C-drama Feature: The Long Ballad (2021). Plot Summary and Review

The Long Ballad is a 2021 Chinese historical/wuxia drama directed by Zhu Rui Bin. The story is based on the manhua (Chinese anime, equivalent to Japanese manga) series, "Chang Ge Xing", created by artist, Xia Da. 

It stars two of the most irresistible celebrities from mainland China today, Dilraba Dilmurat and Leo Wu, known for his Chinese name, Wu Lei.

Leo Wu Lei and Dilraba Dilmurat

The Long Ballad is set during the early period of the Tang dynasty in China. In a troubled time where power struggle, tribal wars, palace intrigues, rival claimants and political plot were prevalent in the realm.

Reba and Wu Lei during filming

Plot Summary:

The story sets in the year 626 C.E (common era), at the beginning of the reign of Emperor Taizong, the second ruler of the Tang dynasty of the imperial House of Li.

The series starts with the palace tension due to court intrigues and opposing loyalty of court ministers to two royal brothers, Li Jiancheng, the Crown Prince, and his younger brother, Li Shimin.

Dilireba as Li Changge and Wu Lei as Ashile Sun

However, despite the royal brothers' rivalry for the throne, their two daughters, Changge/Princess Yongning (Dilraba) and Leyan (Zhao Lusi) are best friends, treating each other as blood sisters.

Li Shimin also doted Changge, treating her as his own daughter, providing her with training and education equivalent to male royals. He also taught her advance skills in martial arts and warcraft strategies.

Wu Lei and Dilraba, in The Long Ballad

One day, a successful palace coup takes place in the Xuanwu gate, killing Li Jiancheng, his five sons and his wife. However, his only daughter, Li Changge, manages to escape.

Changge needs to stay alive to avenge the murder of her family and discover who is behind the palace conspiracy, by relying on her martial arts skills military knowledge taught by her uncle.

Dilraba Dilmurat as Li Changge

Following the bloody incident in the Xuanwu gate, Chang’an, the capital city, has shaken to its core. 

Palace guards and the ministers take an oath of allegiance to Li Shimin, who would eventually become Emperor Taizong.

Changge disguises herself as a man to evade the pursuing palace guards who are hell-bent in capturing her after she stole the seal of the Crown Prince. 

In her journey to seek revenge, she moves to different places in the kingdom to ask help from her father's remaining allies to raise an army and overthrow her uncle.

Dilraba crossdressing in The Long Ballad

In her journey to the north of the country to seek shelter, she encounters a handsome tribal prince, Ashile Sun (Wu Lei), the leader of the Eagle division of the Ashile tribe which houses the most elite soldiers  and powerful cavalry of the tribe.

Leo Wu as Ashile Sun

He is also the adopted son, and the favorite, of Yanli Khan (played by Jin Song), the leader of the Ashile tribe of the Eastern Turkic Khaganate.

During his encounter with Changge, he introduces himself as A'Zhun (and she as Li Shisi) to hide his true identity. 

He also disguises himself as a merchant traveling around the realm selling goods to spy on the military activities of the imperial Tang in key cities.

While he initially thought Changge as a boy, he discovers soon that she is actually a female. 

A secret he kept from his people in the Ashile tribe to uncover the mystery of why she is pursued by the palace guards.

Scene in the series

As he attends to his business of secretly spying on the military movements of Tang, he becomes intrigue with Changge as they kept bumping on each other from town to town. 

He eventually becomes her protector against her tormentors as they move from one place to another. He also secretly discovers she is the stowaway daughter of the slain Crown Prince.

After the betrayal of Li Yuan in Youzhou whom Changge trusted, she moves to the Shuo kingdom where she wins the trust of Gongsun Heng, the kingdom's feudal officer. 

Gongsun Heng employs her as his registrar and later, as his army general after noticing her unique military skills and political knowledge. 

As Commandant Li, Changge successfully leads the Shuo army on a war against the Ashile tribe.

But her plans are thrown into disarray when she suffers an unexpected defeat from the Bear division of the Ashile tribe. 

