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In the first year, all was peaceful.
In the second year, all was peaceful.
In the third year, all was peaceful.
......
In the thirteenth year, all was still peaceful.
Thus, more and more people finally came to believe that perhaps Wei Wuxian had not been that amazing after all, Maybe he really had perished.
Even though he had once turned the world upside down, there had at last come a day when he was the one overturned.
No one could be worshiped on the divine altar forever. Legends are merely legends.
Chapter 1: Reincarnation
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Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation: Mo Dao Zu Shi (Chinese: 魔道祖师 Mo Dao Zu Shi), also known as The Founder of Diabolism, is a danmei and xianxia novel by Mo Xiang Tong Xiu, which was first published as a Web Novel on the Chinese Web Novel site JJWXC.

Years ago, a young cultivator named Wei Wuxian rose to fame by discovering a new school of cultivation that involved the manipulation of dark energy and raising the dead (both of which had never been done or attempted before). He used said abilities to give the cultivation clans an edge over their common enemy, the tyrannical Wen Clan. Over time, however, Wei Wuxian came to be feared and hated, and soon he met his grisly end at the hands of the people who once trusted him.

13 years after Wei Wuxian's death, Mo Xuanyu, a mentally-troubled cultivator, decides that he has had enough of his family's abuse. He casts a spell that summons Wei Wuxian's spirit — long thought to be scattered and destroyed — into his own body, in exchange for Wei Wuxian granting his wishes of revenge. Everything that happens after that, however, is up to Wei Wuxian to decide. But he's not alone in this journey that is his second life, as he finds himself accompanied by Lan Wangji, an acquaintance of the past whom he has a complicated history with.

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Along the way, they encounter new mysteries that are more connected than they initially seem. At the same time, the mystery that is Wei Wuxian himself is slowly unveiled.

Is Wei Wuxian a hero or a villain? How much of the legends of the Yiling Patriarch are true or false? And how blurred is the line between good and evil?

The novel is 113 chapters long, with 13 extra chapters that detail events that take place either before or after the main story. It's been translated in various languages, with an English translation by Seven Seas Entertainment that began in December 2021 and runs over five volumes.

The novel has received the following adaptations:

  • Animated Adaptation: The donghua is produced by B.CMAY Animation & Film. The first season aired from July to October 2018 with 15 episodes, the second season aired in August 2019 with eight episodes, and the third season aired from August to October 2021 with 12 episodes. The donghua can be found on Tencent's site for Chinese audiences and on WeTV and YouTube with subtitles in 12 languages for international audiences (although a VPN may be required in certain countries). The donghua has also been officially dubbed in Korean and Japanese.
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  • Spinoff: A chibi Animated Adaptation called The Founder of Diabolism Q (or Mo Dao Zu Shi Q) aired from June 2020 to January 2021 with 30 episodes, and can be found alongside the main donghua on official streaming sites. It is a comedic Lighter and Softer spin-off of the donghua.
  • Audio Drama: This is produced by Polar Penguin Studios and consists of three seasons. The audio drama is available at the Chinese audio streaming website MissEvan. A Japanese dub began airing in January 2020 on MimiFM.
  • Audio Book: An official auditory narration of the novel is available at Ximalaya FM. The narrator is Zhang Zhen, who voices Jiang Fengmian in the audio drama.
  • Comic-Book Adaptation : A manhua adaptation began in December 2017 and is available via the Kuaikan Manhua app.
  • Live-Action Adaptation: The live-action drama titled The Untamed, which is loosely based on the novel, aired on Tencent and WeTV from June to August 2019 with 50 episodes. Two spinoff web movies, The Living Dead and Fatal Journey, were released on November 7 2019 and March 26 2020, respectively.
  • Mobile game: Based on the Live-Action Adaptation and also named The Untamed, a mobile game is slated for 2022.

Note: Names, terminology and quotes are based on the official English novel translation by Seven Seas Entertainment whenever possible.note 


Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation: Mo Dao Zu Shi contains examples of the following tropes:

