WORD OF HONOR: PRESENTING THE ROMANCE THROUGH TRADITIONAL WUXIA TROPES.
There is a reason why to the Chinese audience, WenZhou's relationship is indisputably romantic. It's because there are very specific visual cues used to show romance in wuxia, and WOH uses the exact same visual language on WenZhou. These tropes are blatantly recognizable from the wuxia/guzhuang dramas we all grew up watching.
1. Fated meeting in a peach blossom forest.
Although in this case, fate has a name and it is Wen Kexing.
2. Sucking poison from the other's shoulder.
Worth mentioning that in the book, the wound was on Zhou Zishu's arm. The drama deliberately took it up a notch and chose the more tropey version.
3. When the disguise (usually the female lead disguised as a man) is removed, the love interest can't stop staring.
Later on (ep 13) there is a scene where Zhou Zishu is trying on a fake beard that looks exactly like the ones female leads use to disguise themselves.
4. Spinning together in mid-air during a fight, the love interest's hands on the other's waist. Slow motion. Eyes firmly locked together.
Usually male lead saving the female lead. For example, there is a very similar scene between Yang Guo and Xiao Longnv from Condor Heroes. In fact, if you've seen it, you'll recognize similarities between the visual cues used for the two couples.
5. Martial siblings falling in love.
Yes, this is a common thing in wuxia. And no, it is not incest, nor does it make the dynamic any less romantic. What the hell. Martial siblings are often coded as romantic in wuxia, and there are actual examples in the show itself: Wen Kexing's parents were shixiong/shimei and Gao Xiaolian eventually married her shixiong, Deng Kuan.
6. One of them getting kidnapped (usually the female lead) by their sect/family and the love interest swooping in dramatically to save them.
And yes, riding on the same horse.
7. One of them is from an evil/unorthodox sect and it causes problems for the couple. The person is hailed as a villain and the other one challenges all of jianghu to stand by their beloved.
Their confrontation with Ye Baiyi is also a good example: Zhou Zishu defending Wen Kexing despite him being the Ghost Valley Master and choosing to die with him instead letting Ye Baiyi kill him alone. Going against the jianghu is a common trial for lovers in wuxia. Yang Guo and Xiao Longnv went through something similar as well.
8. The male lead fixing the female lead's hair and putting a hairpin on it. Then she looks at her reflection on bronze mirror. This usually happens the morning after the wedding night
This is a very blatant romance trope in guzhuang, so much that I instinctively went "they got married??" when I first saw it. A lot of us were surprised this even made it in. They even had a lingering shot of Zhou Zishu smiling at a bronze mirror!
9. Falling off a cliff together, or one falling and the other jumping in immediately to save them.
WOH gave us both versions. The first one was before they found Senior Long (which also gave us another common trope: the couple spending time in a cave while the other is injured/knocked out) and the cliff scene in the latter episodes where Zhou Zishu jumps in after Wen Kexing.
10. Dual Cultivation to save/heal the other.
Know who else cultivated in a cold place and also ended up as immortal lovers after going through trials and tribulations for each other? Yang Guo and Xiao Longnv again! (Yes, I am a big fan of Condor Heroes) arguably the most famous couple in wuxia. If you've seen the wucai bros reaction series, they all clapped and said "It's just like in Condor Heroes! They are immortal lovers!"
There is honestly a lot more, depending on how detailed you want to get. The point is that it wasn't just the flirting, the hugs, or the poetry. Wen Kexing and Zhou Zishu's relationship itself was presented in the visual language of traditional wuxia romance, but this time in a love story between two men. WenZhou was written in the language of love.
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