The Little Nyonya 小娘惹: after 4 episodes
December 1, 2008 in 2008 Dramas, Dramas
Tags: 1930s, 1940s, 2008, 2008 Dramas, andie chen, apple hong, blockbuster drama, channel 8, cynthia koh, dai yangtian, darren lim, desmond sim, drama, drama reviews, drama serials, eelyn kok, felicia chin, highest viewship, jeanette aw, joanne peh, li yinzhu, lin meijiao, little nyonya, malacca, mediacorp, nat ho, ng hui, pan lingling, peranakan, period drama, qi yuwu, singapore, xiang yun, xiao niang re, yao wenlong, zzen, 小娘惹
The first four episodes were aired from 25 November to 28 November 2008 at 9pm on Channel 8.
For an overview of the entire drama, please refer to my earlier post HERE :)
This drama stars:
1st generation —
Jeanette Aw as Huang Juxiang, Xiang Yun as Tianlan, Lin Meijiao as Guilan, Huang Hui as Tao, Dai Yangtian as Yamamoto Yousuke (Shanben Yangjie), Desmond Sim as Charlie Zhang, Pierre Png as Chen Sheng, Apple Hong as Huang Meiyu, Darren Lim as Huang Jin Cheng, Cynthia Koh as Xiujuan, Pan Lingling as Xiufeng, Li Yinzhu as Chen lao-tai, Yan Bingliang as Huang Yuan
2nd generation —
Jeanette Aw as Shanben Yueniang, Qi Yuwu as Chen Xi, Joanne Peh as Huang Yuzhu, Eelyn Kok as Huang Zhenzhu, Yao Wenlong as Liu Yi Dao, Andie Chen as Huang Tianbao, Zzen as Robert Zhang
Xiang Yun as Tianlan, Huang Hui as Tao, Pierre Png as Chen Sheng, Darren Lim as Huang Jin Cheng, Cynthia Koh as Xiujuan, Li Yinzhu as Chen lao-tai
4th generation (modern era) —
Xiang Yun as Shanben Yueniang (old), Felicia Chin as Anqi, Nat Ho as Li Xiuwen
*Little Nyonya 小娘惹 smashes ALL viewership RECORDS!!! -> see here!!!*
Anqi (Felicia Chin) arrives in Malacca from Canada, where she is studying. She is back to visit her Mama (grandmother). Following her is Li Xiuwen (Nat Ho), her classmate who is wooing her. Xiuwen has done research about Peranakan culture, as Anqi has told him many horror stories about how fierce her grandmother is, and how she can reveal a person’s heart by just looking at them…
They arrive at Anqi’s Mama’s house, and are greeted by Tao, an old ma-jie, who has been serving her grandmother’s family all her life. Not knowing who she is, Xiuwen greets her Bibi, which addresses old Peranakan women.
Xiuwen is entralled by a beautifully taken picture of a beautiful Peranakan woman. This picture is of Huang Juxiang, Anqi’s Chorchor (great-grandmother). Anqi tells Xiuwen that Tao often said Juxiang and her Mama Yueniang were like 2 ang ku kueh moulded from the same mould (they look exactly alike).
Tao gives Anqi many items, all made by her Mama, including kebaya, beaded-shoes, and also ornate gold jewelry. Tao chides Anqi when she says she would not think of getting married before 30. Tao tells her that Peranakan women got ready their trousseau (kebaya, beaded-shoes, jewelry etc) before they were 15. At 16, they would have children, and by 30, they would be preparing to become Mamas already.
Tao is very protective of Juxiang’s picture, and scolds Xiuwen, who was about to touch it. Xiuwen and Anqi make their way to the temple, where she finally sees her Mama (Xiang Yun). Xiuwen is amazed by a master who is making lanterns.
They make their way to Anqi’s Mama’s new hotel, which she had bought and refurbished. They are preparing for the grand-opening in a few days.
(the place with the swallows — i’ve been there before!!)
