Length: 1 hr 15 mins (not incl. instrumentals)
Main Composer: Lin Hai
Physical Release: November 2, 2019
Digital Release: July 8, 2019

“Screw that broad, nicely-paved path. I’m taking the narrow lonely bridge into the darkness!”​- Wei Wuxian

Chen Qing Ling — otherwise known as The Untamed — is a Chinese Drama based on the popular Boy’s Love (BL) web novel, Mo Dao Zu Shi. It is about Wei Wuxian, a powerful Demonic Cultivator who is given a 2nd chance at life, and the love of his life Lan Wangji, a righteous Cultivator from the Gusu Lan Sect. The story revolves around their attempts to uncover the mystery behind a spirit sword, which appeared on the night that Wei Wuxian was resurrected into the body of Mo Xuanyu. This review, however, will focus on the music behind the drama. I will be reviewing 18 songs included in the soundtrack, as well as some instrumentals included in the second disc of the album. The OST of ‘The Untamed’ was written in a way that clearly shows the two main couple’s romantic love for one another, something the production team could not visually show on screen. In this review, there will be spoilers to the drama and original novel, as the songs contain plot elements.

Most of the main themes within this album are centred around love, whether it be romantic love between Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji, familial love, or friendship. As a result, this review will focus on the relationships between the main cast and their love for each other. This includes how it certain relationships are expressed throughout the series, and how they are portrayed in the soundtrack. Furthermore, when Lin Hai (the main composer of the OST for ‘The Untamed’) was asked about his inspiration for the soundtrack at a concert in Nanjing, he answered 愛 or ‘love’. ¹

There are four songs that are of importance to the novel: ‘Wangxian’, ‘Rest,’ ‘Inquiry’ and ‘Evocation’. Only two of the four songs make an appearance in the drama and its accompanying soundtrack. ‘Wangxian’ is renamed ‘Wuji’ in the drama, and it serves as the main couple song. ‘Rest’ is what the pair plays when attempting to calm down the resentful energy held within Lan Wangji‘s spirit-trapping bag containing the essence of the spirit sword. ‘Evocation’ and ‘Inquiry’, the other two songs from the novel, do not make an appearance as the initial scenes, where they do make appearances, are cut from the drama adaption.

1. Unrestrained・无羁 (Wangxian Theme)
Wang Yibo & Xiao Zhan

Theme: The all encompassing relationship of Wei Wuxian & Lan Wangji

‘Unrestrained’, or ‘Wuji’, is the main theme song for Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji. It serves as the couple’s song throughout the entirety of the drama and reads like a love letter between the main couple. It also went on to win ‘song of the year’ at two award shows following the broadcast of ‘The Untamed’ on the Tencent streaming service. There are four official versions of this song. The version that I will be reviewing is performed by Xiao Zhan and Wang Yibo, who portray the characters of Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji respectively.

The song tells a story about the love the two have for each other, both as friends and later as cultivation partners (the latter to a lesser extent, due to censorship). The song starts off with Wei Wuxian reminiscing about Lan Wangji and his home in the Cloud recesses, while playing the flute, and the love the two have for each other. The song somehow manages to portray both their happiness in having each other while depicting a grieving Lan Wangji, through the line: ‘Preparing a jar of happiness and sadness of life and death to mourn a young man’. This line is especially heartbreaking, as it is likely from the point-of-view of Lan Wangji, and tells of his suffering after directly witnessing the death of Wei Wuxian. Lan Wangji — after being beaten horribly by his family for siding with and defending Wei Wuxian during the conflict at ‘Nightless City’, as well as confronting the Jin Sect — prepared a cup of ‘Emperors Smile’ while in mourning, directly after the death of Wei Wuxian. This is the moment where he scars his chest with the brand that Wei Ying received during his first life, at the hands of the Wen sect.

The composition, itself, is amazing. It opens with a single flute, the instrument used by Wei Wuxian. Just before the vocals of Xiao Zhan, the actor who portrays Wei Wuxian, begins we hear the sound of wind chimes. This is likely drawing back to the first battle that the couple had on the rooftops of the ‘Gusu Cloud Recesses’ during the first day they met. Then, just as Wang Yibo begins his lines, we hear the first appearance of the qin, symbolising his character Lan Wangji. The two instruments blend together, accompanied by a piano throughout the song, once it becomes a duet. One of the most interesting aspects of this song is the use of the qin and piano to create a bridge that connects the fist and second section cohesively into a single impressive structure.
This is an amazing song, made even more beautiful by its intricate composition.

2. Song Ends With Chenqing・曲尽陈情 (Wei Wuxian Theme)
Xiao Zhan

Theme: Love & Romance, [along with recounting his past life with Lan Wangji.

