I felt a sense of foreboding before writing this article. Something kept me on edge, and at times, I couldn’t find the right words. I wasn’t entirely convinced that what I wrote could do justice to this masterpiece. Some stories leave you with a lifetime of memories, and for me, Winter Begonia will always be one of them. The Japanese invasion of Beiping bought an onslaught of problems for our main leads Cheng Feng Tai and Shang Xi Rui. But they can’t be soulmates if they don’t stand beside each other and fight every battle together. Let’s review the finale episodes and follow their bittersweet journey.
—Edited by TheFNGee
Cheng Feng Tai brings a despondent Shang Xi Rui to Shun Yui House, who requests that he wants to rest for a while. As the troupe members kick up a frenzy about Shang Xi Rui not performing, Cheng Feng Tai puts them in line and orders them to let Xi Rui rest. Shang Xi Rui walks into the middle of the market place and is tormented by the memories of his performances. His followers find him there and crowd in on him. His ears start ringing again, but Cheng Feng Tai reaches there in time and saves him from the crowd. On the other hand, Xi Rui’s foster father, Commissioner Liu Han Yun, has a conversation with his new lackey, La Yue Hang. For some reason, Yue Hang poisons Han Yun’s mind against Xi Rui.
Rumors spread about a white ghost haunting Shui Yun House, and while everyone is worried, Cheng Feng Tai listens to the news very calmly. At night, he steps inside the theater, and as he had deduced, it is Shang Xi Rui in white robes rehearsing his lines. Cheng Feng Tai talks to him about his mental block and tries to convince him that nothing is wrong with his hearing ability. But it is Shang Xi Rui, and he imagines things differently. So he climbs onto the rooftop of Shui Yun House and decides that jumping off the rooftop would be the requisite shock required to treat his mental shock. At times, I really don’t understand this character. As he jumps, Cheng Feng Tai rushes forward and breaks Xi Rui’s fall. Hearing this news, Mrs. Cheng rushes to Shui Yun House and forcefully tries to take Feng Yi with him. Xi Rui begs and tries to reason with her. But she isn’t convinced, later Cheng Feng Tai promises her and she relents.
To cure Shang Xi Rui’s hearing disability, Cheng Feng Tai takes him to the hunting grounds and pretends to get accosted by fake bandits. I have no idea how this suddenly cures Shang Xi Rui, but the ensuing chase to beat Cheng Feng Tai is damn hilarious. Shang Xi Rui decides to perform again, but he keeps getting anxious. Cheng Feng Tai steps forward, and his sincere words convince Xi Rui to perform once again. While Xi Rui is performing, a disguised La Yue Hong enters the theater and shoots him. Shang Xi Rui is rushed to the hospital, and Feng Tai spends the entire night caring for him. After Xi Rui wakes up, he confirms that it was Yue Hong who shot him.
Next, La Yue Hong walks to the Jiang Mansion. He seems like a man on a mission and finds a drunken Jiang Deng Bao on the doorstep. The next morning, Xi Rui wakes to hear about Deng Bao’s death. At the same time, Yue Hong barges into Publisher Xue Qianshans’ office to shoot him. But Yue Hong is faced with his elder sister Liu Yuehong, who is Xue Qianshan’s wife. She tries to convince him, and when he doesn’t listen, he’s shot in the ensuing scuffle.
Finally, Xue Qianshan meets with both our main leads and tells them about Commissioner Liu Yun Han’s plan to kill all the Japanese Supporters. Si Xi Er has turned into a lunatic because of the obvious shortage of medicine Penicillin. When Xi Rui learns that he is begging on the streets, he goes out to offer him food. Although Xi Er went out of his way to make life difficult for Xi Rui, he still shows sympathy to Xi Er.
Taking stock of the current situation, Shang Xi Rui requests Cheng Feng Tai to film his performances. Cheng Feng Tai is stunned but also happy and eagerly film Xi Rui’s opera performances. Xi Rui also decides to resolve his issues with President Jiang and requests him to film his Fairy footwork. Jiang instead solemnly tells Shang Xi Rui to kowtow before him. He accepts Xi Rui as his successor to the Fairy Footwork.
As Cheng Feng Tai leaves on a journey to meet Cao Gui Xiu, Cha Chaer misunderstands the situation. She grows desperate, thinking that her brother is helping the Japanese and even shoots at him. Feng Tai leaves from Beiping feeling desolate. On the other hand, Xi Rui’s elder brother gets him embroiled in another controversy with the Japanese. He requests help to send his scholar friend out of Beiping, and Xi Rui agrees. Si Xi Er dies, and they use his funeral as an excuse to help Shang Long Sheng’s friend. But Xi Rui learns later that they are actually smuggling boxes of Penicillin. He has no other choice but to request help from Kujo Kazuma Jr. Kujo helps him, but the onlookers start calling Xi Rui out as a traitor. Later as they take a stroll, Long Sheng apologizes and reveals Xi Rui’s true identity. He begs Xi Rui to search for his family and leave the Opera. Shang Xi Rui accepts that he already knows the truth and refuses to leave.
