|The Story of Minglan|
|Also known as||Legend of the Concubine's Daughter: Minglan|
|Based on||Do you know? Do You Know? If the green is still plump and the red still lean? by Guanxin Zeluan.|
|Directed by||Zhang Kaizhou|
|Country of origin||China|
|No. of episodes||73|
|Executive producer||Hou Hongliang|
|Production company||Daylight Entertainment|
|Original network||Hunan TV|
|Original release||December 25, 2018|
|The Story of Minglan|
The Story of Minglan (simplified Chinese: 知否？知否？应是绿肥红瘦; traditional Chinese: 知否？知否？應是綠肥紅瘦) is a 2018 Chinese television series adapted from an eponymous novel by an author written under the pseudonym Guanxin Zeluan. It stars Zhao Liying, Feng Shaofeng and Zhu Yilong. The series premiered on December 25, 2018, on Hunan TV.
Set in the Northern Song dynasty, the story revolves around Sheng Minglan, the unfavored sixth daughter of an official. After being mistreated by her legal mother and bullied by her half-sisters, Minglan learns to hide her skills and true intentions, and ultimately succeeds in avenging her biological mother's death. She meets Gu Tingye as a child, although she initially has feelings for Qi Heng, the only son of the Duke of Qi. Eventually, Gu Tingye and Minglan fall in love with each other after experiencing many personal trials and tribulations. After Gu Tingye becomes a powerful official, he successfully makes Minglan his wife. As his wife, Minglan helps guard against his unpleasant relatives and purges the court of corrupt ministers. The couple eventually earned their happily-ever-after, and Minglan rose to prominence as an influential figure of the Sheng family.
Sheng Hong, a fifth rank official, is head of the Sheng household, and he has one official wife, two concubines, and six children. His official wife is Wang Ruofu, a bad tempered but kind lady who is always at odds with Sheng Hong's favorite concubine, Lin Qinshuang. Lin Qinshuang, a former servant, pretends to act weak and sympathetic, gaining the pity and attention of Sheng Hong, to Wang Ruofu's dismay. Sheng Hong also has a step mother, Old Mrs. Sheng, who is the only daughter of the Marquis of Yongyi and is respected by her fellow nobles. However, her relationship with Sheng Hong is strained because she dislikes how Sheng Hong isn't able to control Lin Qinshuang's tactics.
Sheng Minglan is the sixth daughter of Sheng Hong and was born to his second concubine, Wei Shuyi. Although she is bright and intelligent, she hid her talents after witnessing her pregnant mother die as a result of Minglan standing up for her. She was raised by Old Mrs. Sheng, who dotes and loves her dearly. She has five other siblings, Hualan, Changbai, Changfeng, Molan, and Rulan. Hualan, Changbai, and Rulan are the children of Wang Ruofu and Changfeng and Molan are the children of Lin Qinshuang, and the children inherited their mother's personalities and dislikes. Hualan is the respected eldest daughter but is domineered by her mother in law. Changbai is a wise scholar and is Gu Tingye's close friend. Changfeng is carefree and wants a higher social standing. Rulan is short tempered but easy-going while Molan is scheming and wants to improve her social status through marriage. The children study and grow up together along with Qi Heng, Gu Tingye, and Yu Yanran.
Meanwhile, Molan is desperate to marry into a rich household to suppress her feelings of inferiority as the daughter of a concubine. Lin Qinshuang helps her daughter, and Molan flirts with Liang Han, the son of the Count of Yongchang. Liang Han's mother, Lady Wu, prefers Minglan as a daughter in law and despises Molan. Molan eventually uses an underhanded method to marry into the Liang household, to the shame of her father, her siblings, and her grandmother. As a result, Lin Qinshuang is beaten and reveals that she didn't have feelings for Sheng Hong. She is sent away, and Minglan reveals to Lin Qinshuang that Molan's marriage was revenge for Wei Shuyi's death. Molan eventually suffers in her marriage as Liang Han has a lot of concubines, especially favoring his maid Chun Ke. Rulan is simple and only wishes to find true happiness. She shares the characteristics of her mother and despises Molan and Lin Qinshuang. She has an amiable relationship with Minglan. Her mother Wang Ruofu wants her to marry into a noble family to compete with Lin Qinshuang. Rulan instead falls in love with her father's student, who also happens to be Molan's fiancee until the Liang Han incident. She eventually marries the scholar, who also loves her back and treats her well.
On the other hand, Qi Heng develops feelings for Minglan. Qi Heng is the only son of the Duke of Qi and the Princess of Pingning. He is well respected coming from an affluent family, and is considered a suitable husband by many households. Molan and the Princess of Jiacheng are interested in marrying him, but he only likes Minglan. She also develops feelings for him, but Qi Heng never understands her feelings through his idealized view of her. Qi Heng is eventually forced to marry the Princess of Jiacheng. However, their marriage doesn't last long because of a rebellion against the Emperor. His wife and her family is executed, and his mother the Princess of Pingning witnesses the tragedy and becomes mentally ill. Gu Tingye is rewarded for saving the Emperor, and he returns to the Gu Household with honors. He is the son of the Marquis of Ningyuan, but he has a poor relationship with his father and his stepmother Lady Qin despises him. His father was forced by his family to marry his mother Lady Bai for her wealth, and Lady Bai died of grief after finding out the truth. Gu Tingye also has a horrible reputation, fathering two children with his mistress Zhu Manniang. Zhu Manniang eventually leaves him when she believes he's of no worth, and Gu Tingye also has to deal with the constant scheming of Lady Qin. Lady Qin wants her son Tingwei to be the next Marquis, although Tingwei clearly objects.
Gu Tingye proposes to Sheng Minglan after being impressed by her, and although she refuses at first, she agrees after realizing he's changed his old habits. Minglan becomes the lady of the Gu household, and she has to deal with the schemes of Lady Qin, Gu relatives, Wang Ruoyu (Wang Ruofu's older sister and lady of the Kang household), Zhu Manniang, and the imperial household (Emperor, Empress Dowager, Consorts). She strengthens her relationship with her siblings, father, and stepmother Wang Ruofu, and helps other nobles find success in their respective families. She helps Gu Tingye win back the trust of the emperor and they gradually realize their feelings and trust for each other.
In the novel, the protagonist is a 21st century woman who died and whose consciousness entered the body of a fever-ridden, five year old Minglan. She uses almost none of her knowledge from the 21st century though and strives to not stand out, so the actual events which take place aren't really affected.
Rulan is haughty and arrogant. Once she grows up, she has a reasonably amicable relationship with Minglan, but only because Minglan goes out of her way to be accommodating. Minglan does not actually like Rulan's company all that much.
Minglan's father is vacillating when it comes to settling the competition between his wife and his favorite concubine, but he is reasonable and fair towards his children. Minglan's premarital life is mostly peaceful and she does not suffer much bullying.
There is no love triangle with Qi Heng. He did want to marry Minglan but he tells almost no-one, and ends up marrying a princess at the urging of his family. Neither Minglan nor the public knew of his intentions, and the matter is almost never brought up again, after Minglan is betrothed to her childhood acquaintance, and then married to Tingye.