Anqi’s Mama recalls the past, when Xiuwen asks about Juxiang’s picture. It was taken by a Japanese man, Yamamoto Yousuke (Shanben Yangjie)…
1930s-40s, before the war, Singapore
Dai Yangtian is Yamamoto Yousuke (Shanben Yangjie), a young Japanese photographer who takes a sudden interest to Peranakan culture when he chaces upon their porcelain. Hoping to understand more, he goes to Malacca.
1930s-40s, before the war, Malacca
Huang Juxiang (Jeanette Aw) is a beautiful Peranakan girl, who is kind, patient, and a good cook. However, due to the fact that she is deaf-mute, and the daughter of a mistress, Tianlan (Xiang Yun), she is treated badly in the family, like a servant.
Huang Yuan (Yan Bingliang) is Juxiang’s father. His sister is visiting from Singapore with her 2 daughters, Xiufeng (Pan Lingling) and Xiujuan (Cynthia Koh). She brings along her maid, Tao (Ng Hui), who is a new ma-jie, and keeps slapping her, finding fault with everything she does.
Xiufeng and Xiujuan are English-educated, and know very little about being a good Peranakan girl, who should be able to cook well, make delicious kueh, and sew beaded-shoes wonderfully. Guihua makes sure her daugther, Meiyu (Apple Hong) is well versed at doing these.
On that fateful day, Yamamoto Yousuke (Shanben Yangjie) was taking photographs outside the Huang Residence. Peranakan girls were well-bred and not supposed to go out of their houses. Much of the outside world they saw were behind ornate screens. That was exactly what Xiujuan, Xiufeng and Meiyu were doing that day. Xiujuan called the other 2 to look at the handsome young man outside. However, as they were looking at him, a mad man came up to the screen and frightened them.
Vowing revenge on the mad man, they disturb Juxiang, dirty her face, and push her out the door. The mad man strangles her, as he wants to eat. Yamamoto Yousuke (Shanben Yangjie) sees the sight and immediately saves her. Grabbing her hand, he leads her to wash her face. He is amazed by her beauty. Tao, who’d seen the 3 girls up to their nonsense, investigates, mistakenly thinks Yamamoto Yousuke (Shanben Yangjie) is a lecher, and drags Juxiang home.
Juxiang explains to her, but Tao insists that no one must know of this incident, as a woman’s chasity is the most important, and it would be difficult for Juxiang to find a good husband. Juxiang tells Tao that she doesn’t want to get married.
Juxiang’s father’s first wife, Guihua (Lin Meijiao), has high standing in the family, and would stop at nothing to make Juxiang and Tianlan’s lives miserable. With the demise of old Mrs. Huang, who was full of praise for Tianlan, and doted on Juxiang, Guihua gets her way with everything now.
Meiyu’s older brother, Jincheng (Darren Lim) is also English-educated, and currently learning the ropes in his father’s business. He and Xiujuan hit it off very well, and soon get intimate. Juxiang catches them, and they threaten her not to let anyone know about their affair.
Things don’t look good for Jincheng and Xiujuan when Huang Yuan announces that he and his sister have decided to marry Xiufeng and Jincheng. Jincheng has no guts to tell his father that the one he likes is Xiujuan, leaving her very upset. She suggests they elope, but Jincheng won’t hear of it. He chooses to run away from the problem.
Xiujuan looks Juxiang up and gives her a gold-bracelet, asking her for a favour. She wants Juxiang to tell Huang Yuan and the others that she saw Xiujuan and Jincheng getting intimate the other day. She hopes Juxiang will do so after the tok panjang, which the Huangs are hosting for important guests of high-standing.
Yamamoto Yousuke (Shanben Yangjie) encounters Charlie Zhang, a lecherous businessman, who lives a few doors away from him in the hotel. Charlie Zhang is constantly on the lookout for virgin women, buys them, tortures them and abandons them. He leaves a very deep, very bad impression on Yamamoto Yousuke (Shanben Yangjie). It gets even worse when he sees Charlie Zhang with a picture of Juxiang, who is his next target. At the same time, Yamamoto Yousuke (Shanben Yangjie)’s friend is invited to the Huang’s tok panjang, and he invites him too. Charlie Zhang is there too, and Yamamoto Yousuke (Shanben Yangjie) ignores him.