‘The Song Ends With Chenqing’, or ‘Qu Jin Chen Qing’, is the character song for Wei Wuxian, the first of the two main protagonists of the story. If I had to put a theme to his song, it would be that of love and romance. At one point, Wei Wuxian compares Lan Wangji to a ‘ten li spring‘. ² A li is a Chinese unit of measurement equal to about ten miles. Therefore, he sees Lan Wangji‘s beauty as being incomparable to even that of ten miles of spring. ³

He continues to reference the experiences that he and Lan Wangji experienced as teenagers, reminiscing on their time spent in the Xuanwu cave and how they were left abandoned battling the Tortoise of the Slaughter. While others may talk behind his back and exaggerate his sins, the only person he will care about is Lan Wangji. Singing that he ‘had someone in the mortal world once to love and long for,’ and following his rebirth, he remembers Lan Wangji above everyone else. The person that he thought about first was not his family but the love of his life, Lan Wangji.

‘Qu Jin Chen Qing’ is a song that is largely dominated by the flute, which stays as a constant throughout much of the song, and even serves to break up the two sections of the song. Aside from the flute and percussion, the song begins with a single plucked qin note per bar — broken up into 4/4 musical composition — to accompany the flute domination, which only picks up into a duet when Lan Wangji is mentioned for the first time. The song ends with an amazing choice of stunning traditional Chinese opera vocals, paired in a duet with Xiao Zhan.

With beautiful poetic lyrics that the translation fails to do justice, ‘Qu Jin Chen Qing’ is a beautiful love song that details the love and experiences Wei Wuxian feels towards Lan Wangji, and it remains to be one of my favourite tracks on the album.

3. Won’t Forget・不忘 (Lan Wangji Theme)
Wang Yibo

Theme: Pining & Morality

‘Won’t Forget’, or ‘Bu Wang’, is the character song for Lan Wangji, the second main protagonist of ‘The Untamed’. It is sung by Wang Yibo, the actor who portrays the character of Lan Wangji. There are two main themes that are present within ‘Bu Wang’. The first is that of endless longing, that Lan Wangji feels towards his lost love, Wei Wuxian. This is especially prevalent in the lyrics that discuss the 16 years the two spent apart from one another, following the death of Wei Wuxian up until his eventual reincarnation into the body of Mo Xuanyu. The line: “The sound of the zither echoes in the Jingshi***, playing a song of Inquiry but answered by no soul” effectively canonises the fan head canon of Lan Wangji, playing 16 years of ‘Inquiry’ while searching for Wei Wuxian, only to find nothing upon return to the CQL universe.

The secondary theme that applies to ‘Bu Wang’ is the theme of morality and beliefs. As Lan Wangji and Wei Wuxian’s relationship grows beyond to that of simple friendship, so did Wei Wuxian’s influence on the beliefs and moral code of Lan Wangji. This can be seen through the line “Asking again about how black and white, praises and blamed can be measured in the mortal world.”

Lan Wangji, having grown up in the Gusu Lan Sect under a stringent moral code and as a child was told to abide to over 3000 rules carved onto the ‘wall of discipline’, had a very strict moral compass. Wei Ying’s actions throughout the story caused him to question this, including questioning the integrity of his clan and going as far as betraying and dishonouring his clan to protect the man that he cares for the most who, according to the rules of his clan, had strayed from the righteous path and thus was not to be trusted. This only resulted in him being severely punished.

The instrumental of ‘Bu Wang’ begins with a single qin and slowly joined by a flute in a duet. This is abruptly cut as the vocals are replaced by a piano until about 1:10, where the qin completely replaces the piano and is used in a similar way how a piano would be used throughout the rest of the song. In my opinion, I found the qin runs to be the most interesting aspect of the song, as they were both used the way a piano would be traditionally used as well as through intricate traditional compositions. The song closes the way it began, with a duet of the qin and flute and without any background vocals.

This song has a beautiful instrumental and it made me fall in love with Wang Yibo’s voice, who debuted as a rapper but has a decent voice.

4. Newborn・赤子 (Wen Ning Theme)
Yu Bin

Theme: Childlike Admiration & Friendship

‘Chi Zi’ is the character song for Wen Ning, played by Chinese actor and MxM member Yu Bin. He is Wei Wuxian’s best friend, confidant, and second in command, during his time occupying the ‘Burial Mounds’ as the Yiling Patriarch. The song mainly talks about Wen Ning’s friendship with Wei WuXian, and how he sees him as his only friend, as well as his love towards Wei Wuxian, promising to stay by his side forever. He further states that he will be forever thankful towards Wei Wuxian for resurrecting him, following his death at the hands of the members of the Lanling Jin sect.

The main themes that are captured in ‘Chi Zi’ are child-like admiration and friendship. Wen Ning loves Wei Wuxian, however not to the same extent as Lan Wangji. He loves him as a friend and appreciates all that Wei Wuxian did for him and his family, reminiscing on the difficult — but happy — times they spent during their time living together as a family the ‘Burial Mounds’.

