“Word Of Honor” (山河令) – the first competitor of “Boy love 101” (a term referring to dramas adapted from Chinese boy love novels) – has started airing since February 22nd, 2021. Since neither the main actors nor the original novel are particularly popular, no one really has any expectations about it. The drama turns out to be a dark horse when exceeding score 8 on Douban (which is quite a good score) and being a hot topic on the Internet.
How it starts
What I thought about the 1st film in “Boy love 101”
What it actually is
I haven’t watched any bromance/ BL drama ever since “Addicted/Shangyin” (which literally happened in 2016) yet “Word Of Honor” just drags me back to this obsession, because of one single picture…
He is beyond BEAU.TI.FUL!
I don’t read Priest’s original novel “Faraway Wanderers,” hence have the same misunderstanding as almost everyone does when going through some couple scenes in the first episodes: that beautiful talkative man (Wen Kexing) is the bottom and the beggar (Zhou Zishu) is definitely the top.
I can’t be more wrong.
I accidentally see that beautiful picture of Zhou Zishu when scrolling through my news feed and realize that I’m totally scammed. I’ve given up reading/ watching BL works for a long time, but there is a background note that “flirty and thick-skinned top vs. strong and miserable bottom” is my not-so-secret BL fetish.
Then, whatever has to happen, happens.
I’m so hooked since I realize that “Word Of Honor” is not all about the sweet and bold bromance details, but the plot, the wuxia elements, and the acting are worth watching. Thus, I’m here ranting and raving about this drama.
Note: This article was written when the drama was airing and it doesn’t present my thorough view of the whole drama. Read more at
- Zhang Zhehan and “Word Of Honor” Zhou Zishu – A Perspective on Gender Perception.
- Thoughts on Zhou Zishu and The Ending of “Word Of Honor.”
In order to quit his leadership role at an assassin organization tasked with protecting royalty, Zhou Zishu/ Ah Xu (played by Zhang Zhehan) has to go through deadly torture and only has three years to live. The plot about one person that is dying is too good to be true for all the suckers for angst like me!!!
Wen Kexing (played by Gong Jun), the master of the ghost valley, runs into Zhou Zishu and is keen to get close to him since the beginning. Wen Kexing follows Zhou Zishu everywhere and floods him with all sweet flirty words. Knowing that he is a dying person, Zhou Zishu is unwilling to give Wen Kexing any extra response.
The shift in the relationship between the two probably starts when Wen Kexing plays flute all night near the riverside to help heal Zhou Zishu’s internal damages. Since that moment, there is less avoidance seen from Zhou Zishu. It could be said that it’s Zhou Zishu who gradually allows Wen Kexing to follow him.
Wen Kexing is from the Ghost valley and barely understands the human world. He dwells in hatred and tragic past for so long that even when his feelings are sincere, there is something still missing. He initiates the relationship and names it “soulmate,” but Zhou Zishu is the one who understands the meaning of soulmates without uttering a word.
When deciding to open up his heart, Zhou Zishu lets Wen Kexing see the true self that he has been hiding. His ugly mask isn’t wiped off by the water, he deliberately removes it. In return, he asks for Wen Kexing’s honesty, which is hinted in his lines “When will you stop making me guess?”, “You will tell me when you want to, but if you don’t want to tell, it’s meaningless even if I ask.”
Zhou Zishu and Wen Kexing’s relationship is mutual, which is in contrast with what it appears to be. It’s just the ways of expressing are different between the two. After overcoming many obstacles together, they realize that there is a soulmate who cares for them and many things they can do in this world. It makes Wen Kexing more human-like and Zhou Zishu who is expecting death reluctant to die.
If you’ve finished the drama, this is the article for you: Thoughts on Zhou Zishu and The Ending of “Word Of Honor.”
I think It’s a pity that Zhou Zishou has slightly lower attention than Wen Kexing at the begining. It has something to do with the early character design and interpretation. Compared with Zhou Zishu’s sloppy beggar image, the flashy and elegant image of Wen Kexing is more pleasing to the eyes.
In addition, the drama world tends to favor extroverted characters that are crafted with attractive “half evil half good” characteristics like Wen Kexing. The plot focuses on his flirty lines while also emphasizes his madness and ruthlessness. Meanwhile, Zhou Zishu seems to be calmer and more reserved with a mask of hidden emotions which is more complicated to be portrayed and harder to be empathized with.
Some novel fans complain about how Zhou Zishu has been excessively weakened and OOC. Many of Zhou Zishu’s lines are given to Wen Kexing, and the mutual flirting lines have been changed into a single person’s flirt. The drama version’s Zhou Zishu is not as aggressive as in the novel.
In a recent interview, the “Word Of Honor” screenwriter shares that she deliberately designs him to be colder and more introverted so that the interactions between the two will be more interesting. After taking off his guard, Zhou Zishu will talk more and become more lively.
She also admits that Zhou Zishu is much more difficult to write since Wen Kexing has a strong personality that is easier to shine. Wen’s main purpose is revenge which is straightforward and easy to be understood by audiences. Meanwhile, Zhou Zishu is extremely complicated. He has a deep and solemn soul with so many layers piled up. Especially the film script explores and changes a bit of his background leaving him with so much to hide, to let go of, and to think about.
The screenwriter clarifies that it is not true that Zhou Zishu has less screen time than Wen Kexing does. Zhou Zishu’s characteristics will be more complete, as well as his background and his relationship with the assassin organization will be fully elaborated in later episodes.
The actors have performed well portraying the characters’ inner thoughts and creating such good chemistry. While Gong Jun has some epic stages to perform Wen Kexing’s prominent characteristics, I personally prefer Zhang Zhehan’s fragile gazes and soft aura which are hardly found in his previous roles and in contrast with his personality in real life. Because of Zhou Zishu’s introverted nature, he uses small movements and details to express the character’s innermost feelings and smoothly describe their transitions.
If you love Zhou Zishu, this is the article for you: Zhang Zhehan and “Word Of Honor” Zhou Zishu – A Perspective on Gender Perception.
Lastly, let’s be honest, we can’t just ignore all the bold BL hints in the drama.
After the huge success of BL drama “Addicted/Heroin/Shang Yin” which caused two male leads to be banned from mainstream media for a period of time, there is a restriction applied to dramas of this theme. Filmmakers have been more conscious about the risks but also can’t ignore the huge demand from the fangirls. They try to tone down the BL elements, thus, leads to the rise of bromance-themed dramas which are BL dramas in disguise.
When fans are getting used to appreciating the slightest bromance hints, “Word Of Honor” makes us all feel overwhelmed with its bold hints.
The interactions between the two male leads are too intimate to the point that I don’t know if I should be happy or worried about the drama being taken down because it’s too gay.
Wen Kexing’s tender eyes never leave Zhou Zishu regardless of when he is wearing the beggar mask or going with his real beautiful face.
When asked “Who is the cutest person in the world?”, Wen Kexing looks at Zhou Zishu replies with such a gay statement: “A person with a slim waist, long legs, who is tough on the surface but soft at heart.”
Do I deserve to see this? For free?