‘The Untamed’: Everything you need to know about Mo Xuanyu
Those just starting out with The Untamed may find themselves in a state of equal parts enamored and equal parts confused. For those that don’t know what we’re talking about, The Untamed is a Chinese fantasy and drama series adapted from the novel entitled Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation (Mo Dao Zu Shi) written by Mo Xiang Tong Xiu.
One’s instant captivation comes from the show’s beauty. The actors, the set, the costumes – it’s all just simply stunning to watch. For some though, at least initially, there are moments of head scratching confusion. For those unfamiliar with Chinese culture, or the source material might be overwhelmed by all the names, the subtitles, and the fantasy lore that exists.
However, a lot of the initial confusion in the first two episodes centers around Mo Xuanyu (Xiao Zhan) & Wei Wuxian (also played by Xiao Zhan). Here’s why: Mo Xuanyu, as himself, never actually appears in the show. Wei Wuxian is resurrected in Mo Xuanyu’s body after viewers watch Wei Wuxian die in the opening scene.
This is confusing because when Wei Wuxian is resurrected in Mo Xuanyo’s body, the actor doesn’t change. Xiao Zhan, who viewers see plunge off a cliff to his death as Wei Wuxian, wakes up as Wei Wuxian in Mo Xuanyu’s body. It could potentially take those who are totally new to the story some time to work this out, as the clues surrounding this change are subtle.
So if he never actually appears in the show as himself, why is this guy so important to grasping the plotline of the story? Come with us as we teach you everything you need to know about Mo Xuanyu.
Who is he?
Like Jin Guangyao (Zhu Zan Jin), Mo Xuanyu is one of Jin Guangshan’s (Shen Xiao Hai) illegitimate sons. While it isn’t made clear in the show, the source material states that Jin Guangshan broke off the affair with Mo Xuanyu’s mother when he was four years old.
As he grew up, he earned himself quite a reputation in the cultivation community as somewhat of a lunatic. He was known within the community to be outwardly homosexual & developed quite a fascination with demonic cultivation. His family treated him poorly over the years & he suffered much verbal & physical abuse. Eventually, Mo Xuanyu had a complete breakdown.
Elements of this are suggested in the show, but his history is never explicitly outlined in such detail. Eventually, completely tired of the abuse from his family, Mo Xuanyu summons Wei Wuxian into his own body in exchange for enacting revenge on his family. We say exchange loosely here, as Wei Wuxian, who had been dead for the last 16 years, had absolutely no say in the resurrection whatsoever.
In the show, we never get to see Mo Xuanyu’s original face, or his body, so we’ll never really know what he looks like. However, in the source material, Wei Wuxian makes a comment in chapter two that he thinks Mo Xuanyu has a nice looking face.
There is one signature thing Mo Xuanyu did in the source material that did make it into the show, even though we never actually get to physically see it. In the source material, Mo Xuanyu would often paint his face white and rouge his cheeks with the intention of making himself appear ghostlike. This is part of the reason why people thought he was a lunatic.
While Wei Wuxian never does this after he is resurrected in Mo Xuanyu’s body, several characters mention it around him and question why his face isn’t painted. These comments clearly pay homage to this aspect of Mo Xuanyu’s character in the novel.
In the show, when Wei Wuxian wakes up in Mo Xuanyu’s body, there is a mask next to his bed. He uses the mask to disguise his true identity, and because the people around him thought he was relatively nuts, no one really questions this decision. It becomes his signature garment for most of the show.
Although not considered to be actually crazy, like Mo Xuanyu was, Wei Wuxian is considered to be somewhat rebellious and silly. During the time he spends at Cloud Recesses as a teenager he finds himself in trouble with the Lan clan leaders on multiple occasions.
His own brother, Jiang Cheng, thinks of him as something of a clown and has a hard time taking him seriously often. Some of his peers find this endearing, such as Nie Huang (fix name), and others find it annoying, such as Lan Wangji (initially, at least).
This could be seen as a parallel between the two characters because it seems that they were both naturally out of the ‘ordinary’. Neither of them ever seemed to fit the ‘perfect’ cultivator persona, possibly foreshadowing both of their downfalls from the get-go.