‘Chi Zi’ opens with the sound of a phantom flute. This is likely a reference back to the manner in which Wen Ning was resurrected into a ‘fierce corpse’ (‘ghost puppet’ in the web drama, because of censorship) through the actions of Wei Wuxian. He used both the ‘Stygian Tiger Seal’ and his flute, ‘Chenqing’, to revive Wen Ning back from the dead and into something that is neither living nor dead. The overarching instrumental of ‘Chi Zi’ is a blend of both Eastern and Western instrumentals into one solid piece that defines the character Wen Ning completely.

Some of the stand out moments for me during the song is the zither throughout the beginning which, along with the ghost flute, helps to define the song that sounds distinctly like Wen Ning’s thankfulness for having a friend like Wei Wuxian.

5. Goodbye Filled With Hatred・恨别 (Jiang Cheng Theme)
Wang Zhuocheng

Theme: Bitterness & Pride

‘Goodbye Filled With Hatred’ is the character song for Jiang Cheng, who is the brother of Wei Wuxian following his adoption by Jiang Fengmin. It mainly talks about the loss of his family following the massacre of his clan, as well as his hatred for Wei Wuxian for abandoning him following his transformation into the Yiling Patriarch and for hiding the truth from him for over a decade.

The main themes captured by ‘Goodbye Filled With Hatred’ are bitterness and pride. This includes the bitterness that Jiang Cheng feels towards his adopted brother for causing the death of his family and for abandoning him in his time of need, and pride over the fact that he will likely never take the initiative to completely reconcile with his brother due to his ego.

The instrumental, itself, is quite simple when compared to the previous songs from the OST. The song is largely dominated by the piano and western-stringed instruments, with traditional instruments that make up the background instrumentals. The traditional instruments are almost unnoticeable unless you look for them, as they blend in extremely well with the piano and stringed instruments. At around the 1:10 mark, the traditional instrumentals take the centre stage of the composition, backed-up by a set of violins as he reminisces about his time growing up at the Lotus Pier.

The amazing vocals let down by sub-par instrumentals.

6. Involuntary・不由 (Lan Xichen Theme)
Liu Haikuan

Theme: Regret & Grieving

‘Involuntary’ is the main song of Lan Xichen, the older brother of Lan WangJi, and it talks about the relationship Xichen had with his two sworn brothers. The first, Nie Mingjue, died prior to the present and was involuntarily involved in the demise of his said friend. The second sworn brother, Jin Guangyao, was made to kill Nie Mingjue under the orders of his father, Jin Guangshan. He unknowingly involved Xichen in Nie Mingjue’s murder, causing him to feel deep anger and regret following the conclusion of the story.

The main themes that are captured both in the lyrics and the vocals of ‘Involuntary’ are that of grief and regret. Lan Xichen grieves over the loss of of his sworn brothers, both of whom he inadvertently had a hand in killing. His regret stems from the fact that he was manipulated by his best friend into inadvertently causing the death of his first sworn brother, Nie Minjue, whom died via a forced Qi deviation — executed by Jin Guangyao — in between the two main timelines of the story. Xichen’s story ends with self-enforced seclusion, much like his father before him, locking himself away in an effort to punish himself for the death of his friends.

The instrumental begins with a lone piano and develops in complexity as more and more instruments, both Western and Eastern, are blended seamlessly onto the track. I found the most interesting aspect of the song to be the introduction of the song, where we go from a single piano playing in the background to multiple traditional instruments layered on top of one another. This includes a flute, Chinese zither, and even a rain stick at one point.

The amazing instrumentals help to further express the regret and grief that Lan Xichen feels following the conclusion of the story.

7. Unrestrained・无羁 (Wangxian Theme)
Zhou Bichang

Theme: The all encompassing relationship of Wei Wuxian & Lan Wangji

Zhou Bichang sings one of the four alternatives to the main couple song ‘Wuji.’ This version is much more reliant on the piano and violin when compared to XiaoZhan and Wang Yibo‘s songs, which utilises the qin and flute. If asked to choose which version of ‘Wuji’ I enjoyed better, I honestly wouldn’t be able to choose as I enjoyed them both just as much. However, I feel that in Zhou Bichang’s version of ‘Wuji’, the delivery of the song is extremely raw and emotional, which further emphasises the intense pain and longing one would feel when loosing a loved one. An example of this was the way Lan Wangji initially lost Wei Wuxian in the story, having (in the drama) spent years looking for someone that likely would never come back.


Sources & Endnotes:

¹ The use of 愛 in the context of explaining to someone that you love through the phase 我爱你 (wǒ ài nǐ). ‘I love you’ is rarely used, as it is seen as too strong an word, and is often replaced with the phrase (wǒ xǐ huān nǐ) ‘I like you’. 愛 is purely about the feelings of love one would have towards another person, when compared to a similar word such as 恋 (I’m using the Japanese definition here because I don’t know Chinese) which is about the passion one may have for their romantic partner. 愛 can be seen as the stronger word.

² The non-literal translation: ‘I had a sword battle with the most beautiful person of Gusu once’

³ source