The honoured guests at the tok panjang are the Chens, who are very wealthy and an influencial family from Singapore. Old Mrs. Chen was Old Mrs. Huang’s good friend, and the purpose of their visit is to find a good girl for her grandson, Chen Sheng (Pierre Png). Old Mrs. Chen insults Charlie Zhang, as he is known to be very westernised, and a Peranakan who has abandoned his roots, even removing his ancestors’ altar from his house.
Juxiang comes out from the kitchen with a pot of longan drink. This is when Yamamoto Yousuke (Shanben Yangjie) takes that stunning picture of her. Charlie Zhang sees her, and looks her up and down, commenting on how beautiful she is… He attempts to touch her, but Chen Sheng intercedes. He is also mesmerised by her beauty. Charlie tries to explain that he is using the western method of greeting people. Chen Sheng warns him that Juxiang is a Peranakan lady.
After dinner, Guihua, Old Mrs. Chen and her other grandson discuss the possibility of marriage between Chen Sheng and Meiyu. Old Mrs. Chen tries Meiyu and Juxiang’s kuehs, and loves what Juxiang made. Guihua then asks Meiyu and Juxiang to show Old Mrs. Chen their beaded-shoe skills. Guihua makes Juxiang and Meiyu swop, as Meiyu’s pales in comparison to Juxiang’s.
Meiyu is reluctant to pass Juxiang’s work off as her own, but does it anyway. Later on, Old Mrs. Chen discusses with her grandsons. They all know that the longan drink was made by Juxiang, and so was Meiyu’s beaded-shoe embroidery. Chen Sheng insists that if he must marry, he would like to marry Juxiang. He is shocked to learn she is a deaf-mute. Old Mrs. Chen laments that it is a pity, and that Meiyu is not too bad either.
Meiyu overhears and throws the embroidery at Juxiang. Yamamoto Yousuke (Shanben Yangjie) helps her pick up the beads. Chen Sheng goes to the well to look for Juxiang. However, he cannot bear to say anything, as the truth that she is deaf-mute sinks in.
Charlie Zhang wants marry Juxiang as his concubine. Tianlan refuses to let that happen. Yamamoto Yousuke (Shanben Yangjie) overhears Charlie talking to his assistant about marrying Juxiang and looking very lecherous when he was leaving for Singapore.
Huang Yuan decides to let the matter rest, after Tianlan begs him. However, after Juxiang had refused to help Xiujuan expose her relationship with Jincheng, and returned her her gold bracelet, Xiujuan was unhappy with Juxiang and framed her for stealing the gold bracelet, planting it in her room. With the bracelet found, Xiujuan’s mother urged Huang Yuan to put the matter to rest, as they were returning to Singapore soon. Juxiang refused to be maligned, and lit a candle, aiming the flame on her palm, and swore that if she really did steal it, the ancestors would make sure her hand was charred. After a while, the flame went out, and Tianlan rejoiced, saying that Old Mrs. Huang must be looking down and protecting her.
Guihua was angry about this incident, and insisted that she had found many mysterious things when searching Juxiang’s room. She suspects she knows how to conjure spells, and that was the reason why the flame went out. Huang Yuan was furious, and insisted that Juxiang must now marry Charlie Zhang.
Not wanting to marry Charlie Zhang, Juxiang attempts to run away. Tao persuades her not to, but Juxiang tells her that she would not be a woman who succumbed to her fate. The next day, all the servants are out looking for Juxiang, and Tao hears that there are many human traffickers around, who most certainly would target Juxiang.
Juxiang does get conned by a human trafficking group, but through sheer determination, she manages to save herself and the other girls. Yamamoto Yousuke (Shanben Yangjie) was back in Malacca, having finally decided that he’d like to marry Juxiang. He saves her from the human traffickers. But it was not so simple. He gets beaten on the head and is taken to prison. Charlie Zhang insists that he’d be released, and he thanks Yamamoto Yousuke (Shanben Yangjie) for saving his bride-to-be.