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  • 13 Is Unlucky: Between his demise and his resurrection, Wei Wuxian was dead for 13 years.
  • Absurdly Sharp Blade: It's expected for all spiritual swords to be extremely sharp, especially if its wielder is notably more powerful than the rest.
  • The Ace: Cultivators are trained according to the standards of ancient Chinese gentlemen - almost like aristocratic warrior-knights. Most cultivators are expected to be the best examples of humanity. Some others are especially noted to be even better, especially the top five cultivators of Wei Wuxian's generation. At the start of the story's timeline, the five top gentlemen in this cultivation world are, from top to bottom: Lan Xichen, Lan Wangji, Jin Zixuan, Wei Wuxian, Jiang Cheng.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: Lan Wangji is usually quick to get jealous when Wei Wuxian tries to charm other women, but he only laughs when Lan Sizhui tells about the time Wei Wuxian repeatedly pestered the Damsel of Annual Blossoms to get a glimpse of the spirit's face.
  • Adaptation Deviation: In the novel, Lan Xichen noticed Lan Wangji rescuing Wei Wuxian and taking him away from the Nightless Immortal Capital in the aftermath of the battle and notified Lan Qiren about it only after hours of recovering from his wounds. In the audio drama, Lan Wangji took Wei Wuxian away in the midst of the bloodbath, and it was a random Lan disciple who witnessed what happened and immediately alerted Lan Qiren to them.
  • Adaptation Distillation: Since the novel is long and filled with a lot of expositions and detail, a few adaptations have to simplify parts of the story for their more restricted formats.
    • The manhua closely follows the narrative of the novel but sometimes omits details or scenes not relevant to the plot to adhere to a certain pace and chapter length without affecting the story.
    • The donghua has a modest runtime of 35 episodes (usually about 24 minutes long), so it frequently combines certain scenes and makes other adjustments so that details can be left out while still allowing the story to flow and get the important plot points down.
  • Adaptation Expansion:
    • The audio drama adds several scenes that weren't included the novel or were only mentioned in passing, mostly via the extras. Examples include Wei Wuxian encountering Jin Zixuan's dog at the Cloud Recesses, Jin Guangyao having to help Lan Xichen wash his clothes, and the Twin Jades getting drunk after mistaking alcohol for tea.
    • The donghua adds scenes or expands on novel details, either to give more context or to put its own twist on the story.
      • The Cloud Recesses flashback provided additional foreshadowing of Wei Wuxian taking up demonic cultivation and expanded on the Jiang family's dynamic with Wei Wuxian.
      • While the Yin Tiger Tally loses presence later in the story and has its fate unknown by the epilogue (other than the fact that it's no longer functioning), the donghua still makes use of it by adding scenes of Jin Guangyao trying to use it to doom everyone with fierce corpses and the protagonists destroying it once and for all to ensure that no one can ever use it again.
  • Adults Are Useless: A running theme in the flashbacks is how the previous generation failed the next one. In particular, Jiang Fengmian's generation was too caught up in their own problems to raise their children well or address the Wen Clan's growing abuses. Their deaths forced a group of ill-prepared teenagers to clean up after their mess.
  • Affectionate Gesture to the Head: Based on some official artwork and adaptations, Jiang Yanli liked to pat Jin Zixuan on the cheek in a loving manner.
  • Affectionate Nickname: China has quite the detailed naming system, and one of them involves addressing either family or someone they're really close to by a shortened version of their birth or courtesy name, which is prefixed with "A-". For example, there's "A-Xian" (Wei Wuxian), "A-Cheng" (Jiang Cheng), and "A-Li" (Jiang Yanli). Whenever a character uses this, it's usually a good indication of how fond they are towards the other.
  • All for Nothing: Despite everything Wei Wuxian sacrificed to save Wen Ning and his relatives, all his efforts were turned against him through both horrible luck and tragic injustice, and it all ended in his death and the remaining Wens being brutally and remorselessly slaughtered. Subverted after the Time Skip when Wei Wuxian gets the reassurance that his efforts weren't entirely in vain when he learns that Wen Yuan, now known as Lan Sizhui, survived.
  • Ambiguous Situation:
    • Few details of how involved the clans and especially their respective leaders were in the First Siege are known. The Lan Clan of Gusu for example was lead by Lan Qiren rather than the actual leader Lan Xichen himself, bringing into question how the latter was involved if at all.
    • While there's no doubt that Jin Guangyao caused Nie Mingjue to die from qi deviation, it's uncertain when the character started inducing the effects that would slowly cause said death. Wei Wuxian speculates that it might have been after Nie Mingjue kicked Jin Guangyao down the stairs of Golden Carp Tower and called him the son of a prostitute. When he points this out to Jin Guangyao in the final arc, the latter doesn't affirm or refute Wei Wuxian's statement. The audio drama is less vague, confirming that Jin Guangyao did start tampering with the Song of Clarity only after the latter kicked him down the stairs and called him the Son of a Whore; Wei Wuxian even noticed during Empathy that he could feel the calming effects of the song at first, but not anymore in the instances Jin Guangyao would play the song after the incident.
    • The story doesn't reveal exactly how Jin Rusong got killed. Jin Guangyao ominously states that one way or another, "he had to die", but whether this meant he played an active role or not is unverified.
    • Even with what Lan Xichen told Wei Wuxian about his parents, it's hard to determine what's true and what's false about them, especially since Lan Xichen's own knowledge about how his parents got married is only from hearsay. It's also never revealed exactly how Madam Lan died or what kind of grudges she had with the Lan Clan to kill one of them, or whether the murder involved a grudge she had or a grudge held against her.
    • At first, it seems that Su She stabbed Nie Huaisang while trying to get away. But once some new information come to life after Jin Guangyao's death, Wei Wuxian suspects that Nie Huaisang fell on Su She's sword on purpose. While both possibilities are equally likely, there's no concrete proof to prove one claim over the other. The audio drama is less vague about this, as it has Su She yelling "Get off!" before a stabbing sound follows, with Nie Huaisang quickly crying in pain afterwards.
    • As Wei Wuxian notes, it's unknown if nearly all the events that happened in the novel were 1) planned by Nie Huaisang to the most minute detail, or 2) weren't calculated, let alone anticipated, but happened to play in the latter's favor anyway. Many cues point to the first scenario, but there's no hard evidence that can prove it.
  • Ambition Is Evil: A lot of tragedy could be traced back to a few people getting too ambitious and wanting to rule over the cultivation world, disturbing the peace and bringing strife in order to gain material power.
  • Amplifier Artifact: The Yin Tiger Tally drastically increases its user's ability to use demonic cultivation. For example, Wei Wuxian's use of the Yin Tiger Tally allows him to control thousands instead of hundreds of fierce corpses.
  • Anachronic Order: The novel constantly jumps back and forth between Wei Wuxian's current and previous lives. The donghua also does this to a lesser degree: unlike the novel, the donghua inserts all of Wei Wuxian's pre-Yiling Patriarch flashbacks betweeh the Mount Dafan and Xinglu Ridge arcs and inserts all of his Yiling Patriarch flashbacks during the Xinglu Ridge arc.
  • Analogy Backfire: When Su She accuses Wei Wuxian of being afraid of death, Wei Wuxian counters that fearing death is not the same as not wanting to die, much like how there's a difference with him not wanting to leave Lan Wangji's embrace and being afraid of doing such... before he retracts his statement by realizing that they're actually the same thing. In this case, the trope is invoked on purpose, as Wei Wuxian was trying to piss Su She off.
  • …And That Little Girl Was Me: In the Yi City backstory, when Xue Yang told Xiao Xingchen and A-Qing the story of a little boy who only wanted to eat sweets and was taken advantage of, he admitted to being that same little boy when A-Qing immediately inquired about it.
  • Angry Collar Grab: Jiang Cheng had a habit of grabbing Wei Wuxian by the collar out of anger or annoyance in the past whenever he was confronting him.
  • Anguished Declaration of Love:
    • After he finally had a change of heart towards Jiang Yanli, Jin Zixuan tried to atone for his belittlement of her and worked up the courage to have her invited to the Phoenix Mountain Hunt. He tried to court her while accompanying her around the hunting grounds, but it became clear the woman wasn't enjoying herself as she thought he was only being nice out obligation. Not wanting the misunderstanding to go on any further before she left, Jin Zixuan impulsively confessed his feelings to her and made it clear that he wanted her to be here (and not his mother like Jiang Yanli thought). This bewildered everyone present, and he was so embarrassed that he ran off screaming. Fortunately for him, it worked nevertheless and led to the couple happily marrying.
    • If what Lan Xichen tells Wei Wuxian about 13 years ago is any indication, it's strongly implied that Lan Wangji confessed his feelings to the latter in a desperate attempt to reach out to him. The additional lines of the moment in the audio drama make it more obvious.
    • Wei Wuxian dramatically confesses to Lan Wangji while held hostage at Guanyin Temple, wanting to clear up some mortifying misunderstandings between them as soon as possible. When in doubt that the latter believed him, he elaborates further and goes off on a tangent about how much he loves him and never wants to part with him, driving home just how serious his feelings are.
  • Arc Words:
    • "Thank you" and "I'm sorry", both of which are repeatedly echoed throughout the story.
      • Wei Wuxian tells Jin Ling that these are two phrases everyone must learn to say.
      • They're the last words Wen Qing said to Wei Wuxian before sacrificing herself to the Jin Clan.
      • They're the words that Lan Wangji never wants to hear from Wei Wuxian as whenever they exchanged those words in the past, they would always meet again under worse circumstances.
    • A recurring theme for the protagonists was asking or reassuring they're by each other's sides. From Wei Wuxian to Lan Wangji, "Look at me." Then from Lan Wangji to Wei Wuxian, "I'm here."
  • Armor-Piercing Question: In the donghua, as Yu Ziyuan she and Jiang Fengmian argued over the dissolving of Jiang Yanli and Jin Zixuan's engagement, her husband argued that their daughter should be allowed to choose who she marries instead of being forced to marry someone she doesn't love because of her parents' wishes. Yu Ziyuan then asked him if he's speaking from experience, which stumbled her husband.
  • Arranged Marriage: Cultivation clans often do arranged marriages in order to forge more political connections, increase one's standing, and so that the clan leaders would have an heir. Jiang Yanli and Jin Zixuan's engagement was originally of this nature, before the fathers decided to break it off (spurred by Wei Wuxian's fight with Jin Zixuan) for the sake of their happiness. However, the couple eventually reached mutual feelings on their own terms and would marry several years later anyway.
  • Arrow Catch:
    • In the donghua, a teenage Wei Wuxian caught an arrow Wen Ning accidentally shot at him with only mild surprise.
    • Wen Ning effortlessly caught an arrow shot in his direction once in Qiongqi Path when one of Jin Zixun's men attempted to shoot Wei Wuxian.
  • Art Evolution: The manhua art style goes through significant changes that are a deliberate choice on the artist's part. Initially, the manhua follows a grounded art style with an equally grounded and earthy coloring scheme, which soon becomes more shoujo-esque with much brighter colors when the manhua gets to the first flashback arc about Wei Wuxian studying in the Cloud Recesses. By the time the manhua gets to the Yi City arc, the art style became a cross between the two.
  • Artifact of Doom: Simply put, several things went downhill in the past because of Jin Guangshan's desire to obtain the Yin Tiger Tally and use it to rule over the cultivation world.
  • Asshole Victim: Discussed In-Universe in the "Iron Hook" extra. After the juniors hear the entire story of the eponymous ghost, they agree that the blacksmith's wife (the Iron Hook's first victim) got her just desserts for killing him just because she was bored with being his wife.
  • Attack the Mouth:
    • In the donghua, after being turned into a fierce corpse, Wang Lingjiao bit off Wen Chao's tongue under Wei Wuxian's control.
    • One of Xue Yang's favorite techniques is to slice off his victim's tongue, rendering them mute.
  • Autocannibalism: Shortly after discovering demonic cultivation, Wei Wuxian mind-raped Wen Chao into eating his own flesh.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: Any clan leader is bound to know how to fight like a badass. The one exception is the current Nie Clan leaderNie Huaisang, although that's because he's more of The Chessmaster than a fighter.
  • Awful Truth:
    • Lan Xichen tells Lan Wangji that he doesn't want to easily accept that his long-time friend is a liar and a murderer because accepting it and all the implications that come with it would be too much for him to take. True enough, when that time came, the full impact of the revelation shatters his spirit (metaphorically speaking) and drives him into seclusion.
    • Wei Wuxian feared in the past that if Jiang Cheng knew even a hint about how he really regained his cultivation, he would take it poorly and break down again. Fearing that outcome, Wei Wuxian never hinted to anyone about what happened to him and why he switched to using only demonic cultivation, and told Wen Ning to never tell Jiang Cheng about the transplant under any circumstances. In the present day, Wen Ning only ends up breaking his word when Jiang Cheng antagonizes Wei Wuxian past his Rage Breaking Point that he ends up suffering a minor qi deviation.
    • Lan Sizhui's tragic past is the reason Lan Wangji didn't tell him of his origins, and why Wen Ning also keeps quiet even after finding out who he really is, although both agree that it's only a matter of time until he remembers. Eventually, he finds out but takes the truth of his origins relatively well. While he does get emotional when he reveals what he knows to Wei Wuxian, it's portrayed in a positive and heartwarming light.
    • Reconstructed for Jin Ling and the truth about how he became an orphan. It's understandably difficult for him to learn and accept that almost everything that's been told to him is a lie and that not everything about his parents' deaths or the rest of his family was as it seemed. However, once he cries out all his emotions, he chooses to forgive and move on, and becomes an overall better person from his experiences.
    • The truth about the golden core bothers Jiang Cheng not just because it's a blow to his pride and shows how much he misjudged Wei Wuxian, but because there's even more unsettling context to it that's only revealed in the epilogue: the reason Jiang Cheng got captured by the Wens wasn't because he desperately went back to Lotus Pier to for any family relics, but because he drew the Wens' attention on purpose to prevent Wei Wuxian from getting caught. He wants to tell Wei Wuxian about this but chooses to keep silent, and it's implied that Jiang Cheng doesn't tell him the truth because he would only be burdening him with more guilt, just like how Wei Wuxian never told him about how he really got his core back because he knew Jiang Cheng wouldn't take the information well.
  • Back from the Dead: What kicks off the story in the present timeline is Wei Wuxian coming back to life after being summoned in another body. Fierce corpses are basically zombies, so Wen Ning, Nie Mingjue and Song Lan are "alive" again in a way.
  • Back Stab: Wen Ruohan was finally killed after getting stabbed in the back by Jin Guangyao.
  • Batman Gambit:
    • While he's more of a detective than a schemer, Wei Wuxian's capable of pulling some risky plans that relies on his enemies acting exactly as he expects them to. One example is him effortlessly getting Su She to expose his true colors in front of hundreds of cultivators just by pressing on his buttons and bluffing him with some sheets of paper.
    • Jin Guangyao's very good at predicting how his opponents will act, and is also a decent judge of character. When he realizes that someone's looking into the severed head in his vault, he sticks around to catch the possessed paper doll that's sneaking around, then quickly invents a plausible excuse when confronted by other cultivators and reveals Wei Wuxian's continued existence to sway the situation in his favour in the meantime.
  • Battle Trophy: In the finale, Nie Huaisang picks up Jin Guangyao's cap as people are leaving, likely as a reminder of how the former finally bested their enemy.
  • The Beautiful Elite: All cultivator clans tend to be seen as very attractive, being both long-lived and able to maintain their youth and able to fly and slay monsters. However, this is deconstructed in that cultivators are often isolated and sheltered which affects their ability to empathize with and understand the common folk (a.k.a. the people they are supposed to protect).
  • Be Careful What You Wish For:
    • Before her wedding, A-Yan prayed to the Heavenly Maiden that her fiance would be loyal to her forever. Her wish was granted via her fiance's death the very next day, because her wish was interpreted in the worst way possible — he dies so he would never have the chance to be unfaithful to her.
    • When Wei Wuxian gave Jin Zixuan another beating for making Jiang Yanli cry, he vowed that one day he would kill him with his own hands. As the beginning of the story clearly states, he was indeed responsible for his death, even if flashbacks clarify that it was unintentional.
    • After the Wen Clan burned down Lotus Pier, Jiang Cheng lashed out at Wei Wuxian and blamed him for saving Lan Wangji and Jin Zixuan, yelling at him that he should have left them to die. Years later, one of them eventually dropped dead.
    • Jiang Cheng managed to revive his clan, solidify and increase its power, and establish his place in the higher echelons of the cultivation world. All he had to do was renounce his closest friend in every possible manner and spill the blood of innocents to maintain what he has. As he realizes too late, he can't reverse what he did.
  • Best Served Cold: Nie Huaisang could persevere for ten years under the radar to locate his brother's scattered body parts and subsequently take down Jin Guangyao, all just so he could get his revenge on the latter for his brother's death.
  • Beta Couple: Jin Zixuan and Jiang Yanli are the other couple aside from Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji whose relationship plays a significant role in the story.
  • Big Bad:
    • Wen Ruohan and Wen Chao are the cause of the first major (chronological) crisis in the series, triggering the tragedies of the Sunshot Campaign.
    • In the present timeline, Jin Guangyao is revealed to be Wei Wuxian's biggest threat and is the man behind some significant incidents and conflict (such as triggering Nie Mingjue's death), although much of it was influenced by Jin Guangshan.
  • Big "WHY?!": An agitated Jin Ling confronts Jin Guangyao after learning of his uncle's role in his father's death and screams a big "why" while questioning why he did it.
  • Bitch Slap: Yu Ziyuan delivered a well-deserved slap to Wang Lingjiao when she lost her patience with her and would have beaten her to death had Wen Zhuliu not come to save her.
  • Bittersweet Ending:
    • The resolution to the Yi City arc is bittersweet in nature, at best. Xiao Xingchen and A-Qing are dead but Song Lan is free and is Walking the Earth with the remnants of their souls. There is a slim hope that maybe one day, their souls can be repaired and they return to the living world; and with Xue Yang dead, they have a chance at a happier life.
    • The overall story ends on a mixed note. The Big Bad is finally defeated, and Wei Wuxian clears his name and finds happiness with Lan Wangji, but it doesn't mean their loved ones get the same resolution. Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng's relationship is finally free of hatred, but they can never go back to being the brothers they once were; Lan Xichen falls into a depression after the death of his last sworn brother, and doesn't seem to be recovering any time soon. If there are any upsides, Lan Sizhui regains his memories as Wen Yuan and becomes closer with Wei Wuxian, Lan Wangji and Wen Ning; Jin Ling has forgiven Wei Wuxian and they begin to properly bond as uncle and nephew; and Lan Wangji makes sure to visit his brother every now and then. The Animated Adaptation mostly follows the main story's ending, but makes some changes in the bitter department: Jiang Cheng fails to get closure after learning about Wei Wuxian's sacrifice and is left so broken from the guilt that he's said to be in seclusion a few days later; Lan Xichen handles Jin Guangyao's death a little better and is at least not yet in seclusion; and Jin Ling is still coming to terms with the grudge and grief that he's held for the past few years.
  • Black-and-White Morality: Although the novel's plot is almost chock-full of Grey-and-Gray Morality, many cultivators think with a black-and-white mindset In-Universe, as for them there's no in-between between right and wrong. However, their beliefs are based more about what's more favorable to them and their clan and less on any genuine sense of morality and ethics.
  • Blood Brothers: Lan Xichen, Nie Mingjue, and Jin Guangyao become sworn brothers after the Sunshot Campaign, forming the trio known as the Venerated Triad.
  • Blood from the Mouth: Characters coughing up blood is a frequent occurrence whenever they are stressed or injured.
  • Bookends:
    • The prologue begins with some people gossiping about and decrying Wei Wuxian, who's mistakenly perceived to be the Big Bad, after his death. In the epilogue, Wei Wuxian overhears a few men doing the same thing regarding Jin Guangyao, the real Big Bad, after his death.
    • In the trailer for the first season of the audio drama, the first spoken line was, "Lan Zhan. You're really great. I like you.", which is also the last spoken line in the trailer for the third (and final) season.
    • The audio drama begins with a mother and father proceeding to tell their son about the tale of the Yiling Patriarch as the evil bogeyman of the cultivation world, a tale that's eventually revealed to be exaggerated and false. In the final episode of the third season, Luo Qingyang starts telling her husband and her daughter a true story about Wei Wuxian that portrays not as an evil lunatic but as a kind and heroic man.
  • Brick Joke:
    • After Wei Wuxian got rescued from the Xuanwu Cave, he realized he lost the pouch Mianmian gave him and wondered where it went. Chapter 112 reveals that Lan Wangji stole it from him and has been using it as his wallet the entire time.
    • In the Sunshot Campaign arc, Wei Wuxian introduced himself as "Yuandao" to Mianmian to tease her, as the names Mianmian and Yuandao make up part of a romantic poem. Lan Wangji even lampshades the play on words. Then in the epilogue, after their run-in into a grown-up and married Mianmian, Lan Wangji calls Wei Wuxian "Wei Yuandao" out of jealousy.
  • Bridal Carry: Lan Wangji tends to carry Wei Wuxian bridal-style, which the other's initially against but soon comes to enjoy.
  • Broken Tears:
    • Wei Wuxian had two tearful meltdowns in the past. First when he inadvertently got Jin Zixuan killed and broke down after waking up, and later when Jiang Yanli was killed trying to protect him.
    • A-Qing tearfully broke down after witnessing both Song Lan and Xiao Xingchen's deaths. She gets another moment to cry out of emotional turmoil once Wei Wuxian opens up a coffin to reveal Xiao Xingchen's body inside.
    • More like broken bloody tears for Xiao Xingchen. After Xue Yang revealed to him what the "corpses" he's been killing all those years actually were and finding out one of them was his best friend, blood started streaming out of his eyes which showed his despair.
    • When Nie Huaisang stumbled upon his brother qi-deviating, he broke down into tears as he tried to call out to him. Even when he got cut in the manhua and donghua, he continued to cry and tell his brother to recognize him.
    • A young Jiang Cheng had a complete breakdown after he watches his home burn down and his parents killed, with him being unable to do anything but cry and scream.
