Chang’an’s First Beauty

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“Shen Zhen, the Emperor has recalled his edict. I will cancel my wedding with Xu Qiniang this instant. Come back to me.”

“Does Your Lordship know, they say that there are no bluer skies than those of Mobei and that the clouds float so low that if one were to lift one’s hand, they would graze one’s fingertips. I wish to see it.”

“Look at me and tell me clearly … Do you love him?”

“I do.”

“What was all this the Third Miss and I shared these years? Nothing but fog?”

“When is the wedding to be held?”

“In two years from now.”

“And then? How should I address you then? My Lady, the Marquise Changping?

“Your Lordship has been very kind to Shen Zhen. She promises never to forget his life-saving grace. If ever there be another life …”

“You know I do not believe in rebirth. The road to Mobei is long and tiring. Take care of yourself.”

¤¤¤

The Marquis Yunyang was deposed by the Emperor and his family ended up in dire straits overnight. As such, the Third Miss of the Shen Household, her family’s most precious jewel, found herself abandoned by all with a sick brother on her hands. Having no other choice, she set up a cosmetics shop in Chang’an.

But to the eyes of all, especially her relatives’, she had become nothing but an alluring flower any man could pick at will.

Passing by her Baixiang Pavilion, the heir to the Grand Duchy of Zhen, Lu Yan, witnessed her being harassed by the idle sons of Chang’an’s leading class. Her appearance reminded him of dreams that had been plaguing him lately, revealing to him a past with her and the sultry love affair they had shared in a previous life.

With shaking fingers, he also remembered the bitter taste of heartbreak when she left him to marry another man.

Thus, in this life, he decided to save her once more, lure her into an affair, install her as his mistress and never let her escape his sphere of influence again.

However, to keep Shen Zhen by his side, finding her a place to stay and caring for her brother was not enough. Little did Lu Yan know he would be pulled into the darkest corners of Chang’an and take part in games of power that at times implicated the Main Gentleman of the Empire, the Emperor himself. Selling what he held dearest in the process: his integrity as an official.

All for the sake of Chang’an’s First Beauty.

Associated Names
One entry per line
长安第一美人
Related Series
N/A
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marchmallow
marchmallow rated it
July 7, 2020
Status: --
The first few chapters got me hooked so I decided to MTL the rest.

I have to say, as an avid reader of historical c-novels, you really have to set aside your modern ideologies. This is set in an imperialist era that follows a strict hierarchy with values and rules based on Confucian ethics. You also really have to read the tags. And if you're expecting a lot of doting and pampering, you're bound to be disappointed.

A lot of this story is told from the ML's perspective. He's a man who... more>> belongs to the upper echelons of society, and his uncle is the emperor. He has status and good looks, and has been pampered and arrogant since young, so he's used to always getting his way. And his character stays consistent throughout the story. Even as he acknowledges his feelings for the FL, he still finds it hard to shed his cold and commanding personality when dealing with her. He isn't instantly soft once he realizes he's in love.

As snippets of his past life unravel throughout the story, however, he changes very slowly and becomes more self-aware about how he treats her. Knowing that FL married someone else in the past, the anxiety, insecurity and regret (for such a confident and arrogant man) he feels in his present life is very realistic.

The power gap between the leads is particularly prominent. As a sheltered young miss from a fallen noble family, of course FL is unreconciled to be someone's mistress, but her circumstances really leave her no choice. She's a woman from the ancient times and was born and raised in her boudoir, what does she know about protecting herself from dangers outside? I feel that her personality, as well as her mental struggles are quite realistic.

Spoiler

She ends up in a really tough situation that the ML resolves for her in exchange for her dignity. In that, he can keep her and her family safe as long as she becomes his mistress. She's forced to learn intimate matters between men and women against her will to ask him for favors. These favors mostly involve her family... like meeting them, etc.

She broods over this quite often. Back when she was still a noble, her peers were respectful to her. But after her father was convicted, some of the rich young masters pestered her frequently and one even straight out asked her to be his concubine. Imagine the impact of this on her self-confidence... it's heartbreaking to read.

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The stuff ML does to avoid the past from repeating itself gets him roped into a struggle for power between the princes. So it's quite plot-driven, and the romance and political intrigue is very well-balanced. There are little details that may seem insignificant but are actually quite important.

And the side characters! They're fleshed out and written so well that you really sympathize with them. As said by the translator and by one of the reviews, it really delves deep into certain themes and struggles ancient women experience that other novels don't touch.

Spoiler

Her eldest sister contributes a lot to the plot. And she's probably my favorite in this story... as well as her romance with the ML's colleague.

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As a huge fan of rebirth stories, especially ones written this well, I'm giving this a 5/5. If you're looking for fluff, this ain't for you. <<less
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Mimmers
Mimmers rated it
July 4, 2020
Status: --
For whatever reason... The first chapter to this story just sucked me in. Maybe it is the translation (I just want to say the translator blew me off - commitment to excellency, anyone?!), maybe it is the sort of simple realism that seems to exude from the story, I don't know. What I do know is that I MTLed the whole story in about 48 hours. I am taking a break before starting on the epilogue.

First of all, the things NOT to expect from this story? Fluff. There isn't really... more>> any fluff to it, as the translator said him/herself on the host site. The ML is an adult who feels lust for the FL. He is not a man of feelings, but a man who has been granted everything he ever wanted in his life. He has been accustomed to care for no one but himself. Thus, expecting empathy from him from the get-go is a bit unrealistic. However, as more and more memories of his past life resurface, his feelings and behavior towards the FL change as well. And when he DOES do something out of empathy and care, it is generally truly meaningful.

Spoiler

At the beginning of their relationship, though he is cold and seems to only be interested in the physical aspect of their relationship, the ML sneaks the FL out of Chang'an and takes her on a trip. By doing so, he permits her to reunite with her younger brother - whom the ML had pulled out of Chang'an when the family was in a dire situation.

Somewhere in the middle of the story, once he is very clear about his feelings for the FL, he once again arranges for her to see her sister who is suffering from abuse at her husband's and MIL's hands, though the FL is reputed to be somewhere far away. And there is this one sentence that really shows he has grown: He is not arrogant enough to believe himself to be the most important person in her life.

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Someone suggested "Counterattack of the Cannon Fodder Chambermaid" as a similar work and I really feel the dynamic between the couple in "Chang'an's First Beauty" and "Attack" is similar. It takes a while for the MLs to come to term and understand what they are feeling for the females. Just that the MC of "Chang'an's First Beauty" actively takes responsibility for his former misdeeds.
Spoiler

When she eats things she cannot stand out out of fear he will lash out at her, when she refuses to cry in front of him, when she lies to him - he knows it is his fault. And he regrets, not like a caricature of feelings, but true, human feelings of regret.

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And what to say about the secondary characters? They are not pawns or plot-pushers. They have LIVES and PERSONALITIES and at times, we get sucked into their hardships and really relate to them. As the translator mentioned, many themes other Chinese novels do not touch get really studied in this work. Women desiring divorce, not fearing it, though they might end up in the streets with no protection. Married women having lovers. The difficult situation mistresses, as opposed to wives or concubines, find themselves in.

Is this the best novel I have read? No. In the list of suggestions that I saw, I have read all the novels and all were better than this (besides "Counterattack of the Cannon Fodder Chambermaid" - I would say they are on the same level, with "Chang'an' First Beauty" being more serious and "Counterattack" being a bit more lighthearted). However, it might still be my favorite novel in the sense that the development of the love story between the ML and FL and the fear the ML feels that this life would be just a repeat of his past life are so realistically rendered. <<less
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