Our Blooming Youth: K-Drama Adaptation of C-Drama's The Golden Hairpin

Korean historical detective drama, Our Blooming Youth, will premiere this coming February 6, 2023, at 8:50 in the evening on tvN network. 

This drama created quite a buzz because it is the Korean adaptation of the Chinese historical drama, The Golden Hairpin, which was shelved in 2021 when its male lead, Kris Wu, was involved in a sexual abuse scandal.

Book cover of "Memoir of the Golden Hairpin"

Both The Golden Hairpin and Our Blooming Youth have the same source material, "Memoir of the Golden Hairpin", a Chinese novel written by Ce Ce Qing Han.

Memoir of the Golden Hairpin is a historical detective series that tells the story of a highly intellectual woman accused of murdering her entire family. She becomes a fugitive who vows to uncover the truth behind her family's murder and clear her name.

Along her journey, she meets a prince who is suffering from a mysterious curse. The prince agrees to protect her true identity provided she will help him solve the crimes unfolded in his kingdom.

The Golden Hairpin - Chinese drama

This C-drama started filming before the pandemic, in December 2019. The filming wrapped up in July 2020, and because the two main leads - Yang Zi and music artist, Kris Wu, a former member of the K-pop group, XO, are immensely popular and who have millions of followers on Weibo, The Golden Hairpin was one of the most anticipated series to air in 2021.

Kris Wu and Yang Zi appeared in the promotional poster of The Golden Hairpin which was released before the scandal of Kris Wu erupted in 2021.

Everyone was so excited to watch the series, which was originally scheduled to air in the summer of 2021 via Tencent. 

Then the bomb.

The male lead, Kris Wu (also known by his Chinese name Wu Yifan), became involved in a sexual abuse allegation in August 2021. The scandal became a huge issue in China that Kris Wu was ultimately "cancelled" in the Chinese entertainment industry.

Any topics related to him on weibo, including his pages, were deleted and his name was removed from the official weibo page of The Golden Hairpin. He was arrested and jailed in Beijing and The Golden Hairpin was thoroughly shelved. 

The Golden Hairpin promotional poster released in 2021 before Kris Wu's scandal erupted

In China, once a celebrity "misbehaved" or becomes involved in controversies, all the projects related to him or her would suffer backlash or would be ultimately "banned".

The production of The Golden Hairpin is still determined to secure a release date because they did not want the effort of all the people involved in this drama and the investment to just go to waste. And the only way to solve the crisis is to replace Kris Wu as the male lead and reshoot all his scenes. 

We heard they are tapping actor Lin Gengxin (the male lead in Princess Agents and Master of My Own) to take over the role of Kris Wu. But the production needs to fix schedules to make all performers available since Yang Zi and other actors are also involved in the reshoot of all the scenes.

We are hoping for a positive development of this drama.

 Other controversies

But before Kris Wu's sex abuse scandal in 2021, The Golden Hairpin had already gone through many controversies and real dramas. Fans of Kris and Yang Zi were reportedly "fighting" over the billing of their idols' names.

Yang Zi cross-dresses as a man in The Golden Hairpin

Kris Wu's fans insisted his name should come first because he is a huge star outside China and a successful music artist and record producer, and has Hollywood films into his name. While Yang Zi's fans wrangled to have her name first because she is a huge drama star in China.

The fan war prompted Yang Zi to share her sentiments regarding the issue through a post on her Weibo account. "I am an actress. My most important task is to create". Further stressing that audience must not pay attention to negativity and criticism of billing and promotions.

Synopsis from the source novel

In ancient China, during the reign of Emperor Yizong of the Tang dynasty, history, vengeance, and murder collide for a female sleuth. 

Huang Zixia is a brilliant female detective. She has been helping her father, who is a city official, solving all the crimes unfolding in their place.

But one day, her entire family is murdered and she is the lone survivor. She finds herself being accused of the crime and becomes a wanted criminal hunted by the government with an arrest warrant in every county. 

Huang Zixia escapes  to the capital but vows to seek justice on the tragic murder of her family. She meets Li Shubai, the Prince of Kui, by chance. 

Li Shubai is suffering from a mysterious curse of “widowhood, loneliness, and sickness”. 

Li Shubai notices Huang Zixia’s disguise, so he made a promise to help her re-investigate the brutal murder of her family to clear her name. 

Li Shubai asks her to go undercover as an imperial eunuch and stay at the Prince Kui manor to solve a series of murders happening in the kingdom and to help him investigate the unfathomable mystery that hounding his life.

Li Shubai becomes betrothed to Princess Qi Le, however, the prospective princess consort seems behaving suspiciously. 

Huang Zixia’s skills soon put to a test when Princess Qi Le vanishes. With a distinctively exquisite golden hairpin as her only clue, Huang Zixia investigates—and discovers that she isn’t the only one in the guarded kingdom that has a dangerous secret.

Kris Wu as Li Shubai in The Golden Hairpin. All his scenes will be deleted and will have a reshoot with another actor

The Golden Hairpin plot summary:

At thirteen, investigative prodigy Huang Zixia already proves her potential by aiding her father in solving a series of crimes in their place. 

Four years later, she’s on the run due to an accusation that she murdered her family to escape an arranged marriage. 

Driven by a single-minded pursuit, she must use her skills to unmask the real killer and clear her name.

She travels to the capital and seeks the support of the Prince of Kui, Li Shu Bai, who is suffering from a mysterious curse that threatens to destroy his life.

The cold and arrogant prince agrees to protect her and asks her to go undercover as his eunuch to help him solve the series of murders happening in his domain and to defy the curse that hounded his life.

