Beauty of Resilience (2023) Chinese Drama Review

Beauty of Resilience (2023) Chinese Drama Review

The fantasy Chinese drama, Beauty of Resilience, just concluded its run on iQIYI for VIP members. It has only 36 episodes, which is pretty short for a historical fantasy drama. 

Starring Ju Jingyi and Guo Junchen, this drama tells the story of Wei Zhi and Yan Yue who are trying to alter their fate to be together and quell the legend of the phoenix as an evil beast that will ruin the three realms.

Beauty of Resilience (2023) Chinese Drama Review

Originally titled "Huarong" or "Floral Armor", Beauty of Resilience was based on a popular xianxia novel "Wu Chang Sheng" by Lin Jiacheng.

The plot of this drama about a heavenly god hunting down a phoenix to be killed got me interested. Plus the fact that I like Guo Junchen since watching him in Growing Pain, Beauty of Resilience became one of my most anticipated Chinese dramas to watch this year.

Beauty of Resilience (2023) Chinese Drama Review

Plot Summary:

Beauty of Resilience follows the story of Yan Yue (Guo Junchen), the sun god, and heir-apparent of the heavenly emperor, and Wei Zhi (Ju Jingyi), a plain girl who is the reincarnation of the ancient phoenix that has long been prophesied to bring chaos to the three realms. 

Thousand years ago, the phoenix was undergoing Nirvana awakening but then disappeared without a trace. And it's only a matter of time before the beast reappears and changes the phase of the three realms and the mortal world.

In the endless quest for supremacy between the mortals and immortals, Yan Yue and Wei Zhi seem destined to become enemies who will fight between life and death.

Beauty of Resilience (2023) Chinese Drama Review
Guo Junchen as Yan Yue 


Yan Yue, heir and son of the heavenly emperor, is the god of the red sun. He is obedient, quiet, righteous, and extremely handsome, but aloof. He does not seem to know how to smile. 

His greatest enemy, however, is falling in love. As a heavenly figure with a heavy mission to find the phoenix, he is supposed not to fall in love. If he does so, it will inflict damage on his being and will bring ruin to the mortal world. 

So Yan Yue sealed his own memory and transformed himself into an immortal to go through calamities in the mortal realm.

When the awakening of the phoenix was first detected in the three realms, he was sent by his father, the heavenly emperor, to descend to the mortal world to discover the identity of the reincarnated phoenix.

While watching the carriage of the Wei sisters, Wei Lingyue and Wei Jingyue, moving toward the palace to attend the coming-of-age ceremony, Yan Yue is stunned to discover that a young mortal can see him.

The young girl is Wei Zhi, a maid in the household of the Minister of Rites in the Wei Kingdom who is also going to the coming-of-age ceremony in the hope of changing her life.

When she was still a child, Wei Zhi was sold by her mother to the Wei family after she indirectly caused the death of her father and grandfather. So she grew up a housemaid. People in her surroundings regarded her as a jinx who carries bad luck.

The practice of cultivating immortality still thrives in the mortal realm during the Wei dynasty, and every three years, all those who reach the age of 16 will undergo the Immortal Mirror test of their aptitude to measure their immortal bones. 

If chosen, they could be sent to the Egret Academy to undergo immortal cultivation. When the group of teens, including Wei Zhi, face the Immortal Mirror Test, the glowing image of the phoenix suddenly descended from the sky and is revealed in the mirror.

Unable to figure out who among the teens is the phoenix, all 18 youngsters were sent to Egret Academy to be trained. 

Still in its infancy stage, the phoenix is unaware of its power so the rulers from the three realms become watchful. To prevent the forces of demons and monsters from coveting its power, the heavenly emperor ordered his son, Yan Yue, to descend to the mortal realm to search for the phoenix. 

Yan Yue disguises himself as a Penglai Immortal Envoy to assume the role of the master at Egret Academy. He takes control of the training of the 18 youngsters in the hope of discovering the true phoenix.

However, in all of the tests he gives, all clues of the true phoenix point to Wei Lingyue, the daughter of Minister Wei who has been nice to Wei Zhi since their childhood. 

But Yan Yue felt something is wrong. Each time Wei Zhi gets near to him, he always saw a vision of her wearing a wedding dress and then being stabbed to death by him. 

He was also surprised to discover she could enter his room easily despite the barrier he installed. Slowly, Yan Yue and Wei Zhi become close and develop affection. However, disaster looms as Yan Yue is destined to fulfill his mission to kill the phoenix.

