‘The Untamed’: Unpacking the Lan Xichen – Jin Guang Yao ‘ship
In case you’ve been living under a rock & don’t know yet, The Untamed is a Chinese BL drama based on the novel, Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation by Mo Xiang Tong Xiu. Set in ancient China, it follows a community of supernaturally charged cultivators as they rid the land of evil & corruption.
At the heart of the story lies the tale of the relationship between Wei Wuxian (Xiao Zhan) & Lan Wangji (Wang Yibo), however, there are other relationships that develop around these two characters that bring great depth & complexity to this story. One such relationship is that of Lan XiChen (Liu Haikuan) & Jin Guang Yao (Zhu Zan Jin).
While it is believed that Wei Wuxian & Lan Wangji are the only gay characters in the novel, it has been suggested that the creators of the show may have taken some liberties when portraying the relationship between Lan XiChen & Jin Guang Yao.
The indicators of a romantic connection between these two characters are incredibly subtle, but subtle is this show’s middle name! Come with us as we unpack the complex relationship that develops between these two characters and helps us decide. Is it bromance or romance?
In this episode, Jin Guang Yao arrives at Cloud Recesses for the Lan sect’s famous lecture series. It is widely known in the cultivation community that Jin Guang Yao is the love child of Clan Leader Jin, who fathered him with a prostitute. Rumors about his past spread at Cloud Recesses among the young cultivators. It is believed that he was rejected by the Jin clan & subsequently went to live with the Nie clan.
Each clan is required to present gifts during the Salute Ceremony to the Lan clan as a thank you for hosting the lecture series. It is during the presentation of the Nie clan gift that viewers are first introduced to the relationship between Lan XiChen & Jin Guang Yao.
Lan XiChen steps forward to receive the gift from Jin Guang Yao on behalf of the Lan clan. While it could be argued that Lan XiChen is always polite & respectful, there is definitely an additional affection & warmth present in his interaction with Jin Guang Yao at this moment.
Lan XiChen is extremely complimentary of Jin Guang Yao’s manner of speech, and the two share a lingering gaze that can only be described as intimate.
Later in the episode, Jin Guang Yao is preparing to leave Cloud Recesses, as he is not an official student of the lecture series, but in fact just a guest of the Nie clan. Jin Guang Yao goes out of his way to find Lan XiChen to say farewell. Perhaps its the way Lan XiChen tries to convince Jin Guang Yao to stay longer, but this is the first moment where viewers could potentially question the relationship between these two characters.
Lan XiChen stares longingly after Jin Guang Yao as he walks away that radiates a little more romance than bromance. It’s still pretty early in the series here though, and it’s certainly early in the development of the relationship between these two characters, yet the special connection they share is obvious to all.
At the end of this episode, Lan Wangji & Wei Wuxian are attempting to convince Lan XiChen that they know the identity of the person responsible for Nie Mingjue’s (Wang Yi Zhou) death and subsequent beheading.
Wei Wuxian presses the matter, explaining that the person responsible for this crime not only knows the swordsmanship of the Lan clan intimately, but also uses unique skills only the Jin clan use. Wei Wuxian’s implication is clear: there is only one person with intimate knowledge of both clans. The person responsible could only be Jin Guang Yao.
Although the evidence Wei Wuxian lays out is exceptionally compelling, Lan XiChen immediately jumps to Jin Guang Yao’s defense. He claims that Jin Guang Yao would never have committed such atrocities. Lan XiChen exposes the depth of the relationship between himself & Jin Guang Yao here by saying that they’ve spent every night talking together for the past month.
Let’s be clear about the implication here. They did not have telephones in ancient China, so the only way these two men could have spent the last month talking every night is if they were in the presence of one another every night. Wei Wuxian tries to shoot Lan XiChen down by suggesting that Jin Guang Yao used a portal talisman to achieve his dirty work, but Lan XiChen just isn’t having it. He tells Wei Wuxian & Lan Wangji that he has the utmost faith in Jin Guang Yao.
As is often the case when dissecting the relationship between Lan XiChen & Jin Guang Yao throughout this show, it’s not just Lan XiChen’s words that gives away the possibility that this could be romance. His body language, his facial expressions & his eyes in particular, are always so protective & defensive when discussing the possible shortcomings of Jin Guang Yao’s character.
