Nirvana in Fire: Eps 1-6 (First Impressions)

Chinese DramasDrama Reviews

The period Chinese drama Nirvana in Fire (original title: Lang Ya Bang) is all the rage nowadays and–in my opinion–rightfully so.  I actually felt kinda mind-blown when I first started watching Nirvana because I had no idea it’d be this good. The high production quality is impressive with well-choreographed action scenes, great costumes and beautiful scenery/settings.  And yes, even the CGI looks realistic, which is saying a lot for a c-drama.  On top of that, the story is really interesting with revenge, political maneuverings, hidden identities, etc.  So NIF is not just all eye candy, there is good substance to it as well.


Episode 1 opens with an unnamed man (Hu Ge) waking up after having a nightmare of a bloody battle.  As you’ll later find out, the man is indeed quite mysterious, as he goes by three names.  He has a super long and complicated backstory, so don’t be surprised if it’s a bit confusing at first.  Bear with me, ok!

The Three Names:

  1. Lin Shu: This is his original name.  Lin Shu is the son of General Lin of the Liang Dynasty.  He went into battle with his father and an army of 70,000 soldiers, but was ultimately the only survivor.  Someone had framed his father, thus resulting in the massacre as well as the criminal status of the entire Lin family.
  2. Mei Changsu: Lin Shu recovered after the battle, but due to his heavy facial injuries, his appearance drastically changed which made him look like a totally different person.  He took on the name Mei Changsu and lived in Jianghu.  Mei Changsu is a powerful person because 1) He leads the Jiangzuo Alliance (which..I still don’t totally understand what it is..) 2) A fortune teller predicted that he would be the key to helping the next emperor-to-be accede the throne.
  3. Su Zhe: FINALLY, this is Lin Shu/Mei Changsu’s current name.  Mei Changsu leaves Jianghu to enter the capital city and carry out his long-planned revenge.  He uses the alias Su Zhe so that people won’t find out that he’s the sought-after Mei Changsu.


“Since I managed to survive, I will not waste my life.” – Su Zhe

The whole point of this backstory is that Lin Shu/Mei Changsu/Su Zhe is out for revenge [against the people who framed his father].  On the surface, Su Zhe seems like a peaceful I-will-not-harm-a-fly kind of person.  I mean, one of his first scenes shows him playing the flute while riding a canoe on a misty lake.  Doesn’t seem to be that threatening, eh?  Actually, Su Zhe is a calculating man and a formidable opponent.  Oftentimes, stories portray revenge as irrational and passionate, something done in the heat of the moment. In contrast, Su Zhe has methodically planned his revenge for 12 years.  He doesn’t let his emotions cloud his judgment–to do so would be foolish, because then his enemies would easily defeat him.

“Those evil, bloody deeds, I’ll do them.  To defeat the evil, the innocent will be hurt.  Sometimes we might have to be the ones to do it.” – Su Zhe

I’m mainly looking forward to seeing Su Zhe’s darker side in the future episodes.  One of my favorite scenes is when he tells one of his old buddies that he survived the battle while all 70,000 soldiers perished.   That’s pretty much all he says–no further explanation or no discussion of how this affected him–but his expression says it all.  (middle pic)


The main heroine, Nihuang (Liu Tao) is both a princess and a general of an army.  She carries around a whip–and uses it.  She greets her friends by charging at them with her sword and engaging them in a fight for fun.  She mounts her horse without using her hands or putting her foot in the stirrup.  She has her marriage candidates fight her one on one–and if they can’t beat her, they’re not worthy of marrying her.  Yes, Nihuang is pretty awesome.

I assume that Nihuang and Su Zhe will become the OTP in the future.  I mean, the Empress Dowager even asks them about their ‘marriage’.  Yup, even the Empress Dowager ships them!  😛  No really, NIF isn’t a period romance c-drama…even though there are a lot of Nihuang/Su Zhe scenes.  I would be fine without a lot of romance because I’m more interested in Su Zhe’s revenge than his love life.


There are tons of side characters, but for now I’ll introduce 3 of the most important ones so far–Prince Yu, Prince Jing, and the Crown Prince.  Su Zhe plans to defeat the contenders for the throne so that Prince Jing can become the next emperor.