To spare the land from further bloodsheds, Gongsun Heng decided to sacrifice himself and forges a secret peace agreement with Ashile Sun, to spare the city from further bloodsheds and keep the people safe.

Heng believes Ashile Sun is the most sensible, who has a strong desire for peace, among the military leaders of the Ashile tribe. 

Wu Lei as Ashile Sun

The lone city of Shouzhou eventually fails and Changge fulfills the last wish of Gongsun Heng to surrender in order to prevent further killings.

Upon uncovering the true identity of the Eagle division's general as her friend A'Zhun, Changge obviously becomes heartbroken but she tries to suppress her heartbreaks and disappointment by appearing steadfast in front of Sun. 

To protect Changge from enemies, Sun decides to take her into his custody to keep her safe. He later made her his military strategist.

Unlike the rest of the Ashile tribe, Sun has a gentle character, gallant, generous, down-to-earth and has a soft heart for the downtrodden and the victims of abuse. 

However, in the middle of their pursuit to win battle, get rid of enemies and restore peace and justice in the realm, Sun and Changge slowly develop feelings for each other.

But danger continues to lurk. 

Just as they thought they can finally live in peace, a more dangerous enemy, who has been secretly gathering loyal supporters, is launching a siege to overthrow the Tang dynasty and restore the Sui dynasty.

The Series

The first episode of the series starts with a bang as it shows the intense game match between the Tang faction (lead by Changge) and the Ashile tribe (lead by Ashile Sun) in a football match called Cuju game. At this encounter, they did not know each other as they are wearing a face mask.

Days later, a palace coup occurred in the Xuanwu gate, killing the Crown Prince's family. Li Changge, who has been sent away early on by her mother to a different town (but decided to come back) manages to escape.

Wu Lei and Dilraba in The Long Ballad

It begins the epic adventure of our heroine to seek revenge for her family's murder and to overthrow the reign of her uncle, Emperor Taizong. She has infuriated the palace ministers also for stealing the seal of the Crown Prince.

To evade the palace guards, she disguises herself as a boy. But along the way, she meets a handsome tribal military leader, Ashile Sun, who becomes her friend and protector against her tormentors.

Unknown to the princess, Ashile Sun is an enemy. He is the adopted son of the Great Khan, the head of the Ashile tribe, which has been raging war against the Tang dynasty.

Dilraba Dilmurat as a Tang dynasty princess in The Long Ballad

In the course of her adventure to seek allies from her father's remaining allies, Changge suffers tragedies, conspiracies, betrayals and painful defeat.

But it's the same journey of revenge also that allows her to find her sense of purpose, her true love and emotional healing. 

Though she and Ashile Sun undergo a series of heartbreaking moments due to their opposing loyalties, they are drawn closer to each other by their common longing for peace and their undying love. 

Ashile Sun and Changge carrying baby Yuan on a separate scene

Apart from the romance story of Ashile Sun and Li Changge, two more love stories evolve in the series, Mu Jin (Ashile Sun's right hand) and Mimi Guli. Princess Leyan (cousin of Li Changge and daughter of the new emperor) and Hao Du, the palace's general.

My review.

This is a revenge story in full combat drama, sets in a beautiful backdrop story of romance between two warriors from rival clans who eventually fall in love, which makes it more thrilling and exciting.

A story of gallantry, loyalty, personal atonement, emotional healing, and self-sacrifice to protect loved ones and the country.


I love how the story evolves. Fast-paced. Scenes quickly progress per episode, not dragging like other historical C-drama. 

There are also no complicated subplots or story arcs, nor irritating loads of characters that come and go per episode. The flow of the story is very straightforward and fast-moving, making sequences filled with thrill.

Our hot couple, Dilraba Dilmurat and Leo Wu Lei, in The Long Ballad

The Long Ballad has a strong character female lead, something I really love because it sends an empowering message to women that, in the story of wars and survival, women can rise above the occasions and not just sidelined by men in power.