At this point though, even though we’re well into the story, the issue of whether this is bromance or romance is still unclear; it could be interpreted either way.
During a flashback in this particular episode, Lan XiChen is physically protecting Jin Guang Yao from Nie Mingjue. Nie Mingjue is laying out the evidence of atrocities that Jin Guang Yao committed, including conspiring with the Wen clan. Lan XiChen is, once again, downplaying the devastation caused by Jin Guang Yao’s actions.
Even though it’s clear that Jin Guang Yao did, in fact, do all the things that Nie Mingjue is accusing him of, Lan XiChen isn’t having it. He physically throws himself in front of Jin Guang Yao, stopping Nie Mingjue’s sword from enacting a deadly blow.
At this point, it is clear to viewers that Jin Guang Yao isn’t the person Lan XiChen thinks he is. However, Lan XiChen is so blinded by his loyalty to Jin Guang Yao though, that it is clear that he can’t allow himself to accept the truth about his friend.
It could be suggested that Lan XiChen’s commitment to his friend here parallels Lan Wangji’s commitment to Wei Wuxian. Even when everyone in the cultivation community stood against Wei Wuxian and wanted him dead, Lan Wangji’s faith in Wei Wuxian never wavered. This is not the only time such parallels between the two relationships are presented to viewers, either.
In this episode, back at Cloud Recesses after being chased away from Carp Tower, Lan Wangji & Wei Wuxian attempt, once again, to convince Lan XiChen that Jin Guang Yao is not the man Lan XiChen thinks he is. When Lan Wangji informs Lan XiChen that Jin Guang Yao has the Red Blade Master’s head, Lan XiChen immediately becomes defensive.
Lan Wangji tells Lan XiChen that Wei Wuxian saw the head with his own eyes, implying that’s all the proof they need that Jin Guang Yao is actually guilty. Lan XiChen explicitly tells Lan Wangji here that he trusts jin Guang Yao in the same way that Lan Wangji trusts Wei Wuxian.
This is important because, by this stage, Lan XiChen knows about the romantic relationship that exists between Lan Wangji & Wei Wuxian. To state that Lan XiChen trusts Jin Guang Yao in the same esteem that Lan Wangji trusts Wei Wuxian could imply that the feelings Lan XiChen has for Jin Guang Yao parallel that of the WangXian relationship.
In this scene, Lan XiChen is clearly upset that his brother is accusing Jin Guang Yao of wrongdoings. Lan XiChen’s facial expression, his body language, and his tone all radiate a similar fear & desperation that Lan Wangji conveyed during the period of time where he watched Wei Wuxian walk his dark path. The similarities between the two relationships here cannot be missed.
As Wei Wuxian & Lan Wangji continue to lay out evidence of Jin Guang Yao’s guilt, Lan XiChen remains stubbornly unpersuaded. Lan XiChen’s blind insistence that Jin Guang Yao is innocent screams a little more romance than bromance here, especially considering all the evidence stacked against him. As the saying goes, love is blind, after all.
This episode kicks off in the Forbidden Chamber of the Library Pavillion at Cloud Recesses. Wei Wuxian manages to figure out why the Song of Clarity that Jin Guang Yao played is incorrect. He suggests that a melody that is out of place in the Song of Clarity is in fact inserted from the Collection of Turmoil, which is an evil collection of music of the Dongying.
Wei Wuxian then goes on to suggest that Jin Guang Yao ripped that page out of the Collection of Turmoil to cover his tracks: Jin Guang Yao couldn’t risk anyone ever finding the music, as it would lead right back to him. Wei Wuxian lays out an elaborate plan that Jin Guang Yao clearly concocted to deceive Lan XiChen, but Lan XiChen, again, refuses to believe Wei Wuxian’s theory.
He defends Jin Guang Yao again, saying that Lan XiChen never exposed to the location of the Forbidden Chamber to the man, and therefore, Jin Gyang Yao wouldn’t have had knowledge of the location of the music. The evidence is clear, but Lan XiChen still refuses to believe that Jin Guang Yao could do something so sinister and evil.
Lan XiChen goes on to tell Lan Wangji here, with great pain capturing his face, that he sees Jin Guang Yao as a totally different person to the man Lan Wangji & Wei Wuxian see him as. There is a moment here, where Lan Wangji & Wei Wuxian both look away knowingly. Wei Wuxian was once also perceived incorrectly by the cultivation community for many years.