    • Wen Qing reached her absolute limit after she found her brother's dead body and became so inconsolable she broke down into tears.
    • Jiang Cheng sheds tears after venting all his thoughts and emotions in the Guanyin Temple, as he's horrified and guilt-stricken by the Awful Truth about his golden core.
  • Burn Baby Burn: The Cloud Recesses was burned down to keep the Lan Clan in line in Wei Wuxian's first life, under the excuse that the place was unclean and needed to be purified with fire.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday:
    • Wei Wuxian has killed and injured many, so naturally he doesn't exactly bother keeping track of every one of them. When the cultivation clans gathered once again to confront him in the Burial Mounds, each time a cultivator asks him if he remembers them before they announce whatever grievance they claim to have with him, Wei Wuxian responds with a blunt and deadpan "no".
    • A heroic example: despite Jin Zixun's hatred towards Wei Wuxian, the latter never remembered him despite having been a nuisance to him multiple times. Jin Zixun was unpleased every time he was asked if they knew each other.
  • Calling the Old Man Out:
    • Ouyang Zizhen calls out his own father for his treatment of Wei Wuxian when he saved him and the other juniors multiple times even though he didn't have to.
    • In the climactic arc, Jin Ling criticizes Jiang Cheng twice for always being short with Wei Wuxian and never watching what he says when the other man is involved, especially after the Guanyin Temple mess has been dealt and the protagonists run off to avoid the aftermath. Contrast to when he's first introduced in the novel, where not only was he more afraid to incur his uncle's wrath but both men were also on the same page at getting angry towards anything or anyone that involved Wei Wuxian.
      Jin Ling: No wonder he wanted to go. It's all because of that attitude of yours! Why are you so annoying, Uncle?!
  • Cassandra Truth:
    • Jiang Cheng correctly assumes at Mount Dafan that "Mo Xuanyu" is actually Wei Wuxian, since this supposedly harmless lunatic not only practises demonic cultivation but also manages to summon Wen Ning with a slipshod bamboo flute. However, Zidian fails to expel Wei Wuxian's soul (since Mo Xuanyu specifically summoned him rather than had his body taken over), so everyone present at the scene doubts him.
    • Nie Mingjue was right about how Jin Guangyao isn't someone who can be trusted, which was just scratching the surface. But it would take at least 13 years for Lan Xichen as well as everyone else to finally see that.
    • Wei Wuxian was the first to recognize that the Jin Clan is just repeating the Wen Clan's reign of oppression, even if they're more low-key about their approach. When he stated his thoughts out loud, his voice fell on deaf ears, because the other clans were either too blind to recognize the truth or voluntarily chose to stay blind. The only one who truly heeded his words was Lan Wangji.
  • Cast Full of Pretty Boys: Out of the 32 named characters, only six are female. Most of the men are noted to be rather handsome, even the older onesnote , due to them being cultivators.
  • Cat Fight: The prostitutes Sisi and Anxin got into a physical fight in the past. Sisi was notably the one who struck first since she heard Anxin badmouth Meng Shi, and she was having none of it.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Once Wei Wuxian learned demonic cultivation after being thrown into the Burial Mounds, Wei Wuxian used his newfound powers to haunt Wang Lingjiao in her dreams, leading her to wake up by springing up and screaming every night. It's apparently already happened enough times where she's become too afraid to sleep.
  • Central Theme: One of the core messages of the story is that what is right and wrong doesn't automatically equate to what is acceptable and unacceptable.
  • Cerebus Rollercoaster: What is an otherwise light-hearted story of adventuring is overshadowed by the overarching plot of finding and piecing together parts of a dismembered body scattered all over northern alternate Imperial China. For example, the novel literally jumps from investigating a mass murder of a whole clan, to Lan Wangji getting drunk in the space of two chapters.
  • Changed My Mind, Kid: During the Second Siege, Wei Wuxian decides to use himself as bait to give all the other cultivators enough time to escape the Burial Mounds unharmed. The junior disciples are advised to leave as well; while they initially obey, they can't bear the thought of abandoning the battle and so go back and help anyway.
  • Characters Dropping Like Flies: The author doesn't hold anything back with the character deaths, with the first chapter even starting with the statement that the protagonist is dead. By the time of the finale, it's easier to count the characters who survived than those who kicked the bucket.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The forehead ribbon, are treated as sacred by the Lan Clan and is not allowed to be touched by anyone else. Its meaning is "to conduct oneself well", but the founder once claimed that no rules are necessary in front of one's beloved, hence the forehead ribbon is a token of love between a member of the Lan Clan and the lover. Wei Wuxian's reaction upon finding out is hilariousbut fortunately for him, this ends up playing a role in getting him and Lan Wangji together.
  • Cheaters Never Prosper: When the Sunshot Campaign was still ongoing, Jiang Yanli helped deliver food and would occasionally bring soup in secret to Jin Zixuan. In an attempt to earn merits, another female servant pretended to be caught red-handed by Jin Zixuan, who made her a guest disciple as a reward for her "efforts". But when Jiang Yanli is caught doing the same thing and is harshly accused for taking false credit, Wei Wuxian walks in on the scene and quickly resolves the issue by calling for the female servant and exposing her lies. Besides Jin Zixuan getting beaten black and blue, there's no mention of what happened to the servant afterwards. However, since her scheme got exposed, it's unlikely that she got to enjoy her rewards for long.
  • Child Soldiers: One of the tragedies of the Sunshot Campaign was how so many of the main characters were forced to become soldiers and generals at an incredibly young age (Wei Wuxian's generation was 16-20 years old). Wei Wuxian's so protective of children because he wants to preserve their innocence, having lost his in the war.
  • Children Are Innocent: In contrast to the generation before them, the younger cultivators aren't involved in anything that involved either the Sunshot Campaign or the First Siege, and anything they know about it is simply from word of mouth of their predecessors. Because of this, they don't share their parents' flaws of ambition and prejudice.
  • Chinese Vampire: The really tall thresholds at the entrances and exits of ancient Chinese coffin homes (like a morgue, except storing corpses in coffins and all) is meant to prevent corpses from getting out. As Wei Wuxian explains, when the corpse is animated by natural energy, the body is still undergoing rigor mortis, so it can only hop, and it becomes difficult to hop over the threshold. So it hops, it trips, and it falls and stays on the ground until daybreak, where it could be discovered...
  • Class Trip:
    • The Yi City involves Wei Wuxian and a bunch of younger disciples of multiple clans messing about in an empty zombie-filled city, learning about corpse poisoning and how to cure it, how to look at ghosts, a practical use of dark magic, and mundane-people methods of warding against the supernatural threats. It's basically an impromptu class-trip cum internship.
    • In the "Iron Hook" extra, Jin Ling invites the Lan disciples to help him with a case involving the aforementioned Iron Hook, and Wei Wuxian tags along to guide them and give them advice.
  • Clear Their Name: The donghua implies that during the Time Skip, aside from fulfilling his duties, helping people left and right, and possibly searching for any signs of Wei Wuxian, Lan Wangji has also been attempting to prove that Wei Wuxian didn't commit the crimes he was wrongfully accused of.
  • Code of Honour: Most clans have a code of etiquette and honor that its disciples are expected to follow. However, no other clan matches the Lan Clan for scope: they carve all their rules on the giant Wall of Discipline at the entrance of the Cloud Recesses. In his time studying there, Wei Wuxian noted that there were over 3,000 rules crammed onto the wall. In the 13 years since he died, a thousand more were added; the audio drama even stated that the exact number is 4,019.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: The five most prominent cultivation clans are easily distinguishable by the colors they wear.
    • Lan Clan of Gusu: Light blue and white.
    • Jiang Clan of Yunmeng: Purple and black.
    • Jin Clan of Lanling: Yellow and orange.
    • Nie Clan of Qinghe: Dark green and olive.
    • Wen Clan of Qishan: Red and white.
  • Compressed Adaptation: Although the donghua overall goes through Adaptation Distillation, the flashback segments of Season 2 speedruns through the entire Yiling Patriarch flashback arc without much compromise, leading to a lot of scenes omitted and some confusing results.
  • Conditioned to Accept Horror: Reconstructed. For the cultivators, this is more or less a must. As Wei Wuxian puts it best: ghosts use their appearance to scare people because it affects the people's consciousness in such a way that it becomes a lot easier to suck out their energy, and as such they're a lot weaker when faced against those who show no fear towards them.
  • Convicted by Public Opinion: Aside from ambition and miscommunication, another major source of conflict in the story is mob mentality. Whatever the masses agree with will be accepted as truth; anyone who has even a slightly different view is either ignored or seen as an enemy. Wei Wuxian faced the full brunt of this trope, and even when he finally clears his name, the cultivation clans don't learn their lesson and just move on to lambasting someone else.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: The Lan Clan's manner of disciplining unruly disciples? Have them copy the clan rules at least once. After the Time Skip, Wei Wuxian realizes that the clan decided to add handstands to the punishment to ensure that the lessons stick.
  • Counting to Three: Counting from three, in this case. When Jin Zixun refused to reveal where the Wen survivors are being held, Wei Wuxian threatened to use Chenqing and started counting down to make it clear he's not going to wait all day for his answer.
  • Cowboys and Indians: While in Yueyang, Wei Wuxian sees a group of young boys playing "Sunshot Campaign", where each boy plays a prominent figure that contributed in the war against the Wen Clan, with Wei Wuxian being one of them.
  • Creepy Crows: Wei Wuxian's Animal Motif is a crow, and in the donghua's dead serious scenes there'd be murders of the feathered creatures flying above the sky to signal his arrival as the Yiling Patriarch.
  • Creepy Cemetery: The Nie ancestral burial hall is filled with vicious corpses to tame the spirits of the dead clan members.
  • Crippling Overspecialization:
    • The book averts the Squishy Wizard trope since magic in the Chinese view is a technique analogous to Full-Contact Magic and Supernatural Martial Arts on some levels. However, apparently nobody bothers to learn, say, protective magic or a magic shield. This is averted in the donghua, where the cultivators from the Jiang and the Lan Clans are able to conjure barriers for defense.
    • Wei Wuxian is the founder of demonic cultivation, being able to control corpses and ghosts with a flute, and his martial arts can take on any normal person. However, due to a missing or weak golden core, he is not arrow-proof, still needs to eat, and has much less tenacity than other cultivators.
  • Cry Laughing: Wei Wuxian flipped between laughing and crying in horror at the Nightless Immortal Capital when he realized that no matter what he does and says, everyone will always find a way to blame him and label him a monster.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Yu Ziyuan's maids Jinzhu and Yinzhu quickly and easily dispatched of Wang Lingjiao's guards in a matter of seconds as soon as they were given the order to do so.
  • Damn You, Muscle Memory!: Wei Wuxian exposes himself when he reflexively draws Suibian after Jin Guangyao pulls a surprise attack on him, since Suibian sealed itself after Wei Wuxian's death and thus would respond only to its master.
  • The Dark Arts: What demonic cultivation is seen as. While it's proven to be very useful in many situations, it's still feared and hated by many cultivators since it makes use of resentful energy, which is usually supposed to be purified and exorcised, not harnessed and utilized.
  • Death by a Thousand Cuts: Xue Yang inflicted lingchi (a technique that inflicts a thousand cuts on the skin) on the remaining members of the Chang Clan.
  • Death by Origin Story: The story starts from Wei Wuxian's death from all the cultivator clans uniting to kill him, and its aftermath. And given the novel's propensity to flashback to Wei Wuxian's previous life, a lot of the characters that show up in the past are dead in the present.
  • Death Glare: When Wen Ning drops the Awful Truth on Jiang Cheng in the penultimate arc, his eyes are flashing with anger alongside other intense emotions.
  • Death Wail: Xue Yang yelled in both rage and anguish when Xiao Xingchen's death fully sunk in.
  • Deconstructor Fleet: Of the xianxia genre as a whole, showcasing that even when granted the power to achieve immortality or slay other divine beings, humans aren't automatically Above Good and Evil; and sometimes the greatest threat is not the supernatural or the unknown, but human nature itself. Lan Wangji puts it best in a few words when he gently reminds the junior cultivators, "We are all human." While he's mainly referring to how everyone is bound to get exhausted sooner or later regardless of their cultivation level, it can also refer to how cultivators are still susceptible to Grey-and-Gray Morality.
  • Deliberate Injury Gambit:
    • Xue Yang intentionally gets himself infected with corpse poisoning in Yi City so that he'll be "rescued" and taken inside to where Wei Wuxian and the juniors are hiding.
    • When Wei Wuxian tries to lure Nie Mingjue's corpse into a coffin at Guanyin Temple, he gets interrupted when Su She stabs Nie Huaisang, which catches Nie Mingjue's attention due to them being of the same blood. Later on, Wei Wuxian theorizes that Nie Huaisang fell on Su She's sword on purpose as he didn't want his brother to be buried until after Jin Guangyao is finished off.
  • Desecrating the Dead:
    • In the Animated Adaptation, Wen Chao didn't deign Jiang Fengmian and Yu Ziyuan's bodies nor the bodies of the Jiang disciples with a proper burial.
    • Wang Lingjiao mocked Yu Ziyuan's death and wanted to hit their corpse further, but was stopped by Wen Zhuliu.
    • After Wang Lingjiao died, her corpse was treated with little respect by the enemy. In the novel, Jiang Cheng shoved the stool leg she choked on further down her throat after finding her body; and in the donghua, Wei Wuxian brought her back as a walking corpse to mutilate Wen Chao before tearing her into pieces.
    • After being killed, the Wen remnants were thrown into the blood pool at the Burial Mounds.
    • Jin Guangyao had no problems in cutting up the demonic arm's body parts and scattering them to the winds to make sure the corpse in question can never come back. Unfortunately for him, Nie Huaisang and Wei Wuxian start to piece the corpse (aka Nie Mingjue) back together.
    • Meng Shi's body was buried underneath the Guanyin Temple after her death, but her grave was emptied some time before Jin Guangyao attempted to retrieve her remains. What happened to her corpse is unknown, but Wei Wuxian speculates that her corpse was dismembered and scattered to spite Jin Guangyao, since he did the exact same thing to Nie Mingjue's corpse after sending him into qi deviation.
      Nie Huaisang: I think that if this person hates Jin Guangyao so much, they'd probably be entirely merciless towards something he cherishes more than his life.
    • Normal civilians and cultivators see the use of fierce corpses from demonic cultivation as disrespectful, since in Chinese culture doing anything to corpses that doesn't involve a burial is seen as the highest form of disrespect for the dead (as spirituality is highly valued in China). The users of demonic cultivation, however, approach this differently:
      • Despite his reliance on demonic cultivation, Wei Wuxian's shown multiple times to treat his corpses with some politeness and kindness which implies he tries to respect them in his own way.
      • Xue Yang turned Song Lan into a fierce corpse after getting him killed with anything but honourable reasons, befitting of the Arc Villain demonic cultivator.
  • Destination Defenestration: Played for Laughs during the flashbacks when an embarrassed Lan Wangji threw Wei Wuxian out of the Library Pavilion, and the latter was perching on the windowsill at the time. Wei Wuxian even laughed while falling mid-air.
  • Destroy the Abusive Home: Jin Guangyao burned down the brothel he grew up in, as he and his mother had been treated poorly by both the customers and the other prostitutes. He then built a temple for his mother over its remains.
  • Destructo-Nookie: Hilariously, Lan Wangji has broken multiple bathtubs while he's having sex with Wei Wuxian and forgets his strength in those moments of passion. Wei Wuxian makes sure to point it out and tease Lan Wangji about it after the fact or to warn him before they actually do anything.
  • Died Standing Up: In the donghua, the Lotus Pier massacre showed both Yu Ziyuan and Jiang Fengmian's corpses on their knees, with the latter holding her sword.
  • Didn't See That Coming: Jin Guangyao's plan to keep his many misdeeds a secret seems foolproof at first; he’s very good at covering up his tracks and few people know about them (and majority of them are dead like Madam Qin and Nie Mingjue), so he gets away with it for many years. He's thus shocked when he receives a letter that declares his secret dirty dealings will be revealed, and reacts so recklessly that he arranges for basically the entire cultivation world to be destroyed to avoid reprisal. This act of desperation shows that he never once considered that, after all the work he did to cover his tracks, someone could still discover what he did to secure his position in society.
  • Didn't Think This Through:
    • Out of desperate impulsion, Jiang Cheng ran back to Lotus Pier after the Wen Clan occupied it to retrieve his parents' remains and apparently didn't consider that Wen soldiers were everywhere hunting him and Wei Wuxian down, leading to his capture. In the epilogue, this turns out to be subverted; while he let Wei Wuxian assume as such, Jiang Cheng actually got captured because he purposely drew a few Wen soldiers' attention away from his unsuspecting martial brother.
    • While Bicao is the one to tell Qin Su about how she and her husband are half-siblings, she never accounts for the possibility that her mistress would kill herself out of despair. Wei Wuxian even calls her out on it.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: While Jin Zixun was most definitely an asshole and deserved his death, it should still be taken into perspective that Su She inflicted a terrible flesh-eating curse on the man simply because the former bullied him.
  • Dramatic Irony: Due to the Foregone Conclusion established in the first few chapters, most of the flashbacks can be amusing or painful to go through when one knows what will happen in the end. The flashbacks for example goes to great lengths to establish Jiang Cheng and Wei Wuxian as Heterosexual Life-Partners when the reader knows that eventually they drift apart and become enemies.
  • The Dreaded:
    • Wei Wuxian, and by association Wen Ning, with the mere mention of their names causing many to almost literally wet their pants in fear.
    • On a funnier note, the Lan Clan's punishment involve copying (by hand, mind you) all 4,000 rules of the clan. Serious cases involve copying while upside-down.
    • Although they otherwise respect him, the younger disciples of the Lan Clan fear Lan Wangji's wrath for the very innocuous reason of him being in charge of disciplining students.
  • Dress-Coded for Your Convenience: Much like how the major clans have their respective Color Motifs, the type of robes they wear are unique and distinct from the other, from the type of clothing down to the designs on their attire.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Lan Wangji downed a jar of Emperor's Smile after rescuing Wen Yuan. Given his clan's low tolerance for alcohol and the events that inspired his decision to drink wine, the end result was quite unpleasant.
  • Dude, Not Funny!:
    • At Xuanwu Cave, Wei Wuxian — who got branded with hot iron a while ago — joked to Jiang Cheng that they have cooked meat (his burned flesh) if they ever get hungry, to which the latter angrily responded by telling him he would like to sew his mouth shut.
    • An audio drama extra of Jiang Cheng and Wei Wuxian as teens had the latter playing dead by faking a hemorrhage, causing the former and the other disciples to panic and break down. When Wei Wuxian revealed that it was just a prank, Jiang Cheng got pissed and started pummeling him.
  • Due to the Dead:
    • Despite everything he did to Xiao Xingchen, Xue Yang didn't desecrate his corpse and preserved it in a coffin.
    • After Xue Yang is stopped and Wei Wuxian tells the junior disciples of what happened at Yi City, they decide to honor A-Qing and Xiao Xingchen by burning paper money in their honor.
    • After Lan Sizhui recovers his memories, he and Wen Ning set for (what's left of) Nightless Immortal Capital with plans to build a cenotaph in Wen Qing's honor and also bury the Wen survivors' ashes.
    • After the fierce corpse that's been trying to break into his household finally accomplishes his goal, Young Master Qin pays for the corpse's burial services.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: After 20 years of trials, losses, misunderstandings and various other obstacles, Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji get together in the end and are now Happily Married.
  • Effective Knockoff: When Wei Wuxian destroyed half of the Yin Tiger Tally, the Jin Clan of Lanling enlisted Xue Yang's help to recreate the lost half, and it's shown to be just as functional in controlling corpses. However, it's still lacking in power compared to its original version and loses its effectiveness after enough uses... if Jin Guangyao is telling the truth, as he claims that he wouldn't have any use for it in his attempt to escape.
  • Elopement: After the whole mess with Jin Guangyao and Nie Mingjue has been dealt with, Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji leave to elope so they can finally have their alone time while temporarily disassociating themselves from the cultivation world.
  • Everything's Better with Spinning: The donghua shows that the Lan Clan incorporates spinning in some of their attacks, such as Lan Wangji spinning his guqin before using it to fight against the enemy.
  • Evil Is Easy: Deconstructed. Demonic cultivation is considered to be the xianxia equivalent of The Dark Arts. After Wei Wuxian discovered it, many followed in his footsteps because demonic cultivation makes use of resentful energy, which is both readily available and abundant around all of China, and doesn't require the caster to cultivate a golden core (which requires plenty of time and effort). While there are some people who use demonic cultivation for sinister purposes, demonic cultivation isn't necessarily evil; and while dangerous, it can be used for good. In the donghua, Lan Wangji puts it best: like a weapon, whether a power is good or evil depends entirely on the intent of its wielder.
  • Evil Power Vacuum: The Wen Clan, led by Wen Ruohan, attempted to subjugate all the other cultivation clans, but was stopped and nearly eradicated during the Sunshot Campaign. Afterwards, the Jin Clan tried to take their place and nearly succeeded had it not been for Jin Guangshan's abrupt death. Then when Jin Guangyao died in the finale, a conversation between random bystanders hint that the Nie Clan may or may not be next. While their clan leader is confirmed by the author to not be a villain, any reader who reached the end of the novel still knows how ruthless they can be.
  • Exact Words: When Lan Sizhui interrogated Song Lan's corpse, Wei Wuxian notices that Song Lan specifically answered "Xiao Xingchen" when he was asked about who killed him, but not also when asked about who was controlling him — allowing him to figure out that the "Xiao Xingchen" who's with them right now is actually Xue Yang in disguise.
  • Exhausted Eye Bags: It takes a closer look to notice, but the donghua shows that Wei Wuxian gained eye-bags after his time in the Burial Mounds, indicating how much the discovery and honing of his new powers have drained him. He also had heavy eye-bags while waiting for Jiang Cheng to return from the mountain, which foreshadowed that a certain surgery took a toll on him.