  • Crown Prince (Gao Xin; right pic)–He’s the usual incompetent and bumbling Crown Prince: the kind of guy who makes you ask “Why in the world did the emperor choose him to be the successor?”.  I can only guess that the Crown Prince’s mother, a favored concubine, persuaded the emperor to choose him.
  • Prince Yu (Victor Haung; left pic)–Prince Yu is the Empress’ son.  He is savvy, sorta Machiavellian and is more mature than the Crown Prince.  IMO he’s a greater threat to Su Zhe than the Crown Prince is.
  • Prince Jing (Wang Kai; middle pic)–This prince is the “wild card”.  He’s not in the emperor’s favor at all, and has a bad reputation for being quick-tempered and disobedient.   Before Su Zhe entered the picture, Prince Jing wasn’t in the running for the Crown Prince position!  But, Prince Jing has strong morals unlike the Crown Prince & Prince Yu.  I love the scene when Prince Jing asks Su Zhe which prince he’ll pick…and Su Zhe says “I choose YOU!”.  Do I sense a bromance forming?


^Beautiful scenery!


One of the flaws of NIF is that it introduces waaay too many characters at once.  I felt like episode 1 was bombarding me with name after name, so much so that I couldn’t keep track of who was who.  Also, for those who haven’t read the original novel or the synopsis, (*cough* ME *cough*) the story can be confusing sometimes.  If you have no background with Lang Ya Bang, I would suggest that you at least read the synopsis before you start watching the drama.

So, you may still be asking “Is this the drama for me?”.  I would say, give it a try if you like action scenes, political intrigue, or The Count of Monte Cristo kinds of stories.  There are frequent, long action scenes (I’d say at least once per episode, or every other episode?) that feel like they come straight out of a movie!  Also, if you like period eye candy, this is certainly the right drama for it!  I love all the costumes so far!  I wouldn’t recommend NIF if you don’t want to watch a long drama–it’s 54 episodes long.  Although NIF is fast-paced in eps 1-6, it could get draggy in the later episodes.  I also wouldn’t recommend it if you’re looking for a period romance drama or a lighthearted story.  And lastly, if political intrigue bores you, then stay away–it seems like most of Su Zhe’s revenge plan involves using palace politics!

Quote Translation Credit & English subs: Viki


I'm heisui, an Asian drama blogger and the creator of My Drama Tea. I love stories and writing, so I watch dramas and blog. I especially have a penchant for Japanese and Chinese dramas, and those hidden gems that are waiting to be discovered. Oh, and I'm Legend of Zhen Huan-obsessed!
A Good Wife: Eps 11-15 (Final Review)
Anticipated j-dramas: Fall 2015
  • hello… randomly search about this drama cuz im so into it, just want to read some thoughts of others and find your article about this drama. like it.

    i had no idea at first, read an article about this drama in avirtualvoyage and watched the trailer with Liu Tao’s single. Had no expectation cuz i havent read the novel. went to shushengbar to get some infos, but ended up loving the drama version, since it’s kinda different from the novel (from many comments i read so far).
    but i deeply fell in love with Liu Tao’s single.

    now im on ep 12 and still waiting for engsub. i watched ep 13-14 without engsub but seriously i had no idea, haha.

    i never expected myself to like, nope, to love this kind of storyline. to follow Su Zhe’s plans and root for Prince Jing. i love the OTP. Nihuang is one pretty and tough woman, knows what she wants. And prince Jing got my heart with his coldness. haha..

    not to mention how much i like Su Zhe and all his bromance hereeeeee!!!!

    sorry, im just so into it and enthusiastic, hehe..

    • I think Prince Jing is a lot of people’s favorite in the drama. 😀 Aside from Prince Jing & Nihuang, other characters I especially like so far are:

      -Fei Liu, Su Zhe’s bodyguard: He’s unintentionally funny and is super strong at the same time. Awesome he could even take on Xia Dong & General Meng.
      -General Meng: Great bromance with Su Zhe, HEHEHE. Also he’s very loyal.
      -the Emperor: It makes me laugh whenever he gets fed up with the princes’ bickering, or when he has this look on his face like “I know you’re trying to suck up to me/manipulate me”.

      • Yasss.. prince Jing! At first, i thought he had any feeling to NiHuang.. i watched ep when NiHuang and Su Zhe, and he seemed like he learned their relationship.. the tough Nihuang became soooo soft beside Su Zhe 😀

        yes yes, Fei Liu and General Meng are my fave too..

        I dont like the emperor and all his wifey except Jing’s mom. they all look so fake, huft.

        Btw, who is the girl beside Prince Yu? Is she also a ‘friend’ of Su Zhe or just a ‘real’ enemy? hehe. sometimes, watching without engsub made me have my own version of drama, haha

          • yes, banruo.

            btw how many episodes you’ve watched already? me on ep.31 without engsub. can you give me some spoiler about su zhe’s spy. will he tell about su zhe and his plan?? ah im so curious but the engsub is still on ep 15.

