Follow TV Tropes


Series / Scarlet Heart

Go To

Scarlet Heart (步步惊心, Bù Bù Jīng Xīn, meaning literally "Startling by Each Step") is a 2011 Chinese series starring Liu Shi Shi, Nicky Wu, Kevin Cheng, Yuan Hong, and Lin Geng Xin. It's based on the novel of the same name by Tong Hua.

Zhang Xiao suffers a near-fatal accident that sends her back in time to the Qing dynasty. She finds herself in the body of Ruo Xi, one of her previous incarnations, befriends several of the Kangxi emperor's sons, and gradually adjusts to life in the past. Using her knowledge of history, she tries to change the past to save her friends' lives, as the notorious struggle among Kangxi's nine sons to become his heir is about to begin...

Moon Lovers is a Korean remake of the series. Scarlet Heart is often compared to Palace, another 2011 series about a modern girl who travels back to the Kangxi Emperor's reign and falls in love with one of his sons. An in-name-only sequel, Scarlet Heart 2, aired in 2014.

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

Contains examples of:

  • Adaptational Alternate Ending: In the novel, Ruo Xi succumbs to her illness, but never returns back to the modern day China.The TV version gives her the chance to see what might possibly be the modern day reincarnation of Yin Zhen.
  • A Family Affair: Zhang Xiao/Ruo Xi and Yin Si are siblings-in-law but are romantically involved for a while.
  • Age Lift: Ruo Xi in the novel version of Scarlet Heart starts off in the early chapters around 13 years old. In the TV series, she is 16 from the start.
  • All Love Is Unrequited: Thereís plenty of examples.
    • Yin Si succeeded in having Ruo Lan as his second wife, but he never won her heart because it belonged to another. In a bid for her to be able to marry him without competition for her hand in marriage, the general Qing Shan was sent to the frontlines in war to die. Her father set the plan into motion and was the real culprit for what happened. It didnít take long for her to find out about her loverís death. Furious and heartbroken, she arrived in Yin Siís residence as a frigid and uncooperative bride. He himself never loved his first wife Ming Hui despite her devotion towards him.
    • Yin Eís small crush he had with Ruo Xi is also not reciprocated, due to her viewing him as nothing more than a friend.
    • Yin Ti developed feelings for Ruo Xi and managed to marry her in the 34th episode, but she never reciprocated his love for her because her heart only belonged to Yin Zhen even when they were separated.
    • Yin Zhen himself harbors no romantic feelings for Lady Ula Nara despite her being his primary consort and empress. Unlike Ming Hui, Lady Ula Nara doesnít appear to harbor any feelings of jealousy towards Ruo Xi because she sees her as if she were her younger sister and has no interest in competing with her, she only wants her and her husband to remain happy with each other. unfortunately, their happiest moment as a couple wasnít bound to last. Ruo Xi endured seeing her loved ones die before her, a so-called friend betrays her and brutally executed by her lover through steaming, she suffers a miscarriage and the result left her infertile for the remainders of her life, but it only took to Ming Huiís suicide to find out about the information. The miscarriage also caused her to become terminally ill. Yin Si managed to spill the beans out about his past romantic relationship he had with her in order to get Yin Zhen to let her leave the Forbidden City.
  • Annoying Arrows: Yin Si gets shot in the chest then has the arrow pulled out of the wound. Realistically that could easily have been fatal, but he isn't seriously injured and recovers quickly.
  • Anyone Can Die: This TV series has no problems killing off the entire cast.
  • Arranged Marriage: Almost every marriage in the series is arranged, which is Truth in Television for the time period.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Most of the historical womenís names, such as De Fei and Liang Fei, are all lost in history. They are referred by their titles.
  • Big Little Brother: Yin Ti is noticeably a lot taller than Yin Zhen and is the youngest of the Aisin Gioro brothers that is involved with fighting against him for the throne.
  • Big "SHUT UP!": Zhang Xiao tells Ming Yu to shut up every time it looks like she's going to cry.
  • Break the Cutie: Zhang Xiao in the second half of the series. Her sister dies, she witnesses someone being killed on her husband's orders, she has a miscarriage that leaves her infertile, and eventually she dies and returns to the modern era, where she recognises Yin Zhen's reincarnation but he doesn't recognise her.
  • Candid Camera Prank: Referenced when Zhang Xiao/Ruo Xi first learns she's in the Qing Dynasty, assumes she's on a reality show, and looks around for the camera.
  • Convenient Miscarriage: Deconstructed. In episode 32 Zhang Xiao/Ruo Xi miscarries and is rendered infertile afterwards. She is deeply affected by the death of her potential child and her illness worsens because of it.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death:
    • E Ling E has his arms, legs and head tied to horses. When the order is given for the horses to move he gets pulled apart.
    • Yu Tan gets steamed to death.
  • Death of a Child: The Eighteenth Prince is just a child when he dies.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Ruo Lan is surprised that Zhang Xiao isn't happy with the idea of her future husband having concubines.
  • Defrosting Ice King: Yin Zhen starts out aloof and stoic. He becomes warmer after falling in love with Zhang Xiao.
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: Zhang Xiao dies in Yin Ti's arms.
  • Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male: Ming Yu slaps Yin E hard enough to bruise his face just because he said her temper is worse than Ruo Xi's. When Yin E tells his brothers they react as if he's making a fuss over nothing.
