Since The Rise of Phoenixes 凰权弈天下 has decided to release stills of the entire main cast, I might as well include some short descriptions for each character.
Co-directed by Shen Yan (The First Half of My Life) and Liu Haibo (Chinese Style Relationship), and scripted by Zou Yue (Guardian of Beauty), Wang Pei (I’m Not A Monster) and Qian Mi (Painted Skin II: The Resurrection, drama ver. Guns and Roses), the 70 episode drama is tentatively scheduled for a late-2018 premiere on Dragon TV and Zhejiang TV.
The original novel chronicles the female protagonist’s journey from a genius young politician to the queen of a powerful kingdom, though the drama has clearly balanced out the plot lines by bringing sixth prince Ning Yi’s story to the forefront. He begins as a supporter of the Crown Prince, only to betray the latter in order to further his own political career.
It’s a given the drama will deviate heavily from the novel; the following descriptions are simply a brief introduction.
Chen Kun as Ning Yi, Prince of Chu
The sixth son of the ruling Emperor, Ning Yi is a shrewd and ambitious prince who has his eyes on the throne. His mother was a mysterious woman from a small tribe, and later killed under charges of witchcraft. With no political connections or supporters, he begins to build his secret network from scratch, and presents himself as a carefree prince whose only objective is to help his older half-brother the crown prince ascend the throne.
All the other princes could be considered his opponents, though the novel makes Ning Yi out to be a complete genius – most of his siblings just didn’t stand a chance. From the drama spoilers released so far, it seems like the Emperor and the Crown Prince will be Ning Yi’s strongest opponents.
Ni Ni as Feng Zhiwei / Wei Zhi
Feng Zhiwei is the unfavoured daughter of the Qiu Family, who is then banished from the clan after being falsely accused of a crime. Zhiwei cross dresses as a man to attend the prestigious Qingming Academy, and joins the royal court under the alias of Wei Zhi.
Zhiwei later discovers that she is not Madam Feng’s biological daughter, but the last princess of a fallen kingdom, which was later conquered by Ning Yi’s father and the current Emperor of the Tiansheng Kingdom. She is forced onto the path of revenge by old subordinates, and breaks off her relationship with Ning Yi.
Zhao Lixin as Xin Ziyan
Xin Ziyan is the most educated man in the kingdom, and is the head tutor of the Qingming Academy, which often serves as the springboard for budding scholars who want to begin a political career. He’s a romantic, and often writes love poems to the prettiest female entertainers in the capital, much to the dismay of his wife.
Unbeknownst to others, he is also a trusted mentor and good friend of Ning Yi, and always has the prince’s best interests at heart. Zhiwei is thankful to Xin Ziyan for recommending her into the academy despite her lowly status, though their relationship sours after Zhiwei finds out he is partly responsible for the death of her foster mother Madam Feng and Helian Zheng.
Ni Dahong as Ning Shizheng, emperor of the Tiansheng Kingdom
A selfish and calculating ruler, he is especially skilled at balancing the different factions in court. The emperor has a tense relationship with all his sons, and is constantly worried that one of them will launch a coup and remove him from the throne. He is especially distrustful of Ning Yi due to his mother’s identity as a ‘witch’, and has never considered him a viable candidate for the position of crown prince.
Yuan Hong as Jin Siyu, Prince of An
As the third prince of the Yue Kingdom, he is determined to take revenge for his father and older brother, who died at the hands of Ning Yi and Helian Zheng’s troops. During a decisive battle at White Head Cliff, he successfully takes Feng Zhiwei hostage, and confines her to his palaces. Strangely enough, Feng Zhiwei doesn’t hold it against him, and instead helps Jin Siyu consolidate his power in court. Jin Siyu begins to appreciate her talent, and develops romantic feelings for Zhiwei.
Wang Ou as Hua Qiong
Hua Qiong is introduced as a daring young lady from a fishing village who falls madly in love with childhood friend and local gentry Yan Huaishi. Aware that the Yan household wouldn’t accept her, she joins Feng Zhiwei in her travels across the land, and later becomes a general of the Tiansheng Kingdom.
Bai Jingting as Gu Nanyi
Gu Nanyi is abandoned on the streets after his father finds out he is autistic, and is taken in by the leader of the Bloody Pagoda, a secret assassin organisation whose main mission is to keep Feng Zhiwei safe. Gu Nanyi only likes to takes note of the surroundings within a one foot three inches radius (judging from the stills, the drama’s decided to keep that trait). He views the heroine as the most important person in his life, and learns to understand feelings of happiness, disappointment, and eventually (unrequited) love.
Zhang Xiaochen as Helian Zheng
The heir to a nomadic tribe, Helian Zheng isn’t one to follow the rules, and is unafraid to display his affections for Feng Zhiwei. After the emperor discovers Feng Zhiwei is the descendant of a fallen kingdom, he promises her hand in marriage to Helian Zheng, as a way of making sure the tribes remain loyal to the Tiansheng Kingdom. Helian Zheng is eventually assassinated by Feng Zhiwei’s enemies once the latter’s revenge plans are discovered.
Liu Mintao as Qiu Mingying / Madam Feng
Madam Feng is the wife of Gu Heng (who assumes the identity of Master Qiu), leader of the assassins tasked with protecting Feng Zhiwei. She takes the heroine in as her own daughter, and later sacrifices herself and her biological son once the emperor starts to suspect Zhiwei’s true identity.
Hai Yitian as Ning Chuan, crown prince of the Tiansheng Kingdom. He was pretty useless in the original novel – fingers crossed Ning Chuan is smarter in the drama.
Xu Hao as Princess Shaoning, beloved daughter of the emperor. She despises Ning Yi for bringing down Ning Chuan, her only biological brother.
He Lei as Ning Cheng, Ning Yi’s loyal bodyguard
Wang Ce as Gu Yan, Gu Nanyi’s biological father. Originally the second-in-command, he betrays his organisation and joins the Tiansheng Kingdom as head of the royal guards.
Hou Yansong as Zhao Yuan (original character). Most likely a powerful official.
Xu Jian as Yan Huaishi, Hua Qiong’s husband and leader of the Yan clan.
Qu Gaowei as Ning Qi (original character). Possibly another cunning prince.
Shi An as Ning Sheng, second prince of the Tiansheng Kingdom. Ambitious and cruel, he is a key contender for the throne.
Yu Mingjia as Noble Consort Chang. She is ordered to raise Ning Yi after the death of his mother, though the two have a strained relationship.