Li Changge is such a powerful character in this story. She exudes charm, wit, intelligence, and breathtaking beauty, and possesses a unique martial arts skill that can overshadow men.

She is mentally and physically strong, armed with fierce determination to protect people, her loved ones, friends and the legacy of the Tang dynasty.

She takes many dangerous adventures and endures tons of sufferings, and always on the brink of death, but she rises above all the tribulations to seek justice for her slain family. And in the passing of time, fighting for justice and peace in the realm.

Her very strong demeanor is highly impressive. However, in the end, it's the love and desire for a peaceful life that ultimately healed her and gave her a sense of purpose. 

She finally discovers the truth behind the death of her mother. And finds forgiveness in her heart. She starts calling the emperor, uncle again.

Ashile Sun is one of the best drama character heroes I've seen in recent years. Well, aside from his cuteness and sexy eyes, he exudes a sense of fairness in the world where the only way to survive is to fight the oppressors. He is a strong character with unbending principles of justice.

I love how he becomes Changge's "knight in the shining armor" despite coming from a rival clan. I love how he is being portrayed as a gallant military general who desires for peace.

I love this part of the story of a drama hero who is fierce on the exterior but soft on the interior but never boisterous and remain humble. A hero with an amiable personality and yet not careless. And his being romantic is subtle and gallant.

Behind the scene

Despite their strong patriotic instincts to defend their clans, Ashile Sun and Changge chose to fight for their feelings, which at first resulted to many heartbreaking moments. Nonetheless, love conquers all. In the end, they chose love over power ambition.

I really love Wu Lei here. He is such a cutie. He has the sexiest eyes I've ever seen that channel emotions, what he feels and what's inside his mind and heart. 

You could tell how he really feels the way he expresses his eyes. Wu Lei wears his heart through his eyes. 🥰

Wu Lei and Dilireba during live streaming

I love how he portrays his role as a great warrior that protects loved ones and friends. 

Wu Lei's stare is a lady killer. And he maximizes it to the best advantage in this series, making him an irresistible personification of chivalry and romance. 

I also love how the character of Leyan (Zhao Lu Si) revolves. From being a weak and dependent girl, relying on the strength of her cousin, Changge, and eventually becoming a strong woman who knows her role in life and how to protect the people she values.

I love Leyan's loyalty to Changge, despite the hatred and rivalry that tear their family apart, she remains devoted to her cousin and willing to do everything just to ensure Changge is safe.

I love the progress of the primary characters here, and how the sequences of events and conflicts are wrapped up and resolved in the final episodes. The antagonists become remorseful, like Ashile Sher, except his mother, Princess Yicheng, who still desires for revenge and power.

I love how the characters let go of their personal grievances, and how they reconcile with families and live in peace. Logic is clear and the flow of events remains loyal to the material of the story.

The Long Ballad strongly emphasizes the value of women in the society, the potential and strength that women could possibly possessed to change the world. And the value of mothers in the heart of warriors - like the relationship of Ashile Sun to his mother.

There are tons of great wisdom imparted by this series to the viewers. Reconciliation, forgiveness, willingness to change, the value of peace, everyone's strong desire for freedom. And our personal fight for that one great love.


As with most series and films, I also have misgivings in this drama. 

I feel that this is a very good material story that has potentials to become a classic historical series, however, it looks like scenes are forcefully compressed in just 49 episodes when it could have been broaden. As a result, per episode looks like done in rush.

The love story between Leyan and Hao Du sounds like a big joke. In episode 1, he is portrayed as a cold-blooded palace guard who easily kills people. 

Wei Shuyu, Leyan and Hao Du
Zhao Lusi as Leyan

Changge even warned Leyan never to get close with Hao Du. He also plays one of the tormentors of Changge. His character is somewhat annoying because it lacks gallantry.

Liu Yuning as Hao Du

I thought Leyan would end up with the more gentleman and chivalric Wei Shuyu (Fang Yilun), a character I believe is more deserving to marry an imperial princess and not the irritating Hao Du. 