  • Downer Ending: Yin Si and Yin Tang commit suicide. Yin Xiang and Yin Zhen die shortly after. Yin Ti survives but doesn't remarry. Zhang Xiao returns to the 21st century and meets a man who looks like Yin Zhen, but he doesn't recognise her.
  • Gilded Cage: Lampshaded by Zhang Xiao.
    Zhang Xiao: No matter how grand this manor is, it's just a royal cage after all.
  • Henpecked Husband: Yin E for Ming Yu. She slaps him for saying her temper is worse than Ruo Xi's.
  • Historical Domain Character: The Kangxi Emperor, all of the princes, and several minor characters were real people.
  • How Dare You Die on Me!: Yin Zhen's reaction to Zhang Xiao's death.
  • Imperial China: The series' main setting.
  • Impractically Fancy Outfit: Zhang Xiao discovers very quickly that Qing Dynasty fashions require more than six layers and are very hot to wear. Downplayed, though, since people used to the clothes don't find them uncomfortable.
  • In-Series Nickname: Zhang Xiao gains the nickname "Tough Princess".
  • The Lost Lenore: Qing Shan is this for Ruo Lan.
  • Last Request: Ruo Lan asks for a divorce letter from Yin Si, that way, she can be reunited with Qing Shan in the afterlife for good.
  • Love Dodecahedron: Yin Zhen, Yin Si, Yin Ti, and Yin E all fall in love with Zhang Xiao. She marries Yin Ti, but falls in love with Yin Zhen.
  • Mental Time Travel: How Zhang Xiao ends up in the past.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: All over the place. The Kangxi Emperor outlives his son the Eighteenth Prince, Yin Zhen and Zhang Xiao outlive their unborn baby, Ruo Lan outlives her unborn baby, and Yin Zhen and Lady Ulanara outlive their son Hong Hui.
  • Parental Favoritism: De Fei only cares about Yin Ti over Yin Zhen. This is because he is the only surviving offspring of hers that she was able to raise on her own without giving him up for another woman of higher status and title to raise. Truth in Television: in real history, she and Yin Zhen had a strained relationship, this is because at the time of his birth in December 13th, 1678, she was yet to be bestowed by the title of De Fei by Kangxi emperor in 1682 and was the many untitled mistresses he had and she had no legal status to raise him yet. Yin Zhen himself spent the majority of his childhood raised by Empress Xiao Yi Ren until her death in 1689.
  • Sibling Triangle: This is rather inevitable with the majority of Aisin Gioro brothers (most are half-brothers with the exceptions of Yin Zhen and Yin Ti).
    • Ruo Xi and Yin Si briefly enter in a romantic relationship, but she and him break it off. He wouldnít give up his ambitions for the throne even knowing that heíll risk dying alone if he loses in the battle. After the breakup, she starts falling deeply in love with Yin Zhen. Unfortunately, their romance doesnít end happily ever after when they do tie the knot once he starts his time to be Yong Zheng Emperor. Ruo Xi had to get out of the Forbidden City ASAP after he had ordered Yutanís execution by having her steamed to death. To make it worse, sheís revealed to be pregnant afterwards. There wasnít any point for her to remain in the palace because she suffered a miscarriage that left her infertile, not to mention, the majority of people that had been close to her either committed suicide, died from terminal illnesses, or had gotten executed by her second lover. Itís also because she feels a lot of guilt for causing the tragedy that wouldnít have occurred to begin with. She was only allowed to leave the palace when Yin Zhen ends up finding out the hard way about her past romance with Yin Si. She marries Yin Ti out of convenience. Despite what Yin Zhen had done, she clearly misses him and loved him until the very end of her life. He never got a chance to see her in person before she died from her illness nor did he read the last letter that was meant for him due to Yin Tiís involvement. He slipped it in with another envelope with his own writing because he worries that gossip will spread about why his second wife has the exact handwriting like the emperor. The strained relationship between Yin Zhen and Yin Ti mostly got worse due to the fact that both of them loved the same woman despite the fact that Ruo Xi is legally in all the sense now Yin Tiís 2nd wife. In response, Yin Zhen had her name erased from history because of the pain he felt when she left on that day and marrying another man he knows she has no interest in.
  • The Show of the Books: This TV series is based on the same novel by Tong Hua and it is also nearly word by word it is based on except for its endings (but it keeps the Downer Ending somewhat.)
  • Staircase Tumble: Zhang Xiao wakes up in Ruo Xi's body after Ruo Xi fell down a flight of stairs. Everyone assumes Zhang Xiao's odd behaviour is because she developed amnesia after the fall.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Zhang Xiao and Yin Zhen. They wait for ten years to be together, and even then it doesn't work out for them.
  • Time-Travel Romance: Zhang Xiao with Yin Zhen and most of his brothers.
  • Together in Death: Ruo Lan gets Yin Si to divorce her just before she dies so she can be reunited with Qing Shan in the afterlife.
  • Unwanted Spouse: Ruo Lan never loved Yin Si and never wanted to have him as her husband, because she's unable to forgive him for being indirectly involved with causing Qing Shan's demise. As she's on her deathbed due to being terminally ill, she makes him divorce her because she's that terrified that if she doesn't get divorced, she would be essentially forced to see the man she never loved in the afterlife instead of Qing Shan. Yin Si ends up granting this final request for her, seeing that the relationship they had had obviously never went anywhere even years and years of their entire marraige. Once she obtains the divorce letter that confirms she is no longer a married woman, she dies.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: Zhang Xiao's attempts to change the past end in failure.
  • Your Days Are Numbered: After the miscarriage the doctor tells Zhang Xiao she'll live another three or four years at most.