A Weaver on the Horizon is a Chinese television series based on the life story of Huang Daopo, who revolutionized the textile industry during the Mongol conquest of the Song dynasty and the beginning of the Yuan dynasty. The story is considered to be historical fiction, as the plot deviates from factual accounts and contains elements of wuxia and romance. A central theme of feminism is also present, as more focus is placed on the female protagonists than their male counterparts. The series originally aired in China on Nanning Television on August 14, 2010 and ran for 36 episodes.
Huang Qiao'er (Ivy Lu, Janine Chang) was born to a poverty-stricken family. She lost her parents at an early age and was raised by her aunt, who taught her textile arts. While growing up in a weaving mill, Huang developed a close bond with the neighboring dyehouse owner's son, Fang Ning (Edwin Siu), who fell in love with her. Eventually, Splendid Mill's weavers produce outstanding results and earn an opportunity to work in the palace. Through Huang's friendship with the emperor's niece, Zhao Jiayi (Cecilia Liu), Huang is able to gain access to the palace's study, deepening her knowledge of weaving from its collection. However, the weavers become embroiled in a power struggle with the emperor's concubines, as well as a rivalry with the Iridescent Cloud Mill's weavers, who also work at the palace.
While in the palace, Huang falls in love with a young general, Lin Mufei (Justin Yuan), at the expense of her friendship with the princess. Lin also rejects the princess' affections, due to his prejudice against imperial family members' corruption, and in spite of his vows to defend the Song dynasty. During Lin's absence, Fang Ning's legs are crippled while saving Huang from the corrupt members of the imperial court. Feeling guilty for Fang's plight, and hearing rumors that Lin had been killed in battle at the city of Chuzhou (present day Huai'an), Huang decides to marry Fang. Lin, however, has survived and is heartbroken when he sees the two marry, thus complicating the love triangle between Lin, Huang, and Zhao Jiayi.
Despite Huang Qiao'er's awareness that she cannot be with the man she still loves, due to her marriage to another, she recognizes that being Fang Ning's wife also has its benefits. Her mother-in-law (Cheng Pei-pei) imparts the family's dyeing secrets, which helps her hone her textile skills. However, Fang is aware that his wife still has feelings towards Lin Mufei. This prompts Fang to become an alcoholic, leading him to repeatedly abuse her. As for Zhao Jiayi, she remains devoted to Lin, and, after learning that he did not die, eventually sneaks away from the palace to search for him. With the help of Lin's mother, Zhao locates him in the city of Changzhou. She claims that she only wishes to be with Lin Mufei in battle, regardless of whether he would ultimately love her or not.
Not long afterwards, the Mongols, who establish the Yuan dynasty under the leadership of Kublai Khan, conquer the Song dynasty. After experiencing a series of personal misfortunes and tragedies, Lin is traumatized and decides to focus on protecting Zhao Jiayi, and her surviving clan members, as well as liberating China from the Mongols' tyranny. For four years, while battling their enemies and taking care of one another, Lin and Zhao begin to develop a close bond and mutual understanding. Zhao helps Lin nurse his emotional wounds, resulting from Huang's marriage to Fang Ning and his mother's execution by one of their adversaries. He starts to reciprocate the princess’s affection, when he realizes that there is more to her than her apparent self-centered behavior.
While fleeing from the Mongols' conquest, Huang has a chance encounter with an extraordinary woodwork instructor, Feng Jiujin (Damian Lau), and becomes his apprentice. She ultimately wanders to Yazhou (present day Hainan), where she learns the arts of cotton farming and weaving, and helps the natives improve their textile technology.
After Fang Ning's death, Huang finally resolves the entanglement with Lin and Zhao, by reuniting with them in the city of Hangzhou (former Song capital Lin'an). Huang sadly realizes that she has inadvertently brought two men who loved her nothing but heartbreak, instead of happiness. She gives her blessing to Lin and Zhao of their newfound love for each other. Huang also realizes her dream of revolutionizing the art of textile weaving and manufacturing, for the welfare of her people. With support from her family and friends, Huang becomes an innovator of the Chinese textile industry. After numerous battles against the Yuan forces with Song remnants, the Battle of Yamen officially ends to the Song dynasty. Lin and Zhao, after enduring these defeats, realize that the enemy is too powerful and not yet ready for the resistance to overthrow. Desiring to get away from the violence and tragedies in their lives, they choose to elope and go into seclusion together.
Lin Mufei and Zhao Jiayi are happily married and return to Hangzhou after spending three years in hiding. By this time, the Splendid Mill and Fang Family Dyehouse have brought in many apprentices and achieved business success, with Huang Qiao'er fulfilling her purpose in life.
In Chinese history, Emperor Lizong and Emperor Duzong of the Song dynasty were actually uncle and nephew. In A Weaver on the Horizon, they are changed to brothers to explain Zhao Jiayi's existence. In reality, Zhao Jiayi never existed and is a fictional character solely created for A Weaver on the Horizon. The screenwriters were unwilling to write Zhao as the daughter of Duzong.
Almost all of the characters in the series are fictional except Huang Daopo, Emperor Duzong, Mongol general Bayan, and Yelü Chucai. Most of the plot does not match actual historic accounts. There are references to the death of Emperor Duzong, the succession and abdication of Emperor Gongzong, Battle of Xiangyang, Battle of Yamen and the deaths of the Song's last two emperors; Emperor Duanzong and Emperor Huaizong.
The Song and Mongol military costumes are originally made for the two television series The Young Warriors (2006) and The Legend of the Condor Heroes (2008).
Originally considered for the part of Huang Qiao'er by the casting department, Cecilia Liu expressed her interest to portray Zhao Jiayi instead, after reading the script. As a result, Janine Chang was chosen for the starring role.
Several websites aired different scenes that were deleted from the series:Huang Qiao'er first meets the Fang brothers during their childhood.
Death of A'dong's fiancée Dandan (portrayed by Janine Chang).
Huang Qiao'er and Rong Xiuman being burned at the stake on Yazhou.
Lin Mufei and Zhao Jiayi returning home as husband and wife in the series finale.
The series was well received in mainland China and Taiwan, with positive ratings reported from both.