Juxiang tries to escape from Charlie’s hotel room as his assistant has fallen asleep. She doesn’t succeed, as Charlie comes back. He tells her that he’d only keep her if she is still a virgin, if not, he’ll send her home with a red packet (don’t know real or not). She tries escaping after hitting him on the head, but the door is locked. He whips her with his belt. Outside, his assistant is lured away my a trail of money.
Charlie tries to force himself on Juxiang, but smoke and shouts of “fire! fire!” stop him. He quickly runs out of the room. There really isn’t a fire, and the smoke was caused by burning something in a metal urn. He follows the sound of someone calling him, and that turns out to be his assistant, who’d been tied up. He tells Charlie that Yamamoto Yousuke (Shanben Yangjie) had done it.
Charlie returns to the room to find Juxiang gone. Yamamoto Yousuke (Shanben Yangjie) and Juxiang get on the train and commute to Singapore.
Jeanette Aw as Huang Juxiang:
This drama has showed a totally different side of Jeanette. Her role as the deaf-mute Juxiang is challenging, as she has to emote her feelings only with her expressions, and no formal sign-language. She has to totally rely on her eyes, and the way she looks at people, and her smile really bring out her character, as a sweet, kind-hearted, modest Peranakan woman. I’m very impressed with Jeanette here – there’s feeling when she comes on-screen, and you can sense her pain, even though she can’t speak. Brilliant!
Xiang Yun as Tianlan:
With Juxiang and Tao, she has some authority when she talks. She is the concerned mother who’s only concern is that of her daughter’s well-being. Around everyone else, especially with Guihua, she is a timid, scared woman, who constantly bows her head, and doesn’t dare defy anyone, or talk back. She’ll constantly go down on her knees, showing how low her status is in the house, and how she accepts it. Xiang Yun hasn’t played a meek woman in quite a while, and although her character isn’t my favourite, I feel she emotes the right feeling. :) Xiang Yun never disappoints.
Lin Meijiao as Guilan:
The evil matriarch whom everyone loves to hate! Her role expects look evil all the time, and she looks very authoritative – she’s a person whom everyone is scared of. She almost NEVER smiles. Lin Meijiao is always great for these roles!
Huang Hui as Tao:
Tao will appear from beginning to end. She’s still alive in 2008. Tao is very crucial as a supporting character, because of her relationship with Juxiang, and later Yueniang. I think Huang Hui did manage to bring out Tao’s personality which is honest, blunt, but caring and also has a sense of justice. She is not afraid of hardship, and is protective of Juxiang, who treated her, a servant, very well. Recently, Huang Hui’s roles weren’t very likeable, but here, I can say that I like her as Tao :) she gives the show the dynamics it needs.
Dai Yangtian as Yamamoto Yousuke (Shanben Yangjie):
He’s Mediacorp’s mainland sign-on, first seen in “Taste of Love 缘之烩” (2007). Yamamoto Yousuke is Juxiang’s hero, the one who is there for her no matter what. He marries her, but their romance is short-lived, as war comes, and he is Japanese and victimised. I’ve been trying to find out more about Dai Yangtian but it isn’t very successful – he was talent spotted before going back to Japan to model, so I guess that’s why his Japanese is quite fluent? Him as Yamamoto Yousuke… well, seeing his performance, I think this role suits him quite well, and the look and the way he speaks makes it very real. Right now, I’m satisfied with his performance, and can’t think of another person to play this role.
Desmond Sim as Charlie Zhang:
The lecherous businessman who swaggers, smirks and is downright perverted! OH GOSH, Desmond Sim’s acting as Charlie Zhang totally creeps me out!! He’s so good! :) it seems SO REAL!