    F-L 
  • Facial Composite Failure: After being brought back to life, Wei Wuxian realizes to his consternation that the portraits of him that people sell on the streets do not accurately capture any aspect of his looks. He makes sure to tell the charlatan selling said portraits to make sure to draw him better in the future.
    Wei Wuxian: Wei Wuxian was renowned as a beautiful man. What the heck is this drawing?! Don't just draw whatever if you've never seen the man himself before— it's misleading.
  • Failed a Spot Check:
    • Mo Xuanyu went out of his way to write down his story before performing the sacrificial ritual so that Wei Wuxian would understand why he was summoned into the former's body. However, he failed to specify the exact terms of his dying wish and hence why he summoned him to begin with. Fortunately for him, Wei Wuxian is able to correctly guess that he wanted his family dead.
    • At the Phoenix Mountain Hunt, Wei Wuxian's First Kiss was stolen from him while he was blindfolded. Wei Wuxian searched around to find the culprit but found no one nearby... except for Lan Wangji, who was uncharacteristically punching trees in anger and distress. Yet Wei Wuxian couldn't put two and two together.
  • Failure Montage: In the audio drama, an extra has Wei Wuxian go through a hilarious sequence of failutres as he repeatedly annoys the Damsel of Annual Blossoms with (deliberately) horrible poetry just so he would be able to see her face.
  • Fair Weather Friend: Almost everyone is this in the political circle of the cultivation world. You're liked and respected if you have the status and wealth, and as long as your actions benefit their goals. As soon as either of those are no longer the case, expect to be dropped like a hot potato.
  • Falling into His Arms: Wei Wuxian invokes this trope at one point when he jumps from a tree to see if Lan Wangji would catch him, and he does — symbolizing how the latter 1) always stood by his side and cared for him, no matter the circumstances, and 2) is capable of protecting Wei Wuxian as much as he is of protecting himself.
  • Family Extermination: Xue Yang annihilated the entire Chang Clan out of revenge for their previous leader costing him one of his fingers.
  • Family of Choice: The novel shows through Wei Wuxian's various relationships that family doesn't necessarily consist only of the people you're related to by blood, but also the people who you love and loves you in kind and stick by your side no matter what.
  • Fantastic Fighting Style: Each clan has a unique fighting style, to the point that it's easy to tell which fighting style one's using. Nie Mingjue could easily tell that Jin Guangyao used the Wen Clan's swordsmanship in killing his commanding officer, and Wei Wuxian figured out that the corpse he and Lan Wangji are investigating is Nie Mingjue from his attempt at swinging a weapon.
  • Felony Misdemeanor: Part of what soured Wei Wuxian's standing among cultivators after the Sunshot Campaign was his refusal to bring his sword to any formal event, since doing so is a common formality. However, people acted as if he committed a grave crime, although he ignored their complaints.
  • Figure It Out Yourself: When Wei Wuxian realizes that Lan Wangji knew who he was the entire time, he asks about what gave him away. Lan Wangji only tells him to figure it out himself, and refuses to elaborate further.
  • Fisticuff-Provoking Comment:
    • Wei Wuxian has a particularly short temper with Jin Zixuan and is quick to respond with fists. During his time in the Cloud Recesses, he punched Jin Zixuan for insulting Jiang Yanli. He did this again when Jin Zixuan yelled at Jiang Yanli out of the belief she's trying to take false credit for making the soup he ate.
    • In the donghua, during his first life, Wei Wuxian punched Jiang Cheng in anger when the latter made a callous remark at how Wen Qing and Wen Ning's innocence and their act of saving their lives didn't matter because they were still part of the Wen Clan.
    • When Jiang Cheng starts insulting both Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji in the Jiang ancestral hall, Wei Wuxian tries to settle the issue non-violently and leave in peace. However, once it becomes clear Jiang Cheng won't let them be no matter what and gets too scathing with his words, Wei Wuxian loses his patience and attacks his former friend with a talisman.
  • Five-Second Foreshadowing: In the Golden Carp Tower arc, Jin Guangyao mentions that Suibian sealed itself after Wei Wuxian died and as its owner, only he can unsheathe it. Then the Sunshot Campaign arc reveals that Jiang Cheng lost his core, but while they were being sheltered by Wen Ning, Wei Wuxian tells Jiang Cheng that there is a way for him to regain his core, and not long after, Wei Wuxian founded demonic cultivation. The reader soon realizes that all these events are connected the moment Wen Ning confronts Jiang Cheng and tells him to unsheathe Suibian.
  • Five Stages of Grief: Xue Yang's reaction to Xiao Xingchen's death had him going back and forth through Stages 1 to 4. And even in the years that passed, he's still a long way from moving on to Stage 5.
    • Denial: He doesn't realize that Xiao Xingchen's suicide is his fault, and tried to rectify it by turning him into a fierce corpse. Even when faced with the fact that it will never happen, he keeps on trying.
    • Anger and Depression: When he learns Xiao Xingchen can't be brought back because his soul is damaged, he's consumed with anger and goes into a frenzied breakdown.
    • Bargaining: After venting out his rage, he threatens Xiao Xingchen that if he doesn't come back to life, he'll kill A-Qing and everyone in Yi City.
  • Flashback Arc: The novel has many flashbacks, but aren't necessarily presented in a chronological order. The first season of the donghua compiles a few of these flashbacks into a single arc, covering Wei Wuxian's life from his first days in Gusu to when he became the Yiling Patriarch.
  • Flaying Alive: Part of Wei Wuxian's torture of Wen Chao was to have the latter manipulated into eating his skin off.
  • Forced to Watch: In the donghua, Wen Ning was made to watch his own sister get incinerated into ashes.
  • The Foreign Subtitle: The official English novel translation uses the original Chinese name as a subtitle to the main English translated title — The Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation: Mo Dao Zu Shi.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • The story hints at Lan Wangji already recognizing Wei Wuxian after the events of Mount Dafan and how he figured out who he was, long before Wei Wuxian learns about either truth himself.
      • When they first "meet" after Lan Wangji saves "Mo Xuanyu" from Jiang Cheng and Jin Ling's wrath, he merely nods to "Mo Xuanyu" in acknowledgement and gratitude before leaving him to his peace. But after Wei Wuxian starts playing the flute to keep a summoned Wen Ning in a calm state, Lan Wangji immediately becomes stuck to him like glue and his attention is purely focused on him. Whenever Wei Wuxian tries to escape later on, Lan Wangji promptly thwarts every one of his attempts.
      • After encountering a dog, Wei Wuxian calls Lan Wangji by his birth name rather than his title (like he usually does) in a panic, yet Lan Wangji never questions why he's referring to him in such a familiar manner. Similarly, he doesn't react when Wei Wuxian clings to him out of fear even though the flashback chapters had Lan Wangji tell Wei Wuxian upfront that he's not one for touching or being touched.
    • After telling her story to the cultivators, Wei Wuxian asks Sisi why she's the Sole Survivor and who helped her escape from prison. Both times, Sisi honestly answers that she doesn't know. Another character that tends to answer any question aimed at him with "I don't know"? Nie Huaisang.
    • Although The Reveal in the climactic arc that Nie Huaisang was likely the mastermind behind the Big Bad's downfall is a shock to those who realize this, there's hints that the character in question is smarter than he acts and is more involved in the plot than one would first think.
      • He's fairly calm when he's explaining his clan's dilemma with their sabres, panicking only when pressed.
      • Not only can he muster his disciples on short notice, they also obey him without question even when Lan Wangji is trashing their ancestral hall.
      • At the Second Siege, despite acting like a coward, he manipulates the entire mob into calming down and listening to Wei Wuxian.
    • The novel gives enough hints prior to the finale that The Reveal of Lan Sizhui and his true ancestry allows the audience to figure things out before Wei Wuxian does. A few examples include:
      • In the Yi City arc, Wei Wuxian feeds spicy congee to the junior disciples who were afflicted with corpse poisoning. When Lan Sizhui tries the congee himself, he thinks that the taste evokes a sense of nostalgia. Wei Wuxian would often try to feed Sizhui with spicy food back when he was still a toddler.
      • In the Yi City arc, when Wei Wuxian reassures Lan Sizhui to not be scared, he remarks how Wei Wuxian is a lot like Lan Wangji in that he could feel safe around them. This can easily be attributed to his empathy and perception regarding whether someone can be trusted or not, but in truth, it's actually because his subconscious already knows that "Senior Mo" is the same person who helped care for him years ago.
      • After he and the other juniors get rescued in the Second Siege arc, he comments on how he knew that Wei Wuxian is really broke the entire time. In the past, he called Lan Wangji "Brother Rich" while poking fun at Wei Wuxian by calling him "Brother Poor".
      • When the deceased Wen refugees come back to life to protect Wei Wuxian from the corpses controlled by the Yin Tiger Tally at the Burial Mounds, one of them starts walking towards Lan Sizhui and attempts to touch him in a non-hostile manner. Wen Yuan is said to often hang out with his grandmother a few chapters prior, and the corpse that attempted to touch him is described to look small and hunched-over, a description that would perfectly describe an old woman.
      • When Wen Ning asks for his birth name, Lan Sizhui answers that it's Lan Yuan. The child that Wei Wuxian would oftentimes play with at the Burial Mounds was named Wen Yuan. Even when spelled with different characters, this still helps Wen Ning (and later Wei Wuxian) clue in on his identity, helped by the fact that Lan Sizhui looks just like Wen Ning's cousin.
    • While subtle, there are a few clues that would build up to The Reveal regarding Wei Wuxian and his golden core.
      • The donghua hints on what happened in the flashback, in the scene where Wei Wuxian was ambushed. He looked exhausted — a hint that he just went through something extremely dangerous. There's also a small Time Skip between Jiang Cheng climbing the mountain and this scene — because during said time skip Wei Wuxian was being operated on to have his golden core transplanted into Jiang Cheng. It's why he was not able to fight back against Wen Chao and company. Wen Zhuliu also looked confused after attacking Wei Wuxian, since there was no golden core for him to melt.
      • Ever since the Sunshot Campaign ended, Wei Wuxian's tendency to never bring his sword with him was repeatedly brought up. At one point, Wei Wuxian told Jiang Cheng that he'd rather not bring his sword because he knew he would be repeatedly challenged to a sword fight, which he's not in the mood for. In the present, Wen Ning confirms his claim. A cultivator's weapon is linked to their golden core and Wei Wuxian didn't want anyone finding out that he no longer had his — something which would have been made very obvious the second he engages in a duel with any cultivator.
  • Forgiven, but Not Forgotten: Implied with Wei Wuxian towards most of the cultivation world. He has every right to hate all the cultivators that unjustly slandered and attacked him, but he chooses not to. While he'll never forget how wronged he was and still doesn't completely forgive the people in question, he sees no point in holding a grudge and would rather stay out of their business and see that they stay out of his.
  • Forgotten First Meeting: In Season 2 of the donghua there are a few scenes that feature a rattle drum, and in the final episode Wei Wuxian picks up one and wonders why he's so fond of it. A flashback shows that when he was still living on the streets, Lan Wangji stumbled upon him and gave him his own rattle drum out of kindness. Neither remember this meeting.
  • Framing Device:
    • Wei Wuxian enters Empathy (a technique where the user can see a ghost or fierce corpse's memories) a few times, allowing the story to show flashbacks of the characters in question.
    • Flashbacks of Wei Wuxian's past usually come up whenever he remembers them in-series, mainly because he has such a bad memory it's a wonder he remembers anything.
  • Freak Out:
    • Xue Yang had an entire mental breakdown and screaming fit once he realized Xiao Xingchen wasn't reanimating, leading him to trash the entire room and threatening to find A-Qing and kill her if Xiao Xingchen wouldn't get up.
    • Wei Wuxian has a glorious freak out shortly after the events of Yi City. After learning what the Lan Clan's forehead ribbon symbolizes, his response is to walk around a dead bush at least 50 times, his face constantly changing color all the while.
    • Wei Wuxian panics whenever a dog is nearby due to his cynophobia. It's so bad that he screams in fear and climbs the closest thing near him, like a tree or Lan Wangji.
  • Full-Name Basis: This is China we're talking about, so characters are referred to by their full names by default. However, one must pay attention to whether someone is addressed by either their birth name or their courtesy name, as it generally indicates the state of someone's relationship or how serious a situation is.
  • Gale-Force Sound: By using his guqin, Lan Wangji can produce shock waves that are powerful enough to create small craters on the ground.
  • Gender Is No Object: Zigzagged. Sexism is still existent in the novel's setting, although there's no rule against women becoming cultivators. Women can also become clan leaders, but that's extremely rare.
  • Get Out!: Jiang Cheng angrily tells Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji to leave Lotus Pier when he sees them at the Jiang ancestral hall, partly because they're there without his permission and partly out of resentment.
  • Glory Seeker: Many of the cultivators who participated in the Second Siege that either have no personal spat with Wei Wuxian or lost a relative to him are only in it for the renown they'd get upon felling who many see as a famed villain. Except that unlike in the First Siege, their attempt to kill Wei Wuxian isn't nearly as successful, especially when it's Wei Wuxian who ends up saving them instead — much to their embarrassment.
  • Gone Horribly Right: Entrapping Jin Zixuan to face Wei Wuxian and Wen Ning at Qiongqi Path advanced Jin Guangyao's ambitions, but it also led him down the path of no return.
  • Good People Have Good Sex: Many mentions of sex in the novel are related to the villainous characters, and they are typically sketchy at best and horrific at worst (such as Rape as Drama). In contrast, after they get together, Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji enjoy a healthy and active sex life.
  • Gossip Evolution: The novel occasionally shows how the common folk repeats exaggerated versions of either the truth or a simple lie.
  • Go Through Me:
    • When his brother, uncle, and 33 other Lan elders caught Lan Wangji protecting Wei Wuxian and confronted him about it, he didn't bother to defend his actions and took them all on at once to protect the latter.
    • In the audio drama, a group of several cultivators attempt to charge at Wei Wuxian during the Second Siege. Lan Wangji immediately stops them in their tracks by drawing a line on the ground with Bichen and coldly warns them that "this line divides" — which is his way of declaring that he will not hesitate to fight anyone who tries to attack Wei Wuxian.
  • Grave Robbing: During the Sunshot Campaign, Wei Wuxian exhumed several graves to add the corpses to his own Army of the Dead.
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: With a few exceptions, almost the entire cast is difficult to peg as simply good or evil. Those who are on the side of good still have some flaws, and those who lean more on the side of evil still have a few sympathetic edges. Many have reasons behind why they act like they do and why they perform certain actions, and said reasons make their motives understandable, but not always justifiable. Then again, there are others who do certain actions just for the sake of doing it.
  • Groin Attack: When Jiang Cheng wondered why Wen Chao's voice post-Mind Rape sounds so sharp and high-pitched, Wei Wuxian explained that a "certain thing" was gone, implying that Wen Chao's crotch area went through hell.
  • Happy Fun Ball: At first glance, the Yin Tiger Tally looks somewhat mystical but otherwise there is nothing otherworldly about its appearance. However, it holds so much power that it's desired by many, most notably the Jin Clan of Lanling.
  • He Knows Too Much: Downplayed. Nie Mingjue knowing Jin Guangyao's true character and being able to see through his lies was just one of multiple reasons why the latter decided to kill him.
  • Hell Is That Noise: The juniors find the sound of A-Qing's bamboo-tapping to be unsettling the more they hear it in Yi City. It's eventually revealed that this is how she scares away anyone who stumbled into the place. It ends up helping Lan Wangji locate Xue Yang in the fog (or the incapicitated junior disciples in the donghua) as she uses her bamboo-tapping to alert their locations to him.
  • Help Mistaken for Attack: After Wei Wuxian became the Yiling Patriarch, Lan Wangji was one of the extremely few people who was afraid for and not of Wei Wuxian. But every time he expressed his concern, Wei Wuxian took it as an accusation instead. The trope reached its peak during the Nightless Immortal Capital bloodbath; when Lan Wangji tried to calm Wei Wuxian down by sending his sword towards Chenqing, Wei Wuxian thought he was trying to kill him.
  • History Repeats: Almost. When the Wen Clan became too oppressive, all the other clans united to take them down. But when the Jin Clan started following in their shoes, none of the other clans noticed. And even if they did notice, they chose to do nothing about it, either to avoid getting into any political spats or because they simply didn't care as long as they could profit from the chaos. Worse yet, the clans persecuted the only person who saw the truth for what it was, and are never able to realize that they were not so different from the despots they defeated.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard:
    • Not only did Wei Wuxian take up demonic cultivation, but it's heavily implied that he also died from the backlash it caused.
    • Lan Wangji's aloof attitude towards Wei Wuxian and his attempts to keep some distance between them during their younger years made it hard for him to reach out and get closer to Wei Wuxian by the time he became the Yiling Patriarch, which was also when he came to terms with his growing feelings for the man.
    • When the masked cultivator attempts to attack Lan Wangji in Yueyang to take the demonic left arm from him, he ends up accidentally giving them another part of the dismembered corpse, and he's forced to flee before they overpower him.
    • Initially thinking that Lan Wangji kept the Emperor's Smile jars for himself, Wei Wuxian refills the jars that he consumed with water as a prank — and Lan Wangji later (unknowingly) gives him the same jars the next time they return to the Cloud Recesses.
    • Su She's Hair-Trigger Temper and inability to keep his true intentions hidden end up getting him exposed as the reason why almost all the cultivators' powers were temporarily sealed off in the Second Siege, which allows the other clans to realize that Su She's master isn't all he seems.
  • Holding Hands: In Season 3 of the donghua (where the romance is hinted at but not explicitly stated) the protagonists are prone to casually holding or touching each other's hands, often as a way to show their support.
  • Honor Before Reason: The novel brutally deconstructs and examines notions of honor, righteousness and selflessness. Honor without wisdom becomes naivete and recklessness which can bring more suffering either by being manipulated and taken advantage of, or by simply not considering or understanding the consequences of your actions. Just because it's the honorable thing to do, doesn't mean it's the right thing to do. But at the same time, doing nothing is not the right thing to do either.
  • Hourglass Plot:
    • In the past, Lan Xichen was the one who was certain and clear-minded whereas his younger brother was facing internal conflict. In the final arc, their positions are reversed, with Lan Xichen falling into self-doubt and Lan Wangji being sure of his thoughts and actions. Additionally, Lan Wangji is reunited and bound to his (romantically) loved one, while Lan Xichen is pained with the betrayal and loss of his (platonically) loved one.
    • As Lan Wangji himself notes in one of the extras, in the past Lan Xichen would visit him and talk to him while he was in seclusion; but now, the situation is completely reversed.
  • Howl of Sorrow: Jiang Cheng lets out a painful scream — out of not just sorrow but also rage, despair, and all other similar emotions — after learning that he can unsheathe Suibian and the reason behind it.
  • Human Sacrifice: The Waterborne Abyss requires a human sacrifice every now and then to keep it pacified, otherwise it would create trouble.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: The Grey-and-Grey Morality is one of the most front-and-center themes of the novel, but the story doesn't shy away from the fact that sometimes it's the humans who are the most fearsome and difficult enemies to deal with. The likes of ghosts and demons are a straightforward evil to which cultivators unanimously unite to defeat, but it's a much trickier deal when they start dealing with each other, especially when politics or revenge is involved.
  • Humble Pie: To say that the confrontation at the Jiang ancestral hall destroys Jiang Cheng's pride and shakes his beliefs is a massive understatement, since it forces him to realize the implication of Wei Wuxian sacrificing his golden core for him and how he misunderstood him this whole time. However, it does allow him to finally start reflecting on his wrongdoings and rework on some of his flaws.
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    • In the donghua, when Jin Ling mocks Lan Jingyi for being scared of the Heavenly Maiden statue, he immediately shivers in a comical manner in fear when Lan Sizhui notices that the statue might be alive.
    • A light-hearted moment at Yi City involves Jin Ling and Lan Jingyi arguing over their respective animals' names, with the latter pointing out that Jin Ling has no right to mock Little Apple's name when he named his own dog Fairy.
    • Jin Ling calls out Wei Wuxian for trying to scare the other junior disciples by showing them what a ghost girl looks like up close. Wei Wuxian quickly reminds him that he willingly played along with the prank.
    • When it comes to Wei Wuxian's sex life with Lan Wangji, he is very much open to rough play. Yet he draws the line when it comes to spanking, which is essentially one of the mildest parts of rough play, even when Wei Wuxian has already dabbled in lewder stuff. Granted, it's explained that he dislikes it not because of the pain, but because it feels humiliating since parents do the same thing to unruly children.
    • Wei Wuxian takes almost every opportunity to tease Lan Wangji in an attempt to fluster him. However, Wei Wuxian himself gets flustered very quickly just from a few affectionate words from the other. It does makes sense that he gets easily overwhelmed from being shown even the slightest gesture of selfless affection, considering he's been far more accustomed with giving help than receiving it.
    • Lan Wangji tends to call Wei Wuxian out for being "shameless", especially during their youth, despite the fact that he has done some pretty bold things out of both affection and jealousy, and this is without the influence of alcohol. Wei Wuxian even teases him for it on one occasion.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Downplayed. Wei Wuxian has no regrets about taking up demonic cultivation (considered a morally grey method of fighting) and using it to annihilate the Wen Clan. However, he once expressed to Lan Wangji that if he could take a different path, he would. Except that there was no such path, so he'd see things through to the end.
    Wei Wuxian: I, too, wanted to walk the bright path — a path that allows me to protect those I care about without resorting to demonic ways or the Yin Tiger Tally. Now, I no longer can.
  • I'd Tell You, but Then I'd Have to Kill You: Implied. When Wei Wuxian asks Jin Guangyao about what or who he's hiding within the Guanyin Temple, the latter warns him that his curiosity comes at a high price.
  • If I Wanted You Dead...: When accused of wrongdoings multiple times, Wei Wuxian makes it clear that it wasn't him purely because he would have had a much easier time killing the people in question.
    • Wei Wuxian denied Jin Zixun's accusations of casting the Hundred Holes Curse on him by claiming the latter would had been long dead by now if he was the one responsible.
