Photo Source: Unbroken Cycle Fan Page
Title: The Unbroken Cycle (解连环)
Year/Production: 1996 – TCS (Singapore)
Length: 5 episodes
* Thomas Ong – Zhang Hai/ Zhou Xinghuan
* Fann Wong – Zhiyue/Xiang Mei/ Ye Qin
Do you believe in past life? Have you ever wonder who you were in the past? Or Do you ever go to a place where you so sure you have never been there before, yet it is so eerily familiar? Those are the questions that pose as the theme to these short 5 episodes serial.
Ye Qin is a professional photographer that given a task to take a picture of an antique three fold mirror. No matter how hard she tried, she was unable to take the picture. A dark shadow – the size of small rectangular – always appeared on the left corner of the mirror. Meanwhile, Zhou Xinghuan, a US graduated PhD who came to town for a seminar, find himself eerily familiar with certain places in Singapore as if he was there once. The fact that puzzled him: this is his first time to Singapore. He is not supposed to find it familiar.
Then story moved to pre-war era in early 1920s of Singapore. Xibao was a beautiful opera singer. Her beauty caught the eyes of Qi-Ye and decided to made her as his fourth mistress. Qi-ye also changed her name to Zhiyue on the day of her marriage. Unfortunately, Qi-ye quickly lost his interest and found other women as his 5th and 6th mistresses. Thus, Zhiyue was neglected. Her only companion in the lonely house was a 20 years old young man, Zhang Hai, who was the driver (rickshaw puller in those days) for the family. He often accompanied her to temple and beach. Zhiyue liked Zhang Hai’s loyalty and ability to keep his words. Meanwhile Zhang Hai admired her beauty and kindness toward him. It was a beginning of a pure innocent love from Zhang Hai’s part toward Zhiyue. After Zhiyue contracted disease from Qi-ye, the latter isolated her to a beach house. It was Zhang Hai who took care of her and attended to her need until she took her last breath. Zhiyue gave him her precious’ three fold mirror as parting gift.
Story moved back to 1995 where Xinghuan continued to find answers to his odd dreams and why he felt so familiar with the temple. By chance, he came across a three fold mirror at antique exhibition and decided to purchase it. Ye Qin also wanted to purchase the same item but she was too late. Not wanting to give up, she traced down Xinghuan in hope that he would re-sell it to her. Fate seems to play a joke with them as each time they were near each other, they never actually meet. It was only a sense of odd familiarity sensed by both, each time they passed each other.
Story moved to early 1960s. Zhang Hai is now an old man in his late 50s. By chance, he met a nightclub girl, Xiang Mei, who bored an uncanny resemble to the late Zhiyue. He requested to speak with Xiang Mei, but upon seeing him as an old man and with no money, the latter refused to even meet him. Zhang Hai never gave up and instead came to the nightclub everyday in hope that he would meet her eventually. Curious by his determination, Xiang Mei agreed to listen to him. At the beginning, Xiang Mei was bored to death with the old man’s story but as time went by; she began to admire him and begin to have feeling for him. Zhang Hai who was afraid that he only took Xiang Mei as Ziyue’s substitute, reluctant to return the feeling until Xiang Mei convinced him otherwise. Unfortunately, at the same time Xiang Mei’s offended a local gangsters’ chief, Wen-ge, by reporting his illegal activities to police. A furious Wen-ge put a price on Xiang Mei’s head.
New Year Eve of 1962, Xiang Mei begged Zhang Hai to take her with him because she truly loves him. A reluctant Zhang Hai gave her the three folded mirror instead as a New Year’s gift. Unfortunately, at that same time, Wen-ge’s men found them and they had to run for their life. Alas, they were killed on the Anderson Bridge that night. Zhang Hai died instantly from the bullet wounds, while Xiang Mei with her last breath told him, “If there is such thing of next lifetime, I’ll want to be with you again.” She died holding the mirror tightly in her hand.
Back in 1995, Xinghuan was constantly having the same nightmare about two people killed on the bridge and of an old tomb. One day, a set of number “196211” mysteriously appeared on his bathroom’s mirror (courtesy of Xiang Mei’s ghost), made him determined to find out the end of it. Xiang Mei’s ghost lured him to an old unattended tomb. Upon seeing the date of death, 1st January 1962 matched the number “196211”, Xinghuan was shocked. He was visibly shaken when he discovered the picture on the tomb was the older version of him. Curiosity brought him to local library to find out about what exactly happen on that fateful New Year in 1962. He also managed to find Lulu, Xiang Mei’s best friend in those days. Xinghuan told her all about his dreams and sense of familiarity. Old Lulu told him the story about the ill-fated couple. Her parting words for Xianghuan was, “If you are really is Zhang Hai’s reincarnation, then it should be a girl out there who is waiting for you”.
New Year Eve 1996, both Xinghuan and Ye Qin weren’t able to feel the mood of New Year’s celebration. Xinghuan kept thinking about Lulu’s words while Ye Qin kept thinking about the three folded mirror. Finally, Xinghuan called a radio station and put up a request, “For I don’t know your name. I don’t know where you are. I am not even sure if you exist. All I know is I am looking for a girl – the owner of folded mirror. If such a girl exists, I hope I can see her at the ‘old place’”. Ye Qin who were listening to the same radio station also called and replied, “I am not sure if I am the person you are looking for. I only know that I am looking for a three folded antique mirror and I also wish to see a person. If you are this person, please wait for me at the ‘old place’”. After 3 lifetimes of hide and seek, and so many missed chances, the couple finally meet again at Anderson Bridge – 32 years after Zhang Hai and Xiang Mei met their fateful death at the same bridge.
This is a very short drama serial with only 5 episodes in total, but it is one of my favorite TCS serial. It covered a lot in 5 episodes but without the sense of overwhelming. The theme of this serial is reincarnation and karma. Do you find your answer to the questions posed in the beginning of the storyline? Some of you might while some of you simply don’t believe such existence of reincarnation. Do I believe it myself? Well, it is something that I can’t see or research of. So I maybe don’t believe in that concept 100%, but I can’t really ignore the fact that sometimes – out of blue moon – I felt a certain place so familiar yet I am very sure it was my first time there. Even I can’t give myself an absolute answer.
Theme aside, I also like the pairing of Thomas Ong and Fann Wong. I like them in Wild Orchid and I like them here. Come to think about it, this serial is roughly about 12 years ago, but both lead actor and actress still almost look the same now. Fann Wong still has that sweet and energetic aura in her as with her character of Ye Qin. Thomas Ong has yet loss his boyish charismatic even after some years absence from the TV screen.
Photo Source: The Unbroken Cycle Fan Page
YouTube video courtesy of its author, esp78.