Gu Tingye initially sought to marry Minglan's friend, but Minglan interfered with this matter and Gu Tingye eventually married Minglan's friend's sister who was born from a concubine. At that time, he was already in a relationship with, and had children with, Zhu Manniang. Minglan warns Gu Tingye that Manniang is a power hungry gold digger putting on an act, points out some flaws in her reasoning, and predicts a series of events which all come true. Following the death of Minglan's friend's sister, Gu Tingye performs an investigation and eventually decides to expel Manniang. She and her children are sent away and never heard from again.
Gu Tingye uses a scheme to marry Minglan and is the mastermind behind that series of events. He fell for Minglan after numerous interactions with her and slightly seeing through her facade of being an ordinary, obedient girl. However, he doesn't ask her parents for her hand in marriage because he knows Old Madam Sheng will definitely object, as she wants Minglan to have a happy marriage and does not care if Minglan's marital family lacks high power and status. Instead, he proposes a marriage to the Sheng house after finding out Rulan was in love with a scholar. Since he was of extremely high status, Minglan's family readily agrees to marry "One of the Sheng daughters" to him. He then makes a show of discovering Rulan's relationship with the scholar, making Minglan the only "Sheng daughter" who can be married to him. Even then, he still has to meet with Minglan in private to convince her to convince her grandma to allow the marriage to go ahead instead of defaulting on the agreement. Minglan does not believe she will be as happy married to Tingye as she will be if married to her original intended partner, but she believes it will be tolerable and makes the sacrifice for the sake of her family.
Gu Tingye keeps his word and basically gives Minglan a free pass to break all social norms and be as rude as she likes to Gu Tingye's relatives and to be as tyrannical as she wants to her servants. Minglan, however, chooses to maintain the image of an virtuous, traditional wife who manages things using the proper methods.
Minglan's opponents in the novel are not nearly as violent or confrontational in general. Many of them are leeches trying to obtain benefits from Minglan, either directly or through her proximity to Gu Tingye, and Minglan carefully thwarts their attempts while maintaining social etiquette and decorum. Very few directly attack Minglan's reputation directly, and none of them attempt to use means like murder and such.
|Zhao Liying||Sheng Minglan||Sheng Hong's sixth child and fourth daughter, by his concubine Wei Shuyi. Gu Tingye's wife. The mother of Tuan (note: Minglan has four sons in the original novel, but her three younger sons are not mentioned in the series).|
Despite her intelligence and intuitive nature, she is the most disadvantaged and overlooked child of the family and has tried from a young age to perfect herself and refrain from being a bother to avoid being discarded. An astute observer and predictor of human behavior, Minglan often hides her natural talents in favor of drawing people into situations where their own bad natures defeat themselves. Due to her upbringing, she is used to being underestimated and punished without reason, and finds it very difficult to trust the selfless intent of others, or to let herself become emotionally attached. This also initially puts somewhat of a strain on her relationship with her husband Gu Tingye in the beginning, as she has been hurt and been disappointed by others. Eventually, she grows to love and trust her husband who she realizes loves her for who she is and sees her as his equal. Her ill treatment has made her very kind and conscientious to those in her care. She often feels like she must provide merit to prove her continued worth. Her temperament is normally calm, pragmatic, and pleasant, and she can endure any hardship demanded of her without complaint, but she will attack fiercely on behalf of a wronged loved one. She loves food, and resents being forced to give way to others she finds less worthy.
|Feng Shaofeng||Gu Tingye||Sheng Minglan's husband. The second son of the Marquis of Ningyuan, by his second wife, Lady Bai.|
Possessing high intelligence and astonishing levels of military and physical prowess, Gu Tingye nevertheless has a horrible reputation as an unfilial, worthless womanizer. Extremely bold and brash, Gu Tingye goes after what he wants in the most direct way possible to ensure he gets it, regardless of what, or who, he has to cut through to get there. Nonetheless, he always has good intentions. Generous towards strangers to a fault, he will move heaven and earth to aid those close to him. He grew up being the scapegoat for every wrongdoing in his family; as a result, he cares little to nothing for public opinion or social norms, and does and says what he wants regardless of how it paints him as a villain. His method of facing every enemy directly head on with full strength often wins him Pyrrhic personal battles and worsens his reputation. He is desperate for the genuine affection of those he cares for most, and deeply hurt if they betray his sincerity or fail to trust him. He is initially hurt by Minglan's hesistance to fully place her trust in him, but proves himself a devoted and loving husband and slowly earns her reciprocated love and trust. With Minglan's help and socially-conscientious touch, he is able to improve his reputation and becomes a trustworthy subject of the emperor.
|Old Mr. Sheng||(Deceased, never shown) Old Mrs. Sheng's husband, Sheng Hong's father.|
He placed third in the Hanlin Academy examination.
|Cao Cuifen||Old Mrs. Sheng||Matriarch of the Shengs. The only daughter of the Marquis of Yongyi. Old Mr. Sheng's wife. Sheng Hong's legal mother.|
She adopted Sheng Hong, who is the son of her husband's concubine, Lady Chun, as her own after the death of her biological son, and treated him well. She takes a particular liking to the intelligent Minglan, and raises her after her mother's death. Matriarch Sheng is often irritated by Sheng Hong's inability to control the women of his household or give his official wife due respect. Old Mrs. Sheng is an adept player at manipulations, able to easily side-step malicious schemes and get her way gracefully, but prefers to stay out of the way and live quietly.
|Liu Jun||Sheng Hong||Current head of the Sheng family. The father of Hualan, Changbai, Changfeng, Molan, Rulan and Minglan.|
He puts his favorite concubine, Lin Qinshuang, over the rest of his family, thus straining his relationship with his adoptive mother and wife. He is tactful and sensitive, but dislikes confrontation and turns helpless and ineffectual at the conflicts between his wives, often choosing the path easiest for him. He is fond of all of his children, but easily swayed by compliments into playing favorites or neglecting some. Often believing surface evidence over the truth makes him particularly susceptible to manipulation and favoritism. The Sheng family's public reputation is of greatest importance to him, and he will sacrifice his children to uphold it.
|Liu Lin||Wang Ruofu||Sheng Hong's official wife. The mother of Hualan, Changbai and Rulan.|
Her explosive temper hides her reasonable and kind side, and also causes her husband to avoid her or assume she is the villain in situations. Wang Ruofu has reason to be resentful: she spent the early years of her marriage struggling alone with a baby while her husband was far away on business, and when he returned, he made Lin Qinshuang his concubine. Wang Ruifu has spent her entire life being second to everyone except her children, as both her husband and her own mother and family preferred others over her. Though she does not mind Wei Shuyi, Wang Ruofu openly hates Lin Qinshuang. Wang Ruofu has a very direct, proud nature, which makes her a poor match for Lin Qinshuang's skilled manipulations. She often finds her plans to finally oust her husband's concubine flipped by Lin Qinshuang's hand into making Wang Ruofu look bad. She is a very devoted mother to her children and longs for her husband's undivided attention, becoming happy and cheerful when she has it. Minglan bears her no deep grudges and thinks of her as a simple, childish person. She is easily manipulated by others and is later manipulated by her sister Madame Kang to antagonize Minglan and is even tricked into giving Old Mrs. Sheng poisoned pastries. She is punished by being sent to live with her relatives in her hometown to meditate on her actions, though does grow to realize the foolishness of her actions and accepts this as a chance to reflect and grow.