Pierre Png as Chen Sheng:
His role isn’t big at the moment… but I know he’ll marry Meiyu (Apple Hong), but still likes Juxiang, so much so that he’ll help her and her daughter when Yamamoto Yousuke dies… At least he had the cheek to tell his grandmother that he didn’t want to marry Meiyu, but Juxiang, not like Darren, who was so afraid that his father would beat him to death…
Apple Hong as Huang Meiyu:
The good daughter who shows signs of evil-ness, as she is starting to really hate Juxiang, who is better than her at everything. Juxiang even catches the eye of the man she is to marry… leaving her very irritated and discontented.
Darren Lim as Huang Jin Cheng:
It’s a change from when I last saw him in “Love Blossoms” as a guy with no backbone. Although he doesn’t really have backbone here either, his character has some sort of dimension – he’s madly in love with Xiujuan, but he chooses to keep it secret, and does sneaky little acts to keep her interested. his eyes were super creepy.
Cynthia Koh as Xiujuan:
The flirtatious and liberal girl who would give everything for the sake of love. Her ideas and principles do not fit the times, and especially don’t go well in the conservative Peranakan family.
Pan Lingling as Xiufeng:
She’s also English-educated, but isn’t daring like her sister. She’s reserved and shy… it’ll have been nice to see Pan Lingling’s Xiufeng turn evil or something. more exciting, ‘cos now her character is so minor, and so bland and unimportant…
Li Yinzhu as Chen lao-tai:
Hmmm… she’s not evil! and she likes Juxiang… wonder if she will turn evil, or is she supposed to be the nice old lady??
Yan Bingliang as Huang Yuan:
a very grumpy head of the house. he doesn’t tolerate any nonsense, and takes pride that his family is of high standing in Malacca. he refuses to let anyone tarnish his familys’ reputation. I don’t remember Yan Bingliang acting as a rich guy in recent years… but he’s successful as Huang Yuan – he has some sort of authority in the family.
Xiang Yun as Shanben Yueniang (old):
She is supposed to be 60+, and talks slowly. Her voice is a little too kind to sound authoritative, but she carries herself like a very traditional and well-versed elder with poise.
Felicia Chin as Anqi:
The modern woman, who is full of praise for her grandmother’s and Tao’s cooking skills and handicraft. She does not leave much of an impression, although she is the first character who appeared in the series. Her character isn’t special, just a normal girl who chides and laughs at the guy who is serious in wooing her… the modern woman who doesn’t want to think about marriage till she is 30…
Nat Ho as Li Xiuwen:
He followed Anqi back from Canada, as he is wooing her. He is a tourist in Malacca and is enthralled by everything Peranakan – the artifacts, porcelain, food… the entire culture. But he’s a bit OTT – with his explorer outfit on the coach, and really ‘kua zhang’ reactions, especially to Juxiang’s picture. haha. I think he’s very ‘sua ku’.
Although the first episode was a little slow, it gave us insight into the Peranakan culture, and was kind of like a documentary. Subsequent episodes in the 1940s were a little slow, but I realised that it was life in the 1940s, and we’d expect the pace of life to be slower, and especially since it’s in Malaysia, Malacca too!
The set really gave the feeling of a rich Peranakan’s house, and they made the food look delicious, especially the kuehs! Different dimensions were given, like Jincheng’s western way of thinking compared to his traditional and conservative parents… and how Charlie Zhang was despised for ‘moving with the times’ (not to mention that he’s a horrible person!)
I enjoyed the first 4 episodes!!! I appreciated that Dai Yangtian’s Yamamoto Yousuke (Shanben Yangjie) spoke fluent Japanese, and not so fluent and not properly pronouced Mandarin – it gives the feeling that his character is very real, and very current for those times.
I like how they incorporated human trafficking and emphasied how dangerous it was then… it’s a great change from the modern-local dramas we’re so used to now. It’s a breath of fresh air, which is very refreshing!!
I like this drama, and I’m sure it won’t disappoint in its later episodes! Many evil people make the plot exciting and interesting, and a downtrodden, but strong lead who always keeps going and has a fighting spirit to keep her alive to the end of the show. She’ll do unexpected tasks, like saving her family’s business, even though she was ill-treated by them in the beginning.
I really like this drama! The story is engaging, and the acting is impressive! :)
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