Series / Virtues of Harmony

Virtues of Harmony (2001-2005) (皆大欢喜, literally Everyone Is Happy) was one of Hong Kong’s TVB station’s longest running sitcom series (over 700 episodes spanning two seasons in four years). Originally planned at 150 episodes, good ratings allowed Virtues to have another 200 episodes. The first season (the first 327 episodes) was a period piece, set in the Ming Dynasty. The second season can be considered a modern spinoff, placing most of the original cast in modern-day Hong Kong. Notable aspects that separate this series from a normal sitcom was its (usually) long-term continuity, naming and visual puns, and mix-ups and misunderstandings involving Chinese superstition.

Yau Nim Chi (游念慈) is the matriarch of the Gam family and the owner of a restaurant called Dung Mat Yuen (洞蜜园, a homophone of 动物园 “zoo”) who has a sketchy history and holds the family together. She has three adult children: oldest son Gam Nin (金年, homophone of 今年 “this year”), second son Gam Yuet (金月, homophone of 今月 “this month”), and youngest daughter Gam Yat (金日, homophone of 今日 “this day” or “today”), who are triplets. Gam Nin was a fifth-level government official working in the capital who gets demoted to a ninth-level magistrate in his hometown, Chi Lik Gung village (池力共镇) after insulting the princess. Gam Yuet is the most spoiled and sickly of the three, who works occasionally at the family restaurant but tends to be lazy and play rather than work. Gam Yat as the youngest and only daughter is both bratty and spoiled, likes to argue, likes to be right, and likes to add fuel to the fire.

Nim Chi’s younger brother, Yau Nim Fu (游念富), a proud man who aims to be highly masculine and jealously guards the secret to his famous noodles, and his slow but honest, loving, and dangerously loyal wife Wan Ying Gei (云影姬) live with the family, as well as Lam Yuk Lou (林玉露), Gam Yuet’s bossy and petty wife who constantly bickers with the other women, especially her sister-in-law. Eventually in a twist of strange circumstances Gam Yuet chooses a second wife: Sek Mei (石美), the daughter of pork sellers who values honesty and expects high moral standards from others. A huge source of conflict comes from Ah Lou and Ah Mei vying for their husband’s attention. Soon after Gam Yat marries Gou Yi Hong (高尔康), the village’s poorest man and an unlucky scholar, after one wacky courtship and one huge misunderstanding, after which Ah Yat tries to mold him into the perfect husband.

To complete this family, there’s the runaway Princess Sam Tin (深田公主), who fled the imperial palace with her servant and eunuch after the Emperor misguidedly accepts the Persian prince's proposal for her. They ends up in Chi Lik Gung village and after she breaks a statue of herself which she thought was unforgivably unlike herself, Ah Nin sentences her to manual labor. She chooses a false name for herself, Gung Yan Sou (恭欣素), and by chance Nim Chi mistakes her for the daughter of the family’s savior. Their savior rescued Ah Nin from falling down a mountain 20 years ago and Nim Chi promised him that she would find his daughter and make sure she is well-raised. Because she lost all her money, the princess and her servant move in with the Gam family.

And that’s just the beginning of the story. And characters. Many, many characters.

The second season, Virtues of Harmony II, retained most of the same cast members, changes some of the pre-existing relationships, and adds new characters like Ah Lou’s family. Although set in modern Hong Kong, some imagine spots do take place in period settings, from imperial China to wartime Shanghai to fantasy literature. This season ran for over 400 episodes between 2003 and 2005.