|Gao Lu||Lin Qinshuang||Sheng Hong's favorite concubine. The mother of Changfeng and Molan.|
She has a gentle and weak appearance, but is particularly vicious and good at scheming, thus allowing her to establish and secure her position in the household. Despite being a former servant of Old Mrs. Sheng, she was able to seduce and manipulate Sheng Hong into accepting her as his concubine. When given temporary control of the household management and budget, Lin Qinshuang embezzled Wei Shuyi's allotment, and her later actions regarding Wei Shuyi's medical care contributed to Wei Shuyi's death. Lin Qinshuang frequently uses tactics such as bribing or framing servants, planting false evidence, dramatic crying, and pretending to be ill to escape the consequences of her scheming. Her life goal is to see her daughter Sheng Molan marry well, and she uses multiple schemes to make that happen. It winds up being a hollow victory; Lin Qinshuang ends up penniless after giving Molan the majority of the properties she has wheedled from Sheng Hong as a dowry and is forbidden from attending her own daughter's wedding or contacting Molan again. The underhanded methods used to secure the marriage also reveal her true, manipulative nature to her husband, and after letting out a lifetime of resentment for always having to placate and simper, she is beaten for damaging the Sheng family's public reputation and exiled to a rural farm. Minglan later visits her to reveal that she purposely tempted the mother daughter pair into their bad behavior and then exposed them as revenge for her mother. Lin Qinshuang dies from her wounds a few days later.
|Liu Xiyuan||Wei Shuyi||Sheng Hong's lesser concubine. Minglan's mother.|
Unlike her husband's official wife or other concubine, Wei Shuyi has no powerful family connections or wealth to aid and protect her, nor deep affection from her husband. She is from a poor family who needed her to become a concubine to aid with expenses and debts. Wei Shuyi is a gracious, long-suffering woman who dislikes causing fuss or drawing attention to herself, preferring neglect over the negative consequences of standing out. She taught Minglan how to ride horses and play pot-arrows. She often tries to teach Minglan the benefits of accepting what is given without demanding more, and to hide talents in order to pass without notice. She dies giving birth to Minglan's stillborn younger brother.
|Wang Herun||Sheng Hualan||Sheng Hong's first child and eldest daughter, by his wife Wang Ruofu. The mother of Zhuang and Shi. Hualan is gentle and very caring towards all of her siblings. Her marriage into a household of a much higher status is a source of contention between her mother and father, since her mother (rightfully) disapproved of the marriage while her father fought for it. She is Wang Ruofu's closest child as she frequently consoles and advises her mother during her many trips back home to avoid her household. Though Hualan's husband is kind, she is treated poorly due to her original and tormented by her mother-in-law, who sometimes separates her from her children and then neglects the children to the point of abuse or injury.|
|Wang Renjun||Sheng Changbai||Sheng Hong's second child and eldest son, by his wife Wang Ruofu.|
He is knowledgeable and well-learnt, but remains humble and down-to-earth nonetheless. He puts his family's interest over his own welfare, and is seen as a dependable sibling and son. Unlike his father, however, he cares more for honor and justice than his family's reputation and will uphold the law against his own scheming relatives, proving to be a fair and just person. He has a reputation for being one of the most intelligent and upright men in the capital. Friends with Gu Tingye, and on fond terms with all of his little sisters, especially close and appreciative of Minglan and her intelligence.
|Ren Wanjing||Hai Zhaoyun||Sheng Changbai's wife. Quan's mother. Like her husband, she is intelligent and sensible. She is on good terms with Sheng Minglan and Sheng Rulan but strongly dislikes Sheng Molan.|
|Sheng Quan||Sheng Changbai's first child and son, by his wife Hai Zhaoyun.|
|Zhang Xiaoqian||Sheng Changfeng||Sheng Hong's third child and youngest son, by his concubine Lin Qinshuang.|
Changfeng nearly causes a disaster for the Sheng clan at Hualan's wedding when he got drunk and gambled away the bridal gifts. A somewhat simple and gaudy person, he is easily discouraged in the face of hardship or embarrassment, and favors partying and drinking with his higher-status friends over advancing himself. His saving grace is his loyal devotion to his family. As such, he is very loyal to his mother and will defy great lengths to save her when he can. Fatherhood and distance from his mother and sister reform him into enjoying a quiet life utterly besotted with his children.
|Lady Liu||Sheng Changfeng's wife.|
|Shi Shi||Sheng Molan||Sheng Hong's fourth child and second daughter, by his concubine Lin Qinshuang. Liang Han's wife.|
The most academic and artistic of the sisters, Molan is highly intelligent and enjoys composing poetry. Molan was raised by her mother to stand out and always strive to be the best. Despite being her father's favorite daughter, Molan is deeply insecure her status as a child of a concubine and can become cruel, violent, and vengeful when denied of what she wants, and frequently believes that others are slighting her. She often uses her mother's underhanded tactics to antagonize her sisters and gain her father's favor. Desperate to improve her social status (and with the help of her mother), Molan seduces Liang Han and carries on an illicit dalliance with him, an action that nearly jeopardized the entire Sheng family, and is hastily married off to Liang Han to salvage the family's reputation. She continues to emulate her mother's methods after marriage in hopes it would secure her husband's favor, but eventually learns that such tactics come with both consequences and a shelf life. Her schemes sour her marriage, and she faces many difficulties and hardships from her choice to enter a high up family due to duplicitous means.
|Zhang Jianing||Sheng Rulan||Sheng Hong's fifth child and third daughter, by his wife Wang Ruofu. Wen Yanjing's wife.|
Childish, pampered, and impetuous, she has a security her half-sisters do not share. Exactly like her mother, but without life's disappointments, she is honest and forthright, and her pride does not allow her to back down when she feels she is in the right, even if it means more suffering for herself. After witnessing the difficult time her oldest sister Hualan has from marrying up, Rulan lacks ambition and wants to live an easy, happy life enjoying things. Rulan is very close to Minglan, but Rulan despises Molan. Though she normally has a kind heart, she enjoys maliciously needling Molan about their respective statuses, especially when Molan calls attention to Rulan's lack of intelligence or skill. Sheng Rulan falls in love with Wen Yangjing, a kind man from a lower station who is devoted to and loves her.
|Zhang Lu||Wen Yanjing||Sheng Rulan's husband. Sheng Hong's student and a high-scoring scholar. Despite his lower status and having a bossy mother, he is a good man devoted to Rulan.|
|Shi Yan||Mother Fang||Old Mrs. Sheng's servant.|
|Suqin||Old Mrs. Sheng's servant.|
|Dongrong||Sheng Hong's servant.|
|Hong Hua||Mother Liu Jia||Yinxing's mother.|
Wang Ruofu's servant.
|Wang Yi||Caihuan||Wang Ruofu's servant.|
|Ma Ding||Zhou Xueniang||Lin Qinshuang's servant.|
She is faithful to her mistress, Lin Qinshuang, and uses all means to ensure her status, no matter how underhanded or unorthodox it may seem. Through Lin Quanshuang, Zhou enjoys power and prestige as a favored servant and confidential schemer for many years. She is eventually sold after Lin Qinshuang's downfall, though she and Rulan eventually cross paths again.
