against this beautiful person in their home so Pei Rong responds by making the vixen her sister and organising a search for a suitable husband. After all, the vixen is entitled to find her own happiness in marriage (and it gets her out of the house). This section has been slow moving as patterns of jealousy form and are dispersed. So far, Ling Xiao Su as Wang Sheng remains wooden and so is unmoved by the vixen although they did manage a hug at the graves of his parents. That’s always the best way to thank your counsellor for doing a good job at talking you through a crisis of confidence.

Wang Sheng (Ling Xiao Su) protests having to wear a silly hat

Now the issue of marrying off the vixen comes between the happy couple only for the vixen herself to agree to marry their choice. As she says, they are both beholden to her now for getting them back together. The demon lizard is getting into the spirit of this search for love and, to protect himself and the vixen from suspicion, he frees a local killer who took the heart of his victim out of revenge. When the lizard kills, all the locals believe this is the work of the same killer, except no-one can understand why he should continue to take hearts (including the intended husband for the vixen — odd coincidence he should be one of the victims). Wang Sheng is on the case and tracks our lizard to a cave. Having absorbed the villain’s sword style, the lizard beats Wang Sheng and leaves him for dead. Our vixen knows where he is, uses some of her demon power to stabilise his condition, and then drags him back to the city — she’s trying really hard to win him over.

The city is up in arms and, with Wang Sheng their leader, the troops and police combine forces. When the lizard attacks Wang Sheng again, the vixen saves him by making it rain. But this exhausts her and she refuses the lizard’s help to get a restorative heart. Pei Rong sees her take off her skin to do a running repair job with cosmetics. Now, the cat is among the pigeons (as opposed to the fox among the hens) if only she can make anyone else believe. She leaves home out of fear while Wang Sheng haunts the streets hoping the killer will appear again — Wang Sheng is a sucker for punishment. Shame he doesn’t believe in demons.

Painted Skin or Hua Pi (2011) — episodes 1 to 11

Painted Skin or Hua Pi (2011) — episodes 12 to 19

Painted Skin or Hua Pi (2011) — episodes 20 to 27

Painted Skin or Hua Pi (2011) — episodes 28 to 34 (the end)

Painted Skin or Hua Pi (2011) — episodes 1 to 11

September 25, 2011 2 comments

Painted Skin or Hua Pi is a 36 episode serial broadcast on SZTV. It’s loosely based on some of Pu Songling’s classic short stories published in Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio or Strange Tales of Liaozhai. It also expands the plot of the film of the same name, adding substantially to the backstories of the characters. Written in the late seventeeth century, Pu Songling’s stories deal with the sometimes complicated relationships between humans and various types of supernatural being. This particular series focuses on a demon who has taken the form of a vixen.

Ling Xiao Su as Wang Sheng in armour but without the silly helmet

On the run from a forced marriage, Wang Sheng (Ling Xiao Su), a Prince, frees a vixen not knowing this is Xiao Wei (Fiona Sit) a demoness caught in a special trap. He’s kind, binding a wounded paw, and, when she later takes human form, she’s determined to thank her rescuer. The marriage he’s seeking to escape is with a young girl, Pei Rong (Chen Yi Rong). She’s being blackmailed. If she does not marry, the lord will kill everyone in her family. The Prince rescues her and sets her free. Arriving too late to save her is Pang Yong (Li Zong Han) the lifelong friend. Not to worry. He’s a useful man to have around in a fight.

Li Zong Han as Pang Yong before the real sadness sets in

Meanwhile Xiao Wei comes into town and snacks on one or two humans before befriending the apprentice to the demon hunter Xia Ying Feng (Law Kar Ying) who first trapped her. We later learn her name is Xia Bing (Wu Ying Jie). The vixen who would be human discusses matters with the old exorcist, Xia Ying Feng. Although he’s a dedicated and effective demon hunter, he’s also a drunk with a sentimental streak, so he gives her the chance to become human subject to the condition that, while still a demon, she neither loves nor hates humans. Unfortunately, she already “likes” the Prince who rescued her, but that’s a problem yet to rear its head. Xia Ying Feng says he will kill her if she loves a man. She agrees and becomes his apprentice. At this point, we can see all the main characters. Frankly, Ling Xiao Su is wooden, but Li Zong Han has a wonderfully dangerous air about him whether as a brother in a fight or when the light of jealousy comes in his eye. Chen Yi Rong is the epitome of female cool — intelligent, hard-working and quite beautiful in a restrained way — Fiona Sit contrives to be an effective demon although her tail is silly. Sadly, Wu Ying Jie is weak and uninspiring so far. Hopefully, she’ll improve later.