Cheng Feng Tai meets Cao GuiXio, who proposes a plan to blow up the Liuxiandong bridge and use the opportunity to kill Colonel Kujo. Feng Tai returns home to the news of Cha Chaer’s disappearance. He gets the news of Japanese shipping some teenage girls and goes to take a look. Shang Xi Rui goes along, but Cha Chaer’s isn’t among the girls. The girls beg them for help, and Xi Rui intervenes. In the ensuing fight, Cheng Feng Tai is hurt. Xi Rui rushes him to the hospital and takes care of him.
Cheng Feng Tai has to leave for their proposed plan to kill Kujo. Shang Xi Rui is worried and gets ready to perform his new play in front of Feng Tai before he leaves. But at the last moment, he grows emotional and drags Feng Tai out of the theater. They have a long conversation where Xi Rui shares his concerns about the future of Chinese Opera. Cheng Feng Tai promises to support him no matter what. On his way to Liuxiandong, Feng Tai stops in the mountains. Gu Da Li gives birth to a son and sends him off with Feng Tai to Cao Gui Xia. Feng Tai safely hands over Da Li’s son to Gui Xia. He then proceeds to the Japanese camp, where he finally meets Colonel Kujo. Kujo is tempted to use the Liuxiandong bridge and falls prey to Feng Tai’s pretense. He leads them off as Cao Gui Xia successfully blows up the bridge. In the ensuing battle, Gu Da Li is killed. Cheng Feng Tai is bought back in an almost dead state. As soon as the news reaches Xi Rui, he rushes to Cheng Mansion. Mrs. Cheng at first tries to stop him, but when he persists, she allows him inside. In the following days, Xi Rui doesn’t leave his side and takes care of Feng Tai. He even goes to the extent of handing the control of Shui Yun House to his apprentice Zhou Xiang Jun.
Colonel Sakata visits Cheng Feng Tai, and in a rage, Xi Rui stabs him. He is arrested and tortured. But popular Chinese artists and media people rally together, and finally, the Japanese are forced to let Xi Rui out of prison. As soon as Feng Tai wakes up, Xi Rui leaves his side and stays away from Cheng Feng Tai. Finally, Cheng Feng Tai decides to leave Hong Kong with his family. Mrs. Cheng, who has finally accepted their friendship, gives an extra ticket for Xi Rui. She suggests that they should take Xi Rui with them. But unfortunately, Xi Rui doesn’t accept, and they part ways. The ending credits show that Cheng Feng Tai and the other rich men provided donations to support the Chinese Army silently. The Chinese Army successfully defeats the Japanese Army and reacquires control over Beiping.
Chemistry Between the Main Leads
The finale episodes served as a reminder to Cheng Feng Tai’s love and devotion to Shang Xi Rui. From consoling Xi Rui to standing up to his troupe members, Cheng Feng Tai absolutely treasures Xi Rui’s health and happiness. Even when Xi Rui goes into a frenzy and jumps off the rooftop, Cheng Feng Tai is more worried about the sprain in Xi Rui’s leg than anything else. He even argues with Mrs. Cheng and goes onto support Shang Xi Rui. He understands that Feng Yi is the only one keeping Xi Rui sane.
No matter how many times Shang Xi Rui falls down, Cheng Feng Tai is always there to pick him up and lead him back to the stage. The kind of love they both share transcends beyond time and is beautiful. When Shang Xi Rui was shot by La Hue Yong, you can see the obvious pain and worry on Feng Tai’s face.
When Xi Rui donates food and clothing to an insane Si Xi Er, Cheng Feng Tai asks him the reason for being so kind. Xi Rui solemnly replies that he is hoping that in the future, someone will extend him the same courtesy. For some reason, Feng Tai is enraged by this and shouts at Xi Rui for imagining a future where Feng Tai wouldn’t help Xi Rui.
In the later episode, Xi Rui drags Cheng Feng Tai out of the theater and expresses concern over his future. Cheng Feng Tai confesses that he will always stand beside Xi Rui no matter what happens. Xi Rui expresses his wish to sing, and right there in the middle of the road, they share a long look where their feelings for each other are quite obvious. After Cheng Feng Tai leaves, Xi Rui goes into seclusion and decides that he won’t perform until Feng Tai returns.
However, Xi Rui’s true feelings are revealed when Cheng Feng Tai is on his death bed. He goes into a frenzy when Mrs. Cheng doesn’t allow him to meet him. Finally, Master Du Qi and Xue Qianshan have to intervene. He stays beside Cheng Feng Tai and doesn’t budge even when his apprentice comes to him with the financial troubles at Shui Yun House. Feng Tai is the most important person in his life, and he won’t lose hope even though everyone else does.
When Feng Tai wakes up, Xi Rui walks away and doesn’t even talk to him. Everyone is surprised at his behavior. When Cheng Feng Tai finally calls him, Xi Rui ends up crying, and they both feel emotional. When Feng Tai goes to discuss their travel plans, he realizes that Xi Rui has already decided to stay in Beiping. I almost cried when they shake hands and bid farewell to each other. I really don’t understand Shang Xi Rui’s decision to stay back, but I’m guessing he doesn’t want to cause any more problems for Cheng Feng Tai. The finale episode broke my heart, but obviously, every story is not destined to have a happy ending. Here’s leaving you with some beautiful stills of Shang Xi Rui, the Opera Maestro who stole everyone’s hearts with his indomitable spirit!
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars [See our Review Guide]