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The Real Life Drama of Zhang Zhehan and the Masterful Lessons We can Learn from His Struggles

Updated: Dec 25, 2022

I happen to be an American fan of the wuxia C-Drama Word of Honor (Shanheling) by Priest, (available in the US via Netflix, VikiRakuten, YouTube) which stars two very multi-gifted young actors with interesting energetic ties to one other. But I digress.

The show stars actor Zhang Zhehan (ZZH) who plays Window of Heaven Leader Zhou Zhishu (ZZS) and actor Gong Jun (GJ) who plays Ghost Valley Chief Wen Ke Xing (WKX), and around whom the story revolves. The focus of this blog post is to look at the interesting parallels to the current and very real drama playing out between these two fine actors, their fans, the media and the government of China and what we can learn about our own struggles in life. I outline the WoH story below just a bit which includes some spoilers to demonstrate these parallels. So if you haven’t watched it yet, hurry up! It’s an amazing show!

When Life Imitates Art

Recent well meaning social media posts from ZZH have turned fans on their heads, causing a bit of confusion and distress to many. For those unfamiliar, ZZH suddenly became public enemy #1 in his home country of China after a photo taken years before suspiciously surfaced showing him apparently in front of a famous and popular shrine in Japan built in honor of its war heroes. The temple is in the middle of busy Tokyo so one can be in front of it, walk past it or even take a selfie and not think anything about it. No one would accuse you of paying homage to the temple much less the War “heroes” in whose honor it was built by doing so. (Much like a tourist taking a pic in front of Notre Dame or the Vatican because it makes a good photo to post somewhere, and do so without worry of being accused of being Catholic much less paying homage to the Pope or Macron).

But alas, as everyone knows, Japan was an enemy of China during WW2 and there was much attrocities committed, so such a photo taken by a young Chinese artist, however innocently, would not easily go unnoticed. In fact, it set off a firestorm for ZZH in which he was blacklisted in his own country and all of his SM accounts banned. In effect, he was unequivocally “canceled” social media-wise.

Netizens added fuel to the fire and in the end what should have by all accounts have blown over in a few short months has dragged on. Solo Fans of ZZH then began a row and vice versa with CP or Couple/Shipping Fans of ZZH and GJ which further led to solo fans of GJ jumping into the mix. Meanwhile while ZZH’s career tanked, the lives of his family and he were threatened, and he became a pariah in his own country.

While also being attacked by ZZH‘s solo fans, GJs career nevertheless took off due to the global popularity of Word of Honor. Any perceived relationship between the two actors which any person with two working eyes could see was loving (whether fraternal or elsewise) and amicable appears to have soured. And blame for ZZH‘s present distress have shifted to GJ and CP fans. The recent IG posts of ZZH appears to confirm this. But in reality, no one but the parties directly involve know the truth and as beings of Light, we naturally send love to them both. Nonetheless it’s a challenge to understand the full picture when we only get bits and pieces and only what various parties wish us to see. Nevermind the language barrier.

What is clear is the tremendous pressure the multi-talented ZZH is under to redeem and restore his good name, through official channels and social media, and to get back on track with his career and life. Based on his own SM posts and his many prior interviews, variety shows, BTS (Behind-the-Scenes), etc. of ZZH, it is easy to see that he is a humble, genuine young man and more importantly a deep thinker. Having been raised myself by a deep thinker and a philosopher at heart, ZZH is indeed a rare breed in the world today. Thus he appears far older and wiser than his earth years. But I digress…again. The point I wish to make is that the current and very real struggles ZZH is experiencing with those around him oddly mirror that of protagonist WKX in WoH/SHL and WKX‘s search to find his way to full redemption.

In the series, WKX is a young man who is railroaded by life from all sides, who experiences unspeakable suffering, and no matter how hard he tries, he is prevented at every turn from clearing his name. Worse he is at the end of his rope, so to speak. His only hope lay in finding a path out of this intense and prolonged struggle (while constantly being pushed into seemingly one impossible position after another) mostly of his own doing.

To do this he must set aside his desire for revenge and hatred and seek the Light. A most difficult task for WKX due to the very real gravity of his suffering and the depth of his resulting despair. Enter ZZS, a young man also on a quest to redeem himself from past mistakes that he believes in his heart are unforgivable. When their two paths cross, WKX is hell-bent on destroying all of jianghu (martial arts world) and ZZS on getting drunk and dying in some quiet part of the world alone and unnoticed.

To complicate matters, ZZS has imbedded in his body the 7 Nails of Poison as a form of self punishment which is slowly killing him. It’s a rough start for both heroes as they sniff each other out, go head to head trying to uncover the others secrets, and motivations, and mostly one rejects the other. After a time as with all great stories they ultimately come together and realize they indeed are soul mates and more importantly need each other to redeem themselves.

Interesting side note: sometimes one party reaches this conclusion before the other. In WoH, WKX recognizes they are soulmates before ZZS. Life imitates art. In the series WoH it so happens that the one with the most compelling backstory is WKX- - perceived as an evil villain and enemy himself by all of jianghu. Thankfully while trying to uncover the truth, and after much pestering by WKX, ZZS befriends and then doesn’t give up on WKX even though he does not completely know the truth about his new friend. Nevertheless he has faith in WKX based on his character and his kick butt martial arts skills.

