The Grand Canal

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First Broadcast

1987 - TVB's 20th Anniversay Series for this year.


  • Chinese: 大�?�河
  • Cantonese: Dai Wan Ho
  • English: The Grand Canal




Theme Songs

Main Theme - Tony Leung Chiu-Wai & Lui Fong


Character Profile

  • Idy (Yeung Lan Ling)
I will never understand why someone as bright as Yeung Lan Ling was so blinded and thick-headed when it came to figuring out her brother's diabolical nature. I was very tempted to knock some sense into her head, but alas, I couldn't get into my TV. =*( Anyhow, it got so frustrating when she refused to believe that Yeung Gwong was behind all the evil deeds that took place, and kept on misunderstanding Cheung Sam Long for this. This part of her character really went against the intelligence she portrayed in the beginning of the series.
This was Idy's second portrayal as a princess. Inherently, there were some comparisons made between her character in "The Wild Bunch" and "The Grand Canal." Some described Idy as a whiner (she was) in "The Wild Bunch," while her role in "The Grand Canal" was a warrior princess. However, for the first few episodes of "The Grand Canal," I was STRONGLY reminded of her character in "The Wild Bunch." They were both forceful and obnoxious, always having to have their way. Both of them changed for the better as the series progressed, but for the most part, I really think they share some common characteristics.
  • Jimmy (Lee Jing)
People were skeptical of his performance in this series, but it is hard to imagine anyone else replacing this role. He was as heroic as he could ever get. Meaning, he never, EVER, got this kind of role again after the 80's. It's inherent that I treasure his role in this series so much because it was once in a lifetime performance he made, occupying much of the screen time and even getting together with a girl (the RIGHT way, NOT by harrassing).
  • Felix (Lee Mut)
Felix playing a villain was quite rare in the 80's ancient series. Other than this one, he was a villain in "Tai Ping Tin Kwok," "Kei Moon Gwai Guk," and "Genghis Khan." (2 of them which starred Jimmy as well, a coincidence perhaps?) Some people are convinced that Felix would never play a villain mainly because he is better known for some bigshot heroic roles like Kwok Jing from LOCH 83 or Kiu Fung from DGSD 96. Apparently, they missed this series. =_= By far, he is the nastiest, sleaziest, meanest, and the most hateable (for my liking) character in the entire series. He makes me sick basically, but the fact that he has the ability to have me feel this way makes him one of my favorite actors as well. I would've appreciated more of his acting as villains but that never pulled through after the 80's.
  • Lawrence (Yeung Gwong)
It's no surprise to see Lawrence as another villain in this series. I find that's what he's good at - playing evil characters that could spare him no sympathy whatsoever from my point of view. But unlike Felix playing a stealth villain, Lawrence's character is more outwardly evil. Felix surely had me fooled with his 'heroic' statue in the beginning but with Lawrence and the way he smiles connivingly after his objective is achieved, it's easy to tell that he's not a friendly character. I thought he was rather cute in this series (har har).


