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Series / Nirvana in Fire

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Our Power Trio Jingyan, Lin Shu, and Nihuang

Nirvana in Fire (琅琊榜, Láng Yá Bǎng) is a 2015 Chinese drama starring Hu Ge, Liu Tao, and Wang Kai, based on the novel The Langya List by Hai Yan.

Mei Changsu, the brilliant leader of a powerful martial arts alliance, hides his true identity as the young Lin Shu and returns to the capital of his native country in order to claim justice for his wrongly executed father and the entire Chiyan army.

Set in a fictionalized ancient China, the drama revolves around complex political strategies with a healthy dose of kung fu action and character drama. A sequel, Nirvana in Fire 2, aired in 2017. Another sequel was announced in late 2020; so far no information is available on its plot or when it will air.

The series can be watched on YouTube and on Viki with English subtitles.



  • Action Girl: Pretty much every woman without children is fully martial arts capable, including Nihuang, Gong Yu, Xia Dong, and Banruo.
  • Adaptational Early Appearance: The Crown Prince and Prince Yu appear much earlier in the series, which starts with them visiting Lin Chen, than in the novel, which starts which Changsu arriving in Jinling.
  • Alas, Poor Villain:
    • Prince Yu manages to be a pretty sympathetic villain throughout the series, but even if you never liked him, his pathetic breakdown due to the discovery of his father's betrayal of his mother and his subsequent suicide in a desperate attempt to save his wife and unborn child will have you shedding a tear.
    • Depending on the viewer, Consort Yue could also count.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: Fei Liu has some kind of developmental disability, which mostly seems to manifest in acting young for his age and rough, limited speech. It certainly doesn't hurt his motor skills or coordination.
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  • Ambition Is Evil: The Crown Prince and Prince Yu are ultimately defeated by the consequences of their own unscrupulous greed for power. Jingyan seeks power for altruistic reasons and is ultimately able to become Emperor.
  • And Now You Must Marry Me: A decidedly non-G rated version.
    • Princess Liyang was in love with a foreign prince but the empress and Marquis Xie conspired to drug and rape her so that she would be forced to marry Xie. Unsurprisingly this situation led to some complications, see Family Switcheroo.
    • The Crown Prince and his mother Consort Yue attempt to repeat this plot with Nihuang so that she is forced to marry one of her potential suitors and get out of their way. Thankfully it stops at Attempted Rape.
  • Arranged Marriage: Common practice, especially for nobles and royals.
  • Badass Adorable: Fei Liu, Mei Changsu's teenage martial arts savant bodyguard.
  • Batman Gambit: Basically all of Lin Shu's strategies are this
    • The best example is when Lin Shu tricks Xia Jiang into leading our protagonists straight to Wei Zheng's secret location by manipulating him to infer that they have already discovered his location themselves.
  • Bash Brothers: Lin Shu and Jingyan in their youth.
  • Because I'm Good at It: One of Lin Shu's justifications for taking on the role of the political manipulator
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family:
    • Jingrui's ill-fatedly combined double family is possibly one of the most screwed up examples.
    • Of course the royal family with the empress and all the consorts and their sons and their paranoid father is a giant back biting mess.
  • Big Badass Battle Sequence: When Prince Yu decides to take the throne by force and attacks the Hunting Palace with an army of 50,000 against the Emperor who only has a meager 3000 Imperial guards.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Mu Qing is very protective of Nihuang (though the trope is inverted because he's her younger brother). After Sima Lei tried to rape Nihuang, Mu Qing beat him up and broke his leg.
  • Break the Cutie: Poor Jingrui. At least he comes out of it alright eventually.
  • Blatant Lies: When Lin Shu tells Nihuang he has 10 years left to live and any other time Lin Shu says he'll hang around with Jingyan in the future even in the very last episode, dammit.
  • Blue Oni, Red Oni: The highly intellectual and manipulative Mei Changsu plays blue oni to the red oni that is the emotionally driven Prince Jingyan.
  • Captured on Purpose: Lin Shu walks right into the Xuanjing Bureau and Xia Jiang's hands in super slow motion and looking totally bad-ass.
  • Cassandra Truth: Lin Shu admits he's a member of Prince Qi's household to Xia Jiang partly so that he will sound even crazier and discredit himself when he reports it to the emperor. Lin Shu even explains away Xia Jiang's claim to Jingyan by saying he lied about his identity for this very effect.
  • Central Theme: Revenge is really not what this story is about; it's actually about loyalty, justice, fraternity (bromance and a lot of it) and saving the country.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The book Mei Changsu keeps reading and writing in that showed up episode 1. It's the key to Consort Jing figuring out that Mei Changsu is actually Lin Shu.