    • In the finale, when Su She accuses Wei Wuxian of poisoning the grave buried beneath the Guanyin Temple, Wei Wuxian replies that he would have used more direct and brutal means to deal with them if he really was the culprit.
  • If You Ever Do Anything to Hurt Her...:
    • Played for Laughs. After Lan Wangji's drunkenly shows off Wei Wuxian tied up with the former's forehead ribbon, Jin Ling warns the latter the next day to not break his companion's heart.
    • Discussed between Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng regarding Jiang Yanli's (rearranged) marriage to Jin Zixuan. When Wei Wuxian expressed his disapproval by pointing out that Jin Zixuan might end up like his philanderer of a father and cheat on Yanli, Jiang Cheng coldly responded that he can just try.
  • Ignored Epiphany: When Jiang Cheng raged at Wei Wuxian for the destruction of his home and the deaths of his parents as teens, the novel goes into detail about how he knew deep down that the latter wasn't really at fault since the Wen Clan would have attacked Lotus Pier one way or another and his martial brother's defiance of their authority was simply their excuse. However, he disregarded the thought and continued to hold him accountable for it. It's implied that this wasn't the only time he didn't listen to his conscience telling him that it was wrong to blame Wei Wuxian for most of the bad things that happened in his life, since his pride wouldn't allow him to have any self-reflection.
  • I Have Your Wife: At Guanyin Temple, Jin Guangyao threatens Lan Wangji to lock his spiritual powers by putting Wei Wuxian in a choke hold with a guqin string. He even straight-up tells the latter that he's holding Lan Wangji's life in his hands — and by "life", he's referring to Wei Wuxian himself, not Lan Wangji's safety.
  • I Have Many Names: With the story's setting being an alternate version of Imperial China, all notable people have at least three names: a birth name, a courtesy name, and a title. This applies for the male characters, since the female characters are introduced with only one name and it's never confirmed if it's either their birth or their courtesy names. In Real Life, women in ancient China were sometimes given a courtesy name upon marriage, but they were rarely, if ever, recorded in history.
  • I Know You Know I Know: Xue Yang suspected that A-Qing wasn't blind, and she knew he knew and suspected he was untrustworthy. Many of their early interactions were them trying to expose the other without revealing their secrets.
  • Improbable Age: Most of the clan leaders are incredibly young. Justified in that the turmoil of that last 20 or so years killed a lot of powerful cultivators. The Wen Clan in particular targeted clan leaders to weaken their enemies.
  • I'm Standing Right Here: Wei Wuxian learns at Guanyin Temple that Jiang Cheng now knows about the golden core transfer, and asks Lan Wangji if Wen Ning told them. When it's confirmed, Wei Wuxian sighs in frustration since he told the latter to never tell anyone about it. The problem is, Jiang Cheng can hear every word they're saying, and reacts in a cross manner.
  • Ineffectual Death Threats: Downplayed. Jiang Cheng oftens threaten Jin Ling to break his legs, give him a lashing, or disown him if he acts out of line, but his nephew states that they're purely empty threats. The worst thing that he's ever seen doing is either hit his nephew on the head or slam him on the ground, but even then it takes a lot to get him to do that.
  • Inelegant Blubbering:
    • Wei Wuxian breaks down into hysterical sobbing in an attempt to avoid being taken into the Cloud Recesses, where excessive noise is not allowed. It doesn't work.
    • The junior disciples accompanying Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji in Yi City cry loudly after Wei Wuxian tells them what happened to A-Qing and Xiao Xingchen.
    • During the Discussion Conference at Golden Carp Tower, Nie Huaisang spends most of the time loudly and childishly bawling to Jin Guangyao and Lan Xichen about his problems.
    • Wen Qing was at a loss for words after arriving at Qiongqi Path to find her brother's corpse and could do nothing else but sob her eyes out.
    • After being protected by Wen Ning during the Second Siege, Jin Ling feels conflicted over his desire to avenge the death of his parents and his realization that Wen Ning isn't the monster he was raised to believe he was, but also incredibly frustrated that he can't properly vent these feelings out. He instead crumples onto the docks, holding his father's sword and loudly crying out his frustrations.
    • Jiang Cheng is a crying wreck at a few emotional points of the story, and the reason is always tragic.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: A-Qing managed to get Xue Yang to reveal that he's a cultivator by intentionally confusing hunting with night-hunting, with Xue Yang correcting her terminology. While it increased her suspicions, it's not what allowed her to find out that he's truly bad news.
  • Insane Troll Logic: When Wang Lingjiao went to Lotus Pier, her excuse was that the Wen Clan were suspicious that the Jiang Clan seemed to be turning against them because one of their disciples shot a kite that she claimed to looked like the sun, which is the insignia of the Wen Clan. Even Jiang Cheng and Wei Wuxian angrily grumbled under their breaths that her logic didn't make sense since the kite is clearly shaped like a monster, but they couldn't argue back.
  • Instrument of Murder: The Lan Clan's third leader Lan Yi created the Chord Assassination technique, which uses guqin strings as Razor Floss and serves to silence any dissenters. Lan Wangji used this technique to defeat the Tortoise of Slaughter, and the Big Bad also uses guqin strings to hold Wei Wuxian and Jin Ling hostage at Guanyin Temple.
  • Interrupted Declaration of Love: Wei Wuxian comes close to confessing his feelings while in a passionate moment with Lan Wangji, only to be cut off halfway due to the latter misunderstanding what he's actually trying to say and breaking away from him.
  • Involuntary Dance: A-Yan tends to break into a dance every now and then, imitating the way the statue in the mountain would dance and smile.
  • Ironic Echo:
    • When Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji argue about demonic cultivation in Chapter 62, Jiang Cheng ends the fight by reminding Lan Wangji that Wei Wuxian is of the Jiang Clan and wherever he'd return to, it wouldn't be with him. Cut to more than a decade later, where Wei Wuxian marries Lan Wangji and now lives in the Cloud Recesses. And beforehand, Wei Wuxian had already found himself estranged from his old home, with Jiang Cheng driving the final nail in the coffin by spitefully telling him that he's not welcome in Lotus Pier. There are hints that he regrets saying that, but the words have already left his mouth.
    • Wen Ning killed Jin Zixuan via a fist through the other's chest. Years later, he would protect Jin Zixuan's son from certain death by getting punched through his own chest. However, it's this act that convinces Jin Ling and Jiang Cheng to let go of their hatred of him.
  • Ironic Name:
    • Wei Wuxian's flute, Chenqing, means "to explain something in complete detail". However, he made the flute after becoming a demonic cultivator, and many of the problems he encountered as the Yiling Patriarch were born from miscommunication. He also has issues of not remembering things nor people very well in the present.
    • The house where Lan Wangji resides is called the Jingshi or the Tranquil Room. After he and Wei Wuxian get married, at night the house is anything but silent.
  • Irony:
    • For a clan that practices asceticism, several of the Lan Clan of Gusu members are romantic in nature — which Wei Wuxian lampshades.
    • When Wei Wuxian was still studying, he didn't get along with his teacher. However, he himself turns out to be a very good teacher to the junior disciples, who all readily listen to him.
    • In the past, Jiang Cheng would often tell Wei Wuxian to not bother Lan Wangji, since there was no point in attempting to befriend someone who hated him. However, he's actually the one who became the person Lan Wangji hates to the core.
    • Chang Ping rescinded his testimony against Xue Yang to save the survivors of his clan... only for them to be killed off years later by Xue Yang for the exact same reason. The latter lashed out at him for making Xiao Xingchen look foolish, although it's implied he also did to deflect his self-blame for causing Xiao Xingchen's suicide.
    • When A-Qing was alive, she pretended to be blind as part of her scheme in robbing people. Then as a ghost, she's blind for real.
    • Jin Zixuan was the only member of the Jin Clan who had a personal feud with Wei Wuxian long before the latter founded demonic cultivation, but he was also the only one in the family who didn't condemn the latter for using The Dark Arts.
    • Back when he was a teenager, Wei Wuxian would tell Jiang Cheng and Nie Huaisang that he would never want to marry into the Lan Clan due to all of their stifling rules. He also would tell Lan Wangji no one would ever want to marry him due to his cold personality. After the events of the finale, he ends up living at the Cloud Recesses with Lan Wangji after marrying him.
    • Wei Wuxian would claim he can't sleep without Lan Wangji in order to annoy the other into leaving him, which doesn't work. Hilariously, this lie ends up coming true during the Yunping City arc, where he finds out that he truly can't sleep without Lan Wangji at his side.
    • As Jiang Cheng sullenly put it as a teenager, he may be the heir of the Jiang Clan, but he doesn't live up to his clan's ideals in the slightest. While he did manage to achieve a feat "beyond the impossible" by rebuilging a clan that was burned to cinders and nearly annihilated to the last man, he still falls short when it comes to the moral implications behind the motto, since its complete meaning is to "do what's right against all odds".
    • Wei Wuxian became the Yiling Patriarch to take revenge on the Wen Clan for slaughtering most of the Jiang Clan. He would soon earn the masses' hatred as the Yiling Patriarch because he protected the clan's remaining survivors, and eventually perished for it.
    • Jin Guangyao gets killed by both the man he tried to make sure could never be brought back and Nie Huaisang, who came off as useless without Jin Guangyao's help and who the Jin clansman also treated as a little brother.
    • Jin Guangshan targeted Wei Wuxian because he wanted the latter's power to ensure that the Jin Clan would rule over the cultivation world. In the long run, his goals led events to snowball in such a manner that ends with both him and the reputation of his clan humiliated and besmirched.
  • I Take Offense to That Last One!: Inverted. When Jin Ling mocks Wei Wuxian for naming his donkey Little Apple, Lan Jingyi defends the latter and retorts that it's better than "calling [his] fat dog Fairy". Jin Ling ignores the implication made about his naming sense and focuses instead on the insult made about Fairy's figure.
  • It's All My Fault:
    • Lan Sizhui feels responsible for the death of the Mo family because of the Spirit-Attraction Flags he had set up around the Mo manor. Wei Wuxian quickly assures him that he's not to blame for what happened.
    • It's implied that Wen Qing readily sacrificed herself and her brother to the Jin Clan because she felt responsible for Wei Wuxian's ostracization and Jin Zixuan's death.
  • It's Personal: The whole reason Wei Wuxian went after Wen Chao, Wang Lingjiao and Wen Zhuliu in his first life was because they were the ones who killed his guardians, burnt his home down, destroyed his friend's golden core and pushed him into the Burial Mounds to die amongst other things. It's telling that they're the only people Wei Wuxian had deliberately exacted slow but painful and bloody vengeance on. Jiang Cheng also went out of his way to desecrate the first two's corpses and made a bee-line for the latter for some of these reasons.
  • I Want My Mommy!: Played for Drama. Jiang Cheng was dragged away from Lotus Pier by Wei Wuxian after seeing his parents' corpses being treated disrespectfully by the Wens. Soon enough, he had a mental breakdown as he lashed out at Wei Wuxian and blamed him for, in his eyes, incurring the Wens' wrath and causing them to target Lotus Pier. Once he managed to calm down a bit, he broke down into tears as he screamed that he wanted his parents.
  • I Was Just Joking: When Wei Wuxian jokingly suggests that Lan Wangji carries him by piggyback, he gets shocked when Lan Wangji prepares to do so.
  • Joke and Receive: When Jiang Cheng wonders why Lan Wangji would go out of his way to protect Wei Wuxian despite what he had done, he mockingly guesses that it may only be because the Lan clansman has some "familiarity" with Mo Xuanyu. Later on, to his displeasure, Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji do get closer and end up tying the knot.
  • Kangaroo Court: The entire cultivation world will judge anything and anyone based on how they want to judge them, not on how they should be judged, leading to many people receiving punishments disproportionate to their actual crimes (if any).
  • Karma Houdini: With the exception of Jin Guangshan, Jin Guangyao, and Nie Mingjue (who died for different reasons), most of the other (currently living) cultivators that participated in both the Nightless Immortal Capital bloodbath and the First Siege don't get any proper comeuppance for their actions after Wei Wuxian's innocence was finally proven. While they feel greatly humiliated when their attempt to start another siege ended with them being saved by the one they had set out to kill, with part of the younger generation essentially calling them out on their nonsense, that's all the requital they get and even then it doesn't stick for long. Though by that point, Wei Wuxian doesn't care anymore as long as they leave him alone. Also, Wei Wuxian's name has been cleared of the charges he's falsely accused of, and since he's now the partner of a cultivator nobody would dare speak up against, they're at least guaranteed to be unable to backtalk him again and expect to gain anything from it.
  • Karmic Jackpot: Lan Wangji and Mianmian are the only ones who publicly defended Wei Wuxian (and the Wen survivors, by extension) when all the other cultivators did the opposite and deemed Wei Wuxian a menace. Everyone turned a deaf ear and overruled their statements, but the two both ended up coming out on top compared to everyone else. Lan Wangji, through his own merit and by distancing himself from politics as much as possible, becomes one of the most renowned living cultivators and ends up getting married to the love of his life; and Mianmian, by leaving her clan and becoming a rogue cultivator, gets Happily Married and has a loving family of her own.
  • Kick the Dog:
    • Being the vile man he was, Jin Zixun took glee in telling Wei Wuxian that he didn't deserve to get invited to Jin Ling's full-month celebration even though it wasn't needed for his ambush on him.
    • When Wei Wuxian collapses and starts bleeding at the Jiang ancestral hall, Jiang Cheng is briefly alarmed and hesitates but then insists on whipping Zidian in his direction anyway to stop him and Lan Wangji from leaving. The latter is fortunately able to block him, and then Wen Ning barges into the scene to defend his master and finally put Jiang Cheng in his place.
  • Kick Them While They Are Down: Xue Yang gleefully mocked Song Lan while the latter was dying.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: After Jin Guangyao gets horribly maimed and has yet another near-death encounter at Guanyin Temple, he knows that he can no longer either kill or talk his way out. He even accepts Lan Xichen's threat to kill him if he tries something again. Unluckily for him, a certain someone ensures that his concession will not keep him his life.
  • The Lady's Favour: Wei Wuxian tried to get Lan Wangji to give him his forehead ribbon prior to the Phoenix Mountain Hunt as a joke. It was mostly so he could blindfold himself with it, but he was also mimicking the act of taking one's beloved's item before battle. Although he was just messing around, what nobody told him was that there's actually a lot of significance behind touching a Lan clansman's ribbon.
  • Laughing Mad:
    • Laughing during a breakdown or when realizing the absurdity of a situation he's gotten himself into was something Wei Wuxian often did in his first life and still does post-resurrection, especially after he became the Yiling Patriarch and was mentally falling apart.
    • Xue Yang laughs out of insanity a few times during his battle with Lan Wangji, revealing how emotionally tormented and crazed he has become over the years after Xiao Xingchen's death.
    • After Jiang Cheng was rescued from the Wens' clutches, he woke up to find himself in a Supervisory Office with Wei Wuxian by his side. Assuming the worst, his sanity slipped further as he started devolving into a fit of delirious laughter and accused Wei Wuxian of consorting with the Wen Clan after they destroyed their home. It took Wen Qing throwing a needle into his forehead to knock him out before he drew the attention of the guards.
    • Wang Lingjiao was laughing in insanity before choking herself to death with a stool leg.
    • Jin Guangyao laughs in despair after he reveals to Lan Xichen the reason he killed Jin Guangshan. In the audio drama, he does it again when he realizes who has been conspiring against him the entire time.
  • Last of His Kind:
    • After the massacre of Lotus Pier and the death of his sister, Jiang Cheng becomes the last living member of the Jiang bloodline.
    • Wen Yuan, now Lan Yuan, courtesy name Lan Sizhui, becomes the only living remnant of the Wen Sect.
  • Leave No Witnesses:
    • Xue Yang tells both Wei Wuxian and the Big Bad that he doesn't leave even a chicken or a dog alive whenever he "cleans up" a place.
    • Jin Guangyao hired disfigured prostitutes as part of his plan in killing his father, then killed all of them after the deed was done. Only one was spared because Jin Guangyao recognized her as someone who once helped his mother at the brothel he grew up at, although he had her locked up.
  • Leave the Two Lovebirds Alone:
    • Exhausted after a long and grueling fight following the Second Siege, Wei Wuxian collapses in Lan Wangji's arms, who lets him lie on his lap and gently tends to him. The juniors, who are in the same boat as the two, suddenly get flustered as they watch the tender scene unfold and are overcome with the need to leave the boat cabin and get some fresh air.
    • After Wei Wuxian loudly professes his love to Lan Wangji, the two of them plus Jin Ling and Lan Xichen are taken inside the Guanyin Temple. The latter two make sure to sit as far away from the former two as possible since they know that Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji still have plenty to discuss about their feelings for each other.
  • Licked by the Dog: When Jiang Cheng went to the Burial Mounds and saw that Wei Wuxian was just sheltering a group of innocent and tortured refugees rather than raising an army like the other clans were claiming he was, the lone toddler of the group approached him and hugged his leg. Wei Wuxian commented later that the latter would only do that to people he liked, confirming the child had at least formed a good impression of the Jiang leader (despite the man being a cold and intimidating figure). Unfortunately, Jiang Cheng was not charmed whatsoever.
  • Lightning Lash: Jiang Cheng wields Zidian, a whip that emits purple lightning. One strike from it can force spirits out of the bodies they're possessing. It originally belonged to his mother, Yu Ziyuan.
  • Lineage Comes from the Father: A running undercurrent. Being Imperial China, everyone expects sons to inherit from fathers and continue the family line. The novel examines how this affects succession, bastards and expectations born of the Like Father, Like Son trope. Jiang Cheng and Wei Wuxian are victims of this trope as both take after their mothers. This causes strife because Jiang Cheng is viewed as an Inadequate Inheritor because he doesn't act as the ideal leader of the Jiang Clan as embodied by his father. Wei Wuxian is constantly gossiped about as being a son of a servant and acting above his place because no one seems to remember that he's still the son of a talented and famous cultivator.
  • Longing Look: Lan Wangji and Wei Wuxian tend to softly gaze at one another a lot in the donghua, with Lan Wangji being the more frequent of the two.
  • Loophole Abuse:
    • Many of the Lan Clan rules only count as long as one is inside the Cloud Recesses, something which Wei Wuxian has tried to exploit. Of course, the Lans are still encouraged to follow the rules even when they're outside the place.
    • In the animated chibi spinoff, a teenage Wei Wuxian found a technicality in each of the Lan Clan's rules and gleefully abused it. He even wrote a book on it for the other students called "How to Survive in the Cloud Recesses".
  • Lost in Translation: With the original language being Chinese, translating it to another language (especially English) renders a number of jokes and nuances in-text difficult (if not outright impossible) to translate.
    • Wei Wuxian's sword name Suibian (随便) is a common word that translates to "whatever", "anyhow", "(do) as you please", "anything and everything". The confusion this can cause isn't as evident in translations as it is in the original Chinese; Lan Wangji thought Wei Wuxian was purposely disrespecting his sword when he told him his its name, and the latter had to clarify that it's what he actually named it (when Jiang Fengmian asked what name to get carved on the sword hilt, Wei Wuxian had replied "whatever" to indicate any name was fine). To avoid this issue, everyone else in the story refers to it as "this sword" or "that sword". This word also comes into play in an important moment at Guanyin Temple when Wei Wuxian uses it in his confession (随便怎么你) to express how much he loves Lan Wangji — "I like you [...] in other words, I fancy you, I love you, I want you, I can't leave you, whatever you want it to be".
    • Translation notes and guides are needed to explain the significance behind many of the courtesy names (eg. Wangji, Sizhui) and titles (eg. Hanguang-jun, Sandu Shengshou).
    • While the name Cloud Recesses (云深不知处) sounds elegant as it is, the significance that non-Chinese audiences may miss is that it's based on a line from a Chinese poem.
    • In the Exiled Rebels Scanlations' translation of Chapter 68, Wei Wuxian asks Lan Wangji, Lan Sizhui, and Lan Jingyi if they're "forming a human pyramid" when they group together in front of him out of the suspicion that Jin Ling might attack him. The original text specifically uses the term "stacking arhats" ("跟叠罗汉似的"), a traditional Chinese game where people form a pyramid. An additional note is the word arhat/arahant is a Buddhist term referring to someone who has achieved nirvana or complete enlightenment.
    • When Wei Wuxian first met the girl nicknamed Mianmian, he decided to tease her by introducing himself as "Yuandao", which flustered her. This joke is impossible to understand without translation notes if one's not familiar with Chinese literature — he's referencing a poem from the Han dynasty called "Watering Horses at the Grotto near the Great Wall" (饮马长城窟行). The names "Mianmian" (绵绵) and "Yuandao" (远道) are referenced in the second half of the first verse of the poem "青青河边草,绵绵远道", which also translates to "Oh, how green is the grass on the riverbank; How endless is my longing for the distant road". Most importantly, the second half can also be read as "Mianmian longs for Yuandao", which is entire joke behind Wei Wuxian's "introduction".
    • Lan Wangji's Catchphrase "无聊" is along the lines of, "Don't you have anything better to do?" To stay faithful to the short length of the phrase, the official translations simplify it to things like "frivolous" and "silly". The Japanese dub manages to capture the spirit of the phrase with "くだらん", which translates to "how foolish/idiotic".
    • Lan Wangji and Lan Xichen are referred to as the Twin Jades of Lan. While most uninformed foreign readers would write this off as the brothers simply being called cool and handsome, the nickname is significant because jade is the stone associated with gentlemen in Chinese culture. Beautiful women are also referred to as "jade-like beauties", because their skin should be as white as white nephrite jade, as opposed to green jadeite.
    • Nie Huaisang's moniker in Chinese is "一问三不知", and the official translations use "Head-Shaker". However, it literally translates to "one question, three 'I don't know's'" — which is a direct description of how everyone perceives him to be a clueless idiot.
    • The official donghua subtitles omits Chinese name terminology to avoid having to explain them, such as leaving out the A- honorific and replacig sibling terms with the character's name instead. This loses some of the nuance of certain relationships between characters, such as Wei Wuxian's close sibling-like relationship with Jiang Yanli and Jin Guangyao's affection and respect for Lan Xichen.
  • Low Fantasy: By xianxia standards. While cultivation still plays an important role in the story, the novel focuses less on cultivation lore and more about human conflict.
  • Luminescent Blush:
    • Lan Wangji's earlobes turn pink whenever he gets flustered or drunk. If he's embarrassed enough, the rest of his face flushes pink as well.
    • Mianmian became flustered and red-faced once she got the joke behind Wei Wuxian introducing himself as "Yuandao".