|Lu Yanqi||Liu Xiaodie||Wei Shuyi's servant.|
She is framed for theft by Lin Qinshuang. Wei Shuyi manages to save Xiaodie from being beaten to death, instead having her dismissed from the household, and gives Xiaodie a precious token in farewell.
|Yuan Yuan||Zhulou||Lin Qinshuang's servant, later sent to serve Wei Shuyi.|
|Zhang Shuwei||Lümeng||Lin Qinshuang's servant, later sent to serve Wei Shuyi.|
|Hanniu||Sheng Changbai's servant.|
|Yanghao||Sheng Changbai's servant.|
|Langhao||Sheng Changbai's servant.|
|Yunzai||Sheng Molan's servant.|
|Luzhong||Sheng Molan's servant.|
|Tian Luo||Mother Cui Ru'an||Old Mrs. Sheng's servant, later sent to serve Sheng Minglan.|
|Wang Ziwei||Xiaotao||Sheng Minglan's servant, closest companion and confidant.|
The two girls are of the same age and grow up together.
|Han Ye||Danju||Sheng Minglan's servant.|
|Li Yuanyuan||Cuiwei||Old Mrs. Sheng's servant, later sent to serve Sheng Minglan. Becomes one of Minglan's most-trusted companions.|
|Cao Ying||Jiu'er||Wang Ruofu's servant, later sent to serve Sheng Minglan. Becomes one of Minglan's most-trusted companions.|
|Yinxing||Mother Liu's daughter.|
Wang Ruofu's servant, later sent to serve Sheng Minglan.
|Ke'er||Sheng Changfeng's servant, later sent to serve Sheng Minglan.|
|Mei'er||Sheng Changfeng's servant, later sent to serve Sheng Minglan.|
|Yang Xiaodan||Lady Guan||Head of Kitchen.|
|Liu Qing||Lady Wei||Wei Shuyi's younger sister.|
She convinces Old Mrs. Sheng and Wang Ruofu to care for an orphaned Minglan, and is very paranoid of the Sheng family's intentions, (rightly) convinced they had a hand in her sister's death.
|Ning Xiaozhi||Zhuang Xuejiu|
|Yu Nannan||Granny Kong||An imperial tutor brought in to instruct the Sheng sisters in feminine graces and imperial court manners.|
|Sheng Huaizhong||Old Mr. Sheng's elder brother. The father of Sheng Wei and Sheng Shu.|
|Zhu Huaixu||The elder Old Mrs.||Sheng Huaizhong's wife. The mother of Sheng Wei and Sheng Shu.|
|Wang Gang||Sheng Wei||Sheng Huaizhong's eldest son. The father of Changsong, Shulan, Changwu and Pinlan.|
The master of the eldest branch of the Sheng family.
|Qian Youyou||Lady Li||Sheng Wei's wife. The mother of Changsong, Shulan, Changwu and Pinlan.|
|Sheng Changsong||Sheng Wei's eldest son, by his wife Lady Li.|
|Zhang Hanyun||Sheng Shulan||Sheng Wei's elder daughter, by his wife Lady Li. Sun Zhigao's ex-wife.|
|Hu Shuoyu||Sheng Changwu||Sheng Wei's second son, by his wife Lady Li.|
|Xu Yue||Sheng Pinlan||Sheng Wei's younger daughter, by his wife Lady Li.|
|Sheng Shu||Sheng Huaizhong's daughter.|
|Xia Minghao||Sun Zhigao||Sheng Shulan's ex-husband.|
|Xue Yuanyuan||Mrs. Sun||Zhigao's mother.|
|Li Yixiao||Zhu Manniang||Gu Tingye's unofficial mistress during his early youth. The mother of Shurong and Yanchang.|
Despite her lowly birth and occupation as a street performer, 16 year old Gu Tingye is willing to defy his father and live outside his family home with her and the two children she eventually bears him. Manipulative, guileful and utterly shameless, she favors using grand emotional gestures the emotionally-starved Gu Tingye wishes to believe are sincere, with the ultimate goal of becoming the next official lady of the Gu family. When she believes Gu Tingye has been disinherited, with limited (though not insubstantial) wealth and status left, she embezzles the remaining valuables and properties and reveals herself to be a pathological liar. Gu Tingye throws her out, but she escapes in the night, taking their toddler son as insurance. Manniang occasionally returns to torment Gu Tingye, attempting to extort him for money or a concubine position in exchange for news of his son. She completely blames Gu Tingye for the way her life has turned out, willingly becoming a tool of his relatives for money because she knows it will hurt him. As the years pass, she becomes more unhinged and shameless, going so far as shouting lies in the street, and even attempts to assassinate him. Gu Tingye eventually puts her under house arrest. Her final act of vengeance includes attempting to stab Gu Tuan, Gu Tingye's infant son, but is thwarted by Granny Chang, who kills her in self-defense.
|Zhao Qi||Qian Fengxian||Gu Tingye's concubine whom Gu Tingye's stepmother Lady Qin arranged to be taken in during his wedding to Minglan, though Gu Tingye never slept with her or show any form of interest in her. She tires of her life of neglect, which makes her susceptible to her mother-in-law's bribes, and tries to poison Sheng Minglan and kill Gu Tuan (2nd son of Gu Tingye) during Gu Tuan's full-moon celebration. In the attempt, she is captured by Shi Tou.|
|Ye Xuantong||Gu Shurong||Gu Tingye's first child and only daughter, by his mistress Zhu Manniang. A bright and intelligent child, she is favored by her father and travels with him during his early military career. For her sake, Gu Tingye returns to settle in the capital and attempts to find a legal wife, so his daughter has the opportunity to learn from the best scholars and a chance at a good marriage. Shurong is confused and heartbroken that her mother Manniang did not choose to take her, and eventually comes to view Minglan, who treats her kindly and with affectionate attention, as her real mother. Gu Tinye's insistence on the fair treatment of his concubine-born daughter is a source of attraction and respect to Minglan, who wishes her own father held the same attitude.|
|Deng Hanyu||Gu Yanchang||Gu Tingye's second child and eldest son, by his mistress Zhu Manniang. His mother stole him away from his father when he's a toddler, a fact which grieves Gu Tingye deeply. His father spends years and countless resources trying to find him, and allows Manniang to extort him in order to get news of Yanchang, only discover the child had tragically died shortly after being taken.|
|Gu Tuan||Gu Tingye's third child and second son, by his wife Sheng Minglan. Even as a baby, his birth was eventful, occurring during a fire, and many attempts have been made on his young life.|
|Kang Qunzhi||Granny Chang||Gu Tingye's nanny.|
Gu Tingye is extremely fond of Granny Chang, who reciprocates. Granny Chang was formerly the close personal servant of Gu Tingye's mother, and came with her when she married into the Gu family. After her mistress's death, she appoints herself as Gu Tingye's childhood protector. He purchases her a house and servants to care for her in her old age. Gu Tingye later installs his mistress, Manniang, and children into her household and places his children in her care. Granny Chang is unimpressed with Manniang and easily sees through her acts and manipulations. By contrast, she quickly grows deeply fond and protective of Gu Tingye's wife, Sheng Minglan and treats her with utmost respect. Despite her old age, she has a fiery temper and is not afraid to be rude to and even act physically against those who threaten her loved ones.