    • The letter Xie Yu writes is actually a confession of the entire process by which the Chiyan army and Prince Qi were framed which is later used as the spring board on which to re-launch the investigate into the old case.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: You know that "beast" Jingyan's soldiers have been trying to catch since the early episodes? It's almost the end of the series and they finally caught it! Turns out it's actually one of the few survivors of the Chiyan Army, Nie Feng, who helps reveal how Lin Shu himself survived and the nature of his illness.
  • The Chessmaster:
    • Mei Changsu, do I need to say more?
    • Consort Jing may be even more of a Chessmaster than Mei Changsu. She tampers with the Emperor's medicine to induce insomnia, restlessness and hallucinations, which all contributed to him having nightmares which she then convinced the Emperor is caused by restless ghosts and can only be resolved by setting up a memorial plaque. And that's just one example.
  • The Chooser of the One: Langya Hall, run by Lin Chen. Langya Hall compiles the prestigious Langya List every year that lists the greatest talents in the world in each discipline. Most people seem to regard them as a divine oracle, but they are actually just an extremely well run nigh-omniscient Knowledge Broker.
  • The Chosen One: "To have the Divine Talent is to have the World." Possibly subverted in that Lin Chen is Mei Changsu's best friend and likely gave out this "prophecy" as part of his master plan. Doubly subverted when you consider that Langya Hall's "prophecies" are actually just statements of fact derived from carefully compiled information. Essentially, Lin Shu chose himself.
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome: Lin Shu just can't seem to stop trying to help his friends and uphold his duty, even when he's literally dying from pushing himself too hard.
  • Clear Their Name: Clearing the names of Prince Qi and the Chiyan army is the crux of the plot and Jingyan and Lin Shu's main motivation.
  • Cool Crown: There are some stunningly elaborate royal headpieces in this drama, but the Empress's crown definitely takes the prize.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Lin Shu's ability to foresee and plan for every possible outcome is the quality that makes him the ultimate Divine Talent. See The Chosen One
  • Dark Mistress: What Banruo is to Prince Yu.
  • Death by Childbirth: Jingrui's little sister dies in childbirth, possibly because of complications from the shock of the Family Disunion.
  • Death by Origin Story: Prince Qi and Lin Shu's father General Lin Xie are betrayed and framed as traitors. Lin Shu is also almost killed but comes back as Mei Changsu with the goal of getting justice for their deaths.
  • Destroy the Evidence: Marquis Xie used the martial arts skills of the Zhuo family to get rid of incriminating evidence and people.
  • Dirty Cop: The Xuanjing Bureau is supposed to be completely neutral in party politics and loyal only to the emporer, but Xia Jiang uses the faction disputes to protect his own personal power.
  • Divide and Conquer: Xia Jiang and Prince Yu recognize that Mei Changsu is Jingyan's trump card. They try to plant seeds of distrust between them by making it appear like Mei Changsu heartlessly used Consort Jing's predicament as part of his strategies. This almost works — it's really hard to appeal to The Power of Friendship when you're the only one who knows that you are friends.
  • Doctor's Orders: In episode thirteen Mei Changsu has to investigate an assassination plot, but Dr. Yan won't let him leave the house. Fei Liu settles the argument by dragging the doctor onto the roof so Mei Changsu can leave.
  • Double In-Law Marriage: A really strange example in that Jingrui belongs to both the Xies and the Zhuos so they are in a sense in-laws through him. Then his little sister (from the Xies) and his older brother (from the Zhuos) get married so they are double in laws. Jingrui laughingly notes that when his sister has her baby he'll be both a paternal and maternal uncle.
    • Grand Princess Jinyan and Lin Xie, the Emperor and Lin Yueyao; this causes Prince Qi and Lin Shu to be "double cousins". Because Consort Jing is Lin Xie's adopted sister, Prince Jing and Lin Shu are also considered "double cousins". This goes a long way in contributing to Everyone Is Related.
  • Due to the Dead: Whether or not the dead have received their due honor is a big deal in the story.
    • The Grand Empress' funeral rites are a gigantic days long affair and the mourning period lasts for a year.
      • When the emperor catches the Crown Prince violating the mourning laws to have a drunken dance party in his private palace, it's the last nail in the coffin of his position.
    • The emperor has Consort Jing set up a secret shrine to the dead Consort Chen, who committed suicide after her son Prince Qi's execution, in order to appease her restless spirit and stop his bad dreams.
