Old Nine Gates 老九门 - Episode 1 (Recap)

SakiVI: This show took so long! Seriously, starting this show is a dream come true. I was a bit sad no Yang Yang in this show, but I am so, so happy with William Chan. Honestly, I'm crying tears of joy here.
kakashi: I know! We've been waiting forever and a day! It took exactly one episode to make me a slobbering addict and I tell you people ... this is NIGHT AND DAY from the Lost Tomb and we already had great fun with that one, didn't we! The fun with this will probably be endless if it doesn't kill us first. One thing is certain: We will not refrain from calling William Chang hot for 48 episodes straight, I can guarantee that. 
In addition, I want to thank all the Lay-Lovers (he is also hot, by the way) for subbing this so fast!! We appreciate it SO MUCH. Imagine us pining for the next subbed episode every second of our existence!!
Lay is elegant-hot. Of course, that is the type of character he is playing, but when I think back to when I followed EXO-M, he always had this sort of elegant demeanor.

Background Info

Before we start, a bit of information about the Old Nine Gates, or, as they are also known, The Mystic Nine taken from the Facebook fan page:

"During the era of the republic, nine great families known as the Commanders of Changsha guarded the city. These Nine Gates were incredibly powerful grave-robbing families who were known to everyone. Every funerary object leaving Changsha would have had passed through the hands of one of the families.

Why were they known as the Commanders of the Nine Gates? One explanation most recognised is that, as ancient cities have nine gates, merchants visiting the city would have to choose one to pass through, and the Nine Gates means precisely this. Doing business in Changsha, you can only choose one of these nine grate powers, there is no other road that can be taken.

The Nine Gates are divided into three groups.
  • The Upper Three Gates are well-off families with large businesses holding great political power. This includes 1) Zhang Qi Shan (Zhang Da Fo Ye), 2) Er Yue Hong (Er Ye) and 3) Ban Jie Li.
  • The Middle Three Gates are lone warriors, walking through the forests each day with only a few disciples under them. This includes 4) Chen Pi Ah Si, 5) Wu Lao Gou, 6) Hei Bei Lao Liu. 
  • The Lower Three Gates are small businessmen making their business in reselling objects and they themselves do not rob the graves. This includes 7) Huo Jin Xi, 8) Qi Tie Zui (Ba Ye), 9) Jie Jiu." 
In this episode, we meet two of the Upper Gates, Fo Ye and Er Ye, and one Lower Gate, Ba Ye. Let's meet the rest soon!

Episode 1 - Military Train 076

The drama opens with a someone, Wu Xie from the The Lost Tomb, we think, looking at his grandfather's notebooks. As a paper aficionado, I love the look of them all.
We don't get to see much of his face, just his hands, a nice watch and his shoes. We notice he is not wearing any socks. Which seems to be a quality of all good Asian men.  
Always, always in C-Drama, there's watch PPL. I didn't catch the brand, though I liked it.
Oh, just ask me. I'm a total watch-expert! It's a Panerei Luminor. Thank you, company reps, please pay the money into my Swiss bank account. 
In those notebooks is a picture of our story characters.
The Mystic Nine!! Let me also post that very useful picture with their names and their numbers for you all.

Then we are told that in 1903, a Japanese man called Otani Kozui entered Chinese soil ostensibly for religious studies, but was actually a spy. As they approached Changsha, the expedition team split up, and he followed Japanese businessman Hatoyama Nakagama to a mountain town 160 km from Changsha, and where they stayed 6 months. Only 6 people remained at the end of 3 months. Hatoyama stopped all expedition work and ran back to Japan. No one knows why he ran away or what caused all the casualties, though I'm just going to throw it out there: corpse eaters!
Oh shit, now I remember how scared I was to watch The Lost Tomb late at night..... 
The idea of being eaten alive just makes me want to cry, scream and run all at once.

Hatoyama did file a 16 page report to the Japanese government, though, describing the things buried under the mountain. This is called the Hatoyama Report, and will probably be referenced again.
Dun-dun-dun is all I want to say.
Also, who is this dude? 
Hatoyama Nakagama. 
He should try not invading other countries.
Then, in 1933, a dirty looking train with the Japanese flag pulls into Changsha station. The station master sees blood seeping through the panels of the train -😱-
Thank you, drama. About the year ... the subs said 1993, which is clearly very wrong, but is 1933 more correct? I thought this played in the 1940s. But those are unimportant details because that trained actually pulled in right before midnight. I started repeating: "don't go look. don't go look. don't go look".
and looks into a dirty window, presumably where the dead driver 😱😱😱 is.
I TOLD YOU NOT TO LOOK!!! TT_______________TT
It's like watching a car wreck: you don't want to look, but you do.
There is no one alive on this train. Seems the driver just died as he pulled in (how unlucky for him!!). What was the matter with it? Some mass suicide? Couldn't they have done this privately somewhere on a mountain top instead? Or, if it was murder, have opened some windows to let the poison out? 
You must admit that dying inside a huge train and then making it go to some pretty looking station is a pretty cool way to leave this world. I'm impressed
True, though all that poison or whatever killed them probably didn't feel cool.