|Shen Chi||Shi Tou||Gu Tingye's servant and closest, most-trusted companion. A stalwart and simple warrior, he enjoys He is loyal and faithful to his master but knows to give advice to his master and is his close confidante. He likes Xiaotao, Minglan's close maid.|
|Yang Yang||Lady Che||Shitou's third sister-in-law.|
|Mr. Tu||Gu Tingye's subordinate, later sent to serve Sheng Minglan.|
|Tian Junlian||Mother Diao||The younger Lady Qin's servant, later sent to serve Sheng Minglan.|
|Cong Zhongxiao||Mother Lai||Mingyue's mother.|
The younger Lady Qin's servant, later sent to serve Sheng Minglan.
|Liu Mengke||Mingyue||Mother Lai's elder daughter.|
The younger Lady Qin's servant, later sent to serve Sheng Minglan.
|Jing Tian||Mother Tian||Fourth Aunt's servant, later sent to serve Sheng Minglan.|
|Mother Hua||Fifth Aunt's servant, later sent to serve Sheng Minglan.|
|An Wei||Wang Wu's wife.|
|Zhang Jing||Xiaocui||Zhu Manniang's servant.|
|Zhou Yihua||Ba Laofu||The manager of Heishan Farmstead.|
|Li Hongtao||Gu Yankai||The father of Tingyu, Tingye and Tingwei.|
The Marquis of Ningyuan.
With a surly, military, and unyielding disposition, Gu Yankai was very in love with his first wife, but bent to family pressure to divorce her and marry the much wealthier Lady Bai. He comes to bear a life-ling grudge for this after his beloved first wife dies as a result of the divorce. He takes his resentment out on Lady Bai, and later her son, Gu Tingye. The only one of his brother's considered a gentleman, he dislikes shows of wealth and impropriety, which made him a poor match for his second wife, who was from an ostentatiously wealthy, merchant family. He believes the absolute worst of Gu Tingye in any situation, regardless of explanation, and treats his son with abusive cruelty.
|The elder Lady Qin||Gu Yankai's first wife and childhood sweetheart. Tingyu's mother.|
Her husband's family took advantage of her poor physical health to force him to divorce her. She kills herself due to their pressure.
|Wang Jingyun||Lady Bai||Gu Yankai's second wife. Tingye's mother.|
Lady Bai was from a very wealthy merchant family who only recently became lesser nobility. Her excellent reputation and massive dowry made her a target to the aristocratic Gu family, who had significant debts. Her parents initially refused their matches since the Gu sons offered had very poor reputations as gambling womanizers, and the only son of the family they'd consider worthy of Lady Bai, Gu Yankai, was already married. Lady Bai's family was persuaded to arrange a match between Lady Bai and the newly, and conveniently, widowed Gu Yankai, but the marriage was an unhappy one. Lady Bai was mocked for being lower class, and her husband ignored and resented her unwitting role in the death of his first wife, her merchant background, and the power her family's money has over his family. Lady Bai was unaware that the sole reason her husband married her was for her dowry, and demanded a divorce once she learned the truth behind his mistreatment. She went into labor over the upset and died before she was granted a divorce.
|Wang Yinan||The younger Lady Qin||Gu Yankai's third wife. Tingwei's mother.|
She married her late sister's husband shortly after the death of Lady Bai. She carefully cultivates a reputation for having the temperament of a bodhisattva and is sure to always keep her hands clean of wrongdoing. Though she appears even-handed among her stepsons, and has a calming influence on her raging husband, she privately favors her own (far less accomplished) son's advancement over his two older half-brothers. As a child, Gu Tingye genuinely believed his stepmother loved him, but later learns she was the primary source of the extensive smear campaign against him, and that she purposefully encouraged him to take part in damaging indulgences. She becomes Gu Tingye's major antagonist in adulthood, as she attempts to ruin his reputation and have him thrown from power so her son can be Marquis instead. She eventually kills herself, and dies screaming resentment that she was second place to her sister in her husband's eyes her entire life, never once getting to do what she wanted or live freely, and that her son is worthless, rendering her life's efforts for nothing.
|Gao Zifeng||Gu Tingyu||Gu Yankai's sickly eldest son, by his first wife, the elder Lady Qin. Xian (娴)'s father.|
Though he presents himself as virtuous man, he resents Gu Tingye and was raised by his aunt to villainize Lady Bai for usurping his mother. However, Tingyu is one of the few people who surpasses Gu Tingye's intelligence, and logic wins out: knowing that Gu Tingye will certainly outlive him to become the next marquis, and having a deep love for his wife and daughter, Tingyu makes a deal with his brother, offering support in exchange for a promise that Gu Tingye will watch out for his family after his death.
|Yang Zhidi||Lady Shao||Gu Tingyu's devoted wife. Xian (娴)'s mother.|
|Kang Jiaye||Gu Xian (娴)||Gu Tingyu's only child and daughter, by his wife Lady Shao. A smart girl and favorite of her father. After her father's death, she keeps her mother out of the Gu family's infighting and becomes friends with her cousin, Gu Tingye's daughter Rong'er, receiving lessons on household and account management from Minglan.|
|Liu Zhehui||Gu Tingwei||Gu Yankai's third son, by his third wife, the younger Lady Qin. Xian (贤)'s father. Unlike his scheming mother, he is a genuinely kind person and was not involved with his mother's attempts at defaming his two half-brothers. He is not bright or clever like his brothers, and favors easy pleasures, exhibiting little ambition. He is also ultimately the only family relative of Gu Tingye's from the Ningyuan Manor who genuinely cares for him and the only one who maintains a genuine and friendly relationship with Gu Tingye, who reciprocates his little brother's affection. Gu Tingwei's lack of ambition and achievement eventually cause his mother to snap and kill herself when she realizes her son will never appreciate or realize all of the sacrifices she made for his sake.|
|Xia Yiyao||Lady Zhu||Gu Tingwei's wife.|
|Xu Yulan||Third Aunt||Gu Yankai's third younger sister.|
|Yang Xinming||Fourth Uncle||Gu Yankai's fourth younger brother. Tingbing's father.|
The master of the fourth branch of the Gu family.
|Cui Yi||Fourth Aunt||The fourth master's wife. Tingbing's mother.|
|Ye Zicheng||Gu Tingbing||The fourth master's second son.|
|Hu Yuanjun||Gu Tingbing's wife.|
|Tan Xihe||Fifth Uncle||Gu Yankai's fifth younger brother. Tingdi's father.|
The master of the fifth branch of the Gu family.
|Wang Lele||Fifth Aunt||The fifth master's wife. Tingdi's mother.|
|Liu Mianzi||Gu Tingdi||The fifth master's son.|
|Chen Xi||Gu Tingdi's wife.|
|Zhao Qianzi||Mother Xiang Ji'an||The younger Lady Qin's servant.|
|Youqing||Gu Tingyu's servant.|
|Zhuique||Gu Tingye's servant.|
|Hongxiao||Gu Tingye's servant.|
|Tu Nan||Bai Tingyu||Lady Bai's cousin.|
The eldest son of the second branch of the Bai family. The Bai family is a recently ennobled family of wildly wealthy merchants. Gu Tingye inherited a substantial portion of the Bai family's immense wealth from his mother's father, as well as receiving a large part of his late mother's very generous dowry. Since childhood, Guy Tingye's Bai relatives have sent assassins to kill him and take back the Bai family fortune.
|Liu Pizhong||The Duke of Qi||Qi Heng's father.|
|Chen Jin||The Princess of Pingning||The wife of the Duke of Qi. Qi Heng's mother.|
A proud, elegant, and highly educated noblewoman, she is the dragon guarding her only son, Qi Heng, and believes no one is good enough for him, especially not a poor, concubine-born Sheng Minglan from a lower, scholarly family. Her attitude takes several blows from a series of violent tragedies and extreme situations, and her views eventually soften.
|Zhu Yilong||Qi Heng||The second male lead. The only child of the Duke of Qi, by his wife, the Princess of Pingning.|
Minglan’s childhood sweetheart and one of Gu Tingye's close friends.