There were three prominent love stories in this series. Tony & Idy, Jimmy & Wong Yee Gum, and Sean & Margie. There also were Lawrence's lust for many women, Jimmy's side affair with Rebecca, and Cheng Yim Foong's one-sided crush towards Tony.
  • Jimmy (Lee Jing) & Wong Yee Gum (Cheung Chut Chun) & Rebecca (Chun Wei Leung)
This passing romance between the two infuriated many Jimmy fans like myself. It was not too great to see my favorite character who is supposed to be righteous cheating on his wife. But overtime, I grew to understand Lee Jing more.
Chun Wei Leung, as a former princess of a fallen dynasty, could not do anything but look pretty in front of people all her life. She did not possess Yeung Lan Ling's brave nature or strength. As soon as her dynasty fell in the hands of the Yeung's, she became the paramour of the Emperor. Although the Emperor (as old as he was) was nice to her, she probably felt smothered in her environment. It would be quite natural that she would feel attracted towards someone like Lee Jing, a young and gallant person who could introduce her to a new world outside the palace (well, they were running away from the soldiers, what else could he do...).
On the other hand, Cheung Chut Chun (CCC) was quite the opposite of Chun Wei Leung. She had a rough life as an orphan, therefore, she was very independent. She was not the type who needed protection from men. Her wisdom surpassed that of her husband's and although she respected him, she was not totally submissive. She would not be the type of a wife that an average man would want back in those days.
It is very easy to accuse Lee Jing of falling for Chun Wei Leung for her beauty, but that is far from the truth. The only reason Lee Jing and CCC hooked up initially was because of responsibility (he had eloped with this gal, thereby tainting her reputation). A bit of attraction and liking was involved, but certainly not the love factor. They got married faster than the couples who pay 50 bucks at Las Vegas to get hitched, plus they were always either running away or planning things that gave them hardly any time to develop any feelings other than mutual respect. When he met Chun Wei Leung, it must've been a total shock to him because he was actually with someone who "needed" him. No, Cheung Sam Long was not being a chauvinistic pig and generalizing that all women needed to be protected by men; that was just the standard of how things were then (even in modern times for many people). It was clear that CCC was a woman who could stand on her own and Chun Wei Leung was not. Beauty had very little to do with this matter.
It seems like Lee Jing was contemplating on the definition of a "spouse." If he sought a wife that he could protect and feel like a man in front of, Chun Wei Leung would've been the one. If he thought having a wife meant having a life-long partner, someone who could physically and intellectually help him in times of need, someone who could walk in his path together and truly understand him, CCC would've been the one. Of course, Lee Jing was not an average man (a bit slow, but still bright). He had goals and ambitions to better his nation. Because of this, I was very certain that he would come back to CCC no matter what -- not because he was a moralist, not because Chun Wei Leung died, but because he knew that CCC would fulfill what was missing in him. I guess that's when you use the cliche "the missing half" or "the soulmate."
  • Tony (Cheung Sam Long) & Cheng Yim Foong (Lee Seung Yee)
Was it love or obsession? To me, it was a mixture of both among other things. Seung Yee was not a vixen of the series, but it cannot be denied that she manipulated Cheung Sam Long's brotherly love for her in some ways. She played a key role in breaking up Cheung Sam Long and Yeung Lan Ling whenever there was a chance, knowing that Sam Long would believe her words no matter what. She did this because of her brother, but it was obvious that she envied Yeung Lan Ling for winning Sam Long's heart and felt jealous along the line.
The fact that Seung Yee came in between Sam Long and Lan Ling did not anger me, but she was a complex character to understand. She did things to harm Sam Long and his colleague, yet she always felt bad about what she did. Yet she continued following her brother's orders until she became very confused.
I began thinking that her love for Sam Long involved more than a mere man-woman relationship. Maybe she sought for his brotherly affection that she could not receive from her own brother, Lee Mut. All Lee Mut did was to use her and eventually lead her to kill herself. Seung Yee had never been given love throughout her life, so I could see why she clung onto Sam Long and was not willing to let go even if it meant hurting him. Sometimes, the extreme situations made me hate her (I especially loathed her nasally voice whenever she said "Kau dai-goh"), but for the most part, I took a great pity on her.
  • Sean (Lee Sai Mun) & Margie (Cheung Sin Mo Kau)
This relationship made me smile so much because it was very cute. Lee Sai Mun's gravity and Mo Kau's vivaciousness matched perfectly. Whenever Mo Kau followed Cheung Sam Long around, I couldn't help noticing Lee Sai Mun's pretending-to-be-okay-but-kinda-jealous eyes. ^_^ He even looked that way when she was playing with his brother! Sort of like, "I like her but she doesn't pay attention to me" feeling. Historically, Queen Cheung Sin was the most beloved wife of Lee Sai Mun, so it made sense that Lee Sai Mun would look at Mo Kau the way he did.


The Grand Canal features popular stars now and then to celebrate TVB's 20th Anniversary in 1987. The story originates from well-known historical figures in China during the Sui Dynasty. The TV drama covers different historical events such as the peasant uprising leading to the downfall of the Sui Dynasty, the rise of the Tang Dynasty and the politics involved therein. The fall of the Siu Dynasty and the rise of the Tong Dynasty attracts much interest in Ancient Chinese Literature because of the politics that were involved and the nature in which the throne was won. Tony Leung and Felix Wong, two of the legendary "Five Tigers", led the cast, and this is one of the very few dramas in which Felix Wong plays the villain, Li Mi. The righteous and intelligent hero Zhang San-lang, played by Tony Leung, is exactly the opposite of the cunning and ambitious Li Mi.