Additionally, in the source material, Mo Xuanyu developed quite a fascination with demonic cultivation. In the show, Wei Wuxian ends up on the same path. Although their intentions surrounding demonic cultivation could be argued as different, the fact remains that they both dabbled in it.
It could be argued that Mo Xuanyu actually chose Wei Wuxian for the task of enacting revenge on his family because of these two glaringly obvious parallels between both their characters.
The source material also reveals that both characters are of the gay persuasion. Wei Wuxian is clearly into Lan Wangji, while Mo Xuanyu, unfortunately, developed feelings for his brother. It is unclear if this played a factor in Mo Xuanyu’s choice for resurrecting Wei Wuxian, or not.
Understanding the connections between these two characters is crucial to making it out of the first couple of episodes confusion-free. Did you watch and feel like you were missing something? We challenge you to go back now that you’re armed with this information and try again. Drop a comment and let us know if it makes a difference to your viewing experience!
Love the Untamed.February 8, 2020
Wei Wuxian (Wei Ying), was not really into Lan Wangji (Lan Zhan) in any gay manner in the beginning. He was just being himself like you mentioned, too playful and annoying for his own good. Lan Zhan was actually the own who was into Wei Ying before Wei Ying died. Wei Ying realised his own feeling after he came back from the dead. When the things he used to do, like touch Lan Zhan, say things with sexual innuendos he knew would annoy Lan Zhan (because Lan Zhan did not want to acknowledge or let other people know of his feelings) no longer affected Lan Zhan. Instead Lan Zhan was now the one taking charge. Wei Ying would begin and Lan Zhan would take the situation and run with it. I laughed really hard, when Wei Ying tried to make Lan Zhan uncomfortable in bed so Lan Zhan would leave him the bed, only to be frozen ???by Lan Zhan. His reaction was priceless. So, to conclude, Lan Zhan was the one with the feelings first (sneaky kiss?) when they were young. He tried to hide it but his brother knew and called him out on it on a couple of occasions ( in a subtle manner, of course). Wei Ying reciprocated after he was brought back to life.February 9, 2020
Curious, how do we know that Mo was into his brother? I saw no mention about this nor about his being flagrantly gay. Also, we’re these MOs injuries or Wei’s? Was all this in the novel?December 30, 2021
Thanks. Trying to put the pieces together.
Wei Wuxian has a mole under his lips, Mo Xuanyu doesn’t. After Jin Guangyao died, Mo Xuanyu became Wei Wuxian. (Sorry about my poor English.)February 9, 2020
Actually whether the body is Mo Xuanyu’s or the real Wei Wuxian’s body has stirred quite a debate.
The mole and the absent of Wen mark on his chest (due to the incident in Xuanwu Cave), clearly points that it is Mo Xuanyu’s body. In the other hand, why should Wei Wuxian cover his face in fear of his identity will be reavealed if someone sees it? I can understand if they cannot (would not) cast another actor to play Wei Wuxian after resurrection, but at least they can made up something? Like (maybe) shows that it is indeed Wei Wuxian’s real body that has been resurrected after years being hidden by someone, by showing the Wen mark on his chest or something. But no, actually they deliberately use one scene to clearly show that there is no mark whatsoever.
It’s really confusing.May 9, 2020
how did lan zhan know that mo xuanyu is actually wei ying ??May 17, 2020
Also, after his resurrection Wei Wuxian often points out how weak Mo Xuanyu’s body feels comparing to his previous one(ex. when he transferred Jin Ling’s curse to himself).October 29, 2020
Actually, it’s not really Mo Xuanyu who chose Wei WuXian. It was in fact part of the plan of Nie HuaiSang to kill Jin GuangYao.February 16, 2020
Wei Wuxian actually didn’t have feelings for Lan Zhan, in the beginning, it was because of Lan Zhan’s skill in sword fighting that amazed him. So, I am saying that Wei Ying and Lan Zhan sword fighting are the same.April 22, 2020
It’s stated in the show that it is indeed Wei Wuxian’s real body that has been healed after years of being hidden by someone. Wei Wuxian had even questions about how Mo Xuanyu knew where his body was after the fall.May 18, 2020
really??? how come i didn’t see that statement which is saying that it is indeed Wei WuXian’s real body? what’s more, his body has been healed and being hidden by someone??June 18, 2020
i thought, Mo XuanYu just casting a spell to call Wei WuXian’s soul into his body???
