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Series / The Legend of Dugu

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The Legend of Dugu (Chinese: 独孤天下, Dugu Tian Xia) is a Chinese series starring Hu Bingqing, Li Yixiao and Ady An as the titular Dugu sisters. The series is set during the final years of the chaotic Northern and Southern States era in Chinese history, in the state of Western Wei and its successor, Northern Zhou. Since the fall of the Eastern Han dynasty more than 300 years prior, China has never been unified under a single dynasty (apart from the last decade of Sima Yan's rule after unifying the Three Kingdoms); the Disaster of Yongjia in 311 opened the floodgates for non-Han tribes to invade China. The series dramatizes the lives of Dugu Xin and three of his daughters, as the clan deals with a prophecy: " 帝星未明. 然, 独孤天下". (Di Xing wei ming. Ran, Dugu Tian Xia, "The Emperor Star is unknown. But, the Dugus shall have China.") With the prophecy hanging over the clan, the three Dugu daughters soon find themselves embroiled (willingly or otherwise) in political alliances and upheavals, as factions seek to prove or disprove the prophecy.


However, history has the answer: Dugu Banruo (An) would only become an empress posthumously, after her husband Yuwen Yu ascended the throne during the Northern Zhou dynasty; her youngest sister Qieluo (Hu) would become the founding empress of the Sui Dynasty, which would finally unify all of China note ; Mantuo (Li), the middle sister, would become the matriarch of the Li clan, who would establish the Tang Dynasty 37 years after the founding of the Sui.


The Legend of Dugu contains examples of:

  • Absurdly Youthful Mother: Qieluo, who became a mother at about 17 with Lihua, who is actually her niece, the girl's parents being Banruo and Yuwen Hu. Truth in Television.
  • Adapted Out: Many historical characters of the era were left out. As an example, two of Li Yuan's older brothers and wife Lady Dou were absent. note 
  • Artistic License – History: Like The Empress of China, several settings have been simplified or changed.
    • The 8 Pillars (柱国, "zhu guo") existed during the previous Western Wei Dynasty and not the Northern Zhou Dynasty. note  Also, even during the Western Wei era, the head of the 8 Pillars was not Dugu Xin but Yuwen Tai, regarded as the founder of the Northern Zhou. On the other hand, Yang Zhong himself was never a Pillar, but he was one of 12 Generals who served under the Pillars. note 
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    • Yuwen Hu was Yuwen Tai's nephew, but he was only younger than his uncle by a few years; by the time the Northern Zhou was established, he was already in his early 40s. Also, when Yuwen Jue died, he was still in his teens and not an adult as depicted in the series.
    • Historically, Yuwen Yu was a formidable character, so much so that Yuwen Hu poisoned him in order to get rid of him quickly before he could reclaim more power.
    • Historically, Li Cheng is the name of (Tang Gaozu) Li Yuan's elder brother, but there were no records of Li Bing having any other wives or concubines other than Lady Dugu. note  Also, it was Li Bing's father Li Hu who was one of the 8 Pillars of the Western Wei, but he had passed away before the founding of Northern Zhou.
    • In the series, Banruo lived to become empress; historically, she passed away before Yuwen Yu became emperor. note  Also, Yuwen Yu did at least have one other consort, Lady Xu.
    • Historically, by the time Gao Zhan was emperor of Northern Qi, both Dugu Xin and Banruo had passed away.
    • In-series, Lihua was portrayed as the daughter of Banruo and Yuwen Hu, with Qieluo falsely claiming her niece as her own daughter in order to protect the child. Historically, her parents were indeed Qieluo and Yang Jian.
    • Historically, while Yang Jian did pass away 2 years after Qieluo, the circumstances of his death were not as simple as depicted in the series. note 
  • Age Lift: Historically, Yuwen Jue was only 15 when he died, while Qieluo became Yang Jian's wife at the age of 13 (Yang himself was only 16). Counts as a Pragmatic Adaptation.
  • A Child Shall Lead Them: The last emperor of the Northern Zhou, Emperor Jing, was only 7 when his father died. On a smaller scale, Li Yuan became the Duke of Tang when he was about 7 years old.
  • Dark Horse Victory: At the beginning, it would seem that Yuwen Hu would be the man to unify China; Yang Jian was merely the son of an (albeit somewhat major) official. Almost no one would predict that Yang Jian would instead be the unifier.
    • Similarly, no one expected Qieluo to be the Dugu sister to fulfil the prophecy, her elder sisters being more politically savvy and/or ambitious than her at the start of the series.
  • Deadly Decadent Court: This being during the Northern and Southern States era, emperors come and go at the drop of a hat. Often, they were deposed by military officials with great power, who in turn installed themselves as emperors.
  • Death by Childbirth: Banruo.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Many of Mantuo's early schemes are this, as many people (especially Banruo) could see from a mile away that she's the mastermind.
  • Doomed by Canon: Knowing the historical fates of the various characters can spoil the story to a certain extent.
  • Historical In-Joke: Banruo stabbing a horse in the first episode is very likely a reference to Meiniang stabbing the Iron Stallion in Empress.
    • Mantuo killing her newborn daughter in order to gain political mileage is also a likely reference to Wu Zetian's killing of her daughter in her quest to become empress.
    • At her deathbed, Mantuo mentioning that due to his relative lack of ability, Li Yuan would only be able to become emperor at the age of 50, unlike his uncle Yang Jian, who ascended the throne at 40. Historically, Li Yuan was in his early 50s when he ascended the throne.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: For Banruo and Mantuo. Historically, very few records of them had survived till today. But, it is unlikely that both women were the ambitious and fairly unscrupulous characters as portrayed in the series. note 
  • Historical Badass Upgrade: Dugu Banruo is depicted as a very calm, discerning, ambitious and politically savvy woman who ruthlessly pursue the prophercy of Dugu while fiercely protecting her family from dangers. Undeniably the most worldly woman in the show, she's literally stole the spotlight from her younger sister Dugu Qieluo, the true female protagonist.
  • Improbable Infant Survival: Averted by Mantuo's child.
  • More Deadly Than the Male: Dugu Xin's daughters were ultimately more ambitious and capable than his sons, with the ladies' achievements overshadowing the gents'. note 
  • Obviously Evil: Yuwen Hu, who though handsome has the face of a villian.
  • Outdoorsy Gal: Qieluo, who loves archery but hates doing needlework.
  • Promotion to Parent: Banruo, by virtue of being the eldest daughter and her father being a widower.
  • Prophecy Twist: Both Banruo and Yuwen Hu firmly believed that the "Dugu" mentioned in the prophecy refers to Banruo. As it turns out, the emperor to eventually unify all of China did indeed have a Dugu wife. However, it was not Banruo herself, but her youngest sister Qieluo. The unifying emperor was also Yang Jian, who would crown himself emperor and found the Sui Dynasty.
  • Spiritual Successor: to The Empress of China. Both series features women hardened by their life experiences to become significant forces on the political scene. Historically, Dugu Qieluo was the first empress to declare herself and her husband the "Two Sages", more than 50 years before Wu Zetian and Tang Gaozong. note 
  • Succession Crisis: The issue of succession was a persistently thorny one, both in-series and later during the Tang. The epilogue noted that Li Yuan was himself forced to abdicate by his second son Shimin after the Xuan Wu Gate incident.note 
  • Theme Naming: The Dugu sisters were named after Sanskrit terms found in Buddhism. note 
  • Time Skip: Qieluo's 21 years as empress of Sui was covered in 2 episodes.
  • The Unfavorite: Dugu Xin's subtle about it, but everyone else is (at least) slightly biased against Mantuo due to Mantuo being the daughter of a concubine rather than the main wife like Banruo and Qieluo.
  • Vestigial Empire: Almost every state mentioned in-series is this, as China is divided between them. Unifying the north, and eventually all of China, is a major goal for the ambitious characters.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: Just like in Empress, the audience is expected to have at least a passing knowledge of the history of the era.
  • Widow Woman: Lihua, as (the last) empress dowager of the Northern Zhou, and then princess under her father's reign. Just like in history, while she did not take concrete action to prevent her father's takeover, she actively expressed her disapproval and refused to remarry.
  • Young Future Famous People: Unlike her sisters whose achievements are shown in-series, Mantuo would not live to see her son Li Yuan establish the Tang Dynasty after the disastrous rule of her nephew Yang Guang. note