Huang Zi Xia quickly becomes Li Shu Bai's trusted assistant as she uncovers corruption cases in the palace. But her ability has been put to a test when the princess betrothed to Li Shu Bai vanishes. 

Huang Zi Xia begins her investigation with a distinct golden hairpin as her only clue. She later discovers that she isn’t the only one in the palace who has a dangerous secret.

Our Blooming Youth - Korean drama

The Golden Hairpin has a Korean adaptation, Our Blooming Youth, scheduled to air this coming February 6, 2023, on the tvN cable television network in South Korea. 

It stars Park Hyung-Sik and Jeon So-nee. Park Hyung-Sik is known for his leading role in "What's With This Family" (2014), High Society (2015), Hwarang The Poet Warrior Youth (2017), Strong Girk Bong-Soon (2017), and Happiness (2021).

While Jeon So-nee is known for her role in Encounter (2018), When My Love Blooms (2021), and Writing Your Destiny (2021).

Park Hyung-Sik and Jeon So Nee in Our Blooming Youth

Our Blooming Youth tells the story of a prince suffering from a mysterious curse and a genius woman who is accused of murdering her family members. Their romance develops through the process of the man saving the woman from her false accusation and the woman saving the man from his curse.

So why the Korean adaptation is titled "Our Blooming Youth" which sounds too "idol" drama genre instead of a historical detective story?

According to an article in Soompi, the Korean adaptation of The Golden Hairpin tackles links between various youths who have the power to save one another from danger. 

So the story emphasizes the "youth" aspect, hence the title. The Korean title has a literal meaning in English, Youth, Climb the Barrier.

Plot summary of Our Blooming Youth from Viki.com

Quiet and gentle, Min Jae Yi (Jeon So Nee) is everything a good daughter of a prominent family should be. Engaged to the son of the Second State Councilor, Jae Yi knows that the only way to bring herself and her family honor is to accept her fate, which she does with grace and charm. 

Scene from Our Blooming Youth with Park Hyung-Sik and Jeon So Nee

Devoting herself to learning everything she needs to know to become a good wife and mother, Jae Yi dutifully prepares for the future. 

But destiny has other plans.

Four days before her wedding, Jae Yi’s family was murdered. With no one else to blame for the unexpected tragedy, Jae Yi soon finds herself the object of baseless and horrifying accusations. 

Blamed for the death of her family, Jae Yi might not have had much of a future at all, if fate hadn’t decided to intervene. 

Bringing the lonely crown prince, Lee Hwan (Park Hyung Sik) into her life at just the right moment, Jae Yi is saved from a dismal fate, but her salvation comes at a price.

Plagued by a mysterious curse, Lee Hwan agrees to help Jae Yi, but only if she agrees to help him break his curse in return. 

Unable to refuse the offer, Jae Yi agrees to the crown prince’s terms, setting them both on an unexpected path toward love. 

Lee Hwan is forced to disguise himself as scholar Park of Namsangol, while Min Jae Yi presents herself as male eunuch Go Soon Dol. In their disguises, they join forces to uncover the truth. 

Cast members of Our Blooming Youth

Other interesting characters in Our Blooming Youth:

Lee Hwan’s father is the King of Joseon (played by Lee Jong Hyuk), the King’s wife (Hong Soo Hyun), Lee Hwan’s younger siblings princess Ha Yeon (Jung Da Eun) and prince Myung Ahn (Im Han Bin).

Min Jae Yi's father is Min Ho Seung (Seo Tae Hwa), who has suddenly passed away, and there's Shim Young (played by Kim Woo Seok), who is ambiguously described as someone who is like a brother or a secret lover to Min Jae Yi.  

Similarities and Differences of the plot

Since we have not watched yet The Golden Hairpin and Our Blooming Youth we cannot comment on how they differ or which one offers the better version. 

But based on the plot summaries of The Golden Hairpin and Our Blooming Youth, it seems these two series have no difference in the story at all. 

They faithfully followed the novel source. Both the male leads are described as prince, arrogant, and cold, while both the female leads are described as brilliant who will go undercover as males.

Only the setting of the story differs. While The Golden Hairpin is set in the 9th century during the Tang dynasty period in China, Our Blooming Youth is set much later in the century, during the Joseon dynasty era in Korea. 

The plot summary of Our Blooming Youth did not specify what specific year the story unfolded but the Joseon dynasty in Korea began in 1392 and ended in 1910 when Korea was annexed by Japan. 

But the source novel, according to Chinese netizens who have read it, didn't not focus much on the romance thing between the main leads but more on the detective and investigative aspects of the story. 

In fact, the romance between Li Shubai and Huang Zi Xia was so slow they didn't fall in love until he got ill and Huang Zi Xia took care of him. And it happened much later in the chapter.

However, it seems both The Golden Hairpin and Our Blooming Youth are emphasizing the romance aspect of the story to attract the young generation. 

The casting of The Golden Hairpin created a buzz in 2019 in mainland China because most of the drama fans, especially those who read the source novel, were protesting on the main leads' choices.

They argued that the role of Huang Zi Xia should have been given to an actress who does not look too much feminine because more than half of the story Huang Zi Xia pretends to be a guy. 

And they also disagreed on the choice of Kris Wu because he lacks the attributes of Li Shubai. 

But these reactions and protests are too common in the Chinese drama fandom where most of the fans are always protesting on almost everything - from the drama casting to the partner in the series of their favorite celebrity.

The Korean adaptation is more peaceful during the filming period. No one was protesting on the production's choices to cast Park Hyung-Sik and Jeon So Nee. Maybe because Korean drama fans haven't read the source novel and they cared more on the outcome of the drama.

Let's wait and see when Our Blooming Youth starts airing. Can't wait!

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