Fiona Sit and Qi Yu Wu — some love's just not meant to be

Now we have two strands: the Prince, Pang Yong and the forced bride on one team, and the three exorcists including the vixen on the other. At this point, bandits come and burn down the town. Our six survive, but the Prince’s parents are killed. Three of the bandit leader’s son are also killed and this triggers a feud.

Later on the trail, the demon hunter with his two lady apprentices in tow, enters a town and finds everyone dead. The apprentice Xia Bing can see into the past when she touches a dead body. It seems a demon was about to be executed and called down forces to kill everyone. This is strange. If he was so powerful, why did he not resist capture? Independently of their arrival, the local lord calls in a well-known young hunter, Long Yun (Qi Yu Wu), to deal with the demon. Except, of course, the local lord is the source of the problem. He covets the wife of the man he tried to execute not knowing she’s the real demon. When he invents the charge of being a demon and tries to execute her husband, she rescues him with rather more enthusiasm than might have been wise. Unfortunately, even though unable to kill the husband, he has him in prison. His wife does a deal with the demon hunter Xia Ying Feng. If he rescues her husband, the old man can kill her human form and return her to the demon form. She agrees to sacrifice herself to see her husband free.

Xia Ying Feng, his apprentice Bing, the vixen and the young hunter must now combine their forces to rescue the husband. The old man and Xia Bing first attempt a frontal assault which fails. A more subtle approach then sees the old man pass himself off as a fortune teller and persuade the lord to let the husband go. From the lord’s point of view, this is a trap to lure out the wife. But the tables are turned, and everyone walks away. Then, in a dramatic and quite moving scene, the wife is killed by Xia Ying Feng and flies away as a swan (later we see the man caring for the swan in a cave). Now the young hunter declares his love for the vixen. Unfortunately, in the spirit of honesty that all humans should learn from, she reveals her true form and he cannot take it, running away to drown his sorrows. Hopefully, he will see the error of his ways.

Chen Yi Rong as Pei Rong taking time to make up her mind

Meanwhile, Wang Sheng, Pei Rong and Pang Yong have moved to Pei Rong’s city where the Prince is loved from afar by Linlin. When he turns her down, she jumps from the city walls. Fortunately, she has a protector who tries to catch her. In breaking her fall, he is badly injured. This breaks down the barriers between the two locals who declare their love for each other. The triangle between our principals grows more intense as Pei Rong cannot bring herself to tell Pang Yong she can never go beyond the brother stage with him. Her vague hints are simply misunderstood.

Pang Yong goes to his foster parents to ask for Pei Rong’s hand. She refuses him but the arrival of the bandits prevents Wang Sheng and Pei Rong from admitting their love to him. Everyone thinks it better to focus on beating the bandits before sorting out their love lives. However, during the heat of battle when our heroes and their troops attack the bandit camp while most are still sleeping — who cares about fair play as long as you win — Pang Yong sees the Prince wearing Pei Rong’s jade token. The Prince confesses their love which encourages Pang Yong to greater efforts. He slaughters almost everyone in the enemy camp within range and then walks off. The Emperor is impressed by this victory and appoints the Prince the Commander of the army. Reluctantly he agrees but the men are unhappy, believing Pang Yong is the better man. I should note how silly the helmets make the men look. Wang Sheng, in particular, is forced to fight in an absurd conical affair.

Wu Ying Jie as Xia Bing out for revenge

Meanwhile the vixen demon seeks comfort from Xia Ying Feng and his apprentice. They give her love (in the platonic sense, of course) and she’s just starting to recover when Long Yun reappears and asks her to marry him. When Xiao Wei agrees, Xia Ying Feng pulls out his sword and strikes at her. Our young hunter takes the blow and, after much soul-searching, the old man allows the vixen to live. They go off to get married with the old man watching with a sentimental smile from a distance. Unfortunately, our young demon hunter has returned only to kill the vixen. He attempts to trap her in the wedding bed. Unfortunately, she’s too strong. The old man realises the plan and tries to save him. The young man escapes, the old is left dying. The vixen pursues her love only to find she cannot kill him. Her love is too strong. The apprentice finds Xia Ying Feng only to have him die in her arms. Before he dies, he names her as Xia Bing, his granddaughter. She has the blood of an exorcist and, with practice, can become the greatest in the land. Having buried the old man, she vows vengeance on the vixen.

One years passes.

Painted Skin or Hua Pi (2011) — episodes 1 to 11

Painted Skin or Hua Pi (2011) — episodes 12 to 19

Painted Skin or Hua Pi (2011) — episodes 20 to 27

Painted Skin or Hua Pi (2011) — episodes 28 to 34 (the end)

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