If you are into Chinese boys’ love (BL) dramas, Word Of Honour is the latest series that's been picked up by Netflix. The sleeper blockbuster first premiered on Youku in February and is also available on YouTube.
Word Of Honour follows a disillusioned Zhou Zishu (Zhang Zhehan) who sets out into the martial arts world, where he encounters Wen Kexing (Gong Jun) and becomes entangled in a conspiracy.
Yet another wuxia (martial heroes) BL drama? Here are six points unique to Word Of Honour.
1. Wen Kexing incessantly flirts with an indifferent Zhou Zishu.
Forming the crux of the BL element in Word Of Honour is none other than the relationship between Zhou Zishu and Wen Kexing. Zhou takes on a passive role, while Wen is the aggressive one. After their first meeting, Wen becomes curious about the real identity of Zhou, who is disguised as a wanderer.
Wen follows Zhou around, much like a stalker. Calling their meetings “fate”, Wen is like a dashing prince coming to the aid of a damsel in distress, even providing the unkempt and haggard Zhou with food, wine, clothes and shelter.
Apart from Wen’s suggestive and teasing lines, his attraction to Zhou is also apparent in his actions. After Zhou flees from an attack by the Beggar Sect, Wen steps in and immediately turns his charming smile into a fierce glare, as if saying with his eyes, “How dare you hurt Zhou?” Wen later angrily threatens the Beggar Sect to “either die or scram.”
On the other hand, Zhou is apathetic towards Wen’s advances. Even though Wen addresses Zhou by his first name in an effort to become closer to him, Zhou continues to refer to Wen coldly by his last name. Zhou may look aloof, but he is in fact soft-hearted — a trait that Wen knows and enjoys making use of.
2. Zhou Zishu only has three years to live.
Zhou is originally the chief of Window Of Heaven and master of the Four Seasons Manor. In Window Of Heaven, there is a torture technique called Nails Of Seven Torments, the only way to ensure its people will not expose the secrets of Window Of Heaven. This torture inserts seven nails into one’s body, causing the person to lose their martial arts skills and their five senses, eventually resulting in death after three years. It is a fearsome rule of the Window Of Heaven, to deter people from leaving.
With all his allies dead under his leadership, Zhou becomes dejected and wants to leave Window Of Heaven. He applies the Nails Of Seven Torments on himself, reducing his remaining lifespan to merely three years. Taking on the alias of Zhou Xu and changing his looks, he wanders around and meets Wen.
Apparently, there are two ways to execute the torture. The first is to put all seven nails in at once and the person will quickly lose his martial arts skills and senses, and can only live as a cripple for three years. The second, which is what Zhou does to himself, is to put in one nail every three months. This way, Zhou can retain half of his martial arts skills, and his senses will only disappear in turn slowly until death.
3. Wen Kexing is actually the chief of Ghost Valley.
Ghost Valley is home to the most evil people with nowhere else to go. Among them are the Ten Devils: Hanged Ghost, Lustful Ghost, Tragicomic Ghost, Glamorous Ghost, Changing Ghost, Happy Ghost, Corpse-eating Ghost, Long-tongue Ghost, Hei Wu Chang, and Bai Wu Chang. Ruling above them is actually Wen.
Although the chief of Ghost Valley is mysterious, only seen wearing a crimson overall with walnuts in his hands, there are a couple of hints that show the chief and Wen are the same person. Before Wen makes his appearance, walnuts are seen flying, knocking out enemies. A later scene also shows Wen sending walnuts flying.
4. The Glazed Armour unlocks the martial arts treasure World’s Armoury.
World’s Armoury is said to contain all of the secrets of the world’s martial arts. Getting the treasure essentially makes the person the most formidable. But to open this treasure requires the Glazed Armour, which has been split into five pieces. Various martial arts sects begin to kill each other in order to get hold of the key.
Ghost Valley is also on a quest to retrieve their Glazed Armour, said to be stolen by the traitor Hanged Ghost. Wen then meets Zhou and joins him in his adventures, while secretly executing his quest. Ironically, the whole Mirror Lake Sect has been annihilated by Ghost Valley, except Zhang Chengling (Sun Xilun), who becomes the disciple of Zhou.
5. The ending theme song Tian Ya Ke (Wanderer) is sung by the lead actors Zhang Zhehan and Gong Jun.
Word of Honour may be better known by its opening theme song Tian Wen by Liu Yuning, but its ending theme song Tian Ya Ke (Wanderer) was actually sung by the two lead actors. As Zhang Zhehan (first verse) is also a singer, it is apparent that he sings better than Gong Jun (second verse), who sounds a little emotionless.
But nonetheless, it is the acting that is more important, right? Gong Jun's good looks is enough to keep the audience’s eyes glued to the screen. Coupled with his flirting skills and cheeky expressions, many fans would have squealed in excitement.
6. Word Of Honour is adapted from a novel by Priest, who also wrote the novels that Chinese dramas Guardian and Legend Of Fei are based on.
Word Of Honour is adapted from Tian Ya Ke, a danmei (a Chinese literary genre that symbolises the romanticising of male-male relationships) wuxia novel by Priest. The author is also known for other works like Zhen Hun, which has been made into Chinese BL drama Guardian, and You Fei, which has been made into Chinese historical drama Legend Of Fei.
There are a few other novels by Priest such as Zi Ben Jian Ke, Liu Yao, Sha Po Lang and Mo Du that will be adapted into television series, and Can Ci Pin and Lie Huo Jiao Chou that will be adapted into animated series.
Given Priest’s success in writing danmei and wuxia novels, we should see more interesting dramas like Word Of Honour in time to come.
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