    M-R 
  • Made of Evil: Wei Wuxian created the Yin Tiger Tally from reforging an ancient sword that had absorbed the resentful energy of hundreds of men.
  • Madness Mantra:
    • After realizing Xiao Xingchen was Deader Than Dead, Xue Yang repeatedly muttered that he needed a Spirit-trapping Pouch to store his soul which showed he took the death poorly.
      Xue Yang: Spirit-trapping Pouch, Spirit-trapping Pouch. Right, a Spirit-trapping Pouch. I need a Spirit-trapping Pouch, a Spirit-trapping Pouch, a Spirit-trapping Pouch...
    • "I'll eat it! I'll eat it!" was the last thing the insane Wang Lingjiao said just before choking herself to death, being manipulated by Wei Wuxian.
    • Wen Chao repeatedly screamed that he wouldn't eat anymore, no matter how much Wen Zhuliu would try to feed him. This was because he was traumatized from Wei Wuxian mind-raping him into eating his own flesh.
    • Experiencing a Heroic BSoD after the events of Nightless Immortal Capital, all Wei Wuxian said to Lan Wangji when the latter accompanied him was, "Get lost!"
  • Magic Music:
    • Wei Wuxian uses a dizi flute named Chenqing to control corpses. Simple whistles work just as fine, but he prefers using a flute because its sound reaches greater distances, and consequently has more power in its commands.
    • The Lan Clan is famous for their musical skills (especially the guqin), which can be used to summon spirits, interrogate spirits, forcibly silence people, and even nullify magical powers — albeit temporarily.
      • Lan Wangji is a master of the guqin. He's very knowledgeable in the qin language required to talk to spirits, and he knows the composition of every piece there is to know, whether it's for offense, defense, or entirely other purposes.
      • Lan Xichen is musically talented and can play both the guqin and xiao flute for cultivation purposes. The flute is his chosen musical weapon, and he was the one to teach Jin Guangyao how to play the Song of Clarity on the guqin.
  • Major Injury Underreaction:
    • Since Wen Ning is a walking corpse and can no longer feel pain, he gives little reaction when getting injured no matter how bad it is. Break an arm? He'll pop it back in place. Punch through his torso? He'll just rearrange the damaged organs.
    • Wei Wuxian observes that Xue Yang has a high pain tolerance, and thus would laugh off normally severe injuries as if it were nothing. Xue Yang himself also told Xiao Xingchen that he's used to getting badly wounded.
    • To avoid the Jiang Clan from facing more political scrutiny due to their association with him, Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng publicly staged a fight to make the other clans think that they broke ties with the other. Wei Wuxian got nearly disemboweled, yet he treated it as if it was merely a superficial injury.
    • When Wei Wuxian got shot in the chest with an arrow during the Nightless Immortal Capital attack, his response was to calmly yank out the arrow and throw it back at the archer responsible.
    • When Jin Ling stabs him after finding out who he really is, Wei Wuxian only mentally remarks in annoyance how he and Jiang Cheng are really alike since they stab in the same places. However, he does eventually pass out from the wound.
  • Malicious Slander:
    • Wei Wuxian is the most frequent victim of malicious rumours, both in the past and the present. Sometimes, it happens behind his back, and other times people are hurling vicious insults right at his face.
    • After Jiang Fengmian took Wei Wuxian in, he was never able to be rid of the rumors that the latter was actually his child through the boy's mother Cangse-sanren, who he was said to have been in love with. This ended up damaging his already thin relationship with his wife and his children.
  • Meaningful Echo: Several things that occur or are mentioned early on in the story are featured or brought up again near the ending.
    • When Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji leave the Cloud Recesses to investigate the mystery of the vicious severed arm, Wei Wuxian jokingly announces that they can finally elope. Then around 80 or so chapters later, shortly after the Guanyin Temple arc, Wei Wuxian nags Lan Sizhui to stop following him so that he and Lan Wangji can go and elope for real.
    • During their encounter in Qinghe, when Jiang Cheng asks Wei Wuxian if he has anything to say to him, the latter replies that he doesn't. Then in the finale, when Jin Ling asks Jiang Cheng if he had something to say to Wei Wuxian, Jiang Cheng also says that he doesn't.
    • When Song Lan advised A-Qing to stay off the road and guided her away from the crowded streets because of her supposed blindness, she giggled as she remembers that those were the exact words Xiao Xingchen told her when they first met. This clued Song Lan in on his companion's whereabouts.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • The entire event covering the fight between the Wen Clan and the rest of the cultivation world is known as the Sunshot Campaign (射日之征), with the "Sunshot" (射日) in the title referring to the legend of Hou Yi, a famed archer of Chinese mythology who's well-known for saving the world by shooting down nine out of the ten suns when they nearly burned away the earth, and the Wen Clan's motif is the sun.
    • Wei Wuxian lampshades that Xue Yang's sword has a name befitting of its owner, since Jiangzai means "to bring forth disaster".
    • Lan Xichen's sword is named Shuoyue, which means new moon, which is used to mark the first day of each month in the Chinese lunar calendar. This can represent how history in general had moments of the people anticipating the dawn of a new time with a new leader, and Lan Xichen succeeded his father as the leader of the Lan Clan during the Sunshot Campaign after the burning of the Cloud Recesses.
    • Liebing, the name of Lan Xichen's xiao flute, translates to "cracked ice". The visual image of something fractured mirrors Lan Xichen's his emotional and mental state in the finale.
  • Medium Blending: As per B.CMAY's style, the donghua combines 2D and 3D animation, with the latter animation mainly reserved for inanimate objects, background sceneries, large monsters, and crowds of people.
  • Men Are the Expendable Gender: Downplayed, since majority of the female cast die as well, but majority of the casualties in the story (at least as seen in the visual adaptations) are male characters. This includes the protagonist himself, at least before he was brought back to life.
  • Might Makes Right: The entire cultivation world is classist, even when excluding the Wen Clan and their attempts to subjugate all the other clans. While they won't admit it, almost everyone acts on the notion that those in power and have wealth are immediately the ones who are in the right, and anyone who challenges them is immediately wrong and villainous even if they raise fair points.
  • Mind Rape: During the Sunshot Campaign, Wei Wuxian used demonic cultivation to drive several Wen clansmen mad to the extent that they either committed suicide or died by self-mutilation.
  • Minor Injury Overreaction: Nie Huaisang screams like mad when Su She stabs him in the leg, and he continues to make a fuss about it afterwards despite Lan Xichen reassuring him that it's just a small cut. Wei Wuxian's suspicions however imply Nie Huaisang might have been hamming it up on purpose.
  • Missing Mom: Almost every significant character either never had a mother to raise them since birth or loses their mom at an early age. For the former, there's Jin Ling and Lan Sizhui. For the latter, there's Wei Wuxian, Lan Wangji, Jiang Cheng and Jiang Yanli, and Jin Guangyao, just to name a few.
  • Moral Myopia: Most of the characters judge what's right and wrong based on what makes them feel like, instead of what actually makes them, the good guys. Thus, they can support something one moment and then decry it the next, painting them as complete hypocrites. Wei Wuxian lampshades the trope best when he confronts the other clans just when they were planning to ambush him.
    Wei Wuxian: If he wanted to to kill me, he didn't have to think about whether it was a fatal blow or not, and if I died, it'd be my own bad luck. If I wanted to protect myself, however, I had to think about this and that not to harm, unable to take even a single strand of hair away from him? In conclusion, you all could pull a siege on me, but I'm not allowed to fight back, am I right?
  • Morton's Fork:
    • In the past, Wei Wuxian was always thrown into precarious situations where he's stuck between a rock and a hard place. Such instances occurred when Jiang Cheng lost his core, when he rescued the Wen remnants, when he learned that the clans were planning to lead a siege on him; and in every instance, he could never find a compromise or a way out no matter how hard he tried.
      He had known from the start that no matter what he said, nobody would listen to him. What he denied could be forced; what he admitted could be twisted.
    • With the Xue Yang case, Jin Guangyao was faced between obeying his father (who didn't care about his feelings and had him once thrown down the stairs of Golden Carp Tower) and agreeing with his sworn brother (who was frequently frustrated with him and becoming suspicious of his true colours) — either options would incur someone's wrath on him. Jin Guangyao ended up siding with his father, since he prioritised getting his approval and securing his place in the Jin Clan.
    • Jin Guangyao was in a tight spot regarding his marriage with Qin Su. After going through a lot of effort to allow their marriage to happen, he was approached by Qin Su's mother prior to their wedding and was told that he and Qin Su are actually half-siblings. He then had to choose between marrying his already-pregnant half-sister (even while fully aware of the Awful Truth of their relationship) or breaking off the marriage for morality's sake (but attract political trouble that would humiliate him, Qin Su and her family in the long run). Both were painful options, but he went with the former since it was easier to hide the truth from everyone.
  • Mundane Utility:
    • The Lan Clan's Silencing Spell is a disciplinary measure to ensure quietness. Lan Wangji used it out of annoyance to to stop Wei Wuxian from talking in the library as teenagers.
    • For a sword whose name means "avoiding dust (mundane matters)", Bichen sure sees a lot of mundane uses aside from chopping up supernatural threats: a shovel, to break through walls, a dildo...note 
    • Wei Wuxian raised the world's first sentient zombie, the Ghost General aka Wen Ning... and bullied him into watching over children and carting groceries.
  • Musical Trigger: A musical instrument serves as a memory trigger for Lan Sizhui. He remembers his past as Wen Yuan after seeing Chenqing since he often played with the flute when he was a child.
  • Must Be Invited: Invoked. In the "Intrusion" extra, it's revealed that the very concept of houses is enough to repel both humans and non-humans to some extent without supernatural reinforcement. Of course, once the nasties get past the really tall gate thresholds, they can then come in at any time. Luckily, most houses in Imperial China are constructed with three 'gates': the main gate, the main hall door, and the main bedroom door. And a virgin boy may or may not be required to guard the last one if necessary...
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • Xiao Xingchen was horrified with himself after Xue Yang revealed he had been killing people over the years.
    • While he never fully admits it was his fault Xiao Xingchen ended up killing himself, Xue Yang's breakdown afterwards when he was unable to reanimate his body implies a part of him subconsciously felt responsible.
    • Jin Ling's implied to feel guilty for stabbing Wei Wuxian in a fit of rage. The audio drama and donghua make this more explicit by having him stammer or stagger back in horror shortly after he commits the act.
  • My Kung Fu Is Stronger Than Yours: While never fully explored, many cultivators oftentimes choose to spar with each other as a way of both testing their skills and showing off said skills to others. One of the reasons many continued to get on Wei Wuxian's case for never bringing his sword is because they're robbed of the opportunity to duel him.
  • Named by the Adaptation: The audio drama gives a name to some of the bit characters who are otherwise nameless in the novel.
    • The "Iron Hook" extra never revealed the name of the Hook Hand's wife, but the audio drama gives her the nickname "A-Die" or "Xiao-Die".
    • The novel briefly mentions a servant girl who tried to steal credit from Jiang Yanli by claiming that she's the one who's been cooking and delivering soup to Jin Zixuan during the Sunshot Campaign, and the audio drama refers to said servant girl as Lady Song.
  • Named Weapon: It's all the rage in this genre of novels. Every notable character has a personal blade (sword/jian or sabre/dao), maybe another magical treasure as well, all of them named. All in all, there are 15 named weapons in the story.
  • Neck Snap:
    • A-Tong, the Mo family's servant, dies via snapping his own neck when possessed by the demonic left arm.
    • Jin Zixun died after getting his neck snapped by Wen Ning at Qiongqi Path.
    • Jin Guangyao's neck was snapped in half as he died in the climactic arc, with an undead Nie Mingjue doing the deed.
  • Never Say "Die": When Lan Wangji was still young, Lan Qiren never told him outright that his mother was dead and that she was just "gone", which his nephew didn't understand.
  • Never My Fault: A recurring conflict throughout the story and one of the principal reasons why Wei Wuxian got the shortest end of the stick in his past life. When a conflict rises or tragedy strikes, most of the characters tend to shift the blame onto someone who isn't clearly guilty, because either they're unable to admit that either they're at fault or nobody was really at fault, they need someone to vent out their anger on, or they're finding an opportunity to castigate or justify their hatred for someone they're ready to point the finger at.
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands: Because of the plot's setup, it can seem like Wei Wuxian has new abilities out of nowhere. However, from a purely chronological point of view, Wei Wuxian actually lost his abilities along with his golden core, and then spent three months without a weapon in the Burial Mounds, so what we see as new powers is actually a lot of improvisation done on the spot based on half-remembered theory.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain:
    • Jin Guangyao hints to Wei Wuxian about Lan Wangji's feelings for him at Guanyin Temple, in hopes of exploiting his vulnerable side towards the latter and mentally breaking him down. Instead, this just motivates Wei Wuxian to finally confess to Lan Wangji once and for all, relieving the tension between them and giving them a clearer head to subdue the Big Bad.
    • Su She brings Nie Huaisang to the Guanyin Temple as a potential hostage. Unfortunately, what he doesn't know is that the very man is (probably) the mastermind behind Jin Guangyao's downfall — thus bringing the person here just further ensures that Jin Guangyao won't be able to get away with anything, even his own life.
  • Nicknaming the Enemy: In Wei Wuxian's first life, the other cultivation clans would derogatorily refer to the Wen Clan as "Wen dogs" during the Sunshot Campaign.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown:
    • Downplayed. While Jin Chan and his group initially hold an advantage over Jin Ling when ganging up on him at Golden Carp Tower, the latter easily beats them once Wei Wuxian teaches him some new fight tricks.
    • Jin Zixuan was on the receiving end of not one but two one-sided beatdowns from Wei Wuxian, both because he wronged Jiang Yanli in some way.
  • Non-Answer: What caused a lot of problems between Jiang Fengmian and his family was that his responses to the accusations his wife made against him never confirmed nor denied, such as the accusations of whether he truly favored Wei Wuxian over Jiang Cheng or if he had any feelings for Cangse-sanren.
  • Non-Malicious Monster: Not every supernatural being is a threat, as sometimes there are spirits born from virtue instead of resentment. Such an example is the Damsel of Annual Blossoms. The "Lotus Seed Pod" extra also shows that while most water ghouls are commonly known to drown people who enter its territory, there are some who just swim around without wanting to harm anybody.
  • No-Sell: Shortly before the Nightless Immortal Capital bloodbath began, Wei Wuxian got shot in the heart by an archer while he was confronting all the cultivation clans that declared to attack him. Wei Wuxian gave no reaction as he merely tore it out of his chest and threw it back at the archer, impaling him through the heart as well.
  • No Sympathy:
    • While Nie Mingjue initially felt bad that others looked down on Jin Guangyao and overlooked his abilities on the sole basis of his parentage, he started to have less sympathy towards his plight when Jin Guangyao proved how unscrupulous he can be, even when the latter claimed that his background made a lot of things harder for him. At one point, Nie Mingjue insulted him by calling him the Son of a Whore after losing his temper.
    • When Jiang Cheng finally vents out all of his feelings and frustrations to Wei Wuxian after the entire truth about his golden core comes out, Lan Wangji silently defends Wei Wuxian throughout and only speaks up once by telling Jiang Cheng to watch his words in a very cold manner. While he's not unable to see that Jiang Cheng suffered through a lot as well, from Lan Wangji's perspective, whatever hardships and losses Jiang Cheng went through does not nor will it ever justify his treatment of Wei Wuxian.
  • Nothing Personal: While Jin Guangyao had a hand in Wei Wuxian's downfall in the past and is his greatest enemy at present, neither of the two harbor any personal grudges towards the other. The former only became Wei Wuxian's enemy since he was trying everything to please his father, who plotted against Wei Wuxian to further his own ambitions. Otherwise, both lack any history together and Wei Wuxian never personally offends Jin Guangyao even once, which is a surefire way to get into the latter's hit-list.
  • Not Me This Time: In the Second Siege, Wei Wuxian bluntly tells the other cultivators that while he did cause the deaths of many cultivators during the Nightless Immortal Capital bloodbath, he had no involvement in Nie Mingjue's death, the entire mess with Xue Yang, Qin Su's suicide, or the kidnapping of the younger cultivators.
  • Not Now, Kiddo:
    • A-Qing's concerns or suspicious about Xue Yang were dismissed by Xiao Xingchen despite being correct. It didn't help that she couldn't reveal why she doesn't trust Xue Yang without giving away her own lies.
    • Ouyang Zizhen attempts to defend Wei Wuxan by pointing out that something doesn't add up since Wei Wuxian saved his and the other juniors' lives despite the cultivators' claims that Wei Wuxian came back to life to commit more evil. However, his father dismisses him and tells him that he's young and doesn't know anything. Ouyang Zizhen does get to properly speak up for Wei Wuxian the second time around, however.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: Lan Sizhui makes a note that the boisterous Wei Wuxian and stoic Lan Wangji are actually more similar than they realize, taking on responsibilities and reliably seeing those responsibilities to the end.
  • Not Your Problem:
    • When they were younger, Jiang Cheng often tried to keep Wei Wuxian's Small Steps Hero and Chronic Hero Syndrome tendencies in check, reminding him that his well-meaning heroics would give people an excuse to retaliate against the entire Jiang Clan, and that sometimes, he simply can't save everyone no matter how much he wants to. Jiang Cheng had... very limited success.
    • Inverted with the Waterborne Abyss that Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji fought in their teens. It originally came from the waters of Qishan and ended up in Caiyi Town because the Wen Clan drove the creature there on purpose for the Lan Clan to deal with.
  • Numerological Motif: Combined with Rule of Three; the number three is featured a few times in the story. For example:
    • 13 years of Wei Wuxian being dead.
    • 33 whip marks.
    • When Wei Wuxian was thrown into the Burial Mounds, he was stuck there for three months.
    • The Venerated Triad.
    • Three characters of the Yi City arc lost their sight, with Xue Yang playing a role in it.
    • Part of Jiang Cheng's title (Sandu Shengshou), which is also the name of his sword (Sandu), translates to "three poisons".
    • Yu Ziyuan is also known as "Third Lady Yu" due to being the third-born child of the Yu Clan of Meishan.
    • If you want to get meta, the novel itself has, as stated above, 113 chapters with 13 additional chapters.
  • An Offer You Can't Refuse: When Jin Zixun attempted to force the Twin Jades to drink, some of his dialogue implied that this was his way of making the brothers publicly declare that the Lan Clan were allies of the Jin Clan under any circumstances.
  • Official Couple Ordeal Syndrome: While the protagonists are guaranteed to get together, what drives part of the plot is how it happens, and more importantly, when that happens.
  • Offing the Offspring: Implied. After it's revealed to everyone that Jin Guangyao and his wife are half-siblings, Clan Leader Yao speculates that the man feared Jin Rusong would show signs of being an inbred child. While the circumstances remain dubious of how involved he was in his son's death, Jin Guangyao feels responsible in some way based on what he tells Qin Su and Lan Xichen.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome:
    • Whatever Lan Wangji did during the Sunshot Campaign is not shown nor made explicitly clear, but it was enough to gain him the same level of prestige only clan leaders manage to achieve even when he himself is not one.
    • In the Yi City arc, Lan Wangji retrieves the right arm of the fierce corpse they're investigating while the story focuses on Wei Wuxian sheltering the junior cultivators and learning about what really happened to Xiao Xingchen.
    • After the events at Golden Carp Tower, Wen Ning trails Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji from the shadows and helps fight off any fierce corpses near their path. Wei Wuxian and the audience only find out when he shows himself to the protagonists, and the pair realize he's the reason why they faced no trouble on their way from the Cloud Recesses to the entrance of the Burial Mounds.
    • Given how meticulous Jin Guangyao is in covering up his tracks, it requires some good investigation and deduction skills on Nie Huaisang's part to figure out even just a fraction of what the former planned or was involved in, including his brother's death.
    • Although the sealing ceremony of Jin Guangyao and Nie Mingjue's corpses isn't shown, the civilians mention that Nie Huaisang was charge of it and apparently performed the ritual even better than Lan Qiren could.
  • One-Gender School: Although the Lan Clan also houses female disciples, they're separated from the male disciples in every step of the way, from lectures and lodging, even including night-hunts.
  • One Steve Limit: Downplayed. Some characters' names sound the same when written in romanized form, but not when written in the original Chinese characters. Such names that serve as examples are Ziyuan (from the Yu and Mo families) and Yuan (from the Lan and Wen Clans). The latter detail actually plays an important role, as it helps Wen Ning clue in on Wen Yuan having grown up as Lan Yuan, a.k.a. Lan Sizhui.
  • Only in It for the Money: It's noted In-Universe that most cultivators only take the night-hunts where they would receive either a hefty sum or a reputation boost. Only a few would go on any night-hunt, even if it netted no reward, as long as it involved helping the people (i.e. Lan Wangji and Xiao Xingchen).
  • Out of the Frying Pan: In an audio drama extra, Wei Wuxian was being harassed by a dog before Lan Wangji drove it away. He was initially relieved, but started moaning about how he's finally free of the dog, but now he's stuck with Lan Wangji, who might punish him again for sneaking in alcohol.
  • Paper Talisman: Paper talismans are a common tool among cultivators. Wei Wuxian defaults to using talismans most of the time; and Lan Sizhui uses paper talismans the most out of the junior disciples, either to suppress spirits or light fires for illumination.
  • Parental Abandonment: It's probably easier to list the characters in the main cast without dead parents, which is unsurprising given the amount of war and dangerous situations that occur in the story.
  • Parental Substitute: Due to the number of parental deaths, many characters have acted as guardians for orphaned children. Jin Ling was raised by his maternal and paternal uncles, and Lan Wangji was a father and brother figure to Lan Sizhui when the latter was growing up after he was brought into the clan as Wen Yuan.
  • Pass the Popcorn: Downplayed. When the junior and senior cultivators start arguing over their support or dislike (respectively) of Wei Wuxian on a boat ride to Lotus Pier, Nie Huaisang casually starts laughing while he observes the entire thing.
  • Past Experience Nightmare: Some adaptations imply that Wei Wuxian occasionally has guilt-ridden dreams about his past.
  • Pater Familicide: Jin Guangyao murdered his father and also plays a role in his wife and son's deaths.
  • Patricide: After finally losing hope in ever earning his father's love, Jin Guangyao hires some old, disfigured prostitutes to gang-rape the man on his deathbed.
  • Percussive Pickpocket: One of the few ways A-Qing stole money from people through her blind act was to bump into them and swipe their money.
  • Percussive Therapy: After stealing Wei Wuxian's First Kiss, Lan Wangji expressed his frustrations over his impulsiveness by punching and slashing trees about.
  • Pietà Plagiarism: One of the covers for the audio drama features Wei Wuxian cradling a dying Jiang Yanli.
  • Playing Possum: Playing dead is one of Wei Wuxian's go-to pranks, including in his first life where Jiang Cheng and Lan Wangji were his frequent targets.
  • Please, Don't Leave Me:
    • In the donghua, Wang Lingjiao begged Wen Chao not to leave her alone at their base before he went off to capture Jiang Cheng and Lan Wangji, mainly because she's afraid that something or someone is out to get her.
    • When waking up at the Cloud Recesses after getting stabbed by Jin Ling, Lan Wangji is sitting by his side. At one point, Wei Wuxian's afraid he's about to leave and begs him to not leave him alone.
  • Please Spare Him, My Liege!:
    • The audio drama reveals at Guanyin Temple that Lan Xichen begged Lan Qiren to not punish Lan Wangji with the discipline whip in spite of his brother's grievous crime of attacking the clan elders.
    • When Jiang Cheng confronts Wei Wuxian over the golden core transfer at Guanyin Temple, Jin Ling often steps in his defense when he senses that his uncle's mocking words are incurring Lan Wangji's wrath. He even outright asks the latter to "spare some mercy".
  • Poor Communication Kills: What causes some of the conflicts in the story is the characters' tendency to keep to themselves or their inability to express their true thoughts, hear the other party out, or even have a proper and civil discussion about anything.
  • Post-Victory Collapse: Not long after the events of the Second Siege, Wei Wuxian faints when he gets on a boat as he's overtaxed himself from fighting waves of fierce corpses. Although it turns out that while he was exhausted, he wasn't going to pass out; but pretended that he fainted after Lan Wangji caught him as he wanted an excuse to sleep in Lan Wangji's arms.
  • The Power of Blood: Some demonic cultivation spells require the use of blood, and there are times when Wei Wuxian uses his own blood to perform the more complex spells.
  • The Power of Trust: The story shows a few times that there are severely negative ramifications if someone either trusts the wrong person or doesn't put enough trust in the right person. However, if one is steadfast in their loyalty to a person who has proven to be worthy of their trust, both are eventually able to overcome their difficulties and face against any odds together.
  • Power Source: A golden core serves as the main source of spiritual power for the cultivators. It is what gives them the ability to cast spells, battle ghosts, and fly on their swords, and it also enhances their physical strength and endurance. Once a golden core is fully cultivated, the holder completely stops aging and essentially reaches immortality. However, cultivators are not born with one and must form it by training through various cultivation stages (five in common xianxia lore) before the golden core reaches its final stage of formation.
  • Pressure Point: As a doctor, Wen Qing was well-versed in the pressure points on a human and could activate them by pushing her needles into them. She did this to Jiang Cheng by throwing a needle into his forehead to knock him out, and did the same to Wei Wuxian by pushing needles into his neck to make sure he wouldn't stop her and Wen Ning from turning themselves in to the Jin Clan.
  • Production Throwback: In an audio drama episode where Lan Wangji helps Wei Wuxian get ready to sleep, the latter asks for the former to narrate "The Resentment of Chunshan" to him, which is an In-Universe slash fiction from the author's previous novel The Scum Villain’s Self-Saving System: Ren Zha Fanpai Zijiu Xitong.
  • Product Placement:
    • For the donghua's first two seasons there's a Cornetto commercial (with the characters promoting said ice cream brand) in almost every episode. One episode also features Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng at a dessert shop in Caiyi Town, eating what's unmistakably a Cornetto ice cream cone; and another episode has Wei Wuxian eating a similar dessert in Qinghe.
    • Zhen Guo Li (a brand of yogurt drink products) sponsored The Founder of Diabolism Q and the third season of the donghua. An advertisement with Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji always plays before each episode of the former, with an additional advertisement in the post-credits scene of Episode 8 and the ending of Episode 10; and the donghua also plays a few commercials, and one scene in Episode 6 of Season 3 focuses on the yoghurt drink in question.
  • The Promise:
    • This plays a vital role in Wei Wuxian's relationship with Jiang Cheng. When Jiang Cheng confided in him about how he always felt overshadowed by Wei Wuxian, Wei Wuxian assured the former that he would serve by Jiang Cheng's side once the latter becomes the clan leader, and he swore to Yu Ziyuan that he would protect Jiang Cheng with his life. He makes sure to fulfill the latter promise, at the cost of the former — although From a Certain Point of View, one could say that he fulfilled both promises.
    • The reason Jiang Yanli and Jin Zixuan got engaged was because their mothers made a promise in the past. If their children were both boys, they would be sworn brothers; if both were girls, they would be sworn sisters; and if one was a boy and the other was a girl, they would be in an Arranged Marriage.
  • Protective Charm: The Jiang Clan's Clarity Bells (small silver bells that the disciples attach to their belts) serve as protective charms, since they can clear the holder's mind and protect them from the weaker yet nevertheless harmful influences of resentful energy.
  • Purple Prose: The text goes into great lengths to describe Lan Wangji's looks every time he's (re-)introduced to the plot.
  • Quality over Quantity: Lan Wangji taught Lan Sizhui to always prioritise quality in learning the qin language. Wei Wuxian also notices this trait when Sizhui lists his observations of A-Qing (in her corpse form), which are less than Jin Ling's but more informative.
  • Rage Breaking Point:
    • Overhearing Jin Guangyao slandering him to Lan Xichen — which was after he said he wanted to make peace with Nie Mingjue — was the final straw that sent Nie Mingue into a violent fury and triggered his qi deviation.
    • Wen Ning is usually composed and polite. However, seeing Jiang Cheng lash out at Wei Wuxian yet again in Lotus Pier is what motivates him into disobeying the latter's orders and angrily giving the Jiang Clan leader a verbal beatdown as to how he actually got his golden core.
  • Rape as Drama: Jin Guangshan took advantage of Madam Qin when he was drunk, and she couldn't tell her husband partly out of shame and partly because she feared that her husband would never believe her if she told him what happened. This was the source of many unfortunate events, as Qin Su unknowingly married and conceived a child with her half-brother Jin Guangyao.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Jin Guangyao orchestrated his father's death by tying him up, hiring prostitutes and forcing them to have sex with him even after his father died... before killing the prostitutes to Leave No Witnesses. This drives home how awful the Big Bad could be.
  • "Ray of Hope" Ending:
    • While Song Lan is finally freed of Xue Yang's control by the end of the Yi City arc, his friend's soul remains shattered and A-Qing has her spirit obliterated by Xue Yang. Wei Wuxian quickly puts her soul into a Spirit-Trapping Pouch and both her and Xiao Xingchen's souls to Song Lan, telling him there is the small chance that both souls can be restored when given enough time and care, and Song Lan decides to roam the world and help people while waiting for his friend to return.
    • Downplayed with Wei Wuxian. He certainly achieves his happy ending with Lan Wangji, but the fact remains that he's still a pariah in the cultivation world and is still regarded by the masses as an evil figure; he's just no longer the most active target of their smear campaign. In fairness, however, Wei Wuxian is long past caring about that and he's already distanced himself from the business of all cultivation clans once and for all. There is also the chance that the public's opinion of him will change for the better someday, since the younger generation of cultivators views Wei Wuxian in a far more positive light.
  • Razor Floss: The Chord Assassination technique uses qin strings (usually made of silk) to slice whatever is necessary.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: Downplayed in regards to the romance between the main duo and other characters' reactions to it. While homosexuality is a huge no-no in Real Life China both then and today, it was still more accepted in the country centuries prior — and the setting of the novel is inspired from ancient rather than modern China. However, there are several characters in the story — be they named or background characters — who express homophobic behavior.
  • Realpolitik: The novel shows how the politics of the cultivation world works, and how dirty and ugly it can be. Most of the people who have seats in it listen only to the people with either the loudest voice and/or the deepest pockets, quickly scheme to eliminate anyone or anything they disagree with, and they discuss solely about anything related to their feuds or other corrupt matters.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: It's practically a habit of Jiang Cheng to deliver long rants to Wei Wuxian about his flaws and how much trouble he's caused, especially after the latter gets brought back to life.
  • Recycled Animation: The donghua tends to reuse some key frames or shots once or twice.
  • Rejected Apology: When Wei Wuxian apologizes to Jiang Cheng for failing to keep the promise he made to him years ago, Jiang Cheng responds with a bitter laugh, stating (in his special roundabout way) that he's the one who should be apologizing to Wei Wuxian for all the times he wronged him.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Wen Ning gives Jiang Cheng a short but hard-hitting rant after revealing the truth about how he "regained" his golden core.
    Wen Ning: Clan Leader Jiang — you, so driven of a person, have been comparing yourself to others your whole life, but you have to know that you never should've been able to equal [Wei Wuxian]!
  • The Reveal:
    • Early in the story, Wei Wuxian sees whip scars and a brand mark on Lan Wangji's body. He doesn't recall seeing this before, so he wonders how Lan Wangji got them. Lan Xichen explains that he received the whip scars as punishment for defending Wei Wuxian and fighting against his own clansmen to do so. A few chapters later, a flashback reveals that the brand scar was self-inflicted by Lan Wangji when he grieved Wei Wuxian's death.
    • There's how Jiang Cheng regained his cultivation despite his golden core being melted off: Wei Wuxian gave him his own golden core via a painful transplant with Wen Qing and Wen Ning's assistance.
  • Revenge by Proxy:
    • Xue Yang murdered everyone in the White Snow Temple, blinded Song Lan and then killed him years later just to get back at Xiao Xingchen. He also massacred the entire Chang Clan because of the wrongdoings done to him by the clan leader's father.
    • Jin Rusong was said to have been killed by one of Jin Guangyao's political rivals when he lost a debate against the man. The truth is actually far more sinister — Jin Guangyao's response to Qin Su's questions about their son's death implies that he was involved in his murder or at least feels responsible for it due to the child being inbred.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge:
    • Wei Wuxian went on a horrific killing spree against the Wen Clan after he escaped the Burial Mounds, which was where he was left to die by Wen Chao.
    • Nie Mingjue came back as a fierce corpse because of his undying hatred for Jin Guangyao. Unable to tell who's who, both his individual body parts and his stitched-up corpse don't hesitate to injure anyone nearby as his only concern is his revenge.
  • Romantic Rain: A variation. It rains while Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji are being held hostage in a temple, which is also where they properly confess their love to each other.
  • Rule of Symbolism:
    • Both the donghua and the audio drama have featured Lan Wangji holding his guqin, with the strings broken and his hands bloodied. In China, broken strings symbolize someone losing their spouse, and given what happened before the Time Skip...
    • Jiang Cheng holding on to Chenqing for 13 years represents his inability to let go of his past and of Wei Wuxian, despite the damage that it has caused (and keeps causing) to them both. Therefore, when he gives it back to Wei Wuxian at Guanyin Temple and tells him to keep it, it represents his decision to stop shackling both his old friend and himself with their past, as well as his acceptance of how they should now forge separate paths and pursue their individual happiness.
  • Running Gag:
    • Wei Wuxian's lack of money is often brought up to poke fun at him, much to his chagrin. What makes this funnier is when his courtesy name gets misspelled by the townspeople as Wuqian (instead of Wuxian), since wu qian translates to "no money".
    • From the past to the present, Lan Wangji sometimes remarks how shameless Wei Wuxian can be, whether it's about his tendency to flirt and pull pranks, or — at present — how brazen he acts in bed.