It was never really mentionned. However, some theories say that his body was taken and preserved after his death by Xue Yang (with was still working with Meng yao at the time), in hope to find a way to produce another part of the talisman.
In the show they said that his body couldn’t be found, only bones (which I guess were not his, cause it takes years for the skin to go).
After, Nie Huaisang came into contact with Mo Xuanyu in order to push him to do the sacrifice and avenging his brother. I bet he new the body was still preserved at that point.
In the show I don’t think his body was Xuanyu’s body. However they did some changes to stick to the original story (mole, scar, the fact that he recovered a little bit of power, implying the fact that he has now a golden core again)June 28, 2020
Lots of subtle hints to say it’s actually Wei Ying’s body…. in the street when JC asks him to take the mask off…look at JC’s facial expressions (says a lot)…then he says.. so you’re back!July 29, 2020
When LW and WY were surrounded by Jin clan on steps….when WY took off his mask…JG says …so it’s really you.. and the surrounding fighters as take a step back as they see his face.
Lan Xizchen saw his revealed face in court yard of Inn…says… I just confirmed it.. after WY says…so you knew it was me. He confirmed it after seeing his face.
I think “the someone” that was first on the scene when WWX fell off the cliff was none other than Nie Huaisang! Got to go back to their initial meeting and time spent at GUSU.July 29, 2020
If anyone was smitten it was NH with WWX….not in a lover kind of way, but hero worship way…as in …this is the kind of big brother I always wanted.. he wasn’t on the battleground (doesn’t know how to fight, only carries a fan) but we have to see beyond the screen…. he had to be present, his big brother was there!
When he saw what went down with WWX ….his first reaction would have been to save him and hide him from those who wanted him dead. That’s why when Jiang Cheng went to look for him after the fighting ended he couldn’t find his body…only ChenChing. The flute was left behind because the rescue was urgent….”got to save him…..got to hide him” … that could only be done by someone who cared for WWX. The fact that WWX resurrection was done by NH through MO. … is another give away…NH knew the only person clever enough, loyal enough to help him solve the mystery of his brother’s death was WWX. His sly, sneaky look in the sword tomb as WWX and LW unraveled the case said….”it was worth it!” … “I saved the only person whom I loved as much as my own brother!”
I remember the exchange between Mo Xuan Yu and his annoying cousin (I think) in the first episode, that rid me of my confusion (this was on my second watch lol). Here it’s implied that Wei Wuxian (WWX) is restored to his own body and not Mo’s – even though Mo sacrificed himself to bring about WWX’s resurrection. This was sort of explained with WWX asking how old Mo Xuan Yu was when he went to Carp tower. His cousin answers that he was around 13 – meaning they saw his proper face only when he was way younger. The cousin later asks how come he (Mo Xuan Yu) is not wearing facepaint etc – which means the family would not know how Mo Xuan Yu actually looked when he was older (cos of the paint or mask) so WWX could get away with having his own face because no one in that clan properly know Mo Xuan Yu’s real face. WWX actually sighs in relief because he wouldnt have to explain his true identity.
This fact may have made it convenient for the person doing the sacrifice ritual to bring WWX back, because no one knew Mo’s real face and it didn’t matter if it was WWX’s own body that came back after the ritual. Maybe the mask was kept there to help WWX to disguise himself from his own people.July 13, 2020
Also, his own brother recognizes him when he takes the mask off.July 19, 2020
Untamed, does novel come in English.December 4, 2020
Yaaaaaaahh… It’s really confusing me…May 21, 2021
Oh… I think you got it wrong. Mo Xuan Yu was homosexual but I don’t think he fancy his own brother. In fact, it was implied that Jin Guangyao framed Mo Xuanyu so that Mo would be expelled from Jin Clan. He already had a miserable life to begin with, when he finally accepted by his father and things are turning a new leaf for him but this threatened Jin Guangyao’s position. Jin Guangyao framed Mo by using something he himself had done, incest. It was what finally break Mo and caused him to sacrifice his own life to get revenge.September 29, 2022