Only by going through the fire and battling every struggle faced head on and seeking light amidst insurmountable odds does our hero WKX surmount it all with the help of soulmate ZZS. And surmount he does. He battles his way out of the darkness (and it was pretty damn dark) back to the Light reaching hard for the Light represented by ZZS and ultimately succeeding. This story is, in fact, about both heroes redeeming themselves together as soulmates.

In the present very real life drama, the roles are actually reversed. It is ZZH whose problems and journey is wrought with seemingly insurmountable obstacles. In fact, he is in the midst of that difficult battle as I write this. He is steadily working to clear his name while continuing to improve himself by studying ancient poetry, psychology and other subjects and writing more songs (he is quite the gifted songwriter already) and staying busy. Level-headed and grounded, his heart blazes like the sun. Thus he is a rare soul. But his difficulties are real and somehow he has taken on this incredible mission of turning a corrupt system on its head. What a true Master!

Leaving for a moment that everything in life (as in art) is divinely guided, the message is clear in what the hero must do to succeed and see himself through the perilous and dark night. He must find the Light, grabbing ahold of it as best as he can under the circumstances thereby enabling him to find and recognize his own Light amidst the darkness. Only in this way will our hero succeed. In the beautiful drama, both fated heroes win together, ultimately redeeming themselves.

At the crucial moment, the decision our hero makes determines the outcome. Like the drama, a mistake could cause further suffering but it is never irredeemable. In fact in the drama both make plenty of mistakes until they muddle through the misunderstandings and finally are on the same page. Life is the same way. Nothing is unforgivable. Not with all the grace that exists on the earth plane. It all depends on one’s heart. And in the drama, forgive each other they do. Without it there is no progress. No healing. No finding the Light for either of them. And they are doomed so to speak to wander around alone mired in hell until they do. More importantly they both forgive themselves.

Once our hero understands this, no matter how many obstacles he encounters, as long as he keeps believing in and reaching for the Light, the outcome is therefore certain. This is called the Hero’s Journey and it is a theme that is repeated throughout all popular genres.

No one seems to escape karma, not even our hero. But if we remember that everything is divinely guided, in the end the only thing we need do is seek the Light. Even if it seems you spend more time stumbling around in the dark and trying to find your way out, through thick and thin, through every ridiculously difficult and seemingly impossible situation —continue to reach for the Light wherever you can find it. It is always there, steady and holding fast waiting for you to connect. In the drama, WKX struggles to recognize his own Light. Yet he could see it in ZZS. It didn’t matter if ZZS could recognize it in himself. I believe this is key. This enabled WKX to find his own Light within. Once your own Light begins to burn bright, the way forward becomes clearer. Until then WKX was able to keep reaching for ZZS and the Light he represented.

This leads me to another critical point. You are Light. It is You. At the depths of your being. This is because you are a spark of Source. And Source, the origin of all things, matter, space and moment is Light. (Read more about that here). It’s just that sometimes to find or uncover that Light we must seek it outside ourselves so that it becomes clearer, burns ever brighter as we connect to the greater Light all around us. To hope.

Once you seek the Light, based on this higher perspective, all that is left is to take bold action. Hold the Light like the lifeline it is and you will most definitely find your way out of the quicksand or miasma. No matter how dark your situation.

The role of the villain in the hero’s journey is an important one, too. Even the villain (or other problem in life) has an important purpose in helping you discover your true strength and Light, allowing it to burn even brighter. So called villians of the people persuasion are on their own journey, too, and more importantly without them, our hero has no story. Thus they exist together. Only once our hero has succeeded in redeeming himself can he fully appreciate the important role the villain(s) and obstacles played in his ultimate success and victory. Without the villains and obstacles, our hero (life) becomes stagnant. There is no explosive growth. More importantly there is no fully basking and appreciating the Light once it’s revealed. At least not here on 3D earth.

But it isn’t necessary to focus on the villain. I repeat “do not focus on the villain”. To fixate on the vilain is a huge and purposeful distraction. And a mistake. Otherwise your life and problems will become an endless painful austerity. And…You don’t have time for that. Think WKX fixating on his hatred to no end… Even ZZS was starting to wonder how best to help his friend.

Rather, seek the Light at every turn. Find it in the simplest thing and bask in it so it becomes your second skin. And know your role and responsibility in creating even more of it for yourself. For when you light your own way, you also do so for others, including those still struggling and stumbling around in the dark behind you.

This drama of Life, the hero’s journey, is played out countless times in every scenario and every walk of life. You may be on our own hero‘s journey now like countless others. No matter how bad you may have it, resolve to win, to grasp that Light. Once you resolve to win, no matter how many setbacks appear and smack you around, your indomitable will and intention will carry you, the hero in your own journey, forward to your own beautiful resolution. Having a friend or soulmate to support you doesn’t hurt either.

And in the end, all enlightened heroes genuinely are able to acknowledge and appreciate the role everyone played in their journey, to make their ultimate victory a complete one, and that nothing and no one is unforgivable. All are necessary to create and complete a beautiful story. Bottom line is that nothing in life is ever insurmountable. No hardship or struggle. After all, you are Light. And there is Light in everything. It’s just up to you, our hero, to find it. ZZH we wish you a successful hero’s journey and await your victory.

Touch the Light! ❤️

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