    • When Lin Shu is finally able to perform the proper funeral rites for his dead father it's a very emotional moment.
  • Empty Promise: Any time Lin Shu promises anyone anything regarding the future. See his promise to stay by Jingyan's side and watch him become emperor or his promise never to leave Nihuang again.
  • Engagement Challenge: The tournament set up for Nihuang's suitors. The top ten have to pass the final challenge- beating Nihuang herself. This effectively gives Nihuang Child Marriage Veto powers.
  • Eunuchs Are Evil: Averted. Eunuch Gao certainly looks the part of the evil adviser to the throne, but he's actually an extremely loyal, wise, and good man.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Marquis Xie is obviously an evil nutcase, but has just as obviously developed some kind of twisted but genuine love for his family, as seen in his and his wife's moving and passionate discussion after the fallout of Jingrui's birthday party. He just won't let a little thing like love get in the way of his ambitions.
  • Everyone Is Related: As with most aristocracies, most of the main characters are related somehow. The Grand Empress, the current Emperor's grandmother, is pretty much the great grandmother to everyone in Lin Shu's generation.
  • Evil Mentor: Xia Jiang is this to Xia Dong. Leading a disillusioned Xia Dong to a Was It All a Lie? speech.
  • The Evil Prince: Prince Yu.
  • Family Disunion: Jingrui's disaster of a birthday party. You know it's a failed family get together when you find out neither of your "fathers" is actually related to you, one of them was trying to kill you all along, and he's decided to finish the job now, along with the rest of your family and all the guests who now know too much. Ouch.
  • Family Honor: This being ancient China, almost all the characters are driven by protecting their family's honor — or at least the appearance of it.
  • Family Relationship Switcheroo: Jingrui has two surnames. His mother gave birth on the same night as her friend at the temple they were staying at. That same night they were attacked and the two baby boys were mixed up in the darkness and confusion, making it impossible to tell which baby belonged to which mother. When one of the babies died after a few days, things became even more complicated. With no way to decide which family the baby belonged to, the emperor declared that he should belong to both of them and be given both their surnames. However the real switcheroo is that Jingrui's real mother Princess Liyang was pregnant with her lover's baby and then was forced to marry Marquis Xie. She realized her husband was trying to kill her illegitimate son but had actually killed her friend's baby by accident. She perpetuated the confusion with the Zhuo family in order to protect Jingrui from the Marquis.
  • Flashback Nightmare: The first scene of the series shows the bloody massacre of an army and the young Lin Shu's dying father urging him to survive just before he falls off a cliff... and our adult hero catapults awake, panting in his bed.
  • Forged Message: Xia Jiang and Marquis Xie had someone forge a letter from Nie Feng accusing Prince Qi of treason and asking for rescue.
  • Friend on the Force: Xia Dong becomes this to our protagonists.
  • Gambit Pileup: When plotting for political gain is most of the main characters' favorite pastime, things inevitably get a little complicated.
  • Gorgeous Period Dress: Like all Chinese period dramas the series has plenty of beautiful costumes.
  • Holding the Floor: Marquis Yan, who does his job admirably on many occasions.
  • Honey Trap: Banruo's disciple sister, Fourth Sister (Jun Niang) is set up as this to get information out of Lin Shu's messenger Tong Lu. This is partially subverted when Jun Niang actually falls for Tong Lu and later helps him escape.
  • Honor Before Reason: Jingyan's default setting. Lin Shu tries his best to make him behave more strategically, but has to give in when Jingyan refuses to leave Wei Zheng in prison to be executed, even though breaking him out is an extremely dangerous move that will potentially waste all of Jingyan's political gains so far.
  • Ignored Enamored Underling: Gong Yu's really obvious crush on Lin Shu. He takes the Cruel to Be Kind approach and never gives her any hope.
  • Ill Boy: Lin Shu is a sympathetic and near perfect character who certainly manages to look very pretty even when he's turning deathly pale and coughing up blood. Thankfully he's also a very layered and nuanced character who avoids the more annoying Marty Stu versions of this trope.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Almost all the good characters share this trait; Prince Qi, Nihuang, Jingyan, Lin Shu, Jingrui...
  • Insufferable Genius: Lin Chen, Lin Shu/MCS.
  • I Will Wait for You: Xia Dong has never forgotten her dead husband even after 13 years. Happily she is rewarded for her faithfulness when Nie Feng returns alive against all hope.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Lin Chen.
  • Lady of War: Nihuang has protected the southern border from invasion as the general of the southern fortress for years and she's so awesome at martial arts than none of the skilled warriors from all around China that come to compete as her potential suitors are able to beat her in a one on one duel.