The cast was led by Leung Chiu Wai as the bearded hero Cheung Sam Long who's nickname is Kau Yim Hak. Chan Yuk Lin get's the lead female role was the Siu princess Yeung Lan Ling, who is also the head of the royal investigator branch. Lau Ching Wan played Lee Sai Mun, the 2nd son of general Lee Ying who is a cousin of the Siu King. Tsang Wah Sin played Lee Sai Mun's cousin, Cheung Sin Mo Kau. Wong Yat Wah played the tricky, cunning, devious, and power obsessed Lee Mun. This was one of the very few evil roles that Wong Yat Wah did get during the 1980's. Felix's wife, Leung Kit Wah, plays the wife of Yee Mun Fai Kap, Fai Sau Cum. Cheng Yim Foong played Lee Seung Yee a lonely girl searching for her brother. Ng Kai Wah, plays the evil 2nd prince of the Siu Emperor, Yeung Guo, who gets the throne by killing the Emperor, Queen and elder brother, Yeung Yung. Liu Kai Chi, plays the heir to the throne, Yeung Yung. Au Shiu Wah was Lee Jing, and Wong Yee Gum was Cheung Chut Chun. Also in the cast Chan Sau Chu played Chun Wai Leung, the princess of the vanquished Chun Empire. To Tai Yu played Lee Sai Mun's cousin, Cheung Sin Mo Kei. Au Yeung Chun Wai played Sak Kau the leader of a band of mountain robbers. Finally Ng Die Yung rounds out the cast as Lee Sai Mun's eldest brother, Lee King Sing.

Before the Siu Dynasty, China was divided into two parts North and South. The Siu Dynasty restored peace to China by reuniting the country into one. However their existed many rebellious factions during this period. In the early part of the 600's peasants began an uprising which eventually led to the collapse of the Siu Dynasty. There were many warring factions, however general Lee Ying emerged as the victor of the battles. He then became King in 618 and changed the title of his rule to Tong Kwok Kong. In English we call this period the Tang Dynasty which was one of China's golden periods. The period of the Tong Dynasty was from 618-907.

However shortly after becoming King, Lee Ying, abducted his throne to his 2nd son Lee Sai Mun. Four months before Lee Ying abducted his throne, Lee Sai Mun ambushed and killed his older brother, Lee King Sing, who was the rightful heir to the throne and his third brother, Lee Wai Gut. Despite this Lee Sai Mun goes down in history as one of China's greatest Kings. Lee Sai Mun ascended the throne in 627 as Tong Tia Jong and was known as a wise and intelligent ruler. His rule ended in 649AD.

The famous threesome of "Fung Chun Sai Hup", Cheung Sam Long, Lee Jing and his wife Cheung Chut Chun take on a more novelistic type of hero status. However some scholars confirm that Cheung Sam Long was said to have existed and was a ruler of a nation south of China. However whether his abilities where that great is debatable. Lee Jing was named the Prime Minister of China under Lee Sai Mun's rule. Ching Ngow Gum, lived a long life of prosperity and was said to have outlived Lee Sai Mun and was made latter a Lord, for his length of service in the Tong Dynasty. I suspected that many of the viewers remember Ching Ngow Gum from the classic trilogy, "Sit Yan Gwai Jing Dung", "Sit Ding San Jing Sai", and "Sit Kwong Fok Kwok".

How Lee Sai Mun actually gained the throne is a topic filled with uncertainty. Based on the fact that China flourished under Lee Sai Mun's rule, most novelists and historians give him the benefit of doubt and state that his brothers harbored ambitions to eliminate him and thus were killed themselves. That is the view that "The Grand Canal", takes. However three points are certain. One Lee Sai Mun was the one who convinced his farther Lee Ying to rebel. Two Lee Sai Mun was not the heir to the throne thus his brothers need not kill him to gain the throne. Three in the clash between the three brothers, Lee Sai Mun lived, Lee King Sing and Lee Wai Gut died. That is fact. But what triggered those events remains unknown.

A lot of viewers also find the subplots alluring. Zhang San-lang (Tony Leung) falls in love with a princess (Idy Chan), while another girl (Cheng Yim Fung) is having a crush on him. The love relations among members of the side-cast also create great attraction. The strong casts, their wonderful chemistry, the beautiful costumes and sets, together with the impressive scenic views in Xi'an (the former capital of China) all won big applause from the audience. The TV series also features other famous artists such as Idy Chan, Margie Tsang, Sean Lau Ching Wan, Lawrence Ng, Chan Sau Chu, Liu Kai Chi, etc. Also starring Wong Yee Gum and Cheng Yim Fung who were the winners of the one-time Miss TV pageant. AF Gallery With Screenshots

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