My Review:

I find the first 10 episodes very interesting, the fact that the true identity of the phoenix has not yet been revealed and Yan Yue is a mysterious character that vows never to fall in love due to his position as the god of the red sun, holds excitement.

I find also the concept of huarong or floral armor refreshing and mysterious so I had high hopes for a better flow of the story.

I also became curious how Yan Yue would defy his fate, and what would be the outcome if the true identity of the phoenix is discovered.

And puff! Episode 10 reveals it all. When Mu Nan, the demon lord (played by Liu Dongqin) discovers Wei Lingyue (Ma Yue) is not the phoenix, he senses that it's Wei Zhi who is the true phoenix. So he descends to the mortal world to get her.

But Yan Yue, who also becomes aware that Wei Lingyue is not the true phoenix, arrives on time and fights the demon lord to protect Wei Zhi. 

And because some parts of his Spiritual power were sealed by his father in the heavenly realm as a punishment for his meddling in the mortal world, Yan Yue cannot unleash his power to defeat the demon lord. 

Out of the blue, Wei Zhi, provoked by the situation, moved forward to protect Yan Yue and unleashed her phoenix power, revealing her identity.

Bad points in the drama:

Due to the identity revelation early in the series, the story has an early peak which made the succeeding episodes draggy and slow with nothing exciting to look forward.

From then on, I could feel the story going nowhere as it loses momentum. Logic became incoherent and the flow became disconnected. What followed next was a series of confusing sequences that looked just like fillers to carry on, giving the drama a messy flow.

Beauty of Resilience (2023) Chinese Drama Review

For instance, in the first few episodes, Yan Yue appears to be like the protector of the phoenix but in later episodes, his mission is to kill her. So confusing.

It felt like the writer did not know how to tie up the loose end of the inconsistent flow of the story so she began to write another arc to create excitement, but failed. And so it continued to plunge into its own demise. 

This drama is too busy giving us a hypothetical scenario of the Phoenix unleashing her power, ruining the three realms. BUT delivers nothing.

The characters seem stuck up in a mundane, pointless situation and did no know anymore how to progress and what's their purpose as the story went on. 

Beauty of Resilience (2023) Chinese Drama Review

It has a weak character building of major cast, in a way that's so hard to sympathize on their plights. Strength and direction of each character were also not properly established so they ended up stuck in one corner and just moving around with unclear purpose. 

I could not warm up to the character of Wei Zhi. She seems to be the weakest link in the story. Can't understand what's her strength, her value, and the reason why she should be the heroine in the story. 

It's not clearly defined and established. She did not do anything extraordinary in the story to be called a heroine. I could not even feel the positive vibe in her personality or any desirability as the protagonist.

It's maybe because Ju Jingyi failed to deliver. Her dull facial expression annoys me to no end. She lacks conviction in her performance. 

She seems to me just like a sweet girl wandering around the fairyland in her Persian- inspired headdress instead of a reincarnated phoenix with an explosive power. She seems can't pull a strong interpretation to give her role a personality. 

Her same styling, same heavy makeup, and same facial expression, even in three lifetimes, were so boring to watch. I know there's nothing wrong with Ju Jingyi as an actress, only that her portrayal was so plain and uninteresting in this drama. Perhaps, the role did not suit her. 

Beauty of Resilience (2023) Chinese Drama Review
Ju Jingyi as Wei Zhi/Wangyue, and demon queen

I was so fed up with her lifeless facial expression. She made Wei Zhi a damsel-in-distress trope that should be rescued by heroes all the time, instead of giving the character a fierce identity.

She portrayed three different personalities: Wei Zhi, Wangyue, and the Demon Queen, but she could not give each character a separate identity. And her performance is totally void of conviction.

I could not even feel the dominant power of the phoenix in her portrayal. There was no effort whatsoever, even when she became the demon queen, it was just weird to see her appear in the same personality without adding a layer of fierceness to convince us she's not the true Wei Zhi.

In great contrast, her co-star, Guo Junchen, managed to pull a good portrayal, giving his three roles a separate identity. You could easily distinguished in his interpretation that Yan Yue was different from Chen Yan. And when he was possessed by his father. You could easily sense it was no longer Yan Yue. 

I pitied Yan Yue. He is the most exploited character in the story. Feels like the writer couldn't look for someone else to bully so she turns to Yan Yue.  With all the tortures inflicted on him, both physical and emotional, Yan Yue's character development is so painful to watch. 

He was made just to suffer, prone to making bad decisions, and a total slave to his emotion. The writer just made him weaker and weaker as the episodes progressed. 

Yan Yue seems to be a larger-than-life character with the capability to make a big difference but the writer just wasted him by creating a weird twist - making him the demon duke. Like, wait, what??!!