An earnest, handsome gentleman with a genuine, amiable nature and sincere soul, Qi Heng is considered the capital's most desirable bachelor, to his eventual sorrow. From his privileged vantage point, Qi Heng can be somewhat oblivious to the inconvenience and plight of others, though never maliciously. Qi Heng is bound to his family and social norms in ways Gu Tingye will never be. Qi Heng is often guilty of underestimating Minglan and is frequently surprised when he sees her true nature under the idealized view he has of her. In their youth, Qi Heng obstinately pursues a relationship with Minglan despite her more realistic view on their circumstances, and promises to marry her, a promise she is reluctant to believe, but eventually decides to trust. Though a health scare finally earns him his mother's reluctant permission to propose to Minglan, he ends up being forced to marry a princess who took a fancy to him when she holds his family hostage until he agrees, causing him to break his promise to marry Minglan. He is freed from this marriage when his wife and her family are executed in a failed, violent coup. He then studies hard to pass the civil exam, having made a deal with his mother that she will arrange his marriage to Minglan if he passes. However, he is too late: Minglan became betrothed to Gu Tingye during the wait, causing Qi Heng to miss out a second time. As an imperial official, he begins to antagonize Gu Tingye under the claim that he does not approve of his reforms and policies, though it becomes apparent he remains jealous and aggrieved, wallowing in self pity over not having been able to marry Minglan. He marries for a second time, and though their relationship is initially not a loving one, the pair suit each other and become supportive. Eventually, he falls in love with his second wife and moves on from Minglan, repairing his friendship with Gu Tingye.
|Zhang Hengyu||The Princess of Jiacheng||Qi Heng's first wife.|
Having fallen in love at first sight, the princess' family indulges her by using kidnapping and threats force to ruin her other romantic rivals and forcibly secure Qi Heng's hand in marriage. Her entire family and herself are violently executed after a coup on the imperial family.
|Chen Yalan||Shen Hezhen||Qi Heng's second wife. Kind, calm, and intelligent, she is insecure and hurt, but understanding, about her husband's continued affections for Sheng Minglan. She quietly supports him, and slowly he comes to realize that he loves and appreciates her.|
|Wang Zijie||Buwei||Qi Heng's servant and companion.|
He often gets roped into Qi Heng's machinations to see Minglan. He dies from caning by the Princess of Pingning for helping his master see Minglan. Qi Heng is severely disturbed by the loss of his friend, and spirals into a sickness he nearly dies from, which alarms and frightens his mother into softening a little.
|Shi Jingyi||Lady Shen's servant.|
|Mu Liyan||Lady Zhuang||Longtime friend of Old Mrs. Sheng, Lady Zhuang is an expert in medical matters.|
|Liu Yue||He Hongwen||Lady Zhuang's only grandson. One of Minglan's suitors|
Hongwen is an excellent doctor and intelligent man. He has a calm, solicitous, and gentle personality, which makes him Old Mrs. Sheng's preference amongst Minglan's potential suitors, and he has held a quiet and firm affection for Minglan since childhood. While Minglan likes him and thinks they would have a decent, calm life together, she finds He Hongwen too amiable. His amiableness causes him to get steam rolled into agreeing to things which would make others suffer, such as agreeing to take his unfortunate cousin, Cao Jinxiu, in as a concubine even before his main marriage occurred. His thoughts were on how to help someone who was in need, without thinking of how it would effect his wife. Though he eventually grows a spine and realizes he had many other options besides marrying his cousin himself, his lack of initial decisiveness and complicated relatives rendered him unappealing in Minglan's eyes, and their tentative engagement talks are broken off, despite his continued wish to marry her. After witnessing Minglan's marriage procession to another man, a saddened He Hongwen decides to go on a multi-year learning journey to gather medicinal herbs and increase his medical knowledge.
|Cao Jinxiu||He Hongwen's maternal cousin. She has loved He Hongwen since childhood. The Cao family were physically branded as traitors and driven from the capital, though they are eventually pardoned. Jinxiu was a concubine of a general when she sent to He Hongwen as an unwitting way of introducing an engagement-ending conflict to buy Gu Tingye time to return and propose himself. With her fallen status and large brand on her face, she clings to He Hongwen and, desperate and infatuated, begs him to take her in as a concubine as soon as she is married so she has a way to live. Her pitifulness puts Minglan in an uncomfortable position she resents being in, making her look bad if she doesn't agree.|
|Yan Jingyao||Mrs. Cao||Jinxiu's mother. Frequently guilts and extorts money and support from her sister, He Hongwen's mother. An arrogant, "choosy beggar" type, Mrs. Cao strongly pushes He Hongwen to accept her daughter as a concubine in order to save herself, and plays a large part in ruining He Hongwen's engagement to Minglan.|
|Huang Youming||Yuan Wenchun||The eldest son of the Count of Zhongqin.|
|Cao Yueyao||Yuan Wenchun's wife. She often mistreats her daughter-in-law Sheng Hualan and seperates the latter from her children with every chance she gets.|
|Wang Ziming||Yuan Wenshao||The second son of the Count of Zhongqin. The father of Zhuang and Shi.|
|Yuan Zhuang||Yuan Wenshao's first child and daughter, by his wife Sheng Hualan. She gets hurt while trying to save her younger brother Shi.|
|Yuan Shi||Yuan Wenshao's second child and son, by his wife Sheng Hualan. Under his grandmother's machinations, he was taken away from Hualan and often neglected by his nannies, and was nearly burned by hot coals on one occasion.|
|Ma Yanbin||The Grand Preceptor||Mr. Yu's father. Yu Yanran's grandfather, who helped raise her. He loves his granddaughter, and is reluctant to agree to Gu Tingye's marriage proposal, due to his terrible reputation. He eventually comes to believe Gu Tingye is a good, upright person, and is persuaded to allow the engagement.|
|Feng Jun||Old Mrs. Yu||Grand Preceptor Yu's wife. Mr. Yu's mother. Yu Yanran's grandmother, who faints from anger at the insult offered to her granddaughter by Manniang.|
|Mr. Yu||Grand Preceptor Yu's son. The father of Yanran and Yanhong.|
The master of the eldest branch of the Yu family. He handed off raising his eldest daughter to his parents after the death of his first wife. Greedy, and not that close to the girl, he plans to sell her off to Gu Tingye when he expresses interest, despite Gu Tingye's appallingly terrible reputation.
