“The Longest Day In Chang’an is an immersive and unforgettable show that, despite its frenetic storytelling, is in no hurry to reach its epic conclusion.”
Historical dramas made for television rarely reach the ambitious heights that The Longest Day In Chang’an scales throughout its epic 48-episode running time. Indeed, few dare to. Director Cao Dun has crafted a sumptuous adaptation of Ma Boyong’s sprawling novel of the same name for the small screen that has captivated audiences in China since its initial release in 2019.
在48 集的长度中，很少有历史剧可以达到《长安十二时辰》的高度，确实，很少有人。这部剧首发在2019 年，曹盾导演将马伯庸的同名小说搬上了大屏幕，该片一经问世就创造了收视奇迹。
Chang’an, the glittering beacon of the Tang Dynasty, is the location for a pulsating drama that feels distinctly modern in tone, despite its 8th-century setting. Chang’an has been brought to life with unwavering attention to detail - from each silk-woven fiber worn by its actors to the lavish sets constructed by a production team who spent more than seven months building the busy streets of the capital of Tang Dynasty-era China. The architecture in the series has been profoundly realized, with pagodas, temples, monasteries, and palaces all brought to life with unfaltering accuracy.
长安，唐朝璀璨的灯塔，是中国各朝代中最辉煌的存在，尽管《长安十二时辰》的故事背景是 8 世纪，但它的基调却非常现代，当时的长安被完整的复原在观众眼前——从服装的每一根丝织纤维，到花费七个多月建造的大唐繁华街道，宝塔、寺庙、寺院和宫殿都栩栩如生，唐朝的建筑得到了完美的展现，大唐盛世跃然于荧屏之上。
The Longest Day In Chang’an tells a thrilling story that is constructed using layer upon layer of complex narrative scaffolding. The story centers around a former police detective turned death-row convict, Zhang Xiaojing (played with menacing verve by Li Jiayan) who is granted a temporary 24-hour reprieve by the head of the ‘Peacekeeper Corps’, Li Bi, to foil a terrorist attack on the city. What at first seems like a fairly cut-and-dry case, proves to be anything but, as Zhang Xiaojing and Li Bi learn of a larger plot - one which threatens the very fabric of society and that is balanced on the precarious axis of political unrest.
Despite the series’ sweeping scale, the drama that unfolds feels intimate and, at times, even claustrophobic. No dramatic stone is left unturned, and each character is afforded significant screen time. Director Cao Dun is keen to illustrate that Chang’an, despite its majestic veneer, which has been brought to life with magisterial prowess, is a city composed of rigid class and power structures that are manacled by tradition. There is an overriding sense throughout the series that an ominous future beckons for the people of Chang’an, and change will occur either through progressive means or by annihilation.
Chang’an espouses a culture of binaries, which is communicated adroitly in the show by its use of the ancient symbolic dichotomy of ‘Yin’ and ‘Yang’. Li Bi (elegantly played by Jackson Yee), is the show’s moral compass, and early on he is introduced to the concept of “Wu,” which pertains to the intersection of these two opposing polemics. Each character is bound by honor and service to a superior power. That is, except for Zhang Xiaojing. Zhang is the show’s all-action outlier, who confidently and purposefully refuses to “play by the rules.”
The Longest Day In Chang’an prefaces contemporary issues within a historical context, with the all too familiar modern-day trope of political unrest bubbling away behind some genuinely spectacular action sequences. However, despite being similar in style to shows such as 24, The Longest Day In Chang’an should not be considered an all-out action affair. Tension is twisted like a knife and time feels stretched and slowed down to foreground the show’s thematic proclivities. Rarely is an action sequence included without considerable preluding, and the result is often breathtaking.
Despite its expansiveness, the show never falls short in meticulously respecting historical precedent. The Longest Day In Chang’an has as much to say about contemporary Chinese culture as it does about history, and it is a wonderfully rich and detailed history lesson at that. Chang’an has been brought to life with a deft and exquisite touch. As a viewer, we are given a sense of what it was like to live in what was the most populated, prosperous, and advanced city in the world at the time.
Tang Dynasty scholars were consulted in pre-production, with Jackson Yee’s character Li Bi in particular given almost microscopic attention to historical detail in both his dress and stately decorum. There was a rich emphasis on the culture of words and poetry during the reign of the Tang Dynasty, and this is evoked in the show with even soldiers professing to be aspiring poets and wordsmiths. The culture of Tang was one of progress, and the series makes sure it emphasizes this transitionary period in history, showing the character of Xu Bin (Zhao Wei) animatedly encouraging his master Li Bi to either adapt to progressive means of material production or bear witness to Tang’s downfall. The music in the show also draws the viewer closer to the action. The crashing of drums is the heartbeat to which the audience is both transfixed and transported through the show’s diegesis, while the camera weaves through crowds at shoulder height to give the sense that viewers are very much at the center of the action as if they too were clinging to the coattails of Zhang Xiaoling.
The show’s heroes are youthful and progressive and their values are at odds with the aging ‘old order’. The lantern festival, which is the focus of the terrorist’s plot, is symbolic of prosperity, but it is also portentous; the lanterns are lit to vanquish evil, but they have also unwittingly ushered it closer. The true evil that is present within Chang’an is not only harbored by its malevolent infiltrators but, too, by the ruling bureaucrats who have long suppressed and neglected the country’s working classes. The series makes sure that the audience is reminded at all times that the working classes are its true protagonists. If order is to be genuinely restored then Chang’an’s ‘homemade heroes’ must bring about fundamental societal change.
该剧的主角们代表着年轻和进步，他们的价值观与“旧秩序”显得格格不入。 元宵节，成为恐怖分子实施阴谋的时间，它是繁荣的象征，但也成为不祥之兆；灯笼是为了战胜邪恶而点亮的，但它也为邪恶指引了道路。长安内部真正的邪恶不仅来自有野心的阴谋者，也来自长期压制和忽视国家工人阶级的执政官僚们。 该剧始终提醒观众，工人阶级才是本剧真正的主角，如果要恢复秩序，那么长安的“草根英雄”就必须带来根本的社会变革。
The Longest Day In Chang’an is a multi-faceted tale of intrigue with the principle of ‘legacy’ firmly situated at its center. Moral complexity abounds but, at its core, the characters in the show are fixated on how they will be remembered. The ‘Peacekeeper Corps’ is principally a place where extensive archiving is a priority for its incumbent officers. This is at odds with the tough crime-stopping exterior usually associated with these kinds of institutions. This too is an important indicator of Tang Dynasty life, where information was considered of pivotal importance. The show proposes a vital question - in a world where uncomfortable decisions must be made, how will one’s actions be remembered?
Above all, The Longest Day In Chang’an is an immersive and unforgettable show that, despite its frenetic storytelling, is in no hurry to reach its epic conclusion. The 48-episode running time may seem like a formidable undertaking, but it is worth every second.