A righteous heavenly realm figure turning into a dark demon duke with amnesia, and preferring to stay in the demon realm forever after recovering his memory is such a stupid and idiot character development of a hero in a fantasy drama, good that Guo Jun Chen is a talented actor who knows how to portray convincingly a character with a confusing backdrop. He saves what is left for Yan Yue by delivering a strong performance. 

The character development of the heavenly emperor (played by Huang Hai Bing) was the most stupid of them all. This is the very first fantasy drama I watched that the ruler from the heavenly realm turned into a horrible villain - possessing the body of his eldest son, killing his younger son, and killing his first wife for the sake of power. Such a big joke!

Good points in the drama:

But in fairness to this drama, it showcases the positive side of antagonists and the demons and devils. The writer of this drama seems a total sadist haha! She makes the heavenly emperor the villain while she makes the demon and devil realm figures the good ones. What a weirdo.

But in fairness, this is one of the fewest costume dramas I've watched wherein the demon lord was wrapped up on a positive note. Mu Nan was introduced at the beginning of the story as the figure who will spearhead the chaos of the three realms, but he didn't totally mess up and he was wrapped up as a character with a kind heart.

Beauty of Resilience (2023) Chinese Drama Review
Liu Donqin as Mu Nan/Demon Lord

Someone who did everything he could to protect the person (Wangyue) who gave him home and dignity when he was still human and I understand his plight in saving Wei Zhi on numerous occasions, sans the devilish purpose. 

The heavenly empress (played by Jin Qiao Qiao) was a positive character too and has a significant role in the story. Unlike most stepmothers in the drama that often make their stepchildren's lives intolerable, the heavenly empress was kind and affectionate to Yan Yue and treated him as her own son.

She also made sacrifices to prevent the heavenly emperor from ruining the three realms and even sacrificed her own life to save Yan Yue and uphold peace. 

Beauty of Resilience (2023) Chinese Drama Review
Lin Fengsong as Yan Luo

Yan Luo (Lin Fengsong), the younger brother of Yan Yue, was an ideal brother who always stepped out of his comfort zone to help and save Yan Yue, which ultimately cost his life in the end.

Unlike our common concept of devils, the devil realm in this drama is not, after all, a "devil". They are creatures who want nothing but peace and often cooperate for the common good.

Beauty of Resilience (2023) Chinese Drama Review

Ou Ya (Zhang Zhi Hao) and Lan Su (Song Xinran) are some of the positive characters in the story that I like. They personify the characteristics of true friends. They move heaven and earth just to protect Yan Yue and Wei Zhi.  

Beauty of Resilience, in as much as I wanted to love this drama, is so hard to appreciate due to its flawed script. It was badly written to say the least.

So I tried to find ways how to appreciate its value and the valuable lessons the drama provided, to justify my endurance of watching it until the end haha! 

Okay, so I figured, this drama is written closer to reality. Like some modern drama concept, sans myth and magic.

Beauty of Resilience (2023) Chinese Drama Review
Sun Zi Hang as Qing Huan

I viewed it as a narrative that confronts how we should understand love and fate, responsibility and freedom, and duty and decorum. 

Are we willing to sacrifice our own happiness to follow rules and what is expected from us? Or live our life the way we want it to be. Yan Yue chose the latter. 

Although I'm not comfortable with the way Yan Yue is written - a powerless figure who is under the grip of his father and who seems cannot make an independent decision, 

I tried viewing him as a person who longed for his personal freedom from a tight, secluded upbringing. He is someone who wanted to find his own identity and happiness somewhere else.

He found an opportunity to disobey his father and live his life the way he wants it to be when he met and fell in love with the ordinary girl, Wei Zhi, the girl he was supposed to kill. 

And in the end, he finally broke free from his controlling father, made a stand to his firm decision, and chose a life where he could be happier with the one he loved. 

Although I am not comfortable with the concept of leaving the heavenly realm to live in the demon realm (weird isn't it?) as though avoiding the paradise to live in hell, Yan Yue's decision is about choosing love over duty. What's good anyway in living in paradise if you feel unhappy and do not have a life of your own? It is also the same as living in hell. Isn't it? 

Beauty of Resilience (2023) Chinese Drama Review

In Yan Yue, I remember the story of King Edward VIII of Britain, who, in 1936, gave up the British throne to be with the woman (Wallis Simpson) he loves.  Like Wei Zhi, Wallis Simpson could not also be accepted by the British royal family due to her commoner background. 

King Edward VIII became Duke of Windsor. He was ostracized from the British royal court forever. He married Wallis Simpson and lived in exile in France for the rest of their lives. 