            • Actually I’m on episode 14 so I’m way behind you! >_< You may want to try looking at the spcnet forum thread for NIF. It probably contains spoilers in the later pages. Ban Ruo serves as an advisor but she pulls strings behind the scenes to influence court politics for her own agenda too.

              • really? haha. yups, i join in avirtualvoyage’s article too, hehe.. some people already gave the spoilers 🙂 thanks anyway.
                but seriously, this drama has all the good actors, im so happy cuz the acting is just so good. Have you watched The Disguiser?? im still waiting for the engsub. and dramacool hasnt released any RAW videos.. i need to learn Chinese again.. mine is so bad.. 🙂

  • Back so soon? Well… it is LYB… my life for this drama… XD

    jk. I’m so glad you are covering this drama. If I could make a request, do a quick summary of the dramas you have watched and your thoughts on them at the end of your hiatus. 🙂

  • I think they will get together, Su zhe and the princess are betrothed before the massacre I think. 😛 Great post and nice analysis.

  • Hi Heisui!

    Dropping a comment here because I have to thank you for giving a quick synopsis on the drama! It is easier to follow the fast paced episodes and characters being introduced one after another since I learned their names from your post 😛

    I watched the subbed episodes in less than 24 hours and fell in love with everything ^^; It does look like a movie, and the pleasant shots balance the heart racing moments portrayed there. So many favourite characters, and I admire the ladies (Nihuang is <3) a lot. Love the bromance and the romance too!

    I can't help but to think of you every time I see the headpieces worn by the consorts. They're so pretty!

    • Wow you really flew through those episodes! O_o I was pleasantly surprised when I found out you started NIF! There are still lots of characters I didn’t introduce. It’s hard to keep track of who’s on who’s side AND all the side characters’ backstories. Aiyah.

      YES I feel like I’m watching a movie too! Especially the action scenes feel like they’re from a movie!

      • I am grateful I chose to watch NIF instead of another drama, because it’s a beautiful series :’) Even the indoor shots are classy instead of looking cheap, and that is one of many reasons I fell for the drama.

        I got confused with the relationship between characters but I believe we will get to see how they are all related when more details are revealed in the future episodes ^^ Luckily the subbing team on viki is efficient and dedicated, and I can’t thank them enough 😀

        I’m trying not to spoil myself by browsing forums like spcnet and pantip but it is hard to resist the temptation hehe

  • Unfortunately I couldn’t resist the temptation and watched a 60 min youtube video that has a ton of spoilers. I am up to date on watching NIF and watching through it, the last 8 min or so have a really good idea of what is to come in the remaining episodes. This is such a well executed masterpiece of a drama. I loved everything about it and I already am looking to restart watching again from episode 1 (especially now I got all the characters and their relations figured out). Tempted to draw out a relationship diagram but that would require some dedication on my part. Haha.

  • The relationships are not very complicated, but some of them are not revealed from the beginning.

    May contain SPOILERS:

    Some of the rarely mentioned ones: Lin Shu’s mom is the Liang Emperor’s sister. The Emperor has 2 younger sisters, Jinyang and Liyang. Jinyang was married to Lin Xie, Lin Shu’s dad. Liyang is officially married to Xie Yu, Marquis of Ning. Prince Jing (Xiao Jingyan)’s mom, Concubine/Consort Jing, lived with the Lin’s for many years before she entered the palace. Prince Qi, who was executed via poison wine, is the son of Consort Chen. Consort Chen is from the Lin family. (Probably Lin Xie’s sis. I forgot). Marquis Yan, Yan Yujin’s dad, was deeply in love with Consort Chen, but the Emperor snatched Consort Chen away from Marquis Yan.

    Sometimes the English subtitles get the royal titles wrong and refer to Duchess Nihuang as Princess, but she is not directly related to Emperor’s immediate family.
    At least upon Jinyang’s death, Liyang is referred to as Zhang Gong Zhu, “Grand Princess”. Sometimes this is subtitled as “Princess Zhang”. Which is confusing, since there is no last name Zhang anywhere in the royal family.

    A lot of other relationships are mostly just political alliances. Only the “Xuanjing bureau” (an investigative bureau) lasts until quite late into the series. Most of the others don’t last for that many episodes. Only Minister Shen Zhui of the Revenue Ministry. Plus a bit of Cai Quan, another minister. These are the few that last until the end.

  • As for the Jiangzuo Alliance, er… You can take it as the biggest and most powerful gang that based in Jiangzuo (which refers to the south of the lower reaches of the Yangtse River).

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