Feng Yilun as Wei Shuyu

Despite the redemption of Hao Dau where he became a changed man due to his love for the princess, and reconciled with Changge, I still can't accept Leyan ended up with him. Felt pity with Wei Shuyu who ended up with no one.

I don't like also the editing of the series. The integration of anime is just so poor in today's drama standard. I mean why using such  comics material in a series when the production could choose to shoot the actual scene?

It sabotaged the exciting experience of watching this beautiful drama, putting the series in such a bad light. 

The series has an odd finale. 

Ashile Sun releasing an eagle

Look. Despite declaring their intention to marry and their desire to go together for an adventure elsewhere where they could live in peace, our hot couple looks like gone separate ways.

Like, oh, come on! Is this a joke? I mean, what is this all about? Why are they implied to be in a different location? In the manhua series, Changge and Sun really got married, however, in the finale of The Long Ballad it is another way around. 

They did not.

The final scene shows our hot prince, Ashile Sun, riding his horse in a countryside at nearly twilight, releasing a bird, and looking up at the soft golden sky. 

Then the next sequence shows Changge in a separate location, standing in the vast field, staring at the bird (was it the same bird released by A'Sun?) that passes at her.

Nonetheless, the final scene shows, Changge and Sun fulfill their wish to go to the grasslands. And find peace living in the countryside. 

Dilraba confirmed this scene when she posted in her weibo account, imparting a message to her character:

"After you go to the grasslands, I hope you are not busy around running...Eat warm meals and mutton legs".


Despite my disappointment on the finale, I am satisfied with the fact that our hot couple finally finds peace and healing they long been desired. 

I just wish there's Season 2 to justify this hanging finale 😀

Overall, The Long Ballad is an exciting C-drama to watch, one of the best in recent years. Coherent flow of scenes, not dragging, and there's no complex subplots, it's very straightforward and fast-paced. And it has fight scenes that are exciting to watch. 

I like how each episode is presented, there's always thrill because every scene has something exciting to offer and reveal. 

I also love the wisdom this series imparted. So many realization and lessons to learn. The message of peace and forgiveness, redemption and acceptance. And a true love worthy to die for.

I love the idea of living in the countryside, so the longing of Changge and Sun to be in the grasslands (countryside) is something I can relate.

And the mystery of our hot boy, Ashile Sun's real feelings for Li Changge, is something of a sweet candy to nibble. Girls might have wished now they have Ashile Sun in their lives. 😄💖

Dilireba and Wu Lei during filming

I also love how the primary characters wrapped up. Complex personal issues are resolved satisfyingly. Ashile She'r, has his atonement and recognizes Sun's strong leadership, and desire for peace.

No major tragic losses for our beloved casts, except for Mimi who died defending Changge, however in the original manhua her character really needed to die. So the series remains loyal to the original material. Though I find it a bit sad because Mu Jin ended up heartbroken.

What does "Long Ballad" represents?

Speaking of the title, The Long Ballad, perhaps it is an English translation of the original manhua series where this drama is based "Chang Ge Xing",  which means "Long Song". 

Perhaps it also described the longings of the characters' to see their homelands in peace, live in the countryside, or in the grasslands as free people.

At one point, Li Changge took leaves and blew it to produce a melody. And also Ashile Sun, took a musical instrument like a saxophone  and played it while implying to live in a peaceful land with Changge.

The Long Ballad perhaps  means a " song of longing" of the characters to live in harmony and peace in the countryside.

The Long Ballad is such a fascinating historical drama. Very worthy of our time. it has 49 episodes with each full episode running for 45 minutes.

In many review sites, viewers gave it a rating of 9.5 in the scale of 10. And the primary casts' performances with perfect 10. 

I would rate it 9.6 (because finale episode is hanging) but perfect 10 for lead characters. Dilraba Dilmurat and Leo Wu really did an incredible job here.

The series is available to watch in Rakuten Viki. Just click the tab, Episodes, in the link. But you cannot access this in the mobile platform, you need to copy paste the link in a desktop for the web version.

But you can watch the full episode for free in YouTube through China Huace TV channel. LINK HERE

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