  • Locked Out of the Loop: Lin Shu won't let anyone tell Jingyan who he really is because he knows his best friend will be too worried about him to treat him as a mere strategist and follow his plans without question.
  • Long-Haired Pretty Boy: Lin Chen has long flowing hair — instead of the topknots most of the other men wear. Jingyan in his youth also used to wear his long hair down.
  • Motive = Conclusive Evidence: Jingyan is the only person with a vested interest in rescuing the traitor Wei Zheng and our heroes know he will be instantly (and correctly) blamed for it. Lin Shu has to carefully set things up so that the emperor thinks that this obvious connection is being used by Xia Jiang to frame Jingyan for the break out.
  • Multilayer Façade: When he first comes to the capital, Lin Shu introduces himself as "Sir Su", a mere visiting scholar. When his enemies get suspicious, they do a background check and discover his "real" identity, the powerful Mei Changsu. This prevents them from thinking to dig deeper and discover his actual Secret Identity Lin Shu.
  • Murder Is the Best Solution: The emperor is pretty sure he doesn't believe Xia Jiang's claims about Mei Changsu's real identity, but his solution is to attempt to poison him anyway just to make certain there's no future threat.
  • Never My Fault: The Emperor takes this to extremes.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: The ultimate reason why Prince Qi was framed and the emperor threw him under the bus. He was just too good and had too many loyal followers, making him a threat to the throne and the powerful Xuanjing Bureau.
  • No Kill Like Overkill: See Family Disunion above.
  • Passive-Aggressive Kombat: Any conversation between the consorts becomes this — or any conversation in the palace really.
  • Pulling the Thread: Jingyan attempts to do this when he asks both his mother and Mei Changsu what his father's name was without giving them time to consult each other. Unfortunately for him, Mei Changsu's cover is too well planned — they both give the same name, the one Lin Shu's real father used as an alias.
  • Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated: Lin Shu and Xia Dong's husband Nie Feng.
  • Sarcastic Confession: When he's cornered by Consort Yue and Xia Jiang's attempt to reveal his true identity, Lin Shu straight up admits it to the emperor's face. But then he follows up by saying even if he admits it it doesn't prove anything and uses enough Word Fu to convince the emperor to dismiss Xia Jiang entirely. That is talent.Although, admittedly it doesn't prevent the emperor from trying to kill him anyway... See Murder Is the Best Solution.
  • Saying Too Much: Lin Shu has to keep reminding Commander Meng and Nihuang not to act like they are his close friends when talking to other people.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: When Jingyan insists on breaking the falsely accused Wei Zheng out of prison.
  • Silk Hiding Steel: Jingyan's mother Consort Jing is the perfect embodiment of this trope.
  • Spotting the Thread:
    • Jingyan notes Mei Changsu's habit of rubbing at things when he's thinking — just like this one guy he used to know...
    • Consort Jing discovers Mei Changsu's true identity after finding a veiled reference to his mother's name in a book he wrote notes in.
    • Lin Shu draws Jingyan's sword in a discussion and uses it to point out troop movements, unconsciously repeating a familiar gesture from their past which Jingyan recognizes.
    • Another one for Consort Jing — she realizes her maid was part of the enemy's plot to cause mistrust between Jingyan and Mei Changsu when the maid makes sure to tell the story of Mei Changsu's supposed capture of her to the prince. They couldn't leave such a crucial part of the plot (making sure Jingyan heard the story told their way) to some unrelated person.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Nihuang and Lin Shu have loved each other their whole lives but are fated never to be together in this life.
  • Starting a New Life: Lin Shu's new life as Mei Changsu.
  • Stop, or I Shoot Myself!: Liyang orders Xie Yu to let Prince Yu's guards into the mansion, and holds a knife at her own throat until he obeys.
  • The Vamp: Banruo.
  • Unsportsmanlike Gloating: Lin Shu uncharacteristically gives in to a little gloating the last time he sees Xia Jiang in prison. "You're just here to gloat this time aren't you?" "Yes. I've seen you play all your best cards and end up back in prison anyway. It makes me happy."
  • Your Days Are Numbered: Lin Shu is driven to reach his goal as quickly as possible because of his limited time left to live. Also drives the angst between our main characters.
  • Wire Fu: Apparently the second thing every martial artist learns is flying.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Consort Yue really likes to use this.
  • Wuxia: Despite it mostly being a historical political drama with a revenge, it does contain martial arts elements. The Chinese title of the series (琅琊榜) is actually the name of the martial arts ranking list of elite individuals.