Cut to Zhang Qishan (played by gorgeous William Chan) a spiffy military sort (and ancestor to my beloved Little Master of The Lost Tomb fame)
GOOD GENES in that family, my goodness. I develop an instant crush on our General and am glad that he is 30 years of age, cause I really do not want to crush on anything younger than that. 
In real life? (yes, 31 this year) Because that would work for me. (Sharpens sasaeng skills.)
with his troops and second in command Lt Zhang (played by Zhang Mingen)
Good genes too! Oh, he's a Zhang? Related, maybe? Okay, that explains it!! (he's not one of the Mystic Nine though) Also, I know from moonlil (our go-to friend for all things Daomu) that this pup is still a student at Central Academy of Drama. His graduation play is coming up and he's been advertising for it on Weibo. The little cutie even posted his phone number, presumably so that people could contact him to buy tickets. He then deleted the post, but the official Weibo wrote this: "Did you not realize that you might be famous now, posting your phone no. like that?" OMG, ahahahaaaa. Moonlil also suspected that his full name might be Zhang Yancheng, who, in the books, is the one who invented the method to open a whistle coffin. More on whistle coffins later. 
I could be wrong, but it seems like the entire troop is from one clan. Or, that they get adopted in, maybe.
coming to check out the train.
I must gif this strut. Will be right back
He shines! He goddamn SHINES! 

Qishan and his Lieutenant note this Japanese military train looks like it came from a scrap heap. He questions the station master who says there were no records of this train, the people were already dead on arrival, and who then warns Qishan that "there be ghosts, ghosts, ghosts! A demon is coming to Changsha! Beware! Aaaah!" The station master is led away. I agree, he was getting annoying.
I am kinda on his side though....
Also, apropos of nothing, I'd like to note that William Chan is really really hot.
I think I need to swear a bit. Fucking hell, he's hot. Especially when he scowls like this. Luckily, his character seems to do a lot of scowling.  
Once the train is opened up, Qishan, who is actually called Fo Ye by everyone, and thus will be referred to as such hereinafter, goes into the train to find it full of antique spiderweb-covered coffins and some people who died face down outside the coffins. At least, I think those are antique coffins.
They totally are. Also, on the nicknames! (also thanks to moonlil). Ye means master and is a formal and respected address used often in Beijing (but also used a lot by the gangsters, haha). Fo in his case refers to Buddha. As we will later see, he has a huge Buddha statue in his garden, no one knows how, why, or where he got it. 
Probably stole it from a tomb.
Super Hot.
HOT DAMN, he's hot. 

Fo Ye tells his handsome No. 2 to get Qi Tieju, whom Qishan calls Ba Ye (Ba = 8, he is Master 8), another Old Nine Gates family representative and resident fortune teller, on pain of shooting. Seems Ba Ye, played by Ying Haoming, is easily scared. He shows up when called, notes how the train looks, counts on his fingers and claims a family problem. Lt Zhang not-so kindly reminds Ba Ye he hasn't got any family and to come along.
Haha. Well, Cutie Lieutenant Zhang is funny, Ba Ye, who seems to be the dramas comic relief character, is less so
Also, more face-down dead people.
They keep repeating that all the dead people are OMG face-down, until I'm starting to think that's actually important to the story.
If it isn't, I might push someone facedown. Like Uncle Three, the writer.
Ba Ye dragged further into train where we see all the corpses are face down (face down!) with awful diseased bodies that, seem to have gotten those weird marks after being exposed to oxygen, but I could be wrong about that. Ba Ye tries to run away again, but that's not happening. 
Super hot Fo Ye has a little knife that he uses to check markings on the corpses and stuff. Even that is hot. I did not notice any oxygen marks, but I noticed a lot of cobwebs. How long have they been dead? 

Ba Ye catches up to Fo Ye, and we get to see this tattoo or whatever in detail. All the cool bodies have it. 
They also have something else, which I notice with less pleasure. Weird black spots. It doesn't look good. Can't you at least wear your gas masks?! You can't be so hot and make me crush on you, Fo Ye, and then die of a weird black spot disease! 
He's too hot to die, and certainly not in such a diseased way.
Do Ye and Ba Ye think that the Japanese were doing secret experiments on people, hence this mess. (they find some blueprints of some secret weapon too) They also think that the people and coffins in the parts of the train closer to the front are subordinate coffins, which probably means zombies to guard the main coffin, or human sacrifices for the main person in the main coffin. Apparently, these tomb raiding types knew right from the beginning that this train was some sort of tomb
Do they also know of the Hatoyama Report? Or should we tell them? 
I don't think they know, but I bet Hatoyama shows up later, maybe with loads of white hair all over his face and a tongue that won't speak properly.