|Liu Shuchen||Lady Fang||Mr. Yu's second wife. Yanhong's mother. She and her husband treat Yu Yanran poorly in favor of their other two children.|
|Deng Sha||Yu Yanran||Mr. Yu's first child and elder daughter, by his first wife Lady Fan.|
She is Minglan's best friend in youth. Raised by her grandparents and known for being extremely kind and amiable, Yu Yanran becomes a target for the young Gu Tingye as a possible marriage candidate. Gu Tingye's motives are largely selfish: he is attempting to find a respectable main wife, since getting married would enable him to finally give his outside mistress, Manniang, and existing children official statuses and respectability, and he believes the shy Yu Yanran is malleable and pleasant enough to accept and get along. Yu Yanran is intimidated and quite afraid of Gu Tingue, and does not wish to marry him, though she is eventually persuaded to consider him. Gu Tingye's plans are thwarted by his mistress, Manniang, when she causes an emotional scene at Yu Yanran's home, loudly wailing to be accepted as a concubine and using their children to intimidate the girl and insult the Yu family. Minglan is disgruntled by Gu Tingye's selfish reasons for pursuing her friend, and assists the quiet girl in driving Manniang off without hurting her reputation. After the scene, the ruined marriage talks are canceled.
|Liu Yanchen||Mr. Yu's second child and only son, by his second wife Lady Fang.|
|Zhao Qin||Yu Yanhong||Mr. Yu's third child and younger daughter, by his second wife Lady Fang. She is arrogant and a good polo player.|
|Wang Siyu||Lady Wu||The wife of the Count of Yongchang. Liang Han's mother.|
Bright, sincere, and bold, Lady Wu adores Minglan and earnestly desires to have Minglan marry into her house as the official wife of her sixth son, Liang Han, despite Minglan's concubine-born status. Her motives are primarily selfish: she enjoys Minglan's company, and knows her son, Liang Han, is not as desirable as he seems on the surface, needing a sensible and smart woman to manage his complicated courtyard affairs. Even after news of her son's affair with Sheng Molan, Lady Wu attempts to push for Minglan, informing the Sheng family that she would only allow her son to save Molan's reputation if Minglan marries over as the main wife, and Molan as a concubine. Minglan's grandmother manages to protect her and prevent this from happening.
|Wu Hong||Liang Han||The sixth child and youngest son of the Count of Yongchang, by his wife Lady Wu. Husband of Sheng Molan|
Liang Han enjoys poetry and flirtation, which draws him to the coquettish and artistic Sheng Molan, over his mother's choice of the sensible and athletic-seeming Sheng Minglan. Liang Heng meets Sheng Molan in secret, carrying on an illicit dalliance. Despite this, he genuinely cares for Molan and agrees to take her as his main wife when their affair is discovered. Their initially doting marriage turns sour as unsavory truths come out about Molan's mother and their schemes. Molan, who primarily targeted Liang Han because of his high family status, ignored the other realities which came from reaching so high, such as his womanizing, many concubines, her lack of training in running a household, his unlikelihood of ever inheriting, and the low opinion of her in laws from her methods. Molan finds that the underhanded tricks which worked for her concubine mother in a small household do not work as well when one is in the position of main wife of a huge one, and, quickly tiring of his wife's demanding poutiness and paranoid victimhood, Liang Han soon collects new women and begins to neglect her.
|Chun Ke||Liang Han's concubine.|
|Qiujiang||Sheng Molan's servant, whom she mistreats.|
|Furong||Sheng Molan's servant, whom she mistreats.|
|Wang You||The father of Shiping, Ruoyu and Ruofu.|
He served as the Imperial Tutor, and was buried in the Imperial Ancestral Temple.
|Zhao Shuzhen||Old Mrs. Wang||Wang You's wife. The mother of Shiping, Ruoyu and Ruofu. She blatantly and blindly favors her psychotic older daughter Lady Kang (Ruoyu), which harms her younger daughter Lady Sheng (Ruofu). Despite Ruoyu's horrific behavior and attempt to kill Minglan and her newborn son, Old Mrs. Wang files an official grievance and demands the Emperor issue punishment on Gu Tingye, which leads to a major catalyst in Gu Tingye's fall from imperial favor.|
|Ma Yan||Wang Shiping||Wang You's first child and only son, by his wife Old Mrs. Wang.|
|Liu Wanting||Mrs. Wang||Wang Shiping's wife.|
|Li Duo||Kang Haifeng||The father of Jin, Yun'er and Zhao'er. He has long ago given up on ever-controlling his wife, and now stays out of it as he indulges in his flavor of the weak concubines and neglects his small horde of children.|
|Zhang Yanyan||Wang Ruoyu, Lady Kang||Kang Haifeng's official wife. Elder sister of Wang Ruofu (Minglan's legal mother). The legal mother of Jin and Yun'er. A complete suck-up to those in higher positions, she becomes best friends with Gu Tingye's stepmother, and follows her every word. Lady Kang is a cruel, manipulative woman who is jealous of her sister Ruofu's as well as her niece Minglan's higher statuses and happy marriages, especially due to her own unhappy marriage with a husband who frequently chooses the company of concubines, and is willing to sabotage their peaceful lives just to make herself feel better. Kang has a reputation for killing servants and mistreating her husband's lesser concubines and concubine-born children, doing things such as arranging young 14 year old concubine-born daughters to marry 70+ year old men with full harems, selling them to brothels, refusing them medicine, and giving them insufficient funds/food. Her hold is such that she is able to terrify one shu daughter, Kang Zhao, into what is essentially a suicide mission. In order to gain control over the Sheng family, she manipulates her own sister Wang Ruofu into giving poisoned pastries to Old Mrs. Sheng (Minglan's grandmother and Wang Ruofu's mother-in-law) claiming they would make her slightly sick and appreciate her daughter in law more, when in reality they were strong enough to kill had Minglan not intervened. She feels no remorse for any of her actions, relying on her status as the daughter and wife of an official to protect her, and is even willing to blame her sister and relatives for her actions to escape penalty. After escaping imprisonment (with the help of her other niece Molan and Gu Tingye's stepmother younger Lady Qin), she tries to murder Gu Tingye and Minglan's firstborn son during a fire that breaks out in their manor but is murdered by Gu Tingye in self-defense to protect them. Her death is the catalyst for a case against Gu Tingye that grows bigger due to his influence in court and connection with the emperor.|
|Lu Jin||Kang Jin||Kang Haifeng's son, by his wife Wang Ruoyu.|
|Du Lingli||Kang Zhao'er||Kang Haifeng's neglected concubine-born daughter, by his unfavored concubine, Lady Su. With little power or influence, Zhao is forced by his legal mother Lady Kang to go on a suicide mission to first become a concubine of Gu Tingye and then cause a scandal by killing herself to discredit the Gu family. If Zhao'er does not comply, her mother's life will be in danger due to Lady Kang's control and her little sister will be sent to a brothel. Eventually Minglan discovers this plot and gives the girl two options: become Gu Tingye's concubine, or marry a poor scholar. In either case, her family will be snuck out to safety. Zhao'Er immediately chooses the second option as she understands that no one would willingly be a concubine rather than a main wife, and she and her family escape Madame Kang's clutches.|
|Lin Dengdeng||Mother Qi||Wang Ruoyu's servant.|
|Yang Qing||The Empress Dowager||The Emperor's mother.|
|Qin Yan||The Emperor|
|Yang Yuting||Noble Consort Rong|
|Ning Wentong||The Prince of Yong||The Princess of Jiacheng's father.|
|Xie Chengying||The Princess Consort of Yong||The wife of the Prince of Yong. The Princess of Jiacheng's mother.|
|Wang Yongquan||The Prince of Yan|
|Feng Hui||Zhao Zongquan||The father of Ceying and Zhao Yong.|
The new Emperor.