    S-Z 
  • Sacred First Kiss: In spite of his reputation as a flirt, Wei Wuxian was careful regarding who to share his First Kiss with and was shocked when it was stolen from him during the Phoenix Mountain hunt in his first life. Years later, he learns who stole his kiss.
  • Sacrificial Revival Spell: The Inciting Incident of plot is Mo Xuanyu summoning Wei Wuxian's soul to use Mo Xuanyu's body as a vessel to get revenge on his behalf which kills the mentally-troubled and abused summoner. It's implied that Nie Huaisang indirectly manipulated Mo Xuanyu into finding said ritual.
  • Saying Too Much:
    • Xue Yang unintentionally gives himself away to Wei Wuxian by being a bit too knowledgeable about demonic cultivation despite claiming to be the Daoist priest Xiao Xingchen. He also slips when he corrects A-Qing on the difference between hunting and night-hunting, letting her know he's a cultivator.
    • In one of their first exchanges, A-Qing almost revealed herself to Xue Yang when she got carried away with complimenting Xiao Xingchen and describing how fast he attacks — to which Xue Yang pointed out that blind people can't tell if someone else is fast or slow with a sword. She managed to bluff her way out of it by claiming she was talking about the feel of the wind/air from his sword swings.
  • Say My Name: There are many who tend to address Wei Wuxian's name, birth or courtesy, with an accusatory or derogatory undertone. Jiang Cheng takes the cake, and the only one who calls him by his full name without the hostile undertone is Lan Wangji.
  • Scenery Porn:
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Mianmian's defense of Wei Wuxian showed that she wouldn't side with an unconscionable crowd even if it meant saving her own skin and retaining her privileges.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!:
    • Shortly after his First Episode Resurrection, when Lan Wangji first takes him to the Cloud Recesses, Wei Wuxian immediately tries to leave under the assumption that Lan Wangji does not trust demonic cultivators and might have something bad planned for him. He gives up after every escape attempt blows up in his face.
    • When Wang Lingjiao noticed that Wen Chao was losing interest in her, she attempted to hightail it before he finally decided to get rid of her. Unfortunately for her, Wei Wuxian didn't let her escape.
    • Mianmian left her clan out of disgust when she defended Wei Wuxian after the Sunshot Campaign but was dismissed by everyone on the sexist pretext of her being a woman who the latter saved once. Lan Wangji also left alongside her when he witnessed that almost nobody was willing to speak reason nor be reasoned with.
    • When Wei Wuxian outs Su She as part of the mastermind behind the events leading to the Second Siege, the latter immediately hightails it and leaves the rest of the cultivators behind to deal with the walking corpses.
    • While Wei Wuxian initially engages in Teeth-Clenched Teamwork with the cultivators that failed to kill him again in order to deal with the Big Bad, once he gets more information about Jin Guangyao from Sisi and Bicao, he and Lan Wangji set out to roam around the rest of Lotus Pier so they can take a breather from the other cultivators.
  • Separate Scene Storytelling: Most of the story is told through Flashbacks and possession/Empathy.
  • Serenade Your Lover:
    • In the past, Wei Wuxian once asked Lan Wangji to sing for him. Lan Wangji hummed a melody in response, but Wei Wuxian failed to catch the name of the song. 13 years later, it's the same melody that allowed Lan Wangji to recognize Wei Wuxian in Mo Xuanyu's body, because Lan Wangji had only played that song, once, for Wei Wuxian and Wei Wuxian only.
    • Even after they're married, Jin Zixuan decided to recite to Jiang Yanli a romantic poem that he had made for her years ago. The poem was, while genuinely heartfelt, also cheesy enough that his wife couldn't help but laugh once he was out of earshot.
  • Sexy Discretion Shot: In the audio drama, any time Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji are about to have sex, the scene segues to a music track.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: When Jin Guangyao attempts to talk himself out of being apprehended by explaining the motives and reasons behind many of his crimes, Lan Xichen fires back that he's only in the situation he currently is in because of said crimes.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: Most of the sibling pairs serve as Foils to each other.
    • Jiang Cheng is irritable and stern while Jiang Yanli is easy-going and gentle. They take after their mother and father, respectively.
    • Lan Wangji is stoic and aloof while Lan Xichen is a genuinely open and nice person.
    • Wen Qing is direct and fierce, in contrast to Wen Ning who is quiet and nervous.
    • Nie Mingjue was a Blood Knight warrior who preferred fighting to poetry and politics. Nie Huaisang is weak at cultivation, prefers gentlemanly pursuits and is more cunning and better at politics. They also turn out to be not so different as both deeply value their family and are willing to go to great lengths for revenge.
    • Jin Zixuan was the only legitimate son of Jin Guangshan. Despite his arrogant exterior, he was honorable and kind once you got to know him. Meanwhile, his half-brother Jin Guangyao is an illegitimate son who worked his way up and despite acting kind and self-effacing, is actually the novel's main villain.
  • Silence, You Fool!: In the final arc Lan Wangji coldly tells Jiang Cheng to "spare some virtue" after Jiang Cheng gets too caustic with Wei Wuxian, essentially telling him to shut the hell up.
  • Slashed Throat: Xiao Xingchen took his own life by slashing his throat with his sword.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: The novel contrasts the lofty goals of cultivators with the mundane and dirty realities of politics and war. Cultivators try to strive to be beyond base and material concerns but they ignore that at their own peril and the most honorable and powerful cultivators often end up crushed by reality. The novel lands somewhere in the middle. While it is good to strive to be virtuous, one must keep in mind that not everyone is and that no matter how powerful you are, cultivation power and justice cannot solve everything. So one must always keep an eye on the mundane world and understand and recognize evil at least enough to avoid its traps.
  • Snarking Thanks: One of Jiang Cheng's responses to Wei Wuxian donating his golden core and wanting him to never find out about it is the closest he gets to expressing his gratitude, but it's still not entirely sincere, and is said in his typically bitter and snark tone.
    Jiang Cheng: [sardonically] I should kneel down and cry in gratitude, shouldn't I?
  • Society Is to Blame: Wen Ruohan and Jin Guangshan aside, this series is blunt about how another villainous force that drives most of the plot is society itself. Cultivators and non-cultivators alike treat others differently depending on their social status, do anything solely for their own personal profit even if it comes at the detriment of the well-being of others, easily look the other way at any injustice as long as it doesn't involve them, and are quick to paint anyone as a public and/or political target because of either envy, pride, spite, or sheer sadism.
  • Something Only They Would Say:
    • What gives Wei Wuxian's identity away to Lan Wangji after his resurrection is him playing the song "Wangxian", which the latter composed for only the two of them to hear.
    • Wen Ning tells Jiang Cheng about the time the latter searched for Baoshan-sanren in such extensive detail to ensure that the latter can't delude himself into thinking that the former is lying about the fact that Wei Wuxian gave his golden core to Jiang Cheng.
    • Lan Sizhui proves to Wei Wuxian who he really is by recalling some of the memories he has of him as Wen Yuan.
  • Speak Ill of the Dead:
    • Implied. Yu Ziyuan would often berate and look down on Wei Wuxian for his talent despite being a servant's son and speculated that her husband may have had an affair with his mother, showing that she wasn't above making spiteful remarks about the boy's deceased parents despite them dying in a night-hunt accident.
    • Meng Shi is often on the receiving end of insults even in death, since whenever someone calls Jin Guangyao a Son of a Whore they mean to insult both him and his mother just because of their background and/or profession.
    • Even after learning why Wei Wuxian sacrificed almost everything to protect them, including leaving the Jiang Clan, Jiang Cheng still doesn't hesitate to insult the Wen clansmen that were killed during the First Siege.
  • Spirit Cultivation Genre: Wei Wuxian, the greatest cultivator to ever live died, 13 years ago. Mo Xuanyu, a much weaker cultivator, summons Wei Wuxian into his body to seek revenge on his abusive family.
  • Squish the Cheeks: Both the donghua and the manhua shows Madam Lan either poking or pulling at her younger son's cheeks as her way of doting on him.
  • Squishy Wizard: Downplayed. A cultivator can gain more durability, strength, speed, and once they have achieved mastery of their powers, even agelessness. But in the end, they're still mortal and thus are just as susceptible to death, injury, or illness as any non-cultivator.
  • Staircase Tumble: Jin Guangyao has a terrible history of being kicked down the stairs. First as a child trying to defend his mother from an angry customer at the brothel, next when his father ordered him to be removed from the Golden Carp Tower, and lastly by his own sworn brother Nie Mingjue at Golden Carp Tower after an argument.
  • Start of Darkness: Losing his finger to Chang Cian was what began Xue Yang's downward spiral.
  • Status Quo Is God: While there are some changes to the cultivation world in the ending (such as who's running the Jin Clan now and who will possibly be the next Chief Cultivator), overall nothing much has changed and most clans haven't improved their mindsets or the way they run things. Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji are wise enough to stay out of the big clans' business and stick to either helping the little people or assisting the juniors in their night-hunts.
  • Stealing the Credit: In the donghua, Wen Chao presented the Tortoise of Slaughter's shell to Wen Ruohan and claimed he took it down (when it was actually Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji). It didn't take long for his father to point out that they both know he didn't kill it.
  • Stealth Hi/Bye: Xue Yang snuck up A-Qing moments before killing her.
  • Suckiness Is Painful: In his attempt to keep his identity a secret, Wei Wuxian plays the flute badly enough that anyone within earshot can't help but cringe from the dissonant notes (even an unconscious Lan Qiren briefly awakens to scold him). After Lan Wangji tells Wei Wuxian that he knows who he really is, he makes sure to remind him to play properly the next time they play Magic Music together.
  • Supernatural Repellent: The "Iron Hook" extra shows that salt is also effective in holding off ghosts or beings of resentful energy in general.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: The series reflects reality all too well in its portrayal of society and relationships between people who have their fair share of trauma and personal issues.
    • Not everyone will learn their lesson from a humbling and humiliating experience; sometimes they will choose to not learn it at all so as to not admit that they are in the wrong and have faults they need to work on. Wei Wuxian saved the lives of all the cultivators that conspired to murder him again, his name is cleared of the many crimes he's falsely accused of with the Jin Clan being revealed to be the ones who are actually responsible for them. Even then, the cultivation clans simply continue their penchant for cruel gossip and mob mentality and start badmouthing other people.
    • Even when two people bare out everything to each other and exchange apologies or other genuine sentiments, sometimes it's far from enough to repair a relationship that's already long broken. At best, all it will do is just wash off any lingering resentment and provide closure. Such is what happens between Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng, since after their final confrontation in the Guanyin Temple they go their separate ways, this time for good.
    • Lan Xichen and his course of action in regards to Jin Guangyao is a prime example of how while it is normally wise to take time and weigh your options, in some situations, it's not automatically the correct course of action because some outcomes will not wait for your judgment.
    • Physically, mentally, and emotionally durable Wei Wuxian may be, at the end of the day he's still a mortal man, and there's only so much stress he can take before he suffers the consequences from shouldering it all on his own. Lan Wangji solemnly lampshades this during an exchange with the juniors.
      Ouyang Zizhen: Hanguang-Jun, why did Senior Wei collapse?
      Lan Wangji: Fatigue.
      Lan Jingyi: I thought that Senior Wei would never get tired!
      Lan Wangji: We are all human.
    • As Meng Shi didn't have the wealth or the means to constantly take care of herself, giving birth to a child slowly weathered her out over the years which made her less desirable for customers. Naturally, this didn't work out in her favor. In one instance, it got her beaten up by a client.
  • Sword Beam: Cultivators can create beams by sending spiritual energy through their swords.
  • Take This Job and Shove It: When Mianmian saw just how unreasonable and sexist the other cultivators were, she chose to leave her clan, even when no one took her claim seriously.
  • Take Me Instead:
    • When the Wen Clan demanded each clan to send twenty disciples for a "re-education camp" (basically an excuse to hold their young masters hostage), including at least one blood member of the clan, Jiang Cheng quickly volunteered so Jiang Yanli didn't have to go. His mother instantly made it very clear that he was getting volunteered whether he wanted it or not.
    • Both Wen Ning and Wen Qing gave themselves up to the Jin Clan so that Wei Wuxian wouldn't be persecuted for Jin Zixuan's death. It ended up being All for Nothing as not only did the other clans still launched an attack on the Burial Mounds, Wen Qing's corpse was also burned to ashes and Wen Ning was imprisoned to be experimented upon.
    • At Guanyin Temple, Jiang Cheng offers himself to be used as a hostage in Jin Ling's place. Jin Guangyao knows better than to agree to such an exchange.
  • Taking You with Me: Jin Guangyao attempts to have Nie Mingjue's corpse kill both him and Lan Xichen. However, he has a change of heart and defies this action at the last second by pushing the latter out of the way, leaving only himself to die.
  • Talking with Signs: Since Xue Yang relieved him of his tongue, Song Lan communicates his gratitutde to Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji by writing in the dirt with his sword.
  • Tamer and Chaster: The animated adaptation tones down a lot of the overt eroticism and gorn from the novel, due to Chinese censorship regulations. Censorship also forces Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji's relationship to be downplayed and never stated onscreen to be romantic (Wei Wuxian's hammy acting as Mo Xuanyu aside), though the Ship Tease hints are enough to drive the point home to viewers by the epilogue. On the other hand, the chibi spinoff is a lot less subtle about the romance, on the premise that the spinoff is a gag series with questionable canoncity and shouldn't be taken seriously.
  • Tantrum Throwing: A group of kids bullied a younger Jin Ling for his orphan background and even attempted to take away his sword. After getting in a fight with them, he ended up trashing his entire room out of anger and grief. The others didn't know how to handle him, and Jin Guangyao wisely waited for his temper to die down before consoling him with a puppy for him to keep and name.
  • Tap on the Head: Lan Wangji knocks himself out after Wei Wuxian kisses him while the former's drunk.
  • Tears of Blood: A-Qing cries bloody tears after she finds Xiao Xingchen's body with Wei Wuxian's help.
  • Tears of Joy:
    • When Wei Wuxian finally manages to confess his feelings, Lan Wangji pulls him into a tight and joyful embrace in response. Wei Wuxian notes that Lan Wangji's body and the sound of his voice hints that he's close to crying, and shortly after he feels a wet sensation on his shoulder.
    • Lan Sizhui cries out of mixed emotions, but mostly out of joy, when he recovers his lost memories and remembers Wei Wuxian as the "Brother Xian" who doted on him years ago.
  • Tell Him I'm Not Speaking to Him: It's implied Lan Wangji goes through great lengths to avoid speaking to Jiang Cheng on a regular basis. At Mount Dafan for example, Lan Sizhui speaks on Lan Wangji's behalf whenever Jiang Cheng is the one being addressed — given how easily Lan Sizhui steps into the role, it's likely that this wasn't the first time this happened. It also hints early on about how Lan Wangji's opinion of Jiang Cheng goes beyond plain indifference.
  • That Old-Time Prescription: According to Wei Wuxian, glutinous rice is one of the most effective cures for corpse poisoning. It can be applied directly on bites or scratches from fierce corpses, or ingested as congee if the victim breathed in corpse poisoning powder.
  • That's No Moon!: When Wei Wuxian took Wen Chao hostage, they were standing on a boulder in the lake. Except that it was not a boulder, but the Tortoise of Slaughter's shell.
  • Their First Time: Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji get into some intimate caressing in Chapter 95, but they properly make love for the first time in Chapter 111.
  • There Are No Therapists: Granted, therapy wasn't existent back in ancient China. If it was, one can only think of all the tragedies that could have been avoided and the misunderstandings that could have been cleared up quickly, or at least more efficiently.
  • There Is Only One Bed: Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji are faced with the issue of sharing a room with just the one bed when they stop by an inn in Yunping City. While it's something they've been doing for a while during their travels, Wei Wuxian feels more self-conscious about the situation this time since he denied Jiang Cheng's accusations earlier about his and Lan Wangji's relationship.
  • Think Nothing of It: After sheltering Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng and aiding them during the golden core transplant, Wen Qing told Wei Wuxian that they didn't owe each other anything.
  • Thousand-Yard Stare: When Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji investigate Jin Guangyao's secret chamber in person at Golden Carp Tower, the former notices that Qin Su's face, which previously had an expression of terror, is now replaced with a vacant one. This occurs not long after she received a letter that shocked her into Sanity Slippage. She only starts reacting once more when Jin Guangyao brandishes a dagger, which she grabs to off herself. Some time later it's revealed she her empty state was due to the letter informing her that she and her husband are half-siblings and the latter may had killed their son.
  • Throw the Book at Them: Lan Qiren tends to throw a scroll/book whenever a student provokes his anger. In the first flashback arc, most of the time the student in question just so happened to be Wei Wuxian.
  • To Be Lawful or Good: Many characters, including the protagonists, struggle with choosing to either do the right thing or uphold the peace and stability. Part of the problem is that as heirs and sons of the major clans, anything they do reflects on their clan which at best damages their reputation and at worst brings disaster as the clans bear the consequences of their actions. The fact that the characters are so young means that they lack to experience and wisdom to successfully balance these concerns.
  • Too Good for This Sinful Earth: In this story, any character who is kind and selfless is guaranteed to die in a horrible way, as was the case with the likes of Xiao Xingchen and Jiang Yanli.
  • Torso with a View: Wen Ning gets a hole blasted through his stomach in the final arc after Nie Mingjue punches him through the chest.
  • A Tragedy of Impulsiveness: While Jiang Yanli undoubtedly meant well, running unarmed into a battlefield where there's fierce corpses on the left and murderous cultivators on the right wasn't the best nor wisest time to try and talk to her martial brother. Sure enough, cultivators were unable to avoid her and accidentally injured her, and she ended up Taking the Bullet for Wei Wuxian when someone tried to kill him.
  • Tragic Bromance: Don't expect many close friendships between the male characters to end without someone dying tragically:
    • Xiao Xingchen and Song Lan had a close friendship that eventually saw a tragic ending. Long story short, everything went downhill for them after they apprehended Xue Yang, who would soon get back at them both. It ultimately ended with the former's suicide and the latter dying at his (oblivious) friend's hand. Eventually, Xue Yang gets killed, leaving Song Lan (now a fierce corpse) free to roam the earth with his friend's soul and weapon, and only time will tell whether they'll reunite once again.
    • There's the Venerated Triad (Lan Xichen, Nie Mingjue, and Jin Guangyao). Before they became Blood Brothers, they deeply trusted and respected each other, although things started to go south after Nie Mingjue caught a glimpse of Jin Guangyao's true nature. And that's only scratching the surface, but it all ends in betrayal and bloody deaths, with the last surviving brother falling into despair.
  • Tragic Mistake: Things would have ended with less blood and tragedy in the Yi City flashbacks had Song Lan approached Xiao Xingchen first instead of confronting Xue Yang. Song Lan learned from this, since after Wei Wuxian frees him from Xue Yang's control, Song Lan doesn't help in the battle against Xue Yang and heads straight for where Xiao Xingchen's corpse is.
  • Training from Hell: Almost literally, in this case. For three months, Wei Wuxian was stuck in the Burial Mounds, which is a lifeless wasteland that's overflowing with vengeful ghosts and resentful energy. Also, he was in extreme pain from the wounds he received from being horribly beaten and being thrown into the place. Even then, he persevered and in less than half a year, became the first to use resentful energy in an efficient manner.
  • Trying Not to Cry: After Xiao Xingchen bit the dust, Xue Yang had to resist tearing up in response. In the audio drama, while he's Laughing Mad it's obvious that it was to stop himself from sobbing.
  • Undying Loyalty: Moments where someone shows loyalty even at the risk of their own endangerment occur a few times in the novel.
    • A cultivator's sword is loyal to its master and its master only. Such is the case with Wei Wuxian's sword Suibian, which sealed itself after Wei Wuxian's death; and even when he reincarnated in the body of a weaker cultivator, Suibian still responds to his command and his command only. Jiang Cheng is the only other cultivator who can unsheathe Suibian, but that's because he has Wei Wuxian's golden core.
    • The Wen survivors that Wei Wuxian saved from the Jin Clan's concentration camp are loyal to their rescuer to the very end. Case in point, when Wei Wuxian returns to the Burial Mounds in the present time and is nearly overwhelmed by an army of zombies, the Wen survivors briefly come Back from the Dead to fend them off before disintegrating into ashes.
    • A-Qing is determined to help Xiao Xingchen and hinder the man who killed him even after her death.
    • It quickly becomes apparent that no matter what Wei Wuxian does after coming back to life, Lan Wangji will support and protect him. Even if it means going against his own clan and risking becoming the cultivation world's enemy.
  • The Unreveal:
    • How Xue Yang got injured before getting rescued by Xiao Xingchen isn't disclosed in the story, although it's hinted that he got his wounds from the Jin Clan after they turned on him.
    • The story never confirms what Lan Wangji said to Wei Wuxian in the cave after they escaped from the Nightless Immortal Capital, and the only hint the reader gets is Lan Xichen explaining that it gave away Lan Wangji's true feelings. The audio drama drops another hint by having Lan Wangji tell Wei Wuxian that what he's saying is the truth before being told to get lost, but that's about it.
  • Vengeance Feels Empty: Even after Wei Wuxian saves his life, Fang Mengchen still wants him dead. However, the former firmly tells him that he had already lost everything and paid for his crimes by dying a painful death once, and if the latter also desires revenge on the Wens, they had died not once, but twice. Fang Mengchen is unable to say anything else and storms off in anger, indicating that he is all too aware of this and that he knows no matter how he feels, he won't gain anything if Wei Wuxian dies a second time.
  • Verbal Backspace: Wei Wuxian sometimes says the wrong thing and has to backpedal his words. However, this sometimes makes a situation he's in worse.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: Those who are familiar with Chinese culture and history might notice that the donghua's second visual rendition of the opening song features four different flowers, also known as the Four Gentlemen.
  • Was Too Hard on Him: After learning about how Wei Wuxian gave up his golden core for Jiang Cheng's sake, Lan Wangji feels remorseful about the way he'd scold Wei Wuxian for using demonic cultivation in the past, since it puts into perspective just why the latter was insistent on continuing it in the first place and why he acted so differently after his time in the Burial Mounds. While Lan Wangji had good intentions when he repeatedly expressed his concerns to him, after the truth comes out he realizes that he had likely come across as overly harsh on someone who genuinely had no longer any other means to cultivate.
  • We Are Not Going Through That Again: It's all but stated that the reason Wei Wuxian immediately leaves with Lan Wangji after the entire matter with Jin Guangyao and Nie Mingjue is resolved is because he doesn't want to deal with the fallout or anything else the cultivation world might throw at him again.
  • We ARE Struggling Together: As embodied by the younger generation, the four clans struggle to get along. When they lack a powerful common enemy (like the Wen Clan or the Yiling Patriarch), the clans either go their separate ways or descend into petty politics and infighting. Even nominally close alliances (like the Venerated Triad) are fragile at best.
  • Wham Line:
    • Chapter 25: "Wei Ying." While there were already a few hints beforehand, this line confirms that Lan Wangji knew who "Mo Xuanyu" was early on and was merely playing along with his act.
    • Chapter 88: This exchange between Jiang Cheng and Wen Ning, which turns part of the plot in the flashbacks over its head.
      Jiang Cheng: What do you mean the sword took me as Wei Wuxian? How?! Why would it be me?!
      Wen Ning: Because the golden core that is revolving inside you right now is his!
    • In Chapter 108, a particular line hints that there might someone else besides the Big Bad who's been pulling the strings all this time.
      Jin Guangyao: Huaisang, you're truly impressive. How unexpected for me to fall in your hands like this... [...] No wonder... It must've been quite hard to have hidden yourself for so many years!
  • What Did I Do Last Night?: Lan Wangji asks Wei Wuxian what on earth he did after the first time they drink together, since he doesn't remember anything he does under the influence of alcohol.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • Downplayed. When Jiang Cheng was about to lay into Wei Wuxian for saving Mianmian, Jiang Fengmian calmly but firmly interrupted him and asked if he realized what he said was wrong, before advising him that he shouldn't easily let his anger dictate whatever he says.
    • Lan Wangji was not exactly happy when he found out that Wei Wuxian started practicing demonic cultivation, being worried about the effects The Dark Arts would have on his health and state of mind. He repeatedly called him out and tried to change his mind, to no avail.
  • Where It All Began: For a time, Wei Wuxian lived in Yiling as a Street Urchin after his parents' deaths. Yiling is also where he founded demonic cultivation, and where he ultimately perished.
  • Whole Episode Flashback: Whole-Season Flashback for the donghua, rather. With the exception of the first two episodes and the latter half of the final episode of the first season, which serve mainly to introduce the viewer to the plot, the rest of Season 1 focuses on the past to chronicle how Wei Wuxian became the Yiling Patriarch.
  • Wingding Eyes: In the animated chibi gag spinoff, characters' eyes tend to turn into symbols for comedic effect, such as turning into sparkles whenever they get excited or amazed.
  • Wizarding School: Although all of the major clans boast many talented cultivators, the Cloud Recesses is noted for being especially good at training their disciples, which is why other clans would send a few of their disciples to study there for a year. The Cloud Recesses also boasts a top-level book collection, famed and strict teachers, too many rules, and the practical aspects of cultivation on the side.
  • Woman Scorned: One of Sisi's customers (whom she intended to marry) had a wife, and said wife hired some thugs to scar Sisi's face.
  • Won the War, Lost the Peace: Powers and personalities that were even celebrated during the Sunshot Campaign often fared badly during the post-war peace and qualities that make a good fighter or cultivator aren't entirely well-suited towards politics. In general, honor and cultivation power are good for night-hunts and war but it is forethought and diplomacy that matters for politics and peace.
  • Would You Like to Hear How They Died?: In retaliation to Xiao Xingchen insulting him, Xue Yang revealed to him that he had killed innocents and his own best friend.
  • Working Out Their Emotions: In the past, Lan Wangji kissed a blindfolded Wei Wuxian. He backed away before the blindfold could be removed and when it was, all Wei Wuxian noticed was Lan Wangji punching trees. This is extremely abnormal as the latter doesn't outwardly express his emotions and Wei Wuxian's inability to connect the dots made the situation all the more awkward.
  • World of Jerkass: In the cultivation world, a few people are truly righteous and selfless, more are not malicious but have deep-seated flaws that lead to terrible decisions being made, and the remaining majority are self-serving hypocrites who would gladly screw others over for ambition, pride, glory, spite, or plainly for the kicks.
  • Would Be Rude to Say "Genocide": If anyone knows anything about the First Siege second-hand from what the cultivators of the senior generation would tell them, they would think that what happened was a glorious battle that culminated in the defeat of the evil Yiling Patriarch. What they would not know, in turn, is that Wei Wuxian died by no one's hands but his own when he attempted to completely destroy the Yin Tiger Tally, and a group of innocents (namely, the remnants of the Wen Clan) were brutally slaughtered and their corpses dumped into a pool of blood as a means of both Desecrating the Dead and hiding any evidence of what they did. The junior cultivators' reactions upon seeing the Wen refugees' corpses coming to life clearly indicate that their parents had completely neglected to tell them about the latter action.
  • Written by the Winners: After the complete story of the Yiling Patriarch is known to the audience, it becomes obvious that the people spreading rumours and tales about him do it out of simple ignorance of the truth (in the case of the townspeople) or to glorify themselves by painting Wei Wuxian in a bad light (in the case of the cultivators).
  • Wrong Name Outburst: Wei Wuxian strictly refers to Lan Wangji by his title while still posing as Mo Xuanyu, but slips to calling him by his birth name whenever he gets spooked by dogs. Lan Wangji's lack of reaction to it foreshadows that he already found out his companion's identity long ago.
  • Wuxia: Technically classified as xianxia, or a cultivation novel involving people who are practicing magical skills to work towards immortality. However, this series is remarkably toned down on the degree of fantasy involved here — for example, most fantastic creatures still adhere to some idea of biology as commonly understood by the ancient Chinese, and walking corpses can be differentiated from living corpses because the latter still breathe.
  • Xanatos Gambit: Nie Huaisang threatens to release Jin Guangyao's secrets to the cultivation world, forcing the latter to either 1) run away (which would ruin their reputation), or 2) act first and cripple all other clans to avoid their wrath. As Nie Huaisang predicts, the second option also ends up screwing this person over; he plans the Second Siege at the Burial Mounds to both kill the other clans and put the blame on Wei Wuxian (again), but everyone pulls through thanks to the latter and subsequent events end up tainting Jin Guangyao's power, reputation and name anyways. Jin Guangyao's panicked response to this and Nie Huaisang's additional scheming is what eventually leads to the former's death and the latter succeeding in his revenge.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess:
    • The Big Bad Jin Guangyao isn't the one masterminding the events of the novel and is in fact playing damage control, trying to figure out and navigate a plot against him. Nevertheless, he does a pretty good job up until he's finally out-gambitted.
    • Nie Huaisang's shown to be capable of adjusting his plans on the fly, by getting personally involved in the scene to manipulate the situation in his favour again. This is necessary as his gambit isn't entirely perfect and Jin Guangyao is also a brilliant chessmaster that's skilled at evading traps.
  • You Are Fat: When Jin Ling mocks Wei Wuxian's donkey for being called Little Apple, Lan Jingyi retaliates by saying it's better than "calling [his] fat dog Fairy", and the dig at Fairy's physique does not escape the irritated Jin Ling's attention. It's unknown if Lan Jingyi is just joking or Fairy is being overfed, but Jin Ling staunchly claims that his dog is in good shape.
  • You Are Not Alone: There are a few instances where Lan Wangji tells Wei Wuxian "I'm here", which clearly expresses the sentiment that the latter is no longer alone — especially since in the past Wei Wuxian had no one by his side when everyone else antagonized and demonized him.
  • "You!" Exclamation: As it's on par the course for any work from China, characters exlaiming "You!" to express their anger or annoyance at other characters often occurs in this series.
  • You Have GOT to Be Kidding Me!: While Wei Wuxian doesn't say it word for word, the Flat "What" he gives when the cultivators ask for his help to take down Jin Guangyao near in the finale shows how baffled he is. It makes sense, considering that the cultivators weren't ashamed to band together to kill him just a few hours ago, so Wei Wuxian's response just highlights his complete exasperation and annoyance towards their hypocrisy.
  • You Monster!: In the Yi City flashback, Song Lan called Xue Yang a beast when Xue Yang told him that he's been tricking Xiao Xingchen for years and how he's been deceiving him. Xue Yang wasn't fazed by the remark and even mocked Song Lan for not being able to come up with more creative insults.
  • You Owe Me: Comes in tandem with I Owe You My Life. A recurring theme in the novel is debts, and both the positive and negative aspects of these tropes are explored. Anyone who is helped by someone naturally wants to help their benefactor/savior in return. Sometimes, this helps either side in the long run when they need it most or when they least expect it. Other times, this can damage a relationship when said relationship can easily be summed up with the questions "How much do you owe me?", "How much/little have you done for me?", and/or "How much have you wronged me?".
  • Your Approval Fills Me with Shame: Xue Yang has genuine admiration for the Yiling Patriarch for his deeds and his discovery of demonic cultivation. Of course, Wei Wuxian is filled with nothing but disgust upon hearing this.
  • Your Mom: Madam Mo subtly insults "Mo Xuanyu"'s mother by calling him a "son of a bitch". However she's more direct about it in the donghua when she tells him that his mother is a whore. Keep in mind that Mo Xuanyu's mother is her own sister.

Alternative Title(s): Mo Dao Zu Shi

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