They go deeper into the train wearing feeble-looking gas masks that aren't connected to any oxygen supply and probably won't filter out any disease. Sure enough, there is the main coffin, all chained and cool-looking. I half expected it to smoke and throw knives, it was so thug.  
Something that's chained like that and behind bars is probably something you should not touch. But Fo Ye has a different opinion. I think we wouldn't last long as a couple.
Someone is sure to die in a couple with him, and probably not him.  Maybe that's the point of Ba Ye: cannon fodder.
On it is an engraving saying Number One is the Tomb. Okay, then.
Hm. I'm trying to understand what that actually means, but I don't think I do. Anyway, tomb = not good. 

And in case anyone isn't icked out enough, our handsome Fo Ye tells us that the webs we are seeing are from larvae that hatched from the coffin. Ew, and double ew.
I'm getting an awful kinda inkling about those black marks on those bodies.....  also, where are those bugs?!
Arrgh, that's true! They need to reseal this train fast!

Fo Ye thinks the secret to all this is in the thug coffin. He says it's a whistle coffin, meaning that if it isn't opened from the inside, poisonous gas will be released. Ba Ye says, let's do it!
Why is it called a whistle coffin though? 
Maybe the gas makes a whistling noise.
I think he must have this expression a lot with Ba Ye.
He's so gruff, I love it. 

They take the coffin back to Zhang Family headquarters where Fo Ye stands over it like this:
I allow him to stand over me like this, too! 
And just look at this room!
He is goddamn loaded this one. He lives in a palace!
Doesn't it remind you of that first big hall with seven coffins in The Lost Tomb?
Zhang's tomb exploring crew are there, ready and willing, though sadly without any super long fingers. And here comes some gratuitous violence: the team sets up really sharp long gardening scissors to cut off the tomb explorer's arm should there be something dangerous inside. Those scissors are linked to a horse and everything. Hahahaa, I laughed a lot at that mechanism. If they hit a gong, the horse will scare and the scissors will snap. They couldn't do it any easier?! And the tomb explorer still puts his hand in. He freaks out, crying "Save me!" Somebody else freaks and hits the gong - and his arm is cut off and he is led away, and Zhang steps up instead. Okay, but what?! Arms don't just grow back!
Those are Zhang family loyal bodyguards, Saki. An arm means nothing to them.
They should've trained him better. A nice hat and a cute nose is not enough for this work.
I think he might be glad they did not cut anything else off
This poor guy geared up with booze and everything.
He got 30 seconds of fame though! 

Fo Ye feels around in the coffin, opens it, and tells the men to reattach that other dude's arm.
Oh fuck. Hahahaaaa... so apparently, the poor bodyguard (now one-armed) got scared because his arm caught on something and screamed because he thought something attacked him. Fo Ye saw right through it. There's not a single trap in that coffin. He's so badass I want to cry. 
I seriously hope they have the medical knowledge to get it back on and working because that was worse than the diseased bodies on the death train.
He'll be fine. There was no blood at all, so maybe he is half-dead anyway. 
I noticed those gardening scissors were clean of blood too.

They find the old corpse to be face down like the men on the train and, apparently of great interest, a boring looking ring.
It looks familiar to Ba Ye though (yay, finally, he does something useful!) and he identifies it as an item from the North-South Dynasties (north-south? Are you sure, subbers?)
I checked with Moonlil and she says that is probably correct because so many dynasties in China.
Also, I totally want to pinch Fo Ye's cheek here, and stroke that double chin.
He looks like a CUTE little chipmunk from the side, awwwwwwww. 