|Juan Zi||Shen Congying||Zhao Zongquan's wife. Ceying's mother.|
|Fu Miao||Noble Consort Liu||Zhao Zongquan's concubine. Zhao Yong's mother.|
|Huo Yaming||Zhao Ceying||Zhao Zongquan's elder son, by his wife Shen Congying.|
The Prince of Huan.
|Zhao Yong||Zhao Zongquan's younger son, by his concubine Noble Consort Liu.|
|Yan Xiang||Shen Congxing||Shen Congying's younger brother. A close friend of Gu Tingye, he was instrumental in the war for the current emperor. He loved his first wife who died protecting the empress, and, grieving the loss, took his wife's younger sister, Zou, in as his concubine. This leads to many conflicts, as most view this as a disrespectful thing to do, and his extreme guilt towards his first wife results in him allowing Zou to get away with scandalous behavior. The Emperor decrees Shen Congxing must enter a political marriage with Zhang Guifan, the daughter of a highly decorated general. He is unwilling, and their marriage is rocky, as he grieves his first wife and overly indulges his concubine. His bad marriage is a major source of political instability, and Gu Tingye and Minglan are tasked by the Emperor and Empress to improve their relationship. Eventually, he grows to love his second wife, and after he is made to realize how much he has made his wife suffer and how badly he has strayed, he exiles his concubine and tries to win his wife back.|
|Jiao Qiyue||The elder Lady Zou||Shen Congxing's first wife. During the war, she pretended to be the Empress, in order to die in her place.|
|Wu Xiaoyu||Zhang Guifen||Shen Congxing's second wife, the only child of a General Zhang. Incredibly loved by her parents, Guifen is beautiful, cold, and accomplished. She was unwilling to enter her political marriage decreed by the Emperor, and dislikes her husband from the start, falling into depression over her fate. Initially at odds with Minglan due to her intervention in a fight between herself and her husband's concubine, Zou Ping, Zhang Guifen soon becomes close friends with Sheng Minglan, and Minglan even helps protect her against Zou Ping's machinations. She is highly skilled in polo, and with Minglan's suggestion, works to improve her marriage and make the best of her life. She leaves her husband, returning home with her parents after giving birth to Shen Conxing's son, and he works to win her back and restore their good relationship.|
|Chen Mengxi||Zou Ping||Shen Congxing's concubine, younger sister of the Elder Lady Zou. A petty, childish woman who uses her relation to her husband's first wife to monopolize his affections and get away with behaviors normally never tolerated in a concubine, such as causing scenes and demanding to attend functions like a main wife. After she engages in a dangerous trick which endangers the life of a pregnant Zhang Guifen to ensure she keeps her husband's favor, her husband is forced to see her for the liability she really is, and exiles her from the family.|
|Wang Yijie||Shen Yuzhen||Shen Congying's younger sister, who hates Zou Ping.|
|Wang Yongquan||The Duke of Ying||Guifen's father.|
|Hu Qingyun||The Duchess Consort of Ying||The wife of the Duke of Ying. Guifen's mother.|
|Tian Miao||Mother Fan||Zhang Guifen's servant.|
|Wei Jinsong||Eunuch Li||The new Emperor's servant.|
|Yu Zhe||Qingyun||A eunuch.|
|Wu Yujue||Ruichu||A palace maid.|
|Li Yan||Eunuch Zhu||The Empress Dowager's servant.|
|Mother Su||Shen Congying's servant.|
|Cheng Guodong||Han Zhang||The Grand Chancellor.|
|Mi Te||Duan Chengyong||A general and friend of Gu Tingye. He is falsely accused of rape, and unable to enter the salt market as a result.|
|Fan Zhechen||Geng Jiechuan||A general.|
|Sun Zhengyu||Xie Pingde||Gu Tingye's superior.|
|Shen Guotao||Hezhen's father.|
|Dong Zhao||Imperial Physician Zhao|
|Li Ruoning||Prostitute Wei||Gu Tingye's confidante.|
|Hao Shuang||Rong Feiyan||Noble Consort Rong's younger sister.|
The series is produced by Hou Hong Liang and Daylight Entertainment, who has produced several hit television series like Nirvana in Fire and Ode to Joy. It is directed by Zhang Kaizhou of Love Me If You Dare and Ode to Joy 2. The screenplay of the series is written by Zeng Lu and Wu Tong, who were both co-writers of Battle of Changsha.
Pre-production started in April 2017. On May 8, 2017, Zhao Liying was announced to play the leading role of Sheng Minglan. Feng Shaofeng was unveiled as the male lead on June 20, 2017. The rest of the supporting cast was announced in August 2017. Filming began in September 2017 at Hengdian World Studios. The series wrapped up filming in April 2018.
The show has an 8.1 out of 10 on Douban and received mainly positive reviews. It has become a major trending topic on social media, with related hashtags being viewed hundreds of millions of times. Many netizens have praised the television series for revealing problems and contradictions in real life, such as traditional Chinese families' preference for boys over girls (重男轻女), NEET (啃老族), and generational conflicts when it comes to providing care for the elderly (家庭养老).
|Air date||Episode||CSM52 City network ratings||National Internet ratings|
|Ratings (%)||Audience share (%)||Timeslot Rank||Ratings (%)||Audience share (%)||Timeslot rank|
|25th Shanghai Television Festival||Best Television Series||Nominated|||
|Best Director||Zhang Kaizhou||Nominated|
|Best Adapted Screenplay||Zeng Lu, Wu Tong||Nominated|
|Best Actress||Zhao Liying||Nominated|
|Best Supporting Actor||Zhu Yilong||Nominated|
|Best Supporting Actress||Liu Lin||Nominated|
|Best Art Direction||Nominated|
|26th Huading Awards||Best Actor (Historical drama)||Feng Shaofeng||Nominated|||
|Best Actress (Historical drama)||Zhao Liying||Nominated|
|Golden Bud - The Fourth Network Film And Television Festival||Best Actor||Feng Shaofeng||Nominated|||
|Best Actress||Zhao Liying||Nominated|
|Baidu Fudian Awards||Top Ten Television Series||The Story of Minglan||Won|||
|30th China TV Golden Eagle Award||Outstanding Television Series||Won|||
|Best Actress||Zhao Liying||Nominated|
|Audience's Choice For Actress||Won|
|Audience's Choice For Actor||Zhu Yilong||Nominated|
|Best Cinematography||Li Baichao||Nominated|
|Best Original Soundtrack||Zhi Fou Zhi Fou||Nominated|