Their love story is very much like Yan Yue and Wei Zhi 😂

Another observation is that the writer attempted to humanize the major events in Beauty of Resilience. Yan Yue is like that super-rich kid who is expected to inherit his father's business empire (just think of all those modern K-dramas you watched lol!). 

But he fell in love with an ordinary girl who is not in the same circle as their rich family, so she could not be accepted by his father. And so the father must punish his son and won't stop until his son will fall down to his knees and abandon his girl. Pretty much like a modern drama theme.

Beauty of Resilience (2023) Chinese Drama Review
Guo Junchen as Yan Yue

Beauty of Resilience gives us a lesson on how to become steadfast and strong when confronted with challenges. No wonder the title was changed to "Beauty of Resilience" from the Chinese title, HuaRong. 

Beauty of Resilience means strength, courage, bravery, steadfastness, and unwavering toughness in the face of tribulations. And so, that's how the fight of Yan Yue and Wei Zhi to be together can be summarized, and how they risk everything, undergoing tribulations to change their destiny.

I love how major characters put so much heart into their decision to uphold peace. Although I don't want to romanticize the waywardness and misbehavior of people, or making bad decisions in life in the name of love, Yan Yue's decision to be with Wei Zhi is relatable. It also happens in real life. 

People will ultimately decide who they want to be with and what kind of life they want to live. And not based on how their parents want them to be.

The heavenly empress and Yan Luo are also relatable. They personify supportive family members. That during our darkest hour and when making life-changing decisions, there's a mother who always understands and a sibling who always shows support.

Beauty of Resilience (2023) Chinese Drama Review

I love Guo Jun Chen here! He perfectly interpreted a character that has been possessed. I love the way he portrayed Yan Yue and Chen Yan. He has a solid performance all throughout. 

Even just watching his moves and facial expression you will easily understand what he meant. He is so expressive and always on point with the emotions required for the scene. Even without speaking, you can sense the message through his eyes.

Guo Jun Chen is fantastic in his portrayal as Yan Yue and Chen Yan. He brought life to this drama. He delivered a solid performance. Although his Yan Yue character is a bit lame with some questionable development, he didn't disappoint when it comes to how he played the role. 

The only discomfort I felt was on how the heavenly emperor's character was written. I guess it was the rarest moment in a fantasy drama that the bad guy is from the heavenly realm and not from the demon realm. Kinda weird! 

Last Thoughts about Beauty of Resilience

I have had so many misgivings in the past episodes due to its disconnected flow. I almost gave up somewhere but held on because I wanted to see how they would wrap up a story that seems lost its direction. I was hoping for redemption, or any surprising twist, but did not expect an explosive twist in the final episode.

Like, for heaven's sake, what did the writer do to the character development of the heavenly emperor? Why he suddenly became the beast in the story? 

Beauty of Resilience (2023) Chinese Drama Review
Lu Tingyu as Yi'er

So the prophecy of the phoenix was entirely made by him to seize her Spiritual power. Why he suddenly became greedy and horrible? The script continues to mess up until the end. lol! 

But compared to other costume dramas I watched, I was satisfied with how this drama ended. Regardless of the illogical flow of thoughts and Wei Zhi's consistent dullness, it was the kind of ending I wanted! 

I find the final battle between good and evil satisfying. 

Although there are some characters I loved who died. It's okay. A drama should not always end up like a fairytale. There must be sacrifices. Tears. Pain. Agony. Death, to give the story unpredictability. I like the fact that it's not totally a fairytale ending, but just how a fantasy drama should be wrapped up. 

Yan Yue and Wei Zhi made an effort to save each other, successfully alter their fate, and uphold peace in the three realms. They also get what they wanted. To live happily ever after. 

But I still find it uncomfortable for someone to give up the throne in the heavenly realm to live in exile in the demon realm to be with his love, it's just unconventional, but I understand it somehow. I just viewed it in the mortal world scenario. 

Again, Yan Yue's decision to give up the heavenly realm throne happened in the real world. Just think of the story of King Edward VIII who gave up the British throne to be with Wallis Simpson and lived in exile for the rest of their lives. 

This is perhaps one of the fewest dramas I've watched that confronts our subconscious: what are we willing to give up in the name of love? And challenges people to ask themselves if the love they chose is worth fighting for. 

Here's my rating for Beauty of Resilience:

  • Story/Screenplay: 5/10
  • Acting/Cast: 7/10 
  • OST/Musical Score: 9/10
  • CGI/Aesthetics: 7/10
  • Re-watch value: 5/10 

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