Only one person knows the graves of the old North-Dynasty, and that is Er Yue Hong, known as Er Ye (Er = two) (played by EXO's Lay, yay!). He is another scion of an Old Nine Gates family. Cut to a pretty town and lots of red lanterns and a young man putting on makeup.
A very PRETTY man putting on very pretty makeup in a pretty town. 
He looks fabulous. 
Er Ye goes out on stage and starts singing Chinese opera, the sort decades later that Old Bejinger Fatty Wong claimed he loved (the placed also kinda looked like that place they had the auction at in the Lost Tomb), while one of his fans is turned away just because she was a few minutes late.
Note: Er Ye is extremely famous as opera singer. People travel from afar to see him. 
I felt so bad for her. And there had to be an intermission.
Unfairly, though, Fo Ye shows up and just strides in.
This, to me, was the funniest thing in the whole episode. The poor woman! Fo Ye didn't even stop for one second at the door. Hahahaaaaaaa. 
Inside the opera hall, a heckler yells he hates the current song and demands one more to his own liking, one with a beat he could tap his foot to, and hum along with, because he thinks he's the most important person there. So disgusting! The whole performance stops in surprise. Er Ye is delightfully feminine and delicate in his response. It is like he is a woman stopped in the middle of her performance, not a man playing a woman.
Seriously, how DARE this rude person
Fo Ye kicks that heckler out, but not before the heckler levels a poison dart he just happened to be carrying at Fo Ye's ear. Fo Ye tosses his ring up into the air, tilts his head just so to the side, and lets the ring knock the poison dart off its path and into the tea.
If we should have harbored any doubt about Fo Ye, who totally expected an attack, this is the moment we MUST realize: he is hot and at the same time, über-cool. I was kinda sorry for the tea that got spoilt though.  
I went and made a cup in honour of it.
Oh, let's not forget there's an absolutely cute moment when the two men smile at each other. It just calls for a gif. There is bromance in this too! Bromance! Sweeeeeeet bromance!
The performance continues, and later FoYe and Er Ye greet each other. Fo Ye wants to know the meaning of a particular ring from the North-South Dynasty, and they do this weird Bro Code hand dance which is probably about Fo Ye trying to force the ring onto Er Ye and Er Ye refusing it.
If, at this point, anyone should still have harbored doubts that this is the new C-Drama crack, this is the moment in which you realize it fucking is.  
The actor, Lay, is a dancer by training, and he is so smooth!
Hahahaha, Er Ye beat Fo Ye in a fight! The ring falls to a nearby table. Interestingly, as Er Ye walks to it, it seems he suddenly get more manly in movement and stride. Anyway, he says he has not touched the things underground for a long time. But Fo Ye argues that the two of them are the top tier of the Old Nine Gates, so the things underground will not leave them. And that there seemed to be blueprints for Japanese experiments and a possible Japanese conspiracy. Er Ye tells him not to think so hard. But he does warn Fo Ye not to get into searching regarding the coffins and ring. Fo Ye leaves the ring behind. 
Hmmmm.... so it seems Er Ye knows something he is not sharing with Fo Ye. Why does he not want to help? Also, I do not fully get their relationship yet. They're friends, kind of, but not really? Are the nine families all working together or is there strife between them, too?
Cut to a scene of Er Ye (now without make-up! Hard to believe it is the same man! But so gorgeous!) not eating the noodles his pretty wife, Ya Tou (played by Yuan Bingyan) made him.
She asks if her noodles are not delicious? Personally, I think they look good, but Er Ye is clearly lost in his thoughts. He states Ya Tou's noodles are the most delicious, and starts to eat.
The noodles look like a good sort of noodle, but I must admit, Yatou is already going on my nerves. As if noodles were the most important thing for someone like Er Ye to worry about!! 
She is a bland Ideal Wife.


Just Wow! Especially William Chan and William Chan's Stride. 
He is so yummy, let's eat him for breakfast, lunch and dinner! 
But seriously, it's like they looked at The Lost Tomb and said, "let's get skilled directors and producers in this time and see how it goes." And it went very very very well. Seriously, I can't think of a single thing I didn't like about this show, except, maybe, not knowing what Ba Ye is for. Really, why does someone as awesome as Fo Ye need Ba Ye? What is the point? And don't say comic relief because that's supposed to be for us, the viewers, even if not everyone found Ba Ye that funny. I also thought that business of cutting off the guy's arm a bit extreme, but I'd have thought a zombie would've bitten it off anyway, so maybe wait for a zombie to actually bite first?
Yes, Ba Ye ... we get a bit of background on their relationship in one of the upcoming episodes, but that does not really tell us anything about why Fo Ye would actually call him to the train. Because of his divination skills? We haven't seen anything out of the ordinary from him so far.

Lay's acting is so good. As Er Ye, a man playing a woman on the stage, he kept all those feminine touches right until his masculine tussle with Fo Ye.
People may have a hard time believing me, but I have kept away from EXO as much as possible in all those years I've come to appreciate Asian entertainment (simply because I really cannot stand KPop). Unless these KPoppers turn up in drama productions, I don't know them at all. This is the very first time I even see Lay. I was instantly struck by his extreme beauty. What a great idea to cast him in this role! He pulls the feminine opera singer AND the broody super-rich guy off really well. He is a bit too young for my taste (in general and for this role), but he is definitely pulling it off. 
I believe you. Besides, most of the time, the music and videos are more of an advertisement for getting acting and CF work for the group members. It certainly worked out for Lay.

And just what experiments did the Japanese try to do? I bet they were trying to get make zombies for their own use. 
Oh no, please, no zombies!! :(((
I will take a zombie over a corpse eater any day.
Let's just focus on William Chan, shall we?