I’m on winter break, so with all this extra time I decided to start a new recap project, Candle in the Tomb 鬼吹灯之精绝古城! The nice thing about this web series is that it’s set for 12 episodes, so it’s a fairly manageable recapping project. (Unless they pull a Sparrow on me and extend the drama.)
Hu Bayi (Jin Dong) is a Chinese soldier. His good friend dies in combat while trying to save Hu Bayi, and Bayi is inconsolable. He also begins to remember another event where he barely escaped an explosion, and these two incidents appear to give him much stress.
He wakes up from a nightmare on the train headed to Beijing. He has been discharged from his platoon, and clearly the past plagues him, as he exits his train cabin to the empty hallway where he stares at outside scenery. The train arrives in Beijing, and Bayi is greeted by a longtime friend Pangzi. He teases Pangzi that he has gotten so skinny compared to before.
The reason for his weight loss can be seen through Pangzi’s humble abode. His home is stacked with many unsold items (he is a merchant with a failing business), and a few stale noodles sit in the lone pot on the stove. Bayi feels bad and says he’ll pay for dinner, but Pangzi insists that he will instead.
At the restaurant (my goodness, the lamb dishes sound so good, I’m so hungry right now) they are ordering food when Pangzi recognizes a man sitting at a different table. He calls him Golden Tooth, because he has a golden tooth. Pangzi is instantly inflamed at the sight of him, and says the man scammed him. Apparently, Pangzi ran into some financial trouble before and sold his jade necklace to the man for 200 yuan, when really he found out later, it’s actually valued at 2000 yuan.
Coincidentally, the man is just sitting there about to sell the jade necklace to a foreigner. Pangzi and Bayi decide to confront Golden Tooth, and the foreigner leaves. Bayi remains calm throughout the entire exchange. He says he is willing to buy the jade necklace back. Golden Tooth says that’s not how exchanges work – the necklace is his now after he bought it. Bayi says to just name a price, and Golden Tooth says the necklace has value of 3000 yuan. Bayi then refutes that if Golden Tooth knew this value beforehand and still bought it from Pangzi for 200 yuan, that is a scam. Either he gives up the jade necklace or his golden tooth as just payment. Golden Tooth ultimately gives the necklace back.
But that exchange went too well. Nothing goes well in Dramaland. So of course the next day, Golden Tooth comes with a group of five gangsters to force Pangzi to give up his jade. While Bayi empties his bag to find more money as compensation for the con artist, the latter notices a beautiful compass. All of a sudden, his attitude changes. He accepts the money but no longer forces Pangzi to give up the jade. Instead, he invites the two men to dinner, with a new interest in the compass.
At dinner the con artist reintroduces himself as Golden Master. He says his dad used to be in the People’s Liberation Army and later started an antique business. Golden Master says Bayi probably knows about that type of business, and indeed it seems like he does. “He wasn’t able to get dumplings,” Bayi says, and meanwhile Pangzi is just as confused as the rest of us.
“What do you mean by dumplings?” Pangzi asks. Con artist explains that dumplings is a code word in the industry of tomb digging. It means that the contents of the tomb are preserved well, without rotting bodies. If you meet a big dumpling, that means you are in for big trouble. The man then points to his golden tooth and says he got it from a tomb and has never been willing to sell it.
Golden Tooth is like, really excited about the whole tomb digging process and says that the experts have great equipment that allow them to find the good tombs. Bayi says that the true masters can already tell a good tomb site without having to use any tools. After dinner Golden Tooth invites the two guests to his treasury, where he gives them a gift of “Touch Gold Charm”. He says in Emperor Cao Cao’s day, he had soldiers wear these charms while digging tombs.
Bayi understands the insinuation — Golden Tooth wants him to go tomb-digging. He refuses, saying it’s too risky. But Golden Tooth tells them the prices of all the things in his treasury: basically, they can make a lot of money.
Bayi ponders the proposal at home, and Pangzi convinces him to do a sort of pre-mission, basically to test the waters. They are going to explore the offerings of a mountain where their relatives live. The mountain is rumored to have buried sites.
Chen Qiao En does not appear in Episode 1, sadly.