The parallel here is subtle, yet unmissable. If Wei Wuxian could be so misunderstood by the culvation community, isn’t it also possible that Wei Wuxian & Lan Wangji have the wrong idea about Jin Gyang Yao? This is certainly the message that Lan XiChen is impressing upon the two men here, even though he never actually says the words.
Lan XiChen continues his unwavering support of Jin Guang Yao’s character. He says he is a man of kindness, benevolence & forbearance. Could these be the words of a man simply wanting to defend the character of a life-long friend? Definitely. However, the words aren’t key here. It’s Lan XiChen’s facial expressions and body language that suggest that this relationship, at least for Lan XiChen, could be one of romance rather than bromance.
Episode 48 and 49
We’re putting these two episodes together because they are basically one long episode broken up into two installments. Episode 49 picks up mid-sentence right after episode 48 ends. By this time in the story, it is clear that Jin Guang Yao is guilty of all the crimes Wei Wuxian & Lan Wangji accuse him of. Finally, Lan XiChen sees him for who he really is. Wei Wuxian is able to expose Jin Guang Yao’s crimes, and Lan XiChen is completely devastated. The emotion on Lan XiChen’s face is unmistakable: the man feels the greatest level of betrayal possible.
It then becomes clear that Jin Guang Yao was also connected to the downfall of Wei Ying, which subsequently lead to the pain and suffering that Lan Wangji experienced all those years without him. Jin Guang Yao’s evil plan runs far deeper than any of them expected. Lan XiChen stands by and listens in disbelief as Jin Guang Yao recounts the tale.
Lan XiChen says to Jin Guang Yao that when he learned of Jin Guang Yao’s bad deeds in the past, he had always just assumed that committing such atrocities was unavoidable for the man. However, even in this moment, even though everything is laid out on the table for all to see, Lan XiChen still says he isn’t sure if he should believe in Jin Guang Yao’s story, or not.
The evidence is more than clear to everyone else in that room that Jin Guang Yao is guilty. Even Jin Guang Yao himself isn’t really denying it at this point. Although Wei Wuxian is suggesting they stop talking and start fighting, Jin Guang Yao engages in a very intimate moment with Lan XiChen. Jin Guang Yao begs Lan XiChen for another chance.
Everyone around Lan Xichen is trying to encourage him to let go and see the truth, yet Jin Guang Yao is still able to appeal to Lan XiChen’s emotions. Lan XiChen continues to hear him out for quite some time. Letting go of his friend, and the relationship he cultivated with him over the years proves incredibly difficult for Lan XiChen.
By the end of this episode, instead of just killing Jin Guang Yao like any other noble clan leader like him would have, Lan XiChen tells Jin Guang Yao that if he does anything else in that moment to cause trouble, he’ll show no mercy. Lan XiChen even attempts to ease Jin Guang Yao’s suffering from his dismembered arm.
Lan XiChen ends up being the one to stab Jin Guang Yao. As the building is coming down. It’s clear that everyone inside is in imminent danger and they begin to flee, except for Jin Guang Yao & Lan XiChen. Jin Guang Yao begs Lan XiChen to stay with him so they can die together & Lan XiChen actually appears to be contemplating this option.
After a few emotional moments, Jin Guang Yao pushes Lan XiChen away, who appears nothing short of devastated that his friend made that particular choice for him. Lan XiChen lives, Jin Guang Yao does not.
Whether or not Lan XiChen feels bromance or romance towards Jin Guang Yao, it is clear that his feelings for his friend, whatever they may be, run deep. Additionally, it is also abundantly clear that Lan Xichen was grossly manipulated by his friend for many, many years.
In their final moments, Jin Guang Yao does make a comment that even though he is responsible for all the terrible things he is accused of, he never did a single thing to hurt Lan XiChen. It could be argued that he is just offering this information to make Lan XiChen feel guilty for stabbing him, but it has also been suggested that this is a very subtle confession of his feelings for Lan XiChen.
The connection Lan XiChen forged with Jin Guang Yao throughout the series was uniquely special, regardless of whether it is construed as romantic or not. Bonds rarely ever run as deep as the one between these two characters.
So what do you think? Was Lan XiChen in love with Jin Guang Yao, or did they really just have a once-in-a-lifetime kind of friendship? You tell us!