This work contains examples of:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: Baak Hap to Sek Biu and eventually to Imperial Brother-in-law Maan
    • Princess Sah Sah to Ah Yuet and Gou Yi Hong
    • Hah Wai to Siu Yuen (briefly)
    • Eunuch Ling to Ah Nin (briefly) in a gender reversal, although much more complicated - see No Biological Sex below.
  • Action Girl: Quite a few characters, most notably Yau Nim Chi, Shek Mei, Shek Tai, and Consort Po Ling-Kau.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Imperial Consort Maan.
  • Butt-Monkey: Aunt Ying Gei to the rest of the women.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: Practically every woman who is a wife or a concubine.
  • Costume Porn
  • Death by Childbirth: Subverted. After giving birth, the real Yau Nim Chi died by choking on some food.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Well it is medieval China.
  • Depraved Homosexual: Eunuch Ling
  • Disney Villain Death: Subverted with Fo Yim Yim. She survives the fall and goes insane, but it turns out later that she isn't so insane.
  • Double In-Law Marriage: It turns out that Gou Yi Hong is the missing Crown Prince and Princess Sam Tin's younger brother!
  • Everyone Is Related / Tangled Family Tree: Lampshaded in one episode when everyone's trying to figure out how to address Ah Tai after she marries into the family.
  • Everything's Better with Princesses
  • Everything's Sparkly with Jewelry
  • Evil Is Petty: Played with in several characters.
    • Lam Yuk Lou at times
    • Maan Gok Kei
    • Baak Hap
  • Fake Nationality: The 'Persian Prince' is actually played by an Australian actor, the 'Russian Queen' speaks English, etc.
  • Family-Unfriendly Aesop: It is better to be married than to become an aging power-hungry spinster. Princess Sah Sah, Fo Yim Yim, I'm talking to you.
  • Fish out of Water / Naïve Newcomer: The Princess in Chi Lik Gung village and the Gam family in the Imperial palace. The Emperor himself very briefly when he goes out on the town.
    • Imperial Consort Bou when she is learning proper palace etiquette.
  • Four-Girl Ensemble / Four-Temperament Ensemble: The "Four Great Beauties" is comprised of Lam Yuk Lou, Sek Mei, Gam Yat, and Wan Ying Gei
  • Freudian Slip: Happens on occasion.
  • Fun with Homophones: Happens across the series.
  • Gorgeous Period Dress: Given for a rich, wealthy family. In fact, it's something of a running topic across the series, as the Gam ladies buy a lot of fabric, jewelry, and accessories.
  • Henpecked Husband: Gou Yi Hong to Ah Yat and Ah Yuet to a degree to his two wives.
    • Imperial Brother-in-law Maan to Baak Hap
  • Identical Stranger: Yau Nim Chi and the former Empress Ji Tung.
  • Imagine Spot: Several.
  • Improbable Hairstyle: All the ladies' hair styles in the series are exaggerated. There's some Truth in Television though, as Chinese women used to do up their hair into buns and held them with hairpins and accessories.
  • King Incognito: Princess Sam Tin, and eventually the Emperor himself a couple times.
  • Large Ham: Princess Sah Sah
    • Imperial Brother-in-law Maan
    • Gam Yat
    • Eunuch Ling
    • Half-A-Day Saint
  • Last Minute Hookup: Sah Sah and Half-a-Day Saint
  • Loads and Loads of Characters
  • Meaningful Name: Fo Yim Yim (火炎炎)'s name is made up of five fires, the last two characters meaning "blaze". Her sister Fo Lat Lat (火辣辣) also counts, the last two characters meaning "cruel".
    • Gou Yi Hong was named after the mountain where he was picked up.
    • Ah Nin, Ah Yuet, and Ah Yat are named so because they were born on the same day of the same month of the same year.
  • Mistaken Confession
  • Mistaken for an Imposter / Mistaken Identity
  • Mistaken for Cheating
  • Mistaken for Dying
  • Mistaken for Gay
  • Mistaken for Murderer
  • My Biological Clock Is Ticking: The family's aunt Wan Ying Gei's biggest worry is to bear a child for her husband soon, even though she's thirty.
  • No Biological Sex: Eunuchs are constantly referred to and refer to themselves as "neither man nor woman".
  • Power Trio: Yau Nim Fu, Gam Yuet, and Gou Yi Hong
  • Punny Names: Several, not including the ones mentioned in the page summary
    • Their home town, Chi Lik Gung Jan (池力共镇) is a homophone of Chi Lik Gung Jan (磁力共振), or an MRI.
    • Their house in the Imperial palace is called Gah Yan Gung (嘉仁宫), or 'Adding Salary' (家).
    • Imperial Concubine Maan's palatial house is called Dung Yam Gung (东音宫), or 'East Misery'.
    • Princess Sah Sah's palatial house is called Mou Lui Gung (舞蕾宫), or 'No Thunder God' (无雷公).
    • The Emperor's palatial house is called Sau Ji Gong (首紫宫), or 'Pointing-Finger Palace' (手指宫).
    • Imperial Brother-in-law Maan's palatial house is called (庄旦宫), or 'Egg-placing old man' (妆蛋公)
    • At one point, Uncle Ling was given the name Mou Dak Fan (), or 'Not Allowed to Sleep' ().
  • Put on a Bus / Long Bus Trip: Chun Mui. Also counts as a retconned love interest
  • Rebellious Princess: Princess Sam Tin ran away because she didn't want to marry the Persian Prince.
  • Succession Crisis: An ongoing problem that spurs the Emperor's quest to have a son with his two favorite concubines. Turns out he already has a son.
  • The Clan: The Gam/Sek/Imperial Family.
  • The Theme Park Version: Belly Dancers from Persia! Chocolate filled with whiskey from France! Blonde dancer from Russia! Cannibal barbarian tribes! Angry geisha-watching samurai! Yep, got them all.
  • The Unfavorite: Ah Yat, according to herself.
  • Will They or Won't They?: The standard setup between Ah Nin and the Princess, Ah Tai and Siu Yuen
  • You Look Familiar: Several actors are recycled throughout the series as different townsfolk.
  • Zany Scheme: Would not be a sitcom without one.